Britain and France led the way into Libya, but Germany and Turkey were against intervention. Is consensus no longer essential to NATO operations?
Consensus is absolutely essential! It is at the core of our alliance.
Would you say there was a consensus on Libya?
There was a consensus … we had a discussion, yes. But we made a decision quickly. All 28 allies agreed NATO should take full responsibility. The operation started as a coalition of the willing. I appreciate this, because it was at the very last minute that coalition partners took action to stop Gaddafi from massacring his own people.
Is there concern that a more robust, united European security structure could divert NATO assets?
On the contrary, a strong European Union defense policy would strengthen NATO. A stronger EU policy can only materialize if Europeans invest more in defense and security. I won’t hide that increasing imbalances between U.S. and European investments in defense concern me.
Along the lines of bolstering Europe—what are the prospects of Russia entering NATO?
We haven’t seen an application from the Russian side and I don’t think we will … We do have our disagreements with Russia. For example, we insist on full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. These disagreements shouldn’t overshadow the fact that we share many security concerns. Afghanistan is one example. The Russians know that failure in Afghanistan would cause problems for Russia, not least when it comes to the drug trafficking rooted there.
Is the death of Osama bin Laden a milestone for the war on terror?
Let me put this in greater perspective. We see now that bin Laden’s evil vision of creating conflict between the Muslim world and the Western world is bankrupt. The Taliban has arrived at a crossroads. They should realize there is no future for extremism. They should cut all links with Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations and engage in a constructive political process in Afghanistan. This month has also seen the Arab Spring, a wind of change blowing through North Africa and the Middle East … I’m optimistic that freedom and democracy will prevail, because freedom is the strongest force in the world. It’s a desire that resides in every human being.