George Robertson: This historic security initiative

From the opening statement by the Secretary General of Nato, at yesterday's meeting of the Ministerial Council in Reykjavik
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The Independent Online

The terrorist attacks on the United States were, first and foremost, a terrible human tragedy. But they were also a wake-up call. Security threats can no longer be measured in fleets of warships, tanks or airplanes. Deadly attacks are no longer launched only by governments. And they can strike utterly without warning.

It is the responsibility of governments to preserve the security of their citizens. That is the trust our populations bestow on us. Neither they nor history will judge us at all kindly if we do not take bold steps to protect them from these new threats.

Since its foundation 53 years ago, Nato has been the core of Euro-Atlantic security. That is as true today as ever. We are engaged in a process of adaptation and transformation to ensure that the alliance is able to play its vital role in preserving the safety of our populations into this new century.

The alliance's summit in Prague in November is the next major stage in this transformation. Our meeting today will help set the stage for this summit.

In the wake of 11 September, it is more important than ever that the Euro-Atlantic family of nations moves closer together. Democracies from North America, Europe and through the Causasus to Central Asia must co-operate closely and effectively if we are to tackle the security threats that are now facing us all.

We will finalise work on the agreement between Nato and Russia to create, in two weeks in Rome, a new council, where Nato member states and Russia can sit together, as 20 equals, to discuss and decide on issues of common concern.

This initiative is, quite simply, historic. In its symbolism, the new level of practical co-operation between the 19 Nato allies and Russia illustrates how far we have already come in putting the divisions of the past behind us.