These remarks were delivered recently at the Atlantic Council’s conference on Reforming NATO for the 21st Century.

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  Let me immediately address the question that General Scowcroft posed last night – what is NATO for?  Well, in the security domain it is the same as the EU.  To aggregate political, diplomatic and military effect in pursuit of the credible presence germane to guaranteeing defence and promoting security.  Two questions are relevant here.  One, does the NATO-EU relationship aggregate the aggregators of credibility?  I would say in the current context not really.  Two, the contract at the heart of both Alliance is simple; the smaller powers get security in return for the sharing of responsibilities.  Is that working in the current context.  I would say not really.  Why?  Mindset.

We are at war – not with anyone per se, although we have our enemies – but at war with change on a revolutionary scale.  And we are losing that war because we have a bureaucratic, peacetime mentality unable to cope with the revolution underway in global structure, society, economics, finances, resources…and, of course, trust.  So much of the debate about NATO-EU relations harks back to the comforting illusions of ESDI, Berlin-plus and the Bosnia syndrome of the 1990s.  It is too often about form, not substance.  Sadly, so rarely do I hear the word effect in the same sentence as NATO and the EU.  We are failing the strategic test, ladies and gentlemen, and the EU-NATO relationship is the most compelling evidence of that.

Therefore, at this big moment of power in this big power town I am not going to bore you with a tactical debate about whether a little more EU-NATO Strategic Partnership here, a little less Framework Agreement there will somehow unfreeze this frozen conflict.  Rather, I am going to give you a warning; the NATO-EU relationship is in danger of getting in the way of effect.  Indeed, the very conservatism implicit in the NATO-EU relationship reinforces inward thinking about how to do the past better because in the absence of political leadership bureaucracy has taken over as evidenced by the listing of meetings to suggest substance where none exists.

Rather, I am going to appeal for a radical approach that will finally break both institutions free from the ‘what we can do’ trap, into a what we must do together concept.  With the recent election of President Obama, it is quite relevant.

Therefore, we need to put EU-NATO relations in there proper strategic context if they are to be rescued from the bureaucratic impasse to which lack of political will has condemned them.  That can only be done by a proper and shared understanding of the strategic environment into which we are moving, a proper understanding of just how quickly both the supply and demand side of global security is changing and the role of our major institutions therein.  Sebastian, my answer is this: if we do not the bigger countriees will simply step outside the institutional frameworks to act.  I note it is the British and French in Congo, not the EU, nor NATO and, by the way, not the French and the Germans, although I am grateful to the French and Germans for helping us to talk about security here.  A transatlantic forum might emerge – but it will unlikely include all members of the Euro-Atlantic community.

That is why in the first instance we need much closer synergy to review the European Security Strategy and modernise the NATO Strategic Concept – CPG or no.  That will mean confidence building on both sides.  First, by injecting real political momentum into assured EU access to NATO operational planning, far better intelligence sharing through enhanced Security Information sharing, enhancing European command options and further adaptation of the NATO defence planning system to harmonise with the EU Headline Goal process.  If states try to block for regional political reasons then it must be impressed on them forcefully that the reform of the EU-NATO partnership is of the highest strategic priority.

We also have to be honest about what the two institutions do best.  We are moving back into a big world.  NATO has never been very good at doing complex civil-military security and the EU cannot do big defence but both are needed.  NATO to re-establish the credible strategic defence presence of the West, the EU to better organise an all of Europe Whole of Government security effort in conjunction with the US and all underpinned by credible homeland security.  If we cannot protect, we will be unable to project.  If there is to be a division of labour it must reflect that basic triangular reality at the heart of contemporary transatlantic relations.  Make no mistake, the financial crisis will both exacerbate insecurity and force far more, not less synergy on and between Western partners across the conflict spectrum.

Of course, ESDP is vitally important.  Indeed, the flag one puts on an operation is almost as important as the capabilities one deploys into a complex environment.  Moreover, Europeans trying to follow American planning pre-supposes the American strategic method and the planning assumptions of truly great power.  This makes Europeans look more inadequate than we actually are.  But military ESDP must be credible and in this environment as each day goes by it is ever less credible given the rapidly changing strategic context of its missions.

So, I propose the following EU-NATO Agenda for the new administration built on a shared vision, analysis and strategy and all founded on all-important standards, doctrine and interoperability that draws its heritage from the Alliance:

1. Build on Berlin-plus by bring the NATO Strategic Concept and the European Security Strategy closer together: The two strategic concepts must and will be re-drafted and surely it is time to harmonise strategic approaches and look ahead to a world in which threats to our political and structural integrity could once again emerge.  We need a new Harmel, at the very least some Wise Men.

2. Establish an EU-NATO Long Term Working Group on Force Planning:  The EU and NATO need to look jointly beyond 2010, Battle Groups and the NATO Response Force (NRF).  Indeed, The EU needs a Headline Goal 2020 aimed at generating 5000 strong Battle Groups that are NRF compatible.  It is no longer a question of whither NRF or Battle Groups.  Today operations are killing both and we will not continue to spend so much time on multilateral formations that they are rarely of use.

3. Create an EU-NATO Strategic Comprehensive Approach that makes the most out of the civil-military lessons learned focussed on the civil and military aspects of campaign planning and action.  An EU-NATO Working Group on the Comprehensive Approach is needed urgently because the sheer complexity of making it work at national level is sucking the life blood out of effective transnational effect.  Such a group will help establish better links between the EU’s Civilian Headline Goal and NATO’s CPA.

4. Harmonise Equipment Programmes:  To that end, build on the EU-NATO Capabilities Group and promote closer procurement co-operation between the European Defence Agency, the ECAP process and NATO’s integrated defence planning process.  Indeed, a NATO-EU Working Group of National Armaments Directors would be useful.

5. Re-consider Transformation: Transformation emphasises convergence on high-end, networked capability.  Smart transformation should focus on enhancing the natural strengths of NATO and EU members to help solve a real dilemma for all of us – what to plan for?  We need a better understanding of where to invest most resources in armed forces to generate the greatest security return throughout the strategic stabilisation task-list and across the conflict intensity spectrum.  This is the only way to prevent the capability-capacity crunch and the stabilisation attrition from which our forces are suffering.

6. Start Defence Integration: Smaller European member-states must lead the way towards defence integration to: a) create real military effect on their limited force and resource bases.  A critical mass of political influence will help keep the security and defence efforts of the major states within the institutional frameworks of both NATO and the EU and better balance big and medium state leadership.

7. Create an EU-NATO Defence Education Concept: A cliché it might be but the greatest strength of the transatlantic relationship is its people.  In war one must educate and research, not merely train and teach.  We all need to better invest in security knowledge.  Indeed, we need together to make far better use information technologies to inject far more flexbility into our command structures at every level of the command chain and between civilians and military.   My work on Afghanistan has demonstrated to me the urgent need for a new campaign planning culture.

One final thought – if a culture of risk sharing is not properly re-introduced into both the EU and NATO then this debate will be little more than re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic.  Two Titanics.

Remember, some ages forgive strategic mediocrity.  This is no such age.
Dr. Julian Lindley-French, a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group, is Professor of Military Art and Science at the Royal Military Academy of the Netherlands.