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Atlantic Council

An Irreplaceable Alliance: The Impact of the Libya Mission on NATO

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council

Jan Lodal,
Board Director,
The Atlantic Council

Ivo Daalder,
U.S. Ambassador to NATO 

Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: Monday, November 7, 2011

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

FREDERICK KEMPE: Greetings. Hello. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And I’m delighted to invite you all here for a speech and then discussion with Ambassador Ivo Daalder on the impact of the Libya mission on NATO. I’ll leave it to our executive committee member and my predecessor in my current position, Jan Lodal, to introduce his friend Ivo.

But let me just say a couple of words to put this in context. The Atlantic Council focuses on renewing the trans-Atlantic partnership for global missions. NATO focuses on renewing the Atlantic partnership for global missions and outside-of-area missions as well. This is — this couldn’t be a more timely discussion of the alliance’s recent success in Libya and what it reveals about NATO partnerships and capabilities.

Ambassador Daalder is the latest of a number of key leaders who have come to the Atlantic Council to examine the historic changes in the Middle East and their impact on the trans-Atlantic community. Events of the last year in Libya have been of enormous significance, not only for the Middle East and Africa but also for the NATO alliance, which played such a decisive role in the recent changes there.

The events in Libya have also provided the Atlantic Council a unique opportunity for its international security program, which will be re-anointed the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in May, and its traditional specialization on the NATO alliance to address the issue collaboratively with newer Atlantic Council programs such as the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, headed by Peter Pham; and the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East run by Michele Dunne. So we’re able to use the Scowcroft Center, working with the Africa Center, working with the Middle East Center, to achieve the sorts of synergies that the alliance more largely tries to achieve in its larger way.

Tomorrow we’ll have a two-day conference that starts called "Towards a Coherent U.S./EU Approach Toward the Arab Awakening,” the Arab Spring. And over the last year, the council has hosted a number of other events on the Arab awakening, including, for example, Morocco’s foreign minister, who led a roundtable discussion here. I moderated a panel of two former national security advisors, General Scowcroft and General Jones; a former prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz; and Bahaa Hariri, the son of the former Lebanese prime minister, for a discussion. Michele Dunne of the Hariri Center moderated a public discussion with leaders of Libya’s National Transitional Council. The Atlantic Council also recently sponsored a conference with several trans-Atlantic and Middle East experts examining the significance of Gadhafi’s demise on the future of Libya, NATO and the Arab awakening.

So we consider this whole area, Ambassador, to be absolutely crucial to us going forward at the Atlantic Council as it is, obviously, to the Atlantic community.

So with that, let me thank you for coming. And now I’ll pass to our executive committee member of our board, Jan Lodal. Jan has been a member of the executive committee of the Atlantic Council for as long as any of us can remember. More importantly, he’s a past president of the council, taking over the organization in the wake of the passing of Christopher Makins in 2005. Jan’s a distinguished expert and practitioner on international security, who remains at the forefront of the debate on arms control and nonproliferation, is about to release a major piece on the way forward with another member of our executive committee, Rick Burt. He’s had a distinguished career in the federal government, serving as principal deputy, undersecretary of defense for policy and senior director for the National Security Council.

Jan, let me pass to you. (Applause.)

JAN LODAL: Well, thank you, Fred, and welcome, everybody. It’s a real pleasure to introduce my good friend, Ivo Daalder. I think it’s fair to say that Ivo is the most qualified NATO ambassador that the United States has probably ever had. He’s known Europe inside and out from the early days of his life — he grew up in Europe.

And he has — he has worked on the issues of Europe throughout his career. But I should mention that he’s really not just a European expert; he’s an expert on many, many other areas of national security and foreign policy. He’s written 12 books. He’s written books on the National Security Council; most recently, "In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served," which is a terrific book explaining how our system works — not well-understood by a lot of people.

And he’s worked very extensively on arms control. He and I have worked together on some of those projects, including, as Fred mentioned, an article called "The Logic of Zero" a couple of years ago, which we still stand by, I believe, and look forward to moving forward on the president’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

But today we’re going to hear him talk about NATO and NATO’s operation in Libya. Ivo has a really amazing educational background as well. He was educated at Oxford and Georgetown, got a Ph.D. in political science from MIT; and from the beginning, I think, was widely respected in academic circles. So he’s really — well, I see Bob Hunter here, so I can’t say that Ivo’s the best qualified former —

MR. : Let me say it then. (Laughter.)

MR. LODAL: (Laughs.) All right. So it’s my real pleasure to introduce my good friend, Ivo Daalder. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR IVO DAALDER: Well, thanks, Fred, and thanks, Jan, for that introduction. It’s great to be here, great to see so many good friends, people I admire and look up to every day to know how to do this really awesome job. And as Bob knows, it’s the best job in the U.S. government by far. So I’m extremely privileged and honored to be able to stand here before you not just as Ivo Daalder but as the U.S. ambassador to NATO.

That’s, in fact, why I’m back here for just a few hours, because I will accompany Secretary-General Rasmussen to see President Obama later this afternoon in the Oval Office, where we’ll talk about Afghanistan and about the next NATO summit that will be held in Chicago next May. But we’ll also talk about the incredible success that NATO has had in this operation in Libya, which as you know was concluded a little under a week ago today. And it’s really about that success, about the story of how this happened, that I — and the lessons we can learn from it that I want to talk to you this morning.

Today, of course, Libya is being reborn. In eight short months, a dictator of 42 years has fallen. An interim governing authority is now taking shape, and the Libyan people are seizing the opportunity to begin to decide their own future.

With the fast pace of events, there are naturally a lot of questions about what just unfolded. So today, let me offer you some perspective on NATO’s Libya operation. And I’ll do that by breaking my remarks in three parts. First, I’ll talk about how we got our allies to agree for NATO to act and how American leadership set up this operation for success from the start.

Second, I’ll talk about how our allies — I’ll talk about how Operation Unified Protector, the name of this operation, really was an all-alliance effort — not just of some but of all, that every ally, and each in their own way made a contribution. But make no mistake. This operation was underpinned and could not have been done without the critical military capability that only the United States can provide. And I’ll talk about that too.

And finally, I’ll talk about what I see as some of the lessons that can be learned from Libya and what these takeaways mean for NATO continuing to transform itself into a 21st-century alliance; a transformation that, by the way, will continue and will be further cemented when NATO’s leaders meet next May in Chicago.

The best starting point for discussing NATO’s recent mission in Libya is probably not one you would expect. It isn’t the Arab Spring that was for — after all, the foundation for what happened in Libya this year. It goes back a little further. It goes back to last November when we were prepping for our summit in Lisbon.

I’ll be honest. I don’t know anyone who was thinking much about Gadhafi while we were prepping for that summit. In fact, I’m doubtful that anyone was thinking that Gadhafi would be gone from power within a year of us meeting in Lisbon. And that includes the leaders of NATO, who were gathering there to chart NATO’s course and to agree on a new strategic concept.

What NATO’s leaders did know, however, was that today’s world is complex and that the security threats we face as alliance members are global. They knew that the — as the world’s preeminent military alliance, NATO needs to be ready for a wide range of contingencies and that one of those contingencies might be instability abroad that would affect the security of NATO members at home. And they knew that while NATO can act alone, there are few circumstances when NATO would want to act alone. Instead, this alliance would want to act and work with partners and vice-versa, that in today’s world there are many countries around the globe that want to work with NATO.

That is why in Lisbon, the — NATO’s leaders adopted a new strategic concept that recognized that the alliance — and I quote — "remains an essential source of stability in an unpredictable world." What NATO’s leaders did not know, though, is that their vision of that alliance would be put to the test just three months later.

So fast-forward from Lisbon in November last year to Libya in the new year. The Arab Awakening was starting to reach into places like Brega and Benghazi and towns like Zliten and Zawiyah. For over 40 years, the Libyan people had been suppressed by a brutal dictator. But enough was enough. The people in Libya, like their neighbors in Tunisia and Egypt, were ready to begin to decide their own future. And instead, however, of responding to the — these aspirations, Gadhafi said he would show no mercy. He said he would send his forces to go house to house to go after what he called "the rats," his ordinary citizens in his own country.

The international community was appalled and so, rightly, was the United States. Everyone knew — everyone — knew what Gadhafi was capable of: that he had no qualms about using mass violence to quell the voices of change in his own country. So the United States went to work and our allies went to work.

Our response was both swift and decisive. With our European allies, the United States led the international community to isolate the — Gadhafi and his regime. It started at the United Nations, where a few years before the leaders of the world had recognized a fundamental principle, that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens; and that when states fail in that responsibility, it is up to the international community to respect those citizens.

The United States and its key allies on the Security Council, therefore, pushed for and got a resolution passed unanimously that imposed sanctions, froze regime assets and referred those responsible for crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. This leadership then paved the way for Libya to be expelled from the U.N. Human Rights Council through a unanimous vote in the General Assembly. When you can unite the General Assembly, you know something real is happening.

The U.S. froze $32 billion in Libyan assets. So did many other countries as well in order to prevent Gadhafi from using the resources he had accumulated over the 42 years in his campaign of violence against citizens. Even then, though, Gadhafi was undeterred. He insisted that he would continue his predality (ph). The people of Libya continued to bear the brunt of his wrath.

Calls for military action to stop Gadhafi’s carnage quickly followed, including from the Arab League, which in a noteworthy act called for a no-fly zone against one of its own. While many here in Washington and indeed in Europe and around the world supported this call for a no-fly zone, the Obama administration was doubtful that it was enough. The international community had imposed a no-fly zone in Bosnia for three years and in Iraq for over a decade. Those no-fly zones turned out to be stopgap measures, not solutions.

So President Obama decided to reject what he considered a false choice: a choice between doing nothing and doing something that wouldn’t be enough and might drag on for many years. Instead, he decided to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would go beyond simply enforcing a no-fly zone. The United States wanted a resolution that would make a difference to the people of Libya. And that meant calling for member states and regional organizations and arrangements not just to patrol Libya’s skies but to protect civilians.

Forty-eight hours after making that decision, after some extraordinary diplomacy in New York and bilaterally with key Security Council members, the resolution, 1973, with the mandate to use all necessary means to protect Libyan civilians, was passed. And 48 hours after that, a U.S.-led coalition was in full swing, stopping Gadhafi’s advance to Benghazi and taking down his integrated air defense system.

Within 72 hours, Benghazi was saved and a no-fly zone could start and civilians could be protected from the air. The arms embargo that was also being called for to be enforced by Resolution 1973 was also coming together.

But a big question loomed. With Libya’s air defenses ineffective, who would lead the next phase of the operation? Should America continue to command and control an ad-hoc coalition of only a handful of countries? Should it hand off to a French- and British-led coalition of the willing, as some seemed to favor? Or with the conditions now ripe for success, should it transition command and control to the one multinational alliance capable of carrying out such a complex mission?

NATO, after all, has an integrated command structure capable of planning and executing complicated military operations. Indeed, it had been prudently planning for a wide variety of military options in Libya for several weeks already. NATO has a long and proven history of quickly integrating Europe — European, Arab and other partners from around the globe into their operation. And it has commonly funded capabilities like AWACS aircraft that support and enable contributions of many nations. It has standards of interoperability that mean when forces from different nations show up, their radios can talk to each other, their refueling nozzles on their planes will fit together. And in some cases, they will have the ability to share or sell spare parts and even munitions to one another to sustain operations.

It’s also no secret that our allies had questions that needed to be answered and offered their thoughtful insights that deserved discussion. And it’s no secret that diplomatic dialogue or — let me be frank — real debate was necessary before NATO could decide to act. This is exactly as it should be, when 28 democracies are trying to reach consensus about a decision of enormous consequence. We should expect; indeed, we must encourage, weighty and thoughtful deliberation.

But while the discussion we had was intense and often went for many hours and indeed deep into the night, what was amazing both at the time and indeed looking back was that it took all of 10 days from the passage of UNSCR 1973 for NATO to agree to take responsibility for implementing all the military aspects of that resolution. And by March 31st, NATO assumed command of this extremely complex operation, 14 days after UNSCR 1973 was passed. Contrast that to Bosnia, where — as Ambassador Hunter will know — it took more than three years to drop a single bomb; or Kosovo, where NATO took over a year to act. For Libya, NATO took 10 days to reach a decision and 14 days to begin operations that allowed it to command and control the forces of more than a double contributing nations at sea and in the air.

That’s the power of Lisbon, and it’s the power of a 21st-century NATO.

President Obama then faced a fundamental question of his own. With NATO now firmly in the lead, what should America’s contribution be? Should America do as it usually does and bear the brunt of the burden, or should the United States ask its European allies and regional partners to contribute their fair share? The president chose the better path. He made room for allies to be allies. This is the new NATO at work, a NATO where American leadership is essential, where the American military is indispensable but where America doesn’t have to do it all.

To ensure all participants contributed effectively, the United States focused on providing those critical enablers for — that enabled others to participate and to act. No country in the world can do what America can, especially when it comes to capabilities like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, aerial refueling, jamming and targeting. It was — if Libya was to be successful, the United States had to do what only the United States could do. And the United States needed to welcome the contributions of those capable of participating and providing other means that the United States did not need to provide itself.

After all, we’ve been investing in European defense for precisely this reason: That when the time came, our allies and our partners would have the right capabilities to contribute to the cause.

The president also made clear that as far as the United States was concerned, any military action would be strictly limited to the protection of civilians. He did not include the forcible ouster of Gadhafi as a military goal. Protecting people, yes; regime change via military means, no. The critics, as we know, went into a frenzy. This wasn’t leadership, they said. This was abdication, they argued. But they were wrong. The president did not abdicate American responsibility. He did not lead from behind. Instead, what the president did is he mobilized the international community, he set priorities, he put our allies and partners on notice that he expected them to provide their fair share of the operation. And as they stepped up to this challenge, he ensured they would succeed.

When more ISR was needed, we provided it. When armed predators were required to go after some very critical targets without causing collateral damages, we deployed them. And when some panicked that the effort wasn’t producing results, we counseled patience and perseverance in the full knowledge that NATO would stay united and that time was always on our side.

This is leadership. It’s real leadership. Granted it’s not the kind of leadership where America does everything and then lets everyone else show up for the pictures. Instead, it’s the kind of leadership where shared security is a shared burden. It’s the kind of leadership that when you say "let’s go," others take their position on the field instead of continuing to watch from the sidelines.

It’s also the kind of leadership that in these economic times is fiscally prudent. During the past seven months, the Libya operation cost approximately $1.2 billion. That’s a fraction of the overall international contribution to Libya, and it’s less than a week’s worth of cost of operations in Afghanistan or Iran — or Iraq. Numbers like these prove that burden-sharing is much more than a slogan; it’s a reality, but only if you make smart choices and only if you make room for your allies and partners to do their fair share.

And I must say I’m proud to report our allies and partners did step up and they did so in spades. When we look at Libya, it isn’t just a few in NATO who did what needed to be done. All of NATO took part in this operation. To be sure, some allies did not participate directly. But even those who didn’t were helpful in particular ways. We all know the case of Germany, which did not contribute national forces to the operation. Germany did, however, quickly arrange for its crews to man NATO AWACS planes in Afghanistan so that non-German crews could man NATO AWACS over Libya. And when there was a call for more targeters, Germany deployed 80 officers capable of that very difficult job and did so without having to be pressed.

A large number of countries in NATO, from Iceland and Luxembourg, to Central European countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic, to our Balkan friends in Croatia and Albania, as well as the Baltic states, neither have the naval capability nor the modern air forces necessary to be able to participate in a campaign like this. But look at their contributions to other alliance operations and programs and you will find them to be substantial.

In the end, 14 allies and four partners provided the naval and air forces necessary for this operation in Libya. Together, they flew over 26,000 sorties, including over 9,600 sortie — strike sorties. They hailed over 3,700 ships and boarded about 10 percent of them, and they denied passage to 11 ships in all. Their bombs destroyed nearly 6,000 targets, from command-and-control bunkers to tanks, from surface-to-air missile sites and Scuds launchers to ammunition dumps. They did this with extraordinary precision and with virtually no collateral damage.

As for the United States, we flew more sorties than any country, a total of about a quarter. But France and the U.K. together alone accounted for a third of all sorties being flown. Forty percent of the sorties were flown by countries like Italy, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey; and our four European and regional partners. Greece provided access to airbases and deployed vessels to enforce the arms embargo, as did Romania and Bulgaria. And more contributions kept coming, as the campaign required.

France and the United Kingdom led the way in striking critical targets, targeting together, accounting for more than 40 percent of all the strikes that were proven successful. And they deployed attack helicopters on naval platforms at sea in a quite novel military operation, a capability that proved especially critical and important in the latter stages of this conflict.

Italy flew not only a large number of sorties and bombed many targets — in fact, they were the third largest contributor to that effort — but also provided the bulk of the airbases from which aircraft were flown.

Denmark and Norway together destroyed as many targets as the United Kingdom. Denmark, Norway and Belgium together destroyed as many targets as France.

NATO’s partners also contributed in big ways. Our Arab partners, the UAE, Qatar and Jordan flew their own sorties, contributing F-16s and Mirage aircraft to the operation. Morocco opened up its airspace and provided critical political support. Sweden contributed a fleet of Gripens, flying tactical reconnaissance missions and patrolling the no-fly zone.

The Libya operation, frankly, did what only NATO could do: execute a complex mission quickly, effectively and with partners from Europe, the region and beyond.

Now, let me be clear that not everything in this operation was completely rosy. There are indeed real lessons to be learned, both good and bad. I’ve mentioned some of the good lessons, including the agility and speed of what an alliance can do and can and does act, and the solidarity of 28 alliance members sticking together throughout an entire operation.

So let me focus on the lessons that require us to change things and how we do — how we must do more. Frankly, our allies don’t stock enough precision-guided munitions. The resupply process worked but only because Uncle Sam proved to be seller of first resort, because we supplied the munitions, and we have large stockpiles that we were able to sustain this operation for as long as we did.

Given that the need for military action can arise suddenly in this unpredictable world, allies will need to keep more munitions at hand in order to deal with the unpredictability of the world that we live in. Our allies are also dependent on the United States for aerial refueling. Seventy-five percent of the tankers flying over the Mediterranean are — were flown by the American Air Force. Without tankers, you can’t fly long-range bombing runs or keep the combat air patrol going for very long. Without tankers, we couldn’t have done what we did in Libya.

NATO is also, as we have long known, critically short of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. The United States supplied 70 (percent) to 80 percent of the total ISR capabilities, including all Predators and Global Hawk — all armed Predators and Global Hawk drones. Without ISR, you can’t acquire targets. Without acquiring targets, you can’t bomb. And without bombing, you can’t stop the killing. ISR is the critical component of the whole chain.

Libya shows that the new NATO works well but it’s not perfect. NATO has serious shortfalls that, as its leaders agreed in Lisbon last year, need to be addressed. And the challenge for NATO now is to make that agreement a reality between now and Chicago when we meet in May.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of Libya, at least as seen from my perspective as the person responsible for representing the United States in the North Atlantic Council. It’s a story of American leadership that mobilized the international community to action. It’s a story of America’s unique capabilities, enabling allies to step up and take responsibility for critical aspects of the military operation. And it’s a story of the Atlantic alliance pulling together and everyone bearing the fair share of their security burden.

And with that background, I’m more than happy to take some questions. (Applause.)

MR. LODAL: Well, thank you very much, Ivo. While everyone is getting their questions organized in their head, I might just start off by asking you to elaborate a little bit on the action plan that the alliance ought to put in place — presumably Chicago will be a big part of that — in order to make sure that these good lessons are learned and that things are fixed going forward and that the alliance will be ready, should another circumstance arise in the near future where it needs to operate in this fashion.

AMB. DAALDER: Well, let me start off with a reality that I think we all face. We face it here at home, and all allied countries — all 27 allied countries face it at their homes, which is we’re living in a time of fiscal austerity. And our ability to generate enough funds for defense is limited. And therefore, the challenge we face is how do we make sure that as we cut our defense spending or as we limit what we spend on defense in those cases where we’re not cutting defense spending — and there are one or two allies where that’s not the case — in fact, there’s one ally that is struggling mightily to make sure they keep the 2 percent spending, which is Estonia, 2 percent of GDP; I always like to point out, there is always one or two in NATO that does want to do the right thing when it comes to spending — that what is being spent is spent is spent in the right way.

And part of the initiative that the secretary-general has launched that we are supportive — supporting, the Smart Defense Initiative, is an initiative to say there will be — there will be times where you need to provide capabilities not just nationally but multinationally, where the kinds of things you seek to buy are better bought by buying them together than separately. And there are a whole host of programs where that is the case, particularly the expensive ones.

A success story in that regard is missile defense. The United States is deploying its European phased adaptive approach, Aegis cruisers over time, radar in Turkey and land-based components in Poland and Romania as part of contribution to a NATO missile defense system.

But NATO allies too are looking at how can they invest in their missile defense capabilities to supplement and be part of that capability. So the Dutch just announced a few weeks ago that they were going to expend a significant amount of resources to refit their radars on their four Aegis light cruisers to able to interlock and interact with the missile defense system that NATO is building. Well, four sensors at sea significantly enhances the capacity of the missile defense system as a — as a whole. Other countries — the Germans, the Danes — are looking at doing similar things. The French are looking at providing early warning data to NATO, which can be useful for missile defense areas.

So by having an alliance that can become the receptacle of joint capabilities, individual nations can plug into that and provide a contribution that in and of itself may be limited but as part of the whole is far larger than would be the case if they were trying to acquire these capabilities nationally.

Similarly, we are for a long time — in fact, as my defense adviser, Bob Bell, keeps on pointing out — when he was in the — sitting with the president in the Oval Office in 1993, he was talking about the air/ground surveillance system. We are still talking about the air/ground surveillance system. And Bob will know, because you were doing that in Brussels — but we’re very close to getting an agreement for us to buy — for 13 nations to buy five Global Hawk Block 4 systems with the radar capabilities that are necessary to track and then guide other ISR capabilities in the kinds of operations we just had in Libya but also to help us in counterpiracy, to find pirate ships and to direct other naval assets to intercept them. And this is the kind of capability that is too expensive for all but a very few handful of countries like me — like the United States to buy. But it is something that when 13 countries buy it together and place it at the behest of the alliance, it then becomes something that the alliance as a whole can afford.

So the way to do this is to look at what are the critical capabilities. We did this with AWACS. There’s a NATO AWACS fleet. What other capabilities we’ve done it with — strategic airlift or — there’s a C-17 strategic airlift consortium — what other critical capabilities are there that individual nations can’t buy because they’re too expensive but they can contribute to and then it is put at the disposal of the alliance or indeed at the disposal of a group of countries for other reasons. For example, the Swedes, who have — who are part of the C-17 consortium — use their flying hours to be one of the first countries to help in the earthquake in Haiti. So it’s not just that this is about NATO and military operations. But it’s capability that a country like Sweden could never have by itself but it now has because it’s working in a consortium, in a multinational way, been able to generate together.

So the reality is in NATO, when you send — spend 10 cents, you get a buck’s worth of output. In France or Germany when you spend 10 cents, you get 10 cents of output, in which case it’s probably more sensible to spend it through NATO than to spend it nationally.

MR. LODAL: Let me ask you one political question, if you will, but very much related to capabilities. Turkey was very helpful in bringing together the Arab League and others in this operation. But they have a very large military — have a lot of airplanes. They didn’t contribute a whole lot in terms of capability. Did we learn anything here about the future of Turkey in the alliance?

AMB. DAALDER: Turkey was a major contributor on the arms embargo part, where they flew both air missions and they had two vessels at sea. They were politically important. They brought in some of the Arab partners. They were critical in that part. They were also the key advocate for making sure that this operation, if it was going to go, would be in NATO. Their argument was not that NATO should be involved in this operation but if you had NATO countries involved without NATO being involved, NATO would be blamed if something went wrong, so you might as well have NATO therefore be responsible.

And they were adamant, quite adamant, throughout the entire operation, that if there was going to be an operation at all, NATO be in charge. And part of the debate that I talked about euphemistically and diplomatically — and we’ll continue to talk about euphemistically and diplomatically — that occurred in those critical few days between the Security Council Resolution and the actual decision, the Turkish position — which has often been portrayed as against the operation — was in favor of a NATO operation but was against an operation outside of NATO. And I think that was consistent.

Now, Turkish views and, I think, national views throughout March evolved over time. Turkey believed that its best way to contribute was on the humanitarian side and to contribute on the arms embargo on — particularly on the arms embargo side. And it did so, and it provided the capabilities, and its forces were there. This was not an operation where Turkey needed to take the lead. In fact, it probably wasn’t smart for Turkey to have to take the lead. But it could participate because NATO was the organization of which they were a member, and that allowed them to participate.

MR. LODAL: Please — would everyone please identify yourself and any affiliation you’d like to identify. I know the Hudson Institute’s a good affiliation. So please, Richard.

Q: (Off mic) — Institute. A question about NATO-Russia relations. Was the council or any of the dialogue with getting Russia not — if not on board, at least lessen its opposition to the campaign done at all through the NRC, or was that pretty much done out of New York? And if it had been done mostly out of New York, should more have been done — (inaudible) — NATO?

AMB. DAALDER: The — originally the focus was New York for obvious reasons, because that — that’s where the action was. But we did have discussions with the Russians in the NRC throughout — the NRC meets quite often, and I can assure you that Ambassador Rogozin did not let any opportunity by to make clear what the Russian view was of the NATO operation.

We also — in the middle of this operation, actually the — (inaudible) — traveled to Sochi, where we had a meeting both with the — with Foreign Minister Lavrov and with President Medvedev, in which the issue was again discussed in some detail. There was a foreign ministerial NRC in Berlin in April in which Lavrov expressed his views.

And within all of those meetings, a — the pattern was one, we knew what we were doing when we abstained. They — this was — we knew we were thereby allowing NATO to do this. So there was a sense that this is something — that what was happening was not something they didn’t — hadn’t anticipated. Number two, there was some disagreement about the extent to which we were fulfilling the mandate of 1973. But in all of the interactions, the Russian view was we see this different than you do, but we understand that we see it different than you do. And that’s about it. So we had a difference of opinion. There wasn’t a lot of back-and-forth or debate or screaming about it. There was more vehemence in New York, frankly, than there was in Brussels or in Sochi or in Berlin on those conversations.

In some ways, you — the way to characterize it: We agreed to disagree and then moved on on the rest of the relationship.

Q: Ivo, good to see you, and thanks very much for your comments. An observation or critique as well as a question. It seems to me that the White House fell behind its narrative; it had a much better story to tell taking on the issue of leading from behind earlier, which it chose not to do. And I just leave that as a — as probably something that somebody want to looks (sic) at.

My question is really this: Could you comment about the financial situation, the crisis, the G-20 meeting which was not seen as a great success and how you think Greece and then Italy and the situation there might turn out and what implications if any this could have for NATO?

AMB. DAALDER: You know, luckily, I have a colleague in Brussels who takes care of that question. So I would encourage Fred to invite Ambassador Kennard to come here and — (laughs) — help you to answer that question. I mean, I — what I’ll say is, the financial crisis doesn’t make it easier to get countries to commit the financial resources to defense that are necessary. And, you know, Greece in the — in the NATO table sits around a table where it is being asked to pay more, say, for common funding for AGS; when in the EU table it’s being asked by the very same countries to pay less, to spend less.

And so there is — the reality is there, and it’s — and it’s very stark in the sense that any discussion at NATO about money is a discussion about how do you cut not how do you increase. And that goes from the civil budget to the military budget to infrastructure spending, et cetera. It’s — in that sense, it’s a very — it’s a — not depressing in terms of psychological, but it’s pressing down, depressing kind of conversation. We are now at zero nominal growth. And that — which means cuts in real terms for quite an extended period of time. We have under-invested in this alliance for the last 10 years. We’re going to continue — (inaudible) — underinvestment. And I think that’s what Secretary Gates was pointing out when he provided his last policy speech in Brussels. And it’s a reality we are — we are confronting ourselves each day at home. And that’s how it affects NATO.

In the particulars of what it means for this program or that program, there isn’t — you can’t make that judgment yet. What you can do as it becomes even more difficult for national governments to look as defense as something that you need to decide in the totality within the confines of 28 rather than in the national one — and a number of countries are cutting their defense spending without really consulting with or thinking about the consequences this has for the alliance as a whole.

Q: Barbara Slavin, now with the Atlantic Council. Good to see you, Ivo. Can you talk a little bit about the lessons and their implications for a situation like that in Syria? Obviously in many ways Libya is a one-off – Gadhafi uniquely unpopular and so on. But we are beginning to see some of the same calls now for NATO to get involved. Certainly the death toll is mounting. The Arab League seems to be edging toward a tougher position as well. Thanks.

AMB. DAALDER: In our run-up to Libya, we came up with a formula. And decisions are not formulaic, but they are good guideposts. And the formula was that there needed to be a demonstrable need, regional support and a sound legal basis for action.

You had a demonstrable need, particularly when Benghazi became in earshot of the guns of Gadhafi. You had regional support when the Arab League called for the imposition of a no-fly zone, which happened on the 12th of September – March. And then you had the U.N. Security Council not once but twice providing the sound legal basis. And it is those three things we need to look for before we even think about the possibility of action.

None of them apply in Syria, which is to say the demonstrable need is still a question of whether intervention by air is in fact an effective means to that end. It’s pretty unique – Libya is a pretty unique country. It’s very, very big. But the vast bulk of the population was within shot from sea almost. And the no-fly zone was only extended 150 kilometers inland.

That was the operating principle of the no-fly zone, even though I think Libya is about a thousand-plus kilometers deep into Africa. Syria is a very different country. So the operational environment is very different. There is no regional support.

The opposition has not called for intervention. The TNC did. The Arab League has not called for intervention. The Arab League had. And of course there is no legal basis. The U.N. Security Council voted and it didn’t work. So under those circumstances and given that reality, at NATO there has been no planning, no thought and no discussion about any intervention into Syria. It just isn’t part of the envelope of thinking among individual NATO countries, frankly, as far as I know, but certainly among the 28, no. If things change, things change.

But as of today, that’s where the reality stands and that’s why when the secretary-general, who has now said two or three times publically, including in Tripoli just last week, that we are not preparing for, thinking about, readying an intervention in Syria. That is a truthful statement.

MR. LODAL: Please?

Q: Thanks. I’m Garrett Mitchell and I write the Mitchell Report and am also a councilmember. And I was thinking when you were being introduced about the book that you and your then colleague Jim Lindsay wrote about Bush foreign policy, “America Unbound,” which I thought – and said at the time I thought was a remarkably – I think there’s a network that uses this term – fair and balanced look at a controversial foreign policy.

I guess the question I want to ask you is to what extent, and with what freedoms you’re able to speak about this, might we look at the Libya situation, the decision-making process and learn – you said there were lessons learned for NATO. I wonder what lessons learned there are for analysts and historians about what we can glean from the Libya decision-making process about the Obama foreign policy.

AMB. DAALDER: I think this is really a “let’s have a beer” discussion – (laughter) – at some point after I’m retired – (laughter) – when I may actually do it in writing. But in the big picture, without making a comparison which I think others can do, the administration came to power with a particular view about how the world worked.

And that was a view that in an age of globalization, security was no longer principally determined by geography but developments anywhere in the world could have a major security impact at home and that as a result you needed to figure out ways to work with others, to build security abroad so you could be secure at home.

So the linchpin of the Obama foreign policy was rebuilding partnership and alliances. And NATO was recognized as a principal, if not the principal, partnership and alliance that needed, not rebuilding, but had to be at the center of whatever effort was there.

It was not an accident that I was one of three ambassadors named as the first three ambassadors named, the other two being Afghanistan and Iraq, by this administration because it was important to have someone in Brussels that could start that process of rebuilding that alliance.

As part of that analysis, it was also believed necessary that the era in which the United States would decide and determine and do everything by itself had also come to an end. And the reason you need a partnership and an alliance is so that they could do more and we could do more together.

And I think the Libya operation and the decision-making was very much guided by the notion that, one, when it comes from a pure interest calculation, the national interest of some of our allies was more highly involved than ours.

This was a 130 kilometers from Italian territory, all of 200-and-some kilometers off Crete. This was a long way from where the United States was, and oh, by the way, we had pretty significant interests in what was happening in their neighboring countries.

And we had no interest in yet another confrontation in which American troops would be involved in a Muslim country, and frankly, nor did any of our allies. So we sat together and said how can we forge a response that on the one hand is effective but on the other hand is sufficiently limited, that we could do this in a way in which the partnership as such – the alliance plus regional partners – could affect the changes we wanted to see within the means that we had available, because we were still in Iraq and are still in Iraq.

And we are in Afghanistan and those are important operations, and we weren’t going to take capabilities out of those operations in order to deal with Libya. So we used the reality of international consensus, which we helped forge, to build the coalition to do the actions in which the United States contribution was indispensable but not the only – in fact, not even the major contribution.

And in that sense, it is a – it reflects a foreign policy view that yes, there will be times when the United States will act alone in its national interest to do what it must do to protect its own national security. And anybody who doesn’t think that’s the case in this administration obviously didn’t watch CNN on May 2nd of this year.

But there are other circumstances in which the use of force, while useful and desirable, really ought to be done in a larger context, in a context that has international legitimacy and therefore international buy-in and international support so that we can sustain that burden while we maintain other capabilities.

And I think this operation, from each country’s perspective, and whether it’s France – which clearly played a significant leadership role in this effort. France too wanted to have others to be part of that operation. In fact, it tried to enlarge the circle well-beyond NATO and it did so successful through the establishment of the contact group and the whole diplomatic effort that was extraordinarily important to maintain this operation.

So every country was very comfortable with this notion of a coalitional perspective that provided fair burden-sharing and was the right thing for this particular – this particular instance. And I think it fits in that sense in sort of the gestalt of the Obama administration, which is not about leading from behind or below or above or whatever. It’s about figuring out how do you respond most effectively to the circumstances and do it in a way that is sustainable. \

And this one was sustainable. There were a lot of people who didn’t think this was going to last seven months. I was not among them. I was surprised it only took seven months. But I’m also convinced that if it had taken eight or nine or 10 months, we would have continued. The coalition was pretty darn strong.

MR. LODAL: Speaking of books you’ve written, you wrote about Kosovo. Was Kosovo a predicate to this in that it was an air operation, it did accomplish its mission and did this come up in the discussions as this particular coalition was being put together? Of course there wasn’t nearly as much non-U.S. involvement in Kosovo.

AMB. DAALDER: I mean, one of the interesting Kosovo predicates was that the lesson allies learned in Kosovo is they better get into the business of precision bombing because Kosovo was a precision bombing campaign run by the United States. Ninety percent of the targets struck in Kosovo were stuck by the United States, 10 percent by our allies. In this war, it was exactly the opposite. The U.S. accounted for 10 percent of the strikes, allies for 90 percent of it, allies and partners.

And so one of the great lessons that the allies – I look and I see my French airmen colleagues here – was the fact you better get into the business of how do you do precision bombing. And we will look back at this air campaign as historic. This was a truly historic air campaign where the level of collateral damage was minimal.

And the impact of that was twofold. One – threefold. One, it maintained the support of the Libyan people, which was important. In fact, it enhanced it. Secondly, it maintained the legitimacy of the cause because, after all, the legitimacy was built on the protection of civilians. And third, it enabled the reconstitution in the post-conflict situation to be much more rapid.

I mean, water was running within three days in Tripoli because the infrastructure hadn’t been taken out. Cellphone towers were up within hours of Tripoli being liberated because the cellphone towers hadn’t been taken down and the electricity network hadn’t been taken down and the oil infrastructure hadn’t been taken down, all of which, by the way, we did in Serbia which is why it took a lot longer to get that reconstituted.

So I think we learned about how you do bombing in that way. And I think the alliance as a whole learned – and allies individually learned how to engage in this kind of campaign.

For some of these allies, this was the first time – the first time they had been in combat operations from the air, countries like Norway and Denmark. That’s not what they do on a day-to-day basis. And they did extraordinary, just extraordinary in terms of the precision, in terms of the sustainability of the operation.

And I think we will look back to this as an example of how an alliance needs to operate. At the same time – your first question – we have asked our military authorities to do a lessons-learned study that goes well-beyond ISR, just an all in-depth, which is due in early February to the defense ministers which will give us greater insight.

And you know, militaries do this much better than even academics do or certainly diplomats do. They actually look at what lessons they can learn and then they learn them. And I think we will – you know, the tactical ones they do – the operational, strategic – (laughter.)

MR. LODAL: In the back, yes, sir?

Q: Thank you. Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy magazine. I’m wondering if you could give us a quick heads-up on what to expect out of the secretary-general’s meetings with President Obama and Secretary Clinton later today, if we promise not to tell anybody before they announce it, and also if you could give us an update on Russia-NATO missile defense discussions, that would be great.

It seems to many of us that it’s hit a pretty hard wall, the wall being namely that the Russians want written assurances on things that are not politically palatable here in Washington that would be termed as limits on our missile defense for various reasons. Can you tell me is that really the sticking point now or is there a way to square that circle? Thank you.

AMB. DAALDER: In terms of previewing the meeting, I said as much as I can say because I don’t actually know what the real discussion is going to be until we’re actually in the discussion. But the focus of the discussion is Chicago and the agenda for Chicago and where – what it is that we hope to accomplish at Chicago. So this is an opportunity for the secretary-general to meet with the president.

Also, at the end of the Libya operation was an opportune time to come – for him to come to the United States and have that conversation but then really look forward to what do we hope to accomplish in Chicago, how are we going to do this, what are the things we need to put in motion now, over the next five, six, seven months – seven months I guess it is – to get to Chicago.

And it’s about capabilities. It’s about Afghanistan. It’s about partnerships. And the NATO-Russia relationship will be one of the issues that is clearly going to be important in that. The NATO-Russia relationship – we reached this historic milestone in Lisbon in which we made two decisions at the same time that people never thought could happen at the same time, which is, one, we made the decision to deploy missile defenses in Europe – a NATO missile defense system.

And two, we invited Russia to participate and to cooperate in the deployment of missile defenses. And the Russians didn’t say nyet. They didn’t say da but they didn’t say nyet. And we have been involved in very intense bilateral as well as multilateral talks with the Russians over the past seven, eight months to figure out how we can move forward on cooperation.

And the U.S. as one of the leading interlocutors with Russia but NATO as a whole, we have been as open as we can, be it about our plans. They know everything we’re doing. We have allowed them and invited them visit our facilities. Regozo went to Colorado Springs and saw how we manage our missile defense operations. We’ve invited them to come and observe tests of our interceptors to reassure them that this system is not directed against Russia.

It’s not built – it’s not conceived of, it’s not particularly – it’s incapable of, in fact, dealing with their strategic deterrent. It’s all about the threat from Iran which we see as accelerating and growing. And for those who don’t believe, read today’s Washington Post. It’s one of the reasons why we think this is an important issue.

And we are deploying it in a way that is geared towards that end. We have put on the table numerous proposals for cooperation which in many ways take their proposals as the basis, whether it’s a data fusion center, operations centers for operational and planning purposes, et cetera.

We have two sort of red lines. One is a simple red line that comes out of the treaty which is NATO is responsible for the defense of NATO. We’re not subcontracting part of NATO territory to do defense of another, to some other country. It’s just not going to happen. And I think Russia has accepted that because they also think that Russia should defend Russia, which is a fair proposition.

The second is they want a written guarantee that is legal – legally binding – we have no problem with writing things down – but a legally binding guarantee that says that the system will be incapable and never be directed against them and will then have to define the objective criteria for doing that. And we have said that a legal guarantee like that is not something we want nor something that we could ratify.

And by the way, legal guarantees, as we know in this field, are subject to change. So what we want is real cooperation which shows that the real guarantee is in the cooperation. And if they see what we do and they cooperate with what we do, they will be reassured that what we say is in fact the case. And that’s much better than what you write on a piece of paper, which as we saw with the ABM treaty, you can walk out of.

And I think there is a – there has been a debate in Russia bout those two different approaches and we will see the continuation of that debate. Part of it is being done publically. We don’t spend a lot of time publically dealing with it.

We want to make clear we are going ahead with missile defense because we think it’s in our fundamental national security interest to have a missile defense system in Europe that is capable of defending NATO Europe against the threat that is accelerating and becoming graver. But we are equally committed to cooperating with Russia. We don’t see the two as inconsistent. In fact, we see them as mutually exclusive – mutually – not exclusive – mutually beneficial –

MR. LODAL: Reinforcing.

AMB. DAALDER: And reinforcing.

MR. LODAL: We just have about five minutes left, so I’m going to take several questions at once. I have several names on my list and several other hands up, quite a few hands up, as a matter of fact. But let me start with Steve Flanagan and I’ll take Steve and one or two others, and then we’ll take another group and that’ll probably be it. So everyone, please make your questions or comments as concise as possible. Steve?

Q: Thanks. If you could give us some insights on thinking both in the U.S. government and around the North Atlantic Council table on lessons from Libya about advancing our partnerships with the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in particular is there – what is the level of willingness you think among allies to help in the development of particularly security sector reform in the Middle East and North Africa in the coming years?

MR. LODAL: Ambassador?

Q: First, Ivo, let me say that anybody who’s ever served in NATO knows that nothing happens without the United States and nothing happens without dedicated intelligent leadership of the American ambassador. So I salute you for that.

And related to it, I hope and I’m sure Fred’s way ahead of me on this, that the talk you gave here today will be published and circulated widely. And I also hope this administration has the wit to deploy you here where it’s needed most, in this town and on Capitol Hill, because I think you probably know sitting in Brussels NATO’s not the flavor of the month in this town. And an awful lot of work has to be done between now and then.

Let me follow up with Steve’s question. I think it’s now clear that the interest of the United States and of the allies, the European Union, et cetera, in this region no longer ends at the shores of Tripoli and that we’re going to be stuck with North Africa and the Middle East for the future.

I was wondering, as opposed to what happened at the end of Iraq in May of 2003, what do you see for NATO and the other American relationships in Europe to be doing in North Africa and beyond for the foreseeable future?

MR. LODAL: Roger, would either you or Andrew like to comment on this particular issue or shall we hold off for just a moment? OK, Ivo, why don’t you talk about that?

AMB. DAALDER: Just on – thanks, Bob, for those comments. I appreciate it. In terms of what NATO’s role is going to be with this large part of the world, for one, we have partnerships with a large number of those countries already through – (inaudible) – dialogues of seven countries including five of the North African countries and the ICI – the Istanbul Cooperation council – which has a relationship with four Gulf countries.

The role which we see at the moment is defense and security sector reform and there is widespread willingness to engage in that in the council provided, one, there’s a request. It has to be a demand-driven, demanded by the partners, not by NATO. And there is a financial issue – the Middle East, a little less worrisome, North Africa, a little bigger in the sense that this is expensive and the question is who’s going to pay for it.

And we’ll get back to your – this is an alliance with few resources these days. And the alliance as such has even less resources to do this than, say, the European Union which of course will have the capacity to do more in security – particularly in the public security sector reform. But there is the beginnings of thinking how can NATO contribute.

But that role will almost by definition have to be complimentary and frankly subordinately to the other actors that are going to have to involve themselves in this part of the world. The European Union has a huge opportunity here, at least it would seem for a non-European Union member.

They didn’t – they weren’t present at the creation on this one. They have a huge opportunity to be present at the real creation if they want to be. And that’s – that is clearly one of the areas that they are looking at. The U.S. can work with the European Union. The U.S. will bilaterally be involved.

But it won’t be the one that says NATO needs to be involved in this part of the world on security per se, reforming and helping the reform of the defense and security sectors perhaps if necessary, if desirable and if so requested. But beyond that, a presence, I don’t see it. I don’t see the demand and I don’t see – I don’t see the 28 countries saying, well, this is now our new vocation. It may change.

But there’s a lot of – you know, a lot of dynamism still in that part of the world to go on. and it’s not clear that NATO as a military alliance, which at bottom it still is, is the preferred instrument to be in a leading role in this part of the world. But it wants to be helpful and it is willing to be helpful in any way it can.

MR. LOPAL: We are technically out of time and I want to apologize to those who I didn’t get. But I do want to allow Roger or Andrew to just get a quick question or comment in because you’ve been on the list for a while, if either of you would like. Roger Kirk?

Q: Roger Kirk with the Atlantic Council. My question is you mentioned in your lessons learned what the Europeans needed to do. What are some of the things that – lessons learned in that sense that the U.S. needs to do?

MR. LOPAL: Andrew, would you like a quick question?

Q: Good to see you, Ivo. I’ll try to follow up in this way. When you’re writing your history book, some years hence I hope, and you look at the whole operation, the so-called “leading from behind” role of the United States, could you put that in the context of three other countries?

France, where I think President Sarkozy likes to think of France as leading from ahead and indeed sent French aircraft, if I recall correctly, into the air before NATO as a council authorized it. Italy, which had a particular position because of geography and oil, and thirdly, Germany which didn’t seem to be as much there as one might have hoped for.

AMB. DAALDER: To Andrew, I’ll just say read my book. (Laughter.) I still need to deal with these countries on a day-to-day basis. Fair question, but I mean, I tried in my speech to indicate that I thought these countries played roles that were particular to the situation and within the situation that they found themselves tried to contribute the maximum they could.

And each had a very specific – I mean, Italy’s relationship with Libya as the former colonial power, which is the more important relationship. I meant, for example, that they limit – their bombing was limited to deliberate targets. They would not bomb any target that was not deliberate, fixed and could cause collateral damage because they feared the backlash, which made sense from their perspective.

On the question – I’m not sure that there is much of a lesson I need to learn for the United States. I think – I think in terms of capabilities, we know where the shortfalls are. But they are European shortfalls. We had them. In fact, we were the ones that provided them. And we could have done this campaign by ourselves. There’s no doubt we could have.

But it was – the wise decision was not to do something we could because others could help too. I see the Belgian ambassador sitting here. The fact that Belgium was able to deploy six F-16s and contribute in a major military part of the campaign was important. It’s important for Belgium. It was important for NATO. And it was important for the United States.

And the argument that somehow this war would have been over if only we had deployed a bunch of AC-130s and A-10s is just not true. There’s a single military commander who would argue – agree with that. And in any case, it would have defeated what we were setting out to achieve which was a victory, a success that meant something for all that needed to be part of this operation.

So I think the lesson here is this is a good – this is a good – it’s maybe not a new model because it wasn’t unique related to the circumstances and it required very strong political leadership besides from the United States from countries like France and the UK. But that’s good. Isn’t that the alliance we want, an alliance where everybody steps up and tries to figure out within their own national limitations to do what they can do?

Again, Belgium – Belgium agreed to this operation unanimously in a parliamentary vote the day after the U.N. Security Council resolution was passed and therefore was able to walk into the council on day one and say, we’re ready. And it was good to have a lot of countries lined up saying, we’re ready but we want to do it in NATO. And that allowed NATO to do what it needed to do.

MR. LODAL: Well, Ivo, I want to thank you very much for taking time in what I know is a very, very tight schedule. Ivo’s here for 24 hours and he has to meet with most of the Cabinet and the president and everybody else. And he took time to come here and we’re very honored that you could do that for us.

Ivo’s speech will be published right away on, for those of you who’d like to take a look at it and study it in more detail and distribute it to your friends. And we hope you’ll come back whenever you’re in town and give us a chance once again to hear your wisdom and your insights. On this particular day and time with the summit coming up, it’s a special benefit to us to have you here. Thank you very much.


Related Experts: Barbara Slavin