Atlantic Council

Charting NATO’s Future

Intro and Panel 1: Introduction and NATO’s New Threat Horizon

Fabrice Pothier,
Director of Policy Planning,

Magnus Nordenman,
Deputy Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security,
Atlantic Council

Dan Fata,
Vice President, Global Security Policy, Europe and the Americas,
Lockheed Martin

Nora Bensahel,
Distinguished Scholar in Residence, School of International Service, American University; and Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
Atlantic Council

Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Time: 9:00 a.m. EDT
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Transcript By
Superior Transcriptions LLC
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good morning, everybody. You had to choose between us and the pope, so we’re really glad you’re with us. You can catch the pope later on in the news. Today’s discussion is Charting NATO’s Future. It’s made possible in part through our long-standing partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. And it comes at an unprecedented moment of threats, in view, to Europe, from the east, to the south, internally, centrifugally, and a moment that NATO is preparing for its 2016 Warsaw summit, now less than a year away.

Just picking up the news before coming here, you know, when we first started our relationship with the Ministry of Defense, we really couldn’t predict many of the things that are coming at us – in Ukraine and Syria and elsewhere, the migrant crisis. And it just shows the importance not only of our relationship and the issue we can take on and work on that are so crucial, but the overall alliance relationship and the need for NATO and the alliance to be able to adjust to a new situation. Frank Kramer and others later on today are going to talk about a new report that’s just come out that Frank and Hans Binnedijk and others wrote, taking a look at how NATO has to be a generator of stability – stability generation. So I think there’s a lot of instability that needs to be taken care of.

Just today you see a report that – first of all, President Obama has decided to meet with President Putin of Russia in New York next week on the fringes of UNGA, if it can be arranged. And Vladimir Putin says he’s preparing unilateral airstrikes against ISIS, if the U.S. rejects his proposal to do it together, and do it in parallel. And he wants of joint military action accompanied by political transition away from Assad. It’s a long way from a joint NATO-Russia action in Syria, but it’s interesting that even a few days ago it would have been considered foolhardy to even put anything like that on the agenda.

Dominating the headlines in recent weeks is the influx of refugees in Europe. German Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Wittig, a good friend of the Atlantic Council, warned last week the refugee situation is a crisis of historic proportions. Not since World War II have we seen such a large wave of migration on the European continent. And you see, of course, in the news the disunity within Europe, particularly from some of its newest members, about how to handle the crisis.

It seems to affect just economic, political and social unity, so what does NATO have to do with that? But it really does get at some of the transatlantic values that have ensured so much of our security and stability over the last 60 years. NATO may not be best positioned to solve this migrant crisis, but it certainly impacts the alliance’s ability to operate and underscores the links of our own security and our own situation with the situation in the Middle East. If I could be denied, which I don’t think it could have been, it certainly can’t be now.

NATO’s unity and operational readiness is particularly important now because although fighting in eastern Ukraine has temporarily ebbs, the crisis continues to deepen, distrust, military tensions and discord between the transatlantic community and Russia, even as this new situation unfolds in Syria. These tensions begin to manifest in a military buildup in another area, the high north, the Arctic. Massive Russian military exercises are taking place near the Baltic region, countless air and sea incursions on NATO’s borders. These tensions add a new and complicated element to the ongoing campaign against ISIS, especially as Russia ramps up its military presence in Syria, the first presence of combat aircraft – Russian combat aircraft.

When the Atlantic Council began its work with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense in early 2013, this stage of its work, as I said earlier, few could have predicted any of these specific threats. Though, we did take a look at the return of geopolitical competition, we have traditionally taken a look at an era of volatility where we need resilience, nimbleness, dynamism that sometimes escapes NATO. This new environment underscores how important the alliance remains in the post-Cold War world, and how crucial it is that we renew our partnership for new challenges.

Today we’ve got a stellar lineup of leading experts from across North America and Europe to explore these and other issues, and possible policy solutions – looking at the strategy, trying to come out with the policy. Specifically, I’m delighted that our keynote address and then panel later on this morning will involve Norwegian Minister of Defense Ina Eriksen Soreide. And she’ll be introduced by the chairman – the former chairman of the Atlantic Council, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. I’ll introduce them both later, so I won’t say much here, but it’s great to have our chairman back and it’s terrific to have Minister Soreide here. And the two have worked very constructively together during his times as the secretary of defense, so I look forward also in the Q&A session where they together will answer questions.

Thanks again for being here today. For those who are following online I encourage you to tweet along with us. Also, here in the room, feel free to tweet using the hashtag #FutureNATO. So, hashtag, #FutureNATO. We have a great deal to cover so I won’t say anything more now. Please join me in getting our first panel off to a good start.

NORA BENSAHEL: Thank you very much, Fred. And thanks to the Atlantic Council for hosting this event. My name is Nora Bensahel. I’m a distinguished scholar in residence at the School of International Service at American University, and also a non-resident senior fellow here in the Scowcroft Center. It’s my great pleasure to moderate the first panel this morning on NATO’s new threat horizon. And before in introduce the fellow panelists, I thought I’d offer just a couple of framing remarks to put their – you know, the wonderful ideas of these people who have, you know, such long history working on these issues – to put into a little bit of context.

If we had had this conference two years ago or, you know, we had met behind closed doors and talked about what the most, you know, vital issues facing the alliance would be, most of the discussion would have focused on the need to maintain alliance cohesion as the war in Afghanistan drew down. And there were ever-increasing discussions about the importance of Article 5 and using Article 5 to reinvigorate the alliance, focusing on homeland defense across the alliance, things like missile defense and other things, which are certainly still part – very much part of the discussion today.

But the past couple of years has seen such a change in the types of issues and threats facing the alliance, that that discussion really has been subsumed in a lot of ways. We’re not talking about Article 5 in quite the same way anymore. Instead, we talking about threats to the alliance from outside from a wide arc of instability throughout the world, but particularly in the – you know, the area that people talk about as the arc of crisis, going from the Middle East to North Africa, and now for the past 18 months and beyond looking at Russia as well, which was something the alliance had spent very little time doing as a whole, in our individual capitals as well, in a very long time.

This is still about Article 5 in a very fundamental way, of course, because ultimately NATO exists to protect the security of its members. And these threats are posing both direct and indirect threats to NATO members. Even if you look at the refugee crisis, as Fred mentioned, there’s clearly an Article 5 dimension of that when you’re talking about the flow of people into Europe. That may be the EU’s responsibility, that’s a Schengen issue, obviously. But when it’s tough to tell who is flowing into your borders, you also have a security challenge that goes along with that. So the Article 5 implications are still very, very relevant, but it looks very different than it did a couple of years ago.

And that’s what our panel here today is to talk about, the threats facing the alliance and some of the challenges in the alliance’s response to those threats. I would note that there are increasing divisions among the allies – there are always divisions among the allies, right, going back to the history of the alliance. We could have – you know, from the very moment of founding we could have talked about the different ways in which different things were pulling the allies apart. But I think when we start talking about the responses to this new threat environment, it’s important to understand what those divisions are and what their dynamics are.

And I think that there are three different ways in which the alliance is being pulled and stretched, and I hope our panelists will talk about some of these during the course of the discussion. The first is that there’s a growing division about what crises to deal with between the alliance’s east and the alliance’s south. And I’m particularly talking about the European members now, but both the North American allies, of course, are facing the same challenge in terms of what sets of issues do you give priority to?

And that’s really a tension between the rise of Russia, the resurgence of Russia, Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine, what that means for the broader eastern part of the alliance, certainly very direct Article 5 considerations for some of the newer alliance members, feeling that their interests are directly threatened. And some of the southern members of the alliance, who are on the front lines of that refugee crisis, who are dealing with the consequences of the instability from North Africa, from the terrorism in North Africa, the instability in Libya and so on that are directly affected by those.

That’s two fronts facing NATO in a whole lot of ways. And there’s a real tension between how much priority do you give to both, how do you keep the alliance focused, how do you ensure that the eastern members of the alliance are focused on – you know, from an alliance perspective – on the southern threats, rather than just their own? And for the allies in the south, that they are just as concerned with the threats coming from the east?

The second is that there is a tension that we haven’t seen in a while between land operations and sea operations in the alliance. Magnus, I’m sure, will talk about this. He’s written a great Atlantic Council paper on NATO’s maritime strategy and where it needs to go. But, you know, especially over the past decade and a half, with the war in Afghanistan, maritime strategy was important and NATO has done some maritime operations, but certainly not the focus of the alliance, hasn’t been the focus of the alliance in a long time.

And now there are real serious threats at sea, again as Fred mentioned in his opening comments. You see that in the Arctic area, you see that affecting the northern members of the allies in Russian behavior. But there also continues to be threats coming from the south and around the Horn of Africa as well on the maritime side. And again, that’s a tension that NATO hasn’t really had to think about in a long time because land operations were really the focus on what the alliance was doing on a day-to-day basis.

And then, third and finally, this is an oldie but goodie. It’s playing out in different ways. There’s a tension between the European members of the alliance the North American and, particularly – the North American allies and particularly, of course, the United States. This trend has been underway for a long time, but we’re seeing some of the consequences hit now in some ways. The U.S. defense budget is shrinking. The consequences of that for readiness on U.S. forces are becoming ever-more significant as a result of the budget cuts. That means that the number of U.S. forces that are available around the world is going down.

You add to that the fact that the U.S. has withdrawn most of its forces from Europe – frankly, from overseas. You know, the U.S. Army is largely stationed at home now for the first time since World War II, with only two brigades stationed overseas. So that has real consequences for the capabilities that are available in Europe. And of course, the locus of U.S. interests, not just in the security sense but in the broadest sense, are shifting to the Asia-Pacific. And that has implications for where U.S. security policy is focused.

So these are – again, that one is perennial, but, you know, manifesting itself in new ways, combined with a couple of other divisions and tensions within the alliance that we haven’t seen for a long time. So the key question is how NATO can address all these? And what initiatives does NATO need to take? What things need to be going on within the alliance itself in the discussion among the NATO capitals, what needs to be done in the next year and what initiatives need to be place leading up to the Warsaw summit in order to address some of these so that, you know, NATO continue to be a strong and vibrant organization?

Those are tough questions, but fortunately we have three great panelists here to help us answer them. And I’ll now introduce them in turn. We’re going to go in reverse alphabetical order. So starting to my left, your right, coming this way, we’ll start with Fabrice Pothier, who’s the director of policy planning in the Office of the Secretary-General at NATO. His responsibilities there include reviewing current and future strategic issues and developing new policy initiatives within the alliance, so on the front (lines ?) that I’ve mentioned, and also advising the secretary-general directly. In the past, he’s been the director of Carnegie Europe, and was the head of policy analysis and co-founder of the International Council on Security and Development.

Next we’ll hear from Magnus Nordenman, who’s a familiar face to those of you who attend events at the Atlantic Council frequently. He is the deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, here at the Atlantic Council. He works on a wide range of issues on transatlantic security and also on broader defense and security issues, working with the U.S. government, with industry, with key allies and partners – so a very comprehensive look at these subjects. He’s also talked a lot and written a lot on Nordic-Baltic relations and, as I mentioned before, maritime strategy. So we’ll have particular insights, I think, in that area as well.

And then to my immediate left, Dan Fata, who’s the vice president of global security policy for Europe and the Americas at Lockheed Martin. Before that, he was the vice president of The Cohen Group, and has served in the past as a non-resident transatlantic fellow for the German Marshall Fund, as well as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy. He’s been a key advisor to Secretaries of Defense Rumsfeld and Gates, and before that was the policy director on the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House’s Republican Policy Committees.

So without further ado, Fabrice, we’ll start with you for your comments on this very complicated threat environment facing the alliance.

FABRICE POTHIER: Thank you very much, Nora. And it’s great to be here. Congratulations to the Atlantic Council. I think you guys are the only one who can squeeze NATO between the pope and the Chinese president. (Laughter.) Very impressive.

I was asked to talk about the threat environment that – I would just say a few words on that, but I think I would try to go more into what those threats mean in terms of political strategy dilemmas for the alliance. Of course, I think I don’t need to describe at length what kind of threats. For the first time, indeed, the alliance faces two front lines, one in the east and one in the south. And in both cases, these are structural threats and these are long-term threats, and also hybrid in how they express themselves.

So you see in the east a state actor, Russia, that employs non-state actors’ tactics in Ukraine and elsewhere. And you see in the south a non-state actor, like Daesh – that actually behaves in some respect like a state actor, and even holds more weaponry than many other regional states – in Iraq and Syria. So, indeed, this is a pretty multidirectional, complex picture. And I think on that the allies, both on the European and the American side, agree that we are facing this kind of 360-degree threat environment and we need to adapt.

Now, Nora was right in saying the question is to what extent should we prioritize on the east versus the south, and even within the east what should be the mode of action. But I think this is kind of, in a way, the very exciting period we’re in at NATO because this is the rewriting of the strategic bargain. Behind any alliance, there has to be a strategic bargain about who does what and what matters, and I think we are seeing that since Wales. The Wales summit was really a reaction summit to a big – double crisis, Mosul and Crimea. And I think the Warsaw summit will be the kind of longer-term action-taking on what that means.

But let me – let me point to you three dilemmas that this threat environment, I think, create for the alliance and for all of us. Number one dilemma: the imperative to restore stability in Europe, whilst managing competition with Russia. This is really the kind of balance that we are trying to define, and it will take several ingredients. Number one ingredient we need – actually, it’s a big ingredient – is called full-spectrum deterrence. Somehow, we need to relearn and restore a kind of fuller deterrence in – on the European continent, which for many years – for actually many decades we had lowered because we were reaching stability through cooperation and partnership rather than through deterrence.

So we need to, as we say, raise our game. This is what the readiness action plan has been doing, with putting the NATO forces on a higher level of readiness, but there is much more that needs to be done. And by full-spectrum deterrence, I mean we need to be able to respond to both conventional challenges, as well as non-conventional challenges. We need to be able to control escalation vertically as well as horizontally. So we need to get much better at obviously projecting forces in case of, at reinforcing our allies. So that’s the notion of also having tripwires.

But deterrence should not just stop at the concept of tripwires. I think it needs to go beyond, because if you look at what President Putin is doing, it’s actually more than just conventional forces. So we need to be able to deal with the whole range. And that involves cyber, for example – even though cyber has different law of deterrence, in a way, but it should be part of the panoply. And it should be also about responding to the Russian anti-access, area-denial challenges that we see forming in the Barents, Baltic and Black Seas. So I think this is really where we should be heading. And this is where the discussion is now at NATO. And the bet is that by Warsaw we will have, I would say, this architecture of this full-spectrum deterrence.

Several important ingredients that cannot be – cannot be neglected is we need to find new ways of managing crisis and miscalculations with Russia. And in a way, the aim should be to reach some kind of predictable coexistence. The problem with that is that it’s not in Russia’s interest to be predictable. Unpredictability is one of its, I would say, advantages over the fact that we have superiority in the conventional and non-conventional field. But my bet is that if we reach a high level enough of deterrence, I think somehow Russia will see an interest in somehow coming and agreeing on some kind of new modus operandi. It will not be probably based on what we were hoping for for the last 20 years – that means a partnership where somehow Russia will join the broader European family – so it’s more of a coexistence. But I think it’s important to develop new mechanisms to avoid miscalculations and be able to redefine some kind of stability in Europe.

Third important ingredient that should not be neglected – and I think that also will be part of the conversation towards Warsaw – is how do we support the places in between, the Eastern European partners that are clearly in the middle of this contest? And how do we support Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and others to make sure that it’s not about whether they join the alliance or not at this stage, it’s about whether they are sovereign enough or not, and how to make them as resilient and as strong as possible with their own choices. And I think this will be also a part of the conversation.

The second dilemma that we are facing and that has to do more with the south is, how do we contain the threats coming from the Middle East without letting further fragmentation of this Middle East? How does, basically, containment not mean passivity? And how, also, activity should not accelerate the fragmentation and the crisis in the region? First, I think we need to be a bit sharper about how we look at the threat environment in the – in the wider Middle East. There is obviously a lot of focus on terrorism and terrorist groups, and rightly so. But terrorism cannot be isolated from the other, I would say, sides of the coin of the threat picture in the Middle East, which are weak states, but also competing strong states. So basically you have to look at the Middle East at the scene there along these three elements to really understand what is at stake.

Here, I think what we need to develop is a kind of mix between a more, I would say, active defense posture that needs to be able to defend our allies and their territorial integrity. I think Turkey is the – for example, a very compelling example, that the Middle East is not just about crisis management, it’s also about collective defense. So we need to think of the Middle East also in terms of collective defense of our allies. We also need to think in terms of, what does counterterrorism does by a collective alliance like NATO mean? And where could it be helpful to conduct some counterterrorism operations?

And we also need, the third element, to develop – to be much more active in supporting and assisting local partners and regional organizations. Here we see, for example, in Wales we agree on what we call the Defense Capacity Building Initiative, which is basically training and assist, which is what we have been doing in Iraq and currently in Afghanistan. But it’s also about resources, and we’re still lacking the resources to make that really work. But I – and interestingly, I think for me the best take on what to do from a security point of view, including NATO, in the wider Middle East was done by the Atlantic Council – and I’m not saying that because they pay my plane ticket – (laughter) – by Barry and his team, in trying to find a kind of composite strategy, which is not passivity but not over-activism either, which we have seen in the past. The previous decade has not really produced positive results.

Let me finish on the third dilemma, which in a way converts the two previous dilemma, which is we need to do the two – both, that means tackle the security issues in the wider Middle East, deal and restore stability in Europe, with smaller forces and many other crises on the agenda – from the refugee, to here mostly the competition with China, to – and the euro crisis. So you have to see that we have also shrinking resources, even if we will see in the next 10 years increased investment. I think the reality, especially in the U.S., will be that we have smaller forces than what we have had 10 years ago, and we have to deal with that reality.

And that brings me to my final points, which is that I think we need somehow a new mindset about how we think security and how we think defense. First, we need to focus much more investment in defense on those critical capabilities that allow us to do as many things as possible – airlift, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, air defense, cyber. Cyber is needed both in collective defense, but also in crisis management operation. So we need to equip ourselves with these, I would say, fundamental building blocks of any military response to security threats.

Second, we need to have much more flexible structures, especially, for example, NATO – the NATO common structures, which are what they are. And they need to be able to be much more adaptable, much more shifting their resources and their priorities as the picture also shifts.

Third point – and this is important, I know that this is dear to Hans Binnedijk, and I very much liked his latest paper – I think we need to also look at deterrence and strength in terms of our own internal strength. And I think resilience should become also the new name of the game. Resilience of our partners, because the more vulnerable they are, the more – the stronger our adversaries will be with – for example, Ukraine is a compelling case; and but also resilience of our own allies. I think the more resilient the Baltic States and Central European states are, that means the quicker they can recover from any pressure or any attack, I think the more – I think the stronger and the more deterring they are. So resilience has to be a new name of the defense security nexus.

Here, the challenge is that resilience is not the property of a single organization. It’s, of course, first owned by the nation, but the nations alone cannot do it. They need the European Union. They need NATO, to an extent. So we need to find a new, I would say, entente between both the nations, the European Union and NATO. And this is what, for example, especially the United States has been very active in trying to push a bit allies about how we cooperate on this resilience.

Third point is I think we need to think a bit more about keeping the edge. I know that the U.S. – the previous defense secretary launched this – I think it’s the third Offset Strategy – which is a bit obscure for us Europeans, but then once you read the fine print you get it – and I think we need to replicate that in Europe. That means we need to make sure we don’t lose our technological superiority. This is what is being attempted in the European Union effort on defense, but I think NATO should have a role. And to see how NATO can somehow help the – bring the Europeans so that the Europeans and the U.S. are not kind of having a huge technological gap, which in 10, 15 years could become a big political gap. So I think we need to also keep the edge.

And finally, because we are not just a military alliance, we are also a political alliance, I think we should see now kind of overall strategy and how to also minimize our investment or make our investment where it really matters. Also, the fact that political investment can pay off from a military security point of view. And let me give you the example of the Baltic region, where this is a newly contested region, one where we have very important allies – all the allies are important, but also very important partners.

And here, I think this is obviously a conversation that the Swedes and the Finns have domestically, and this is not something that we should be intervening in these internal debates. But I think just thinking about, down the line, if Sweden and Finland were to join the alliance at some point, this will have, I would say, a huge stabilization effect in the Baltic Sea, and I think will create really that kind of more stable deterrence that we should be seeking with Russia. So we should not just think military in terms of investment in capabilities and in things, but also in political strategy.

Thank you very much.


MAGNUS NORDENMAN: Thank you, Nora.

Fabrice, that was excellent. I thought that was great. And I think I will pick up on some of the themes that you presented.

But I was going to use my time to sort of do a bit of a deep dive in one aspect of this. And this goes back to mindset and changing the alliance mindset, which has been very ground-centric for the last two decades or so, as Nora mentioned. So I actually want to touch on the maritime domain in and around Europe and globally, and actually how central it is to the – to the new climate of global competition and how it is central to NATO’s future and collective defense and deterrence in Europe, but also to crisis management and cooperative security.

So if you take a broader view of transatlantic security, I think you will quickly find that the maritime spaces are certainly crucial to security and prosperity for all alliance members, but they are also actually increasingly competitive. If you start placing the red dots where we have had incursions and provocations and shows of force, I think you will quickly find that a lot of that has actually happened in the maritime spaces around NATO’s flanks. And certainly if you include the above the surface, you will see a pretty strong pattern. So that certainly includes the Baltic Sea region, the Black Sea region. And I would also place the high north there, which is obviously a profoundly maritime region, but we do see heightened Russian military activity and a sustained Russian military buildup.

And if you think about it, this is actually not that surprising. The maritime domain is inherently fluid, which gives Russia the ability to test responses, feel out redlines and perhaps even intimidate NATO members and partners in ways that you simply can’t do on dry land without it escalating very, very quickly into situations that none of us wants. So I think the key takeaway here is that if we do believe that this is a long-term contest and climate change for European security, then I think – then I think the maritime domain will remain very much in focus for that continued contest between NATO and Russia.

But certainly NATO’s maritime challenges go well-beyond the eastern challenge. Certainly we have already touched a couple times this morning about the migrant crisis and crumbling order in the Middle East, which certainly has important maritime components as well, even though NATO may not necessarily be in the lead for some of those responses. But I will also point out that actually emerging powers, such as China, are now operating in waters much closer to Europe, or in waters that are of interest to Europe.

So China conducted a pretty ambitious non-combatant evacuation out of Libya in 2011. This summer there was a joint Chinese-Russian naval exercise in the Mediterranean that actually saw the Chinese warships actually also go into the Black Sea to link up with the Russian navy before the exercises began. So you do see emerging powers now sharing space in Maritime domains that are important to NATO. Doesn’t necessarily mean that we will see conflict, but it does mean that the maritime domain is more congested, in ways that perhaps before has been the purview of the U.S. Navy and its NATO allies.

And finally, on the challenges, let’s not forget about the maritime domain as a conduit for future possible NATO crisis management operations, in the sense that they do provide access for NATO forces and ability of NATO to sustain operations. So certainly OUP in military, the air war over Kosovo, and even operations in Afghanistan very much relied on the maritime domain for support for strikes, for ISR, for supply and so on and so forth.

And actually, if you do the numbers, of all the NATO operations over the last 20 years, about half have actually either been maritime operations or had important maritime components. So it’s a bit of an underreported story and an underreported aspect of all this. But I should note that there really hasn’t been much of a strategy behind it, that it’s been a context where NATO has been reactive to an emerging crisis or an emerging requirement to act, and then that has had a – that has had a maritime component to it. So it’s obviously time to start thinking strategically about this rather than just reacting to the – to the environment.

So while we see Russia actually underway with a pretty substantial maritime buildup, and emerging powers expressing their new ambitions through naval means, at the same time you have across NATO members, naval forces arguably that have taken the largest hits in terms of defense austerity and where we have seen real loss in force structure and capabilities. And it certainly goes across the lines, but just a few examples. As you already know, the U.K. got rid of its maritime patrol aircraft in 2010. They may be back soon, or so at least we hope. The Royal Navy is now down to 19 frigates and destroyers, making the Royal Navy the smallest it’s been in a very, very long time.

The Dutch have cut their fleet of frigates and replaced them with ocean patrol vessel that are more suited to sort of softer maritime security challenges, if you will. And the maritime operations that the alliance have undertaken have been towards the softer end or lower end of the spectrum, if you will. So counterterrorism, counterpiracy and humanitarian escorts. And that has obviously influenced the mindset and the exercises and the training that goes with that.

And finally, NATO actually brought out an alliance maritime strategy in 2011, which at heart is actually a pretty good document. It’s short and to the point and establishes NATO interests and what NATO needs to do. However, it sort of got lost in the shuffle after it was released, unfortunately. Maybe that has something to do with the Libya operation taking off, and that quickly became the focal point of the alliance. But there is this strategy that has not been operationalized and not paid attention to over the last – over the last five years.

So in short, what does NATO need to do to better compete and be present and be credible in the maritime domain? I have a few ideas, and I think is just sort of the start of the conversation, and I’m happy to pick some of these up. Again, going back to NATO needs to start recalibrating its mindset, certainly in a broader fashion but also as it pertains to the maritime domain. And again, I think we’re still experiencing some of the hangover from Afghanistan, which understandably was very long and costly operation, both in blood and treasure. And obviously none of this means that we don’t need credible air and ground forces. Again, I’m not talking about shifting all of it, but a new balance between the priorities.

It is probably time to at least take a new serious look at alliance maritime strategy, and is it fit for fight. Again, at heart it’s a pretty good document, but does it need to be – does it need to be updated, given the new – given the new security circumstances in Europe and beyond? NATO needs to focus on the high-end skills and capabilities that come with maritime war fighting. So we’re talking anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, line warfare and so forth. And these are skills and capabilities that haven’t really been exercised or resourced much over the last 10 or 15 years. So something that the alliance needs to start thinking about. Again, there certainly have been some exercises that are driving towards this way, but we need to increase the focus on that.

And then, I think it’s time to start taking a really serious look at pooling and sharing in the maritime domain. There are certain capabilities that are relevant to all allies, such as maritime patrol aircraft. They are – they are very relevant to the high north. They’re very relevant to the Baltic Sea. But certainly, also very relevant to the southern challenge. And the European maritime patrol aircraft fleet is getting very old and very thin, but the replacements are very, very expensive. So how can – how can we regain a maritime control capability at a cheaper price?

And then, finally, strategic domain awareness, which is one of those old go-tos for the NATO debate. And when I mean domain awareness, I don’t only mean it in the technical sense of the world, in sense of radars and sharing pictures and so on and so forth, but also strategic and what is actually – what are actually dynamics in some of these maritime spaces? So in the high north, in the Baltic Sea, in the Black Sea. And sharing those impressions and insights within a broader alliance context, so you get a more cohesive alliance understanding of what is actually going on in the maritime domains in terms of operations and signals and so forth.

So I have obviously outlined a number of challenges and shortcomings here. But I actually do see it as an opportunity for the alliance. I do think that the alliance at heart is a maritime alliance. After all, an ocean is part of the – is part of the name. So I do think this is an opportunity to recapture that spirit for NATO, which will be crucial for the success of the alliance in the 21st century. And finally, as Nora mentioned, we have recently released a report on NATO in the maritime domain. It’s available for pick-up outside. And some of the issues that I covered we certainly hope to continue working on here at the Atlantic Council moving forward. Thank you.



DAN FATA: Well, thanks. It’s great to be here, seeing so many friends and colleagues, and enjoyed both of your comments thus far. For those that have heard me speak before, I tend to be a little provocative, and so I intend to do that as well, just to spice it up for dialogue and discussion.

But also I was – I guess it was about a month ago – I participated in a two-day seminar session, there was about 40 of us, looking specifically at this – at the Russia threat. And so I was asked today to speak about, among other things, give a little bit of focus on Russia, A2/AD, so anti-access and area denial, what it means, how did we get here, what do you do about it? And so some of what you’re going to hear today came out of that two-day session where I walked away a little bit frustrated as to where I think we are and how we got here. So I want to walk folks through that a little bit.

So Fabrice did a good job in laying out a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be done. And I don’t disagree with it. I think, though, part of the challenge is going to be generating the leadership. Yes, generating the cash is going to be a big challenge, but you got to generate the leadership first. So that will also be another part of this discussion. So, again, the topic for this panel is NATO’s new threat horizon. And in many ways, NATO’s new threats are a lot of NATO’s old threats. You have foreign enemies or actors trying, or potentially threatening sovereignty. You have – you have migration flows. You have separatists. You have just lack of focus on some of these national security issues and more of a focus on domestic.

Now, all that said, there are new threats, which Fabrice laid out – asymmetric, declining economies in some places, nationalist elements. So there’s a lot that’s going on. But it’s interesting, as I step back – and I’ve been giving a brief on and off for about the past five or six years about transatlantic security trends and what’s comprised them. When I went back to look at that brief, and over the past five years – some of you may have heard this before – I described those trends as – when you look at really security from about 2003 to 2013 beginning of ’14 – as comprising five factors. I call them the five Ds.

If you look at that, you see transatlantic security defense trends were effected by increase in public debt. So that made freedom of what you wanted to do less of an option. Increasing demographics in terms of an aging population and the corresponding relationship to an unwillingness to take risk. And you see a lot of the political battles and fights from the ’05 to ’08 period about what to do in Afghanistan.

You see an increased number of deployments – really, you even go back further to around Bosnia but you could even say Kosovo, if you wanted just to cut it a little closer – but an increasing number of deployments sort of made folks tired. Made leaders tired of deploying, and also took a toll on defense assets, because there wasn’t necessarily a corresponding reinvestment in upgrading. It was urgent operational requirements.

The fourth D would be declining defense spending. And again, folks have heard me say it, and my bosses – my old bosses have said it. We all see the data that shows that over the past decade or so there has been an appreciable decline in defense spending – again, because of some of the other Ds. And then the fifth D would be what I just call domestic issues. So it forced folks to, and particularly after 2008 or at the end of 2008 with the global economic recession, people focused on that first. Leaders focused on that first. We also had the completion of the EU project and the Lisbon Treaty and others.

So there is a lot that has affected the space. As I was looking at now sort of updating what I was doing and looking at what’s happened just over the past 18 months or so, there’s almost a new set of Ds. So that first set gave you the baseline. And then the new set really gets us to where we are today, where you see Putin and others being in a position maybe not where they can influence us, but they can certainly force us to not look like we are as unified and as strong and as capable as we once were. And so – too many cards. You guys spoke so well I had to reshuffle my deck. (Laughter.) But for those – there’s a funny story with Putin in 2008 in Bucharest with a deck of cards, but we’ll save that for later.

So as I look at – as I was getting ready for today, and reading – and by the way, there’s been a lot of great analysis done by Atlantic Council, by SIPA, by CSBA, by a whole bunch of organizations looking at defense trends and all of this. But to me, we’ve replaced those past five with a new set. And it’s: distraction, denial, disengagement, distance and doubt. And what I mean by those is you build on the last D, of the domestic issues, that’s still happening. We still have domestic problems that are – on both sides of the Atlantic, that create a distraction for addressing the real issues.

We have denial that some of these threats – whether it be Russia, whether it be ISIL – really affects all of Europe or really affects all the transatlantic community. We have disengagement. I talked to you about the heavy amount of deployments and just overall engagement by Europe over the past 10 to 15 years. We see a real pulling back of that, again, based on those previous factors.

Distance, and it’s interesting, you can describe distance in a few different ways. But one could be, there’s actually been, Dan’s view, a growing distance between the United States and Europe on a variety of issues. But there’s also been a growing distance between the countries of Europe on some of the issues that matter. And, to use distance in a different way, there is a distance between Northern Europe, Southern Europe and North Africa that gives some countries – I’m not naming any of them – the opportunity to be like, well, it’s not right there. It’s not right there, it’s not facing us, so therefore we’ll deal with other issues.

And then the last one is doubt. And we see this within Europe and we see it by countries and leaders around the world. Doubt as to whether we’re unified. Doubt as to whether we’ll come to the response of one another. Doubt as to whether if we say this matters and that line is crossed, whether we will do anything about it.

And so go back to that roundtable or seminar I was in a few weeks ago, one of the big points that kept coming up was have we collectively, and has the U.S. individually, lost the ability to deter its enemies and to assure its friends? And I would say part of this new threat environment or new threat horizon we’re looking at is that enemies, whether they be state or non-state, are questioning whether we have the ability to deter and assure. I think others are questioning whether we have the ability to lead, whether we want to lead, whether we have been able to define what it is that we’re willing to fight and defend for, and if necessary die for, to protect.

And so that gets more to where I was – what I was asked to speak a little bit more on this Russia A2/AD. So for those that don’t necessarily follow the acronym, so anti-access, area denial. We see it exhibited by China, in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. But overall the idea is that an actor or a group of actors would seek to deny a country, an alliance the ability to get in close, to be able to defend another country, another ally, and to deny freedom of action within a variety of domains – air, sea, cyber.

And so a lot of great analysis has been done in recent weeks and months about what Russia is doing in Kaliningrad and the Black Sea in order to establish this kind of edge – or asymmetric edge on the United States and on NATO, so that if Putin – and Putin and Russia in my mind are synonymous – were to act, that it would deny the U.S. the ability or NATO the ability to respond quickly. So really, the challenge here would be not that you could stop Russia, say, from taking a piece of Baltic or Polish territory. The fight becomes what’s the cost of getting it back?

And so with A2/AD, you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll – that who you’re trying to deter will make a political calculation that it’s just too high to act, and therefore that country – either country, either Russia or the United States or others – wouldn’t have to take anything because the cost would be too high, you generate a stalemate and you leave the countries that are sort of stuck in that zone, that zone of influence, in a very bad place.

And so over the past – really, since the Russia-Georgia war and the lessons learned there, we’ve seen a pretty good-size investment, and plenty of folks have written about it, so it’s not anything that’s classified, in Russian asymmetric capabilities, but also in conventional force capabilities. Plenty of stories have been written about what Russia’s doing in the air. Not so many stories you see about what Russia’s doing under water, in cyber and in space. And that’s all very troubling. And that gets right to where your A2/AD problems would be for the alliance, for the United States.

In my view, Putin can do it for a variety of reasons right now, partly because he can, because he’s not getting the pushback, partly because he has for now the technological advantage to be able to do it. Partly, he can justify it as a way to defend Moscow because if you play with his narrative, or you go down the path of his narrative, what NATO is doing with its progression from west to east is threatening Moscow or threating the very rule of Russia. Of course, we don’t subscribe to that, as you all know, but it plays well with a domestic audience. And it goes back to those previous points I was making about the whole doubt factor. And so he’s able to do this.

And so A2/AD is surmountable. It is – you can beat it. You can get around it and you can weaken it. But it’s going to come with a cost. You’re going to have to play that one out. It’s going to have to be, you know, a discussion amongst allies – probably one of the highest classified discussions one could imagine because you probably are talking about a loss of life, not clear to what degree. But to take on – and if you believe that between Russia’s air and missile defense systems, its submarines, its fighters and all that, its cyber capability, that actually it could inflict enough pain to deter an initial response, then, yeah, there are going to be consequences. And is the alliance ready for that kind of fight?

We also don’t know – I think Fabrice was correct when he said part of this new mindset or part of what we need to do is we’re going to need to develop – and I’m not going to get your words exactly right – but some kind of escalatory ladder, some kind of escalatory decision matrix with the Russians so that, you know, the Russia claims to the right of first use isn’t done, and then we are stuck with either very little options or no options other than going nuclear ourselves. So there’s a lot that needs to be done.

But where I’m going with this is that it’s achievable. Russia is not a 10-foot giant. It has its weaknesses as well. It has demographic problems. It has geography problems. It has economic problems. Its investment in forces on the conventional side aren’t spotty, but they vary. Russia’s real threats, as we all know, are to its south and to its east. It’s playing around in the Arctic, it’s beefing up Kaliningrad, it’s doing whatever it’s going to do in Syria, it’s playing in the Balkans. Again, China and others pose a far greater threat. At some point, given all the trends and challenges that Putin is facing, he won’t be able to sustain it.

So go back to Fabrice’s point, and I think he’s right, we need to get somewhere where we can develop some kind of partnership or constructive dialogue with Russia. This may – he may just be flexing muscles and flapping wings right now to make noise and to be seen and heard, but this is not sustainable. I don’t believe it’s sustainable. And so then that gets to, so what do we do about it?

And so my view is what we need to do is – or, the following. The first thing we need to do is we need to basically stand up and say, collectively, but certainly with the United States, that we’re going to lead again. That this is unsustainable. The world has become a little bit unseemly, it’s dynamic. That’s OK, but that we need to exert leadership. We need to spell out what it is that we stand for and, like I said before, what we’re willing to fight and die for. Second, we need to develop a narrative – and so that conversation happens to the American and European people, but it also happens directly in one-on-ones with world leaders.

Second, we need to develop a narrative to explain to our citizens what we stand for. And we need to talk to them in ways in which we’re going to have to say unpleasant things. The way of life we all have, the way of life we enjoy, the freedoms we have, the ability to sit in a room like this, be on devices, just chit-chat and talk, there are real-world consequences. I’m sure there are some people in here, I can see some wear uniforms now, but I’m sure there are others that at some point in their life did military service.

We see countries like Lithuania and others that are going back to the path of having to reinstate conscription just so there’s a general preparedness across the board. I’m not saying that’s what needs to be done, but unpleasant conversations need to at least take place, and we shouldn’t not have a conversation because we’re afraid of the outcome. I think NATO has suffered with that, certainly when I was there in the Pentagon. Third, we need to focus on the threats that pose the most immediate danger. And that does now get back to your point, Nora, east verses south. What is it that really matters? What will threaten the existence of the alliance? What will cause us to go back toward the Stone Ages if we don’t address it?

Fourth, accept that security and defense are mandatory cornerstones of the modern nation-state, and that they require investment, and that there are choices that have to be made, but – to some of the ideas that Magnus and Fabrice were saying – there are ways in which it can be done which won’t bankrupt a country. But think of the costs if you don’t invest in that. Think of what happens if you don’t continue to invest, or reinvest, in these capabilities. And fifth, that is my last point, is the reinvestment in the capabilities that are needed. A real discussion, as Fabrice and others have pointed out, about what it is we actually truly need versus nice to have, but what is it that you need in the first round. What is it you need that will reestablish deterrence and assurance?

So, again, leadership gets us a long way in NATO’s new threat horizon. And I’m happy to chat more about this.

MS. BENSAHEL: Great. Thanks very much. And thanks to all of you for your comments. I’d like to pull out two key themes that I heard across your conversation – across your presentations, and then ask you to respond. And after we cover those, we’ll go to questions and answers from the audience, because I’m sure there’s been a lot of provocative material here for us to pick up on.

The first thing that I was struck by is how all of you mention the touchy-feely stuff of the alliance in terms – you know, as opposed to capabilities. I’ll get to capabilities in a minute, but in terms of the mentality. Fabrice, you emphasized that and, Magnus, you picked up on that, and your talking about leadership really, you know, gets to this question of political will in a lot of ways. We spend a lot of time talking about capabilities, and that’s really important, but in some ways if you don’t have that, you know, mindset, leadership, political will, however you choose to describe that, the piece that keeps the allies together and focus together, you don’t have much of an alliance.

So I’d like to ask each of you to talk a little bit about how you see that. Dan, in particular, you laid out some things you think that the – needs to happen, both within countries and probably at the NATO level. But how do you – how do you go about generating the will to have some of those tough conversations? And how do you within – you know, Fabrice, from your perspective – from inside the institution, how do you try to generate that among the allies? I’ll leave it to whoever wants to go first. Fabrice.

MR. POTHIER: Can I pick – I think it’s a very good question. It’s true that the discussion has shifted from a few years ago, when we were very much focused on capabilities, defense investment. I mean, we launched Smart Defense. We agreed at the Wales summit on the defense investment pledge, which is the first time 28 heads of states commit to spending within the next – within the coming 10 years 2 percent of GDP on defense, and 20 percent of that on defense equipment and research and development. So it’s not to be neglected, not to be underestimated, even if the road is a long road.

But I think the discussion has shifted, and in a good way, because it’s no longer about the stuff we need as about what we need to achieve with that stuff. And I think it’s really about what are the strategic effects we are seeking in Europe, in the Middle East? So it’s no longer about the means, but the ends. And I think this is, I think, encouraging. And that’s why Dan’s kind of gloomy Ds – (laughter) – I would have added a more positive or more strategic one, deterrence. I think deterrence is back in the conversation, and not in the hard-headed European capitals like mine or other ones, but also in Berlin and other capitals. And I think that’s quite significant, that you hear this D being really at the center of many conversations. That’s the first thing.

On maritime, to pick up on that, totally agree with your analysis. Maritime is probably the Achilles’ heel of the alliance. This is where we are really punching well-below our weight, even though we have the main maritime world powers in the alliance. And yet, we are clearly struggling to generate enough ships and forces to man our current operations or what we call the standing naval forces, which are the naval part of the NATO response force. So there is a real, I would say, tension here between what we know we need to do in the maritime domain, and what we are struggling to generate in terms of assets.

The reality is that we’ve got lots of assets. If you look at the European inventory, there are many ships out there. But the problem is that they are also overcommitted. They are committed to European Union operations. They are committed to U.N., to obviously national operations. So there is a problem of European overstretch and I think I would say also an American overstretch into the maritime domain. But we need to square the circle, I totally agree.

Just to finish on A2/AD, because it’s also linked to the capability question. First, it’s interesting that this obscure acronym – I remember when I mentioned it seven month ago during a meeting principals I got most of them looking at me like, OK, he’s the policy planning guy, he’s, you know – and now it’s very much part of the conversation. Now the question is, what does a counter anti-access, area-denial strategy mean in Europe? First, because we don’t have the capabilities that the U.S. can display in the Asia-Pacific domain, even though the U.S. will be part of the conversation and will have to bring some of its capabilities. But we are not going to have the same kind of high-end, highly intensive and kinetic capabilities.

And second, I think we have to be more political about counter A2/AD. Of course, we need to consider the extreme scenario of having to do a suppression of Russian air defense, that if we need to reinforce an ally facing an existential threat, this might have to be done. But this is, in a way, a very extreme scenario. And like Dan rightly pointed out, we need to build more steps into the escalation ladder. And for the moment, because we have, in a way, put aside that ladder, there are a lot of steps missing. So it’s either we do nothing or we have to do the big stuff that is politically very difficult for many capitals to agree.

So my point here is I think we need to really have a European counter anti-access, area-denial strategy which should be more defensive. Say Russia decides to close an airspace; we’re going to respond by launching a maritime blockade. So it’s a kind of judo strategy of you exert pressure, we’re going to use that pressure to exert it somewhere else. And I think that gives political decision-makers more options, more defensive than offensive, so the cost is less high. And it’s more about this kind of contest of the will, rather than having to go into basically what would be an open war with Russia, which politically is going to be a very long shot in Europe.

MR. NORDENMAN: I’ll be very brief. In terms of changing mindset, I mean, I think part of what makes our mindset is what you do and how you do it, is a big piece to explaining an organization’s mindset. So that, obviously, capabilities and exercises are important, because they do influence that mindset. So certainly that is an important supporting aspect.

But I take the point that this needs to be much more of a political discussion. So I think we need to help policy makers, both in the United States and Europe, sort of think through the unthinkable, and have some of those tough conversations and air perspectives and air what-ifs that we have not done within the alliance for quite some time. And I would also think – I think the alliance has a record of not thinking the unthinkable, but then actually going on and doing it.

I mean, there was certainly an air around the alliance in 2010 that certainly Afghanistan was a bridge too far, we’re never doing this again, expeditionary. That’s past us. And then, of course, we go and do Libya. And there are other examples of this too. So I think there are examples of where NATO has found itself in this position before.

MR. FATA: If I just look from the American side of this, I think what I’ve seen over the past 14 or 15 years, we’ve created a lot of this ourselves in terms of losing a dialogue with the American people, and I think partly with our European allies and others, about not what matters, but how we go – what we ask and what’s required of the American people in achieving what matters to us.

And so I go back to the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when President Bush – and for all the right reason I believe he did it. He did it for all the right reasons, let’s put it that way, when he said to the American people, you know, we won’t be deterred, keep going to the movies, keep going to the shopping malls. You know, the terrorists aren’t going to change our way of life. What that did, though, was I think it put the onus and the effort on the backs of a minority – and our military’s already a minority of Americans – but that on – the back and the onus on a minority of Americans, where the rest of the country was able to just proceed. We’d read about it, we’d see it, but we weren’t connected to it. We weren’t connected to it.

And so then over this past decade of everything in Afghanistan, there was this disconnect. You had members of Congress that, again, would go up to see our troops. But you know, I felt that we – it started the fraying of the relationship between – or, maybe not the fraying. That’s probably a bad world – but the disappearance of the relationship between society and the military. And I think that’s been a very important part of this country, and of European history. And so if as you look at what I was saying about some of these Ds and the focus on the European project or distractions with the economy, you also, I think, see a fraying or a disintegration of the relationship between the military and society in Europe as well.

So you have a variety of folks elected, certainly in the U.S. Congress, since 2010, because I did a little bit of research on this – certainly in the U.S. Congress, and I would presume a lot in Europe, that that’s not the platform they were elected on. They weren’t elected on a platform of foreign affairs and national security. They were elected on the immediate post-2008 aftermath of the global recession and on domestic issues. And so that wasn’t something that he voters were driving them for. I think the present GOP debate is real interesting because foreign affairs is coming up – whether they’re well-educated responses or not. At least the candidates feel they need to respond or talk about it.

And so I think, to get to your question of how do you – how do we get to a place where we can have this dialogue and this discussion – it does take leadership. It takes somebody, or a collection of somebodies – you’re going to do it 28 at first. You may just start it with one leader, you may start it with a couple. But you need to have that discussion about enough is enough. We are being threatened. We are being blackmailed. We look weak. We can’t lead. We can’t achieve what we want if we don’t come together. And by the way, this does bleed over into some trade deals too, between us and Europe. We’re not synched up. And so we do look – we do a lot of this to ourselves. And so we need to come together and say, what matters to you is what matters to me. And let’s work together. And you start with that base.

And finally, both sides – both the United States and Europe have really done a lot to decrease their defense capabilities and their defense spending. Again, it gets caught in that debate between domestic versus foreign affairs and national security. But that’s all self-inflicted. We can fix that. We can fix that. We can change that. We can get rid of sequester and budget caps. We can get to 2 percent faster in Europe. And I see that our Baltic allies have moved up their timetable from 2020 to 2018. It can all be done, it just requires leadership and political will, having those discussions with parliamentarians and with people about what matters.

MS. BENSAHEL: I will turn my second theme across the panel into a quick comment, so we can get to questions faster. The capabilities issue always comes up, but as – you know, as Fabrice, you mentioned, in some ways it’s secondary to the political will question, although, of course, you need that. I think one of the not tests, but one of the indications that we’ll see if that kind of consensus is emerging among the allies, and if, Fabrice, your vision of where the alliance needs to go comes to pass, is in this question, particularly among the European allies, of an increase in willingness to pool and share resources, especially in some of those common areas. Fabrice, you mentioned air lift, ISR, you know, air defense, maybe less so in cyber.

But you know, those things are very expensive, particularly given the trends of European defense budgets, the pressures on ships, for example. You know, those assets are going to continue to be limited. And you know, there have been some steps in this direction. But that, I think, will really be one of the key indications to watch. Certainly not the only one, but a very important one.

Let me now open the floor to your questions. There are going to be mics floating around. Please introduce yourselves at the beginning and please limit yourselves to a question not a comment. I will interrupt you if you start making a speech. Yes. And please wait for the mics to come to you, since we have people online who are following the conversation as well.

Q: My name is Ralph Crosby, and I’m on the Executive Committee of Atlantic Council.

Just following up on your last comment, there is – in terms of the best utilization of scarce resources, the notion of specialization is immensely applicable to the situation. But the conundrum is that if you take one of those capabilities that was discussed and have it invested by a single nation, you move to the second phase of the issue, which is the political will to apply it for alliance needs. Are we ever, will we ever get to the point? Is there a path to where that specialization can become a real contributor to the strength of the alliance and the ability of the alliance to carry out some of this missions that y’all have described?

MS. BENSAHEL: Who wants to take that?

MR. FATA: Well, what I would say is Fabrice put his finger on it when there needs to be – again, I’m going to use the wrong words – but protocol or changes at NATO at headquarters in terms of structure and how decisions are taken and how actions are given either to SACEUR to undertake for some limited period or such. I think it’s very important that – I think it’s very important that there’s a streamlining and there is a sort of set, agreed-upon protocols that – where it doesn’t require all 28 to come into the room and have to vote, that there is a threshold that’s been defined, the escalatory ladder and such, that gives SACEUR and others the ability to respond quickly, and it gives him the ability to use national assets for whatever it is.

Where I thought you were going to go was that when one nation decides to, OK, we’ll stand up and we’ll buy X, then that’s all that country has. And therefore, someone else –

Q: Actually ensuring that’s where –

MR. FATA: Yeah. And so you may have it, but can’t use it. It would be interesting – and pooling and sharing is tough. NATO, you know, there’s a lot of fights in order to get NATO to agree to pool and share, whether it be for the C-17s or other things. But it would be interesting if there was a multiuse platform – not a single use platform, but a multiuse platform, probably an air asset but you could do it certainly with a ship – that the allies could then buy into, agree to buy. Then that sort of changes some of that capabilities. It could be an ISR platform. It could be a naval platform. It could have a whole bunch of stuff. But even a group buy won’t be helpful for you if SACEUR or others don’t have the ability to be able to use it on an as-needed basis.

Q: Create the whole rather than –

MR. FATA: Yeah.

MS. BENSAHEL: Fabrice.

MR. POTHIER: So just two quick points in response to that.

First, of course, there is always a tension between solidarity and efficiency, but we should not neglect solidarity for the sake of efficiency. We should recall that we often say that the alliance won or finished the Cold War without firing a shot, but we should remember that I think President Putin’s objective is to finish the alliance without firing a shot. That means paralyzing us politically. So we have to be careful not to fragment ourselves, not to indulge in too many flexible coalitions and so on that will in a way remove the most important aspect of our deterrence, which is our unity, however difficult it is. So that’s a – and of course, around that we can make our decision-making leaner, faster, also the strategic awareness coming in on the table of the decision-makers faster. But I think in the end you still have to have that solidarity decision point.

So on pooling and sharing, I mean, I developed the Smart Defense concept, and I think that was also a way to sort of deal with the economic crisis and to give the Europeans a way of working flexibly to develop capabilities. But this is a long endeavor. And I think there are too many people now who are calling it dead or irrelevant basically two years or three years after it has been agreed by the heads of states. We know that capabilities projects take an average 10, 15 years, sometimes 20 years to come to fruition. But it is true that in Europe you still see, I think, real resistance in terms of sovereignty, in terms of defense-industrial, I would say, rights or influence, which means that it is very difficult to break the walls of national sovereignty defense industry. There are attempts, but I think as long as we don’t have the big European players willing to fully play the pooling and sharing game, it’s going to remain a marginal effort.

So I think we still can go further and actually address some of the maritime shortfalls, because when you talk about anti-submarine warfare, I don’t think it’s an option for many countries to buy what they used to have 20 years ago, which they were asked to dispose of to concentrate on expeditionary effort. They can no longer buy these kind of high-end, sophisticated platforms. But what they can do is leapfrog and look at new autonomous technologies to actually work more in network rather than a single platform. So I think this is – we have to think in terms of leapfrogging and adaptation, rather than platforms.

And just to finish on Dan’s point, to plug and play – what you call the plug and play, which is not for NATO to own a capability, but rather to offer a platform where nations can bring their capabilities, however different they are, and play together in order to do more than the whole of their sum. And this is what we are going to do with the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hub, and I think this is the way forward. So it’s not about owning collective capabilities – which are very complicated in terms of financing, agreement – but it’s more about giving nations the plug-and-play options so that the alliance can be more than just sum of the nations’ capabilities.

MS. BENSAHEL: Other questions? Mark.

Q: Thank you. Mark Jacobson, Department of Defense.

All of you have been talking about NATO’s military capabilities, kinetic capabilities. Fabrice, you had mentioned that NATO’s also a political alliance. What concerns me most as I look out there are these hybrid threats, instability. What more can NATO do to enhance its cooperation along the civil-military front, along the stabilization front? And what sort of new frameworks might you envision to deal with what are essentially challenges in governance, corruption, those areas that NATO is very uncomfortable with getting involved with, but that EU-NATO cooperation doesn’t seem to have addressed sufficiently?

MR. POTHIER: Do you want me to do that?


MR. POTHIER: I mean, it’s a tough one. There are two answers, I think.

First, hybrid or limited warfare, or whatever we call that concept, has also classical elements in it. What we saw in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, whatever hybrid strategy, was also leaning on very conventional strategies. So hybrid always have a conventional basis. You had, you know, tens of thousands of Russian troops by – on the other side of the Ukrainian border to make sure that whatever special forces or little green men who were put in Crimea or elsewhere will have maximum effect. And this is something SACEUR has reminded the North Atlantic Council many times, is that in the end hybrid also has to start with the conversational stuff to be really efficient.

Then, of course, you need to be better at being nimble and being able to operate around civilian and military sector and sphere, because this is the whole point about hybrid. And I think on that there is a real – I would say there’s a qualitative step forward in terms of the conversation between the European Union and NATO because they are the two, in a way, co-owners of the response. And of course, the nations are at the center, but the two international organizations who can pull a response together.

And I think the first – most important thing with hybrid is – and I will give three Ds, but – here. First, to detect, because hybrid is about, you know, the early signs of a buildup, of exerting pressure on some groups, economic pressure or social pressure, and so on. So we need to be able to detect as early as possible in order to not have to display a full military response. Then, to also deter. That means to make sure that the adversary knows that if he starts messing around, even below the threshold, there will be a cost. And resilience is part of that deterrence because if the adversary knows that that country is not as vulnerable as he thinks it is, then it’s – his hybrid strategy is not going to be that efficient.

And then, if there is a need, to be able to defend. And to defend means to be able, indeed, to have teams that could possibly be a mix of military and civilian teams that can both work on the law enforcement side as well as on the military side.

So it takes a new mindset. I don’t know to what extent we will be there in terms of total new institutional makeup about how to address that. But I think there is a real new understanding that there has to be a new qualitative cooperation on that between NATO and the European Union.

MS. BENSAHEL: Other questions? Yes, right here.

Q: Good morning. I’m the Spanish defense attaché.

It’s very clear that the maritime domain is more and more relevant. And Mr. Fata, mentioned the Arctic. Keeping in mind how unpredictable is Mr. Putin, how proactive is the U.S. – or how proactive should be in the Arctic, and not only the U.S. but some other NATO nations with interests in the Arctic? In other words, is the U.S. – are the U.S. and the alliance ready to take the lead in the Arctic?

MR. NORDENMAN: So I can – I can start off. I mean, I think one of the really interesting dynamics in the Arctic and the high north is actually that a lot of the Arctic nations did a series of Arctic strategies a few years back. But they actually all happened before the Ukraine crisis. So when talking to those allies and just sort of seeing where the security environment is going, I think a lot of those countries are quite ready for another look at their posture in the Arctic and their attitude towards the Arctic.

I think the U.S. is finally waking up to this. We certainly – we saw Obama in Alaska. We saw Senator McCain going to the region. We saw the deputy secretary of defense going to the region just a few weeks ago. So I do think that there is – there is a new attention paid to this in Washington. And certainly allies such as Norway and Denmark and others are certainly also very interested.

I would say I find the high north to be a region which is – where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, in the sense that if we actually work up front now in terms of exercises and political attention, we could actually – we can actually save ourselves a bunch of work down the road if this turns into an area of – a real area of tension. So to me, fundamentally, it’s an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

MS. BENSAHEL: Other questions? Yeah, off the aisle in the middle.

Q: Yes. Thank you very much. Peter Magenhilsen (sp), Danish defense (councilor/counselor ?). And so I was very pleased about the Arctic question, and also the answer from Magnus.

My own question is a little bit in a different direction. This morning it’s both been about doubt, leadership, and then, of course, capabilities. And actually, I think the panel has, in a way, focused on many sort of capabilities that we need. We need more naval forces. We need to be flexible. We need the ISR. We need the strategic lift. We need all the enablers. And then, of course, we also need, at the end of the day, probably, to be able to deal with the suppression of Russian air defense with A2/D2 (sic; A2/AD). That’s a pretty tall order, in light of shrinking defense budgets, maybe with a little bit of uptick in some countries recently. Do you see that coming? And are we back to the leadership question?

MR. FATA: Well, I’ll take the first stab at it. I think that decisions that have been made by some of – well, by America and by the European allies – there are a range of assets that exist or will exist in European inventories or NATO inventories within a matter of years. Some of it is there now. It’s not in the right geographic position in Europe, so it might be more towards the south. It might be more towards the west. It’s not necessarily in the north, not necessarily in the east. It can be moved. The question goes back to Mr. Crosby’s point, if you have it, will you use it? And go back to my – one of my points, you know, if it – if it affects Northern Europe, does it really affect me in Southern Europe? I have a different bunch of threats. And so that’s part of the problem.

But if you – you know, if you look at – to go back to that point about A2/AD, between the aircraft that we have, the ISR platforms, the ships, the subs, the electronic warfare jammers, the anti-radar jammers – it all exists. It all exists. It may exist in preponderance in one country, or in a small group of countries. But it all exists in the inventory. It’s a political will decision as to whether you can redeploy it. Some of it’s kind of hard to redeploy. But it exists or it’s coming into the inventory. So the question of then if you know about it, if through these assets you can see something, you know something about it, are you obliged to do something about it?

And there may be a half-step where you have to let the rest of the alliance know what you’re seeing, and that’s how you sort of build up this place where you can actually now exert will. It’s not just one nation either looking in the sand or saying I got this myself. You’re now able to broaden it because you’re bringing – you’re pooling, if you will, intel and other assets to help paint the picture then to have that unpleasant conversation of what to do.

MS. BENSAHEL: Let me add a quick comment on – because you asked specifically about defense budgets. I work extensively on the U.S. defense budget and just a quick comment on that. I don’t see the U.S. defense budget increasing for the foreseeable future, frankly, no matter which party wins the White House in 2016. And part of that is the way that the budget deal was structured that governs the cuts. I think you could probably, if you could separate it out, find a majority in Congress in both houses who would support increasing defense spending.

The problem is that the way that the budget cuts were enacted in 2011 require equal cuts to the domestic budget and to the defense budget. And you don’t have agreement on the domestic side of that. And so unless you get some consensus even, you know, among the majority party, the Republicans in both the House and Senate, there’s deep divisions over whether that should be increased or how that should be addressed, I guess is the probably the better way to say this. So as long as that remains contentious, the prospects for increasing the overall U.S. defense budget remain limited.

Congress has, I think will, continue to appropriate money through supplemental funds to try to make up some of those gaps. And that’s certainly better than staying at the cap level, but that money can’t be used as flexibly. And in particular, it’s harder to use that for some of the longer-term investments that the Defense Department would like to make. So unless the shape of Congress changes dramatically – and I don’t just mean the party in leadership, I mean the consensus and the areas of agreement in Congress within the parties as well – unless that changes in 2016 too, I don’t think we’re going to be looking at a very significant defense budget for the next several years.

Right here. I’m sorry, one back.

Q: Thank you. Isaac Maygohs (ph) from American University.

My question is, when we’re speaking about leadership and the U.S. needing to sort of show that it stands with its allies, how does that square with the sort of very vocal announcement of the pivot towards Asia, and the sort of very – this insistence that Asia is now sort of the primary area of U.S. interest. How does that affect the ability of the U.S. to show or even sort of seem committed to the European partnership? Thank you.

MR. FATA: So I think that has been part of the problem is that I think that the shift or the rebalance, the pivot, whatever the current term of art, is towards Asia that started a few years back confused our Middle East allies, it confused our European allies. Arguably, it probably led perception that the U.S. didn’t care so much about Europe, and that Europe could fend for itself, which may have resulted in some of the actions we see – may, depending on how you do your analysis and your probabilities.

But I think, though, within the past – within I’d say the past six months, and I think even probably more so in the past four months, there’s been a realization, from the discussions I have with folks in the administration, there’s been a realization that Asia is important, Middle East is important, Europe is important, and that they’re not – the U.S. isn’t going to walk away from Europe. So you see the repositioning of some assets. You see some more rotation of ground troops. You see the F-22s. You see a whole bunch of stuff coming.

I think the U.S. was slow to get there. And, again, I think it sent a message. But for now, I see the U.S. remaining committed to this – to reestablishing a stronger foothold. Leadership role in Europe, I don’t know if I can say that word, but reestablishing a stronger foothold in Europe.


MR. NORDENMAN: Just very quickly, the thing that I find interesting is when I look at it the remarkable convergence in defense between Asia and Europe. Certainly different actors, different circumstances, but if you look at some of the challenges and some of the dynamics, so A2/AD, that we’ve talked about, it’s actually a concept that sort of first emerged because of Asian challenges – gray zones, hybrid warfare, you know, contested spaces, and so on and so forth. So in terms of themes, I think there’s actually a remarkable convergence between the two regions. So from a U.S. perspective, what can you do with that, to align efforts and perhaps even enhance efforts that you’re doing in one region to transfer over to the next?

And also – there are also, of course, political convergence here, in the sense that clearly Asian powers are closely watching what Washington is doing in Europe, and how Washington is responding to Russian aggression, and drawing their own conclusions about U.S. global leadership. So I think the regions are actually not quite as separate as many people think that it is.

MR. POTHIER: In reaction to that and to the question, yes, but there are some – two big differences between Europe and the Asia-Pacific is in Europe we have an alliance, which works as an important shock absorber – and not only the alliance, but also the European Union – and you have a declining power. In Asia-Pacific, you don’t have the kind of stabilization effect of an alliance, a regional alliance, and you have a growing power. So I don’t know which one is the most dangerous, growing or declining power. I think historians are still debating that. But that creates a fairly different dynamic.

The pivot, interestingly, at the time – I think, Jeff, you were at the private office at the time – actually was a bit of a shock for the Europeans, but somehow triggered a debate also in Europe about what are we going – what are we doing in the Asia-Pacific? Should we join the U.S. or should we have our own strategy? And I think it was a healthy debate. And we started to even have that debate inside the alliance, even though the alliance does not have a natural role in the Asia-Pacific – maybe with Asia-Pacific, but not in Asia-Pacific. But somehow this has been, I would say, brushed aside by Ukraine – the Ukrainian crisis, which brought strategic questions much closer to home.

And that’s the last part of my answer. I think the notion of American leadership is obviously central. It’s always a question the Europeans are asking themselves. And it’s – but it’s evolving, and I think rightly so, because also European leadership is evolving. If you look in security terms, there has been a shift from the kind of expeditionary crisis management powers to also collective defense – which means that, for example, Germany is much more central to security and military questions in Europe than we were – than it was 10 years ago, when it was very much about Afghanistan and a few other operations in Africa. So I think this – also there is a bit of a new mix in terms of leadership in Europe, and I think the U.S. is aware of that and is working with that new geometry in Europe.

MS. BENSAHEL: I think that the rebalance, or pivot as it was originally called, to the Asia-Pacific – I agree, the rollout of that was not done particularly well. It had some very unwelcome consequences. But ultimately, it was not primarily about the military. It seems to have been expressed, and people think about the military consequences. But it was always supposed to be a statement about diplomacy, about economics, and really about where the locus of U.S. interest is headed in the long run. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that that analysis – and it’s in the long term.

Of course, we have the current crises that we absolutely must address, and the United States will always have interests in Europe and in the Middle East as well. I don’t mean to say that we won’t. But if you look at the direction of trade, if you look at, you know, just the locus of where American interest are headed, they are increasingly shifting to the Asia-Pacific over a long time frame. And so even though some of the immediate dynamics were problematic, even though we are now very focused on the threats in the Middle East and Europe, and rightly so, I think that will be a long-term trend that will affect the U.S. relationship in the alliance and more broadly as well, and over a longer period of time – and that could change depending on military dynamics in the region, may have some more military consequences that was even meant at this point.

MR. POTHIER: Yeah, just to challenge a bit, I agree and I think it was presented as a more comprehensive strategy, not just a military one. But you do see a reposturing of the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific with, in a way, less close to China and broader, including with Marine bases like in Darwin in Australia. So there is a thing – a new footprint that is being redesigned with more capabilities, especially maritime ones. But of course, in the end it’s part of a bigger strategy, I think, that the U.S. is trying to achieve, which is to maintain some kind of balance of power in the region, and enough stability for the region to be in business and to be at the heart of economic globalization. So that takes also trade liberalization and so on, but I think the military aspect is also important.

MS. BENSAHEL: Yes. I certainly agree with that.

We’re running low on time and I see a lot of hands, so I’m going to pool a number of questions –and several new hands just went up, so I’m not going to be able to get to everyone – and then ask you as a panel to address the pieces of it that you’d like to, and then add any final comments.

Question right here. Yeah, you. No, sorry, guy behind you. This is very hard from here because I can’t – it’s hard to –

Q: My name is Lashak Asrazhi (ph). I’m with the McCain Institute.

I wanted to go back to the most recent history, and briefly discuss NATO expansion. Clearly, what happened in 2008 and the recent sort of revanchism from Russia forced us to sort of recalculate this entire approach of NATO expansion and democracy promotion. Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, are these countries still within this calculus from the West, from Washington? Or has this ship sailed, as they say? And is it still a strategically looked-at region? Are these countries playing a, quote, unquote, “important” role as potential candidates? Is there even a remote possibility of that happening? That’s all. Thank you.

MS. BENSAHEL: Now, pass the mic to the gentleman in front of you, who I – (laughter) –

Q: I’m Charles Faulkner, from the BGR Group.

And you both have – well, all three of you have talked about identity, unity, collective security. Dan, you spoke a little bit about the civil-military identity in the United States. And I was thinking a little bit about the civil-military identity within NATO. There seem to be competing identities now, both in the United States, in Europe with the EU trying to have its own collective security discussions. How do you foster identities between the militaries of the United States and the European and NATO partners, and not just at a field grade officer staff engagement level, you know, three or four years potentially after somebody started their career?

MS. BENSAHEL: I saw a couple more hands in the back. Yes, the woman on the aisle.

Q: Thank you. My name is Yayla Endafrancesci (ph) and I work for Voice of America.

I was very intrigued about the description that Russia sort of got from the members of the power, from a regional power, a declining power, a spoiler, and so on. So I would like to get from all three of you how exactly would you define Russia’s role on the international scene? It started off as a regional power, now it’s in its second region in the Middle East, where America, it seems, wants to open up a discussion with them. So what exactly is Russia? What is – what’s its role today?

MS. BENSAHEL: And one more. Is here one over here? Yeah.

Q: Hi. Michal Sveda from the Embassy of the Czech Republic.

You were talking about deterrence, and I think we will all agree that the deterrence should be credible. You rightly pointed out that when you compare the Russia’s capabilities – conventional capabilities and NATO’s conventional capabilities, it’s clearly – you know, NATO capabilities are greater. But if you look at the front-line states, especially the Baltics, the balance is the other way around: Russia’s capabilities is much better. So, especially in the Baltics, the deterrence is based on basically belief that there is enough political will to reconquer occupied territory rather than based on the real capability on the ground.

Don’t you think that it would be wise to move forces – substantial forces to the front-line states, just to make the deterrence more credible based on the real capability on the ground? I know about the NRC founding and from 1997 where alliance says it’s not going to move substantial forces to the Russian border, but it also says it was based on the current 1997, you know, threat environment, security environment, which is I would say very, very different from what it is now. And also, I want to –

MS. BENSAHEL: I’m sorry, I got to cut you off because I need to give each of them a chance to respond in the next three minutes.

Q: All right. Thanks.

MS. BENSAHEL: So you each have a minute. We’ll go in the same order. (Laughter.) Sorry to do that to you. Fabrice, please, why don’t you start?

MR. POTHIER: First, on the enlargement question, which is very important, I’m not going to speculate who is going to get in, who is going to stay out. I think this really is a political decision. But the bottom line is that, first, I think the crisis in Ukraine has brought back a more strategic sense about those countries, and that they matter into the broader European stability. So that’s one important development.

Second, what we’re trying to do is to overcome a big black and white, member, non-member choice, and to say there is a membership track. It might take five, 10, 15, whatever, X years. But in the meantime, we can still do more work together to make sure that those countries, as I mentioned, are sovereign, can make their choices, can stand on their feet, and then they make their decisions. So I think in between no membership and membership you can say it has to be about resilience and making sure that economically, politically, military in those countries are as resilient as they can. And when we look at Moldova and Ukraine, there are many challenges there. Georgia is a bit different.

Civil-military, I noted here, I’m not sure I got the thrust of the question. But on the European Union I think, yes, there is this talk forever about the European defense or European Union defense. But I think also the crisis in Ukraine has brought back the defense question of collective defense, which means it’s much more about NATO. And I think there is a lot of awareness about that in European capitals. So I would not be worried, if that was the sense of your question, that somehow the European Union is going to kind of build up a military role for itself. It has a role to play, which is much broader than military, but I think the core of the collective defense discussion and commitment will remain, for the foreseeable future, at NATO.

On the – on the interoperability between U.S. forces and European, we actually – the previous secretary-general had launched his Connected Forces Initiative, which was exactly that, which was at that time, at the end of ISAF, which was the biggest-ever operation we had done, a way to keep that connectivity between U.S. forces and European forces. And this is now put at the center of this readiness action plan, so to make sure that we keep that capacity to work together that way, in operation or out of operation.

And then, finally, on the Baltic – on Russia’s role in the – in the international system, I think this is question that we should ask Russia and we should ask President Putin. What kind of role do you want to play in the international system – spoiler or responsible stakeholder? And I think this is really the question I guess he’s going to answer in his own way next Monday, but I think this is really – (laughter) – (out on the table ?) on this one.

MS. BENSAHEL: Fabrice, I’m sorry, we –

MR. POTHIER: Yeah, yeah.

On the Baltics, yes, tripwires are important. Troops presence is important. This is what we’re doing on a rotational basis. There might be more. This is what is being discussed now, between now and Warsaw. But I think we should not just be stuck with the tripwire because the Russia strategy might go wrong, might not be a military strategy – might be an economic or a social strategy to undermine those countries. So we just need to look at deterrence not just in terms of troop presence.

MR. NORDENMAN: I’ll go turbo-speed.

Charles to pick up on your – on U.S.-European civil-military relations, you said we should be sending forces over to Europe and trained, I think it would be a great idea to actually have European forces coming to the states to train. It’s a signal of European interest in U.S. security concerns. Also, there actually is a major NATO command and a NATO Center of Excellence in the United States. They hang out in Norfolk. Perhaps it is time for them to move to Washington to be closer to the Pentagon and the national security community here. And then also on forward presence, I agree with you and I think we’re getting there slowly but surely over time. And I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.

MS. BENSAHEL: Thank you. Dan, also turbo-speed.

MR. FATA: OK, so I’m just going to hit the last two. Moving substantial forces to the Balts, that exactly an unpleasant conversation that needs to be had. That’s a conversation that should not be pre-determined by, yeah, but in 1997 we said. Conditions have changed. That’s an unpleasant conversation. I don’t know where you’ll get with it, but that’s a conversation that needs to be had.

On the Russia question, so in 2008 when my old boss Secretary Gates met with Putin, Putin answered your question. The question – well, I think we actually had this conversation once. The question was answered, the West took advantage of Russia in the ’90s. We lost our pride. We’re back. We still have influence around the world. We intend to exert that influence – he never said positive or negative. And that he wants to be – he wants Russia to be seen as a player on the world stage. And so I think by the actions he’s taken and how he’s inserting himself here, there and everywhere, you can’t help but notice him. You can’t help but have to figure out how to engage him. And that’s his strategy.

MS. BENSAHEL: This has been a terrific panel. Lots of interesting thoughts. And I’m sure the conversation will continue during the break after the keynote that’s coming up. Please join me in thanking all three of our panelists. (Applause.)