NATO’s Future: Narrowing the Aperture
U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
Deputy Secretary General,
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer,
Director Paris Office, Senior Transatlantic Fellow,
German Marshall Fund
Executive Vice President, Programs & Strategy,
Location: Notovel Warszawa Centrum, Warsaw, Poland
Time: 5:00 p.m. LOCAL
Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016
Superior Transcriptions LLC
DAMON WILSON: (In progress.) We had widened the aperture. And just – since they have just arrived, just to give them a sense, we’ve been talking about, as you just heard, the nexus between migration and security, the nexus between economics and security, as well as culture, art, society and security, a broader perspective in which we can think about the agenda here at Warsaw.
Now we’re going to come back and narrow the aperture a bit and take a look at exactly what’s on the table of the North Atlantic Council, what decisions will come out of the next 48 hours, and what that means, what they mean and what the impact is.
We’ve got an incredible group here of future leaders and others that have joined this audience from more than 39 nations, from allies, from aspirants, from global partners, and want to encourage everybody who’s in the room, as well as following us online, to contribute to the conversation using the hashtag #FutureNATO.
We are now on the record. And I think I have filibustered enough to get everybody mic’d up. And we’ll invite you to join the stage, please, Ambassador Vershbow, Alexandra, Ambassador Lute.
Again, thank you so much for being with us.
I want to start with the deputy secretary general of NATO, given you are at the center of everything that’s happening right now. Most people here, I think, know Sandy Vershbow, an incredible American diplomat, the first American to serve as deputy secretary general of NATO. He came –
ALEXANDER VERSHBOW: But not the last.
MR. WILSON: (Laughs.) But not the last. That’s right. Congratulations to Rose Gottemoeller.
He came to the alliance as assistant secretary of defense for national security affairs at the Pentagon, where he had an incredible portfolio in the Pentagon. But he served as ambassador to NATO itself, ambassador to Russia and ambassador to South Korea, an extraordinary region, working with all of our allies, as well as time at the National Security Council, and very significantly serving as director of the office of Soviet Union, the last person to do so, in 1991.
So Sandy, if we could start with you to give us a sense of what we should expect, how to preview the next 48 hours.
MR. VERSHBOW: OK. Well, thanks very much, Damon. Is this thing working?
MR. WILSON: You’re loud and clear.
MR. VERSHBOW: There we go. OK.
I hope I was the last one to head an office named Soviet Union affairs. But it’s a great pleasure to be here. We have been indeed working furiously in Brussels to prepare for this summit. And now that we’re here, we’re kind of – will the summit be an anti-climax? I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be a very consequential one.
And I know you’ve been discussing a lot of different security challenges that are confronting our societies in a broader sense. And so maybe the question where we could start is, you know, where does NATO fit into the response?
The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s no accident that NATO is still around after 67 years. Twenty-five years ago, with the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, many people argued that it was time to declare mission accomplished and close up shop in Brussels, especially as the Warsaw Pact dissolved itself.
But back then, allies recognized that even with the end of the Cold War confrontation, there were new uncertainties, new risks, regional conflicts, ethnic strife, and, as we saw in the former Yugoslavia, transnational proliferation, organized crime, terrorism, which was already a phenomenon although not as much of a global phenomenon as it is today.
So back then allies decided to adapt NATO to the new realities and to build on the strong transatlantic bond which is, you know, the unique precious asset at the heart of NATO. And, of course, in those days it was a very optimistic time, with the new thinking in Moscow, Russia’s desire to become part of a broader Euro-Atlantic community.
We set the vision of building a Europe whole, free and at peace. That was what led to the various initiatives, such as Partnership for Peace and eventually the enlargement of the alliance, but also the effort to build a strategic partnership with Russia. And at the same time, we used the military structure of NATO, which was designed for collective defense. We adapted that to do crisis management, and later, with 9/11, to do counterinsurgency.
So NATO, I think, has shown that it’s very adaptable. And that’s a good thing, because we need some serious adaptation again. And if you look back at the year 2014, it was really a watershed year. Of course, on the Eastern front we had Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its aggression, which still continues to this day, in Eastern Ukraine, which reflected a complete reversal of the orientation of Russia from those optimistic days 25 years ago, tore up the international rulebook, challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. And unfortunately, two years later the situation remains largely the same.
And at the same time, 2014 was also, to some degree, a watershed year for the situation to NATO South. I mean, terrorism was not a new phenomenon. Al-Qaida, of course, burst on the scene a decade earlier. But with the Islamic State’s declaration of the caliphate, it took the terrorist threat to a new level.
And so NATO has had to adapt again. And in the case of the East, of course, it’s back to basics. And that’s what’s going to be the strong focus of the summit here in Warsaw, with the important decisions to strengthen our forward presence in the Eastern part of the alliance; now, this all building on the decisions we took in Wales in 2014, but I like to say that Wales was our immediate response when we didn’t quite have a full understanding of just how fundamental the changes were. It was a very strong and united response. But I think now Warsaw gives us the opportunity to think about the long term. We now sadly recognize that we’re in a long – what I’d call a long-term strategic competition with Russia. I say it’s long term because our visions of Europe are fundamentally different.
I think people here in Warsaw understand what I’m talking about when I say that Russia wants to go back to the model of the Yalta agreements – spheres of influence, domination of the big over the small. We would like to stick with a much better vision that was adopted in 1975 with the Helsinki Final Act, based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and international borders.
So with these conflicting visions, it’s a long-term challenge. And that’s why we’re going to be taking far-reaching decisions on the long-term adaptation of the alliance. I won’t go into the details since I know you want me to stop. But on the South – and you’ve been discussing these issues – NATO doesn’t have all the answers or all the tools, but it has many tools which can be adapted from some of our successes in the past. And in particular, what we’re now calling defense capacity-building, assisting our partners to transform their militaries, strengthen their ability to secure their own countries, and to fight regional threats and to fight extremism and terrorism.
NATO did this successfully in this part of the world with Partnership for Peace and with the whole membership process that helped bring formerly Soviet-style militaries into alignment with NATO standards. We’ve done a bit of this with our Middle Eastern partners, but there’s scope for doing a lot more. So Warsaw will take some decisions in this area, but I think it’s going to be a platform, a foundation.
I think, post-Warsaw, I’m hoping that NATO will become even more ambitious in terms of its Southern strategy, but also work with other institutions, other actors, because NATO doesn’t have all the answers. We need to work more effectively with the European Union, which is hopefully going to be another headline from this summit, with regional organizations like the African Union, the GCC, the Arab League, and, of course, work to integrate military, political and economic measures into a comprehensive strategy to get at the root causes of all the instability and extremism that we’re facing in the Southern neighborhood of NATO. It’s a long-term challenge, but I think Warsaw is the place to set the direction for the future.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. Thank you, Ambassador Vershbow. I want to come back because you mentioned the far-reaching implications of Warsaw. And I think we do want to parse a little bit of some of the details of the decisions that will come.
But I want to come next to Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, who is a senior transatlantic fellow and the director of the German Marshall Fund’s office in Paris, a good friend and colleague, someone who’s been an adviser to the French Foreign Ministry or, as I say, sort of the whisperer or the explainer in France of the United States in Paris, and vice versa, and also has a connection to someone who played a very important role at the alliance before with the same last name.
So it’s a pleasure to welcome you here. I want to ask you a question, Alexandra, that builds – we were – the Atlantic Council was in Europe last week, in Berlin and Brussels and Paris, where we met with your colleagues on your left and right, talking about the Warsaw summit rolling out a new NATO report from the alliance, and then spending time on Capitol Hill. In fact, there’s a hearing today on this report in the Armed Services. And we heard two different voices, some saying, given the challenges the alliance is facing, that the response is not sufficient. It’s not commensurate with the nature of the challenge yet. And what we’re doing in the East is – maybe it’s a little bit too modest and nuanced, and in the South too marginal.
On the other hand, we certainly – and we tended to hear some of that on Capitol Hill – but certainly in Berlin and some other places we heard, you know, we have to be really careful. This may be the beginning of overreach in terms of beginning to provoke Russia by what we’re doing in the East, and some arguing, including in Paris, maybe NATO is a four-letter word in the South and we really shouldn’t be pushing the alliance into the South.
So are we too hot or too cold or getting it just right here, Alexandra?
ALEXANDRA DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you. Thank you, Damon. And thank you for the invitation.
I would say, as usual, at any NATO summit everyone is going to arrive with different priorities, different vision about which threats we should be focusing on, based basically on geography, mainly, and also on, I would say, domestic-security issues.
Sitting in Paris, being French and Dutch, and working for an American think tank, I am – (laughs) – profoundly –
MR. WILSON: Sounded like German. (Laughs.)
MS. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Sounded – (laughs) – absolutely like German. I am profoundly transatlantic.
I would say, sitting from Paris, as you know, we have been, you know, the target of tragic terrorist attacks last year. And obviously we will be facing many of those in the coming months and coming years. And so we are coming with this different – a different perspective if you compare to Poland, for example, to the Baltic states. France’s priorities today is terrorism. It’s the South. And you cannot expect, in fact, France to share the same sense of urgency when it comes to Russia than to Poland or the Baltic states. That’s just a fact. And you cannot ask Baltic states or Poland to be as much involved as we are in the South to face the crisis of Daesh.
But that doesn’t mean that we do not share a sense of unity of purpose. And I think that’s very important to keep in mind as we are on the eve of the NATO summit. We can be divided when it comes to our own security defense priorities, but we have to keep the alliance as united as possible. And I think that’s extremely important. And that’s maybe more important than the military aspect of the alliance. It’s the political aspect of the alliance, the political message of saying, despite its differences and its simultaneity of crisis that leads us to focus on those who touch us more, we are united.
And to maybe link the answer to the theme of today’s discussion, I thought it was really fascinating, security beyond defense or security and defense. I think this NATO summit is also going to show how defense and security matters are closely interlinked, more than ever. And so how do you deal with the simultaneous crisis on the East, in the South? But you also have the Arctic front. You also have the Black Sea issues. You have many of these issues. They’re all occurring at the same time.
So the French (motive ?) is really how to keep this alliance as flexible as possible so that it is able to respond to these many different types of challenges. And obviously the tools that are required to respond to these different challenges sometimes are beyond defense, and I think the discussion today showed it really well.
When you look at the south, these issues are not 100 percent military issues. They are much more social issues, identity issues, political issues. A lot of the crises that we are facing in the Middle East are due to the collapse of political institutions or to the oppression of dictatorships. How do you deal with issues? How do you, as Alexander Vershbow just said, really understand the root causes of this crisis so that we use the right tools?
And I hope – I know that, you know, there is going to be a discussion also about Afghanistan, about NATO’s mission in the Aegean Sea, about training Iraqi troops. All of these issues have to be addressed together. And how do we learn, I would say also, from this more than 15 years of military interventions?
And I’m not sure we have really started learning of how heavy the consequences have been – Afghanistan, Iraq – and how all of these security issues – terrorism, the refugee crisis – are all interlinked. So how do we keep these issues together and how do we address them together? That is, to me, extremely important.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. Thank you, Alexandra.
There is no one who understands the consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan perhaps better than Ambassador Doug Lute – really delighted to have you with us, Doug.
The U.S. permanent representative to NATO was in charge, during the Obama administration, of policy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and served in the Bush administration as deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. But he came into those jobs after serving 35 years in the U.S. Army, where he retired as a lieutenant general. He was a director of operations to the Joint Staff, and served in NATO commands.
So bring us back to a level of granularity as we are coming into Warsaw. You have been flogging both in Brussels and in Washington to get the specifics, to get the details right. So what are we going to see coming out of this summit in terms of Afghanistan, in terms of defense investment, in terms of the east and the south? Walk us through that, if you will.
AMBASSADOR DOUGLAS LUTE: Well, first of all, thanks to the Atlantic Council for hosting this, and especially reaching out to this audience, because Sandy’s and my generation aren’t going to finish this job. It’s going to turn over to you. And before you know it, you’ll be up here and there will be another generation out there. So this is really a very solid and, I think, wise investment. So, Fred, to you, to Damon, Madeleine, for the time you’re devoting, thanks very much.
I’d like to offer – I imagine myself out there, right? And I know you’ve been through two days of this and you’re facing two more days of – (laughter) – and I’m thinking, well, so what do you do at the end of those four days? So let me offer you a couple of conceptual frameworks, right, and then I will actually get to the question. You know, moderators always know they’re not going to answer the question. (Laughter.)
OK, so the first –
MR. WILSON: I’ll come back and pin you down.
AMB. LUTE: The first conceptual framework actually builds on what Sandy outlined upfront, and that is a historical framework of three phases of NATO.
So in U.S. NATO, at the U.S. Mission, we talk about Phase 1 being the Cold War. And it’s kind of neat. It’s ’49 to ’89 – 1989, the wall comes down. Then we talk about Phase 2 from roughly 1989 to 2014, which was a key benchmark that Sandy noted, so 25 years of post-Cold War period. And now we think we’re on another phase line. We’re about to cross into that third phase.
So for this audience you might say NATO 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. So you can say you were present at the creation or the rollout of NATO 3.0, because I think the combination of Wales and Warsaw will prove to be the passing into this third phase. So that’s the first sort of conceptual framework.
Over the next two days you’re going to hear a lot of public discussion, a lot of fact sheets, a lot of press conferences that talk about two key themes from the Warsaw summit, and they were roughly outlined by Sandy.
The first one is deterrence and defense. So in a way, for NATO this is back to basics. This is back to the sorts of principles and at least conceptual work that we did in Phase 1. But it’s not a return to Phase 1. It is not a return to the Cold War. A modern, or 21st century, 3.0 deterrence and defense I think has three key elements. You’ll notice a pattern of threes here, OK?
The first is – so imagine these three elements of deterrence along a spectrum, OK? In the council we talk about the deterrence and defense beginning at home. So this is the realm of the deterrence spectrum that is embedded in Article 3 of the Atlantic Treaty, the Washington Treaty, which too many people miss, right? They rush right to Article 5 and forget that the treaty obliges all 28 allies first to do everything they can at home. This is the self-help. This is the resilience part of the Washington Treaty.
So we’re going to pay a lot of attention over the next two days building the foundation for modern deterrence that begins at home. Why? Because many of the challenges today strike internal to our member states. These are the challenges of hybrid warfare, the challenges of cyber, the challenges of critical infrastructure, energy independence and so forth. So those are things – those are elements of deterrence that have to begin with national responses. So we’re going to do work on that front.
Then we’re going to move to what I consider the center of the deterrence spectrum, or the middle of the deterrence spectrum. This is the conventional realm of the spectrum. And here we made a very significant down-payment at Wales with the Readiness Action Plan. So tomorrow, just about this time, in the late afternoon, leaders will assess about 10 or 12 specific elements of RAP, the Readiness Action Plan, and assess, essentially, did we deliver? And the answer – OK, so here’s the preview; don’t tell anyone – yes. The answer is yes, we deliver, OK?
And so RAP is essentially on the books. So we have, this year, 2016, for the first year in NATO’s 67-year history, a 13,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force – air, sea, land, special operators – that are on days’ readiness. So they’re ready to move and deploy in just a couple of days. This year’s VJTF, as it’s called, Rapid Reaction Force is led by Spain. It resides in Spain, but just a couple weeks ago it was in Poland, OK? So we have not only formed this thing; we’ve validated it and we have exercised it.
So we have started the adaptation in the conventional realm of the spectrum by way of moving ourselves onto a higher readiness posture. Now, there’s a bunch of other dimensions of the Readiness Action Plan, and if you’re interested I can unpack that in your question-and-answer.
What’s going to be new tomorrow, though, is that leaders will – they will complement that rapid reaction capability with forward presence. And this forward presence literally will begin in the north in Estonia and it will end up in the South in Bulgaria. Now, it’s not one size fits all. It’s not across those sort of eastern flank states; everybody gets exactly the same cookie-cutter approach.
In the northeast – so across the three Baltic States and in Poland – each of those allied states will get a NATO deterrence battalion. This is a full-up, combat-ready, ready-to-fight battalion full time, 365 days a year. We’ll have it in place early next year and it will be on persistent rotation. Rotations will be six to nine months. It will vary a little bit by nation to nation. The U.S. will lead that NATO – the NATO battalion in Poland, so here in Poland. Other allies will lead in the Baltics.
Further to the south, in the southeast corner, if you will, the alliance deterrence will also be buffed up, with a multinational brigade in Romania, hosted by Romania. Bulgaria will contribute to that. And as NATO allies cycle in to training in the southeast – Romania and Bulgaria – they will associate themselves with this brigade. So you’re going to get a substantial – really, the first time in the whole history of the alliance, you’re going to get a substantial combat-ready capability forward across the eastern flank of the alliance.
Then you can see the connection – the possible connections operationally between that forward presence and what we created at Wales, because we’ve positioned enough forward to establish our presence and to create some sort of deterrent effect, but it’s not by themselves. That force by itself is not sufficient, so it’s backed up with the Wales Rapid Reaction Force. So there’s interplay here between what we position forward and what sits behind, ready to respond.
There’s a lot more in that conventional part of the spectrum. There is ballistic missile defense, for example. There’s increased ISR. In fact, your venue tomorrow, when you move out of this nice hotel and go into a tent, I understand –
MR. WILSON: That’s right.
AMB. LUTE: This will give you a real flavor of NATO. (Laughter.) You’re going to move into a tent. Just outside your tent is a full-scale mockup of what we call the AGS, which is a high-altitude, long-endurance drone, surveillance drone. And the alliance will receive the first of five of these later this year. They will all be based in Sigonella but it will give the alliance a 21st century ISR, or surveillance capability, that it is has not, in the past, had.
So you should – I told Damon, you must get a group photo at the AGS, because you’ll have 21st century leaders in front of a 21st century capability. So don’t miss that photo, OK? (Laughter.) All right, this is all – sorry – this is all in the middle of – you can imagine how my staff feels, OK? (Laughter.) They’re always chasing this.
That’s the conventional realm of the spectrum of deterrence. We should not forget that to the right of that, if you will, and anchoring the other end of the deterrence spectrum, is the nuclear capability of the alliance and of the three independent nuclear powers within the alliance. It’s interesting: All three of those alliance nuclear powers will be present on the ground in the northeast. So there’s a connection here not only between forward presence and rapid reaction, but between forward presence and nuclear deterrence.
And that three-part spectrum really, I think, is a pretty reasonable depiction of how we’re going to try to modernize and establish, learn from Phase 1.0, but bring it into Phase 3.0 in the modern world.
Let me stop there, except to go to the south briefly. And here again I have a three-part package.
The first thing you’ll hear – and this now is the council at 29 – so 28 members, with Montenegro in the room as an almost member – tomorrow. I’m sorry, Saturday. And they’ll address projecting stability, which is the second key theme. So you’ve got deterrence and defense tomorrow, first key theme, projecting stability Saturday second key thing. Here again you have three parts.
First we’re going to address what can NATO do to get into the fight against ISIL? So this is not an attempt to supplant the international coalition that’s in place and fighting ISIL today in Syria and Iraq, but it is an attempt to ask ourselves a tough question: What capabilities does NATO have to support and complement that coalition? And there will be some very discrete decisions we believe the leaders will take that will get NATO operating right up alongside the coalition in helpful ways. So the key here is to complement and not compete with the coalition against ISIL.
Second question they’ll take on is, what can NATO do about migration? I mean, if migration is one of the huge – and I think – I gather that this has been a theme throughout your first couple days here, but if this is a big challenge to European unity and European society, what does NATO, as a military alliance, have to contribute to that? And we think we have, again, largely military capabilities that could be applied alongside mainly the EU, which has the lead here, not to supplant the EU, not to take over the job, but to simply complement the EU. And I think you’ll see on Saturday some announcements of how NATO can actually get into that effort alongside the EU as a complementing force.
And then finally, the third part of projecting stability is we have work to do with some very key NATO partners. So these are countries accumulated – partnerships accumulated in Phase 2. And key among them are Afghanistan – so Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will be here for the first session on Saturday morning. There, NATO has unfinished business. And if there’s interest there, I can unpack exactly what we’re going to do.
The other key partner, which will be highlighted on Saturday, is Ukraine. So NATO has a longstanding partnership with Ukraine. President Poroshenko will be here to join his NATO counterparts. And we’ll talk first about his impression of what’s going on politically and by way of security, then beyond that what NATO can do to further our partnership with Ukraine.
So if you think about the two key things and keep those in mind as you move from here to the tent – and your famous photo – think about modern deterrence and defense, and think about how NATO can project stability, because at the end of the day we can’t simply hunker down and burrow into our own self-defense. Security for NATO starts with stability beyond NATO. And that’s why projecting stability is so important.
So I’ve been overly long, but maybe I pre-empted some questions.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. That’s fantastic. I think we’ve set the scene. I’m going to ask one question, but I quickly want to open up to the audience and pull in some others.
But we’re here in the wake of Brexit. And I just want to ask, how has that sort of cast an impression and impact on the NATO summit, and particularly the aspect that – the internal challenges? Yes, there’s energy, cyber, little green men, but there’s also this issue of solidarity, this issue of values, this issue of the populism that’s gripping both sides of the Atlantic right now. And what’s that dynamic? How does that sort of play in to what we’re going to see come out? Maybe let me start with Sandy, and then I’ve seen a lot of hands, so I want to do turn to the audience quickly.
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, clearly, there’ll be probably a lot of corridor discussion, and maybe even some discussion among the leaders about the implications of Brexit. And the British are going out of their way to stress that, you know, Britain’s status within NATO is unaffected by Brexit. And that’s a fact. And of course, the British are one of the, you know, mainstays of the alliance, the second-largest military contributor and, you know, a country with a very broad grasp of the global challenges that we face. So if anything, for the U.K., NATO clearly becomes more important if they go through with Brexit.
But NATO itself as a forum may become more important because this will be the place where we can address these fundamental challenges that we have to deal with over the coming years. And NATO has I think a special facility in bringing in non-NATO partners into the circle. And this will be seen during the summit when Finland and Sweden and the leadership of the EU will join our leaders for the dinner, which will focus on Russia but maybe other challenges, recognizing that we have to broaden the circle sometimes to get the even more like-minded countries around the – around the table.
At the same time, you know, there is a worry that if the negotiations that are still to begin on the terms of the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU, if they become divisive, if they become rancorous, there could be some spillover of the – of the ill feeling from those negotiations onto our deliberations to NATO. You know, we hope not. We shouldn’t assume that that’s the case. But I think the secretary-general is certainly trying to underscore that if anything, NATO is now more important to everyone, that our unity and our solidarity really have to – have to sustain us through what will clearly be a difficult period for Europe.
MR. WILSON: Doug, you wanted to come in?
AMB. LUTE: Yeah, just a quick comment. You know, President Obama has been very clear that Brexit represents a pretty dramatic change. I mean, nobody can doubt that, right? That’s what’s been in the press. But it’s important also I think to recognize the elements of continuity that remain after Brexit. So the U.S. relationship with the EU, the U.S. relationship with the U.K., the U.K.’s contribution to the alliance, those don’t change. Those are cornerstones that remain.
And I would just cite the U.K. as a unique ally. Why do I say unique among the 28? The U.K is the only ally that has the following qualities: It leads the VJTF. United States doesn’t that. So it’s on a rotation where next year it will take the lead on the rapid reaction force. It is a(n) enhanced forward-presence framework nation. It’s going to Estonia. Only four allies have that quality. It is a top troop contributor in Afghanistan. In fact, it has been for something like 13 years. It is a nuclear ally. And it’s one of the very few allies that contribute both 2 percent of their GDP to defense, and inside that defense budget, 20 percent to capital investment. So if you add those six qualities up, they stand by themselves.
So clearly, inside the halls of NATO, the U.K. is a leader. It leads with its capabilities. And we don’t expect that to change.
MR. WILSON: Alexandra, are the forces of fragmentation pulling at Europe? Is NATO immune to that?
MS. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I think if you compare to the Wales summit back in 2014, the European members of NATO come as more divided as ever. I mean, that’s – I mean, the Brexit is just an awful message. When it comes to, as I said, sending a message of unity, Europe comes as a disunited group. I mean, that’s just a fact. You have now Hungary, who wants to conduct its own referendum against the EU protests for refugees next October. And you have rising populist movements, including in my country, in France, where you have Marine Le Pen, who’s simply surfing, you know, on the – on the Brexit wave. So I think this sends a very troubling message within the EU.
I think – I agree that the defense domain will probably be the domain where the Brexit will have less impact, at least that’s what we believe. As you know, the French and U.K. have a very strong defense cooperation in the Lancaster Agreement. So the bilateral defense cooperation obviously will continue.
Maybe I would just be a little ironic because I’m French here: One positive maybe aspect of the Brexit within the EU – and you can actually see that concretely in the European global strategy document that was just released by Federica Mogherini – is the fact that maybe it will free up the European language when it comes to thinking of defense and security issue. I’m very struck to see how many times the term of strategic autonomy, for example, which is very non-British expression when you think of Europe as a defense security actor, is actually in the document. And so maybe on the European level, this will lead to more ambitious I would say European step when it comes to security and defense.
MR. WILSON: That’s interesting – Doug.
AMB. LUTE: Yeah, so European autonomy has caught my ear. (Laughter.) So –
MR. WILSON: I was about to say, if Doug didn’t weigh in, I was going to invite Secretary Albright, who had something –
AMB. LUTE: So look, if the EU has – the 28 member states of the EU have – 27 soon – have an ambition to contribute more to their own defense, that’s all good news. And we know exactly where they ought to contribute. I mean, NATO does a very deliberate drill every four years to determine where the capability gaps are and so forth.
But there is – but autonomy opens the door or at least the potential for duplication and inefficiency. There is simply not enough defense investment for duplicate structures. Now, if we can work this in a way that we complement and reinforce one another, then the U.S. would be the strongest advocate of this. But we’re going to be very sharply watching anything that looks like duplication.
So for example, NATO has a very robust standing – it’s there today, it’s there 365 days a year – command structure. It’s fully manned. It’s fully practiced. It’s operationally efficient. We don’t believe that Europe needs a separate and distinct command structure just like that into which we pour several thousand people, untold euros, only to duplicate the structure that’s been so well tried and true in NATO. So that’s an example that we wish to avoid.
MR. WILSON: The embrace here in Warsaw that we’re supposed to see of NATO embracing the European Union will send one signal. But it is tough to think, how do you express this unity in one organization with the concept of strategic autonomy and the other?
So I want to turn to the audience. I’ll start on this side with the gentleman in the blue tie and then come up to Mohammed and then we’ll – I’ll take three questions.
Q: Yes, hi. It’s me again, Santiago de la Presilla with Visegrad Insight.
Just a quick question on NATO’s open door policy. We have Vladimir Putin in Helsinki I think basically threatening Finland that if they actually manage to join the alliance, they would move troops to the Finnish border. I wanted to know if – an open question to the panel – if you think that if there is a crisis situation in the Baltic states, that NATO would be able to respond effectively enough without Finland and Sweden being members of NATO?
MR. WILSON: All right. And Mohammed please. And I’m going to ask everybody to introduce themselves for our panelists as well as the –
Q: Thank you. Mohammed Ghanem. I’m a fellow with Atlantic Council and director of government relations with the Syrian American Council in Washington, D.C.
I have a question about NATO’s southern pillar, Turkey. It’s been conspicuously absent in the conversation. What about Turkey, especially what happened recently with Russia? And any – I was just wondering if any of you would care to comment about alleged leaked emails recently from the former commander of NATO that showed that he was trying to, you know, to get the American administration to play a more assertive role, especially in Ukraine, to no avail? How does that impact NATO in general? Thank you.
MR. WILSON: And did I see an Australian hand over here? I think so. Yes, our Greek colleague. Yes.
Q: Good evening. My name is Mary Stylidi, and I work for the UNHCR as original commissioner for unaccompanied minor refugees in Greece. And my question is open to the panel. And I would like to invite Madam Secretary as well.
Yesterday the European Parliament voted to legislate a proposal to create a new body of European border management system called the European Border Guard and Coast Guard. The new body will absorb Frontex, and it will – it will replace it in general. With much respect, I would like to listen to your comments and your opinion about this new entry. Thank you.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. Thank you very much. So does Finland sitting at the NAC table deliver something in Baltic security; Turkey, Russia, and that fascinating dynamic; and the implications of a new European Border Guard. Please, Sandy.
MR. VERSHBOW: OK. Well, first of all, we fully respect Finland and Sweden’s freedom to choose whether they want to pursue membership or not. We’re not out to recruit new members. But if they choose to apply, they’re entitled to do that, and Russia doesn’t have any right to veto that decision. And it’s disappointing that these sorts of threats seem to have been made during the recent visit by Putin to Finland.
But on the question of could we defend the Baltic states without them, I think the answer is yes, and we’re making sure with the decisions we’re taking here in Warsaw that we can be even more effective, both to deter by having this additional forward presence that will be combat-capable, will be multinational – it’ll hopefully deter Russia from even thinking of attacking because they would know that even a limited land grab or hybrid attack would encounter forces from across the alliance and would engage the whole alliance – and at the same time, militarily, it gives us time to flow in additional reinforcements based on the Readiness Action Plan and our substantial follow-on forces that we have in our inventory.
Now, would it be easier with Finland and Sweden? Probably yes. And indeed, that doesn’t require that they join the alliance. We have trained and worked together with Finland and Sweden as partners for a long time. They contribute to the NATO Response Force. They participated in a lot of our exercises, including our annual crisis management exercise last year which – or this year – which focused on challenges in the Baltic region. So there could be very valuable support, direct or indirect, to the defense of the Baltic region working with Finland and Sweden as partners.
So again, it’s up to them. They’re not bound by Article 5. But they clearly have commitments to the Baltic states through their EU treaty commitments under the Lisbon Treaty. And I think it’s not an accident that we’re inviting them to the summit because more and more, as we look at the challenges in northern Europe, working with them just seems like a natural thing to do for both sides, irrespective of what ultimately transpires on the membership in question.
MR. WILSON: I might ask Alexandra to pick up the European border guard –
MR. VERSHBOW: Yeah, I’ll let Doug talk about the former SACEUR. (Laughter.)
MR. WILSON: Doug, you want to speak to Turkey –
MR. VERSHBOW: So none of my emails were hacked with Phil Breedlove, so this very –
MR. WILSON: Alexandra, why don’t you respond to the border guard issue and how that EU part relates to the alliance? And Ambassador Lute, maybe the Turkey-Russia dynamic.
MS. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I think that’s a key issue, and it complements what Doug Lute just said about not duplicating, what EU does and what NATO does. And I think that the issue of the Aegean Sea, where you have a Frontex European mission, and now a NATO mission, should be, you know, fully coordinated. That’s what we’ve also been trying to do in the corn of Africa – Horn, I’m sorry – la corne de l’Afrique – the Horn of Africa, where we’ve been trying to cooperate EU and NATO and the anti-piracy mission. There is also serious discussions vis-à-vis the Libyan issue, where you have also Europeans trying to train Libyan coast guards and trying to contain the migration or the refugee flows going to Europe and maybe NATO also converting the Endeavour Operation that it has been running since 9/11 and trying to work better together.
So I think these are examples of I would say limited missions but missions that should really set the example, it should act as laboratories for a more pragmatic and more coherent cooperation between the EU and NATO. We shouldn’t do the same thing. We don’t have the same capabilities, EU and NATO. So how do we I would say share the burden or share the risks by, you know, contributing with our own assets and comparative advantages? I think that’s hugely important.
And I think that also, one of the key outcomes that are going to come from the summit tomorrow and after tomorrow is also, you know, trying to say, OK, let’s move forward with this EU-NATO cooperation that has been paralyzed for the Cyprus Turkish issue, and let’s see how we can really improve that concretely. And I do hope that these types of mission will really act, you know, as positive examples of a better cooperation.
MR. WILSON: So Ambassador, what’s going on with Turkey-Russia, and how does that impact the deliberations this weekend?
AMB. LUTE: Well, so this, like I think most international controversies, has a sort of a rhythm or a pattern to it. And right now we’re on a point in the pattern where all I think you see is the government of Turkey reaching out to Russia and sort of trying to deescalate, get their – re-find their footing in terms of their bilateral relationships.
But, look, while I didn’t outline issues or challenges with Turkey in my opening, we should be clear here. Turkey is the linchpin state between the challenges to the East and the challenges to the South. They intersect at one place on the globe for NATO, and that’s Turkey. And here you have a NATO ally, which is a frontline state in the fight against ISIL, a 1,500-kilometer border, which is Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq, is in many places a border with ISIL. So they are very much in that struggle.
And if you look to the North, they’re also one of three allies bordering the Black Sea. And, of course, they border – among other states, they border the Black Sea with Russia. And I think the challenges in the Black Sea are even more prominent after Russia illegally annexed Crimea and is now super-militarizing that peninsula.
So no matter – basically if you’re a Turk, no matter which direction you look, you’ve got challenges in every direction. So Turkey has turned to the alliance and said, hey, we need some help here. And the alliance has responded with air, early-warning aircraft, AWACS aircraft, which are now flying and down-linking air surveillance data to the Turkish air force, which is, by the way, a very capable air force. And it’s also supplemented Turkey with forces from Spain and Italy with 21st century world-class ballistic-missile defense systems.
So NATO is there with our ally Turkey on that front line. But it is one of the allies, I think, most under stress today.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. I think we’re going to stay in the region. Correct me if I’m wrong; our colleague from Azerbaijan. Is that right? I nailed it, OK. And I see a colleague from Georgia. So we’ll stay in the region.
Q: Future NATO fellow from Azerbaijan.
Mr. Ambassador mentioned that NATO is now on the verge of the third phase. And my question would be what are the lessons learned from the second phase, specifically regarding the Russia-(involved ?) crises in Georgia in 2008, in Ukraine in 2014? Obviously there were certain policymakers within NATO who could foresee these situations, but there is a popular perception that NATO as an institution was not ready for them.
Do you think that it is more ready now than it was back in 2014 or 2008? And if yes, then what has it done? Or do you think there wasn’t anything really NATO could do? Thank you.
MR. WILSON: Thank you. And I’ll stick with that theme. I think I see our colleague from Georgia in the back, please.
Q: Yeah. Hello, everyone. Shota Gvineria from the Ministry of Defense of Georgia.
And ambassador just mentioned Crimea and the heavy militarization of Russia in that part of Ukraine. And there is definitely a military superiority now of Russia in the Black Sea region, which has destroyed the military balance in the Black Sea. And there are some allies which are the littoral states of the Black Sea – Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania. And there are two special partners, Georgia and Ukraine, that you mentioned.
So I wonder, how does the Black Sea security fit into the projecting-stability paradigm and if NATO has a vision of how to engage partners in the process of ensuring a better security in the Black Sea region? Thank you.
MR. WILSON: OK. And let me come forward and quickly take – actually, I’ll come back here in this row. Since we’ve heard from both of you, I’ll come back to you and take this gentleman here who we haven’t heard from.
Q: Hi. My name is Mateusz Krupczynski, and I’m the future NATO fellow.
I would like to ask – first of all, I would like to congratulate Secretary General Vershbow for his Grand Cross merit that he received from the Polish president.
I’d like to ask about the cyberspace. And as we know, NATO recognized cyberspace as the fifth domain of war. And I would like to ask now whether NATO is going to do – step farther and develop offensive cyber capabilities or if it’s going to take any other actions to develop these capabilities. Thank you.
MR. WILSON: Terrific.
Why don’t you pick out which elements you want to address in this response?
MR. LUTE: A lot to say. Looking back at the lessons from the Georgia war, the Georgia crisis in 2008, I think, with hindsight – and I was part of the decision-making when I was starting out at the Pentagon in 2009 on the reset – but I think that, in hindsight, we maybe were a little hasty with the normalization of relations after the Russian aggression against Georgia and the attempted recognition of Georgian territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
I think that may have given the Russians the sense that they could get away with it in what they did in Ukraine. In that sense, our deterrence of that kind of adventurism might have been lessened compared to a situation in which we had set firmer conditions for going back to business with Russia in 2009.
But I think we’ve also, you know, learned about the need to perhaps be more focused and concerted in how we assist partners. And I think we’re trying to do that now with both Georgia and Ukraine in terms of the assistance packages that we’re giving them, because ultimately they’re not members. They’re partners. They aspire, at least in Georgia, aspire to membership. And Ukraine may once again do that in the future. But –
MR. WILSON: Can you say just a brief word, since it hasn’t actually come up? We have this package with Georgia, but there’s a relatively new thing with Ukraine.
MR. LUTE: Yeah. Well, we’re following along the lines of what we did with Georgia at the summit in Wales in terms of a more systematic approach to security assistance, training, capacity-building, helping them develop better capability, better professional standards, better training, so that they have more capacity to defend themselves and deter further aggression against them.
So in the case of Ukraine, some of this is sort of ongoing activity under trust funds, where we’re trying to boost the activity in areas like command and control, logistics, the basics of how to run a professional military. And it’s complemented, of course, as it is with Georgia, with a lot of bilateral assistance and training that goes on.
So, you know, I think, in this new era with Russia, when they are no longer passive but contesting our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace, we have to be much more proactive and strategic in thinking about how to help our partners who are exposed to Russia’s aggressive instincts.
On Black Sea security, it’s both part of our deterrence strategy and part of projecting stability. And sort of supporting Georgia and Ukraine is part of a broader Black Sea security strategy, and we’ve been consulting with those countries as we do our assessments of the threats to the region and design our response. And I think that it’s somewhat analogous to what we’re doing with Finland and Sweden in the Baltic region. Even partners can play an important role in contributing to our overall capability. And so involving them more and more in regional exercises and consulting with them on regional threats, I think, is going to be part of the way we do business going forward.
MR. WILSON: And cyber as well?
MR. LUTE: Yeah. So on cyber, the first thing I’d mention is that many have missed that at the Wales summit two years ago we took a very important step with regard to cyber, and there leaders agreed that a cyberattack on NATO could rise to the level of Article V. So a cyberattack could trigger an Article V effect, and therefore response, not necessarily cyber on cyber.
So that was taken because leaders recognized that a cyberattack might, in terms of effects of that attack, the damage caused by that attack, rise to the level of the kind of damage, that scale or scope of damage, that could actually be the result of a conventional attack. So that was a very important step at Wales.
Now we have determined that cyber is such a fundamental challenge in NATO’s space, operating space, that we’ve moved it up to the level of air, sea, land and space. So we call it a domain. I struggled for a while personally understanding cyber as a domain. But what it really means is that we have taken steps to institutionalize our attention on cyber by way of budgets, defense planning, our organizational structure, our exercise programs, just as we would, for example, air or maritime as a domain. So we’ve institutionalized it, I think, in a very useful way.
Now, the question also involved the question of offensive cyber. NATO doesn’t today have offensive cyber capabilities. We don’t aspire to own and operate offensive cyber capabilities. But NATO doesn’t miss the fact that some allies have national offensive cyber capabilities. And the way things work in NATO is that if NATO needs something and an ally has it, it asks that ally for those capabilities.
I mean, strategic nuclear weapons are another case in point. NATO doesn’t own any, but allies own them. And there are protocols which allow – which link what NATO needs and what allies have. So in the future, I imagine we might go down that sort of path with regard to offensive cyber capabilities, but it doesn’t exist today.
I want to just go back quickly, if I may, and rob another minute. This question about what did we learn from phase two, I think, is really a strategic question. And let me just offer a couple. In particular the question led to what did we learn from ’08 in Georgia?
One of the things that happened in Georgia is we almost immediately suspended the NATO-Russia Council. So we cut our political dialogue channel with Russia as a reaction to the `08 incursion. We did not do that after Crimea. Now, we suspended all practical cooperation with Russia after Crimea and we said we’re not going to meet with you. It’s not going to be business as usual. You’re not going to have 70 Russian diplomats accredited to NATO, and we’ll see you in the cafeteria, OK. All that got set aside.
There are now four Russian diplomats, and their only business at NATO headquarters is to come to the NATO-Russia Council, which we retained as a viable political channel so that we could still talk to Russia, even when we’re in rough times. So I think a key lesson there is we retained the NRC as a viable platform.
The other thing I think we should take from phase two, or 2.0, is that if you cut defense investments for a 20-year period and take the 20-year peace dividend that we took in phase two, OK, you can decide sometime later to turn it around, but it’s probably going to take you another decade or more to build it back up. So you can’t turn this faucet of defense spending on and off and expect to get much of a quick return on capabilities.
So we’ve now turned the faucet back on with the pledge on defense investment at Wales, and we have actually seen the flow of defense investments increase. So we’ve broken the 20-year pattern. But nobody should feel comfortable that just because we’ve started to invest again that we have the kind of capabilities we need. There’s a time lag between investment or inputs and outputs in terms of capabilities. And we have a long way to go. That’s one reason the Wales pledge, by the way, was a decade-long pledge, because we appreciated you had to turn it around over time.
And then the last lesson from phase two is adapt or die. NATO faced – at the phase line between phase one and phase two, NATO faced an existential question. Are we going to adapt to the Cold War reality, or is NATO just going to fade away like some old soldier? Don’t take that personally, OK? (Laughter.)
And what NATO decided was we’re going to adapt. And there are things worth investing in, worth fighting for, worth deploying for – the Balkans twice, first Bosnia and then Kosovo; a few years later, 9/11, right? We’re still in Afghanistan. We’re still in Kosovo. Anybody here know how many NATO troops are in Kosovo? Five thousand. OK, how many NATO troops in Afghanistan? Thirteen thousand at the 13-year mark.
So what we learned in phase two was that if you don’t adapt to the challenges you face, OK, organizations pass – they pass from the scene. What you’re going to see in the combination of Wales to Warsaw is NATO again adapting. And it’s an institutional mandate. You know, it’s a survival tactic. We have to do it. And, by the way, I think the alliance is going to prove up to the task.
MR. WILSON: Fantastic. Thank you for that clarity, Doug.
We unfortunately have come to the witching hour. I’ve got a slew of questions still in the audience. But to be respectful of our guests, who have some summit business to attend to, we’re going to have to bring the conversation to a close, unfortunately, before I would like to.
I want to thank Ambassador Vershbow, I want to thank Ambassador Lute, I want to thank Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, for this fantastic session, which sort of brings us full circle. We began the day with sort of the context, the purpose, the background of the alliance, given – recognizing we have folks here from over 40 nations now, I think. We’ve broadened the aperture on security to think about how these issues buffet the agenda, and you’ve brought us back to how it’s coming together at Warsaw.
I also want to take this moment to offer again our gratitude and thanks to our co-chairs who have been with us – to Secretary Madeleine Albright as the U.S. co-chair, the North American anchor; to Ambassador Jerzy Kozminski as the European and Polish co-chair; and to Prime Minister Carl Bildt as our partner co-chair – again underscoring the role that some of our partners are playing in our work.
As well as to our Board members who have been with us throughout the program – to Bob Abernethy, Wolfgang Ischinger, Maciej Witucki, and our own Michal Kobosko on the ground, running our office here.
And finally, a word of gratitude and thanks to our most important partners in pulling this off, both our supporters as well as the Atlantic Treaty Association and the Network of YATAs across the alliance and our partners, and NATO Public Diplomacy.
We’re delighted that we’ve had Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy Ildem Tacan with us, as well as his fabulous team that we’ve been able to work with in the execution of that.
And most of all, thank you to all of you who have been with us for a very long day, and we have two more to go, and all those who have been following us online and via the discussion that we’ve had in social media on future NATO.
I do want to just let everybody know that if you want to go back and catch any of those incredible TED talks from many of our delegates today or any of the conversations, they are up on our website, a special section, www.FutureNATO.org. And you can find connections to it through the main Atlantic Council website.
But on behalf of the Atlantic Council, our partners, our supporters, please join me in thanking these terrific leaders for giving a terrific closeout to our conversation today. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)