- Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council
- Damon Wilson, Vice President and Director, Atlantic Council
- General Brent Scowcroft, Chairman, Atlantic Council International Advisory Board
- Senator Chuck Hagel, Chairman, Atlantic Council, Co-Chairman, Atlantic Council Strategic Advisors Group
- Tom Enders, President and CEO, Airbus, Co-Chairman, Atlantic Council Strategic Advisors Group
- Julian Lindley-French, Eisenhower Professor of Defense Strategy, Netherlands Defence Academy, Member, Atlantic Council Strategic Advisors Group
FREDERICK KEMPE: Greetings. We’ll get started right away. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And it’s a privilege to see you in the room today and also to see the leadership here of the Atlantic Council’s strategic advisors group – and presenting their newest publication; and really more engaging with you than presenting the publication, which you’ll see also in print in front of you on the NATO strategic concept.
Let me just give you a quick history of the SAG. When I took over the Atlantic Council three, three-and-a-half years ago, I talked to – before I took over I talked to then the supreme allied commander-Europe and Gen. Scowcroft about how we could really put ourselves on the map regarding our core mission of tracking NATO and NATO’s future. And the idea that they came up with was the notion of a sort of rapid reaction force, but one that would serve both looking forward intellectually to spot trends and get ahead of them and also to respond to things that would happen.
So it was the brainchild of Gen. Scowcroft and Gen. Jones. It was founded in 2007 with this goal. Since then the SAG has now got 40 members from both sides of the Atlantic. It sometimes works together as a group; most often works together in likeminded people on issues; sometimes briefs visiting ministers – everyone from Gen. Stavridis to Sec.-Gen. Rasmussen to defense ministers from various member countries as they pass through town.
And that also influences the debate by writing policy briefs, reports, and as I said, hosting these strategic sessions and also providing informal advice to decision-makers really whenever it’s asked for. So it’s a standing group where we’re aggregating the best knowledge on these issues, I think the best knowledge anywhere in town and perhaps the best knowledge anywhere in the alliance.
We entered the policy debate in 2007 with real gusto, issuing a hard-hitting first report on the NATO mission in Afghanistan, warning – make no mistake – NATO is not winning in Afghanistan. It was a bit of an alarm bell on the issue and we think it played a healthy role.
In 2008, the SAG teamed up for a coalition of think tanks to produce “Alliance Reborn,” a blueprint for NATO reform and regeneration and then 2009, 2010, we’ve been focusing on the trans-Atlantic debate about the new NATO strategic concept. Within that, it’s really all the issues of NATO and all the issues about future security challenges because it’s all captured by the decision about how this is going to be written and that’s being released today.
So now, I’m going to get offstage and turn over to the experts. I’m not going to give long introductions to each gentleman because they’re well-known. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, chairman of our International Advisory Board and national security advisor to two presidents; Sen. Chuck Hagel, chairman of the Atlantic Council, co-chairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board and of course, he gets the great pleasure of serving as my boss; and Tom Enders, Sen. Hagel’s counterpart – he’s the European counterpart in terms of co-chairing the strategic advisors group.
Brent Scowcroft is also one of the chairs of this specific report. He is the president and CEO of Airbus. He also has had a great deal of experience in the public sector, working in various think tanks and so he’s one of the few chief executives that has experience both in the security and of policy but also in the private sector and providing security.
So with that, I’m going – oh, just a minute. I’m sorry. Most importantly, Professor Julian Lindley-French: He’ll be the final panelist and he’ll discuss the findings and recommendations of this report. He’s one of the Euro-Atlantic community’s most passionate and articulate advocates of the NATO alliance. He’s long been a source of cutting-edge thinking on these relations and he’s been a great friend to the Atlantic Council for many years already; co-author of STRATCON 2010 report in front of you along with fellow SAG member Yves Boyer of the École Polytechnique in Paris.
Finally, I just want to publicly recognize Atlantic Council Vice Chairman Frank Kramer, Atlantic Council Executive Committee board member Bob Hunter – Ambassador Bob Hunter – and Atlantic Council senior advisor Ambassador Kurt Volker. They really have taken leadership to help drive this project forward, along with helping us out all along at the Atlantic Council.
With that, let me turn to Damon Wilson, vice president of the Atlantic Council and director of the program that’s been overseeing all of this. He’ll serve as moderator for this. In German, they would call it ein elefantenrunde, which means – Tom Enders is nodding his head – which is a roundtable of elephants, which refers to their intellectual and not other weight. (Laughter.)
DAMON WILSON: And we will keep this in English. Thank you, Fred. I want to echo Fred’s gratitude for joining us today for this discussion – really a conversation about the future of the alliance and to discuss our new SAG report, “STRATCON 2010: An Alliance for a Global Century.”
I want to offer just a little bit of context about how this report came about and then get into a conversation with our esteemed guests today. Last July, as one of Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s last acts, he hosted a conference in Brussels to help launch the process of developing a new strategic concept and about 20 members of the SAG went to this conference to participate in that launch, where we also took the time, as a group, to meet with quite a few NATO officials and others in Brussels.
The SAG members were struck by the tone of the conversation, frankly, by the lack of ambition for a new strategic concept. Many in Brussels seemed to think that the 1999 concept was frankly pretty good and not really interested in doing more than tinkering. And that struck the SAG members as a mistake and while the 1999 document indeed is not bad, it is quite dated and today I think it’s merely a sheet of paper against the backdrop of an alliance in which a sense of solidarity has been frayed on issues such as how to deal with Russia and whose sense of purpose has been weakened by questioning over NATO’s stomach for the mission in Afghanistan. Some of our SAG felt that NATO was in danger of being overtaken by events.
NATO, of course, is based on consensus and in the past, the idea of consensus has conveyed to potential adversaries a sense of alliance resolve. I think we fear that in the current strategic environment, including the budgetary environment, that consensus risks producing a lowest common denominator effect and the group decided that that was an outcome that we weren’t prepared to accept and it’s therefore why we began this effort at the urging of Gen. Scowcroft, Sen. Hagel and Dr. Tom Enders last year.
So today’s event is the culmination of months of meetings, online debates and conferences in which members of the SAG have been grappling with the issues of the new strategic concept. Throughout the formal NATO process, SAG members have participated in all of the NATO seminars with the group of experts which has been ably led by Secretary Madeleine Albright and the Council itself played a key role in helping to sponsor the last Washington seminar.
But one of the concerns the group identified in the course of this was the lack of interest in the United States on NATO issues. The instinctive feeling of support for the alliance as a good thing, reinforced by the declaration of Article V after 9/11 has really given away to sense of ambivalence as Americans increasingly see the alliance through the lens of what our allies are contributing in Afghanistan. In many cases, there’s simply not an interest in NATO; it’s off the agenda.
Yet the SAG, as it got together, agreed that – what was at stake. The defining feature of the strategic concept to be agreed this fall at the Lisbon summit is for the first time, NATO’s purpose, its principles and its partnerships necessarily must be considered in a global context and that’s what this report is about.
At the council, we’ve been trying to play our part in helping to foster more public debate on this. We launched the NATO forum, as Fred mentioned, with Sec.-Gen. Rasmussen, Sen. Lugar, commanders from the field in Afghanistan, but we’re also continuing that effort through today’s event.
This week, we are also announcing a new partnership, bringing the NATOSource blog into the Atlantic Council’s website. NATOSource is the only central source providing the Atlantic community with key NATO news on a daily basis. It’s the perfect combination for our established site, the New Atlanticist, bringing together coverage or breaking security news with insightful analysis of key trans-Atlantic security issues. To that end, I want to welcome and thank Dr. Jorge Benitez to our team as a non-resident senior fellow who’s in charge of NATOSource and a trans-Atlantic security expert in his own right.
But today, we want to foster a conversation about the strategic future of this alliance and so I wanted to turn to Gen. Scowcroft. Part of my coming onboard here at the Atlantic Council, I went and sat down with Gen. Scowcroft well over a year ago and at the time, he asked the question, what is NATO for? At a meeting of the SAG that we held in September of last year, Gen. Scowcroft challenged the SAG to answer his question. What is NATO for today, given how things have changed?
Sir, you’ve played such a tremendous role in this alliance throughout its history. You know the great utility it served in various strategic concepts in the past. I want to turn the tables on you a bit today and ask you the same question. In your mind, what is NATO for and is the alliance still essential in today’s strategic environment and if so, why is that?
LT. GEN. (RET.) BRENT SCOWCROFT: Thank you, Damon, for that explanation as well. I’ve asked myself that question many times and to me, there are two aspects of NATO or two parts of NATO.
The first is that NATO is the only organizational link between the United States and Europe. We have many cultural, historical – all kinds of links. It is the only one where there is an organization that brings us together. That is extremely important. The other aspect of NATO is the military alliance. It is probably the most successful alliance in history. We actually know how to fight together effectively.
But the question is – and especially the question goes to the latter part, to the military alliance, which the rest of the organization is geared to develop, promote and utilize – what is the alliance for?
The perceived threats to our Europe from the outside are, shall we say, minimal. Not all of the NATO members look at them in the same way; we all know that. But the organization principle that got NATO started in the first, which was a proximate threat to its members, has pretty much gone. So what do we do about the military alliance part?
The other part, the organization part, the consultative part, we can deal with. We can deal with issues of terrorism, we can talk about cybersecurity, we can talk about all kinds of things. But can NATO really exist as a viable organization without that military alliance? Or, put it differently, we’ve got a wonderful military alliance – what can we use it to do?
To me, that is a central question. We have a very different kind of a world. I can see uses for the NATO military alliance. I can see a use, for example, in the Palestinian peace process issue. One of the central, central problems keeping the sides apart is security and moves toward withdrawing of Israeli forces from the West Bank or other kinds of things immediately run into security problems because they’re followed by missile attacks on Israel and so on. What better instrument to utilize in such a circumstance than NATO?
To me, the ultimate for NATO would be like – and since I’m particularly close to this, it’s easy to do – like the coalition developed in the first Gulf War. It was not NATO qua NATO which did it, but it was a coalition acting on behalf of the U.N. Security Council to use all necessary means to accomplish a particular end.
Now, to me, that is a dramatically useful role that NATO, as the only such organization in existence, can play on behalf of the problems which face us now. But that’s a very different mission and it strikes at the very heart for many of the NATO members: What is NATO for?
So that’s where I’d like to go. I think the organizational part can exist but it has no vibrancy, I don’t think, without the military alliance to support it and it will just be another talking heads’ periodic meeting.
I think to give it life we could change some things; we could say, every issue comes to the NATO Council, the NATO Council decides whether it’s a NATO issue, whether it’s an issue where NATO ought to provide administrative functional support, in other words, a coalition of the willing, or whether NATO wants no part of it. There are all kinds of ways but what we decide, I think, on this strategic concept will have to be reflected in NATO organizational concepts including consensus.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, General. You’ve hit at Julian’s sweet spot by talking about the fighting credibility of the alliance, which we’ll come back to. (Laughter.)
JULIAN LINDLEY-FRENCH: Thank you, sir.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: It was accidental. (Laughter.)
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: That’s my goal. (Chuckles.)
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: That’s right.
MR. WILSON: I wanted to pick up, General, on your comment and turn to Sen. Hagel. You mentioned the idea of the potential use of the alliance in a role in the context of an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians but one of the key questions underlying what NATO can do today is the political will backing it up. In the wake of Afghanistan, would there be political will to be able to take on such an operation as you envision there?
Let me phrase that a little bit differently for you, Sen. Hagel. During your service in the Senate, NATO went through dramatic transformations, out of area, out of business. Tonight we’ll be honoring President Clinton for his legacy in Europe and a large part of that legacy had to do with how the alliance was used in war in the Balkans to help integrate Central and Eastern Europe, develop new partnerships with Russia. This meant that at the time, NATO was actually at the top of the agenda, the top of the discussions here in Washington. It was a common issue before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on which you served.
The reality is NATO is not in the same place on the agenda there today. How do we end up – how does the alliance muster the political will to be able to meet challenges of today? Particularly in the wake of Afghanistan, would we be able to muster the political will to use the alliance to take on another dramatic operation, another significant commitment in the wake of its experience?
CHUCK HAGEL: Damon, thanks for all your good work and Fred and others who have put this project together. Like everything in life, we must step back and assess where we are. Institutions, treaties, actions, reactions are all anchored on a relevancy of that action. What is it that propels a nation to take leadership or an initiative in an area? It could be security; it could be forced on us like the jarring gong of 9/11; it could be Pearl Harbor. Every nation has gone through those.
Once you go through it, you then step back and you assess and frame up. How then do you address not just the consequences of what happened – more to the point, how do you address where we go and what’s ahead and how we do that? When you look at where we are in the world today, and I say “we” meaning very clearly the 6.7 billion global citizens who share this earth, that’s where you start.
Then you start working through, okay then, what are the threats? What are the new challenges? What are the kinds of architectures and structures that will be required to deal with what’s ahead? Would we most likely all citizens of the world agree that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a challenge, a threat? I think so. What about terrorism? I think most countries would put it right up there. How about the environment? How about water? Resources? Energy? Despair? Hopelessness? Pandemic health events?
So you build from that into some common denominator or parallel common interest. Then from that, you start to break it down as to what’s happening in the world in 2010 and this is part of the NATO equation. We are seeing the greatest diffusion of economic geopolitical power that we’ve ever seen. What does that mean? Well, let’s examine this.
G-7 is G-7: That’s fine; we’re still going to have an event coming up in June. But what’s happened is we’re past G-7. Now we’re now with the G-20. Well, why is that? Well, because we need the 20 largest economies of the world to start harnessing resources to address leadership on these great issues. It’s bigger than the G-7 and the G-7 doesn’t represent the seven largest economies in the world.
So my point is, in using that example, the relevancy of the institution. Is NATO irrelevant? Is the trans-Atlantic alliance irrelevant? Is there any reason for all of this, what Brent was talking about? It is the core of your question.
My belief today more than ever, that NATO is as relevant today as it’s ever been, because when you frame up the world that we live in, NATO – as Brent noted, and I agree that the anchor of NATO was at the beginning in 1949 and when we had the first of the six additions of members in ’52 with Greece and Turkey and then Germany in ’55 and so on. It was predicated on a common defense, a security issue. It was a military alliance primarily.
And because the challenges have shifted, there’s no possibility I don’t think – I hope – of, certainly, Soviet tanks – I don’t think Russian tanks – rolling down into the Fulda Gap to invade Western Europe. That’s gone. So you look at the institutions we’ve build, which worked pretty well post-World War II and I would put NATO right at the top of it.
You also recognize that it wasn’t just the military component but it was a common-interest component that anchored it all. And then when you look at the last three, four additions to NATO starting in ’99 when we brought the eastern nations in, it was a credibility for those nations. It was an economic issue for those nations as much as a security issue for those nations.
So now we are blending the components of NATO in a very realistic way. And now we are where we are with this great diffusion of power and energy and can we all kind of play on our own a little bit? What the EU is going through today with Greece, Portugal may be the next domino and who knows what’s next? That affects NATO. That’s woven right into the NATO fabric. And how all of that is going to sort out is obviously important. It’s parallel, it’s central to the interest of NATO.
Brent talked about cyber security. If you listen to Adm. Mullen, Secretary Gates, others who probably understand the world, certainly from this component as well as anybody and have the history of it, Adm. Mullen said not too long ago that the next battlefield is not a place. The next battlefield is – (inaudible, background noise); it’s in the air; it’s where you can’t see things. That’s the next battlefield.
Is there a place for NATO in that? Oh, I think so because let’s take that cyber security threat, which is a very real threat. What are the components of that? Certainly economics. If there’s a cyber attack on banks or infrastructure, whatever, does that affect all of us? Of course it does. A whole different kind of reaction now, Article V of NATO demands. A whole different kind of reaction because who hits those banks or those infrastructures? Can you trace it back to a country, to a nation-state? Probably pretty difficult.
So to come to a conclusion at least my answer to your question, the political will, Damon, is predicated on the realities of the current challenges and threats and the projections of a future and a vision in how do you enhance a nation’s interests because every nation responds in its own interests. That’s why you have alliances; that’s why we had NATO. They are common interests.
And I think that we have to use some new, 21st-century thinking to bring a confluence of those common interests into a new paradigm of thinking how we’re going to do this and why NATO is just as important today as it’s ever been. And I think that it can be done and it must be done.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Senator. Just listening to your answer reminded me, when I worked for Lord Robertson, as did Kurt Volker, one of the obligatory stops when Lord Robertson was secretary-general was your office at the Senate. And I think your answer reminded us why you were a champion of the alliance while you were in the Senate. You remain a champion of the alliance. And it’s voices like that, that folks are concerned about sustaining into today given today’s environment.
SEN. HAGEL: I always had smart staff-people. (Laughter.)
MR. WILSON: I wanted to pick up on both what Gen. Scowcroft said and Sen. Hagel and turn to you, Dr. Enders. You bring an interesting perspective to the NATO debate based on your current role as a leader in the aerospace and defense industry but as well as your policy expertise in the German government; the non-governmental policy institutes such as the German Council on Foreign Relations, IISS.
When you look at the landscape today, there are real doubts about the political will, as we discussed, within NATO with the challenging fiscal constraints brought about by the financial crisis. It’s cutting into defense budgets. It begs the question that Gen. Scowcroft raised about the importance of developing and sustaining alliance capabilities. And Sen. Hagel hit at this as well from another angle – that we’re talking about the G-7 today; not the G-20. Cyber, it’s a global type of challenge; it’s not just an alliance challenge.
Why is Europe the right partner for the United States? Is Europe the right partner for the United States? What do you see as the consequences for the alliance for inaction, or if the political will isn’t there, to ensure that the strategic concept succeeds? Is this a make-or-break moment for the alliance?
TOM ENDERS: Well, thank you very much, Damon. Very flattering to hear about my academic achievements and political assignments almost 20 years ago. (Laughter.) Today, a more humble industrialist but obviously very interested still in what goes on in the alliance in the political environment.
Is it a make-or-break moment? Well, that, we will know only 10 years from now. I think we’re in the process. I don’t think it’s a make-or-break moment for NATO. I would predict that NATO will be with us for many decades to come.
The question is the one that Sen. Hagel raised: How about the relevance of NATO? I mean, successful organizations have strong inertia. You don’t do them away, you don’t pull them from the table or decide to dissolve them, but really be relevant.
I remember, one of the input papers for our discussions here, somebody was asking a question, will NATO in the 21st century be a concept-only organization? So creating words and declarations, but what about capabilities?
On the European side, when you talk about make or break, it could well be that the situation for Europe, for the EU, is much more in the make-or-break situation – again, that we will only know sometime from now. But this is not just about lacking finances, big gaps in the budgets of governments. It’s not just about – as important as it is – adequately funding military postures; it’s about the unity of Europe.
This initial crisis could easily lead to, let’s say, a stop of integration in Europe and that is moving at a snail’s pace – Lisbon contracts and other important declarations notwithstanding – but it could lead to a situation in Europe where the famous European defense pillar – WU, in former days – EU, a common security and foreign policy comes also to a stop.
Now, that is interesting because I remember when I was in government right after reunification and the demise of the Warsaw Pact, we were assuming that we would now build something gradually step by step in terms of defense identity, defense posture in Europe.
And I think when the last strategic concept was done, Julian, some 10 years ago, that was still the assumption; that the EU would build something that could be a partner or could be complementary to NATO. And we’re talking now a paper about the EU-NATO partnership. I think there is a distinct possibility that there will be no EU partner; that there will be, in the future, bilateral relationships with NATO ironically that could strengthen at least on the surface NATO because this EU thing, whatever was emerging there might be at least stopped or stagnating for some time to come.
Of course, I’m walking here on thin ice but I’m very worried not only because I’m just coming from Europe but I’m following like many people in Europe and I guess over here, this enfolding financial crisis where I’m very worried about the deeper political implications that would have for European integration project, for building a European defense pillar and also for NATO, one way or another.
MR. WILSON: Thank you. I think that’s very significant, what you said. Just in the past day or two, Sec.-Gen. Rasmussen’s latest speech was about solidarity. And he underscored that solidarity was the source of strength of the alliance in the past; it’s what will hold NATO together in the future. And I think the question you’re posing is you raise the issue of unity of Europe as our partner here.
After I get to Julian, I’d like to bring Ambassador Hunter into this conversation because he’s done a lot of work on the EU relationship in the context of our SAG process, so I’ll come back to you. But Julian, could you pick up on this?
Julian is one of the most outspoken members of the SAG. And in that context, he became the lead author of the SAG report because while his ideas were sometimes controversial, he was often the most articulate in advancing them.
To build off of this conversation and help us bring us back to the report to underscore what are the top-line recommendations, how are we trying to address and forestall the idea of the alliance falling into strategic irrelevance?
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Thank you, Damon, and thank you to Fred and the Atlantic Council for all the support in the last year or so.
I must actually pay tribute to Yves Boyer, my French colleague. I’m tempted to say this report emerged from a mixture of Yorkshire vision and French pragmatism. Thankfully, after two or three bottles of good French wine, it tended to turn around – (inaudible, laughter).
I’m fascinated by the conversation. When we wrote the report, it really wasn’t about NAOT; it was about strategy and influence. Let’s face it; we got the last 10 years badly wrong and we need to fix it. Now, whether it’s NATO, EU or whatever, the real question at the heart of the report is this: If you believe that the world is a safer place when the West is strong, as I do profoundly believe in this; if you also believe that credible, strategic military power underpins credibility in a very complex world, as I do, then you’ve got to have a vision for a strong NATO.
Now, if you read our report, some of you will say, well, how can they be saying this stuff given that Europe is broke in particular, has no money and that we’ve had Iraq and we’ve had Afghanistan? Well, the simple answer is because we have to because the danger is that we will have a strategic concept that is written because of what we can achieve rather than what we have to achieve.
And there’s a very profound danger in Europe in particular that we only recognize as much threat as we can afford. And we profoundly wanted to avoid that when we wrote this report. We wanted to keep peoples’ heads up or say, look, if we are to secure our citizens given the pace, the scale, the scope of change, that we must grip the reality of that change.
And that is why people who say, well, the 1999 concept was fine – the 1999 concept simply was about clearing up Europe in the post-Cold War environment. This is the first time we have genuinely had to put our role in the world together as a fundamental core of the alliance. And if the strategic concept itself does not pass that so-what NATO test, then the alliance will be in danger.
The report, if you like, aims to specifically challenge those charged with drafting and delivering this concept with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. Now, for that reason, the report grips certain fundamentals that are uncomfortable. One, we’ve had very bad American strategy leadership for 10 years. We’ve had equally bad European commitment for the past 10 years. Be it inside NATO or where else, we are going to have to get our act together if we are indeed to influence the critical events that we have to do for our security.
Europe, as I’ve said, is financially broken and strategically absent. We Europeans, as Tom rightly alludes to, must fix that. But we can only do that with Americans. There’s no way in this world that Europeans can, as Europe, play a role in the world that makes any sense without the United States. Therefore, it has to be in solidarity with the United States.
Afghanistan is entering a critical phase. We were acutely conscious when we wrote the report that for all the talk of future, we have a major operation right now that we have in some way to get right. I would be very concerned if the strategic concept is launched in November and the ongoing lacks of effort from European allies in Afghanistan would render the document meaningless, not worth the paper it is written on. So the report rightly alludes to that.
And Iran is about to happen. It’s the next big crisis. Iran is about to happen. What are we in the alliance going to do about that? Well, we’d like to pretend that somehow it’s not happening. But it is going to happen. So the report holds feet to fire on those sorts of issues.
I’ll quickly wrap up, Damon, because I want to get into the debate. We address the fundamentals of modernization. On the issue of purpose, if you like, we need an Article V that is meaningful for all members but it must be based on a defense architecture that reflects the 21st century, not the 20th century. That will indeed need a balance between projection and protection. That will indeed require missile defense. The report strongly says that, that will indeed require critical infrastructure protection.
But what was really clear to all the SAG in writing this, that all of defense is deployable these days. There are no such things as static, main-defense forces for defending the territory of our members. All defense, given the size of the Euro-Atlantic community, requires deployable forces. So even at that level, you have to modernize the NATO effort.
Second, we wanted to look at the principles of decision-making. We thought very strongly that NATO has spent the last 10 years or so focusing on inclusiveness through enlargement, and rightly so. We had a historic duty to fulfill our commitment to create a Europe whole and free. We have by and large, but not completely achieved that. The Western Balkans cannot be forgotten.
But at the same time, we now have to move to credibility in performance. That means capabilities that now are themselves putting credible decision-making that is flexible, that is effective and built around the secretary-general with powers to lead during crises in a proper manner.
Partnerships are fundamental to the report. Partnerships are at the core of the report, be it indeed with the European Union, and I share all of Tom’s concerns about the gap between rhetoric and reality, which too often informs the union. We need that to change. But also strategic partnerships with the likes of Russia, with the likes of India, maybe China, in stabilizing the world.
Now, what’s at the heart of what NATO has to offer? At the heart of the future NATO is its ability to generate and organize a military effect in pursuit of political ends. It is NATO’s standards, it is interoperability, it is that ability to bring partners from across the globe to work with us and ensure that every time, they do not have to reinvent the wheel.
So the practical focus must be on the ability of the alliance to act as that strategic hub in the organization of effect because like it or not, we are in a globalized insecurity world. And if we the alliance together do not grip the sheer extent of change and the demands that leadership imposes upon us, then I fear NATO will fail the rest of time and we’ll all be poorer for it. I commend the report to you.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Julian. Julian and Yves did a terrific job in helping to lead this effort for the SAG and we’re deeply grateful for that. I do wish that Yves could have been here with us today.
Before I turn to the audience, I want to pick up on a point that Julian made and turn to you, Gen. Scowcroft and Sen. Hagel, and building off on what you said as well, Dr. Enders. The military credibility is at stake within the alliance; bringing force to achieve effect and whether we have unity within Europe.
Secretary Gates at the seminar on NATO that we helped sponsor on the strategic concept raised the prospect of the demilitarization of Europe. There is a book out by James Sheehan, “Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?” that argues that those countries with the greatest capability to employ force to further political aims have lost their appetite and their enthusiasm for doing so.
Foreign Policy just ran another article that said, why are we trying to force NATO into a role that it doesn’t want to play? It’s been a great European security alliance; let’s leave it as a European security alliance.
Is there a pacification of Europe, as some argue? Is this something that’s irreversible? How do we buck this trend and pursue some of the recommendations that Julian has outlined? General and Senator, I’d like to ask for your thoughts.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: I think my own sense is that one of the first difficulties with Europe is it’s strategically exhausted; that two world wars have just left the Europeans drained of what traditionally animates people. That, coupled with the fact that the end of the Cold War was like a big cloud being lifted from us all, and we looked around and we saw sunshine everywhere and no problems. And those two I think have led to the current conditions of the alliance.
Now, both of those are temporary. The problem is, how do we take a part of the past, which is NATO, and bring it up to the threats of a world which is very different from the world in which it was organized? And I think part of the European problem is, they don’t see the problems that we see. They’re in Afghanistan – most of the European forces – because we asked them to be there. And they’re there out of loyalty to the alliance, not because they see Afghanistan as a threat to their national interests.
Now, that’s what we have to animate this alliance with in this strategic concept – to give them something that will say, yes, we believe in this and we’re prepared to put resources behind it. And that is the dilemma we face. It was simple in 1949 because the threat was right over the horizon for everybody. It’s not so simple now.
MR. WILSON: Sen. Hagel, is Europe going pacifist on us?
MR. HAGEL: Well, I would leave that question to Tom, but – (laughter) – he’s far better prepared than I to handle that. But my sense is, first, Adm. Stavridis has approached this issue, as we all know, over the last couple of years, and very specifically on what Brent talked about, on the exhaustion of Europe and why – and there’s an economic reality that Tom talked about. And I’ve always believed like, I suspect, everybody in this room, that you cannot force fits in anything in life.
You might get along with it for a while, but it will end in disaster. So you can’t force a fit that nature doesn’t have something to say about, nature being, in this case, what I talked about earlier, and everyone has talked about, are the common interests. What are the common themes? What’s the confluence of those interests? And then how do you bring that together to recognize that, in fact, this alliance is important, it can be and will be and must be adjusted to the realities of a new world order.
And I acknowledge that is difficult. I mean, I come from – last 14 years, from a political world that reality is something that you deal with every minute of the day if for no other reason than political self-preservation as a high virtue in the political world. And you’re seeing some dimensions of that as we go into an election here in November. But you can’t force a member of Congress to go against his or her own interests or vote against their constituents’ interests, just as you can’t force a country to continue to be part of an alliance if they don’t want to be – or more to the point – if they don’t see, I use the term relevancy, or if they don’t connect that or anchor that to their own self-interests.
What we must do a better job of – and I think it was noted here a little bit ago, and I think all of the leaders of NATO must take some responsibility – I don’t think we’ve done a very good job over the last 10 years. Let me just end this way to make a point: I recall vividly, as everyone up here and in the audience, when the Soviet Union imploded – and it has been noticed here – that there was a bumper sticker and a political theme that ran across the American electorate that was the peace dividend. Europe had the same thing. And the point was, why do we need an Army anymore? Why do we need all these grand embassies and Foreign Service exams and intelligence agencies?
So what did we do? Brent was at the front end of this and saw this happen. Brent argued against it with his president. We cut our defense budgets. Europeans saw us doing it. We cut our intelligence budgets. Europeans saw us doing it. We cut our foreign policy budgets. In fact, we closed embassies around the world. And in some cases, for two or three years, we did not even have Foreign Service exams. Why do we need all these diplomats? Well, we’re working through all that – those big mistakes that we made.
Now, how does that relate to NATO? Well, of course it relates to NATO because budgets and politics and dynamics and threats and realities all affect policy decisions. So you run into NATO, and what we did in NATO – because this was the question when I came to Congress in 1996: Why do we need NATO? There’s no reason for NATO. And that was a very significant question. So what we did – we never answered that question. We’re now forced to answer it 15 years later.
What we did – we found a substitute to answer the question – a placeholder. And that was, well, let’s expand NATO. So everybody said, that’s a hell of an idea. Let’s expand NATO! (Laughter.) But we never answered the question, why NATO? It’s out-used its usefulness and we don’t need it. So now, we are faced with this reality. So I go back again to, I think what everybody up here has been saying – and it’s something we all have noticed. You’ve got to anchor it to some reality, as to why it must be there.
And it’s why it’s in the interest of the Europeans and the Canadians and the United States. That Western alliance is the only reliable anchor in the world today, aside from the defense. There is no alliance in the world today like the Western alliance. Doesn’t mean we’re smarter; doesn’t mean we’re the chosen people; doesn’t mean we’re better. But when the world’s in trouble, just as you noted, then we look to – for at least some stability and security, the world looks to a stable alliance. And we’ve got to restructure that once again, and I think it can be done.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Senator. We’re under a tight schedule today, so I want to quickly turn to the audience and get some questions and comments. I want to start with Ambassador Bob Hunter, who led the work within the strategic advisors group on NATO-EU, and with our Belgian colleagues – (inaudible) – published the SAG’s piece on a NATO-EU partnership. Given what you’ve heard up here from Tom Enders, are you willing to defend Europe? What are your thoughts, Ambassador?
Q: Oh, I’ll defend Europe even if Tom doesn’t. (Laughter.) All right, let me pick up on something that I’d start with that our good friend Julian said: strategy before institutions. One thing we’ve been learning about the conflicts we’ve faced – whether it will be true in the future, I don’t know, but very likely to be – is, it’s not just the military. It’s also the non-military. And they have to work together.
We found it in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, now in Afghanistan. To the point where we talk about in Afghanistan, it’s not just the military; it’s also governance and reconstruction development. And in our own country, in which the secretary of defense has taken the lead in saying, we need to have more non-military instruments and the secretary of state has a QDDR, along with a QDR to try to get these things working together.
Now, I haven’t heard that here. In fact, Tom has given us a certain amount of depression by saying he doesn’t’ think the European Union is going to be up to it. So if we’re going to need to integrate instruments of power and influence, military and non-military, do we do it at NATO? Does the European Union step up to it in partnership with NATO? Is it done bilaterally? Or does the United States have to do it by itself if, indeed, this is where we’re going? Because I rather suspect if we don’t get that right, even if we have a strong NATO, we’re going to miss the strategic bus.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Ambassador. I want to continue picking up on this. Sen. Hagel mentioned anchoring the alliance to reality. And Frank, if I could come to you – Frank Kramer, vice chair of the Atlantic Council, was very active in helping to lead the effort in the SAG on the strategic concept side as well, in addressing, I think exactly that issue – how do you anchor the strategic concept to reality and substance? Can you address that for us?
Q: Sure, thanks, Damon. I think the way I’d put the question would be, what does NATO do? Not just what it’s for, but what does it do? And as both, or all, of the speakers talked about, what does it do in the world? I would say that in the ’90s, NATO did actually have a mission, and it was helping the integration of Europe. You could put it the way you did – alternative question. But that’s pretty well-affected now, subject to some particulars.
But now, do we do an effort with respect to the Palestinian sets of issues? Do we jump into the question of cyber? We still have, I think, very open business, hopefully in a positive way, pushing that reset button, so to speak, with Russia. How do we integrate Russia into an appropriate set of arrangements with the countries of NATO? You know, where do we go? Afghanistan, to use Julian’s example – does NATO create a civil/military plan?
So it seems to me the issue of initiatives, if you want to call it that, or particular kinds of things to do out in the world, I think, is going to turn out to be the determination, which, as Dr. Enders pointed out, we’ll look back in 10 years to find out whether we were relevant or not. But it’s all going to depend on what actions we actually take.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Frank. One of the issues that I think came out of this as well, and one that Ambassador Kurt Volker addressed in our SAG debates was, how much of this is an issue of, just, NATO reform – the decision-making, the internal process? And Kurt helped, sort of, answer this question – address this question – in the context of the SAG. I might turn to you, Ambassador Volker, to share those thoughts and expand on that.
Q: Can I do what they teach us to do in media training, is beat the question back quickly and say something else? (Laughter.)
MR. WILSON: You may do that. You may do that.
MR. : You’re going to do it anyway. (Chuckles.)
Q: To beat the question back quickly, what I would say about NATO reform is it is – NATO needs to reform. It doesn’t work very well. It’s cumbersome. Meetings go on too long. It’s hard up making decisions. But all of this, basically, is a function of not – of the questions that have come up here – not knowing what we’re trying to do. If you don’t know what you’re trying to do, then it’s hard to actually do it. And that’s the problem that NATO faces, not that it’s got 400 committees or 28 members or a budget process that no one really understands.
You can make it work if you agree on what you’re trying to do. Certainly, we could make it work better. And if we agreed on what we were trying to do and reformed NATO, that would be terrific. And there are lots of specific ideas that we could throw out there about how to do it better. But the first thing is to answer these questions, which is, what for? What do we do? If I could then grab the ball and run with it, what I would say the other thing – and it came up in what Tom Enders said – the things that people are worried about – they are genuinely worried about a lot of things, starting with the economy, financial crisis, globalization.
The reason why the secretary-general comes out and talks about solidarity – people are generally worried. But NATO is not seen as the place to go to deal with those things. And the things that we talk about as threats or risks within NATO are not things that have any immediacy for people in our own societies. And this is a challenge, I believe, for leadership, where our political leaders, our prime ministers, our public spokespeople need to connect the dots and say, actually, these global trends that are affecting us are serious and there is a role for an organization like NATO, that brings market democracies together that are trying to build a stable and secure world to live in.
And we have a role to play. It’s not the only one, and there are plenty of other organizations and entities and bilateral relationships that will do lots of things. But we have to connect what the concerns that people really have are to the kinds of things that NATO can and does do, and I think we haven’t done a good job of that at the level of leaders or public debate.
So if I can say what should be the next step, I commend the report that Julian and Yves did, and also the work that Madeleine Albright and her group of experts have done – but the next step has really got to take this into a public debate and be picked up by leaders so that we can connect what it is that NATO is for/is doing to the real worries that people have, rather than what they think NATO does.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Kurt. Flag me if you’ve got a question – wanted to come back and have you pick up, Tom, on that question. Can leaders connect the dots? I was struck – I think Chancellor Merkel was in California this week, and I think she delivered a speech at Stanford on Afghanistan, and said some, actually, pretty strong things about Germany’s role there. But many of us have wondered, are European leaders willing to pick up the ball and make the case in Europe and help connect some of these dots? Dovetailing with Kurt’s question there, do you think that’s possible in Europe?
MR. ENDERS: Yeah, I think it is. First of all, let me say I hope I’m wrong on my pessimism, as a decree of provocation for the debate here and what might happen in Europe or what might not happen. But I’m positive, when it comes to the point I think Brent was making – is Europe pacifist?
Yes. Europe, you can say, you know, if you look at it in the historical period – strategically exhausted. Remember the famous quote from a German defense minister in the ’90s who said, now we are encircled by friends – (laughter) – something Germany nor its former constituent parts had, had for hundreds of years.
We cannot overestimate the importance that this has on the German psyche – the leadership, the public, et cetera. But going back to what you said about Chancellor Merkel, the positive thing I note is that, since we’re having, unfortunately, casualties/fatalities in Afghanistan, the debate in Germany, I think, has become more serious. I see more resolve in the leadership, more resolve in the public, to stay and fight.
The problem is that leaders have to explain – but I think that’s not specific to Germany or any other pacifist country – have to explain the narrative. Why are we doing this? Why are we losing soldiers where – why get our sons and husbands killed here? If politicians are able to do this – and I see at least a serious attempt in Germany to fulfill this role – then I think there’s no reason to be overly concerned about the pacifist Europeans.
MR. WILSON: I think that’s a very important point, thank you. We’re running out of time, but I’d like to take your question here, and then –
Q: My name is – (inaudible) – Ghani (ph) from Saudi TV. I think the crucial issue is what Sen. Hagel said – who are we? And if we think of “we,” as he said, that is the 5 billion people living in this world, everything can change around us – our concept of our world around us can change. I will just take Afghanistan.
Everybody here, I’m sure, knows about Charlie Wilson’s war. Charlie Wilson was able to convince the Congress to spend billions of dollars to fight off and defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Immediately as the Soviets left, we dropped Afghanistan as a hot potato. I’m a Muslim. I’m an American Muslim. I come, originally, from Egypt.
But the United States is extremely, you know, force of good in the world, and in Afghanistan, it was the perfect example. The mistake was, we dropped Afghanistan like a hot potato. That’s why we had 9/11. If we stayed in Afghanistan and we spent a fraction of what we spent after 9/11, I would argue 9/11 would not have happened.
In terms of NATO, after 9/11 happened, NATO activated chapter five and offered to George Bush to send troops there. It was George Bush who said, no, thank you very much. NATO, stay on the side. I’m going to create the “coalition of the willing.” So it is not, at any point, the question is that everything that happens outside there determines what we do, but how we perceive the world.
MR. WILSON: Thanks for that comment. Julian, you wanted to come in, and then I’ll ask if there are any concluding questions.
Q: Yeah, just a quick remark on, A, the contract at the heart of the alliance and also on Afghanistan. I do believe that this strategic concept will have to remind all members of the fundamental contract, which is, the smallest get the security provided the biggest in return for sharing responsibilities. It’s – and too many of us are in Afghanistan with the idea that we’re doing the minimum commensurate with keeping America interested in European security.
If that continues – that lack of solidarity – no alliance can survive that. And I think that’s the issue in this capital. And certainly in my own capital, London, it’s an issue there, as well. On Afghanistan, there is an immediate problem, which worries me, which is, given the lack of reform of headquarters in NATO, NATO can no longer run an operation of any size and any duration. And NATO must ultimately stand or fall on its military competence. What’s happening is that CENTCOM, for very good reasons, is effectively decapitating the NATO command chain to make sure that things happen.
Now, we can do that in the short term in Afghanistan because we are now in the critical phase, but if that establishes a precedent whereby, on every deployment, you’ve got American senior officers with American advisors – I’m the head of a commander’s initiative group for the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. So I’m working on this – on pre-deployment – right now. If that continues, then that will do as much damage to NATO as a lack of political leadership and a lack of a shared strategy. NATO must ultimately be good at what it is meant to be good at, which is running large military operations.
MR. WILSON: And I think in our work with the group of experts and Secretary Albright, how to take into account, obviously, the war NATO’s fighting today without letting it be captured by – the strategic concept being captured by that. Any concluding comments, Senator Hagel, Dr. Enders?
MR. ENDERS: If I may just to thank Julian and Yves in absence for their hard work. You know, making sense out of these brilliant debates in the Strategy Advisors Group, distilling the key points of all of it, et cetera – I think that’s been done very well. And as a guy with thin patience, I should say we produced, I think – the little paper is readable. I tried it out on the airplane. It didn’t take me the whole flight, from Paris to Washington. It’s readable; it’s succinct; it’s ambitious, and yet, realistic and pragmatic. And I very much hope that this is a valuable input into the strategic debate.
MR. : Thank you, Tom.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Tom. Gen. Scowcroft, any final comment?
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: Just one comment, which leads from Julian’s comment and Kurt Volker’s a little. We also have to not say, we’ve got NATO now; now let’s look around for things for it to do. We’ve got to say there are things out here that need to be done, and NATO is the most efficient and effective way to do it. We want NATO in Afghanistan not just because it has the right to be there, but that – so we have to go at both ends of this question. And that’s the task of the strategic concept.
MR. WILSON: A very good, grounding reminder from someone who knows policy well. I want to thank all of you for doing this today. If it weren’t for the Atlantic Council, all of us headed to welcome President Clinton and Bono and Gen. Mattis, Gen. Abrial at the awards dinner tonight, we would have longer to debate the alliance. But unfortunately, I think we must all turn into black tie and head to another venue this evening.
But we wanted to do this event today to underscore that, really, what we are celebrating tonight at the awards dinner is a legacy in Europe that centered around how the United States and how President Clinton, at the time, used the alliance to end war in the Balkans, to help integrate Central and Eastern Europe and to establish new partnerships with Russia. It took – after a period of strategic uncertainty, it took vision; it took commitment; it took political will; and it took resources.
And I think what this group has been underscoring over the past weeks and months in its debate, that we’re at another stage of strategic uncertainty before the alliance, and we think the same type of political will, vision leadership and resources is required today to give the alliance a new lease on life to ensure that it can be effective in this next century, as it has been in this past.
So thank you very much for joining us today at the Atlantic Council. We appreciate it and commend the report. We will also be continuing to issue a variety of policy-oriented briefs on NATO issues – NATO strategic concept issues. You’ll see, in our main lobby, about 10 of those briefs that have already been published, along with the report. Please help yourselves. And we’ll be continuing to issue more of those under the leadership of our SAG team here. So I want to thank everybody for joining us, and thank you for being on the discussion and the panel today.
MR. ENDERS: Thank you.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.