Robert G. Bell, Senior Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense in Europe & Defense Advisor, US Mission to NATO
JOHN ROOD: Okay. If I can get everyone’s attention please. We’re going to begin the next section of our discussion today on Transatlantic Missile Defense Architecture.
My name is John Rood. I currently serve as vice president for U.S. business development at the Raytheon Company, which is sponsoring this event. But, previously, I served in government as acting under secretary for arms control and international security, as Ellen was kind enough to mention earlier. And as I look around the room at people like General O’Reilly or others that I’ve had he – Ian and Barry – that I’ve had the pleasure to serve with in the Pentagon in previous roles, it’s a bit of a gathering of some of the old faithful, although not going quite as many air miles this time, (Pat ?), as some of our other trips; just come downtown here for this session.
But we are very fortunate to have a great panel today to discuss this topic with me. I’ll introduce them in just a moment, but what I thought I’d do is just offer a couple of remarks to frame the panel, introduce each of our panelists and then ask them to make their remarks.
Now, the events in Crimea have really reminded a lot of us and focused attention on the security challenges facing NATO. Indeed, I may say, if NATO didn’t exist today, I think we would be talking right now about inventing it to deal with this kind of challenge. And so it reminds us why we have this important alliance, why transatlantic security cooperation is so important to us. And occasionally some of our – the critics of this idea have pointed to some of the shortcomings or challenges facing NATO, but I really do think that current events have reminded us why this is so important.
And, in fact, the alliance has been fairly adaptable over the years. One of the areas that I think it’s been particularly adaptable is in missile defense. When we look at the last decade of progress in NATO and step back, it’s really remarkable to me how much an alliance that moves in incremental steps has persistently moved in incremental steps down the path on missile defense. And a lot of folks to my right have had a great deal to do with that, as well as a number of people in the audience. Much of the progress on transatlantic missile defense at NATO, of course, has been driven by heads of state and government, summits, and the pressure that those summits provide for the rest of government to go ahead and make enough progress in the intervening period.
As I mentioned, NATO has moved incrementally. And when I look back at some of the summit statements – for example, I worked on the negotiations for the 2008 Bucharest Summit declaration by heads in state and government, which welcomed the deployment of U.S. long-range missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and tasked the development of, quote, “options for a comprehensive missile defense architecture to extend coverage to all allied territory and populations not otherwise covered by the United States system,” end quote.
The 2012 Chicago Summit declaration included language on achievement of an interim BMD capability and that continued the progress of the previous decade and was both a key achievement and really a turning point for the debate and discussion about missile defense within NATO. It was an achievement as it represented the culmination of many years of incremental but steady progress towards the alliance, embracing missile defense as a key capability area for the protection of all NATO territories, populations and forces against ballistic missile attack.
The work that has already been done by NATO on the ALTBMD program, or Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program, and the ACCS program, or Air Command and Control System, along with the U.S. contribution to NATO of the phased adaptive approach provides a very good foundation for continued progress. As Admiral Winnefeld mentioned, U.S. missile defense assets are being deployed on a number of nations’ soil.
There, of course, has been a groundbreaking in Romania for a PAA site there. One is planned in Poland. Other missile defense sensors have been deployed in Turkey, in Danish soil, in Greenland, and in the U.K. And, of course, to our right there’s a nice picture of the Raytheon Patriot system which has been deployed now besides the United States in Germany, Greece and the Netherlands in NATO.
Now, looking forward to the 2014 NATO summit in Wales and beyond, I hope we’ll hear from today’s panelists about some innovative ideas of how NATO will continue to progress and the additional capabilities we might see. In addition to embracing missile defense as a key area at the 2012 summit, at the Chicago Summit, NATO also embraced concepts like smart defense and pooling. And that’s another area that I think in the future we can see NATO do more in.
For example, I’d be interested in hearing thoughts about whether there could be pooling of assets such as the Standard Missile Three among nations; whether you might see cooperative sensor development by some of the nations in NATO; they’re developing naval vessels that could be equipped to carry such a capability.
Certainly at Raytheon, we see the benefit of European and U.S. industry working together. Very proud to serve on the board of directors of the Thales-Raytheon Systems joint venture. Alexis Morel, of course, comes – hails from Thales. And we are the prime contractor in the NATO ACCS program and the ACCS TMD program. And we’re certainly part of teams competing to lead NATO’s missile defense systems engineering and integration effort.
So in stepping back, the alliance really has come a long ways. Some substantial capabilities exist and more are in the process of being put in place in the field. We’re at an interesting moment in the alliance where we’re refocusing, again, on some large security threats. And I’ll be interested to hear what our panelists have to say. So let me just turn to introductions of them.
Of course, to my right is Bob Bell, who is the senior civilian representative of the secretary of defense in Europe and defense advisor at the U.S. mission to NATO. Of course, Mr. Bell is well known to many in the audience as an expert in this field. Before assuming his current position, he was a senior vice president at Science Applications International Corporation or SAIC. Prior to joining SAIC, he served as the NATO assistant secretary general for defense investment from 1999 to 2003. And from 1993 to 1999, Bob worked at the White House National Security Council as a special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy in arms control. And that’s where I had the pleasure to first meet Bob.
I’ll introduce all the panelists and then ask them to take their turn in order. So to Bob’s right and my right is Alexis Morel. Alexis is director of strategic affairs at Thales. Previously, Alexis served as special advisor for strategic and defense industry issues in the French Foreign Ministry’s policy planning staff. Prior to that, he was advisor for strategic and security affairs to the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. His previous postings include political counselor for strategic affairs at the French Embassy in Washington, advisor to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for South and Central Asia. And he was the lead officer for NATO and European defense within the foreign ministry’s division for strategic affairs.
And last but certainly not least, to my right is Kurt Volker. Ambassador Volker is a senior advisor to the Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security and a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group. He is a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. He’s executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a part of Arizona State University, my alma mater, and I would point out, a fine academic institution. And he’s also a senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
So with that, with no further ado, let me turn to Bob to kick off the discussion. Bob.
ROBERT BELL: Thanks, John. I’m happy to go first. As you might expect, when you get an invitation from a prestigious institution like the Atlantic Council, you put a lot of work into preparing your remarks. And then, as is often the case, you get an e-mail from the conference organizer – in this case, my friend Ian – saying, actually, Bob, what I’d like you to do is answer four questions and do it in seven minutes. And since I was trained as an Air Force air traffic controller and I’m used to being confronted with emergency situations, power failures, weather, diverts, I’m going to call an audible here, Ian, and try to do what you’ve asked me to do. So I’ll take it on.
Your first question was: what are the drivers behind missile defense as it’s working out at NATO on a collaborative basis? And, clearly, the answer to that question is WMD proliferation. And NATO, specifically in an (ACCS ?) 28 consensus basis places that in the Middle East. The United States made clear at the Lisbon summit, when we agreed to territorial defense of all of Europe, that we would be clear in naming names, and we’re not shy to name Iran and Syria as the threat. And that’s still the case today.
So I don’t need to repeat what Admiral Winnefeld said. Notwithstanding the important P5 Plus One negotiations with Iran, their ballistic missile program is still growing and the range of their missiles is growing. And NATO’s missile defense architecture remains oriented and situated with that threat in mind. And the Syrian piece of this is important, too, because in the case of Syria, we have actually deployed now not only three nations’ force generating Patriot batteries to the Turkish frontier, but put this under the NATO C2 structure that we created at Chicago with NATO personnel from the Communications Agency deployed to be that linkage to the command system.
So we are operating NATO missile defense today out of Turkey under the standing defense plan into which EPAA plugs. And that training is phenomenally valuable. There have been hundreds of SCUD launches north, across Syria. And when they left off, since the booster hasn’t stopped burning yet, the batteries actually aren’t sure whether it’s coming to them. That’s realistic training.
Now, your second question was: has Ukraine changed this perspective? And I really can’t add to what Admiral Winnefeld said, except to note that at NATO, of course, it’s not just how a nation assesses Russia, what’s changing, where that’s headed, what conclusions to draw. But NATO works by consensus, and that means 28 points of view.
At NATO, we have acted quickly with foreign ministers, the 1st of February, agreeing a package of 18 immediate reassurance measures and response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of the Crimea. Most of you are pretty familiar with the main elements of that package because you’ve been reading about augmentations to Baltic air policing and ship – NATO flotillas going into the Baltic and Black Sea. There’s not an element, though, of that 18-part package that relates directly to missile defense.
Now, in parallel, we’re beginning a dialogue at 28 on the strategic implications of Ukraine. That needs to be informed by a threat assessment, a revised threat assessment that’s being worked at 28 while we’re here today. Defense ministers will take this up next week and foreign ministers later in June. But my point is the timeline that we’re on to begin to draw some strategic conclusions about Ukraine in a longer-term context, beyond the immediate reassurance package is probably from now to the summit at best. And we will be challenged given different views on that question in Western Europe I think to come to consensus at Chicago, but that’s our goal.
In the meantime, NATO policy stands just as Admiral Winnefeld said, including as stated in the Defense Policy Nuclear Review that we do not orient or aim the missile defense architecture at Russia. One exception, I would note, is that we did take a decision at 28 to break off military-to-military and working group engagement with Russia under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council. And, therefore, the effort we were making to engage Russia as a partner on missile defense has been suspended.
Your third question was: what dynamics inhibit NATO’s missile defense cooperation? What limits our ability to run instead of just walk if I can put it that way? And the simple answer is two things: euros and dollars, but with a twist – if I can just develop that.
When I say euros, I mean, as Europe still struggles to get a sustained recovery from the economic recession and their cash-starved defense ministries, their simply not that disposable euro in terms of a new START program to invest in new missile defense capabilities beyond incremental adjustments to what they have using existing platforms or new acquisitions at the TMD level. But we see as of yet no critical mass to invest in upper-tier capabilities. There are certainly industry that’s willing and able to do it. There are military points of view that want to be part of it and understand the benefit of being part of it, but in terms of having the disposable euros to put against it, it hasn’t happened yet.
When I say dollars, I mean the preponderance of American dollars. This is a case where because we are leading on missile defense – and let’s be clear, this is not leading from behind; as Secretary Rasmussen said, when we decided to forward deploy four Aegis-capable destroyers to Rota, Spain, that’s four different 80,000-ton manifestations of America’s commitment to Europe, and we are doubling down in terms of our investments in NATO in the missile defense area. So it’s precisely the fact that are so forward leaning on missile defense that we are prioritizing our defense dollars within our defense budget on missile defense, extending it to Europe.
And that we are quite clear, as you’ve heard the president say, Secretary Hagel, Jim Miller, who will join us later today, and Admiral Winnefeld again this morning, we are ironclad in our commitment to the full program, through phase three, which provides full protection of NATO Europe. In a sense, that gives Europe the luxury of putting their prioritization on euros elsewhere. Not to say that they are not investing in many areas that are important, and I’ll conclude on that point, but it does mean they have the luxury of letting us carry the preponderance of that mission.
This then gets you into the terrain of the Gates speech from three years ago and how you play that tactically, to what extent do you make it easy, if you will, for allies to choose to invest elsewhere and to what extent do you tactically try to withhold something to encourage them to do more in that mission area. Well, in terms of missile defense, we have not made that choice. We have said, we’re there for you. We’ve got your back. We’re going to lead on missile defense. And I personally think that’s the right policy.
Now, your next question was: is the summit – and John alluded to this – going to be a missile defense benchmark? And I think it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s certainly not going to be a missile defense summit like Lisbon was or Chicago. We are sort of between the interim capability stage and the IOC stage of NATO missile defense. So there’s not an obvious hook, if you will, but that doesn’t mean missile defense is not going to be part of the summit. We certainly intend to showcase our missile defense capabilities and we hope that some allies will use the summit as the venue to make important announcements either on national acquisitions of TMD programs or joint efforts to begin moving in some of the directions John suggested, including, we would like, pooling and sharing of SM-3s.
Final question was: but what can we do to further the collaboration? I would start by noting how much we’re already doing. I don’t need to belabor that since Admiral Winnefeld hit all those points very well. The only one that I would mention that he didn’t refer to that I think is an excellent example of collaboration is the Maritime TMD Forum, where we have 11 countries now – Norway just joined – who are actually sending their ships to interoperate at sea in live-fire exercises to demonstrate the commonality between the air defense naval mission and the missile defense mission because the Aegis ships, if they’re going to optimize their systems on missile defense, need protection against other threats. And allies can contribute to missile defense, even if they don’t have the euros yet to upgrade to SM-3, by spending the money in time to put in place the interoperability link so these ships can operate together, air defense, missile defense in the same flotilla. There’s going to be a big demonstration of that off the coast of Scotland in October of 2015 and we’re encouraging allies, if nothing else, to at least buy into this exercise program.
What we’re missing then in my view is more allied contributions to NATO missile defense, specifically in terms of upper-level capability, either sea or land-based. I mean, the allies are contributing with host nation support for ships and radars and Aegis Ashore. They’re buying TMD. We’re looking at major programs coming from Germany, Poland, Turkey, just to name three. You have the French-Italian Aster System, which is interoperable and has demonstrated its success recently, allies that are looking beyond their initial Patriot capabilities.
So the allies are in this game. The part of the game they’re not in is the upper tier. In part, that’s because we viewed NATO missile defense since Lisbon as a sort of voluntary domain where countries self-initiate a desire to come into it. In a sense, everything we do in NATO is voluntary in terms of force generating capabilities. We don’t have standing armies and navies other than an AWACS and AGS.
But I would hope, as Secretary Hagel has said and as heads of state encouraged at Chicago, that we would see more allied contributions, particularly in the upper tier for three quick reasons and then I’ll conclude.
The first is to make the system more robust, more resilient. Yes, the United States can and will fully protect Europe, but as Admiral Winnefeld said, at the end of the day it’s a mathematical equation: the number of interceptors versus the number of warheads coming in. And even if you have full geographic coverage, defense in depth with allied contributions would make the system more resilient.
Second, the more that allies were able to contribute in this field, the more you could simultaneously deploy to all corners of the NATO Europe area in a generalized crisis and not be quite as dependent on reading your indications and warning and threat assessment to try to decide to optimize in one sector. Obviously, the more resources you have, the broader you can hedge in terms of where an adversary may be deciding to shoot.
And last, it’s just a simple matter of burden sharing. Picking up the themes of Secretary Gates’ speech, missile defense gets allies an important seat at the table and it assures the American government and Congress and public as well that Europe is all in in this game as well.
MR. ROOD: Thank you, Bob. Thank you for those excellent remarks.
Why don’t we turn to Alexis. Alexis, please proceed.
ALEXIS MOREL: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity to bring a European perspective to this debate. And I will do so both as a representative of an industry player, Thales, and as a former French official having dealt with those matters, including with my distinguished colleagues on the left and on the right here.
So just first, a few words about where we come from as a company on those issues because we are rather in a unique position compared to other players in the sector.
We come both, obviously, as a competitor to the U.S. industry in the field of complex weapons, and even as competitors we discovered that the market can change deeply. And we discovered earlier, last year that there can be Chinese competitors now in this – in this area. And this I think comes as a shock both certainly to us, but to our U.S. co-competitors.
But, more importantly, that’s what I want to stress today. We’re also a partner and particularly a partner to Raytheon through the joint venture that John mentioned earlier, Thales-Raytheon System, which has been a success story for now more than 10 years, to address the global market of surveillance radars and large and systemic command and control systems like NATO’s ACCS, which we are providing together with Raytheon.
And so, as a company, we’re committed to, first, obviously, fulfilling NATO’s project to integrate into a unique C3 architecture, air and missile defense, and this is what we’ve been doing for more than a decade, again, adding functionalities, connections, and layers summit after summit and, more importantly, as companies contract after – contracts and lately to address the TMD integration into the ACCS system.
We’re also committed to European national programs, and I think it’s important to understand it, on a wide range of systems from national command and control early warning capabilities – which are relevant to missile defense sea-based, space-based – and also very long-range radars. And last but not least, weapon systems, which Bob already mentioned, French-Italian SMT Aster 30 system.
And so it will not come as a surprise to you that, as a company, we’re one of the big believers of NATO’s air defense and missile defense as a cornerstone of European and indeed transatlantic security. And we consider ourselves as one of the players in making the air and missile defense enterprise in NATO more of a joint effort in a context where there is, as Bob mentioned, overwhelming U.S. lead if only in terms of continuous funding into the missile defense enterprise for now almost two decades.
Now, when it comes to where missile defense efforts stand at NATO, what is very striking is that against the backdrop of the Russian aggression and the annexation of Crimea and the acute sense of vulnerability of our Eastern European allies, there’s a rush to rediscover the virtues of collective territorial defense, sort of revival of Article Five and the search for more reassurance against threats posed by Russia.
And so, my first remark would be that while NATO might have lost some focus on heavy armored divisions or drops in critical programs or reduced like the AGS, on integrated air and missile defense NATO has done a good job over the last decade in providing a multi-layered, dual air and missile threats approach to address a continuum of threats. And so this is an existing tool that is directly relevant to Article Five.
That said, Russia’s behavior poses a host of fresh questions on the issue. And I think we should confront them pretty candidly.
First, business as usual with Russia is out of question, particularly as far as missile defense is concerned. From a European perspective, missile defense has always been framed as in a cooperative scheme with Russia. And that’s been, for instance, a continuous French, but I could also say German position that the deployment of missile defense should not upset the offense/defense relation with Russia and should not affect strategic deterrence, which remains first and foremost nuclear.
What is going to happen with this cooperative scheme? For one, it never quite materialized. And neither the NATO-Russia dialogue, neither, by the way, the U.S.-Russia dialogue bore any results as far as missile defense cooperation is concerned or any meaningful (result ?). And the Russian vision back in 2010 after the Lisbon summit already was a testimony as to the fundamental desire of the Russians to upset the European security architecture. And I think we – I mean, European allies – and the U.S. must realize that the business as usual in terms of cooperation will not be possible beyond the suspensions that Bob mentioned.
I’ll add to this that Russia is now clearly more part of the problem than of the solution as far as missiles threat is concerned. For instance, the practice of deploying SS-26 on the borders into Kaliningrad and not even mentioning the question – the enduring question of (INF ?) compliance of those systems, it’s – I mean, all that is not new, but in the context of the crisis in Ukraine and in Crimea this obviously sends jitters into Eastern Europe for legitimate reasons.
Now, let’s face it: whether collective response of NATO will include a robust component of missile defense, whether missile defense will be front and center in NATO’s collective response in the run-up to the Wales summit, frankly, I don’t think so.
I think it’s – it remains doubtful. One, because as far as Russia is concerned, again, strategic deterrence and nuclear deterrence in particular is – will remain the cornerstone of our relation to Russia. And on this, with others, I must say that I’m quite happy that we fought the battle of strengthening deterrence by keeping nuclear deterrence central in the alliance strategy, both in the strategic concepts discussions three years ago but also in NATO’s Defense and Deterrence Posture Review. There were forces at that time to push for lessening the importance of nuclear deterrence. I think it was a good decision by NATO heads of states to keep nuclear deterrence central in NATO’s strategy.
Second issue, after more than a decade of proclaiming that NATO’s missile defense is not directed at Russia, we would definitely look foolish in proclaiming the contrary. And here I think Admiral Winnefeld’s comments were pretty clear from that standpoint.
And thirdly, in order to effectively confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior, there are other more urgent priorities in NATO’s strategy as far as cyber defense is concerned, which is an increasingly worrying trend, or conventional systems like ISR systems, or strengthening other aspects of NATO’s strategy.
That said, the continuum of air and missile defense that NATO has been working on continues to make sense in the context of that crisis. And the task of strengthening the defense of NATO’s northern and southern flanks will and should probably include some measures of strengthening missile defense.
By the way, I’d like, as far as European security is concerned, to point to a tricky situation which is that neither Finland nor Sweden, which are faced directly with the threat from Russia’s behavior, are members of NATO. And there’s some creative thinking here, including on the missile defense front, to deal with those countries, who are important partners to NATO, critical actors of European security that are not members of NATO per se.
Although Russia is at the center of NATO preoccupations, we should not get too much carried away by Russia when we look at missile defense scenarios. One, because in geographic terms, the threat comes from the Middle East. In the shadow of Crimea, ballistic missile arsenals in the Middle East are still growing and I’m thinking particularly of Iran. And here – and so it’s very important not to limit the security dialogue within NATO to threats that would come from elsewhere, but really to focus on what is happening at the moment in the Middle East.
Second, in other domains, cruise missiles should also be mentioned beyond ballistic missiles as a continuous and very real threat. And, thirdly, sea lines of communications should also be addressed by NATO because missiles pose a very real threat – the development of (BSBNs ?) – against military and civilian ships.
Turning finally – and this will be my last point – to what NATO should do, well, again, from a political military standpoint, transatlantic cooperation should not be limited to the NATO area. It should definitely tackle the issue of threats coming from the Middle East and particularly from Iran. NATO should carry on with the concept of integrated air and missile defense, which will be tough in the budget situation that Europe is facing to continue and develop a single and shared situational awareness for all air and missile threats that NATO might be facing, the joint collaborative planning, and an engagement capability across all layers.
Thirdly, NATO – and here I would strongly agree with Bob – needs to take a fresh look at the implementation and particularly at the question of national contributions. Obviously, EPAA has been central to making NATO missile defense operational. France has committed its early warning capability to NATO, but there is much more to do to materialize a multi-sensor approach – network existing European assets which, in fact, are considerable when it comes to ground-based sensors or also maritime sensors.
The difficulty here is the quid pro quo for countries. There might be incentives to plug and to connect into assets together. The problem is what you get out of the C3 and so there is little incentive for countries having major assets to connect into the NATO system if, in the end, they don’t get the total picture in return. And so here, I think for the sake honest transatlantic cooperation, it must be very clear that it’s not going into a U.S. black box with just limited output in terms of situational awareness. And this remains a risk as long as the Europeans within NATO will not commit to real shared C3 architecture addressing air and missile threats.
Finally, regarding weapons systems, there are ongoing competitions. And I will not address them individually here, but with important programs decisions up for decision in countries like Poland, like Turkey, like Germany or even developments into maritime BMD in a country like the U.K., there is a scope for more of a users’ club approach on the lower layers of air and missile defense, where, in fact, there is considerable scope to increase and to strengthen existing cooperative schemes within Europe, both from a political-military standpoint but also from a program and industrial standpoint.
I’ll stop here and look forward to the discussion.
MR. ROOD: Thank you. Thank you, Alexis. You’ve given us a lot to work with in the question-and-answer period.
Our next panelist is Ambassador Volker. Kurt, please proceed.
KURT VOLKER: Thank you, John. Great to be here and see everyone. I see we all got the memo from me about the four questions but only three of us got the memo about the white shirt and blue tie. And so we’ll have to work on the Atlantic Council communications here.
Just a comment before diving in on missile defense. So a little less than six years ago, I was U.S. ambassador to NATO, Russia invaded Georgia, and we suspended the NATO-Russia Council. And here we are, after resets and Medvedevs and everything else, Russia invades Ukraine and we suspend the NATO-Russia Council.
So I think we might want to learn from this that we need a better strategy for dealing with Russia. And that’s a fundamental point that I think if you look at the Wales summit, we need to be much more ambitious, much more frank, much more open-eyed about what we need to be doing as an alliance. I don’t think NATO is there yet. Despite what Bob is doing and what Doug Luud (ph) is doing, I don’t think the alliance is there yet. That’s a comment.
Now, on missile defense, it’s that classic NATO thing of everything having been said, but not everybody having said it. So I will try to restrain repetition to just three key points that I want to bring out of some of what we’ve already heard.
The first thing – and this may be the most important thing – missile defense is about missile defense. Every time this issue comes up, there is a tendency to attach other baggage to it, whether it’s the U.S. relationship with Central Europe or whether it’s Russia’s efforts to divide the alliance or whether it’s efforts to reassure Russia or accommodate Russia, it’s always attached to this conversation, and I think any of us who actually are interested in the issue need to vigorously argue against this and say, no. It’s about missile defense.
When the U.S. administration decided to reverse the Bush administration’s approach of long-range missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, well, first of all, the Bush administration didn’t want to put those things in Poland or the Czech Republic as some bilateral gift. It was about an approach to missile defense. The Czechs and the Poles didn’t want them because of missile defense. They wanted them because of the relationship with the U.S. And when the U.S. pulled that out, they weren’t mad at us because they’re losing missile defense; they were mad at us because it was part of that bilateral relationship that they had counted on and we didn’t consult well about how to do that. All of this is baggage that ought to be put aside.
And so the second point – and this comes up in the media today – it doesn’t make any sense to reverse course on missile defense or the EPAA back to this long-range missile defense approach because Russia invaded Ukraine. It has nothing to do with any of that. We have a plan now that we’re operating on within the alliance, as John and Bob said. It’s made good incremental progress. Let’s do that.
There is a separate conversation that we should have within NATO and a separate sort of strategic thinking, what do we need to do strategically to deal with the Russia that we’ve got? That may involve more on the missile defense side, but that’s not about reversing course on what’s designed to deal with the rogue missile threats that are out there. That’s designed to deal with the actual Russia problem we’ve got.
On that, just in terms of the response in Russia-Ukraine, I think NATO has done an excellent job in the reassurance to allies, the Baltic States, Poland. I think it has really done what’s necessary to reinforce Article Five.
The flipside to that is a little worrisome though, which is I don’t think NATO’s effort to project power and influence in the eastern part of Europe to stabilize Russia’s aggression has been very impressive. I think that Russia feels that it’s got still a pretty free hand. And so I think that ought to be another topic for Wales as well, not only Article Five, which needs to be there but also projection of power and influence in the eastern part of Europe and where does that take you with NATO enlargement and a Europe whole and free? Where does that belong in that conversation? So that’s a second point. Don’t change missile defense just because of the invasion; deal with the invasion.
Third point is the United States and Europe have fundamentally different perspectives on missile defense. We bridge these well. We try to bridge these well but in terms of the threat perception, Europeans don’t share the same threat perception. In terms of short range versus long range, Europeans aren’t interested in intercontinental; we are. And then, in terms of money, it is much lower on the European priority list of what to spend money on compared to ours. And then this has ripple effects if you think about the U.S. Congress here: Why would we be paying to provide missile defense for Europe when the Europeans aren’t going to pay to provide missile defense for Europe? So it creates a problem in how we develop a real NATO-wide architecture.
And that gets to the same kind of to-do list that Alexis mentioned. So what should we do? I think that we will continue to see proliferation of WMD. I don’t have much faith in these Iran negotiations and that has ripple effects beyond Iran. I think we will continue to see a proliferation of missile technology and so we’re going to face growing risks both locally in Europe and intercontinentally over time. And I think that this needs to be a high priority for NATO, discussing, convincing, cajoling – it’s all there – spending money. You know, we’ve had this problem perennially, but we’ve got to keep at it. We’ve got to keep chipping away at it.
The second thing is, if I were the United States, I would forge ahead on intercontinental ballistic missile defense on our own. I wouldn’t link it to NATO. I wouldn’t count on NATO. Probably, if we tried to do that, we would get bogged down. And if it causes a little friction with our European allies that we’re not sharing, as Alexis just mentioned, well, climb on board then because it ought to be, again, demand driven by what the risks are and how we perceive them. And I think the U.S. ought to plow ahead with that.
And then, finally, I think that the only way we’re really going to incentivize Europe, if we can even do that or for Europe to invest more in missile defense, it’s for their own sense of threat perceptions to change. And I think a sense that perhaps the U.S. is moving ahead and that we’re funding ourselves and that they’re going to be exposed in a world of growing WMD and missile proliferation might be the only thing that would cause that. And then, I think, as the United States and as an alliance, we should be as open as possible to how to integrate. And I take Alexis’ point about sharing, but it’s got to be on the basis of Europe being in rather than just expecting the U.S. to cover it. So I will stop there.
MR. ROOD: Thank you, Kurt. Thank you for those excellent remarks.
Before turning to the audience for some questions, let me just exercise the moderator’s privilege and ask a couple to be a fire-starter here for the discussion.
Everyone was very positive in general about the progress made at NATO and some of the challenges that we face externally. But, of course, some of the challenges internal to the alliance were not discusses as much. And I thought, perhaps Bob, we can put you on the spot a bit and talk about one of those, which is in Turkey, of course, it was a surprise to many that the Turkish government initially decided to open negotiations with a Chinese firm to provide missile defense capabilities. Could you comment on where you see that going, what the latest status is and the U.S. government’s perspective on that?
MR. BELL: Well, the U.S. government perspective is quite clear and that’s that our good allies, the Turks, should acquire a system that’s NATO interoperable. And if that was true before Ukraine, I think it’s true in spades given Ukraine.
So here’s a case where the Turkish government, as a sovereign nation within the alliance, had a set of metrics they were using to influence a competition, and somehow NATO interoperability wasn’t on that list. And I have a feeling that even the capability of the system as between its air defense ability and its missile defense ability wasn’t a driver, that the real drivers had to do with coproduction and technology transfer.
But in the wake of what’s been a very robust dialogue – and I think – sort of a morning-after realization in Ankara that perhaps the Chinese offer wasn’t at rich as they might have thought in terms of either coproduction or technology transfer, there’s clearly a reassessment going on with the tender period extended. We certainly hope that this comes to a conclusion soon and that the summit would be a good forcing mechanism for a welcome announcement out of Ankara on the subject.
MR. ROOD: Okay. And, very briefly, Alexis, Kurt Volker talked about the different perspective in Europe towards missile defense. And you spoke of a desire for European nations to contribute more to defense. How do you see bridging that divide where Kurt talked about a lower prioritization and the obvious points you were making about a desire for burden sharing?
MR. MOREL: I mean, there are – one needs to sort out what the differences are and they are not necessarily in the same place for all Europeans. Coming from a country with a nuclear deterrent, the issue of missile defense is looked from the perspective of its impact on – its potential impact on defensive nuclear capabilities. And here, the perception is that missile defense is – but is only (a complement deterrence to broaden ?) the range of options at the disposal of our president in a situation of crisis.
And this brings, obviously, a considerable difference because we can’t see missile defense as only missile defense, as Kurt was saying. Missile defense is intertwined in any deterrence relation and the decision and the perception is that the deterrence towards strategic – (inaudible) – will remain first and foremost a nuclear one when it comes to all major players. So that’s a first difference.
The second difference is that, as Kurt was saying, many Europeans are simply not willing to commit any significant resources because it’s paid for by the United States. And let’s be frank on this – and I would disagree with Bob’s perspective here. I think it has a negative impact on the European spending and that’s one of the wrong effects of missile defense in Europe. If politically it provides a rationale for European leaders to say, well, there is no need to – I mean, to take a second dividend at – you know, at the expense of the U.S. taxpayers, then that’s not a good thing.
And so the rationale of asking more from those Europeans who are not spending enough on defense remains. And it’s a critical thing and it should be framed as, okay, missile defense doesn’t come for free. And those nations who want to be part of the club need to contribute real assets here. The willingness of certain countries like Poland to develop their theater missile defense capability through the acquisition of an air defense system is a very positive development. But you don’t see many countries taking that way. Maybe the situation with Russia will change things and precisely help to bridge the gap by recreating a sense of the strategic threats on Europe.
MR. ROOD: Thank you. One last question before we turn to the audience, for Ambassador Volker. You talked about the need for a different approach to Russia given a cyclical, if you will, change we’ve had here with events in Georgia, events in Crimea. How does missile defense play in that?
Alexis talked about the fact that for a better part of a decade, the United States and NATO have pursued missile defense cooperation with the Russians. As a veteran of hundreds of hours of discussions with Russian government officials on that topic, I can tell you Alexis is right. We were unable to achieve our objective of cooperation; certainly achieved another objective, a very deep understanding of the Russian positions and why, frankly, privately I thought it was very unlikely that we would ever see that kind of cooperation with Russia as a result. But what then should the alliance do with respect to missile defense discussions with Russia?
And, secondly, press reports talk about potential violations of the INF treaty. Well, Alexis points to the obvious issue of the alliance and the United States having said our missile defense systems are not directed at Russia, how then to deal with the problem of intermediate range Russian missiles.
MR. VOLKER: Well, I think the framework for answering that that I would give is we need to know what we want. So we’ve got to have a clear mind of what are we trying to accomplish in Europe with our allies for the benefit of the hundreds of millions of people that live there? What’s the U.S. security interest? What’s the U.S. political and values based interest and where Europe is headed? We’ve got to have a proactive and positive agenda, not be driven by reacting to Russian bad behavior.
We do have to react to Russian bad behavior but that has to be in a context of what is it we’re trying to achieve. And, you know, I hate to make the comparisons to the Cold War but in the Cold War we kind of knew what we were doing. We were protecting Europe. We were keeping the Soviet Union contained. We were creating a space for democracies and market economies to flourish in Europe and lay the basis for a fundamentally healthy, democratic, market-oriented and secure global economic order that developed. So we had a strategy here. And I think we need that kind of strategy when you think about dealing with Russia now. It needs to be a little bit more of a firm pushback. We have to be able to do collective defense.
Russia never had an interest in cooperation with NATO. Its purpose in engaging with NATO was to thwart NATO. And so I don’t see a need to restart any of those things anytime soon. I don’t agree with those in NATO who argue that, oh, the whole purpose is dialogue and why would you shut down the NATO-Russia Council just at the time when you need dialogue most? No. We have dialogue. The United States and Russia talk; Germany and Russia talk; France and Russia talk. NATO is an organization that’s about defense and we should separate the two and say, no, we’re not going to have cooperative programs with Russia where Russia’s purpose is to screw up NATO’s programs. And so I think we should be comfortable shutting that down and have a different framework for looking at Russia.
Then you get to the missile defense thing. We are never going to buy and deploy enough missile defense systems to deal effectively with all the missiles that Russia could potentially throw at Europe or the United States. So let’s not try to do that.
I think you might want to have a little bit of missile defense in order to handle a limited and perhaps even accidental engagement or an engagement that could be joined and deescalated again, so you might want to have some limited amount of missile defense as part of your defensive strategy in Europe, but you’re not going to rely on that. And I think we really have to be thinking when we talk about defense in Russia about, you know, what we’ve always talked about is sufficient levels of defense spending, sufficient deployable forces because you have to be able to get from France or Germany or Italy to other parts of the alliance, sustainability and (tooth ?) while there and integration of architecture so that we’re operation at a very high level of intelligence and integration of systems.
That’s where you need to go on the defense side of NATO. We’ve been at it since Bob was assistant secretary. And we still need to go further on that. So I think that’s how I would frame Russia orientation toward missile defense.
MR. ROOD: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, at this point, let’s turn to the audience for some questions. Once – just a reminder: when you receive the microphone, please identify yourself and then state your question.
Yes, sir. Why don’t we start with you?
Q: Thank you. I’m Harlan Ullman from the Atlantic Council. An observation, a question for both Bob and Kurt: Russian conventional military power is not particularly good. And, in the ironic way, they are relying far more on nuclear weapons to bolster up their convention inferiority, which is an interesting turn back to the Eisenhower years. And I make note of that as something that marks an asymmetry between NATO and Russia, which may not be affordable.
Let me pose a question in terms of two heroic assumptions. Suppose – and there’s evidence to suggest this will not happen – we reach an agreement with Iran, a verifiable agreement in which Iran does not build nuclear weapons of weapons of mass destruction.
And second, in Syria, suppose that weapons of mass destruction are eliminated, so, yes, Iran and Syria will have ballistic missiles but with conventional warheads. How do you think that would affect NATO’s architecture for ballistic missile defense?
Obviously, the Europeans would like to spend far less. One of our particular exit strategies might be to keep the infrastructure in place so that if things change, we could bring back missile defense. But how do you both game, should negotiations succeed, what does that mean for missile defense in Europe?
MR. ROOD: Bob, do you want to start?
MR. BELL: Well, the word ironclad is a pretty ironclad term. So if the secretary of defense and Jim Miller and everyone else solemnly said our commitment to complete this through phrase three and provide full coverage of NATO Europe is ironclad, it means it’s ironclad.
But it’s important, as you appreciate, Harlan, within that, to appreciate that the missile defense system is not picket duty 24/7 and it’s not putting some astrodome up in space to provide a shield 24/7. It’s a system that’s a surge capacity based on indications and warning and threat assessments to be sure that the TPY-2 radar is operating 24/7 because you have to have the situational awareness. But the ships that are going to be at Rota are doing all sorts of things, including immediate reassurance cruises to the Black Sea in the context of the Ukraine crisis. It’s only if the indications and warning system of NATO ran by SACEUR here hits a certain DEFCON equivalent, if I can use that term, that it triggers even the transfer of authority of the U.S. ship to NATO’s C2.
So I can easily imagine a situation, if your hypotheticals were realized, and we have to hope for success in all these efforts, that we reach a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and some sort of resolution in Syria that having made the (sunk ?) cost investment in the two Aegis Ashore sites, which are important to the host countries for lots of reasons, maybe even more so now in the Ukraine crisis context, given that NATO has done the hard work to define the ROE and the delegated authority and the threat levels and define the picket locations the ships will go to if that transfer of authority is required, given that NATO has now spent the $1 billion in common funding to upgrade the C2 core, called ALTBMD, we’ve got it. And we’ve sort of got that baseline capacity – I don’t want to say on the cheap, because this is a significant amount of money, but if that sunk cost is there, why would you take it down?
So my analysis is not only because this administration’s been clear in its policy commitment to this, but because the whole operational underpinning of the system is sort of based on a surge in a crisis to get the end result that you would leave that in place even if you had the two breakthroughs that you mentioned.
MR. ROOD: Next question. We had the lady in white who had raised her hand.
Q: Hi. Lee Hudson with “Inside Defense.” In the House’s FY-’15 mark of the defense authorization bill, it would require the deployment of the Aegis Ashore site to Poland; it would accelerate it by two years. Is this the best way for the U.S. to support NATO with the EPAA? Could you comment on that?
MR. BELL: The administration’s position on that is a matter of record. It’s addressed in the appeal letter that the so-called SAP, statement of administration policy, and the administration has been clear, I think also as Admiral Syring has been, that we would see this as a diversion of money that’s going to impact other important Navy programs.
So there’s a constellation of issues here. One is that the missile that’s intended to go Aegis Ashore in Poland in phase three is in development and there’s already a point of view out there, resident in the GAO, that the degree of concurrency between that development and the acquisition deployment timeline is already too tight with excessive technology risk so to accelerate it two years more, it really does fly in the face of the GAO conclusion.
Now, the Department of Defense has been clear they don’t agree that the GAO’s vision of this is as bad as reality, but it seems to me accelerating it two years really stresses that. There’s also the question of the cooperative arrangement with Japan in developing the missile where we’re not just doing it ourselves. We have a partner that has to be taken into account.
And then, finally, there’s the whole dimension that, of course, Aegis Ashore is not a bespoke or customized solution but literally taking the infrastructure off of an Aegis ship and setting it up ashore, and you want that configuration to be aligned with the fleet structure that you expect to have when Aegis Ashore goes in Poland in 2018.
So to pull out the Aegis Ashore, move it up two years, change that configuration so it’s not in conformity with the baseline you expect to have with your sea-based assets is going to cost money, as I understand the administration’s SAP letter, that’s going to impinge adversely on other Navy programs that have to do with missile defense. So for all those three reasons, it doesn’t seem to me to be a prudent step.
MR. ROOD: Go ahead, Kurt.
MR. VOLKER: This is exactly the point I was making in my opening remarks. The impetus to do this is pushing back on Russia invading Ukraine. But this has nothing to do with dealing with Russia invading Ukraine. So I think what we ought to do is deal with Russia invading Ukraine and not worry about moving around timelines on missile defense.
MR. ROOD: Okay. Next question. Jim, would you like that?
Q: Thank you, John. I wanted to ask Bob Bell to expand a little bit on his very insightful remarks about Turkey, the Eastern Mediterranean and missile defense, particularly as it pertains to U.S. naval forces and air facilities in the Mediterranean. And we have an actual case that perhaps can illustrate some of the theoretical points.
Go back a few flash points to August last year, Syria, and the U.S. and French threat to strike Syria. And, Alexis, perhaps you’d like to chime in on this as well. That provoked a substantial Russian maritime defense, an operation in the Mediterranean. At the time, the U.S. forces were – and French forces were preparing to attack Syria. You have also had the question of Iran and its missile capabilities.
Did we learn anything from that exercise that tells us a lot about the role of NATO in defense in missile and air defense today? And how significantly protected are U.S. naval forces in the event of having to repeat something like this?
MR. ROOD: Those are really good questions, Jim.
MR. BELL: Of course, after the events that you cited, we had the whole chapter in the story of Syria that had to do with the elimination of chemical weapons. And NATO’s reaction and the administration’s reaction in time was to see an opportunity to work with Russia and its Navy in the Eastern Med to put together a joint mission under auspices of the NATO-Russia Council to provide force protection for the Cape Ray.
So that very much – this was pre-Ukraine – it very much reflected the basic assumption of the 2010 Lisbon Summit’s strategic concept that we had a mission, a key mission in NATO to try to build a strategic partnership with Russia. Notwithstanding sort of what the local tensions were when they deployed naval units as we were preparing for a possible air strike, quickly after that, we were in a mindset that said maybe there’s an opportunity here for a joint mission would be the first like that going back to when we both had troops on the ground in Bosnia. In fact, we were trying to use the Bosnia command and control arrangements as a template for putting together this naval mission on the Cape Ray. Ukraine was a game changer.
But the point I made earlier is this process by which NATO at 28 tries to come to consensus about possible strategic adjustments is very far-reaching. I mean, the list of questions that you really have to address in terms of the status of the founding act stationing of forces to the east, in what amount, with what permanency, the responsiveness of the NATO response force, the question of whether you need standing defense plans and contingency plans that a few years ago we decided we didn’t need, the extent to which you orient the whole NATO defense planning process and the capability target identification and prioritization mechanisms at NATO to focus on high-intensity armored warfare core components as opposed to deployable crisis response capabilities, these are big ticket issues setting aside, you know, the missile defense element.
So that discussion I think is going to be far reaching and very challenging to this alliance and very challenging to try to bring it to some preliminary conclusions by the 4th of September.
MR. ROOD: Alexis, did you want to comment on that?
MR. MOREL: Yes. Just to say that Jim’s question puts a focus on the reality, which is that the threat from Iranian and Syrian missiles is not going away. And the fantasy that if a nuclear deal was reached with Iran, then we would no longer need to take care of the problem – that’s a pure fantasy.
First, the missile element is not included in the agreement, and this is, by the way, one thing that might undermine it in the mid to longer – if an agreement is concluded. And this remains a very real problem for Iran’s neighbor and for NATO.
As far as Russia’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is concerned – I mean, this raises one thought is that although NATO should not consider Russia as a partner when it comes to missile defense cooperation, it is not in NATO’s interest to push the Russians into forming a stronger bloc with the Syrians and the Iranians. I think collectively our security will not be better as a result of the situation. We’re not there yet but NATO allies should be careful not to encourage such link but rather to weaken – to try and weaken it and keep Russia on the side of those who want to prevent WMD proliferation to regional actor and potential adversaries, just a thought.
MR. VOLKER: But, Alexis, the Russians don’t need to be pushed. They’re doing it anyway.
MR. MOREL: How to put this? There’s a record of the Russians not transferring certain systems to Iran and Syria as a result of Western engagement. And I think – I mean, there’s a balance to be struck on this. It’s a sensitive and it’s a delicate point, but we need to be careful about that not to – I mean, the result of the Russians transferring some cruise missile technology to either of those countries would be – would come at a cost for our security, a very significant cost given how unstable Syria is, given the risk of transfer to non-state actors.
And so this is an issue where we need to make a very clear difference, and I don’t withdraw anything from what I said earlier on the fact that there shouldn’t be any business as usual with the Russians on missile defense cooperation. But at the same time, the Russians, as a nuclear weapon state member of P-5 has global security interests which remain shared with it, and, again, saying this doesn’t mean that we should – (inaudible) – the Russians and so on. But there’s a host of common interests still.
MR. ROOD: Well, with that, let me draw this portion of the agenda to a close. Let me thank my friends at the Atlantic Council for allowing me to moderate with such a distinguished panel and thank the panelists for taking the time to give such great insights to the group. So please join me in thanking our panelists. (Applause.)