Full transcript of the luncheon keynote with Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder from the Transatlantic Security Initiative‘s November 12,2013 conference on NATO’s Deterrence and Collective Defense hosted in partnership with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.
|Welcome and Moderator
Executive Vice President
Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
DAMON WILSON: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me welcome you back to our conference, “NATO’s Deterrence and Collective Defense.” My name is Damon Wilson. I’m the executive vice president here at the Atlantic Council. And we are delighted to welcome with us this afternoon Ambassador Ivo Daalder for his speech on “NATO in the Age of Austerity: Challenges for the Future.”
We’re particularly pleased to have Ambassador Daalder here because today will be his first speech on NATO since he stepped down as the U.S. permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council last summer. And he’s giving that speech now as a new board director here at the Atlantic Council, about which we’re particularly pleased. The ambassador has always been known for being thoughtful and for being frank.
And I think today we have the opportunity to hear from Ambassador Daalder unencumbered, if you will, by any government position. But seriously, after four years of serving as our ambassador to NATO, We’ll have an opportunity to hear from Ambassador Daalder what he learned during his time at the alliance and the lessons for NATO’s future as it looks not just to a summit next year but to an alliance post-2014 Afghanistan as well.
Ambassador Daalder served as the NATO permanent representative for the United States for four years, from May 2009 to July 2013, during a tumultuous time and a significant time. He was an intellectual driver behind the development of a new Strategic Concept to help define the role of the alliance. He pressed the North Atlantic Council to not just discuss operations but to delve into sensitive political issues and to make it a forum for political debate among the allies.
He served as a leading voice on issues of arms control and disarmament, and I think all of us can see his fingerprints not only on the NATO defense posture review, but also on President Obama’s Prague agenda. He was there and helping to drive for a surge among the allies, a surge in Afghanistan to parallel the U.S. surge. And he championed a new model for alliance intervention in the operation in Libya.
He has also been one of the only U.S. ambassadors – one of the few U.S. ambassadors to serve as a permanent representative host – a host of the NATO alliance when the United States and President Obama hosted the alliance for a summit in Chicago. I think it was probably in the run-up to Chicago that both he and his family fell in love with the “Windy City,” and he’s now made that his permanent home.
He comes to us today from Chicago, where he serves as president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where he is now leading the charge to help put Chicago on the map, not just as an international economic city but also in terms of foreign policy and national security.
Born in the Netherlands, Ambassador Daalder embodies the trans-Atlantic link, which we’re so proud of here at the Atlantic Council. He has literally written the book on trans-Atlantic security and national security, with landmark books on Kosovo, “Winning Ugly,” as well as the National Security Council, “In the Shadow of the Oval Office.”
Before heading out to NATO, he was at the University of Maryland. He served at Brookings and he served on the National Security Council staff during the Clinton administration during difficult times dealing with the Balkans as well.
With that, Ambassador Daalder, let me welcome you to the podium. We’re looking forward to your reflections today. (Applause.)
IVO DAALDER: Well, thanks, Damon, for that really very kind and fulsome introduction. It’s really – it’s good to be here. I hear, Fred, that you said it was – you were hoping for a provocative and frank speech. And because this is off the record, right – (laughter) – except for C-SPAN, I will – I will hopefully oblige. No.
It really is, I think, fitting to have the opportunity to talk about my four years at NATO and sort of what the future looks like here at the Atlantic Council, that has done, over the many, many years, so much to support trans-Atlantic relations, to support NATO, and to support, indeed, my own work when I was in Brussels, so – including in the run-up to and during the NATO summit in Chicago when the Atlantic Council worked very closely, hand in hand I should say, with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to bring NATO to the United States and to remind people what – how important this alliance really is.
And that’s really what I want to talk about. Next year is the 65th anniversary of NATO, and in most countries – not all, but in most countries in Europe that means you retire. So the real question, it seems to me, for NATO is, is it time for NATO to retire? My answer is I surely hope not. For one, I think it’s healthy to continue working after you’re 65. But more importantly is the fact that we, the United States, need NATO. And, I would argue, we the United States need NATO more than ever.
So the real question is not whether NATO needs to retire, but the real question is whether NATO will still be there for us when we need it. And that’s really what I want to talk about, because if there is a challenge, it is the question of whether the alliance will be there when we need it most. I hope that NATO can show what it has shown so many times before, that it can adapt to new times and meet new challenges. That’s what has made this alliance a great alliance, but the question is will it be able to continue that adaptation in the future?
Clearly, in the 65 years of this alliance NATO has evolved. To use the software metaphor, NATO 1.0 was the Cold War alliance. It was there to protect a Europe so it could rebuild after a devastating two decades of war. Europe was rebuilt. Europe became prosperous and the war – and the Cold War itself was won without even firing a shot. The European Union, European prosperity were made possible by the fact that the United States was committed to the defense of Europe through the organization of NATO.
It was NATO 1.0, an extraordinary success of trans-Atlantic leadership and American commitment to the defense of Europe. The question then, after the first 40 years, is what is NATO going to do? And many questioned whether NATO still had a role. It turns out NATO did have a role, and NATO 2.0 became a post-Cold War alliance, which sought to do for Central and Eastern Europe what the alliance had done the previous 40 years for Western Europe: enlargement of the alliance and its membership, hand in hand with the European Union, helped solve disputes among and within the country. So Central and Eastern Europe helped promote democracy and civic – civil control of the militaries and then helped lay the basis for prosperity throughout Central and Eastern Europe. That too was an extraordinary success of leadership by the trans-Atlantic alliance.
And when I came to NATO in 2009, the real question was: Now that we had succeeded in winning the Cold War, and now that we had, frankly, succeeded in making the post-Cold War Europe as stable, as peaceful, as whole and as free – in the parlance of the alliance – as we had been able to do for Western Europe, what was NATO supposed to do?
NATO needed to be updated again. And I would argue it did so very successfully in what you might call NATO 3.0. We adopted a new Strategic Concept – under the wise leadership of the Group of Experts, led by Madeleine Albright and the secretary general – which I would summarize as the four C’s; that the purpose of NATO was to provide for collective defense, for cooperative – for cooperative security by having common structures based on the foundation of common values.
Collective defense remains the core of what the alliance is about, and the previous panel spent some time, I think very usefully, talking about, how do you maintain collective defense in the new age when there are threats or cyberterrorism, missiles and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?
But that is not the only thing that NATO does. And a NATO that is only concerned about collective defense is a NATO that is likely to be less and less relevant for the future – as important as its commitment to cooperative security, a cooperative security that relies not only on what the 28 members can do but also what NATO does with the some-40 partners it has around the world; a NATO that is not only concerned about deterrence and defense but also about disarmament and arms control, that is as essential for the success of NATO – in fact, in some sense, at least as essential as the commitment to collective defense.
What makes NATO unique, what we have seen over time, and what we have really seen in the last few years is that having common structures – a common command structure, common capabilities – is what makes NATO more than just a collection of states, a coalition of the willing. It makes it an actor that is larger, more important and better than the component parts.
And what makes NATO unique, finally, is that it unites, in a single alliance, a set of countries that share a commitment to common values; the values of democracy, of human rights, of the rule of law. Those four C’s now are enshrined in the NATO Strategic Concept, and it made NATO a new alliance – one that could endure in the current strategic situation. What it also did is it allowed NATO to become, for the first time, an operational alliance. NATO has always been a deterrence reliance, but in the last few years it became a reliance of operations.
In 2011, NATO was involved in six operations on three continents with more than 150,000 men and women under NATO command. We had a counterterrorism operation in the Mediterranean. We continue to have a very significant deployment of troops in the Balkans that included not only NATO countries but also partners from as close by as Switzerland and Austria and as far away as Morocco. Not many people know, but there are 200 Moroccan troops serving under NATO command in Kosovo.
We had, thirdly, an operation in the Gulf of Aden to support our efforts on counterterrorism Operation Ocean Shield, which had links to – not only to the European Union but also to countries like China and India, Indonesia and Russia, in order to provide for security at sea. We had an air policing operation in the Baltics as well as over Iceland. And Iceland in the future will see the participation of non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden. And of course we had our operations in Afghanistan and Libya. I mean, I’ll just spend two minutes on both of those operations and kind of what lessons we learned for NATO.
Afghanistan is a unique operation that involves 50 nations that, at the height, deployed 150,000 troops, a third of which came from European NATO members. In 2009 – and Hoss Cartwright will well remember those discussions – we found an Afghanistan that was, frankly, a mess. It was a place where our mission was failing, and we had a strategy that was unfocused. We had means that were insufficient and we had a probability of success that was waning. That’s the situation as we found it in 2009.
We adopted a new strategy. And when I say “we,” not only we the United States but we the alliance and its many partners adopted a new strategy that matched means to ends. We narrowed the mission. Up to this point the mission was to make Afghanistan the next Jeffersonian democracy, to make sure that women would have the same rights as men, not only there but the same rights as women have in the Nordic countries. It was a large and, frankly, unattainable mission.
What we did is we made the focus of the mission real, which was to make sure that Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists. That is why we were there in the first place, and that ultimately had to be the reason why we were there in the last place. We also adapted our means to that mission. We bought – the means were to buy time for the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to take care of security in its own country.
And we did that by surging troops, not only American but allied troops in large numbers, and to set a very clear deadline – a deadline of the end of December 2014, at which point Afghanistan’s responsibility – the security (sic) for Afghanistan’s responsibility (sic) would lie in the hands of the Afghan security forces. We can debate whether we are succeeding in that strategy, and I’m happy to do so in the Q&A.
I would argue that the situation today, in terms of what is happening in Afghanistan and the capacity of the Afghan forces to provide for security throughout Afghanistan, is a lot better than it would have been if we had continued a failed strategy in 2009. Clearly Afghanistan is not a Nirvana. Clearly there are huge problems remaining in a country which remains, after all, the third-poorest country on earth. But the people and the livelihood of the people are better off and they are more secure than they would have been otherwise.
Libya was the sixth operation and a new challenge, and in many ways a real test for this NATO 3.0, for this new Strategic Concept that started out saying that NATO is a source of stability in an unpredictable world. When the leaders in Lisbon in November 2010 signed off on that statement, not a single one of them realized that three months later they would in fact be engaged in the military operation over Libya.
It took three years for NATO to decide to get involved in Bosnia. It took one year for NATO to get involved in Kosovo. It took one week for NATO to decide to get involved in Libya. This was a uniquely – a unique mission. It was a mission that involved, for the first time, real and fundamental burden sharing, something that Americans have been calling for from Europeans for the last 50-some years, in fact probably 65 years.
The allies and the partners provided the bulk of the forces and the bulk of the capability, and the United States contributed what it had uniquely, what its – that enabled this operation to succeed. The United States provided about 75 percent of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It provided the aerial refueling that made the bombing campaign necessary. It provided Predators that could go after particular targets at particular sensitive moments. And it provided the – a hundred percent of the capacity to suppress enemy air defenses.
That was the U.S. contribution, but then the allies did the rest and all of them stepped up. Thirteen countries participated in the operation – 13 NATO countries participated, and the vast bulk of those who didn’t participate couldn’t because they didn’t have the capability. They didn’t have the advanced air forces that were necessary for combat operations or the navies to patrol the arms embargo.
In contrast to the last air campaign that NATO conducted in Kosovo when the United States struck 90 percent of the targets and the Europeans struck 10 percent in Libya, the United States struck 10 percent of the targets and the Europeans 90 percent. That is the kind of burden sharing that, from a U.S. perspective, we would like to see.
France and the United Kingdom took the lead and provided 40 – provided the bombing and striking missions in about 40 percent of the cases. But countries like Denmark, Norway and Belgium contributed too. Indeed, those three countries alone, with half the number of aircraft, struck as many targets as France did during the – during the seven months of this campaign.
Italy provided bases that were absolutely crucial to conduct this operation and it participated in the bombing operation as well. Other countries participated. This was, in my view, the kind of operation that NATO was suited for, is suited for, and demonstrated that it could be relevant to the world of today. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that in five years from now it isn’t clear that NATO could, in fact, do this operation again. And this I say noting that the Libya operation was relatively small compared to the kind of bombing operations we’ve conducted in the past. It was about one-fifth the size of the Kosovo air campaign in terms of number of airplanes participating and in terms of sorties.
And if you look at the issue of Syria, where in August and early September we were contemplating the possible use of force, it was clear that had it come to strikes, these would have been overwhelmingly American strikes, not only because some countries didn’t want to participate, but in order to conduct an air campaign against a country with as advanced an air defense system as the Syrians had. Frankly, the United States had real capability to deal with that kind of threat.
So we are faced now, it seems to me – and here I come to looking at the – at where we are in the future – with a European capacity that is real but declining, that is not where it needs to be for the United States to have the partner that it wants to have.
The consequences of decisions that were made in the past are coming home to roost. First, we are seeing that the operational expense has significantly affected the investment that Europe has been able to make in the future. Rather than increasing defense spending in order to allow the deployment of troops and airplanes and ships abroad in operations, European governments moved euros and other currencies from the investment account to the operational account in order to make sure that it could meet the needs that were there. In the short term that meant that the operations were able to be conducted. In the long term it meant that investment has suffered.
Secondly, we have seen a continuing misallocation of defense resources. Personnel costs in the – of the European NATO members are 50 percent of their defense budget, as opposed to only a third for the United States. That is a significant difference that translates into real capability problems down the road. Investment is less than 20 percent of non-U.S. NATO European countries versus 40 percent for the United States. The United States today spends three times as much on equipment, seven times as much on R&D, and four times as much per soldier on defense compared to its – to its NATO allies abroad.
We’ve seen, thirdly, a decade of cuts in defense spending. In 2000, non-U.S. NATO spent 2 percent of GDP on defense. In 2007, before the financial crisis, the non-U.S. NATO spent 1.5 percent of GDP. That is a quarter-percent cut. In 2012, non-U.S. NATO spent one-third – 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense. That is a one-third cut, in relative terms, since 2000. You cannot really have a strong military when you are under-investing in the future.
Today, only three allies meet the 2 percent goal, aside from the United States: the U.K., and it does so by counting its expenses in Afghanistan; Greece, which frankly uses most of its defense monies for a job program; and Estonia, which, while we appreciate what Estonia does, is not going to be the backbone of this alliance. Poland, I should add, comes very close to 2 percent. And clearly it is something that needs to be recognized.
But overall, our European allies are just not spending enough on defense and the consequences are real. So our biggest allies are the ones where the problems are likely to be the worst down the line. In the United Kingdom we have seen progressive cuts in military capability. By 2020, by some estimates, Britain will have 19 surface combatants in its mighty Royal Navy. Its nuclear modernization will account for 35 percent of its procurement budget over the next 10 years, effectively meaning that we are having a 25 percent cut in capability over the next decade.
In France, the resourcing of its defense forces is not being cut as dramatically as it was in the U.K., but it is being cut by having spending be held, in real terms, to zero percent growth over the next five years, which will result in a cut in capabilities, and we can see this in operations. While France was able to deploy forces in Mali, it could only be sustained by having a significant contribution, not only by the United States but also by many key allies to make sure that a relatively small operation like that could succeed. In Germany we see a defense budget stuck at 1.4 percent of GDP. Now it’s a rising GDP so that’s good news, but the cost of restructuring its forces is also affecting its ability to translate euros into real defense spending.
Last year, for the first time since World War II, Asia spent more on defense than Europe. This is a pivot of a kind that I’m not sure Europeans want to see. Today the United States accounts for 75 percent of the overall spending within NATO. And while the U.S. is cutting its defense spending, its willingness to subsidize the allies is going to decline, and indeed, one of – as was known – as was seen in the case in Mali, when the United States was willing to provide assistance but also would like to get paid for it.
These trends in defense spending are unsustainable. And it’s not just me who is saying that. It’s what Secretary Gates said when he left in June of 2011. It is what Secretary Panetta said in – when he left in October of 2012. It was what Hillary Clinton said last year at the – Secretary Clinton last year at the awards dinner of the Atlantic Council. It is not sustainable for an alliance to see this kind of trend to continue.
So what, as Lenin said, is to be done? The answer you hear in Europe is pooling and sharing. And indeed there is a lot that pooling and sharing can do. The C-17 consortium – Peter Flory is in the audience; was a master of putting this together – is the kind of thing we would like to see. The Dutch could only afford half a C-17. The Swedes – which isn’t very useful when you want to fly a plane, but the Swedes bought the other half, so together they have a plane. That’s how pooling and sharing can work.
We have an AWACS fleet that, if funded, can effectively provide for airborne early warning and control. And we have a commitment to buy the air – Ground Surveillance System, five major drones that will provide NATO with the capacity to see what is happening on the ground. We are investing in Europe on air refueling capabilities. And that too is good, but there are two fundamental obstacles to turn these anecdotal good steps into real capability down the line.
First, our national defense industries are, frankly, too small, particularly in Europe, for the national markets. So there is a need for fundamental reform and consolidation but, frankly, there is no willingness to do that reform and consolidation and to give up – for governments in Europe, and indeed in the United States, to give up control over their national defense industries. That makes collaboration more difficult.
And, secondly, there is the issue of sovereignty. When it comes to defense, sovereignty is the issue that ultimately comes home. It may be OK for the Danes to give up their submarine fleet by saying that they should rely on the U.K. or on the Dutch, it may be OK for the Dutch to decide to get out of the mechanized army business, but it’s not OK for France or the U.K. or Germany to likewise truly pool and share. The real problem of – that I see in the proposal, that was tabled just a few weeks ago by the German government, to have pooling and sharing based on key strong allies is that those allies may not be willing to pool and share their capabilities.
So if we have a national industry in the way we have, if we have sovereignty views in the way we have, I see a bleak future unless something really changes, and a future that, frankly, hurts the United States. It is not in America’s interest to have a weak Europe. It is fundamentally in America’s interest to have the strongest and most capable allies in Europe that we can.
So we do need to find a way, ultimately, for this alliance to prosper by having more resources devoted to defense. That means that as economies rebound, there is a need to increase spending on defense. That means that as economies rebound, more of the spending needs to go into investment. That means that there needs to be, to the extent we can find a way to increase – more increases in defense cooperation including, importantly, on the issue of role specialization. And that may mean also a reordering of our priorities.
And here let me end with perhaps a heresy – although anybody who knows me will know that it’s a heresy I’ve long believed in. Our spending on nuclear weapons probably isn’t the smartest spending we can think about when it comes to the future of this alliance. These are weapons that are not likely to have any role in anything we do in 99.999999 percent of the time, and perhaps even a hundred percent of the time, but they take resources away from capabilities and forces that are necessary for 99.99999, if not a hundred, percent of the time. So that kind of cost calculus is necessary here. It may well be necessary in Europe as well.
And with that, thank you very much for listening. I’d be happy to take your questions. (Applause.)
MR. WILSON: Well, thank you very much, Ivo. That was just fantastic.
I think that’s quite an important address we heard from the ambassador. The real question is will NATO be there when we need it, when the United States needs our European allies? And if it remains focused only on collective defense, it’s irrelevant for the future.
You laid out the stark numbers about defense capabilities – defense investments and laid out the important obstacles that I think we faced overcoming with defense industry and sovereignty. There’s a lot to get into here, so I want to pick up a couple, but I know there’s a lot of interest in the audience. So let me start where you ended, on the nuclear point.
Our next conversation with General Cartwright and others – former Undersecretary Walt Slocombe will get into nuclear missile defense issues for the alliance, and I think you said – correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you said – when you were saying – if collective defense is the focus, that actually is a path to irrelevance. Disarmament and arms control might be as important commitments for the alliance for its future. While you served as ambassadors at NATO, you went through the deterrence and defense posture review. Our Danish colleague here already noted that she thought that was not really a challenge to sort of linear policy within the alliance.
You have the Tallinn commitments about – that really put constraints on what the alliance perhaps might do with its own substrategic nuclear weapons in the absence of moves on Russia’s part. What’s the way forward here, given that was a really strong message you just ended on?
MR. DAALDER: Well, I would argue that – I spent a lot of time on this. First, let me – I think anybody who knows me – I’ve been arguing about this since 1998, including the need to get rid of nuclear weapons in Europe. So it’s not a surprise that that’s my view, nor was it to anybody in the administration, even though they – not everybody agreed with it. We work very hard in the deterrence and defense posture review. Frankly, we work very hard in the Tallinn commitments to make clear that it is possible under the right circumstance not only to reduce our reliance but in fact eliminate our reliance on U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.
And there is nothing in these documents that prohibits the possibility of getting there. We do talk about Russian reciprocity, but it doesn’t talk about Russian agreements. We do talk about the need to work together within the alliance, but it doesn’t talk about the fact that Russia can have a veto of what we do. And I would argue that over the last four years, we have substantially addressed the key deterrence issues of our time. We have found ways to bolster deterrence across the board. And I know this will be an issue discussed in the next panel.
But the deployment of missile defenses is not just a promise, it’s a reality. It exists today, and it is part of a commitment that this administration has made to NATO to take a U.S. deployment of U.S. missile defenses to defend the U.S. from Europe into deployment of a NATO missile defense to – in NATO to defend NATO. That was the fundamental shift that occurred in September of 2009, to take a system that was able to deploy against possibly 10 incoming missiles and put in place a NATO system under NATO command and control for the defense of NATO countries. That is the kind of commitment to deterrence that we put in place.
We put in place contingency planning to make sure that every nation that is a member of NATO has a plan to be defended. That was an important contribution to deterrence. We just completed this month – this week – last week the first major article V live exercise the alliance has conducted in the last 10 years. Many of the countries that participated in that exercise had never participated in an Article V exercise, and we just completed that.
Those are the kinds of steps that really matter for collective defense, far more than how many nuclear weapons you may have in what country. When – particularly when the cost of modernizing those nuclear weapons runs into 10-plus billion (dollars), when the cost of modernizing your aircraft to be able to carry those nuclear weapons run into the many hundreds of millions of dollars – it is those kinds of strengthening of deterrence that I think ought to be the focus of our effort, and using arms control, disarmament and cooperative security more broadly as a means to enhance NATO’s deterrence and defense posture writ large.
MR. WILSON: When you were serving out of Brussels, the president’s announcement of the so-called pivot to Asia led to a lot of concern, debate, discussion, certainly among NATO allies, among Europeans for what it meant for them. You’ve just said today something very important, that the real pivot to Asia may have been the reality of defense spending in Asia outpacing Europe for the first time last year. You cited the efforts of Gates and his concerns, his speeches about potential demilitarization in Europe – Secretary Panetta as well.
Yet it doesn’t seem to have had the impact or helped turn the tide on some of these issues given the reality of the politics in the countries where – that are members of the alliance and the economic situation. What is the path forward here to not the natural continuation of the decline that you’ve outlined so articulately in defense spending?
MR. DAALDER: Well, I mean, I think that’s the message I’m here to repeat. I don’t think this is the time for agonizing reappraisals. Frankly, there wasn’t the time in 1954 for an agonizing reappraisal; this isn’t one either. The message is that we need Europe. Europe is our most important strategic partner. They are the countries that will, when the – when the matter is at hand, will be on our side, but a Europe that isn’t capable to be there isn’t very useful to us. And a message that says, frankly, if you can’t be on our side because you lack the capability, then that’s bad for us, but it’s certainly not good for you is the message that I heard Secretary Gates, Secretary Panetta, Secretary Clinton deliver over and over and again.
And the reality is that it means that we will have to make choices when it comes to when and how to intervene and in what place and for what purposes – we will make choices. Libya was a choice. We could have taken on the entire Libya campaign by ourselves, and we decided that the interests most at stake were not ours. They were countries in the Mediterranean. I heard Stefano Stefanini earlier talking about the importance of the threats from the south and the understanding that these are threats to the entire alliance. And Libya was a response to that.
But it shouldn’t be surprising, and, in fact, it should be welcomed that countries in the Mediterranean that were NATO members took on the responsibility for taking on Libya, and that’s how it should be. It is right that the bases that we flew our planes from were in Italy and in Greece rather than in Poland, not only because it takes a lot longer to get from Poland to Libya than it does from Italy, but because our interests are at stake.
So that means that there may be other conflicts that come down the pike where our interests are not as much in – directly involved as they are from other countries, but then the question comes: Are those countries, as they were in Libya, able to do what is necessary, or will they have lost the capability to do so? That’s when we really will see what’s important and what matters, and those are the kinds of decisions that, frankly, I don’t see countries in Europe debating.
Now, I hope I’m wrong. I hope that the European Council meeting at the end – in December – that will be the first one in many, many years to talk about defense, will take a very serious look about what it means to be serious about defense, because frankly, right now, it doesn’t look like Europe is sufficiently serious about the defense that it needs to have not only to serve its own interest, but frankly, those of the alliance as a whole.
MR. WILSON: You’ve put a lot of issues on the table. I want to bring in this audience, which is very knowledgeable about NATO issues.
I’ll call on you; wait for a mic. Please introduce yourself and ask a quick question. I’ll also remind you that we’re on the record; you’re welcome to tweet. Our hashtag for today is future NATO, and you’ll see Ambassador Daalder’s handle on the agenda as well. I think it’s ivohdaalder. Let me start right here with Harlan Ullman in the front, please, if we could have a mic right here, and then I’ll come back here.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman, the Atlantic Council. Ivo, thanks for your comments, and I think you raised the absolutely critical issue: Will NATO be around in a substantive way when we need it or when it needs itself?
As you know, one of the things that NATO has not done well is to provide a really strong message to its domestic publics as to why it’s important. Now, perhaps we won’t have the same Christmas that Lord Ismay had when he said the reason was to keep the Russians out, us in and the Germans down, but why do you think NATO’s had such a tough time coming up with a really good message for its domestic publics, and what would you put as a core of that message, realizing that, I think, defense spending, under almost every circumstances, is going to do down substantially, not up?
MR. DAALDER: I think that’s a very fair and very important and good question. I think we have gone through a period, frankly, since the end of the Cold War, where we believe that we’re in sort of a new Nirvana, a place in which conflict doesn’t occur, and if it occurs, it’s economic, not military – we’re in a – in a – what is – what did Robert Cooper call it? A post Westphalian world and that somehow, working together, sharing sovereignty – focusing on the rule of law will make the 20th century, as you remember Mark Leonard saying – the 21st century Europe’s century.
And I think some of the reality of that has come back home and said, no, actually, to be a real strategic power in this world, it is not enough to be economically strong, which, by the way, over the last five years, doesn’t look that good, to have civic power. That’s important, but you also need good old-fashioned hard military power.
How far that has penetrated at the elite level isn’t clear to me. It certainly hasn’t penetrated enough in the parliamentary level, and we need to do a much better job in explaining why it is important that nations who would like to be taken seriously in the world require military capabilities to be partners in the larger – in the larger endeavors that confront us. But let me – you know, let’s be clear: It’s not clear that in this country there is the kind of support that we may need for defense spending writ large, and it is definitely clear that there is no support or no knowledge for NATO. Much of our parliamentary – our Congressmen and Senators don’t know much about NATO. Most would be surprised that NATO continues not only to run the Afghan mission but have between a third and half of the troops there being from European countries.
So we have done not a particularly good job of explaining the importance of NATO to our own security, to our own – to what it is that Europe and NATO contribute to what we do day in and day out. So we – before we start lecturing our European friends about how important it is to – that they go out and tell their parliamentarians how central NATO is and defense spending is, we have a job to do here ourselves.
MR. WILSON: It’s a common message we’ve heard from our interim chairman, General Scowcroft, and one we’re taking to heart here to think about how really to more effectively engage up on Capitol Hill to capture that narrative.
Let me pick up two more questions. I’ll take the woman right here and the gentleman in the back.
Q: Thanks. My name is Trine Flockhart; I’m from the Danish Institute for International Studies, but whilst I’m in Washington, I’m at the Transatlantic academy. What you said about the nuclear issue was music in my ears. I just wish that it had been said while the defense and deterrence program or defense and deterrence posture review was going on, because one of the things that was very apparent during that time was the silence from – and I know that a U.S. ambassador could probably not say what you said now, but from an American perspective, there was very little said to actually push the Europeans in that direction that you just outlined. And I can say this, because I’m a European. I think without the Americans taking the lead, and quite frankly lecturing and pushing the Europeans on issues like this, there’s not going to be movement on the nuclear front, because there are so many holy cows buried in the nuclear issue that will prevent the alliance from taking that step that I think is necessary.
And using euphemisms, quite frankly, referring to the life extension program, calling the nuclear weapons – NATO’s nuclear weapons must be safe, secure and (efficient ?), which everyone knows means spending that $10 million or $10 billion that you were referring to. I think what is needed on nuclear weapons issues to take the necessary step forward is a lot more clear talking. So thank you very much for doing it today. But could I also ask American policymakers, those who may be listening that actually it’s time to start talking clearly to what is – what would be good for the alliance to be able to move forward? (Inaudible.)
MR. WILSON: Let me hold that real quick and pick up another comment in the back if we may, please, Steve (sp). Next to Bob, yep. Thank you.
Q: It’s Scott Harris. I just want to say, having spent 10 years working for Lockheed-Martin in Europe on these defense industrial issues, that everything you said, Ivo, is true times 10 percent. Very important comments that you made.
I have a different question, though. The United States has very important bilateral relationships with European allies. Perhaps none has been more important to the success of the alliance than the U.S.-German relationship, which today seems to be undergoing a few stresses and challenges. And I wonder if you would comment on how we get this relationship back on track, how badly off-track you think it is and what the implications might be for the future of the alliance?
MR. WILSON: Terrific, thanks. You can pick up those two.
MR. DAALDER Just – on the nuclear issue, I would just say that it’s much easier to have an individual opinion than a collective opinion, but more importantly, when you are dealing in an alliance, you need the agreement of 28 countries, and let me assure you that nothing that I said today would be – come as news to any of my colleagues in Brussels, or indeed, in the U.S. government.
And so there were many times where the kinds of arguments that you heard today were – right, Stefano – (laughs) – were being mentioned and pushed inside. But ultimately, a NATO document is a document that gets signed off by 28 countries, and if one country says no, it doesn’t get done. And I learned a lot about consensus-building in my four years, and that means that sometimes you don’t get all that you want, but I would argue, with the deterrence and defense review, we got a lot, and I think it’s an important document that needs to be written not only for what it’s in it, but much more importantly, for what’s not in it. And if you compare this to any other statement on NATO nuclear weapons in the past, you will see what I mean. Scott, on the –
MR. WILSON: Return to Germany. Did you want to come in on this point in particular, Fred? OK.
MR. DAALDER: – first, I hope you agree with me 110 percent when you said times 10 percent; that’s – that means you disagree with 90 percent of what I had to say. (Laughter.) So I will take this as full agreement with what I said, which I appreciate, because much of what I learned about industry I learned from you in – when it comes to Europe, so that’s good.
On Germany, I think you’re absolutely on the mark in the sense that I think the fundamental relationship within NATO that we have must be with Germany and a – Germany being a strong and critical player, and that makes what the last few weeks – last few months a very, very difficult time for all the reasons that we know.
Germany’s strategic interest lies, as Germany has decided since 1949 and really, since it became a member in 1952 at NATO, to be at the center of NATO. It has gone through some hard and difficult issues itself, not least in the decisions it made with respect to Libya. It is now going through some difficult issues with regard to the relationship between the United States. I think the administration and the soon-to-be-new government will work out a modus vivendi on this issue; they have to. It’s not all that difficult to figure out how to do that – to recognize that we have an intelligence relationship that is extremely important and that there – and that good judgment about how we use the technology capabilities we have is important for the relationships that we have with our allies.
The really fundamental issue is the question whether Germany is willing – because I think it’s able, but whether it’s willing to take on the leadership role not only at – what it has done on the economic side, but increasingly, on the strategic and political side within Europe and indeed within NATO.
I think that the United States needs that strong leadership from Germany, a willingness to stand up and be part of not only a collective, but indeed, a leader of that collective. Within NATO and within the European Union and broadly speaking, in order to ensure that the United States will have this partner, not only in Berlin but indeed, throughout Europe that we all need.
I mean, Germany is the big kid on the block. It is militarily the big kid on the block. It doesn’t have the expenditures on nuclear weapons that others have. It is transforming its military into a force that is – that is quite able to conduct military operations. Its efforts in Afghanistan are underappreciated. They are – they have been a leader in the north – a true leader. They are the first and only country so far to have stepped up and said that they will be there – not only – other countries have joined, but they were the first country to say that they will be there post-2014 with specific ideas about how many troops, and that is the kind of leadership we want, broadly speaking, throughout – from Germany, throughout our operations in NATO.
MR. WILSON: If I could – just real quick, because the praise you hard in your remarks were for the smaller allies – Estonia, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway. And the concerns you flagged – the red flags you put up were related to the United Kingdom in particular, France – what you’re just now talking about – Germany – a little bit of a different take. What’s happening within the alliance, and how do you see sort of the key core allies of the U.S. – important defense and bilateral relationships we’ve traditionally had with France, the United Kingdom, Germany? Is something fundamentally shifting? Are you saying the U.K. is stepping back and potentially, Germany might step forward? Does the French reintegration impact this?
MR. DAALDER: I think the French re-integration has been extraordinarily important, because it has made France – given it a sense of responsibility for what happens in the alliance, and has made the alliance stronger.
No, our relationship with the strong allies – and I would – those that are willing and able to provide military capability – is going to be key. A strong U.S.-Estonian alliance is great, and it’s important to Estonia and it’s important to the United States, but it is not going to – can’t be the be-all and end-all. So our relationship with the U.K., our relationship with France, our relationship with Germany and our relationship with Italy, which has stood up every time – when we rang the bell, they opened the door, which is always welcome and then stepped through it with real capabilities. Those are important relationships.
And those countries will have to take the lead in providing the capabilities that are necessary for NATO to be partners. It’s not going to be done by the smaller allies, even those who are – and they’re small in number – even those that are willing and able to step up to the plate. It will have to rely on the U.K. It will have to rely on France. It will have to rely on Germany. My point on Germany is that it is perhaps underperforming on the strategic level at a – in a way that isn’t good for the United States. I will leave it up to the Europeans and Germany whether it’s good for Germany.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. Let me come to the last round and take a couple of questions here and turn first to Fred.
FRED KEMPE: Thank you for doing this, Ivo. Fred Kempe, the Atlantic Council. At the Chicago – during the Chicago summit, one of the more significant moments, aside from your rendition of “Take me out to the ball game” during the seventh inning stretch of the Cubs-White Sox game, was the 13 global partners.
And now, it doesn’t seem as though that’s moved ahead too far. Is it time, when you talk about political will and capabilities, that one does something much more dramatic with these global partners? I’m not sure if it’s global with NATO or what it is, but what should be done? And also, if you could give your view on Turkey and where is Turkey going within the alliance.
MR. WILSON: Terrific. Good questions. And why don’t we pick up right here as well?
Q: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Steve Schapiro, a Council member. If you could just expound a bit on the difficulties demonstrated in the Afghanistan operation by conflicting rules of engagement and caveated forces? I think that’s a complex issue that I don’t get to hear enough about.
MR. DAALDER: Just on that – I mean, every operation has – every country that operates within a coalition perspective will have its own specific issues of concern. We have caveats, the United States. The issue is whether those caveats affect the operational (effectiveness ?) of the force. And at least since I was involved in this operation since 2009, the answer is no, that most of the caveats that really did have an operational impact were removed, were dropped one way or another, and the effectiveness of the force as a totality to do what it needed to do was not affected by the – by these caveats.
But let’s be clear: Caveats is a – is a reality of coalition warfare, and it’s a reality that affects us as much as anybody else, and it is – it is a myth that somehow there are some countries that have caveats and others don’t; it’s not quite how it works. The issue is, can these forces cooperate in a way and fulfill the mission in the possible way without causing problems from one country to the next? And the answer today is absolutely.
I’m now a Cubs fan, by the way, so – (laughter) – it allows me to be – but nobody remembers the fact that I sang, which is probably a good idea that –
MR. WILSON (?): I think it’s on YouTube. (Laughter.)
MR. DAALDER: I don’t think it’s on YouTube. Many things are on YouTube, but that’s not it. But there are pictures. (Laughter.) It’s a great question, and I think – on the 13 global partners. That was – that was supposed to be the big thing, and it’s something that the president personally felt very strongly about, that in a 21st century alliance, it is vitally important for the 28 members of that alliance to recognize the contributions that are being made by a wide variety of countries that are not members. Some will want to become members. Others won’t or can’t. And yet, in the 21st century, it is not enough to think that 28 countries can do everything. In every single operation that we are involved in, we have nonmember countries centrally involved in what we’re trying to do, and these 13 countries in particular were recognized for that – for that reality.
And it is unfortunate that – this view that is not necessarily shared by every member of NATO, and this is not just a Turkey issue. This is also an issue about the European Union. It’s an issue that goes across the alliance in one way or another. Our view of NATO as a central hub for security around the globe is one that is not shared by every country. And we will continue to work this issue as best we can, because we strongly believe – I believed it. The president believed it. I think our entire administration believed it, and there were a couple of very key other allies who believed it, that having NATO at that core and bringing in these other partners from as far away as Australia to as close by as Sweden is critical for the success of our operations, and frankly, for the success of our ability to conduct operations that go beyond article V, just to – you know, what was the difference between Libya and Syria?
It remains the fact that the Arab League not only acted to ask for intervention, which allowed the U.N. to move, but then, key members participated in the operation, as they do in Afghanistan. And that provides a legitimacy. It provides a capacity to act that the 28 members of NATO themselves provide in a lesser extent. So for us, this is critical, but it is not an issue that people agree on.
MR. WILSON: Ivo, thank you very much. I think that you couldn’t have been clearer with saying, if the alliance is focused only on collective defense, it’s headed for an irrelevant future. And I think, after Chicago, with Fred, Barry, Frank Kramer and others, we picked up on this thinking that global partners was the undeveloped part of the – of the summit agenda where there is still much work to be done.
MR. DAALDER: Just to underscore, I’m not saying that collective defense is unimportant.
MR. WILSON: Right. Got it.
MR. DAALDER: Just – collective defense is the core, but it can’t be the sole core. You need to have the cooperative security element to it, and that’s what I think the new NATO is all about.
MR. WILSON: Absolutely. Ivo, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for coming to the Council to give your thoughts and reflections after stepping down as ambassador out there, and thank you for the service to our country.
Please join me in thanking Ambassador Daalder. (Applause.)