Full transcript of the second panel on “Implications and Next Steps for NATO and Europe” at the 2009 missile defense conference “Missile Defense in Europe: Next Steps.”
- Wess Mitchell, President, Center for European Policy Analysis
- Peter Flory, Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment, NATO
- Daniel Kostoval, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Czech Republic
- Boyko Noev, Former Minister of Defense of Bulgaria
- Kurt Volker, Former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO & Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council
October 7, 2009
WESS MITCHELL: I think Congressman Turner’s comments are a perfect segue into the subject of this next panel, the third panel today, which, as Damon said, really is the panel where we get into the marrow of some of the issues surrounding new U.S. policy on European-based missile defense. Congressman Turner, I think, voiced, very nicely, some of the concerns that have surfaced on both sides of the Atlantic in the period since the announcement of this policy change was made.
These concerns are not new – concerns about the nature and trajectory and health of U.S. relationships with key allies in Central and Eastern Europe and the broader contours, geopolitical contours, of U.S. – European cooperation in general. The concerns that he raised really aren’t new, they certainly didn’t begin with missile defense and they certainly won’t end with missile defense.
But, I think in the period since the September 17th announcement, they’ve taken on a new intensity and certainly, a new visibility. And this next panel is, I think, perfectly positioned to address some of these concerns. This panel is composed of voices from NATO, senior figures from the U.S. foreign policy community and from two Central European capitals.
We have joining us Peter Flory, the assistant secretary general for defense investment at NATO. We have Boyko Noev, the former defense minister from Bulgaria and Daniel Kostoval, the deputy chief of mission here at the Czech Embassy. And I’d like to make this panel as conversational as possible, as interactive as possible, so that we can grapple with some of these questions.
I’d ask each of the panelists to make a few comments and then we’ll open this up into a wider discussion. And Peter, if I could ask you to kick us off.
PETER FLORY: Sure, thank you very much and very pleased to be here, very pleased that the council is having this discussion. The question was raised earlier, what is NATO for? I think at least one important task is to give the Atlantic Council a raison d’être and a reason to have very valuable meetings, like this, on very timely topics, such as this one because this really is a topic that is on the first bounce right now.
I want to pick up on something that Jim Townsend and in the spirit of the French reintegration, Jacques Gansler, raised earlier about the evolution of the thinking in NATO and Europe. And certainly I, coming up on three years that I’ve been over there, have seen an enormous evolution in thinking on missile defense. It started before that, but it’s been particularly rapid in that time. And I’d like to review some of the key elements of the evolution here, as reflected in the summit declarations. Those of you who are familiar with NATO, which is I think everybody here, knows that our summit declarations are sort of our Ten Commandments, and things that make it into there are the, in some ways, the best and clearest indications of what we’re thinking.
I’m going to look at the, in particulars, the declarations from the Bucharest and Strasbourg Kehl summits held over the last couple of years. The first point, which is the starting point, I think, for everything else, which is that ballistic missiles pose an increasing threat to the forces, populations and territory of NATO allies. This was based on observing the same things that everybody’s been talking about today – Iranian tests, failure to stop Iranian nuclear ambitions.
I think a key point about this analysis is it’s agreed, it was agreed by 26 nations. These all took place, these things were agreed before Croatia and Albania joined. But having 26 nations agree on a threat analysis is a not inconsiderable thing and I think it reflects the breadth of consensus as to the fact that there is, indeed, a threat out there and that it threatens alliance nations and alliance interests. I think, based on some of the what I would call the more informal discussions on this point, I think it’s also worth noting that there’s a realization in many countries of the alliance that if you look out at the world, and obviously you look at Iran, you look at other countries of known concern, but you also look at the general proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear, chemical, biological warheads or potential warheads.
You look at political instability, you look at violent extremism in parts of the world and you see a nexus – you see ways in which all these things could come together in ways that could affect the interest of alliance nations and of the alliance itself. And I think there’s also something of a view of missile defense as a sort of an insurance policy, what might, in another context, be called a sort of a capabilities approach to planning.
Another one of the key, I guess, commandments on missile defense is that missile defense is part of a broader response to the ballistic missile threat – along with nonproliferation measures, arms control, traditional diplomacy and traditional military deterrence including, prominently, nuclear deterrence. And the question was asked in a number of our nations early on, after the announcement of the so-called third site proposal, sort of, put this issue which had been percolating at NATO for some time, a lot of technical work had been going on – it certainly put it on the front burner politically.
You heard a lot of questions. Isn’t missile defense going to undercut arms control? Isn’t it going to weaken nuclear deterrence, potentially? And theses are all, I think, reasonable questions to pose. I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is that there’s an agreement at NATO that, in fact, missile defense is something that has a place in, again, it’s part of a broader response and that not only does it not undercut some of these other measures, but as Undersecretary Tauscher said today, for example, missile defense can provide a strong, dissuasory – if that’s a word – element of a policy of nonproliferation.
Also, a feeling that missile defense, while it would replace traditional deterrents can complement traditional deterrents. So at the Strasbourg Kehl summit, we also took a couple of important steps in, sort of, focusing, sharpening our NATO work. One was the direction to prioritize missile defense work to focus on the most imminent threats; that seems like an obvious thing to do, but in fact, we’d taken on quite a broad envelope of things to analyze and it was important to get guidance that would allow us to focus on the things that were most immediate.
And secondly, we were told to look explicitly at the extension of the ALTBMD system from protection of deployed forces to protection of territory. Now, ALTBMD has been invoked a couple of times, I think most of you know what it is – in a nutshell, it’s an alliance system approved in 2004, the contract was signed in 2006, that would create a NATO command-and-control backbone to accommodate national sensors and shooters that would become part of a defense for deployed NATO forces against missiles with ranges of up to 3000 kilometers.
Now, even under the previous analysis, ALTBMD and under the previous U.S. proposal, had been considered the obvious NATO plank to put into a missile defense system with the U.S. because it would have defended those areas in southeastern Europe that were more vulnerable under the previous proposal. But if you look at the current proposal on the table from the U.S., it’s obvious that the ALTBMD is also, I would say, the most logical place to plug in with what the U.S. is proposing.
Now, I’ve been talking mostly about policy work. On the technical side, what have we been doing? At Bucharest we were tasked to develop architecture options reflecting the, at the time, the U.S. proposal, the so called third site proposal or the program of record. We developed a number of options, five options there at Strasbourg Kehl. They added the elements I mentioned earlier, told us to refine this and to present recommendations for consideration at the next summit which would be in Lisbon, late next year.
So we’re working away on that and enter the new U.S. proposal – obviously changes the equation for the NATO work which had been based on a different assumption as to what the U.S. input would be. The Council has been briefed a couple times and we’re hoping for another briefing from the U.S. shortly with a more detailed description of how the U.S. envisions the U.S. system and NATO systems connecting. But, at this point, as we forward I would say, A, we already have quite a bit of information in the NATO technical work that’s been undertaken so far on the SM3 and a number of other elements of the proposed plan. So we’re not starting from scratch here.
We do need some additional information, but we’re not starting with a blank sheet of paper. Allies, in fact, I’d say as we speak – well maybe not as we speak now, it’s 8:00 in the evening at NATO and that’s not always regarded as a congenial hour. But, certainly, in recent weeks we have discussed how to take forward the NATO work while integrating the new U.S. proposal and most nations seem to agree that this is something that could be taken on board, that can be integrated into the ongoing work without requiring a radical going back to the blackboard by essentially prioritizing the work, focusing on the most imminent threats.
So I am optimistic. We haven’t finally agreed on the way ahead here, but I’m optimistic that we will be on track to present recommendations for the Lisbon summit as we were tasked to do under the previous set of assumptions. Thank you.
MR. MITCHELL: Thanks, Peter. And Daniel?
DANIEL KOSTOVAL: Okay. Thank you. Czech perspective: I think what’s clear is that missile defense is, at least, on the table with regard to Europe. It’s here and we are still not tired, we are ready to participate actively in this, let’s say episode two, for European missile defense.
We were ready to work actively with previous U.S. government. We are ready to use actively the current U.S. government because it’s based on our deep conviction that we should do something about existing threats. Czechs were even supportive of Strategic Defense Initiative in the ’80s because we knew there was a severe threat. We know that today there is an Iran threat and not only threat coming from Iran and we think we should do something actively. That’s why we want to be an active participant in this exercise – not just sit down and waiting for being bitten.
We believe in proactive approach. That’s why we are still ready to participate actively. And we hear some comments that missile defense is needed, missile defense which covers Europe because missile defense for United States is already in place, because there is key element for NATO and that’s indivisibility of security. And we have right now, something like two layers and we think we should have one layer of security. That’s why also we are in favor of having this shield for Europe.
And we also believe we need this shield because it would give us additional, broader flexibility in terms of what we can do about existing threats. If there is no shield for Europe and there is a missile coming to Europe, the only thing we have on hand is to strike back in a symmetrical way, basically. If there is a shield, we have more options.
What we can do about one or two missiles and not really jumping in high-scale or full-scale warfare. Missile shield would give us more flexibility to do things in a more phased way when countering some kind of hostility of this kind. So that’s why we are in these days working in current U.S. government on complete modalities. How we, as the Czech Republic can participate actively in a newly, redesigned missile defense architecture and there is already bunch of known papers coming from both sides. There are concrete elements which are being discussed.
We are, of course, not and that was clear also from today’s statement coming from current U.S. representatives. We are not in a phase like sitting at the table and saying, yes, exactly this will be in this town or in this military district or something like this. We are in a phase when discussing a new architecture and what this architecture brings to the table and what will be needed in terms of pricing different elements and how different players, who wants to be active part of this exercise, would fit into this new architecture.
So we can jump ahead of discussions in NATO or ahead of discussions between different allies. Of course, sometimes things are not 100 percent perfect so the decision of the current U.S. government came the way which sent certain emotional waves back in Czech Republic. Nobody can deny this. But I think this emotional wave is over and what I was just saying, we are here and ready to participate actively in this new architecture.
Of course, there are some lessons learned for our future communication. That’s clear and I think both sides agreed we will improve this together. And I think I would like to say a few words also about geopolitical ramifications. It’s making a little bit headlines in these days. I think in the end what matters what’s happening on the ground because headlines will be forgotten.
And I think the key thing is implementation in this exercise. I could state something in the paper, we can maybe speak in the future geopolitical ramifications. If what’s on the table, what’s on the paper will be implemented, nobody will be speaking about geopolitical ramifications because if you are reading what was decided, what’s in the plan, then it’s much more robust, even in the first phases. And still the option of building capabilities to counter intercontinental ballistic missiles – it’s in the plan.
There is this option. This option is open and any time United States government, together with NATO allies, can once more adjust to the realities of the ground in Iran or somewhere else and speed up or slow down different phases. So from our point of view, what matters is implementation. If the implementation is done, then nobody will be taking about geopolitical ramifications. Thank you.
MR. MITCHELL: Boyko.
BOYKO NOEV: Yeah, I’ll try to be very brief. I saw the title of this panel, relations with key allies was it? Yeah, “Cooperation with NATO and Key Allies.” You know, the very way of qualifying allies of being more key or less key emphasizes differences which I hate and I do believe that we have to insist on the commonality and indivisibility. And that’s why I believe that the approach presented this morning eloquently by Secretary Tauscher and Gen. Reilly is a good approach, in theory.
It eliminates some of the concerns that countries of southeastern Europe had with the initial approach, with third site, actually, who were left outside of the immediate range of defense of third site. Although, countries in southeastern Europe and elsewhere in the alliance didn’t make a big problem of that because we believe that the third site approach, put in the perspective of having it developed further with further measures to defend us as well, was a good approach.
I hope that, as I said earlier, that missile defense if embraced as a political objective – not so much as a technological achievement at this stage, which it is not, yet – if embraced as a political idea could be important for the alliance, could generate the debate which we needed and still need in the context of discussing the new strategic concept. And I think that there is a lot of argument in that. We don’t have many unifying ideas like, what could be the common missile defense? It doesn’t matter whether the threat is imminent or say, distant, say in two or three or five years.
It’s obvious that missiles will be a threat for the alliance, for each of the allied members. It could be a rogue state, it could be a missile launch – I don’t know, I’m not an expert in shooting missiles but it is something which would not be controversial in terms of whether the alliance needs it or not. I think that it would not also be controversial vis-à-vis Russia, although a friend of mine who is working in high position at the alliance told me recently that forget about unity on any issue which would be directed against the Russians because one of the big allies would immediately jump against it.
So I don’t think that the approach presented today by the administration officials and especially the way the Russians embraced it, gives us very good opportunities to develop the political idea further. And I say this through what I would call the responsibility of alliance. We need to drop existing differences and different political approaches and to see how we can exploit this idea, which is a good idea.
Then I would just note what I would call the responsibility of leadership. The way we see strategic changes in the administration policies is not good. We all remember when the Iraq war started and allies were looked after and we joined the allied effort in Iraq with good conviction, we believed that the idea of toppling down Saddam Hussein was a good idea. We were hard pressed on that, we didn’t have all the resources, but we did it.
Now, we hear that this was not a just war it was a war of choice, which it probably was. And I think that our Czech and Polish colleagues have similar attitudes towards the present decision because what we heard months ago and weeks ago was that the third site was a good idea. Now, we understand that there is a better idea. So there has to be more continuity in policy when you take long-term strategic decisions and, again, I would call this responsibility of leadership.
It’s tough. Coming from a small country I could understand that being a leader like the United States a very tough job. And we’re willing to help you in doing this job but, again, you have consult more. And very short comment about Russia because Russia will be in the next panel as well – I think that we have to abandon this demander position which you have vis-à-vis Russia. I think the approach that Iran is our, and only our, concern and that Afghanistan is our, and only our, concern is not exactly right.
Iran is immediate neighbor of Russia and of the Russian near-abroad, what are the different ’Stans. You may recall that Afghan resistance freedom fighters were attacking directly Soviet territory when the Russians were invading and I do believe that should we fail in Afghanistan, the Taliban and other Muslim extremists would be very grave threat for the southern republics like Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, et cetera, et cetera and this would be a threat for Russia.
I’m saying this because we don’t have to put ourselves into a position to be in a demander position vis-à-vis Russia. The Russians will have to take the responsibility and this is also relevant to what we’ve been discussing about missile defense today. Thank you.
MR. MITCHELL: Well, I think that’s a perfect segue into an issue that, I think it’s absolutely critical that this panel grapple with that in a way that today’s conference just wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about, kind of, the 900 pound gorilla in the room and that is the Russian dimension. I know we’ll get a little bit more into greater detail on that in the next panel, but I want to pick back up on something that Congressman Turner alluded to that this panel has touched on, sort of, in a peripheral way but hasn’t really directly grappled with and that’s the potential negative political and geopolitical ramifications that this decision could have on U.S. bilateral relations with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Congressman Turner mentioned the front page of a Czech newspaper that it’s version of what had played out on the day after the 17th was a headline that read, “No radar, Russia won.” And I know Daniel Anyz is here from a competing Czech newspaper and I think he said that his paper had a front page caption that alluded to Munich and the betrayal of the Western Great Powers at Munich. There was a Polish paper that the front page read, we no longer love America.
In Russia, the church bells in Moscow, literally, were ringing after this and in Germany Angela Merkel greeted this as a U.S. move towards Russia. And I’m saying all of this because clearly the administration has gone out of its way to make it clear that this decision was not about Russia, that this was not about a quid pro quo and has emphasized the enhancements of the effectiveness and the technological ramifications of the decision. But I think it’s critical that we confront, head on, in this panel the critical question of how deeply has this eroded America’s relations with two of our closet allies, certainly closest allies in the post-Cold War period and those are very real, potential political and geopolitical costs.
There was a comment that Radek Sikorski in Rzeczpospolita, a Polish newspaper, just a few days after the announcement and I’d like to read it. Maybe we can frame some of our discussion around this comment. He said in the interview, he said, quote, “It is time now for a mature look, stripped of illusions at our possibilities and our future. I think today, we all know that if we are to look to somebody we have to look to ourselves.”
And that and other language that’s come out of Warsaw and to a lesser extent, Prague, that doesn’t sound like a man or a country who has a lot of faith in the fundamentals of the NATO Article V security guarantee. It actually sounds like the kind of language you would expect to have come out of the Second Polish Republic a few decades ago. So maybe the first question we could start to grapple with is just how valid are those fears? The concerns behind the comments that are being expressed by some of our allies and what do we do about them?
And maybe the way I could frame that for our panelists and then we could open it up to a discussion would be first of all, for Daniel, from a Czech perspective, how deep is the damage on a political level, particularly for those elements of the leadership in Prague who really had supported this project politically and what are the next steps, that from a Czech perspective, might be taken by the United States, by this administration, to begin the process of addressing those?
For Peter, maybe we could talk about how the upcoming Lisbon summit and the Strategic Concept could be used as vehicles to begin to address some of these concerns in a NATO context. And then for Boyko, you’ve pointed to the importance of leadership and the necessity of American consulting more with its allies, maybe if you could bring in a perspective from the southeastern tier of Central and Eastern Europe.
MR. KOSTOVAL: Should I start?
MR. MITCHELL: Please.
MR. KOSTOVAL: Okay. You are right that the day after the decision, some were back in Czech Republic, saying we won and the others were saying we lost. But I think that was in the hours when emotions went high, I mean, and emotions here as well, I think. But I think that emotions are over, I would say, and what’s back when this emotional wave is removed is what was our approach even during the negotiations with the previous U.S. administration. And that’s the approach that the strategic cooperation within the framework of the missile defense for Europe is important but not only the only part of our strategic partnership.
And that is strategic cooperation in the security area is deeply embedded in much broader partnership which goes beyond missile defenses in the security area and our soldiers in Afghanistan are mentioned but goes even beyond the security area as such. And that was our approach all the time so that’s why we were proposing things like cooperation in science and research going to the salient parts of this endeavor because we were, basically, seeking win-win solutions based on partnership.
And we are definitely not seeking kind of a contractual ad hoc relationship. You will place something here and we will get something for this. That was from the outset clear on our side that we don’t want this. We want long-term strategic partnership and if there is a large country which says, I would like to do something, you could help us and actually for both of us it would be useful, what we want to do, our approach was yes, if there is a large country, such as United States which helped create Czechoslovakia in 1918, which helped won Second World War, why not to say yes and let’s talk concretely on terms of this cooperation.
So if you look at the situation from this angle, we are not a situation when there is some huge damage. I wouldn’t say there is damage. Of course we have concrete persons who invested a lot, personal and politically, in trying to have concrete cooperation of a strategic nature with the United States. And then United States reconsidered, little bit, what they want. And of course, those people back in Czech Republic, some of them, had to let’s say, explain why they were doing what they were doing. But I think it’s clear to the majority of the population and definitely total majority of Czech security community that what we want is what I have described.
And on this we are basing all our approaches. And we will work with this U.S. government and with another future U.S. government because we believe what’s on the table as project is the right thing and the thing we need to counter existing threats. So of course there were for concrete persons, some inconveniences but decision on new architecture, basically, is not changing what we were, what we have negotiated.
It’s not – (unintelligible). It’s little bit reversed sequence of implementation of different elements but it’s still basically the same thing. And what’s important for people back in Czech Republic is that this U.S. government said that what we have negotiated, connected to the let’s say episode one, we were told that what we have negotiated is in place and valid. So and that’s clear sign that commitments are here.
So I think there is no medium or long-term damage to our relationship. There is some, as I said, some people have to get over certain frustration but even those people see our relationship with United States the way I have described.
MR. MITCHELL: I think that there are a lot of valid points in that and I would just add, and maybe this would be a good transition into Peter that certainly from the perspective that’s been articulated in Poland and the Baltic states, the missile defense debate, obviously, and to some extent was never really about missile defense. And from a Polish and Baltic state perspective, you could say that missile defense debate points to, really, what the fundamental problem for the NATO alliance is, which is that you have some portion of its member states, the most geopolitically exposed of its member states, who perceive a not-so-distant, existential, traditional, territorial threat not too far over the horizon and then a larger portion of the members who do not perceive that threat.
And so maybe as a segue into Peter, how, from a NATO perspective, bearing in mind that missile defense only touches on some of the other issues that really beneath the surface, how do you begin to constructively address some of those issue, maybe in a Lisbon or Strategic Concept construct?
MR. FLORY: Thank you and I’m glad you carved out that question. I thought for a minute you were going to ask me to interfere in the internal affairs of not one, but three of my bosses, which didn’t seem wise. But, in terms of the question you asked about how the Lisbon summit and the strategic concept will address some of these issues. I think that, actually, missile defense is in one sense it’s an external issue but in another sense it really goes to the heart of what the alliance is about.
I mean you could not find a better example of collective defense than what’s being talked about in missile defense here. It goes to the heart of what we do, heart of Article V, heart of the phrases you heard from both of our colleagues earlier of the indivisibility of security, solidarity, all of the words that are so important to the alliance. So I think, in general, there will certainly be discussion, there will be language in the Strategic Concept on Article V and on the discussions that have taken place. And I predict that it will be restated resoundingly and I hope, in a way, that will resolve concerns of nations who for whatever set of reasons, and I don’t want to read too much into what Mr. Sikorski was saying, but nations that are posing the questions that you’ve described.
In terms of missile defense as what would be the output at Lisbon, as I said earlier, we’d been asked to present recommendations for consideration. What I hope that that will turn into is decisions. We have, over the last couple of summits, I think we’ve made a great deal of progress in taking what was originally a big fuzzy issue and clarifying it down into some specific questions and specific elements and some specific physical architectures which now are in a position of, particularly the architectures, of being, sort of, specialized even further.
So I would anticipate that we will have a discussion of all those things and I hope come up with some decisions. I’m sure we’ll come up with some decisions. The question, will it be a decision, for example, to answer the question of the possible role ALTBMD? It could very well be a decision to say, yes, we will take ALTBMD, originally designed for the protection of deployed forces but really, more relevantly in the physical sense, deployed for defense against missiles of ranges up to 3000 kilometers.
So if that’s what your threat is, you can put ALTBMD anywhere you want, you can integrate it with whatever you want in terms of the U.S. proposal and the T in ALTBMD can go from standing for theater to standing for territorial. So that’s sort of the space in which I would envision decisions coming.
MR. MITCHELL: Boyko?
MR. NOEV: I’ll make two points. One is that you quoted Polish foreign minister saying that Poland will have to turn to itself. I completely disagree with such an approach, I mean, this is bluffing (sic) me. Poland cannot turn to itself for its defense. The United States cannot do it, cannot afford it the changing world as we see. The problem in the, let me say, the foreseeable future is that with the new powers emerging, now economic and population-wise and tomorrow they will be military powers, neither the United States or Europe alone can turn to themselves.
And probably they have a chance if they stick with the alliance, in five or 10 years from now they would be a power factor in the world, but it depends on them. And when I mentioned leadership, what I mean is that you cannot look at leadership, as you said, through a southeast European perspective, that is not such a perspective. Probably there is a perspective in terms of flight paths for the missiles, how they come to Europe, et cetera, but in terms of leadership I see it as leadership in formulating common decision and common policies, this is what we need at this point.
And again, I would again, mention the Strategic Concept on which the Atlantic Council is doing an effort itself. It is very important. It’s a political, high-level political decision or set of decisions.
MR. MITCHELL: Why don’t we open it up for questions from the audience? Over here on the left, please?
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council. Thank you for very, very good serious remarks. Let me be purposely provocative and ask, what is plan B if missile defense is not going to succeed and it let me put it in this particular context. You, we are making the assumptions that Iran is a “grave threat” to quote the congressman, and that somehow it will actually get lots of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and even if it doesn’t, 10 to 15 years future, the proliferation of all of these missiles, wherever they may well be, really constitutes a threat.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a clear and present danger. It had many tens of thousands of thermonuclear, let alone chemical and biological weapons, limitless forces and that was a real threat but during the Cold War, we gave up the notion of defense and really relied on deterrence. My question is, if missile defense is not going to be deployable in a really, really substantial way for a lot of reasons, and I would argue there are far greater threats as the Europeans see them – cyber, energy, the economy, the environment – well above missile defense, could you talk about a plan B?
MR. FLORY: Harlan, I’m trying to find a cruise missile in here somewhere. (Laughter.) But with a plan B, I’m going to assume, and tell me if I’m wrong, if Iran ceases to become a problem. What then? And I would say Iran is not the only country that NATO looked at in terms of potential threats. It happens to be the one that is both geographically close and also has a very active program of developing and testing missiles which are things that are relatively easy to find.
So the intel part of this is easier than some other things are because between the periodic missile defenses tending to result in greater and greater range rings combined with the results coming out of the IAEA and elsewhere on Iranian nuclear program, people feel like they’ve got a pretty good sense of where that threat is evolving.
But, there’re other nations and there’re other regions and as I mentioned in my remarks, there’s also a concern about this, sort of, general proliferation nexus of different factors. Weapons, potential radical political change, extremist ideologies that could come to power – I mean you look at Iran, I mean, when I was in college Iran was a great friend of the United States. I never dreamed that I’d be a conference years later speaking about potential threats from Iran, never occurred to me, and so I think there’s a sense that things do change.
This was a point that was brought out earlier in the discussion and discussions of the intelligence, the difficulty of predicting exactly where your next threat would be. In terms of deterrence, this was an issue that got a lot of though and not surprisingly, particularly in those nations in NATO that have the most evolved military deterrents, either conventional or nuclear.
And I think there’s a sense of A, going from a concern that these two things were contradictory to seeing them as complimentary. There’s a sense that the deterrence we had with the Soviet Union based on certain assumptions that the sides, more or less shared – and there’s still a debate about the extent to which some of those assumptions were shared – but at least a sense that the relative, emphasize relative, predictability that might have prevailed then is not necessarily there.
Can you assume that the nations of NATO will share the same interests and the same assumptions as some of the countries we might want to deter. And the concern also that, and again this brings us back to Iran, but countries, I think in Europe, could see ways in which they might find themselves in conflict with Iran – whether over the Straits of Hormuz or events elsewhere in the Middle East or Lebanon or – it didn’t take a lot of imagination to see areas where we might be butting heads.
There’s also, to pick up a point that was raised earlier, I think growing interest, particularly when you deal with regimes that, in varying degrees, could be said to be holding their populations hostage – I think North Korea is probably the best example of this, although for geographical and other reasons it’s not the country that alliance nations are most focused on in this regard. But in a context like that I think there’s a desire to think wouldn’t it be nice to have defensive options to deal with a situation like this?
Would we really want to be in a position where our only alternative if some dictator or, sort of, government somewhere were to, in effect, use its population as a shield, as a hostage, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do something other than have to make that kind of choice? So I think these are other factors that went into the decision. But I think it’s interesting if you see the evolution of statements from France and actually, going back, even antedating the third site but President Chirac’s speech at the Ile Longue a few years ago which, sort of, opened the door as a nation which cares very deeply about its nuclear deterrent but saying, virtually what I said before, missile defense cannot replace deterrence but it can supplement it or compliment it by reducing our vulnerabilities. So I think those are some of the ways in which nations have gotten around some of these questions. Not gotten around, have answered some of these questions.
MR. NOEV: Was your comment as to plan B for the alliance or plan B for missile defense?
Q: Plan B for the alliance.
MR. NOEV: Yea there could be plan C, I don’t know. Now, today we see plan B. There was a plan A with the third site, today we see plan B, maybe we’ll see plan C, I don’t know. We’re not guarantee. What we saw very opposite remarks from Secretary Tauscher and from congressman and from what Gen. Reilly said as well. I personally registered a number of contradicting points and I’ll be looking for explanations. I don’t know. Probably this we’ll have during the debate in the future and then we’ll see about plan C.
MR. MITCHELL: I think, in a way, if I could just interject a comment, I think in a way your question is a good one and it points to one of the fundamental problems for the alliance. Is that in a way, in articulating a plan B for some members, plan B may look a little bit like plan A. For the most exposed member states, where the discussion is at right now, a lot of the assumptions about Russia as a threat to the alliance are considered valid assumptions and, in a way, I won’t be the first to have digressed on the fractious state of NATO but, in a way, you do have more than one NATO.
I mean you’ve got a group of NATO member states, Western European member states who in a way look at NATO as a traditional collective defense organization with no need on the horizon for collective defense. You’ve got the United States that looks at NATO, to some extent, as a toolbox for out of area operations and then you’ve got a group of Central and Eastern European member states, some of them at least, who see it as, I mean let’s be honest, to some extent, a vehicle for containing Russia.
In a way it would be like having a sports team where half of the members thought they were playing basketball and half thought they were playing baseball and the team captain wanted to go play a round of golf. So maybe the Strategic Concept, in a way, is about developing a playbook for a team that thinks it’s playing different sports. That’s certainly not a definitive answer to the question but – another question?
Q: Ray Wojcik, Joint Staff. Thanks to the panel this is really adding a lot to my knowledge of this topic. When you talk about the two different sides of NATO and the U.S. engagement and if you look at before the conflict in Russia, Georgia, then missile defense decision but long before that, our engagement in a lot of cases, in most cases, has been very strong bilateral relationships with many of the new NATO members which we saw as a way to help the new members get into NATO and then also strengthen our ties. And then the benefits for the United States in some terms were support in ISAF, in OIF and things like that.
Now, after the missile defense direction change, we want more connection with our missile defense program vis-à-vis NATO, how does the United States rectify trying to engage in Central and Eastern Europe in a quote, unquote “bilateral way” with Poland and Czech Republic specifically, but in a broader way, yet, at the same time keep from undermining our relationship with NATO and Article V and everything that NATO brings to the table. How do we strike that balance? That’s kind of my question.
MR. NOEV: Let me speak for the Czech Republic. I may imagine that if the United States have sent special envoy two days before taking the decision explaining quietly to the Czech government what it was all about, there would have been no newspaper articles and no Sikorski statements and things like that. This is what I mean under leadership and responsibility. You just need to talk to each other and it will be okay. And also your comment about the United States assisting allies and allies being helpful in bilateral relationship, yes this is every important and this is what we have a concept called mutual enhancement of defense capabilities. No matter how big or small a country is, you can always find areas where you can contribute to each other defenses and security needs. So all of this is very much on the agenda and could be approached in Afghanistan as well and in other areas. There are many, many areas where you can cooperate out of the traditional planning processes and where you can achieve multipliers in force.
MR. FLORY: I would just say I don’t see that there’s necessarily two NATOs. I mean there’s one NATO and there’s 28 NATOs and then there’s, pretty much, every variation in between depending on the issue and I see a lot of these in my day-to-day work there and now I understand why it’s so hard because I think I’m playing golf and everyone else is playing basketball. And it depends on the issues. And some things break along relatively traditional lines and some ways the lines go differently but at the end of the way we usually manage to come up with some kind of resolution. Some are more to the lowest common denominator end of things than the highest common but I think, and there are people here whose NATO experience dwarves mine – but, I think this is just historically something that the alliance has done.
Admittedly, in some ways it was easier when the numbers were smaller, just for purely mathematical reasons and also because as the alliance has gotten bigger and has taken on new missions, it’s taken on correspondingly, a higher number of stress points or a higher number of issues that might be expected to cause disagreement but I think the basic mechanism of working these things through remains the same and in terms of the roll out, I mean I certainly get the point from the statements by administration spokespeople earlier today that the point is taken there and we heard this when the Council was briefed a couple of weeks ago so I think everybody gets that.
MR. MITCHELL: And let me speak for Poland. I would just say briefly that the question that you’re framing is, in a way, the golden fleece. It’s a very difficult one and I don’t pretend to know the answer but I think it’s important not to miss the opportunity post-Missile Defense Decision to look at the deeper set of needs and dilemmas that are just beneath the surface that are being expressed by some members of the alliance and begin to address those in a constructive way and a circumspect way on both a bilateral basis and in the NATO context insofar as that’s possible.
Certainly, even if the rationale for this decision was not rooted in calculus vis-à-vis Russia or the regional security dilemma in Central and Eastern Europe, it’s not hard to see how the decision could have negative externalities, unintended consequences in that part of the world. A part of the challenge now and part of the responsibility is to articulate a vision for constructive, sustained, U.S. engagement in Central and Eastern Europe. And I think that’s partly about strategic reassurance.
I mean I won’t be the first analyst to have pointed out that the Poles and Balts have expressed a fundamental need for reassurance because there are doubts about the viability of Article V. So I think part of it is about strategic reassurance. We certainly don’t have an interest in seeing a reactivated strategic frontier in Central and Eastern Europe but I think part of it is also about gradually, over time, American policy makers beginning to move those relationships away from a transactional template and more in the direction of a covenant.
I think part of the reason that it’s hard to square the bilateral and the NATO context is the quid pro quo basis for the relationships in recent years. Yes?
Q: Michael Barnowski of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. As a Pole, Wes, thank you very much for speaking for Poland in the previous question. I wanted to actually press a little bit the panel on the issues that Wes raised earlier and ask you about whether you are, in any way, concerned about the reaction in Russia to the decision. Whether it was correct – not correct – whatever the administration intended, but whether you are concerned with how Moscow reacted, how they could react?
MR. MITCHELL: That’s a good question.
MR. KOSTOVAL: Okay, I will say a few words. I am not concerned because – and we were not even surprised because if you are reading what Russians are writing and if you are talking to Russian experts, diplomats, military men – you know for 10 years what they want and what they think. And I think what they want is a bigger say in world affairs. They think they are being kept in certain, let’s say, cave. Not being let out. They think that the West exploited, in the ’90s, Russian weakness. They think they have a, I would say, holy right to have a say with regard to certain issues, maybe sometimes one could say, veto.
So they want to be more heard and they want to have more real say. And they are looking at world in a very realpolitik way. That’s maybe done by their past – military structure or Soviet Union. So what they see is that, here is the system, or at least project which going to be – (unintelligible). They see that they don’t have funds and technology to have the same system to be equal. So what they want to keep this project at the level which is not global because if it’s global, they are not equal partners.
So what happened with regard to the European side, is that some of them started, some, not government officials but some nongovernmental experts started to scream yes, good. But that’s not the case for strategic thinkers in Russia. What they see is, with regard to the European soil – decision was changed. But, the thing was not removed. And for them, what matters from the outset was, the plan to go global. And this plan is still here. So for Russian government, which wants to build specific regime on specific Russian values and having specific place in world being able to say yes or no to many global issues – there is no change basically. That’s why Prime Minister Putin said we are waiting for United States decisions because that’s the logic.
And I’m not saying it’s bad or good logic. I am, right now, trying to just explain what’s the Russian logic and what’s the Russian perspective. For us, it would be great if there would be a breakthrough and Russia would connect to this missile defense endeavor – because it would remove certain sharp edge with regard to one issue in global affairs.
MR. MITCHELL: We’re quickly running out of time and I want to get in one more question from Damon, if I could.
MR. WILSON: Sure, thank you. Just wanted to pick up. Walt Slocombe, earlier today, made an interesting observation that the decision and the way this plays out may represent the triumph of reality over theology, finally, in the missile defense debate with a Democratic administration embracing national missile defense and this moving forward in a less theological way over time.
See how the debate plays out in the short term, but over time, I think, was his prediction – how does that play out when you think about it from the alliance perspective? I mean, while there certainly was an agreement in Bucharest about third site, it was, frankly, with a little bit of French and German hesitation signing up to this. Eastern Europeans embracing a missile defense not because it was missile defense but because of U.S. presence in the region and now the current debate, in some respects, has exacerbated tensions in the short term. But will the decision and will the way this plays out, will this help to normalize the issue of missile defense within the alliance?
And related to that, there’s been much made today about how this, the NATO-ization of U.S. missile defense plans, and I think Congressman Turner has argued that this actually walks back the bargain that existed under the previous arrangement where the U.S. would move forward on the long-range, NATO assets would move forward on short and medium range concerns. While Undersecretary Tauscher making the point that this is really a system that you can plug and play and so thereby very much increases the opportunities for allies to plug into and to participate in the system.
And yet I think Dov Zakheim earlier today gave us a dose of reality of concern about whether NATO allies really are going to play. Will they put any money towards this? Will they invest? Is this something they want to be a part of? So will this normalize the debate on missile defense in the alliance, but more than that, will this lead to allies actually being interested in playing rather than watching the U.S. lead on this issue? Are they willing to put resources and become active partners in it?
MR. FLORY: Got quite a few questions in there, that was a MIRVed question with multiple countermeasures. But I think the normalization – I think that’s a good word. I think what’s happened in the alliance is what has happened in U.S. politics in the last decade or so, which is, the debate on missile defense moving to the center or missile defense becoming relatively routine. And I feel like just in the time that I’ve been there because I happen to be in the airplane the weekend that the press story on the third site first broke, seen a lot of that debate, seen a lot of that normalization.
Would have been hard to imagine that we would have ended up where we were at Bucharest six months earlier and then, I think, what was significant and maybe not as widely noted at the time was that from Bucharest to Strasbourg Kehl we had a domestic political readjustment in the United States, and yet the Strasbourg Kehl summit reaffirmed Bucharest, and again, I think the – (inaudible) – tried to hone in some of the work more specifically. So yeah, I think normalization, almost routinization would be a way to look at it.
In terms of the ability of allies to play, a number of allies have capabilities of different kind that they’re developing, mostly with an eye towards contributing them under ALTBMD. Some of these are U.S. capabilities – Patriots – some of them build off of U.S. capabilities, Aegis, some of them like the SAMP/T, a French-Italian program, are domestic programs. But, I think, particularly something like SAMP/T or others, they’ve only gotten to a certain point because there’s been a finite amount of national investment in them.
I think the nations involved, as they see there’s something being real, on the one hand they’re going to have to decide about increasing their own national investments which they hadn’t been willing to push beyond a certain point before and I think that, politically, for missile defense to really take off there have to be some industrial opportunities in it for European industry. European industry is well-aware that the U.S. is quite far ahead in this but there’re a lot of smart engineers there who’ve been working hard on developing systems. But, what it needs is, it needs a wave of funding to come in and I think that this is something that is, in theory, envisionable.
Now, it happens to come at a lousy time financially because missile defense is not the only area where NATO, right now, is facing and NATO nations are facing a financial crunch. So and for many nations, some of the more traditional strategic arguments over the last couple of years have actually diminished and, in many cases, have boiled down to how much is it going to cost? How many much are we going to have to pay?
There’s been a normalization of the political discussion but at the end of the day, people are still not grabbing for the check. So how to work then – the other kind of check (laughter) – how that’s going to be sorted out and how it’s going to be funded over time and, in particular, the question of how much of the new U.S. proposal, how much is the U.S. proposing to contribute as the U.S. and what are the expectations of what the NATO-funded or nationally provided part of that would be? Those are all important questions to be answered.
Just quickly, on the Russian question before. Another thing that was never theologized – in Russia there was not a theological debate, as there was in the U.S., over whether missile defense was a good thing or a bad thing. And I think that there’s a potential for normalization now cause the Russians who’ve been defending themselves, or at least their capital, for many decades – certainly as my boss the secretary-general has said, NATO and the U.S. have expressed a willingness to cooperate with them a number of times in recent years. That’s part of the summit Ten Commandments that I didn’t read. So if Russia is prepared to come in and talk meaningfully on this, recognizing that there is a common threat, then certainly, from the NATO side we’re open to discussing it.
MR. MITCHELL: And with that, we are out of time.
MR. NOEV: Just to comment on Peter – very short disagreement and Peter, what I’m afraid of what you said about routinization of the – once you routinize this problem and put it into NATO committees it will be dead. We have to make use of the political momentum, that’s the common thing.
MR. FLORY: Politically routinize. In other words, it is not a radioactive topic as it may have been seen before.
MR. NOEV: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, yeah.
MR. KOSTOVAL: And we were criticized.
MR. MITCHELL: And on that light note if you would join me in thanking the panelists and thank you. (Applause.)
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.