Transcript of the third panel from the NATO Beyond Afghanistan conference held September 27, 2010.








1:30 P.M.

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

IAN BRZEZINSKI:  (In progress) – transformation after Afghanistan.  And, as you know, this morning we kicked off with a good discussion on political will after Afghanistan, the implications of Afghanistan on NATO military capabilities, the impact it’s had, and we just had a rousing statement of NATO’s relevance from someone who has been one of the toughest critics of the transatlantic alliance in a constructive way.

Transformation of course is the effort to keep military capabilities one or two steps ahead of its opponents, and it’s most effective when it’s able to anticipate developments and shape military forces in a way that enables them to be more effective on the battlefield, surviving and ultimately succeeding in the crucible of battle.

And we have a panel today that I can’t think of a better group that brings together political, industrial and military experience, both in their nation states and in the NATO alliance.  And I’ll quickly – I won’t give them fair justice to their bios because we only have an hour, but we have Edgar Buckley right there in the center – center right, I guess, from my perspective. 

He brings a long career in British government and international organizations, including NATO.  He served with the Air Staff as a civilian and in the U.K. navy as a civilian.  He served as assistant undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Defense.  And then he served as NATO assistant secretary general for defense planning and operations and today is the senior vice president for European business development at Thales. 

Andrzej Karkoszka, on the far end over there, from Poland, is a managing director from PricewaterhouseCoopers.  He served in the highest positions in the Polish Ministry of Defense as first deputy minister of national defense and also as the acting minister of defense.  I can think of nobody who has had more profound effect and a role in shaping Poland’s military force, a former Warsaw military pact force and making it into an allied force.

Gen. Harald Kujat, right next to me, brings over four decades of public service in uniform in the German military.  He joined – or volunteered for the Luftwaffe in 1959, and in his military capacity has served in the chancellery, advising Helmut Schmidt. 

He’s served in various positions in the Ministry of Defense, culminating with a tour as chief of staff of the Bundeswehr.  He’s also served multiple positions in NATO, both the German military delegation on the International Staff, culminating in his tenure as chairman of the NATO military committee from 2002 to 2005 at a time when NATO went global when it went to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

And then Marshall Billingslea, next to Gen. Kujat, a longtime friend of mine who I first met on Capitol Hill.  He’s now a director for strategy and operations at Deloitte.  He’s served in some of the highest capacities in the Department of Defense. 

He’s an assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, also as a deputy undersecretary of defense for the Navy, essentially a number-two slot where he was the secretary’s point man for long-range planning and budget development.  He also served as assistant secretary general for NATO for defense investment, where he played a critical role driving strategic airlift capability in NATO Special Operations Command and TMD.

I’m going to turn it over to these gentlemen.  I’m going to ask them to keep their remarks about five to seven minutes so we can have time for a solid discussion, and we’ll start off with Mr. Buckley.

EDGAR BUCKLEY:  Thank you very much, Ian.  And, if you don’t mind, I just want to make a comment on what we just heard.  I thought it was an inspiring address we had from Robert Kagan, and I think he’s absolutely right about the continuing relevance of Europe, whole and free, but I thought that Fred Kempe was also right that it’s not a choice; we’ve got to do both. 

I want to add a third element to this mixture and I want to say that’s not enough.  And I want to come back to what I said earlier about the need for a big idea.  And the big idea I’m suggesting is that as well as doing the two things we’ve just been talking about, which is coming out – finishing the job in Afghanistan and focusing on the problems in Europe, we’ve got to be more outward-looking as an alliance.  We’ve got to offer to work with others to address common security problems facing the world. 

Now, earlier, our Spanish friend said, well, who are we going to cooperate with then?  You don’t mean the Chinese.  Well, I do mean the Chinese, actually.  If you look at something like cybersecurity, Harald and I are here in Washington this week as part of a meeting of the Network-Centric Operations Industry Consortium, and we strategize about the future of Net-centricity, and we see this operating as kind of a biosphere eventually.  If you look 20, 30 years ahead, that’s what it’s going to be like. 

If you think of Net-centricity in that way, where nodes automatically relate to each other when they come into contact, what affects that becomes more like a disease than an attack.  And they way you tackle disease is not by fighting the Chinese.  You tackle disease by cooperating with the Chinese. 

The fact is that the Chinese and the Russians and everybody else, we have a common interest in securing cyberspace.  We have a common interest in disaster management.  We have a common interest in protecting outer space.  There are many areas affecting our security where our interests are exactly the same as those of our past adversaries, and we should recognize that and we should make the offer when we talk about the future missions of NATO. 

And I think it would sell because – you may not know it.  You think disaster management is something that NATO does.  I could tell you that disaster management is not a mission of NATO.  It is not.  And if we were to make disaster management a mission of NATO so that we were prepared to respond when we see these disasters unfolding with more and more regularity around the world, then we would be in a better place to convince our public that we are relevant, as well as doing the other things.

Coming back to what we’re supposed to be talking about here, which is after Afghanistan, where are we going with defense planning, the classical debate is whether we’re going to go towards Article 5, which Robert Kagan was talking about, or stay out of area.  Frankly, I think in defense-planning terms, that’s not the issue anymore.  In defense-planning terms we recognize that you need the same capabilities for both, and you can provide strategic reassurance to the Eastern allies, which – and NATO has already done that through exercising and through other measures.

So, I don’t think that is really the issue in defense planning today.  In Europe, at least, the issue in defense planning is money.  The defense budgets are being cut.  There isn’t money which can be spent in a discretionary way.  And on top of that, the countries – the biggest countries are facing increasing expenditure on operations in Afghanistan.  And even some of the smaller countries are spending 6, 8 percent of their budget on current operations, which is the sort of amounts which they would normally put into new programs.

So, the question is for these countries, not whether to spend it here or whether to spend it there, but how do they preserve military capabilities – not just military capabilities, by the way, but technological capabilities, industrial capabilities?  And for two of the biggest of those countries, they are about to take a radical step in a new direction. 

I’m talking about Britain and France.  They have been talking about steps towards cooperation in the direction of mutual dependency which have never been addressed before.  And I think they’re going to go in that direction and they’re going to go in that direction fairly soon.  That’s what’s expected and that’s what we know they are discussing now.

So, this is where the European part of the alliance has got to go.  We have to cooperate more.  We have to have more sharing of capabilities, perhaps more niche capabilities provided by some countries.

Since we’re in Washington, I think the United States – we should ask, what can the United States do to assist this?  I think it can do three things.  First of all, it can keep up the pressure, which it has been applying, for more efficiency in NATO, to cut out waste.  There’s a crying need for this in NATO.  It goes deeper than anyone realizes, but the United States is well to the fore in getting that done.

Secondly, I think they should support European countries as they cooperate, as they form these mutual dependencies.  They need to have confidence in their allies as they do that.  And, thirdly, I think there’s room for them to assist smaller European countries to form those cooperative arrangements.  So, for example, if two or three smaller countries form a unit for deployed operations but don’t have transport, I don’t see why the United States shouldn’t enter into such an agreement and have pre-planned transport to airlift these capabilities to where they’re needed.

So, I would expect NATO to move towards – move back in many ways towards multinational forces.  I think we should also be seeing new NATO roles and missions addressed by NATO – for example, training, which has always been – I mean, training third countries’ forces.  This has always been something which was picked up on the fly.  We never prepared for that.  It should be a NATO mission.

But I think we should also learn the lessons from Afghanistan and from Iraq so far as counterinsurgency operations are concerned.  I take the point it’s not the only thing we should be doing, but we shouldn’t forget what we’ve learned.  And the country in NATO that knows most about that is the United States, and I think we should have a systematic approach towards somehow delivering that experience to the rest of the alliance.  I’ll leave it there.  Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you, Edgar.  That’s a good angle on how austerity, budgetary – (unintelligible) – can drive collaboration.


ANDRJEZ KARKOSZKA:  Okay, thank you.  I’ll start with the factual information I have here – official paper from the government about Afghanistan, which is of course we should mobilize and engage more to keep up with the cohesion, credibility.  And with the rise of numbers of forces, we are going to win, and the participation in Afghanistan is a motor of our transformation and modernization.  So that’s for the official thing, and I’m not official, so I think I will have a little bit to say about these very positive kind of words which are reminiscent of what we read very often here and hear in this country.

Let me enumerate quickly.  I was supposed to talk longer about this but since seven minutes is short, what are the positives of being in Afghanistan for the alliance?  I talk about impressions from the medium-sized country, 3,000 soldiers in the field, 44 dead, around 200 maimed.  And we have a lot of experience of cooperation with the United States in the field.  So, it’s impressions of, not a science. 

I think certainly we see that the alliance got strengthened in its – (unintelligible) – in planning of operation on the distance, with a lot of prevalence of logistics cooperation building up headquarters and commands. 

The command system was checked and is rather efficient at all the levels.  In practice, the alliance brought into being some new doctrines like effects-based operations.  We learned much more how to build up civil-military relations, all this nation-building, as we say, which is a wrong, actually, name for this, became a very important element of the alliance strategy.  The interoperability of forces grew.  Those who are operating in the field, they really can work in the commands.  They know how to share intelligence, plan joint operations. 

For me, one of the biggest assets of this operation was the elevation of special operation forces within NATO.  As you know, soon the – (unintelligible) – Command established SOFs, and I think there is a big chance for the alliance to go this way to have rapid deployment and quite important forces. 

But now, perhaps the biggest gain of the alliance is that through Afghanistan we have learned all the weaknesses, loopholes and those things which are lacking.  First I think we have to admit that the alliance is not working very well in a political and military sense far away out of area.  It doesn’t work well, especially if the basis – the doctrinal or ideological basis for that operation is shaky, because that influences immediately the way the countries participate in the operation. 

The alliance is not yet – I mean here not as an organization but as member countries – is not yet ready to wage a symmetrical warfare.  Many of the countries do not possess, actually, ability to do it, and if not, support of American forces and NATO.  As such, these countries could not participate in a symmetrical warfare yet.

We have obvious difficulties – great difficulties in executing good command in the conditions of lacking consensus, political consensus, and with national influence on every contingent in every situation.  There are some situations where caveats are important and must be in place, but it seems that it’s overdone by some.  There is still a lot of lacking of the potential in terms of technology, weapons systems, the famous story of helicopters lacking in Afghanistan.  Many are similar. 

I should also mention on the positive side – and here I will say one or two words about what Dr. Kagan said about the problem in Russia, in Russia especially.  I think the positive aspects of being in Afghanistan is that we have learned, with a lot of difficulties, a lot of pain, how to build operations with Russia and other countries, transit countries.  It is an asset.  It is a lesson to carry out. 

Now, finishing the story about the alliance, I also said to myself, it depends; the outcome of getting out of Afghanistan depends on whether we go out victorious in terms of setting the stability of the country and its abilities, or negative, what we just simply escape. 

Here I have a comment that being plus/minus nine months before the beginning of the period when we were supposed to leave, we – I mean, Americans especially – started the process of decline of the numbers, it’s a very short time to execute the whole thing.  But all of us in the press, in the media hear that we are going out.  That influences enormously the situation in place in the field, both in terms of our potential friends and in terms of attitude of our enemies.

Now, a few words about Poland.  You know, when we talk about transformation – and that was a big question for me – I must say that we began transformation from the moment we entered NATO, actually a little bit before, a few years before.  So transformation goes on, but our transformation and your transformation is a completely different word.

We talk about transformation as modernization, as catching up, as professionalization, not adapting to asymmetrical warfare, not to be up to the level of the United States or British of other more advanced forces.  It’s a completely different setting.  So, for us it was simply the development of expeditionary character of forces. 

It was in addition to the other mainstream transformation to show off, to be credible with the alliance, to help Americans, both in Iraq and Afghanistan because, as you know, we have even put our relations with best friends in NATO on stock to go with the Americans to Iraq.  And that was – and we still suffer from that. 

And now, Afghanistan influenced our processes, first of all by pushing for professonalization of the armed forces.  While the government says that we finished already professionalization, in my terms and in my view, we only began.  We simply have – we ended the conscription but it’s still not a professional army.  It’s far away. 

Now, the biggest problem with transformation in Afghanistan is that Afghanistan is an incredible drain of our resources.  Last year our personal costs were at the level of $200 million.  For this year, we plan $700 million, more than three times more.  For the budget, which is for procurement, for modernization and upgrading, 1 billion, 300 (million dollars).  Half of this is going to Afghanistan. 

And that’s the end of modernization, actually.  Of course it will go.  So, for us to get out of Afghanistan is a very positive thing – not political, because we should go with NATO and we should be nice allies, but it’s actually a very positive thing. 

We can speed up the modernization not of especially units, chosen units which go to cooperate with NATO in Afghanistan.  It’s 10 percent of the force; not the rest.  We will start doing transformation across the board.  If I tell you that we are lacking now completely helicopters, the navy is dying, and so on and so on, that’s the result of, among other things, Afghanistan. 

Now, we have also another dilemma:  how to keep up with the theoretical ability to defend the territory according to Article 5 and our own national interests while at the same time having expeditionary forces, and in the budget as I described it, which is very narrow.  It’s very difficult.

Now, we are supposed to be – I’ll finish in one minute.  There was a little bit of a Polish aspect in Dr. Kagan’s statement.  I think it’s a wrong thing.  We are not warmongering with the Russians.  You know, the reforms of the last two years of Minister Serdyukov are very positive.  Abandoning mass mobilization in Russia is a revolution.  We take it very positively. 

However, on the other hand, building up brigades forces, very important, ready to move, as – (unintelligible) – said, in a few hours – which of course is a joke, but still quickly, it is something which one has to think about, especially if one understands the situation in Central Europe, it will be better. 

So, it is not completely out of blue sky that one should stick to ability to defend these territories, and obviously our friends in NATO are now – are taking lightly Article 5 as far as the – (unintelligible) – contingencies are concerned.  But I think in terms of when we come out of NATO, the best and the only way to build up the unity – military ability of the alliance is to keep training, taking seriously different contingencies, more or less serious contingencies in different areas, including crisis management contingencies.

So, I’ll finish on that.  I think I was a bit long.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you, Andrzej.  That’s a great overview of Afghanistan’s effect on the alliance and how it might shape the agenda for transformation in the future.

Gen. Kujat.

HARALD KUJAT:  Yes.  Well, thank you very much.  Having listened to the discussion this morning, I feel a lot of temptation to talk about Afghanistan.  (Laughter.)  However, my task is to talk about transformation.  And when I accepted the invitation to come here and attend this panel, I thought, why don’t you look up what you have said about transformation in the past?  And I found a lecture that I held in January 2003, nearly, yes, seven years ago, in Norfolk, Virginia, by the way. 

And I could read out that lecture here and now and everybody would think I’m talking about the future and not about the past.  And that is a clear indication what we have achieved in NATO in the meantime as far as transformation is concerned. 

So, transformation is of course a way of modernizing forces, adapting forces to the challenges of today and of the future, but it was also our interest to make our forces fit, to be capable of fighting together with the United States armed forces.  And everything we did, what we initiated, was aiming at this to achieve this goal, and we hoped of course that we would have the necessary assistance from the U.S. side. 

So, I want just to touch on a few issues to make you understand what we meant by transformation.  I want to touch on let’s say three or four issues, all initiatives that I launched – of course only those – (laughter) – just to give an indication what is meant by that.

The first was I thought we need forces that are capable of fighting, as I said, the challenges – or coping with the challenges of the future.  So, you need forces that are ready to move, expeditionary forces.  So the task was to harmonize force planning and operational planning, so the force-planning process should produce the forces that we need operationally and nothing, so to say, in theory for operations that we are not going to fight.

So, harmonizing force planning and operational planning.  And the way of doing that was of course to use the same starting point to kick off both processes, the so-called planning situations in NATO, and then expand the contingency operational planning.  I won’t give you the number of plans that we were aiming at, but be prepared to have, on the shelf, contingency operations that we could use in any possible circumstance.  That was the idea.

The second point was we need more collective capabilities.  Why more collective capabilities?  Because it’s a cheap way of having forces that are capable and modern.  All nations contribute to financing these capabilities and all nations have the advantage, have access to these capabilities – a very important issue.

And the third point was that we need forces that are readily available, so I initiated the establishment of the so-called NATO response force.  The idea was to build up forces in a six-month period of training and equipping these forces to the same standards, the standards of the United States forces, of course.  And then, after these six months, these forces would be certified by a NATO commander according to NATO standards, and only those forces that would pass this certification process would then be for six months on call.

But the most important idea was that we would avoid this lengthy force-generation process before we started operations because we would authorize SACEUR to tailor the force to the operational needs.  We would have of course the political decision, the NEC (ph) would decide, but we would leave it to the operational commander to decide what number of forces, what kind of forces and what time they would be available. 

And at the same time, so to say, rotating national forces through the NATO Response Force would mean to raise the level of capability of all national forces up to the same standard.  We have heard today somebody said the last force generation process for the NATO Response Force brought about 27 percent or so.  We have – well, I will judge that at a later point. 

My last point is that we need closer cooperation between industry and the military.  The military must tell the industry what is our strategic view?  In which direction do we want to move operationally?  And the industry would tell us whether this is realistic or not.  Is the technology available within a certain timeframe or not?  Is it realistic or not?

So, very close cooperation, very close discussion, and I therefore launched the so-called “NATO industry day” and tasked Allied Command Transformation to do the first meeting in Berlin at that time.

My last point is NATO command structure, a very important issue.  We have gone through two command structure reviews in NATO, from 2004 and now the next command structure review is, so to say, in the tubes in NATO.  We have reduced the number of headquarters from 64 to 22, and now they want to reduce the number of headquarters to six. 

It is stupid.  It is absolutely stupid.  Why?  We always say, well, this is very – it costs a lot of money.  We have a lot of personnel in the NATO command structure.  But NATO doesn’t pay for the soldiers in the command structure.  The military budget is only available for civilians like Edgar or others who have served in NATO, not the military.

So what happens is that nations look for other ways of having the NATO flag fly in their country, so they established centers of excellence and they try to be multinational.  And they expand, of course, their national commands, create new commands like the U.S. does.  So, those nations specifically that have been criticizing the big NATO command structure like the U.S. or the U.K., they’re expanding of course their national command arrangements.

But the command structure is one of the main pillars of the alliance.  It’s not only necessary for military planning; it is producing leadership capabilities, it is providing training for our officers and it makes new member state officers familiar with NATO culture – very, very important.

So, at the end of the day, very little of what I’ve just said has been realized in NATO.  These are still tasks that we have to do.  So, what is the – from my perspective, what is NATO’s value?  First, it is the solidarity.  That’s the political issue of that.  And, secondly, it is a functioning, integrated command structure.

What is NATO’s problem?  It is the lack of vision and leadership and it is one single word.  That’s the devil.  The devil is affordability, because this word is opening the back door for all nations to slip through the door and don’t do what they need to do for this alliance.  Thank you very much.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you, Gen. Kujat.  That’s an important reminder of some of the priorities of transformation, and I hope we can follow up on your point about presence and interoperability and the striving for interoperability.  The NATO command structure is being reduced, but also is U.S. force presence in Europe –

GEN. KUJAT:  Right.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  – and that may have a factor on transatlantic interoperability.

GEN. KUJAT:  Absolutely. 

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Marshall, you have the last panel presentation.


Growing up in Alabama, I knew a very nice but simple guy, described by a fellow Alabamian as someone who couldn’t drive and commute to work at the same time.  (Laughter.)  The problem is not Afghanistan.  The problem is NATO has been unable to drive and work at the same time. 

We are looking at a NATO that has only half transformed its way out of the legacy fight from garrison, territorially focused, heavy-armor structure of the 1980s.  And my fear is that while I like the vision that Bob Kagan painted because it makes me feel better about the ostensible retention of NATO as a valuable instrument to advance U.S. national security and the Transatlantic Alliance, I fear that we potentially are walking into a trap.

So, what I would like to do is focus on four trends that I see today that are with us and are going to be with us as we come back out of Afghanistan and as we as a transatlantic community work on modernizing the alliance and our alliance forces in the future.

The first is – and some of these will be self-evident but I really want to foot-stomp these things.  As Winston Churchill said, if you have something important to say, don’t try to be subtle or clever.  Say it once and hit it with a pile driver.  Say it again.  And then a third time give it a massive whack. 

War-weariness in Europe is something that we cannot discount.  In the United States, we have an amazing ability – I don’t know where – this is a cultural phenomena – to absorb pain and the casualties of war, and we’re willing to do it, in part because we understand that we lost 3,000 Americans on a single day on 9/11, and that’s why we’re in Afghanistan. 

But I think we sometimes overlook the fact that while for us we can shrug off a day where we lose two or four or five soldiers, as callous as that sounds, for small countries like Estonia, the loss of two soldiers is a day of significant political chaos, explaining that must be done.  Our German friends go through this all the time.

I think our second phenomenon obviously is frustration with the Afghans, is remembering, oh, you know, we did decide after Somalia and we did decide again after Haiti and we did decide again after Bosnia that nation-building really isn’t what military forces do well. 

The third phenomenon – and here I do want to pause and dwell for a moment, though, because it’s a lack of consensus and a lack of a shared threat perception.  There was consensus on the threat after 9/11.  In fact, there was consensus on the threat for a couple of years after 9/11. 

Remember, you had the Madrid train attacks.  You had cells being disrupted in London.  You had plots in Italy.  You had repeated attacks in Turkey.  German realized that the plotting against the United States had happened in Hamburg.  These cells were throughout Europe.  But, nine years on, with no real end in sight in Afghanistan, no clear exit strategy and weariness setting in, I’d suggest that threat perception is not there and hasn’t been there for quite a while. 

What’s interesting, though, is you do have a phenomenon that we need to account for, and it is an isolationism, at least as an inward introspection that’s happening in most of Europe as nations are turning inward, and you see a number of trends associated with this.  You see the anti-immigrant phenomenon, whether it’s the Roma or the Swedish elections or the daily discourse in the Netherlands politically.  You see this introspective, self-focused, self-centered national dialogue that’s happening.

But those are not the nations that are actually now fighting alongside the United States and Afghanistan.  You would think, perhaps, given – if you listen to the Dutch discourse, you would think they would be the last ones to pull back and pull out.  But, no.  Instead, fighting alongside the NATO in Afghanistan today is, in many respects, the Brits but our Eastern European NATO allies. 

If you go to Estonia – I mentioned Estonia.  If you go to Estonia or Poland, they’re not worried about homegrown Islamic extremism as a threat to their nation.  It’s just not.  There aren’t any – I’m not sure how many mosques there are in Estonia, if any. 

They’re fighting alongside the United States in Afghanistan because they value the U.S. relationship.  Their threat perception is completely different and it is all about Russia, and Russia’s invasion of Georgia simply heightened that level of anxiety.

But I think the United States needs to understand which NATO, the Martians (ph) or the minutians (ph), that we’re fighting alongside in Afghanistan.  We’re fighting alongside the Eastern Europeans, which means that as we come back out of Afghanistan, we need to listen very carefully to this mixed threat perception that exists.

And we need to understand, as Europe begins to refocus itself, there are some who will refocus entirely inwardly and counterproductively for domestic political reasons.  Some of these nations can’t even form a government.  In other cases, the desire will be to emphasize inward looking but it’s to focus on Article 5 and territorial defense because there is a very real, perceived – let’s use Bob’s phrase – issue-maker on the eastern border of these nations, if not a potential future adversary.

But what we cannot allow to have happen is this combination of isolationism and this combination of Article 5 fixation take us off of the transformative path that we’ve been trying to go down, by which I mean when you overlay these significant budget cuts – and this is the not being able to drive and commute at the same time problem – it wasn’t that we did Afghanistan; it’s that instead of keeping our budgets up to pay for the operations in Afghanistan, we systematically cut our budgets and we mortgaged modernization at the expense of operations.

And so now there are some worrisome – there’s some worrisome rhetoric that’s coming out of the defense establishments, which, in some respects, is clearly designed to simply intellectually reconcile the fact that there’s not going to be much more money.

So, I am very concerned, for instance, what I’m hearing out of parts of the Polish MOD about moving away from the Special Forces Command towards resumption of the heavy tank, heavy armor-focused good old days, right?  And there’s an argument there.  When you look at the way the Russians stormed Georgia, there is an argument for armor, but I would say that in the United States –

MR. KARKOSZKA:  No decision was taken and would not be.

MR. BILLINGSLEA:  Just highlighting some issues we can all talk about here in a second.

The United States is no longer investing in main battle tanks.  We’ve decided that you’ve got to go smaller, more agile.  You have to reduce your footprint.  If you can see it in this day and age with ISR, you can kill it, and this is the problem the tanks have.

We spent a lot of money on trying to get to that expeditionary, sustainable, at-distance power projection capability, but that mission of transformation is not nearly complete.  I do think that Lisbon offers a chance – I do not believe that it will be seized but I do think that Lisbon offers a chance for the heads of state to refocus the alliance on modernization of capability.  Yet again, Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football.  Every year, without fail, Charlie Brown runs at that football –

MR. KARKOSZKA:  Yeah, absolutely.

MR. BILLINGSLEA:  – and he ought to.  The day Charlie Brown quits trying to kick that football is a bad day indeed for the transatlantic relationship.

MR. KARKOSZKA:  If they don’t, who should? 


My last point is to pick up exactly, Harald, on what you said, which is that this introspective, inward-looking, inward-turning mindset that I see predominantly in Western Europe is in fact being fueled by a well-intentioned but misguided U.S. effort. 

It is not acceptable to place the blame for collapsing defense budgets, for challenges in transformation, for the fact that the NATO Response Force never truly got used for what we wanted it to do as a transformative capability, to place all of that blame on the handful of international staff and international military staff and the few folks left in the command structure and the NATO agencies, and yet that is where we’re now externalizing our focus for Lisbon is on cost-cutting.

I do agree.  I tried to get rid of the NATO pipeline agency.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand why NATO needs a pipeline agency in Western Europe.  It’s still there; we still have the agency.  There are things that can be done, there are efficiencies that can be had, but this focus on NATO reform to the exclusion of pursing much-needed capability is unfortunate and I do hope that at Lisbon we will not let that stand.  Thanks, Ian.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you, Marshall.  I’m going to take the first shot at the questions and then I’ll go with Harlan and Boyko. 

You know, we talked about some of the political implications, political dynamics; we talked about the lessons learned in Afghanistan, and two things caught me about NATO/Afghanistan. 

One is that transformation and operability in the past has been driven by an apocalyptic Soviet threat, you could argue in the 1990s the Balkans experience, and the first decade of this year, the priority of Afghan missions.  And earlier this morning someone mentioned we have more men in uniform in Europe in America experienced with battlefield operations since World War II.

We’re also – post-Afghanistan there isn’t really clear operational requirement.  There’s no dynamic threat, driving threat.  It’s also a period where we’re entering fiscal austerity.  And we know about the reviews that are coming out in a number of nations, anticipated cuts, and some of them will be 20 to 30 percent in budgets.

What are the implications of this austerity and this absence of an operational priority upon the ability of NATO to drive transformations, to drive interoperability?  Are we going to enter an era where there’s going to be a regionalization of defense cooperation within the alliance? 

Edgar, you talked a little bit about the French and U.K. cooperation.  Will it come at the expense of the alliance?  Is the protection of national defense industries as they fight for survival going to cause a collaboration or is it going to cause dissention within the alliance; for example, the sale of the Mistral, the efforts to open up the Chinese defense market?  I’d be interested in your reactions and your predictions.

MR. BUCKLEY:  Well, if I can talk about the defense industry first, I think there is a case for much more consolidation of the supply side of the defense market in Europe.  There’s already steps being made on the demand side to bring requirements together and to stop nations protecting their markets in terms of preventing competition from outside their borders.  That’s been done by the European Defense Agency; it’s been done by the European Union.

But on the supply side, we still see industries pretty much tied to borders or to national entities, and that can’t continue.  Just like the last supper where Secretary Aspin sat down with U.S. industry and said, you know, I don’t want to see so many of you here in the future.  And they went away and transformed the U.S. defense industry.  I think that’s going to happen – increasingly happen in Europe, and it’s a good thing.

At the moment we have – if you take the big players, if you take the United Kingdom and France, which I know most about, we have particular industries which are sustained in each country in order to support sovereign decision-making and autonomy in defense in both countries.  And if they could agree to mutualize those, you can get efficiencies and you can save money. 

And it’s not just a question of saving money.  The fact is that if you don’t do it, you’re going to lose them.  So the slogan of this effort is, share it or lose it.  And for industry, it’s merge it or close it.  So, you know, this brings the reality of it into focus. 

So, personally I think this is an opportunity – and Kurt earlier said, you know, it’s never going to happen.  It is going to happen, and it’s going to happen I think increasingly quickly because once the U.K. and France move, Germany will move, Italy will move, Sweden will move.  It will happen, I think, quicker than we think.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Will it happen across the Atlantic?

MR. BUCKLEY:  Well, there is an important point here.  American industrialists, when they come to Europe, tend to say, oh, the Europeans are protecting their market, as if the Americans don’t, for example.  There is an American interest in sustaining a European defense industrial base. 

If you don’t have a European defense industrial base, you don’t have any European defense to speak of.  You may say we’re already at the limits of reasonableness there, but I am a strong believer in maintaining both the European industrial base and an American industrial base.  The sizes will be not the same.  The European base will not be comprehensive. 

There will be many technologies on which we will remain absolutely dependent on the United States, but there has to be a sizable, reasonably efficient and capable European defense technology and industry base that’s in everybody’s interest that we do that.  Therefore, I strongly support what Secretary Gates has been trying to do, for example, with the reform of ITAR and the other export control regulations.  It’s long overdue. 

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Marshall, do you want to –

MR. BILLINGSLEA:  Yeah, I would say that the – Ian, you put your finger on a huge positive thing that’s happened within the alliance, and that is alliance-wide we now have a generation of officers – actually maybe two generations of officers now with combat experience who have worked alongside each other and who have been exposed to – let’s just focus on the United States for brevity, but who have been exposed to the true power of disaggregated, light, information-dominant forces.

The problem is that this kind of bottom-up transformation at the junior military officer level has not been met with consistent top-level transformative planning and investment in modernization programs.  And so, capturing those lessons, institutionalizing the capabilities that those soldiers have seen in operation in the field, is at risk of being lost. 

So, my hope would be that as we do cut command structure – and I do think getting rid of JFCC (ph) Lisbon is the right thing to do.  I’ve never understood what they did there.  But this creates an opportunity to revive the NATO Response Force and to move it from ACO to ACT to truly serve as that test bed and that incubator. 

Let’s remember, just as defense industry is consolidating, the European vision of a defense identity is beginning to consolidate.  Nations have abandoned – and Julian, I mean, you may want to talk about the British-French dialogue here, but Europe is abandoning the idea of nationally self-contained fighting forces, and they are going for this interwoven capability.

So I think that it is in the U.S. interest to make sure that that capability is engineered properly, and I think the NRF can help with that. 


MR. KUJAT:  Well, just a brief remark.  One way is of course role specialization, although I personally feel that this is a very limited opportunity because nations still have their national interests and, again, that’s very limited.  So, my favorite approach is collective capabilities, and the NATO Response Force is an excellent example for that. 

I had the – I thought I dreamed, actually, that this would, so to say, become the prototype of future NATO forces, but for reasons that we shouldn’t discuss here, this did not happen.  So I very much hope that, as you said, Marshall, that Lisbon provides an opportunity to make a new start of its transformation, and I think that the question of affordability, as one or the other says, the devil, will drive the issue more than it did in the past.

MR. KARKOSZKA:  I actually hate to say something but just to – I don’t want to be seen as parochial, but the building of the European industrial base has some features and problems involved for the smaller ones.  And it’s the U.S. all of the time in the plans for how to – when we were discussing what should big countries in Western Europe do with Russia?

First of all, remember about the smaller ones, not over their heads.  That’s the biggest mistake of big countries in the past and all of these 10 or 12 others who are living between Russia and other – the rest of the members. 

The same with industry.  I actually work in the European defense and agencies – (unintelligible).  There is a problem here, of course, that the U.S. giants in supply chain do not look positively on some of Europeans.  It’s the same with the big Europeans looking at the Polish, Romanian or Bulgarian industry. 

That is something that’s – in my country, 50,000 people; there’s something like 50 factories, and they are all soon to disappear; if not, somehow surviving and get into the supply chain, which is extremely difficult because the big sharks do not like to make marriage with the small fish. 

So that’s how the Europeans see it.  They’ve discussed, there’s some precautions made, but it’s not working very well.  So that’s a comment on this side, on the positive side. 

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you.

We’re very limited for time, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to take two sets of questions and give them to our panelists, so it’s going to be Harlan and Boyko first.  Harlan?  Please identify yourself.

Q:  I’m Harlan Ullman, and among other people in the room had the pleasure to be at Open Roads, where Harald and a number of other people gave those excellent presentations.  And the enthusiasm that was generated then, as you remember, and then the defense ministerials over at the NRF war game was really contagious.  And at that stage there was real intellectual rigor and vigor for transformation and how do we approach the alliance?

Seven years later I’m afraid I see no evidence of intellectual rigor and vigor.  That transformation has been reduced to reform, affordability, papering over modernization and the effects of Afghanistan.  Can we – and if we can – how can we reintroduce intellectual rigor, vigor and enthusiasm within the alliance, or is that just a bridge too far?


MR. KUJAT:  Change the leadership.  (Laughter.)

MR.    :  A bridge too far.

Q:  Thank you.  Boyko Noev.  A little bit back to basics, Afghanistan and transformation, because we are in an Afghanistan conference.  And I think that, well, generally for NATO Afghanistan, the campaign has been positive as to transformation:  better acceptance of U.S. experience, combat experience, et cetera, et cetera.

But, for smaller country, nation like mine, although we have about 500, who are not structured in, say, a battalion or a bigger unit, this has not helped transformation.  Smaller contributors are usually given supplementary roles and they – (inaudible, off mike).  That’s one aspect.

The second aspect is what Andrzej said, and I believe – I’m sure that the Jans Pascal (ph) will add – what we have, in effect, is that countries like our size, we have about 10 percent of our defense budget into Afghanistan, into this operation.  And this severely limits our capability of accomplishing other force goals that we have undertaken to NATO, so this is a big problem.

And I do not agree with Edgar, who said that NATO has provided reassurance, and this is where the rabbit is hidden.  We’ve been asked, then – we have provided solidarity with the alliance and we’ll send forces to Afghanistan far beyond our real capability.

At the same time, we have no suggestion whatsoever or willingness on behalf of the alliance to consider contingency plans for our national defense.  This is a big political problem and this has been felt more and more in our military.  They’re now discussing force structure reviews, write books, et cetera, et cetera.

So, how do you plan, Gen. Kujat, without knowing how NATO would replenish some of the deficiencies that you have because you’re sending troops to Afghanistan?  So this is a major problem that we have.  And here I have a question for the panel. 

This mutual dependence concept is very interesting.  How does it relate to what we have in the European Union, the idea of Europe at different speeds, because I’m a very strong supporter of NATO at different speeds.  We have to get rid of those low common denominators.  We have to find common interests, groups of countries, like-minded on sets of issues, and to move these issues faster. 

That’s why I believe that mutual dependencies for NATO are very important, and not only among the European countries but also between the United States and individual European countries, NATO members.  Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Gen. Kujat, Edgar?

MR. KUJAT:  Well, first of all, I have no answer to your question, Harlan, other than we have the wrong leadership.  That’s definitely the case, both in NATO and in many, if not all, European nations.  They do business as always but it’s less vision, less preparedness to risk something new, unfortunately.

As far as your question is concerned I, 150 percent, share the view of – what was it, Colonel, your –

MR.    :  Genteel. 

MR. KUJAT:  Genteel – 150 percent.  What we do in Afghanistan is a very, very narrow approach.  It’s not strategy.  It is operation, it is tactics, if you want to; it’s not the way we’ll do business in the future and not the way we can cope with the challenges ahead.  So we are on the wrong track.

Unfortunately, the European armed forces, in their process now of reducing the budget and adapting their forces to the future, will exactly follow the U.S. way of doing business in the armed forces.  However, the U.S. is changing direction quite frequently.  The Europeans can’t do that.  It takes much more time.  So, it’s a zigzag course.  When the U.S. is on zig, the Europeans are on zag, so we will never come together.  That is the point, unfortunately, I must say.

And the other question is, this was exactly my idea.  I wanted to harmonize the contingency operational planning with the force planning process, which would mean that we would provide contingency operational plans, including Article 5 of regional plans. 

I had a discussion with your president, Kryzneski (ph) on that specific point –

MR.    :  We’ve changed presidents.

MR. KUJAT:  Yeah, we mean Wylyar (ph), who is no longer president, although at that time he was very forceful in asking for that.  And I said, yes, we should do that; that is necessary, but there was limited support on the political side. 

In the case of the Baltic countries, which had the same requests, I then, at the end of the day, said, well, why don’t we offer you something visible?  That is air policing, which was not very well received in some major nations in the alliance, for whatever reason, but it had a very positive effect on the situation, even the political situation in the Balkans – in the Baltics – very, very important.

So, you can do a lot if you want to and if you are prepared to taking risks.  And I think this is the only way of preparing our forces for the future and prepare them for doing what might happen in the future.  Nobody here in this room knows what will happen within 10 years’ time, but what we can do, we can think about it and prepare ourselves, to the extent possible, to come as close to reality as possible.  That can be done, provided, Harlan, we have the necessary – we have the right leadership in the alliance and in our nations.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  I’m going to go with Edgar and then Andrzej.

MR. BUCKLEY:  I’m just going to make three quick points – how to reintroduce enthusiasm, Harlan.  I think we need some new initiatives.  I think the Americans are in the best place to do that. 

The sort of lessons-learned download I think could be very interesting to the Europeans, linked to some kind of preplanned bringing together of niche forces with American units.  That could be very galvanizing.  And I happen to know that the Americans are thinking – you are thinking about how to do these things. 

Boyko, I’m very sorry to hear that contingency planning isn’t in place for Bulgaria.  My understanding from Reiger (ph) a couple of weeks ago is that it is in place for the Baltic States –  I was told that – and that it should be in place for Bulgaria, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

But I think we need to remember something that Bob Hunter said at the height of the Georgian crisis a couple of years ago when he said, Russia – he said – that’s just Saudi Arabia with trees.  (Laughter.)  We have to get the Russian military threat into perspective.

We need to be absolutely clear that any member state of the alliance which is attacked by Russia, Russia is going to have a headache like it never had before, and they’re not going to do it.  We have to make sure that our deterrence is fully in place, but I don’t think it means that we have to take tremendous military steps.

Finally, on the question of mutual dependence, industrial dependence with the United States, it doesn’t work, for various reasons, but the main reason is you can only have mutual dependence between countries of like capability.  I can’t go through the whole logic of it, Boyko, but take my word for it; it doesn’t work.

You can’t have mutual dependence between an elephant and a mouse.  Between two elephants you can, two mice you can.  Elephant and a mouse, it doesn’t work. 

MR. KUJAT:  If the mouse has the gun.

MR. KARKOZSKA:  Who is the mouse and who is the elephant?  (Laughter.) 

On Boyko’s first, I think NATO of different speeds is a dangerous proposal because actually the solidarity clause and the Article 5 must be absolutely the same for everyone.  So it is limited – a different thing when you have a group of countries in the Mediterranean somewhere, in the south and the Baltic countries, although the situation is completely different.  They should have the same feelings and legal obligations and rights.

On Harlan’s thing, let me shot on this in such a way which is typical for former civilian minister.  It is regrettably entirely in the military hands, and doesn’t work for that reason.  You see, when it is a decision by bodies in NATO, agencies and so on, and in NARC and in ACT and so on –

MR.    :  That’s true.

MR. KARKOZSKA:  – it is going to – it’s always translated through the military means to general staffs or whatever similar institutions in other countries, and they – the military, our good friends, are applying this old science into the immediate needs of the day.  So, in Polish terms it’s, we must be in Afghanistan with these small, little units, 3,000 soldiers down there.  The 100,000 doesn’t count because we are seen through Afghanistan.

Now, I have created the Department of Transformation.  You know, I did a few things in my country and had one department.  When I was there, I was director only one month because I was thrown out, of course and – (chuckles) – I had planned to transform the military according to these two-pronged things:  expeditionary, which should be actually able to defend the territory too, because there’s no contradiction in that, plus a little bit of the aspects of Article 5, territorial things, not brigades – new-time brigades.

But today, this department is running small, little papers – small errands.  They don’t interest anything.  The same situation is 10 different countries of NATO which I know, perhaps even more.  Military should not have the say, unquestionable say, in these matters.

MR. KUJAT:  But you made the strategic review of Poland.


MR. KUJAT:  Obviously you failed there.

MR. KARKOZSKA:  Yes, but here we – (unintelligible) – of a country which had a very funny president.

MR. KUJAT:  I know.  (Chuckles.)

MR. KARKOZSKA:  I lost my second time my job because I proposed – I was accused of not taking Russian threats seriously.  (Laughter.)  So, the worst things which can happen to a Pole inside Poland.  (Laughter.)

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  We’ll give Marshall the last words.

MR. BILLINGSLEA:  Yeah.  You know, Boyko, 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent of your defense budget on an operation, we have to be able to drive and go to work at the same time.  That is a manageable percentage when you’re at 2 percent GDP in real purchasing terms.  It’s not manageable when personnel costs are getting close to 55 percent of the overall budget because you’re squeezing training, you’re squeezing –

(Cross talk.)

MR. BILLINGSLEA:  – you’re hollowing the force.  And it’s not manageable when you’re below 1 percent GDP.  So, this does come down to affordability and it comes down to leadership and it comes down to senior decision-making to restore the budgets.

My last point is that Lisbon really should focus on capturing the good results that we have.  Let me give you a very concrete example that Lisbon could advance.  All these countries have observed the value of special operations forces, so now everybody has got special operations forces. 

NATO itself has a special operations headquarters, and this is great.  They’ve invested in reconnaissance, they’ve invested in direct action, and oh, yeah, we forgot that we actually have got to have the helicopters to get the guys to the target. 

The U.S. Navy is in the process of donating excess helicopters right now to basically whoever wants them.  We ought to work to establish a multinational helicopter squadron.  We can  use donated aircraft to begin with and then buy European medium lift and U.S. light, or vice-versa, but create – let’s make this progress that we’ve been achieving – let’s institutionalize it, let’s weave it into the fabric of NATO, and let’s make sure that’s it not suboptimized.  Let’s really work at optimizing the progress we’ve made.

MR.    :  I agree with that.

MR. BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you.  Let me just close it by underscoring Marshall’s point that when you look at transformation and the challenge it’s going to face ahead – we’ve heard in the Lisbon summit a lot of evidence of strategic concept on Russia cooperation and missile defense, but I haven’t really picked up the message that comes from this panel, which is that underscoring these visions has to be a core defense capability.

And that core capability is going to be hard to develop and sustain, which is real coordination, and I think it’s still open whether or not the kind of austerity we’re going to be facing is going to be the driver of that or an inhabitant to that.

Let’s thank our speakers for an outstanding panel.  (Applause.)


Related Experts: Ian Brzezinski and Harlan Ullman