Transcript of the conference welcome and first panel from the NATO Beyond Afghanistan conference held September 27, 2010.
NATO BEYOND AFGHANISTAN:
A CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE
IN A POST-ISAF WORLD
WELCOME AND CONFERENCE OVERVIEW
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
DIRECTOR, PROGRAM ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY,
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2010
Federal News Service
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good morning. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.
Just when you thought it could not get more complicated in Afghanistan, you have word that federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal probe into Karzai’s brother. Now, all of us who recall this sort of thing in the past, it does complicate an already somewhat complicated relationship.
But the Wall Street Journal breaks that story on the front of its front page. Washington Post has more of Bob Woodward’s book. Headline, “Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan.” So let’s just say today’s meeting is relevant and timely.
But as we do try to do at the Atlantic Council, we take a look at the immediate and also try to spin it forward and talk about the more fundamental questions at stake and how we deal with all of this. So that is what this conference today is about, NATO beyond Afghanistan, the future of the Atlantic alliance in a post-ISAF world.
You will see by the program, we have got a lineup of crack (ph) experts and former senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic to dissect the key strategic political and military challenges facing NATO as it looks beyond the current mission in Afghanistan, even as it also continues to focus on the mission there. And not only will we have experts on the podium, we have a good list of them in the audience as well. So I think there will be a great exchange.
It is not clear how the Afghan operation will impact the alliance in the near and long term. There are military sides to this. There is no doubt that Afghanistan has accelerated the alliance’s transition from Cold War origins. There are also political sides to this. And has it accelerated an evolution from Cold War origins to a more global role or has it retarded that because of the outcome there? So we will try to peer into the future and determine where the alliances will head in the coming decade as a result of the Afghan experience.
One question. What is the status of political will in Europe? We ask that all the time. What is the status of political will in the United States to maintain a vigorous and outward-looking alliance, which will contribute to global security in the 21st century? Will the alliance retrench and focus on threats and challenges closer to home? What will be the response in alliance capitals the next time NATO is called upon to lead a major operation?
There is a great deal of talk already about a potential NATO role in a potential Mid-East peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. That is quite a different situation than Afghanistan, but still we have to ask ourselves about that. Has the experience in Afghanistan made that more or less likely? What has happened to NATO forces as they have taken on tough tasks in Afghanistan? Are they broken beyond repair? Have they learned valuable lessons, retooled and rekitted themselves for 21st century military challenges? There is also some interesting talk about some progress in the south that could help shape the mood by the end of this year and next year.
So a timely topic, but on top of that, Lisbon Summit coming up, rollout of new strategic concept. How does this all fit together? And, of course, this is core work for the Atlantic Council, our 50th year of existence next year. We did start off of NATO, actually even before our 50-year existence, where three Atlantic clubs were formed in 1948 and 1949 that then unified in 1961 to establish the Atlantic Council. Some of the greats, Dean Acheson, Christian Herter were all involved in the birth of this organization.
Our mission statement: renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges. It certainly is not just a NATO issue. It is U.S., EU looking at Iran. It is financial regulatory. But this, of course, is at the core. Can NATO take on a global mission?
In the last few years, our Strategic Advisors Group, the SAG, now chaired by Sen. Chuck Hagel and Tom Enders of Airbus and previously led by Gen. Jim Jones and former Norwegian minister of defense, Kristin Krohn Devold, has undertaken several important initiatives on key strategic issues related to NATO and trans-Atlantic security.
Our SAG released an influential report on NATO and Afghanistan in early 2008 – in fact, John Kerry called it seminal – that called attention to the deteriorating situation there. And in 2009, the SAG partnered with other organizations to produce a roadmap for the new Obama administration called Alliance Reborn, relevant policy advice on how to rejuvenate NATO.
This year, our SAG has been focused on the new strategic concept. And on Wednesday of this week, we will roll out our own straw-man strategic concept at a public event here at the council. I really thank all of those who have been involved in that really valuable work. And there are also a series of issue briefs, bits and pieces that have led up to that. And I think some of the individual issue briefs have been some of the best work done on individual pieces of the strategic concept.
So that is why we are pleased to host this today. We think that with the strategic concept, the Afghan mission will have the most strategic implications on the trans-Atlantic alliance. We have to look at these two things together obviously. You can write the nicest paper in the world that you want, but if you can’t perform on the ground, it doesn’t make much difference. If you perform on the ground, it tends to make even a poorly written paper look a little bit better.
I want to thank our international security program under the leadership of Atlantic Council vice president, Damon Wilson, for putting this conference together. I especially want to thank Magnus Nordenman. You know, there is this great team under Magnus Nordenman, Jeff Lightfoot. We either call them – we either call them Magneff and Lightfus. But at any rate, they are just a great team. They have been – Magnus took care of today’s event, SAG rapporteur, Neyla Arnas, who is serving as rapporteur for today’s conference. And I also want to thank Trish Putnam (sp), Simona Kordosova and Jason Harmala, once again, Jason, for their work in making today possible.
So now I am going to turn the podium over to Damon to get the proceedings started. Damon, over to you.
DAMON WILSON: Thanks, Fred. Thanks for the introduction. Let me add my own welcome to the panelists that are joining us today, to the audience members. And I particularly want to say thank you to all those who have traveled across the Atlantic to be with us today. We appreciate your taking that time out of your schedule to be here.
As Fred said, we believe that NATO beyond Afghanistan is an extremely timely topic. The Afghan experience will be with the alliance and deeply influence it for decades to come. And what we are fundamentally trying to do with this conference is lift our eyes from the daily inbox of crises and emergencies beyond the front pages as underscored by today’s Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and look to and consider NATO’s long-term development and how Afghanistan will shape that trajectory.
As policymakers look to the Lisbon Summit and the new strategic concept, they need to be mindful of how the Afghanistan experience will impact both NATO politically and militarily. In some respects, today needs to be to offer a reality check to policymakers on what leaders can seek to achieve at Lisbon Summit by taking into account Afghanistan on the alliance political will and military capability.
Our conference consists of a first panel today on the political implications of the Afghanistan mission and then we will move to a panel on the effects of NATO military capabilities stemming from the Afghanistan experience. After that, we will hear from a distinguished panel on what Afghanistan and the current fiscal climate mean for continued NATO transformation. We will then have a final panel that seeks to tie together the themes and key issues that have emerged throughout the day.
Finally, we also have a treat in store over lunch with a keynote address by Robert Kagan, Bob Kagan, author of “Power and Paradise,” “Dangerous Nation,” and most recently, “The Return of History and the End of Dreams.”
But a few administrative points before we kick off the substance of the conference today. All coffee breaks will be held outside in the lobby. Please be mindful to try to be back in your seats, so that we can start each and every panel on time. We have got a lot of ground to cover today. During lunch, we will also serve that outside in the lobby as well. Please collect your food and drink and you can come back into the conference room and you will be able to continue a casual lunch as we get started with Robert Kagan.
During the question-and-answer portion of each of these sessions is something we put an emphasis on here at the Atlantic Council. We have got as many experts in the audience as on stage. We want to involve you in the discussion. But during the Q&A portion, please identify yourself before asking a question. An Atlantic Council staff member will bring a mike to you. And if you haven’t already, please take a moment to silence your cell phones.
We are recording the proceedings. Several cameras in the back as well. We will be providing MP3s and transcripts on our website shortly after the conclusion of the conference. We will also be preparing a summary of key findings from today’s conference, which can help inform policymakers. And several of our speakers have offered to publish their comments today as Atlantic Council issue briefs. So today’s conference is just the beginning of a series of programming that you will see coming out of the council on this set of issues.
So with that, I would like to go ahead and turn this over to Fran Burwell, our council vice president and director of the council’s trans-Atlantic relations program, who will moderate the first panel and get us on our way with our first conference topic, political will in a post-ISAF alliance. Fran, the floor is yours. Please have the panelists join her on stage.
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
NATO BEYOND AFGHANISTAN:
A CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE
IN A POST-ISAF WORLD
PANEL 1: POLITICAL WILL IN A POST ISAF-ALLIANCE
DIRECTOR, TRANS-ATLANTIC RELATIONS PROGRAM,
FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR,
STRATEGIC ADVISORS GROUP,
STRATEGIC ADVISORS GROUP,
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2010
Federal News Service
FRANCES BURWELL: Are we all miked? Can you hear me now? I turned it off? Can everyone hear us? Okay. All right. Well, welcome, everybody. I think that this first panel is one where our key question is that of political will. And to discuss this question, we have three outstanding panelists. And, in fact, they would be great each one on their own. But I think actually the international security team has put together a very nice combination.
We have Josef Janning, formerly of Bertelsmann. And while there, he was one of the key leaders in putting together Bertelsmann’s transformation index. And this is, I think, brings a broader perspective to this discussion because it really does talk about the future and about the development of market economies and democracies. And if we don’t have that context, it is really hard to talk about NATO and political will.
Then we have Kurt Volker. And it is hard to imagine a more inside-NATO person in Washington. Not only having served in NATO itself on Secretary-General Robertson’s staff, but also having represented the United States numerous times and most recently as ambassador to NATO as well as working NATO issues in the White House and the State Department.
But NATO is also not just the alliance itself, but it is its member states. And so I am delighted that we have Rafael Bardaji here of FAES, one of the leading Spanish foundations. And he has been an advisor at the very top levels to President Aznar of the Spanish government. And so he has seen how these decisions are made in the member states, in key member states at a very high level and intimate level. So welcome to all of you.
I was very fortunate that Phil Stephens wrote my introduction for me in the Financial Times in a column entitled, “NATO’s Long Drift towards Irrelevance.” So our topic here is, can we prove Phil wrong?
And he points out that in the Albright report, in which I think most people here have probably at least skimmed, one sentence jumps out: “Threats to the interest of the alliance come from the outside, but the organization’s vigor could easily be sapped from within.” And that is key in terms of political will. He goes on to say the alliance is the keystone of the trans-Atlantic relationship.
As the U.S. looks to the Pacific and Europe hides under their bedcovers, however, there is precious little evidence of shared resolve. NATO is not about to collapse. But in the absence of political will, any number of new mission statements will not halt the steady drift to irrelevance.
So is this fair or not? And what has been the impact of Afghanistan on the question of political will? Has it created a new broader resolve? Is NATO now ready to think about the use of force in other situations? It was already raised earlier about the post-Middle East peace should that day arrive. Or are we all just trying to hold our breath to get through the Afghanistan mission?
Fred brought up the issue of political will in Europe. I think we really need to talk about varieties of political will in Europe. And perhaps, we even need to start talking about political will here in the United States. It has not been a big issue in the midterm elections, but what happens as we go forward to 2012 with Obama’s war?
So gentlemen, what is the verdict? We are going to go to Josef first and then Kurt and then Rafael as in the program. How will the experience of Afghanistan affect NATO’s political will in the future?
JOSEF JANNING: Okay, good question. Thanks a lot, Fran. I think we have – and this has to do with Afghanistan, but also with a couple of other issues. We have a long history of believing that political will can be influenced decisively by circumstance and by the right reading of the message on the wall. Then again, we have to realize that a lot of that simply doesn’t hold true. Political will is not where it should be if just everybody would follow the right analysis. And I think that is the problem that we have with Afghanistan here.
When it started, it offered a very clear case of Western security being at stake. There was a clear opponent. There was a task to be completed. And there was the understanding after all of the crises of the ‘90s that from day one, this needed to be fought together, both in military and civilian terms. So it should have succeeded, but it didn’t. At least it didn’t succeed with regard to the stated goals. The intended peace, the intended outcome has not come yet and is not very likely to come because there are a couple of factors that we apparently do not influence like tradition, like tribal loyalties, like ethnic or religious bonds, like the power of politics or like clientelism as a pattern of policymaking in a region that is relevant to us.
And so I would say if this large mission, actually the largest NATO mission out of the area has this kind of result, it will have a defining impact on NATO’s future. And the problem with political will is that policymakers know for some time about their limited ability to achieve the complex set of goals that they have stated at the outset and have then followed up to.
What is more of a problem is that publics from much longer feel that there is this mismatch. And I use the term feeling deliberately because publics don’t analyze. Publics feel. Publics sense. They build their perceptions or their conclusions on those feelings, on those senses that they get from the situation. And publics are in a somewhat dilemmatic situation.
On the one hand, they cannot contradict statements by policymakers stating that they not only want to solve the security issue at hand, but also build a liberal, a democratic, a prosperous society. No democrat in our country can say no, this is not important while many people in these same countries believe that if it was a benevolent and functioning police state that it would probably be a pretty good outcome. It would serve most of our stability and security interests quite well. And so we are in this kind of trap where publics feel if it was that, it would not be that bad. On the other hand, they cannot really contradict policymakers stating the large and normative goals.
Now, implications for NATO. Let me just tick off five and then leave it there. I don’t think NATO will engage in another Afghanistan-type mission for reasons that I have not very ably, but very briefly, outlined about. We are realizing that we cannot do it. A complex goal such as the full Afghanistan goal cannot be achieved by NATO and its members. That is point B.
If the linkage to Western security is imminent, NATO might intervene again out of area or far out of area. But then I would suggest that what the Afghanistan lesson is, it would rather be a quick in, quick out, focus on the more immediate military goal there and have the whole reconstruction and development program as a separate entity with all of its implications and imitations and failures that we will have, this kind of disentanglement we will have.
For this NATO still needs a political rationale. It needs a doctrine. We don’t have that yet. We don’t have a doctrine which says, in which power situations will we move in and move out quickly; and in case, you know, a year later, the old situation reemerges, we may come back rather than stay.
Point C: The impact of A and B will be adverse to the international security and stability simply because the issues of weak statehood, of failing statehood, regional conflicts, aggressive actors will be with us. They will not go away because NATO is now daring another Afghanistan. They may be even inspired by this. But part of the lesson of Afghanistan is there is not much we can effectively do about it. So this is not very comforting and this is not something that will build a strong case for an alliance in a skeptical public. It is an extremely hard issue.
Second-to-last point: NATO will need, therefore, a new integrative idea other than the global projection of forces or the integration of new members. And I read the STRATCOM concept by SAG as an attempt to define at least the direction that this idea should be taken. And I work on the report for that. NATO members at the moment don’t seem to be really up to that task. They don’t really seem up to that point to say without such an integrative idea, we won’t be able to sustain the kind of commitment that the alliance requires in order to prosper.
What other option would there be? And that is my last point. NATO could or might build or rebuild coherence around a new defense concept seeking to secure not only the territorial, which is rather banal these days, but also the normative and economic integrity of its space through an integrated structure spanning from naval border patrol to missile defense to nuclear deterrence to homeland security and to joint policies on strategic resources or sustainable energy base. This would be a more inward-looking strategic focus of NATO as a result of, you know, saying we won’t get this global integrative idea. But it could still be a source of rejuvenating NATO.
I see the principal problem of political will not within the alliance itself. The alliance is suffering. I see the principal problem rather – and that is another one of those columnists, he has written, I think, a week ago or two weeks ago – that is Europe’s more than ambivalent position with regard to what is the implication of the global governance challenge that the Europeans are facing. And are we in any way associated with the emerging power rivalry strategies that major players like the U.S. and China are contemplating? Or are we just bystanding, hoping it is not going to be too hard? Thanks.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Kurt, Josef has laid out some important challenges. How do you see it?
KURT VOLKER: Well, first off, I compliment you on picking out Philip Stephens’ article because I read that as well and I thought that was a pretty good summary. And I agree also very much with what Josef said.
Let me just take a step back and lay out a couple of things. First off, I think it is hard to overstate the degree to which NATO doesn’t really have a vision for what it is doing right now. And I say that meaning the allies, not the organization. But if you look around the different capitals, there is very little thought given to it and there is very little mutual commitment to what we are doing.
The lessons that we learned from Afghanistan will be determined by what finally happens in Afghanistan. If things turn around and go well, we could draw a different set of conclusions. But the set of conclusions one would draw today based on what it looks like or those that Josef has outlined, I would say that there are differing sets, though, when you look at different sides of the Atlantic. I think the European conclusion is very much as Josef laid it out, which is it was a mistake. You can’t do this sort of thing. Shouldn’t do it again. We have got to look closer at home.
I think the American conclusion will be Europe and NATO can’t deliver on the global challenges that we have to deal with, so we will have to find other ways. Either way, it is not a reinforcement of NATO and it doesn’t bring us any closer to having a common understanding of what the role of the alliance should be. I think that the strategic concept started off ambitiously in order to try to identify what NATO’s role would be in the future. But I think it has gotten – it has done a very good job in the details. It hasn’t done a good job at cracking the political dialogue and the feelings of our publics and our leaders. And that is as much true here as it is in Europe. It is just not on the agenda.
I want to bring up Afghanistan specifically in the sense of the debate going on here in Washington also. A lot of you would have seen the Washington Post stories pulling out quotes from a book that none of us have yet read by Bob Woodward, so we don’t quite know exactly what the context is and what all this means. But the feeling you get is that the sense in the U.S. from the administration is one of a limited engagement, not a, “we are going to do whatever this takes to get this right,” but rather a limit; a limit in numbers, a limit in time, a limit in will, a limit in political capacity because of what is behind.
I would say that if you look at the midterm elections and the movements going on in the country, it is not only a feeling from the administration. I think that you will find a lot of the people in the “tea party” movement would also feel, why are we in this for so long? What is this worth to us? How do we get out of this? We need to focus on things closer to home. And not unlike a lot of arguments you hear in Europe as well.
With the election outcome that is predicted if it comes true, you will see middle-of-the-road people taken out. You will see Democrats who return deeply concerned about what this means for their party over the next couple of years and how to rebuild public confidence, which is going to focus again domestically and on jobs and the economy. And Afghanistan, I am afraid, will be seen as a liability. And if you look at the “Pledge to America” that was released last week by the minority leader in the House, John Boehner, it didn’t have a bullet on Afghanistan. It had about a page on national security. The word “Afghanistan” was mentioned once, but as kind of an agglomeration of ideas. There wasn’t a commitment there.
And the reaction by the Republican right to this pledge was that it is too much government, too mainstream. (Chuckles.) Come further out. So I think this is a really worrying set of domestic developments, which is only going to make it more difficult to muster the will to be successful in Afghanistan. And it is going to be matched by, I think, Europeans saying, well, this is what we have thought for a long time; we have thought for a long time.
I want to spend a second analyzing one of the problems that we have had in Afghanistan, which is that every time we have done a strategy review – and the Obama administration is coming up on its third one; the Bush administration did at least three – the conclusion has always been the same: we need a broad-based civil military strategy. Military alone isn’t going to do this. We have to have a regional focus, not just an Afghan-centric focus. We have to help deliver governance, so that people see benefits from this international engagement. And people have to believe that this is going to succeed rather than hedging their bets by making side deals, whether it is with the Taliban or just their own corrupt practices or drugs or whatever it may be.
And the fact is while I think we have gotten the strategy articulated right, we have yet to actually ever implement this strategy. We have never managed to get beyond being military-centric in our approaches. And I don’t think there is effort – I shouldn’t say “any” effort. There hasn’t been any success in developing a broader economic perspective and small business perspective and finding alternatives to the Taliban who will pay more than anything else out there right now for people to join their ranks.
So I would say that if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan in the wider region, we have got to really implement a much more ambitious strategy than we have ever been able to do. But with the euro crisis, with Defense budgets, with public opinion, with public and – (audio break) – in the U.S. political will, the resource constraints here, with our massive deficits – (audio break) – we have the will to use those kinds of resources to implement that kind of strategy.
So I think we are drifting into the kind of bad aftertaste from an engagement where we didn’t do what we could and we weren’t successful. And I think we will be coming out of it casting a lot of blame on each other – Americans on Europeans and Europeans on the whole enterprise – which I think leaves NATO in a very bad and disjointed state looking ahead.
MS. BURWELL: Thanks, Kurt. Rafael, so far, we have had two kind of, I would say, depressing scenarios here. And I wonder if you can –
RAFAEL BARDAJI: Vis-à-vis your commitment (ph). (Laughter.)
MS. BURWELL: So a voice from a new member. And I wonder if you want to jump on that bandwagon or go in a different direction.
MR. BARDAJI: Well, let me say first of all, I agree with both of the previous speakers entirely. But let me start by saying that over the years, I have become a skeptical Atlanticist, which doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant as a former government official. It doesn’t have any meaning. But if I am still alive when a conservative come to power back in Spain, maybe it is more important my state of mind.
Last week, Secretary Rasmussen went to Madrid to sell the new strategic concept and to convince the government not to leave Afghanistan, basically, the current government. I am afraid after meeting him in private and with opposition leader, I wrote a piece, which I will never send to the editor under the title of, “The Failing State of the Alliance.”
And why I wrote this piece of paper – very depressing – I think it reflects many minds in Spain and in Europe. For different reasons, we have been becoming, as I said, the skeptical of what the ability is of the collective will to advance us to the strategic challenges we are facing all together.
Starting, just to mention a few things, what I call the far out-of-area mission, Afghanistan. I have been in Afghanistan lately. I think things are going relatively better on the ground. But nonetheless, the impression and the image projected into and by the press still in Europe is very negative. You can read in all kind of newspapers A, we are losing or B, we cannot win. That is the best. It is a matter of time until we decide to do a – (inaudible) – in a manner in which we are not criticized very much. But anyway, everyone is thinking in a time where we live.
And that is why because of the reality on the ground, also because of the rhetoric coming from the organization, where Rasmussen said a few days ago that we control 99 percent of the territory. Nobody believes anymore that story. They think it is ridiculous. There is a lack of vision, everyone mentioned here. We don’t know what victory is in Afghanistan, so people could not understand what we are trying to achieve there. We have big goals and there is a kind of lack – a clear lack of will, particularly from my own perspectives as a European from this administration.
I had the benefit of getting a review copy of the Woodward book. I am not a fan of Bob Woodward anyway, but if I suspend my disbelief on his work, I think that the characterization of limited engagement of that current state is a very benign description of what this president is thinking of Afghanistan. So to me, also setting a sort of strategy by calendar, setting the day, the time is the wrong message for the Europeans, which are under limited engagement, commitment to – (inaudible) – operation in Afghanistan. And that is translated into a clear lack of public support. I mean, you poll after poll in European public opinions in different countries. Between 70 and 90 percent would like to leave Afghanistan right now, which makes a very constraining environment for political leaders. So that is one thing.
The second thing, I think, I believe is that NATO has been performing badly in the last years. For instance, in the supposed to be area of responsibility of defense, it has the former Soviet Union or engagement with Russia, I mean, the little war in Georgia, I think, badly handled from the public perception, I mean. I think we acted late and in a very divisive manner, this division, division that the people still have in mind. NATO was not able to fulfill their commitment to a newcomer, whether it was right or wrong. The impression is that we mishandled the political scene there.
Also, to my own perspective, the in-area of responsibility of NATO has been neglected. I have been defending for years that we needed after September 11 to develop a homeland component in NATO and that we need something against terrorism the very first day after September 11. We have marginalized this policy completely in NATO. On the contrary, services and police (ph) has increased their cooperation across the Atlantic, across the European countries. But – (inaudible) – whatsoever – (inaudible) – operations or the present.
To add the nuclear debate about the – (inaudible) – kind of shock to the public opinion, which I never have been in favor of nuclear policy. But anyway, NATO for most of the – the case has been nuclear deterrence. If we struck from NATO the nuclear deterrence today, what is left? A kind of inconvenient, expensive and conventional deterrence that never worked in the history. So people will start saying well, what is the worth and the value of getting a non-nuclear institution in Europe?
And finally, I think it is much more important than that, the strategic concept – (inaudible) – economic crisis today is something we cannot ignore. Budgets have been cut and are going to be cut in the near future. If you look at the latest statistic from June this year of NATO, which I think kind of unrealistic number, but anyway. The budgets in low (ph) countries are totally imbalanced in favor of personnel and advanced acquisition on maintenance and operations. And that will undermine our capabilities to do even to finish Afghanistan, I am afraid.
So I am not saying come home NATO because that is not even public support for a NATO who is not looking anywhere in Europe. But I agree very much with Josef when he said we need to a global leader, but not global anymore in terms of geographic scope, but I think in terms of policy. We need to integrate security, economic, energy, try to build something, which is collective and global in scope for all the challenges we have been facing in the last year if we want NATO to survive in the coming decades.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you all very much. I would like to take the privilege of the chair and ask the first question. And I would like to try and look forward a little bit really into a post-Afghanistan world and ask what the impact of Afghanistan has been on that and maybe, I hope, establish some limits on this pessimism that has come out so strongly.
And Josef, for your country, I am wondering whether Afghanistan has reignited – (inaudible) – utility of military force generally. We saw Germany in the 1990s a very, very strong debate about the use of force out of area, NATO’s area, even if in the neighborhood. Now we are talking even farther afield, a much more continuous use of force. We have had German caveats on forces there. But it seems to me that in the last couple of years, the debate in Germany has – (inaudible) – a bit on no military, those – (inaudible) – of military force have played a strong – NATO is in the end about the use of military force or having that possibility.
Am I being alarmist? Or what do you think will happen after Afghanistan? Will there be an even more strongly two-tier alliance, those who believe in military force and those who do not?
MR. JANNING: In my country, the debate is rather confused because the camps don’t exist any longer. It goes across all camps, across all beliefs. It is very hard for policymakers in such a situation to lead even when you think that leading in media democracies is about sensing whether the people are willing to follow you and how far they are willing to follow you. And leadership is not about, you know, convincing them that it is right what you think they should be doing or should be endorsing.
I think we have had a backlash, which maybe was unavoidable. But I think in politics, there is always a second change. In the ’90s, we – (inaudible) – that actually military is for the protection of our key interests. And I think that lesson was learned, but it wasn’t understood when Defense Minister Struck coined that phrase about defending the Hindu Kush. Of course, he was – (inaudible) – in saying that. But, you know, he was flank on this to – (inaudible). And that flank has ever since we have this problem that we have extremely high, normatively defined goals as outcomes of the Afghanistan mission. And then we have day-to-day – (inaudible). And somewhere in between, you lose the sense what was this all about. And even Struck today, I think he published his memoirs just the other week. He is not very eager to repeat this phrase over and over again.
I think the general mood now is that this doesn’t work. And the reason it is not working is because that is simply beyond the legitimate sphere. I am trying to interpret what the public thinks. It is beyond the legitimate sphere of military instrument. (Inaudible) – defense or we are getting – essentially, we are getting back to a more core definition of the instrument.
And a lot of people today, you can – Fran was mentioning the transformation index that I have been involved with. Whenever we discussed that, a lot of people said this is all fine, democracy and market economy. But, you know, let’s be realistic. We want stability. We want no aggression. We want to be left alone. And if over the longer term things go in a good direction, that is the best possible outcome that we can achieve. And probably we need a security strategy that would fit into this kind of vision of a world to say well, security needs to protect us, military instruments need to protect us from the worst happening. But apart from that, hands off. This is no good.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you very much. Let’s get our audience involved now. Harlan, please introduce yourself.
Q: I am Harlan Ullman at the Atlantic Council. Can you hear in the back? First, I really want to congratulate and thank the panel for a very sophisticated and, I think, quite accurate assessment. If I had to critique it, I would just critique it on the grounds of your stunning optimism. (Laughter.)
So in that context, let me ask a couple very brief questions. It seems to me that the term political will is really a measure of symptoms and in many ways, it is disinformation. The issue is relevance. And the question that I have raised is how do you make the alliance relevance in a sense that is politically acceptable? It is happening right now over the strategic concept. So if you had a relevance index, what would be the key metric in that?
Second, to what degree about how Afghanistan ends is it likely to affect NATO? So what is a best case in Afghanistan for helping NATO? What is a worst case? And finally, nobody discussed either the regional aspects of Afghanistan, in particular, Pakistan. I find it interesting that five years ago, SAC year – (inaudible) – was quick to go to Pakistan for the earthquake relief. The current SAC year – (inaudible) – has been prevented to go to Pakistan. And quite frankly, NATO’s assistance to Pakistan has been – let me just put it as politely as I can – marginal. So I would like to ask those three questions.
MS. BURWELL: Kurt, would you like to start?
MR. VOLKER: Let’s see if I can remember all three now. I didn’t jot them all down. But first off, I think the relevance question really, if you had to give an honest answer, is jobs. If NATO could create jobs in Europe, it would become relevant. (Laughter.) And short of that, I am not sure it is going to get there.
Our publics, European publics do not feel a security problem. They feel – well, they are feeling lots of security problems about their personal well-being, but not related to an external threat. It is all about what is happening inside the country. And if NATO can’t deal with that, it is going to be on the sidelines – maybe not forever. Maybe something will come up where people will turn back to it if we can keep it alive until then, but it is not on anyone’s front burner right now.
On Pakistan, I completely agree. I think that we have been way to Afghan-centric in our approach and our thinking. Our concepts have gone wider, but our execution hasn’t. It is hard, obviously, for a variety of – you know Pakistan very well, how hard it is. But if we can’t actually deal with the issue as a region, but only as an Afghanistan-focused operation, we are not going to be successful in this.
Finally, what would be the best-case scenario? The best-case scenario would be to shift the balance – this is largely what Josef said, by the way – to shift the balance between what is seen as a principally military-led effort with a need for short-term results to one that is a long-term regional strategy focused on political relationships, trade and economic routes, business developments so people have jobs, lifting society a bit, in which the military doesn’t go away. It is going to be necessary. But if we can get that to the background at a level that is sustainable and take a much longer-term view, that would be the best-case scenario.
Unfortunately, I think we are not quite there yet, even in terms of our political will and commitment. But that would be the way out.
MS. BURWELL: Rafael?
MR. BARDAJI: I don’t know if I agree entirely with Kurt. I think NATO is good at what it is as a military machine. So from the public perspective, I think there is nothing more successful than success, military success actually. The problem is that the political realm doesn’t allow NATO to have military success or active one. So the problem is not in NATO or in the military. The problem is that we don’t have the leaders in Europe, at least, strong enough to come and to give the orders to win at whatever cost. So we have, we can say, decaffeinated leaders. We are lacking the traditional European strong ones, okay?
On Pakistan, I think that is also confusing. It has a confusing effect on the public support for NATO in Afghanistan because yeah, it is very complicated. When we went to help the relief after the earthquake – I was involved in the decision making – we did that unfortunately as a kind of proliferation exercise. And at the end of the day, it was very expensive. Nobody wanted to pay for it. I mean, Spain paid a lot of millions just for sending tents and little else. So I think people have second thoughts on if we should engage again in that kind of exercises.
But again, if we define our major threat and enemy as al-Qaida, people will say, what should we do in the next year in Afghanistan? Can we – (inaudible)? You know better than me. So I think we must be careful in what kind of debates are projected into the public if we want to get some kind of military relevance for an organization, which up to now is basically a military one.
MS. BURWELL: Josef, if you were designing a new index on relevance, would it be jobs or military success that you would put there for NATO?
MR. JANNING: I have been thinking about that actually. I think in the moment, it is very hard to give a good answer to that because relevance is not absolute. It is always very relative what is relevant at a given point. Probably the jobs answer, as cynical as it may sound, it does have something. Unfortunately, for example, the job argument hinders that the defense ministers actually put their deeds where their mouth is. Again, they said well, we will open a new chapter of defense cooperation, of procurement cooperation. They will not because of the petty little concerns of the shipbuilding industry, of the armored vehicle manufacturers and so on.
But all of the new jobs, the 10,000 here or 5,000 there that are associated to that will reliably prevent to do what is absolutely necessary to do and what is already on the table for 25 years and hasn’t been properly addressed other than by projects of all sorts.
So for that matter, that is why it is a very good question because what you need to do to make it relevant is extremely hard to say. Probably if we were all much more intelligent and our communication skills were much more developed, we would be able to actually communicate to the public where the big challenges are, what actually comes if certain developments continue on for 10 years, so people can imagine what kind of world we are entering. I think the strongest relevance argument in the old times was the existence of a credible threat, at least one that appeared very credible. I think that was the hardest criterion for that.
One word on Pakistan. I think the optimal outcome of Afghanistan in light of developments in Pakistan would be a phasing out of NATO without Afghanistan falling apart. With a somehow, you know, suboptimal functioning state, but anyway, no breakout of new violence, okay? There will be all kind of activities, of commercial activities and administrative activities we don’t like. But they happen against a facade of formal stability in a certain sense. That would buy us some time that we have lost on Pakistan, not over the past years, but over the past decades.
I think this is something we are learning always. Whenever states get into trouble or societies get under such social stress as Pakistan is for the past 20, 30 years, we have already lost because we don’t engage early on. We don’t engage on the first signs. That is not our mood of interfering with other people’s lives very early on. So mostly we are limited to realizing that we come in in a situation where a situation has already deteriorated to a degree that it is a hard security issue for us. But our soft security instruments come too late. And when we are in that trap, you say, well, what at least can we do after not having done the right things in the first place and we get into this kind of muddle of policies that we are now contemplating about in the case of Afghanistan.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Second question down here in the front.
Q: Hi, I am Edgar Buckley from Thales Company, formerly of NATO in some capacity or other. And I was wondering why I had been invited here, but now I know. I have been invited here to tell you that you are all wrong. I have never heard such pessimistic opinions put forward as a kind of a consensus.
I think you are forgetting what NATO has achieved. I think you are forgetting what NATO is. NATO is not a military alliance. NATO is a political-military alliance. We didn’t do what we did in Eastern Europe with tanks and aircraft. We did it through political rapprochement. And the work we did in those countries is the most important thing which has happened in Europe in the last 100 years. We have ratcheted a situation, which will never go back to where it was.
We have very important political stakes in the security of Europe. So far as Afghanistan is concerned, NATO has still, despite the mistakes that have been made, a very high moral authority. We raised to a challenge, which was necessary. First of all, we responded when the United States was attacked. We put our name as an alliance on the line. And subsequently after the United States asked NATO to come in and do some of the nation-restoring effort necessary, we put a lot of people out there. We lost lives. We spent a hell of a lot of money.
We may not – this is hard, by the way. You don’t do counterinsurgency and stability operations and expect to finish them in a year or two. It takes 10 years to succeed in these things. And if you listen to the experts who have studied these things over the years, you have got to be in this for the long term and you have got to expect your successes to come little by little and looking back rather than looking at the thing on a day-to-day basis.
So whatever happens in Afghanistan, NATO, I think, will have a continuing relevance. What is going wrong with NATO is we are absolutely failing to communicate. I worked with the arch-communicator, Alastair Campbell, when he was in Downing Street. His expression was if you don’t like what is in the news, put something else in it. (Laughter.) That is what we are getting wrong. We are not – we haven’t decided what it is that we want in the news. We are not getting it there.
But were we to do that and coming back to what Kurt said about the strategic concept. I absolutely agree that this strategic concept, despite the work that has been done in the Atlantic Council, has not yet latched on to the next big idea. In my opinion, the next big idea for NATO is that it should work with others to address global challenges. That is what we need to do. If you asked the people in Washington or London or Berlin what they are worried about, they are not worried about Russians coming over the hill. They are worried about global security. They are worried about climate change. They are worried about disaster management and all these sorts of things. So I agree with – (inaudible) – on this.
We have got to have a new big idea to sustain our relevance. I think that is what it is.
MS. BURWELL: Well, thank you very much for that burst of optimism and reminding us all actually of the success story that NATO has been and that we actually went through a debate like this in the early ‘90s, where a lot of people argued for the disbandment of the alliance because after all, raison d’être was gone. And then we saw it reinvent itself as, shall we say, a military socialization tool in Central Europe and a democratization tool as well.
So I wanted to ask the panel if they would like to comment on is it just a matter of changing the press? And do they agree with the assessment that this is where the failure is, that we are getting things right or as right as can be done, but we just don’t have the press? And what does that do for NATO’s future? And then I think this big idea, there is a lot of soft security, if I can use that, in what Edgar has said. And that runs straight into where the EU wants to play a role, what these other organizations are working with the U.N. These have not been easy for NATO in the past. Can we get them right in the future?
So Kurt, perhaps you would like to start.
MR. VOLKER: Sure. I will take up three things. First off, I agree with Edgar about NATO’s historic achievements and successes. Of course, we were successful when you and I and Damon were all there. (Laughter.) But since then – (inaudible, laughter). No, but you do have all those historic achievements.
But to connect to your second point then about communications, it is not that we haven’t changed the story. We don’t know what the story is. That is the problem that our countries, our alliance grapples with. Our leaders, Europe, America and elsewhere, they don’t have their arms around this. What is the challenge that our societies together as a community are facing in the world and how are we going to deal with this?
I was here a week ago and was asked a question. I again rather flippantly answered, I am afraid, that, you know, if I had to make one recommendation about the Lisbon Summit, what would it be? And I said throw out the agenda and just lock the leaders in a room for three hours and then they start talking to each other and start strategizing about what is this world that we are living in because we haven’t had those kinds of thought processes going on in the alliance at that level for a very long time. So communications, I think, has to follow the idea.
Now, on the big idea that you cite, there is something to that. There is something to that. I am going to tie it in in a different way. There is currently an article on foreignpolicy.com. I forget the author’s name, so I apologize to whoever that may be, especially if you are here. (Laughter.) But the point of the article was that our media focuses often on the Middle East and often on the wars that are out there. And we have not spent much time talking or covering what has happened in Asia over the last decade. And China has very quietly become the world’s second sea power and is well on the way to being parity with the U.S., at least in that part of the world.
The question is what does that mean and how do we deal with that? There isn’t a lot of discussion of this. Match that with a quote from Ben Rhodes who is a deputy national security advisor, which I saw this morning saying that the U.S. intends very much to focus more on Asia. That is a strategic direction of the United States. It is not an accident. It is going to happen. And then Samuelson’s (ph) comment from this morning, which was that yes, work with China, but that may mean – (inaudible) – or at least trade conflict is what he was thinking of because you can’t let China set the new rules.
So there is a wider world aspect to what our countries and societies are dealing with. We ought to as a trans-Atlantic community want to deal with this together. And we ought to want to do it based on the rules, the norms, the laws, the standards, the values that have made the international environment that we have lived in and benefited from as successful as it is. That is not necessarily a NATO function, although NATO certainly could be part of our thought process in that.
It is, however – I am becoming very French here – when you get away from talking about NATO, when you talk about the alliance, it is something that our countries really ought to put as a top priority.
MS. BURWELL: Thanks. Rafael, how does this look in the Spanish environment?
MR. BARDAJI: Well, first of all, I am not an archaeologist or a historian, so the past successes is fine, but are not really very relevant to the future. I mean, dinosaurs were very successful until they were extinct. NATO could follow the same path, I am afraid, NATO and other organizations. You mentioned the global issue is to work in cooperation with others. With whom? I mean, we have spent how many years trying to reach an agreement with the European Union. And if we reach one, it will be when the European Union decides that it has no strategic ambition whatsoever.
European nation – well, okay, we have – (inaudible) – our communication in Afghanistan to avoid major – but it is not an agreement we are really – I mean, who are the partners of NATO in the next decade? (Inaudible) – I mean, who they are? The Chinese? The Saudis? Russia? Maybe. But that is a different totally NATO landscape, I think. So I am not sure. I mean, of course, it is not 100 percent military. I mean, as far as the military, it is not isolated from the political realm since – (inaudible) – we know that.
But the thing is we can be successful in clandestinity (sic), but I don’t think that will sustain NATO budget and public opinion support. Beyond that, the leaders – Spain is now a different country. We are in a different galaxy. But if you talk to the French, the Italians, to Cameroon people, even to the Germans, you see that there is no same personal ties and commitment to the Atlantic project. And we also feel that America is drifting away from Europe, rightly so. So it is very difficult to be convinced and somebody who has to – (inaudible) – the future. (Inaudible) – German – (inaudible). So we were chatting. Oh, you went to Russia? I had gone to a NATO conference. He said, what? A NATO conference. I explained to him what NATO was and said it is – (inaudible) – organization. I mean, it could be a lunatic (ph).
There is a generation of people in Europe who has no experience in what NATO has achieved and has many doubts of what it could achieve in the future because I know anything about – (inaudible). It is a problem of communication, but I think it is a problem of values and culture deeper than just public media relations problem.
MS. BURWELL: I am going to come back to you on this, Josef. But we have quite a number of people who have asked questions, so I want to get a couple more questions out on – and even more are putting their hands up now. So we are going to steamroller through some of these. Julian?
Q: Thank you, Fran. Julian Lindley-French. I think we are now getting to the what is NATO for after Afghanistan question, which to me is what this day is about. I agree with you, Edgar. NATO’s management role is crucial. But I wonder if there is sufficient political will as we approach this concept to address the really fundamental question, which is are we going to permit NATO to prepare to fight a future war, to think about future war, to think about its role in future war and prepare to – (inaudible) – because the paradox for Europeans is that as we have less and less money, NATO becomes more important as the aggregator of efficiency.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. And then we have someone in the back in the blue shirt with the mustache.
Q: I was taken with the chair’s question –
MS. BURWELL: Could you introduce yourself?
Q: Joe Collins – is that on, by the way? Joe Collins from the National War College. I was taken with the chair’s question about the utility of force and the general agreement in the panel that what we were doing was not working and that force didn’t seem to have in Afghanistan the same kind of utility as people had hoped for.
My mind immediately reversed the question. And I said, I wonder what the Taliban think of that. Do they think that the use of force in Afghanistan has waning utility? And so my question for the panel is, is this a general phenomenon or is it connected with the fact that about oh, at least 80 percent of the NATO participants in Afghanistan have done by virtue of policy all that they can do to avoid using force under almost any conditions and that the burden of the fight has fallen on probably six nations?
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. And let’s get one more. Right here in the front. Can we get the microphone down here?
Q: Thank you. Boyko Noev, former Bulgarian government and now also with the Atlantic Council. I have a short comment and a question for the panel. I think that when we talk about Afghan-centrism as one of the problems of our policy towards solving the problem and we have mentioned only Pakistan, I think that it is much more geopolitical. There are more players in the world who are not happy with NATO and who would like NATO to fail. And there are also others who would like the U.S. – (inaudible) – as the U.S.
I think that these factors should be taken into account. I believe that if our leaders take a decision to leave Afghanistan tomorrow, there will be countries in the region who will suffer from that much more. We will have a political defeat, but others will have physical – (inaudible). And I think that they will have to bring that. We don’t know about if India, Russia, et cetera, et cetera, and not too many of the Gulf states as well.
And my question to the panel is that. And I believe the strategic communication is one of the problems that we have with our publics. If you were your leaders at the summit – and Kurt and Rafael have been in government and you can easily get into that and I don’t know about Josef – if you were the leaders at the summit, what would be the message you would send in the Afghan context? Thank you.
MS. BURWELL: So will NATO fight wars in the future and what kind? Will they be effective when looked at from the Taliban perspective? And how do we explain this to our publics at the summit? Josef, you get the first go.
MR. JANNING: To get back on the East-West conflict side, I think we should keep the record straight. If NATO hadn’t been a credible military and had that effective alliance, all of our political messages and talks wouldn’t have helped us much. That is my reading of it. And there we had a military alliance and the center and a shared purpose, a sense of purpose and a practice, a political practice around it. I think that was the winning combination.
And there I think Kurt’s statement applies. Since we don’t know what the story is, we find it very hard to create this sense of common purpose around it, which is something that we need in the political field in order to build cases and to build a strong political statement. So I think that is the key issue we are facing there.
And there I see actually Europe and the United States and Europe and America, for that matter, drifting further apart. When you were mentioning Asia, this is one of the cases where we are drifting because Europe does not have an Asia strategy. China is not looking at Europe as its principal competitor in power terms. China is looking at the United States exclusively. And the United States looks at China in a way that doesn’t factor in Europe other than saying well, they should not be disturbing. They should be cooperative and in line, which the Europeans by and large are ever since we are not talking about lifting the arms embargo anymore and things like that.
And I think the use of force still is understood by many within NATO as an effective instrument. And we know that where force is applied, it does achieve its military targets most of the time – not always, but most of the time. But what it doesn’t deliver is the kind of – the whole goal set of perspectives that we have been opening up not only to our own publics, but to the international community about what we are going to achieve. The use of force does not deliver.
And we don’t have – at least as I see from a European perspective – a commonly shared concept, a robust concept of when and how we will be using our effective military means that would at the same time require members to actually cut down on the national caveats. That is very hard to do within the current alliance to have such a concept, to develop such a concept and say well, there will be situations where we will strike and we will strike hard and that will not be liked by publics. But we have a rationale, which we can give why we are doing this and why we do not believe that by striking militarily, we will solve all kinds of social, economic and cultural problems that may be very relevant in such a conflict at the time.
But we are limiting our energy at that point to achieving this specific outcome that requires military needs and we will deal with the rest thereafter.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Kurt, how about that? Are we going to use military force in that kind of way or will NATO become more along the lines of what Edgar suggested, which is a cooperative entity with other organizations?
MR. VOLKER: Well, to be fair, I mean, Edgar did not say NATO has no military role.
MS. BURWELL: No, he did not. Let’s be fair.
MR. VOLKER: All he did was highlight that it plays also a political role, which I agree with. I think that it does play a political role. We need to see it that way and use it. But I think that military capacity underneath that is essential.
When I talked about strategy in Afghanistan, it wasn’t in the absence of military force. It was the use of force in a context that is sustainable in our societies and can have the desired long-term effect. Edgar talked in terms of 10 years, which I think is right as a minimum, at a minimum. But the idea is you don’t draw a limitation on a quick win militarily because that is not going to happen. You have to use force patiently in a wider context.
Quick word on Julian’s point. I have never seen reductions in budgets result in closer cooperation and efficiency. I have only see increases in efficiency go hand and hand with increases in spending. So I don’t think it is going to happen.
Q: It is going to happen.
MR. VOLKER: You think it is? And he is speaking from a man who has his finger on the contracts.
Q: Three weeks’ time.
MR. VOLKER: Three weeks’ time. All right. (Laughter.) And can I just add one – there is Boyko’s point. First off, on the region, I agree with you. It is not just Pakistan. It is much wider than that. And the message, it is a hard thing to say. I mean, if it were me, which is probably why I am not an elected official, I would say we are in this to win. It is what Petraeus said. We are in this to win. We are not going to win. There is no quick fix here. But we can’t afford to live in a world where extremists will take over a society, impose human rights abuses on the women and children there, give a shot in the arm to extremists who want to do harm to us and meanwhile will undermine societies in a whole arc around the world. We can’t afford that.
We have to stick with this. It is not going to be quick. It is not going to be painless. But that is what our commitment to each other should be about in shaping the world we are going to live in for the generations ahead of us.
MS. BURWELL: Rafael, brief comment – (inaudible, cross talk).
MR. BARDAJI: Yeah, real quickly on the utility of force. I mean, it is not right to do – (inaudible) – special operation first commander in NATO. I believe strongly in the use of force. The problem is sometimes we do it in the wrong way or we don’t allow the Soviets to use the force in appropriate manner. I think in Afghanistan that the case in many quarters (ph). For instance, Spanish troops are there almost with the same rules of engagement that we were in Bosnia. That is totally wrong in my own opinion.
On the political ability of NATO to place itself as an actor in the global scene, I have many doubts. When we had the economic crisis, we didn’t resort to NATO. We went to the G-20, whatever that means. We have to deal with global environment change. We go to the panel in the United Nations. I think – (inaudible) – Europe, at the least, there is no political will to place NATO as a collective decision maker for the future if that is the case.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Right here.
Q: Ioan Pascu, European Parliament. Two points. One is relating to the fact that the EU does not have an Asia strategy, but some member countries have. And there is a division of labor. You know, EU is the bad cop and the individual countries compete to be the good cop in terms of relations with China.
So second thing is, you know, I do not feel, I do not think, I do not see that the leaders are really contemplating to formulate, to educate, to shape the opinions of the people, but rather to follow it. This is the quickest way especially now during crisis. So therefore, you know, I do not have high expectations of what they will communicate and how they will communicate. They will go with the minimum damage to their own position, stance and everything. So I think, you know, this is also to be taken into account. Thank you.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Let’s pick up one more.
Q: Sebastian Gorka, National Defense University and Atlantic Council advisors group. I would also like to key off Mr. Buckley as the touch paper here. I spent the last 12 years in Central Europe. And the idea that things are irreversible in Central Europe is a dangerous idea. I don’t think that is the case.
But the idea that the advice that Mr. Campbell gave you that if you don’t like the news, then put something else in the news. I think the prerequisite for that is you have to agree what you want to put in the news. And if Brussels can’t agree because some countries are doing counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, some are doing humanitarian operations, then there is nothing to put in the news because you are talking across purposes.
So my question to the panel would be if all that you said is true, this very pessimistic outlook, does that mean we are simply a victim of external factors? Does it mean that without an agreed existential political military threat shared by all of the states we are doomed to irrelevance for the time being?
MS. BURWELL: Thank you. Let’s get one more. Back here in the blue shirt.
Q: Thank you. My name is David Nikuradze. I represent Georgian Television Network, Rustavi, between Washington. NATO’s secretary general is visiting Georgia this week.
MS. BURWELL: Can you put the mike –
Q: NATO’s secretary general is visiting Georgia this week. As we understand, the main issue of discussion will be Afghanistan operation. But my question is about Georgia’s membership. Do you think that alliance enlargement agenda is still on the table in Brussels? Thank you.
MS. BURWELL: So shall we start with Josef for this?
MR. JANNING: With just a word on the last remark, I think the enlargement issue is still on the table, but the table is very large. It has parts of the table where you put things that are on the table, but not in sight. That is how I read the current enlargement debate within NATO. And there is, of course, significant difference among member states on the issue.
I don’t think that any country in Central Europe is in any way likely to return what existed before ‘89, which is not to say that governments won’t necessarily be stable, economic development will always be very positive, social stability will always be what it is now. So there is potential for significant political crisis. But I do not see a return to anything in the direction of the pre-1990 situation.
So far, I think we have prevailed for good. This chapter has ended. Let me just say this about that. But in a way – and that relates to the comment about the leaders – that does not give us automatically a sense of direction, a sense of political courage or a sense of leadership because if you look back to it, I mean, hindsight, you have many actors who said they knew it all along and they had worked for it openly and silently. But in the situation, we did what we did and we are lucky that the outcome was what it was.
It is not that we were twisting the arms of others with our courageous political concept in such a way that they had no other choice but to go the way that they went. We were lucky that all of the new members of NATO, of the European Union and East, Central Europe were longing to go where they went when they had the opportunity. And we contributed to that, but we did not contribute in such a way that without us and without our determination, it would never have happened.
I am quite with you to say without the existence of a credible defense force, the circumstances might not have arrived, probably would not have arrived. But at the time, our leaders did not bring this change about, but they made it possible to happen in the way they did. And so this is a rather mixed message. When you look at political tensions unfolding, possibly unfolding in Asia, looking at the way that China asserts its interest in its own environment, the way that the Chinese deal with a crisis that has to do with territorial claims or even minor violations of territorial claims, we can see that there could be hardball being the game to be played in the future.
And I ask myself what would any of the European members of NATO be able to do in this kind of context? How would we be able to shape Chinese perspectives and perceptions and the way that they would react to such a crisis? I don’t see that. I think the best – and this sets us apart clearly from the United States. The best options that we have is to actively engage and consistently engage in those societies also around China, many of whom have sizable Chinese minorities, many of whom have a record of anti-Chinese sentiments, in order to encourage them to deal wisely with a China that is the way it is and that continues to be the way it is.
And so I think that would be the best European option that we have while the power game and the balancing game is something that the United States has a vital interest in contemplating its options and the Europeans have not. We don’t have the means. We don’t have the interest. We will not have the means. It is very hard to say what we are to gain in such a process. So I would opt for an entirely different strategy on Asia for that matter.
MS. BURWELL: Let me, in asking Kurt and Rafael to wrap up, underscore what was said earlier about Pakistan and also our Georgia colleague’s question, not so much on enlargement, but Sebastian Gorka’s comment about external circumstances. As NATO reaches out more to Pakistan or some argue that it should be more involved in Pakistan, as we look at the experience of August ’08, are we in the future setting NATO up to be even more hostage of external circumstances that we cannot not only not control, but not predict?
I mean, as you go beyond the European, you know, an in-area defensive alliance to a more deployable alliance, is that just the risk you take? Or is it something that we have to deal with when we think about political will in the future post-Afghanistan? Kurt?
MR. VOLKER: Setting NATO up, I mean, the world is the way it is, so you either deal with it or you don’t. You know, if you try to deal with it, that is what you have got. So the question is do we have a common approach, common perspective as a community? We want to try to address these external challenges or we just find it too daunting right now because of our multiple domestic problems. I think that is where we are, but that is maybe not where we should be as many people have focused on leadership.
Rafael, I think you are absolutely right. We don’t have it right now. But that would be the first step to articulating a common vision, which then gets you to the communications point and hopefully – (inaudible) – resources and all. But we are so far from that right now. It is shocking. Sebastian’s other point was about retrogression in Central Europe. I think what he is referring to is not pre-1989, but pre-1940. And I think we have to watch that.
And on Georgia, let me just say that NATO will never take membership off the table. In fact, it can’t. It is part of the treaty. Gultan (ph) – (inaudible) – we are open to new members. It is for the new members or the aspiring members to do what they need to do to make themselves a credible, strong contributor to an alliance. This is what the Baltic States succeeded at very, very well. Even as small countries, they got their houses in order and they made the case for themselves.
It is going to be much harder in the case of Georgia because the appetite in NATO right now is not very high, whether it is the United States or Germany or many other European countries. There is just no appetite to take this on for a variety of reasons, some of which are Russia specific, some are Georgia specific, some are because we are still swallowing the last enlargements, including in the EU, which has caused a sense of exhaustion within the EU about enlargement.
But to turn it back to Georgia, the smart thing to do is not to look for the decision point on enlargement, but rather to do everything possible domestically to make the strongest possible country and the strongest possible case, so that it can be considered in the future.
MS. BURWELL: Rafael?
MR. BARDAJI: Yeah, let me just add finally a little more confusion on the debate. I think one of the key issues we had been through Europe in the last two years has been a kind of renationalization of decision making, particularly because of the economic crisis. This is going to affect also the decision making of security and within NATO. And this is a challenge we will have to face, whether with or without Afghanistan in mind.
And if I were, again, back as a national security advisor, were asked what our – (inaudible) – should be put, I would say okay, I have doubts. We have doubts. I don’t know if you put everything in NATO or you have to make other arrangement with other countries. It is difficult to say. So I think this renationalization is going to be with us for good or bad and is actually going to affect the collective decision making.
MS. BURWELL: Thank you very much. With apologies to the many people who still have questions, we do have to close this session because we have a rather brief coffee break. I think although this session perhaps has not produced a definitive word on what the alliance’s political role will look like post-Afghanistan, I think it has laid out some challenges and I hope given everyone fodder for discussion for the rest of the day. So thank you very much to our panelists and thank you to all of you.