Full transcript of the fourth panel at the 2011 Atlantic Council Missile Defense Conference.
Annual Conference on Trans-Atlantic Missile Defense Phase II and the Lead-Up to the NATO Chicago Summit
European Views on Trans-Atlantic Missile Defense
Former Minister of Defense of Bulgaria
Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique
Royal United Services Institute
Director of Foreign Policy and Defence,
Centre for European Reform
Senior Lecturer in International Relations,
School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent at Canterbury
Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2011
Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Federal News Service
BOYKO NOEV: And would you – would you press the green light button so we (start ?)? OK, thank you.
MR. BRZEZINSKI : (Off mic) – launch.
MR. NOEV: So thank you, everybody, for staying after lunch. And I think that this panel, one of the things why it would be different from the previous one is that – at least having mine myself – I’m a very responsible people because I’m not in government and I understand none of the participants is directly related to government job, so we can speak whatever we want without any –
So we have a distinguished panel of independent people who speak their minds. And again, what is different from the previous ones is that we have a lady with us. And I’m not – I’m not – I don’t count Ellen Tauscher, which is different case.
So you have the bios and CVs of the participants here in the – in the folders that were outside, so you can have a more detailed impression of who is who here. Some of the – some of the participants have taken the floor before. Remember Bruno was here on a similar occasion.
So I would suggest that – and of course we heard a lot this morning about a U.S. approach, about NATO approaches, about what people believe are the European approaches on missile defense, on EPAA. And I hope that now, within the framework that we have left, our distinguished panelists might give further depth into how Europe and important allies like Turkey, France, U.K., and others can contribute to and how they perceive EPAA.
So if you allow me, I will give the floor first to Gülnur Aybet, a senior lecturer in Kent University and elsewhere. She has a distinguished long scientific research career. So it – nice to be with us today. And please, tell us what you think about EPAA.
GÜLNUR AYBET: OK. Well, thank you very much for the introduction.
I’m going to talk not just about EPAA but Turkey and EPAA and Turkey-NATO-U.S. relations in a much more general way.
Now, when it actually comes to missile defense, when you look at it from Turkey, everybody has their own story to tell. And, in fact, there are so many stories, you wonder which one is the right one. So I thought it was quite a challenge when I was asked to speak specifically about Turkish perspectives. If there is an official one, it’s rather murky and not very clear, and all the unofficial views constantly challenge each other.
But I also find that nowadays, not just in missile defense, in any other issue area, it’s very difficult sometimes, when you are an outsider, to read Turkey. So I thought this would be a good opportunity also to sort of clarify a few things of what’s going on.
And I thought the best way to do this is to start off with some of the official lines that are coming out from Turkey with regards to missile defense. This was helpful to me because I was trying to understand what they meant. And then I tried to sort of analyze them and look at some of the challenges posed by some of the things that Turkey, officially, as a government, has emphasized with regards to missile defense.
The first thing, I think, that we can read between the lines is a concern about short- and long-term threat perceptions. And the positive gloss that Turkey officially has put on missile defense is as a tool for narrowing the gap in threat perception. So, in fact – I mean, the official line is that the missile defense system should reinforce alliance defense with a long-term vision of contributing to a common perception of security around the alliance.
Now, that’s a very positive attitude towards it. And I think where it comes from is basically the recent sort of speculations about whether Turkey is indeed shifting east, where does its relationship with NATO lie, what is the future of the Turkish-U.S. relationship. So I think by making – putting this positive aspect officially on the missile defense system, Turkey is actually saying, yes, we do value the trans-Atlantic partnership, but beyond that, we actually see it as a tool to have this common perception of security around the alliance. And we’ve heard a lot of this this morning as well; you know, the missile defense system being a political tool for alliance solidarity.
Now, I have, personally – and these are my personal views – a few problems with that, because when we look at it as a long-term glue binding the alliance together, how can a piece of hardware, as far as I see it, do that without an accompanying doctrine?
Now, during the Cold War, I saw a lot of parallels here with the cruise and Pershing deployments in the 1980s, which also had a lot of military as well as political implications for alliance solidarity. And when we look at the Cold War deployments of cruise and Pershing, both had immediate and long-term threat perceptions, political as well as military implications.
But the deployment of that particular hardware was actually tied to a very clear doctrine. There was such a thing as extended deterrence. I think Europeans hope there still is. There was a concept of ladders of escalation, and European leaders at the time believe that a rung on the ladder had just gone missing with the Soviet deployment of the SS-20. So that strategic doctrine actually enabled the alliance to have a common vision and a long-term one at the time that was linked to the deployment of a certain system.
Now, I think the problem with the present missile defense system, it is not accompanied by such a clear-cut strategic doctrine. Therefore, how it should become a tool for narrowing down the gap in long-term threat perceptions is unclear. I can understand the military reasons and imperative for putting it in place, but in terms of a long-term strategic doctrine, it’s not as robust as the one that we had in 1983.
Now, the second thing that came out was that I found that the way that you look at the positioning of the radar in Turkey and all the various agreements, disagreements, negotiations that took place in backchannels – which I was not privy to, so I had no idea what was discussed and how the decision was in fact reached that Turkey should host this radar system, but I know that the decision was not reached easily; it was quite painful. And it was also a very crucial time in the way Turkey presented it to its own public.
Now, one thing that Turkey did insist upon at the time was that – of the Lisbon summit is that we shouldn’t name specific names in the threat. So Iran as a specific threat was not mentioned. But then, when you think about it, where you position the radar sort of indicates where the threat might likely come from. So it was, you know, I think a successful political diplomatic maneuvering, but when you actually look at the facts, that’s what it is.
But beyond that, beyond this political papering over of naming threats, I think the naming of threats is also very much dependent on different views on deterrence theory within the alliance. How do different countries view deterrence?
And I think this is quite crucial where Turkey and the U.S., I think, were able to look at things in a very similar way because the – in a different way, I suppose, from France who was probably much more keen to have the threat spelled out. And my French colleague can agree or disagree with me on that, but my reading of the French position goes back to an announcement made by Jacques Chirac in 2006 when he made a clear signal to the Iranians. And at the time, I was on sabbatical in Oxford, and there was a prominent French journalist sitting next to me. I said, why did he say that when the European three are trying to negotiate? And the journalist said to me, well, because Iran was being very vague and a very specific signal had to be sent out when a country is being vague. And to me, that sounded (frighteningly ?) similar like Cold War deterrence – you know, the way we were treating the Soviet Union. And I said, does Iran really sort of understand the signals the way the Soviets did? I mean, that seems very sort of rigid to me.
So I think that was the French position that there seems to be a much more religious tie to classic deterrence outlooks than the United States who probably see – and I’m just guessing here – the missile defense system as something that is usable as a threat emerges, rather than signifying a political signal to a specific threat. And I think this difference is very important because Turkey has emphasized over and over again that the missile defense system should be based on generic security perceptions and long-term ones.
So this is also – coincides with the NATO view that there is ongoing proliferation and you can’t just build a missile defense system for a couple of years, scrap it and then put it somewhere. So the long-term implications, I think, are something there, and the generic threats both are things that Turkey did not really have a problem with coming onboard. So I think that was important.
What is – what is crucial here, I think, is the very long term. We don’t know – beyond Iran, which is the unmentionable threat, we don’t know who will have access to missile technology 10 years from now. I don’t know; maybe some people in this room do; I don’t. It does not mean that every state with missile capability will be a threat; it’s also about intentions as well as capabilities.
So (I ?) think somewhere down the road, will Turkey’s perceptions of what constitutes an immediate threat, will that differ from some of the other countries in the alliance? And I think this is going to be something that is going to be a challenge down the road.
Another thing that came out of the Turkish emphasis was the emphasis on global threats rather than regional ones and the fact that the missile defense system is purely defensive. And this was sort of reiterated – if you do a discourse analysis, the word “defensive” was used so many times on official papers, and the word “global.” So I – sort of just looking at that, I realized that this was kind of important for the Turkish government to put that forward.
The other thing that was interesting was this insistence in all the official Turkish documents of NATO solidarity and indivisibility of security. And at first, I didn’t quite understand this at all. And I tried to read between the lines, talk to various people, go back and understand how all of these systems worked and so forth.
Turkey was very interested to see more fair risk of burden-sharing among allies. And I think the concern – this is my reading of it – is that Turkey did not wish to become a front-line country as they had done during the Cold War. And there was a concern that the radar would make them the front-line in defense.
And there was – it’s been an issue very difficult to explain and sell to the public, especially with regards to two things: Is all of Turkey territory – is all of Turkish territory covered? I think we’ve got a clear answer about that now. But it’s a shame that it wasn’t made clear earlier on.
And also, I’m going to come to the situation with Israel, so where – you know, where does that lead us?
So it did actually within NATO make sense. At some point, it was talked that you shouldn’t cover everywhere; only high-value capitals and strategic assets should be covered. And the Turks were very upset about that; they insist on the indivisibility of security. But I think, you know, by the time Lisbon had been agreed to and the deal had been agreed, that was all taken care of.
Now, another aspect that’s interesting is the way recently Turkey has seen a new value in NATO for its own regional security interest regardless of all the difficulties. And this is because Turkey, I think, views NATO as a new tool of multilateralism for its own national interests in the region. I see a parallel there with Libya and with missile defense.
With Libya, I think NATO – with Libya, the Turkish position was read rather erroneously by one EU official who said, oh, yes, you always come up with some anti-Western rhetoric and then you just come onboard Western consensus at the end. And I said, well, no, actually, that’s not what happened; Turkey was just following a very traditional foreign policy of being against any military intervention in the region and not partaking in it, but eventually, they decided to bring everything under the North Atlantic Council and they pushed for this because they thought it would be better if it was all under NATO control than an ad hoc coalition using NATO assets.
So the way Turkey was able to sort of present it regionally seemed much better under NATO, and NATO, in that sense, were the lesser of two evils in the Libyan case, and I think in the same with the missile defense case; putting it under NATO, the whole multilateral approach for Turkey is a very good thing. I mean, they see the value of that much better than the U.S.-led initiative. And I think in terms of legitimacy and how Turkey looks in the region, using NATO as a tool of multilateralism is very important. So I think on that level, we can see much more positive things.
Of course, there’s the military practical and immediate necessity of placing the radar in Turkey. There is no other choice in terms of location for the time being, especially if you want Phase 1 to go ahead, which it is. So in that context, you know, the deal had to be made.
But in the long term, also, Turkey has a strategic interest in being – becoming part of this missile defense system in NATO, but also part of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for its own interests, because it wants to build its own missile defense, and to do that, it can’t do it without the U.S. partnership.
And although politically, things have changed quite a lot in Turkey – and I’m not going to go into that; I’ll take more questions about that – I would say that in terms of national security issues, the military still holds a technocratic power. And I think their role in pushing for missile defense in terms of long-term Turkish national interest was very important.
Now, finally, I’m just going to come to this diagram – my thing is gone – so maybe I can just push it that way –
Now, I – just to sum up, I just want to explain where the Israel-U.S.-Russia – the whole thing lies. And Turkish foreign policy nowadays, as I mentioned, was kind of difficult to read. This forms part of a book I’m writing for the Wilson Center where I was a scholar up to about a year and a half ago, and it’s basically Turkey and the trans-Atlantic relationship. But I see Turkish foreign policy operating in three spears.
And so on one spear, you have the traditional trans-Atlantic security community where you have the old values and interests, which are very much tied to the Turkish goal of Westernization, which we can argue is probably not so much of a goal anymore. And within that, you see the old NATO relationship, the EU relationship, the – Turkey taking part in various NATO missions and also being very cautious over the Georgia issue with enlargement and so forth.
Then you have the second spear emerging where you have different values and interests based on ethnicity and religion. And in that context, I would put the popularity on the Arab street, the Israel-Palestine issue and even the Uighurs in China. There is a – I would say the second spear is more rhetoric than implementation.
And then you have the third spear where I would say it’s completely devoid of any values or interest; it’s pure interest, where you have national security, which is still driven by largely the technocratic power of the military, and then energy and trade, and I would put the relations with Russia, China and Iran in this context, not – and it’s – and people always tell me, why don’t you put Iran in the second one? No, Turkey’s relations with Iran are very much in the third one, which is why we can read the recent changes that people have been talking to me about; in actual fact, they’re not changes because Turkey has always had a very realistic view towards Iran. And I think this sort of rapprochement was keeping all energy options open; that’s what it was all about. It wasn’t cozying up to Iran for any other reason.
It’s interesting; with missile defense in post-Lisbon, I put USA in that category as well because I would say that the Turkish-U.S. relationship is very much to do with national security interests, especially when the military still hold this technocratic ownership over national security in the future. And that actually is separate from the more value-based NATO-EU relationship. And I think it was the realism of the long-term implications of the Turkey-U.S. relationship which drove Turkey, regardless of its regional rhetoric, to come onboard missile defense. And I think if we read it that way, we can understand it better.
Now, the little arrows going are the clashes that happen between the three spears. And this is inevitable; I mean, with Georgia, you see the clash with Russia, which is in the third spear. With the EU, you have the other clashes there with Iran. So there is – there are bound to be clashes. And my conclusion was that to minimize these clashes between the three spears, you need to continue with an internal democratization process in Turkey and a much more coherent trans-Atlantic strategy towards Turkey, which is lacking at the moment.
So, on that note, I’ll finish. Thank you.
MR. NOEV: Thank you very much, Gülnur. I have already questions, but I’ll leave them for a later time. And I’ll continue on the original sequence and I’ll give the floor to Bruno, who is one of the outstanding experts, French experts on missile defense. You’re not working for the government anymore.
BRUNO GRUSELLE: I’m not.
MR. NOEV: So you can – (inaudible).
MR. GRUSELLE: Yeah, I (feel free ?). I cannot compete with that kind of diagram, though. So I’ll try to be very short.
First, let me give you another view of what happened in Paris since the Lisbon summit.
The first thing – first important thing is that there was a lot of relief after the decision that was reached in Lisbon that our nuclear construct did not collapse the moment we accepted NATO to protect our territory and population, and it was a very important thing. From then – from there, actually, the executive branch sought to preserve out autonomy of decision in the command and control architecture of future missile defense systems. And the easiest – the most simple way to do that was to engage all of our efforts to focus our attention in negotiating command and control arrangements and rules of engagements and weapon release authority that would be acceptable from the point of view of our interests.
Meanwhile, the – (inaudible) – C2 actually received some attention from our policymakers. Some experts – I’m one of them – started to wonder if actually there was the centrality of command and control for a strategic posture, for position NATO was so important, and that maybe it was some interests to go further on asking about what contribution we could actually make and put on the table so as – so as to have a more central position in discussion in NATO.
And that brings me to the two questions that I was asked to answer today. Well, I will not try to answer them now; I’ll try to address them.
The first one is what I believe are the questions that will befall the discussion on C2 in the alliance. And if ever the French debate on that issue is of – is of any interest, there are two concerns that were voiced over and over – over and over by the security community in Paris.
The first one is actually – it’s been actually talked about this morning – is the fact that the Lisbon decision puts the extension of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Program at the heart of a future command and control system. And as we’ve seen this morning and it was repeated several times, the ALTBMD C2 will not be available before 2012 – 2018, sorry. But that’s a full six years from now. And in the meantime, the only available efficient operational system is the US C2BMC. And that has caused a lot of concern in Paris because people believe, right or wrong, that such a C2BMC operated by the U.S. will actually shut down, to some extent, the Europeans from the decision-making process. And that has caused, again, a lot of concern in Paris.
The second issue came from the nuclear community. And that was about the old concept of managing the ballistic battle. In other terms, nuclear community agreed on the Lisbon decision, from a French perspective, because there was an understanding that the mission statement of any missile defense capability in Europe would be minimal, which, in other term, could translate into the fact that the (main ?) missile defense system would be able to intercept a handful – few – conventionally-tipped ballistic missile, but anything beyond that would be left to the nuclear deterrence.
So, again, the – was a lot of concern voiced by the nuclear community on that issue, which actually brings me to another point, which is the fact that right now, there is – there is a real problem, a real issue with the old compromise that was made in France on the Lisbon decision, which was based on understanding by some of the part of the French community as being, again, minimal and having not so much of a – of an impact on our nuclear deterrence. And that, again, could actually change if NATO goes into a full-fledged active-layered missile defense to protect the Allied territory.
Which, again, brings me to the second question that was asked, which is about what contribution we could actually make to a missile defense system. That question is now on the table to Paris. And as an illustration of that, there was a report this summer by a group of senators in Paris which actually called for several concrete steps to be taken by the government on missile defense. I actually bring up three of them right now, which I think are of interest to the discussion.
The first one is the continuation of our (space-based ?), early warning efforts so as to provide a IOC – initial operational capability – by 2020, which is actually in line with what was planned in the 2008 defense white book. The second steps that they called for was the engagement of a research and development on a iendo (ph) and possibly exoatmospheric interception capability. And the third one was the continued modernization of our airspace command and control system to include the possibility of intercepting or at least managing ballistic missile threats.
The July report is actually report the first installment ever in Paris of a legislative paper that calls for concrete steps. And the fact that it was actually welcomed in the community with a lot of very – well, very – a lot of questions and a lot of concerns shows again that the compromise, the Lisbon compromise, is maybe not enough for us to continue and to propose something in the – in the – to the NATO community on missile defense.
And I must stress that with the coming and looming presidential election that will actually happen next May in France, the missile defense – the whole missile defense issue – the interest in missile defense issue in our political people has dropped dramatically. And you have to add to that the fact that any government that will be elected in May next year will have to face the necessity of a steep budget reduction. We – this morning, the discussion was about, is the U.S. going to spend 10 percent less in its – in its defense budget? The discussion in Paris is about – is about 20 percent or more of investment capability, and that’s a lot. And that means that our military have no interest at all in missile defense. All they’re interested in right now is to protect their own investment for much-needed capability – other capability.
So, again – and it has to be stressed as well that the team that will actually be elected in May will be only days fresh when the Chicago summit will happen, which actually could mean that they will not be able or willing to take any more decision than what was taken in Lisbon. And I don’t think they will agree on any more commitments in the – in the Chicago summit.
Finally, I think that to go further on missile defense in France, you will have to have a team elected in 2012, next year, with enough political capital and a lot of political will to actually bring the question to the table again and try to build on what was constructed last year. Thank you very much.
MR. NOEV: Thank you, Bruno, and now I’ll give the floor to Tomáš Valášek, who will share his Central European views on EPAA. Tomas?
TOMÁŠ VALÁŠEK: (Off mic) – to preemptively address your question, I am not only not a government official, Slovakia doesn’t actually have a government at present. So I think that frees me of any suspicion for speaking for anybody else but myself. I am a Slovak, though, and I thought my most useful contribution, as you say, might be in making – giving a Central European perspective on missile defenses. It will be an exercise fraught with peril – two kinds specifically.
First, there is no one single view, as the Central European diplomats in the room will no doubt point out to me, in the Q&A. So all I can say is, so there will be a bit of simplification involved – indulge me. The second obvious peril is that our chairman is a former Bulgarian defense minister. And he knows about as much on the subject as I do. But, hey –
MR. NOEV: (Inaudible) – Southern Europe – (inaudible) –
MR. VALÁŠEK: Exactly. Oh, all right. Next time. Well, if we disagree, at least the audience will get two Central European perspectives for the price of one. So either way you win.
With that – with that in mind, while the Central Europeans are obviously not a unified group on missile defenses, of on anything much anymore, there is one thing – there tends to be one key fundamental difference between them collectively and the United States in – on the other hand. Whereas the United States sees missile defense as a Cold War tool that must be updated to meet new threats, the Central Europeans tend to see it as a new tool to defend against updated Cold War threat.
Now, this sounds like one of those fancy think-tank phrases, and of course it is. But what I really mean by that is simple. The new member states – particularly those in the north – feel far less threatened by Iranian or anybody else’s missiles than by the possibility of a Russia resurgent in the future. The reason they support missile defense is simple.
They see it as a useful way to strengthen U.S. ties to the rest to NATO at the time when U.S. commitment and interest in European security seems to be waning. And they also see in useful facilities – they also see in potential facilities on their soil a useful guarantee that the U.S. would come to their aid in case Russia ever came to present a threat ever again.
So while the new member states and the United States do share a goal, that of building a robust missile defense system in the future, they have come to it from very different angles. And this fundamental difference in the – in the – in the assumptions going into the debate has some interesting second-order consequences.
And that’s what I want to discuss today. I want to discuss the possibility of friction between the new member states and the U.S. on Russia’s role in missile defenses and attendant possibility of similar friction on future Central European contributions – technological, financial and otherwise – to NATO’s missile defenses. Russia first.
I mean, the U.S. has clearly an interest in using missile defenses to – as a way of pursuing a rapprochement with Russia. Tauscher, speaking earlier, has put it very neatly and eloquently. The new member states, while being far more open to the idea of rapprochement now than they have been at any time in recent memory, remain skeptical that such – that cooperation on missile defense, in particular, will bring it about. And they remain wary of Moscow’s attempts to use the subject to drive wedges between NATO’s new and old members, as evidenced by the proposals for sectorial division of responsibility, which would put a number of Central European countries into the Russian sector.
The fact that Russia has proven a somewhat less divisive subject within the internal debates in the alliance so far, I think, comes down more to do – to Russia not having played its cards very well. The terms of cooperation that it has proposed have been so unpalatable that they have had the effect of unifying the allies in a position to what has been proposed. But a more nuanced Russian policy could have had – and I want to propose to could still have – a divisive effect on NATO.
And let me highlight two possible friction points involving Russia in the future. One, while Poland has agreed to Russia observers on its – on the missile defense bases on its territory, the modalities of what – how this would work, you know, how would – how many people, what people, what responsibilities – have yet to be worked out. The negotiations may never happen. They’re subject, of course, to NATO and Russia reaching an overall agreement on cooperation on missile defense. And that agreement, as we have heard repeatedly today, has been elusive.
But if and when we get to that point – when we get from the – from whether there ought to be a collaboration with Russia to how – and you – and we’d revisit the question of its observers in Poland – there I think Moscow’s tendency to use missile defense to sow discord between new and old allies, coupled with American interest in an agreement with Russia and Polish interest in avoiding any suggestion that Moscow should be able to reduce its sovereignty, could yet bring trans-Atlantic trouble – not the sort of trouble that I would expect U.S. officials in the room, or EN (ph) or others for that matter, to keep awake for. But the reality is that if we get to that point – if the talks on any Russian observers do need to take place, they will require immense delicacy, close coordination and much goodwill because U.S. and Polish interests going into the talks will divert somewhat in the ways that I have described earlier.
The second friction point I think lies in more distant future. The phased adaptive system, by its very nature, implies that the third and fourth stages, the ones involving bases in Poland, may or may not happen on the original timetable. And the more precarious the U.S. defense budget situation becomes, the higher the odds of a delay, as Dov Zakheim warned us earlier. And I think we ignore his words at our peril.
Russia, too, has an interest in delaying the deployment of – to Poland for different reasons. It sees it obviously as a way of deferring the most threatening bit, in its own analysis, of the NATO and U.S. missile defense architecture. President Medvedev spoke of the talks continuing to – as – you know, as late as 2020. You can see how the stage is set for a possible repeat of 2009, with the U.S. changing its missile defense plans for reasons that may or may not have to do – or anything to do with Russia. But Moscow will nevertheless claim a victory because it will have a similar interest in delaying the decision on phases three or four.
And you can see how the Central Europeans could be left again be left grumbling about Washington’s unreliability as an ally. Again, much can and will change before this scenario comes to pass, not the least, obviously, two presidential elections – one in the U.S. and one in Russia. So I’m not suggesting that either of these two scenarios that I mentioned should be near the top of U.S. list of priorities, but they’re worth keeping an eye on as the talks with Russia move forward, if they indeed move forward.
The bottom line is I think the potential is there for a Russian role in missile defenses to sour relations among the new allies and the United States. And I think the most useful thing that NATO could do, in my view, is to rethink the way it strives to improve relations with Russia. The goal remains absolutely valid, but I suspect we have put too many eggs in the missile defense basket. A more useful approach with Russia could have been built on a basis of talks on conventional threats, ideally leading to a shared analysis of what those threats are. And eventually to an agreement to reduce conventional forces near mutual borders and about ceasing exercises that rehearse and attack on one another.
Why would I start from there? As Ellen Tauscher said earlier today, the two establishments have been geared for a confrontation for very long and that is a hard habit to change. If we are to change it, missile defense is the wrong place to start, because collaboration on something as sensitive as missile defense requires that partners share a common view of dangers and that they at the very least do not see each other as adversaries. So we should have started by chipping away at the perceptions of each other as adversaries by ideally demilitarizing the relationship along the lines that I mentioned earlier.
By putting all the eggs in the missile defense basket – and I’m going to completely confuse my metaphors here – I think we have been guilty of trying to run before we can walk. I think we really ought to have worked, again, first and foremost on demilitarizing the NATO-Russian relationship and changing the mutual perceptions of one another. And only then should it have moved onto collaboration of something as sensitive as missile defense.
But here I’m really digressing from the central topic – the Central European views – so I’ll leave this particular strain of thought to the Q&A if there is interest.
Enough about Russia. Let me return to the U.S.-Central European views and the differences and make the point that an important second order of priority when it comes to missile defense for the United States is to maximize European contributions to the system as such.
It must not become another project where the U.S. virtually does all the funding and all the building while the rest of NATO sits on sidelines. As secretary of – as Secretary Gates – former Secretary Gates warned in June, it has become increasingly more difficult to convince Congress to underwrite the defense of Europe when so many Europeans do so at such low and increasingly lower levels. I understand from my conversations in Washington over the past 24 hours that the next round of cuts in a global force structure will hit Europe particularly hard, and I think that already speaks to a certain amount of anger at the contributions and the Europeans not pulling their fair share.
It’s important to realize that missiles defenses in budgetary terms have been leading a charmed life so far. If the ratio of defense spending between European allies – or let me begin with the United States. If the United States, on one hand and the European allies on the other has historically been two-to-one and has more recently risen to three-to-one. One of the subjects – one of the reasons that former Secretary Gates was so vocal and so particularly hard on the Europeans in his June speech. In case of missile defense, we’re talking an even less equitable division of funding. It’s probably more like nine-to-one. It is in fact one of the least common of all – of all allied projects we actually have in the pipeline. And we have been leading a very charmed life in the sense that the U.S. commitment to it has been so strong that the questioning of European willingness to fund it or European ability to fund it or contribute technologically hasn’t really become an issue. Ian tried to tease it out of his panelists with not much success. It has come up in the second panel; there it hasn’t really got any friction.
But I really wonder whether Congress would be willing to continually fund something that is truly primarily – particularly the elements that are truly primarily meant for the defense of Europe, that don’t directly contribute to the defense of the homeland, in a situation where European’s contribution don’t materialize over the next couple of years.
Now, when you ask the Central Europeans what contributions they are ready to make to the system, you get a lot of confused looks and shrugged shoulders. They see missile defense primarily as something that others, the United States, want to do. And while they’re happy to collaborate for the reasons I laid out earlier – having to do with the presence of U.S. bases and the desire to lock the U.S. into a tighter relationship with NATO – they feel in general little need to contribute beyond hosting elements of the architecture, because they feel little threat from ballistic missiles themselves. And actually, the ability to actually offer their own territory only applies to a handful of countries that have been asked. Some of those that haven’t been asked have been working hard to change – to get the United States to change its mind and put additional facilities into different bits of Central Europe. But that really is – as far as I have found in my research and in my conversations – the outer limit of Central European desire to contribute to missile defenses.
This has not been a great source of friction between the Central European countries and Washington yet, but we’re in the early stages. The phase we’re in involves little European money and technology, but as time goes on and as the time to expand the system beyond its essential U.S. nature comes, and neither money nor technology from Central Europe is forthcoming, there will be a real friction – of course, not just involving new member states. Many of the old allies are similarly unenthusiastic about the system, as we have just heard. But at least they are – in case of Denmark, in case of Norway, in case of Spain – you see signs of interest, whether it’s Dutch operating the radar capability, even parts of the French system with the senate arguing for involvement, although on industrial grounds, rather than because they share a sense of threat with the United States. In Central Europe, I see little interest in any such contribution. And as a Central European and as an Atlanticist, I worry.
This brings me to my last point, Chairman, before I turn it over to questions and other panelists. And this question is addressed mainly to the Central European diplomats in the room. NATO badly needs a success to dispel fears that the military backbone of the relationship that undermines everything we do – deterrents, common defense, crisis management – is being broken by the economic crisis. Intellectually, we all understand the joint multinational approach is the way forward, but in practical terms, smart defense – pulling and sharing, whatever you call it – has been elusive, because as the crisis hit, the governments, if anything, have defaulted to more of a national mindset. They’ve become even more insular in their defense planning and budgeting than they have historically been.
Missile defense, as James Appathurai argued eloquently about 30 minutes ago, is the flagship project for smart defense, for multinational collaboration. And while the Central Europeans no doubt, and rightly, will feel that it may be the wrong place to start as far as their own analysis of threats is concerned, surely a permanent, pooled squadron of interceptors to guard the Baltic airspace would be a more welcome place to start and to test smart defense. The reality is missile defense is what we gut. And when it falls victim to a combination of a lack of enthusiasm in Europe and a revulsion on this side of the Atlantic that the – at European free riding, then it will only reinforce the sense on both sides of the Atlantic that this military relationship is being irretrievably broken and Central Europeans will suffer more than others.
So my simply message, my parting message to the allies – particularly Central Europeans: Make missile defense work or make some other collaborative program work. Make smart defense and multinational approach a success. Yes, money is tight and paying for missile defense or Aegis other smart defense approaches may mean abandoning some of your national capabilities, but that’s how multinational collaboration works. It requires that you stop thinking about force structure as something that you build on a purely national level, that you start thinking about it as something that is built on a regional or NATO-wide level. And if it means paying a political price for abandoning some national capacity, so be it. It is a price worth paying for a strong NATO.
Thank you, Chairman. I’m done.
MR. NOEV: Thank you very much.
And without any further delay, I’ll give the floor to Dr. Michael Rance who has an extensive career in missile defense, but now you earn more money as a private consultant, I guess.
MICHAEL RANCE: Well, as in all fields of defense, that money’s on a downward spiral. (Chuckles.)
MR. NOEV: (Off mic) – are you going to put up the U.K. perspective for –
MR. RANCE: A little bit. A little bit of U.K., a bit of everything.
The danger of coming at the end of such a conference as this is that it’s all been said. And so be it. It has all been said. So treat my talk as something of a summary of some of the issues. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been in and around missile defense for nearly 20 years – from my time in Washington from 1992 to 1995 in the embassy to the last 10 years in which I have been consulting since I left MOD in 2000.
For many of those years, BMD was quite controversial – that’s called British understatement. Its feasibility, its technical capability, the politics of it, of course, and its relationship with strategic nuclear weapons. Now, that controversy, it seems to me – certainly within Europe, except the Russian side of things – has faded. And we’ve heard that before today. It certainly became steadily less prominent after a flurry when the Bush administration tore up the ABM Treaty in 2002 – remember that one? GBI and the third site was not popular in Europe. However, in the capitals of Europe and in the media, missile defense is now not very controversial at all. Indeed, the military capability – (some say ?) attempting to shoot down offending ballistic missiles – has joined air and naval power, tanks and undersea warfare and certainly is extending the concept of air defense. It is considered by some as simply another capability – although clearly far less mature and almost entirely untested in warfare.
While accepted missile defense may be, but it is not, as you’ve heard, a high priority in Europe. European nations, apart from their role within NATO, are not spending much on it. You’ve heard that before today. But Europe within NATO has accepted missile defense as a military mission and that’s what Lisbon came out with.
Now, the EPAA is a much better solution for European BMD, in my view, than the third site idea which it replaced. The EPAA is matched to the threat, whereas the third site was not. It is a better complement to other systems in development – you’ve heard about Dutch radars and other things. They can blend in with the EPAA, where it couldn’t very easily the other way. It’s cheaper – whatever Dov Zakheim might think about reverting to the third site, it ain’t going to happen and I think that’s totally unrealistic.
Whatever Russia continues to say, it is far less threatening to Russian than the GBI site. I don’t like that word “threatening” to Russia. How can a defensive system threaten anybody? But nevertheless, that’s the word that’s used. And the EPAA is by definition designed for flexibility as the threat develops. The GBI system wasn’t. The radars are transportable on the Aegis as sure elements, unlike the silos required for the third site can in principle be moved. So it’s a better deal; it’s a better system for Europe than the third site ever was likely to be.
In the U.K. missile defense is – to coin an almost appropriate phrase – below the radar both politically and in the public perception. It rarely appears in the media. We’ve just had an annual political party conferences. All our political parties meet once a year and talk to each other – talk to themselves, actually. And it never got a mention, missile defense. In fact, defense is not much of an issue in U.K.’s political class. By that I mean not much separates the parties in the U.K.
And even within the defense community itself, missile defense is not a priority and never has been – ever since the heady days of SDI. Not the British army or the air force or the navy – none of them want to own it. But now it’s a long way down the list of priorities, because among other things, of course the defense budget is being cut sharply.
So we are of course content our way in NATO – a not inconsiderable 11.5 percent of the (core ?) unfunded programs, but British didn’t get their fair share of that, unlike the French. But we don’t complain too much – or at least I haven’t heard British industry complaining too much about that. It’s small money anyway.
I’ve argued that what is needed – I’ve often argued in fora like that what has been needed is a true cooperative co-development within missile defense. But that’s never likely to happen. That’s a hope that I had that has utterly faded. It’s not going to happen. So anyway, U.K. supports the Lisbon decisions and is working since then – in official circles – on the technical issues to support U.K. ministerial decisions that may come up in the future and inside NATO.
Now, apart from Russia – and I’m not going to cover that; that’s been well covered today – I think there are two practical issues for Europe and NATO in the lead up to the Chicago: Funding – and I don’t know too much about how that’s going to go; and command and control. And we’ve heard those issues certainly from my colleagues to the right. The matter of whose finger is on the trigger – where sits the political control of a system to defend Europe? Well, surely in Europe. Well, NATO, OK, that might be good enough, but surely not the U.S., unless it’s truly integrated within NATO.
But first, NATO has to sort out a very tricky matter of what it wants it to defend. We’ve heard that the whole of NATO is defended. That is impractical. As they say – with due deference to my Norwegian neighbors – every goat in Norway or every major city in Europe or what? What is to be defended? This is what they call the defended asset list that has to be dealt with. And having dealt with that – a very tricky issue and I know people are never going to come to agreement in Europe on what such a defended asset list would actually be – the just as difficult question is to agree both the rules of engagement – I’ll have to assume you know what that means – and the tactical fighting doctrine. You know, how most effectively to deal with what might be a multiple missile attack – we’ve heard what the French might do after two have been intercepted. That’s pretty scary. If you didn’t understand what Bruno said then, you might ask him what he meant by then the strategic system deterrents will play its part. This is what officials and the national reps in NATO are beginning to discuss. It will be a long discussion and won’t by any means be completed by May next year.
So it seems to me – it seems to me that there are no major decisions to be made in Chicago. We’ll get some confirmation of progress within NATO – its interim capability, whatever that means. And I don’t really think I know what that means. But the only big issue is Russia and that’s being well dealt with. Missile defense is in many ways a pawn in the strategic chess game.
The U.S. – at least the Obama administration – is determined to proceed with missile defense in Europe, almost whatever Russia says or does – and I’ve heard Ellen Tauscher say that in the past – and certainly will not provide the firm guarantees that Russia will not be targeted by the system – targeted again. What a strange word to think about it.
So progress with Russia in an attempt to get some sort of agreement by next May is desirable, but it may not happen. There is still a rhetoric gap which we see in everything that we see published, but this may or may not be so severe at official level. And I don’t think I really got from Ellen Tauscher a clear view as to insight into how the Russian talks are really going towards an agreement.
Now, as Tomas has explained, missile defense has a different resonance in Western Europe compared with Central Europe. I’m kind of repeating what he’s said here. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania all have an interest, which obviously goes beyond feeling threatened by Iran. They don’t, I believe, feel threatened by Iran. What they want to be is feel to be a serious part of an alliance, a serious part of NATO and to be taken seriously in that respect. And I agree with Tomas on that entirely.
It seems that countries with small defense budgets are more than willing to play a part by offering bases or sites for which they pay little. For them it’s strategic, political and quite understandable. Now, a not much discussed matter – although it’s been touched on, but this particular part of it hasn’t been touched on – is whether and how perhaps Israel and NATO can relate to one another in missile defense. It seems odd in the long run that Israel will have its own system and NATO will have its own system, but they won’t talk to one another.
Well, Turkey’s attitude – and of course, Turkey a key ally in NATO, according to the secretary-general – that attitude seems to suggest that Israel, a “valuable partner,” quote, according to the sec-gen, will figure more and more in Europe and NATO’s missile defense debates. I’ll say no more than that, but that issue of how Israel and NATO talk together and work together in the future is going to have to be an issue.
Now, Western Europe has been struggling with BMD for much longer – ever since the days of SDI. It’s not only this history that defines the differences across Europe that we’ve discussed, geography also dictates that Eastern Europe is very well placed – sorry, Central Europe – very well placed to host elements of the EPAA. Whereas the U.K. – apart from our radar, which doesn’t help very much – whereas U.K. and Spain, for instance, are not – unless you count the naval bases.
But apart from the U.S. and the Canadian NATO contribution of 27 percent, it’s Western Europe – largely the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – who put most into NATO funding – over 55 percent of them into the NSIC common-funded programs. They will pay most of the common-funded core of the European BMD system. Some nations in Western Europe – none in the East – are putting some small amount of funding, not much, into national weapons and radar programs to contribute to a NATO system for European defense.
Aviation Week said recently – I thought it worth quoting: “There is a clear momentum in Europe to do more, even if the main motivator is industrial-based considerations. France wants to ensure that its missile sector does not lose out to U.S. rivals” – this is Aviation Week, not me, speaking – “in providing interceptors to European and other forces. And the Netherlands wants to sustain advanced naval radar capacities.” We’ve heard that. No mention of other major European nations in that. But it’s true that the principal motivator – except, apparently, in most of the rest of Europe – is the potential industrial benefits. And we’ve heard that in relation to the French policy.
Frankly, there is little unanimity in Europe on this sort of detail, and certainly no European defense procurement strategy that you could take any confidence in. Just a brief point: There’s often a misunderstanding about NATO programs. NATO itself rarely buys weapons systems as such. They do infrastructure. And this certainly applies to missile defense for which NATO is developing this core C2 system – the ALTBMD. They’re not buying missiles; they’re not buying interceptors; they’re not buying radars – although some people in Europe think that NATO should do more of that, but there’s no sign that that’s going to happen, because where on Earth is the money coming from?
Right, well, a final point: Chicago is just another step, in my view, on the staircase for missile defense for Europe. It’s been a long staircase – a long time. Twenty-seven years since SDI was born and an effective, proven, politically stable, financially stable missile defense system for the whole of Europe is still many years away. It may even fail completely in the face of tough economic constraints – and we’ve heard a little bit about that.
MR. NOEV: Well, thank you very much.
We’re about to come to the end of the event and I would not use my chairman privilege to ask many questions. But I would share with you as an impression is that I truly expected more issues and more problems to be heard from the American side from the very beginning – Pat O’Reilly, Ellen Tauscher and afterwards. In fact, we heard some of the questions from Zak.
But what I hear is that there are certain – and I would say serious – doubts on behalf of Europeans about different aspects of EPAA. And we spoke about the EPAA as one major instrument against the renationalization of defense. Now we hear that Turkey would like to build its own missile defense – as I understand. And of course, we know the French – (inaudible).
So there are many questions. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to discuss all of them. But please, you have the floor. How many minutes do we have, Ian? Ten minutes, OK.
The floor is open to questions.
Q: Your comments on the issue of Israel strike me as something that should be addressed sooner rather than later. I mean, it’s come up across the different panels and I’d welcome views on how NATO might go about structuring its path forward – including its path forward at the Chicago summit where there’ll be no small amount of discussion of NATO’s role in North Africa and the Arab Spring in general. But sort of – it might be good to sort of get your thoughts on the way ahead on this broader question, not to mention that the United Arab Emirates will be getting missile defense capabilities within the next several years as well. NATO’s increasingly discussing interests in the greater Middle East. Turkey is certainly playing a very strong role in bridging the two.
And so I would welcome your comments on not just raising the issue, but what do you think is the best way forward on this aspect of the EPAA that has not gotten really much discussion up till this point?
MR. NOEV: Oh, OK. No more – at this point. Who like to – would you like to bridge? OK.
Q: The Israel thing a lot depends on timing. And you said that you’d like to see a much more formalized – am I understanding right – NATO-Israel relationship in terms of partnerships? Because they were part of the Mediterranean dialogue, but I mean, obviously, the Istanbul cooperation initiative has taken on much more sort of importance since then and Israel is not party of that. And I think NATO has had this very sort of ambivalent attitude towards Israel, like they are a valued partner, but they don’t really fit into any structure, so we’ll occasionally talk to them and leave the rest to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. And I think there you create two categories. You’ve got the U.S.-Israeli relationship and then you’ve got the NATO relationship to the region as a whole.
I think at this point it would be very difficult if you introduced any structural changes in the NATO-Israeli partnership for Turkey to actually sell that to its domestic audience. And I think it’d be also very difficult to publicly say anything about it until this whole issue of the relations being frozen over the flotilla incident are somehow resolved, because that takes the Turkish-Israeli friction to another level. I mean, up till now it’s – up to the flotilla incident, it’s always been about Palestine. So it’s basically got into somewhere I would say – I’m so fond of my three boxes – but somewhere in the middle. You know, with the identity thing, because it was much more to do with Palestine. But once the flotilla incident happened, it really took it to a very important national interest level and a bilateral level, which sort of decouples it from the Palestinian issue. And that is much harder to solve, I think. And until that’s resolved, somehow I just don’t see NATO doing anything with Israel.
MR. RANCE: It is too difficult. I think it too difficult for any political solution to evolve in the short term. I think there needs to be back-corridor discussions of one sort of another. That has to happen.
I can just perhaps mention that on the sort of technical side, both sides have a lot to gain from the evolvement of the other within a missile defense overall system. Sensors in Israel, interceptors in Israel, sensors in the surrounding area owned by NATO and interceptors – damn it, we should be able to work together in some way or another to defend us all. But the politics is going to overwhelm it and you’re never going to get unanimity in NATO in the short run to do that.
So technically, you know, if we’re really all interested in the defense of our allies, it will be a good thing, but it’s not going to happen in the short term.
MR. NOEV: Just a point about selling something to the public, which is a very – a very convenient argument – I would not like to argue, but being in politics myself, I know about selling to the public. What I recall is that the previous Turkish leadership didn’t have any problem selling Israel to the public. What we have a problem with the present leadership. So it’s another – and Tony Blair sold Iraq to the British public. So Ian.
Q: About difficulties of command and control and the doctrines and rules of engagement that are being developed.
At risk of being a little bit unfair, you know, in the morning we kind of had a description of command and control as being kind of a highly automated sequence and then it’ll be set, you’ll lock it in, you’ll turn it on and you go and there’s no decision making.
But you indicated – and my instincts tell me – that in fact, that will be part of the system, command and control system. There’ll have to be some flexibility for autonomous decisions by commanders. And I’d be interested in your view on that.
MR. RANCE: I think ultimately – I agree that ultimately, the command – the control will be automatic. It’s everything that leads up to the point of having agreed what those algorithms in that computer somewhere will actually say about what you launch when at what.
You have an enormous amount of political agreement about defended assets to come to. You have to have enormous amount of international agreement as to the rules of engagement and how you go about defending it. Once you’ve done all that – that’s easy, right? In fact, that’s damn complicated.
Once you’ve done that, you can write the algorithms and it can be – it can be automatic.
Q: But there will be no commander discretion over the allocation and use and prioritization of interceptors and radars?
MR. RANCE: I should’ve – well, maybe. But it’s almost irrelevant, because you’ve done all that discussion in advance or you should.
MR. NOEV: Even if the commander’s French.
Q: Even if the commander’s French.
MR. GRUSELLE: (Off mic) – machine will be before any of the algorithm are written will decide on who’s authorized to launch, under what circumstances, against what defended – in what circumstances, including in what attack scenarios. If the stock of interceptor is depleted, what do we defend then? I mean, all this is supposedly what is discussed right in secure weapons release authority and rules of engagement. Once this is done, I mean, basically it’s like air defense. You do as a rule command under the circumstances that are commanded and that’s it.
Now, I don’t agree with the fact that it has to be ultimated. I mean, the flight time from Iran to let’s say Paris is about 10 to 15 minutes. So we could arguably in a situation where a couple of missiles will be launched at Northern Europe, we’ll have a few minutes to decide whether we want to intercept or not.
MR. RANCE: (Off mic) – won’t it?
MR. GRUSELLE: I mean, it’s – it’s one of the – it’s one of the questions that are asked by our military people is that in some circumstances, we don’t want to be defended. And in that – in this – yeah. I mean, I’m not joking with that. We don’t want to be defending if we think that the Iranians are actually launching something that – which interception would have bad consequences on us. And we don’t want to be – we don’t want to be defended if it’s in the – if it again falls under the nuclear deterrent strategy.
So again, there will be a lot of discussion on rules of engagement, a lot of discussion on weapons release authority. And at the end of the day, I think it will be quite automated and everybody agree on that. But it will be a lot of discussion; it will be very difficult to agree on something.
MR. NOEV: Well, the one thing with big powers is they policies are so sophisticated, smaller, smaller countries sometimes do not understand that.
MR. GRUSELLE: I think it’s not that complicated, really. It’s just the issue of, again, I mean – I don’t want to discuss about – in length about French nuclear deterrents, but as it is perceived in Paris, it’s an assurance against anything – if someone actually fires a ballistic missile at us is that, actually, deterrence has failed. So to some extent, if we politically take the stance that we need to be protected by missile defense under any circumstances, well, that undercuts what nuclear deterrence is about. That’s basically where we stand.
MR. NOEV: OK. I think that Ian will make a conclusion, but before just giving up the floor, I would like to thank all the participants on our floor and I think that it was a good discussion. And I think it’s important that differently from other debates, at least I haven’t heard a no. We heard problems, we heard issues, we heard questions, but my impression is that it was a very positive discussion – at least this panel – and this discussion is going on positively.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I’m going to be very brief, because we’re already 15 minutes past.
But I hope – I want to thank everybody for participating today. I think we had four great, great panels. I mean, if you looked at the themes, we had an update on the vision and implementation of transatlantic missile defense with General O’Reilly this morning.
We had a very realistic update, I think, on the status of cooperation with Russia on missile defense. Ambassador Tauscher noted – this is the headline I’d give – she said there’s an opportunity for Russia to cooperate and be part of a European structure, transatlantic structure. And that opportunity may be waning – waning away as it refuses to cooperate. I was struck by her language that the weather in Moscow was partly cloudy and the temperature was dropping.
We had a really good discussion, I thought, on the resource issue. How was this missile defense architecture evolving in the context of defense austerity? And I have to tell you, one thing I was struck by, as American vision is developed and as NATO vision is developing, it seems to be still really lacking at robust, European roadmap for its contribution. And we touched on this in our panel here where I thought we got some excellent European perspectives on this vision as it’s evolving. And I particularly appreciated some of the clarifications on command and control.
So let me close by first thanking our sponsor, Chris Lombardi and Raytheon, who may this conference possible. I’d like to thank our speakers – Boyko, Bruno, Gulner and Mike – for traveling across the Atlantic and for sharing their views with us today.
And I want to give a particular special thanks to three people who really pulled this altogether and that’s Jeff Lightfoot – an associate director on the Atlantic Council’s International Security Program; Simona Kordosova, our assistant director and from Slovakia; and HuiHui Ooi – I don’t know if she’s here, but she’s an intern who’s been supporting our whole program these last several months.