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THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
2010 YOUNG ATLANTICIST SUMMIT
DIRECTOR OF POLICY PLANNING
OFFICE OF THE NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2010
Federal News Service
JAMIE SHEA: Fran, thanks very much.
When they say that you’re an institution, what they really mean but they’re too polite to say so is that you’re the dinosaur-in-residence. (Laughter.) You remember “Jurassic Park” Number Two, something survived? I know the feeling.
I’m also aware of the perils of making a second appearance at any event. It reminds me of the time when George Bernard Shaw sent a letter to somebody he hated called Winston Churchill saying, “Dear Mr. Churchill: Here’s two tickets for the first night of my new play. Bring a friend if you have one.” (Laughter.)
And Churchill wrote back, of course, inevitably saying, “Dear Mr. Shaw: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, I cannot come on the first night. So please send me two tickets for the second night if there is one.” (Laughter.)
So I don’t really want to outstay my welcome here, but thank you very much for inviting me back. And what I’m going to do is try to give you, if you like, my personal – NATO, yes, of course – but also personal sort of interpretation of what has happened here. And I hope that this will be more stimulating for you than simply giving you a kind of blow-by-blow, word-by-word, intervention-by-intervention account of all of the meetings.
In other words, will this be, as Secretary-General Rasmussen has said, one of the most important summits in NATO history? Will you, as young people, say to your grandchildren in 40 years’ – no, hang on a minute – 50 years’ time, I was there? – you know, rather like the poet – the British, or, English poet, William Wordsworth, famously said of the French Revolution: Bliss was it in that hour to be alive and to be young was the very heaven. Is that the way you will feel about these two days in Lisbon in 40 years’ time?
Well, I suppose the only way to answer that question, ladies and gentlemen, is to ask ourselves: Will this summit have helped to define NATO’s future? And the other way of tackling this problem is to say, well, what were the particular challenges that NATO was facing as it arrived in Lisbon yesterday morning? And to what extent, as we depart Lisbon in a few hours’ time, will those problems have been solved or be well on their way to being solved?
So from my point of view as the former, sort of, head of NATO policy planning and as somebody who was intimately involved in the new strategic concept from the beginning, what do I see as the major challenges?
I think the first one is, clearly, we were not doing enough on the new threats. At a time when our governments were increasingly preoccupied with cyber, proliferation, terrorism, these issues – energy security, these things were being talked about in NATO communiqués but not much of substance or not much concrete deliverables were happening. And therefore, there was a risk that NATO would become increasingly detached from the national security agendas which would not see NATO as relevant to these issues.
And if what Brussels is thinking about is not in sync with what our capitals are thinking about, then you have to have a problem – you have a problem.
The second aspect, ladies and gentlemen, of this was that, obviously, NATO, over the last 15 years, has been doing essentially operations. We have tried to deal with issues like terrorism through operations. Now, they have some success. Obviously, we don’t want Afghanistan to revert to being, once again, a failed state and a home of al-Qaida. But al-Qaida is in Yemen today. It’s in Pakistan. It’s in West Africa. It has the ability to mutate and recreate itself.
So you cannot only, through an operation like Afghanistan, deal with the problem of terrorism. Tanks cannot stop cyber attacks. Aircraft cannot stop energy cutoffs. So the clear thing was that NATO needed to define a role.
And as we discovered on 9/11/2001, when we invoked Article 5 for the first time against terrorism, it’s good to demonstrate solidarity, but it’s even better to do something concrete as a result.
Second big challenge, operations were becoming not only more difficult but less successful, particularly compared with Bosnia or Kosovo in the 1990s. Afghanistan, for some allies, has already lasted longer than World War I and World War II put together even though we have had the biggest international coalition since World War II to deal with Afghanistan.
The reason, of course, obviously, is that the military, while being essential, is less and less a hundred percent of the solution because you need to do the reconstruction as well as the stabilization. And, therefore, there was a real need in the alliance to rethink the concept of operations because if we are going to do these things again in the future, it’s important that we learn the lessons of Afghanistan.
The third issue was a loss – not so much a loss but nonetheless, in some cases, a fractured sense of confidence among the allies themselves. Some allies, particularly the new allies who have joined since the mid-1990s, were worried about the absence of preparations for Article 5 defense; for example, contingency planning. They were seeking strategic reassurance. There were differences of view about Russia. Indeed, Madeleine Albright, when she was chair of the group of experts at the beginning of the exercise, said we have a divided alliance.
So there was a clear need to seek a new form of consensus which would bring those different sort of groups in the alliance together behind a single strategy.
Then there was the absence of a real trans-Atlantic political dialogue. I was at Munich a few years ago when Chancellor Schroeder famously said – and this caused a real stir at the time, but he had a point – that NATO was no longer the forum for the essential trans-Atlantic dialogue on security.
We were talking about Afghanistan, yes, but we weren’t talking about Iran or the Middle East or many of the other big issues in the world. And many people found it strange that the West’s premier security organization had such a narrow political focus, essentially in those areas where it had troops on the ground.
Finally, declining public support for the alliance in some of our countries but particularly the United States. Not that there is opposition to NATO, but there was, first of all, a sense that, you know, what is NATO for these days. It seems to have lots of missions, but is there a real mission there? And, of course, it’s not easy when you are associated with necessary but unpopular causes like Afghanistan. So those were the key – to my mind, key challenges.
So where are we now after two days here in Lisbon? First of all, I think the good thing is that the new threats are now very much on the agenda, and NATO has woken up to the fact that defense and deterrence in the 21st century means defending our populations more, or at least as much, as defending our borders and defending our territory itself. Not that the classical threats, albeit unlikely, have gone away, but clearly we need to defend our populations against ballistic-missile threats, cyber attacks, energy cutoffs and major terrorist incidents.
That basis has now been laid. Indeed, missile defense, if you like, has three great advantages. Not only does it defend against potential proliferators, but it’s also a glue that ties the United States into trans-Atlantic security against modern scenarios, not Cold War scenarios, and we now have President Medvedev meeting with the NATO council to, also, in the future, tie Russia in as well.
So it’s an integrator of the Euro-Atlantic space as much as it is a form of protection. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not arguing it’s going to be easy for NATO to deal with these new challenges. We are playing catchup after a certain period of neglect. And of course, these new challenges are sometimes more civilian than they are military, and the answer is as much civilian as military, too.
So we’re going to have to define the niche where we can add value, but I think we will define that niche. There’s a lot we can do in terms of intelligence sharing, helping allies to assess their vulnerabilities, giving concrete assistance, setting standards for protection against these type of threats, having rapid-reaction units that can rapidly be deployed to a country which suffers these kind of attacks or even having contingency planning for how we can get our vital systems up and running after an attack has occurred.
But one thing is clear. These challenges are also being handled by the European Union. In many cases, the EU started before us and has invested more heavily. They’re being handled by our governments. They are being handled by organizations like Interpol when it comes to cyber attacks, organized crime or terrorism.
So the ability to have the comprehensive approach, not just in Afghanistan, but to deal with these other challenges as well is going to be the key to success.
Secondly, doing operations better. Yes, we have actually made quite a bold statement in the strategic concept which is that we are planning for more NATO operations after Afghanistan, notwithstanding the war we’re in which is, obviously, a factor among our populations. And, therefore, we have to learn the lessons.
As was made clear by the Australian prime minister at the meeting today, a country which is contributing more troops in more dangerous areas than several allies has the right to be heard, to be involved in the planning, to be involved in the decision-shaping, to be involved in the transition as much as an ally. And therefore, there is no taxation without representation, a lesson which NATO is going to have to learn.
Secondly, we are going to have to have a strategy when we go in and not simply develop the strategy once we’ve discovered what all of the problems are. Strategies have to be adapted to circumstances, but you still need a strategy to begin with.
Thirdly, we’re going to have to be much more involved in training activities in the future. If that is the exit ticket, then it’s important to get it started immediately you go in.
But, certainly, the fact that, for the first time, NATO will have a civilian-planning capability as a result of this summit will mean that we should be in a better position to link up with the other organizations.
But the key thing is going to be strategic adherence. If we have a situation, ladies and gentlemen, where one organization focuses on Africa, another organization focuses on the Middle East, NATO focuses on Afghanistan, if we don’t have the same strategic priorities among the organizations, cooperation, equal burden-sharing is not going to be easy.
But above all, the financial crisis will mean that it will become increasingly difficult, increasingly expensive to clean up after the mess, to wait for the worst to happen and then to engage NATO. We’re going to have to do a much better job in crisis prevention and engaging early on. Most of these crises, like Afghanistan, are the result of strategic neglect and negligence in the years before the crisis breaks out.
So I totally agreed when I heard Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain yesterday say that politics is the best form of defense. He’s absolutely right.
The loss of public confidence, the third issue, or the loss of political confidence rather among some of the allies. I think that there are three aspects here. The first one has been easy to deal with, and we’ve dealt with it. This is the idea of strategic reassurance. I mention that for the allies who wanted to see that NATO is still committed to Article 5 and territorial defense as it’s committed to out-of-area operations like Afghanistan. Those elements are now in place.
The second element is this issue of the nuclear balance vis-à-vis arms control. It’s clear that you can’t walk with just the right leg or just the left leg. You need both. You need arms control to try to remove the threat, but nuclear deterrence as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world.
But as the Luxembourg prime minister, Mr. Juncker, said yesterday, we cannot simply expect a nuclear-free world to happen by waiting for it, by standing still. We have to try to instigate that world as best way we can.
So how are we, in the future, we are going to remain a nuclear alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons while making sure that that nuclear component does not stand in the way of revivified efforts in the field of arms control and engagement? That, I think, is going to be a challenge.
President Sarkozy, this morning, with his very classic, very frank style, said, Létant est une alliance militaire, pas un club de réflexion des intellectuelles – ou, pour intellectuelles. (Laughter.) Do I need to translate that? No. You’re a very sophisticated audience, so I know. (Laughter.)
He’s right, of course. You know, the fundamental NATO job is defense and deterrence. If we cannot do that, then we are not going to do anything else. But as we get into a world where the threats are more diverse, more – further afield, more interconnected, terrorism, organized crime, proliferation – all these things play into each other. I’m not arguing that NATO should be “un club pour intellectuelle”, but defending yourself without trying to remove the threat will not, in itself, be an adequate security policy. So we’re going to have to be a political alliance as well as a military one.
The third aspect, finally, of restoring political confidence among allies is to have more equitable burden sharing. In the debate that I was at yesterday on the financial crisis, we discussed the fact that the United States, despite its debt problems, still overwhelmingly finances NATO’s operations and much of what NATO does. And we know what the solutions are. We spoke about them yesterday.
As Prime Minister Cameron said, how do we scrap legacy assets? But that’s a good point. Not easy to do so. Secretary-General Rasmussen has said here to you as well as at the meeting that we need to cut fat but also invest in muscle.
The reality, however, is that it’s easier for our governments to cut fat than to invest in muscle. But, again, if NATO is to be successful, they have to do both. Streamlining the structures must be the prelude to attract more resources so that we can develop the capabilities that we’re going to need to deal with the 21st security threats. And we’re going to have to do it by avoiding duplication with the European Union.
The next aspect is developing the political relevance of NATO in the wider world. Yesterday, we spoke about partnerships. And there’s no doubt that one of the most significant elements of this summit, both materially in terms of everybody who showed up here from as far afield as Australia, Tonga, Mongolia, Malaysia, one of the most surprising aspects is now that NATO is truly the hub of this global security network.
But let’s face it. It has been largely generated by Afghanistan, and it’s largely based around Afghanistan. So how is the alliance going to be able to preserve that network once Afghanistan is over? It’s clear what partners do for us, but what are we going to do for the partners in the future? And will we sustain this partnership if there’s not a sense of a two-way street; that NATO is able to do as much for them with their security as we ask them to do for us by shedding blood in Afghanistan?
Do we have to give partners assurances, consultation rights? Do we have to give them more concrete help with training, security-sector reform? And, finally, if we agree that we’re going to consult them more frequently, around which topics? And how are we going to integrate this into a busy NATO schedule where ambassadors are already complaining that they’re rushing from one meeting to the next with barely the time to breathe?
Getting this partnership concept right and making sure we involve the partners in it so it’s not simply presented to them as a take-it-or-leave-it option is going to be clear.
As we go forward with the open door for NATO enlargement, which reaffirmed at this summit, how do we assure that the candidate countries are not kept in permanent limbo, stagnating with NATO not giving a perspective for time when they can join the alliance?
So there are great opportunities, but opportunities always bring challenges.
Finally, public support. There is a British comedy program called “Yes, Minister” where Sir Humphrey Applebee, you know, who is this sort of rather cynical, Machiavellian, manipulative civil servant, whenever he wants to tell his prime minister that he’s doing something absolutely stupid, said, “It’s a courageous decision, Minister.”
Now, to some degree, NATO has been courageous. At a time when our public opinion is clearly frustrated with the lack of progress in major operations, we are pledging to operations. At a time when our public opinion sees defense budgets being cut because of the need to preserve Social Security or education or welfare pensions, we are claiming that we need more resources for cyber capabilities or missile defense or modernization. At a time when our public has become rather fatigued with enlargement, we are keeping the door open. And at a time when our publics hanker after the nuclear-free world and arms control, we have reasserted the need for nuclear deterrence.
So this is going to require political leadership because, to some degree, we are rowing against the popular current. Not that we should follow the popular current; leadership is about forming public opinion, not following it. But it’s going to require political leadership, particularly if the public sees that it’s a guns-versus-butter debate. We have to assure the public that you don’t get butter if you don’t have at least some guns.
Russia is going on at the moment. So I have to sort of guess a little bit what’s taking place. And so I hope I won’t be contradicted by reality in an hour or so. But I suppose the question for this summit – and you’re familiar with all of the deliverables – Russian help in Afghanistan, Russian offers to participate in missile defense – you’re familiar with that.
But the key question: Is this going to be the turning point? We have had are a kind of on-again-off-again relationship with Russia. There were times during Kosovo when Russia walked away. There were times during the Georgian conflict when NATO walked away. The NATO-Russia Council has not always been good in bad-weather conditions.
Can we now have a more mature relationship where, firstly, we can actually do things together and we can use the NATO-Russia Council to pursue what unites us rather than argue about what divides us? There will be differences, obviously, but can we compartmentalize those differences in a way that we can continue the discussion while still pursuing areas of cooperation elsewhere?
That, to me, is going to be the key test of the meeting with President Medvedev that’s taking place at the moment. And will missile defense be the game changer which, for the first time since the Napoleonic Wars where the Russians allied with the Austrians and the Prussians and the Brits to defeat Napoleon in a coalition – will the missile defense be the first time where Russia commits itself to trans-Atlantic security in a permanent way by joining a trans-Atlantic security system? The stakes are truly high as a result of this meeting.
Finally – and I will stop, Fran – Afghanistan, which we had this morning. Our populations want to see light at the tunnel. They want to see that there is an end to all of this, and 2014, 2015 has now been defined as the end date. But it’s clear that this is not, if you like, simply an opportunity for being patient and waiting for 2014 to arrive.
The first thing is that we have, therefore, four years to exert the maximum pressure we can on the Taliban, on President Karzai to deliver on his promises that he made again today to fight corruption and to introduce governance throughout the country and, of course, knowing that, as long as we have 140,000 troops in the country, we will have more leverage than when those troops go down to 100,000 or to 50,000 or whatever.
And that, if we want that transition to happen, we need, of course, to make it happen by training the Afghan security forces but, also, by those countries which leave Afghanistan as the benefits of transition not to leave entirely, not to take all of those forces out but to leave some of the behind both as trainers and to get into the areas like the south where the combat operations are still taking place.
As Gen. Petraeus said – and he was echoed by President Obama this morning – trainers are the ticket to transition. Or as Ban Ki-moon put it, we have to be guided by realities, not by schedules.
So in other words, the good news is that, yes, there is now a transition date, but the less or the more sobering news is that, of course, we are going to have to now make a greater effort if we want that transition to happen on time.
But, certainly, the briefing by Gen. Petraeus this morning on Afghanistan did point to significant progress, particularly in Afghanistan growth rates, the training of the Afghan security forces and so on. And, therefore, the sense was that this is not mission impossible. As Petraeus said, nothing in Afghanistan is easy. But he did not say everything in Afghanistan is impossible.
So where are we, finally, as a result of two days here in Lisbon? Well, when I was trying to think how to conclude this, I remembered a little sort of paragraph in Churchill’s memoirs of World War II which takes place immediately after Pearl Harbor where Churchill pours himself an even bigger whiskey on hearing the news that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. The reason is he knows that this is going to bring America into the war.
And so Churchill writes, I went to bed for the first time totally serene and happy because – I can’t , obviously, imitate Churchill’s accent, but what he says is, I know that, you know, despite all of the setbacks we would have, despite the long struggles that lay ahead, the final outcome was no longer in doubt. U.S. had come into the war. We were going to win even if it would take blood, sweat and tears to get there.
So does this summit today mean that, although NATO has finally entered the 21st century 10 years late, we are, nonetheless, now with the strategic concept and with the trans-Atlantic unity, in a position to influence the future? I would argue that we have given ourselves a fighting chance as a result of this summit not only to be relevant – that’s nice – but also to be effective.
But it’s going to require the implementation of the strategic concept. Concepts are 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent implementation. It’s going to require resources in a tough environment, and it’s going to require NATO to be much more networked into the rest of the world because, for NATO, the lesson today is that we have stopped being an organization. We are a network, and we are a network which has to plug into other networks.
And if we are inadequately connected, if the ones we want to work with don’t want to work with us, if we don’t have the right interfaces between the civilian and the military side, if our resources are not matched to the legitimacy that the U.N. provides, we are not going to succeed.
So implementation, resources and networking. But that said, I certainly think that we are leaving Lisbon in much better condition after two days than we arrived.