NATO 2030 Young Leaders’ recommendations and conversation with the Secretary General

  • 04 Feb. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Feb. 2021 14:31

(As delivered)

ROBIN NIBLETT: I assume we have introduced all of the NATO Young Leaders there, in which case I’m going to come back in and engage now in the next part of our conversation. And I noticed that the NATO Secretary General was wearing a tie during that . . . that little video, but he has definitely got in with the space of our NATO Young Leaders now in this part of the conversation. So what I’m going to do is introduce, first of all, Alice Billon-Galland, who, conveniently, from my point of view, is a research associate at Chatham House in our Europe programme. She is one of the 14 NATO 2030 Young Leaders, as you saw introduced just there. In her case, she was nominated by the European Leadership Network. And Alice is going to kick off and . . . at least kick off this process and introduce the first of our six speakers who will be engaging in conversation. Alice, over to you.

ALICE BILLON-GALLAND: Thank you, Robin. And on behalf of the group, thanks to you, Secretary General, for asking us to fit into your thinking for NATO 2030. I think it’s fair to say that faced with the multiple and complex challenges, which you just outlined in your speech, defending the one billion citizens who live in NATO countries is a moving target. This is why we believe that NATO will need to deter, defend and provide security differently by 2030.

Of course, NATO should firmly guard its strength, with an enduring focus on deterrence and keeping the Alliance militarily strong, as well as a renewed commitment to Allied solidarity and democratic principles. But to meet all the new challenges, NATO will also need to embrace the change, by combining a more holistic understanding of security with a more balanced transatlantic core and a truly global mindset.

As you’ll see, our report is made of both moonshot ideas and specific recommendations. The report doesn’t aim to be a comprehensive strategy. Instead, we decided to focus on a couple of key issues, which we believe should feature more prominently in NATO’s work, because they matter to the new security environment. So while being cautious to neither overextend NATO’s mandate nor to over securitise new policy areas, we argue that the Alliance can bring considerable added value by doing three things.

First, by providing a space for political consultations amongst Allies and with likeminded partners, on issues ranging from economic coercion to cyber attribution.

Second, by providing leadership on global issues such as climate security and space governance.

And finally, by fostering a new mindset on crucial topics such as resilience for emerging technologies.

My colleagues will now present to some of our key recommendations. Let me first introduce Tania Latici, nominated by CEPA, the Centre for European Policy Analysis. Thank you.

TANIA LATICI: Thank you, Alice. Secretary General, for us, resilience lies really at the heart of NATO’s ability to defend and to deter in 2030. So let me share with you two key recommendations.

First, we think NATO should become a resilience pathfinder. What does that mean? Well, it means that NATO has a greater role to play in helping Allies achieve resilience across the board. Now, resilience is a moving target. But we bring concrete ideas like a resilience barometer or a civil-military strategy that can help NATO craft a security insurance policy for the crises of the 2030s.

Now, for us, resilience is split across eight key domains. They range from the internal to the economic and from the defence to outer space.

Now, second, we recommend a reform of the two percent defence spending target. We believe that what counts as a defence contribution in 2030 should be reimagined. We believe there’s no better way to incentivise Allies to spend on areas such as climate security, anti-hybrid warfare or economic resilience than making it count as a contribution to our common defence.

We . . . we believe that as NATO becomes a resilience pathfinder, it should also find the path towards responsibility, rather than burden-sharing. So any new metric should be inclusive of diverse contributions that strengthen our collective defence and our collective resilience. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Secretary General, you heard those remarks from Tania and also from Alice. Do you have a question back in return to them or a comment you’d like to make? Over to you, sir.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yes. First of all, I would like to thank Alice for the report you and your group have written, because that’s a very concise and concrete report and you can be extremely proud of that input. And this is really an important input for me, as I prepare my recommendations and my proposals for the heads of state and government when they meet. And then for them to make final decisions on how NATO can adapt, change, so we are as successful in the future as we have been since our foundation more than 70 years ago. So, many, many thanks.

Then to Tania. I will say that resilience has been, I think, underestimated for many, many years because the focus has been on military strength. And of course, military strength is important. We need modern military capabilities. But unless we have strong societies, we will not be able to have strong defence forces. And, therefore, everything related to resilience has become much more important for NATO Allies.

And I like the idea you have about need NATO as a resilience pathfinder and how we need to constantly develop – it’s a moving target – develop the aims and the goals and the guidelines we set for resilience.

Resilience is about infrastructure, but also about economic considerations and economic resilience. And my question is actually: but what do you think NATO should do when it comes to Allied economic resilience, in addition to what national governments and other international organisations are doing in that area?

ROBIN NIBLETT: Tania, it’s a question back to you.

TANIA LATICI: Yes, thank you, Secretary General, for this question. This is really one of the absolute key aspects that we have to figure out by 2030.

The first commandment of resilience is that you’re as strong as your weakest link. Now, today, in our hyper-globalised economy, weaponised economic power can be as damaging as traditional military power. For example, if we think of supply chains that feed into both civil and military technology, if these are disrupted, this is not . . . this is not going to only cause commercial losses, but can actually compromise NATO’s defence posture. So these are the risks that unfold at the nexus between security, economy and technology. And we need to better understand them and address them in a holistic manner if we want to aim for economic resilience.

Now, for this, our group recommends equipping NATO with geoeconomic tools. Now, the first step is to put geoeconomics and economic resilience firmly back on the agenda of NATO by resurrecting the Economic Committee. Now, this committee can help bring the right expertise within NATO and can help it coordinate with other geoeconomic-relevant organisations such as the European Union.

The second step would be taking interoperability, which is the concept at the core of how NATO functions, and extending it to economic resilience. By doing this, NATO could become a hub where Allies could coordinate on export control regimes or on setting up robust, yet aligned, foreign investment screening mechanisms.

What is clear is that economic coercion is a threat that NATO cannot ignore. The key does lie in Allied hands, but NATO can help them . . . can help point them at the right door. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thanks very much for that, Tania. I notice, I will do some Robin Niblett editorialising. I also found your second recommendation on rethinking the two percent target a very interesting provocation, which I’m sure the Secretary General and all of NATO will be considering very carefully. But I think the focus right now on resilience, obviously, has been essential.

e have two more blocks of recommendations and interaction with the Secretary General. Keeping an eye on time, we’re only running about three minutes behind. But just to remind you, the time is very tight.

I’m going to give the floor now to two more of the seven members of the NATO team, Young Leaders team, who are presenting here. This is to Ulrik Smed, who is with the Office of the Tech Ambassador of the Danish Foreign Ministry, who’s been nominated by the Atlantic Council. And Katarina Kertysova, who is actually a fellow with the European Leadership Network and has been nominated by GLOBSEC.

So, Ulrik, do you want to start off first? And then to Katerina, with your set of recommendations.

ULRIK TROLLE SMED: Thank you, Robin, and thank you, Secretary General, for allowing us to be here today. I’d like to highlight some of our group’s thinking on values and why this is important for NATO, especially following the events in recent years and months.

So at home, we believe Allies should recommit to NATO’s democratic values at the upcoming summit this year. To the rule of law, transparency and division of powers. And operationally, we recommend leaders to have an annual discussion on democratic principles and work towards a written values pledge that would outline norms and responsibilities that Allies strive to live by, to focus NATO’s purpose and its commitments in the years to come. Because we need to be ready and credible in the eyes of citizens and for an era of geopolitical competition on values.

Abroad, we think the Alliance should become a beacon for democracy. To work together with democracies around the world. NATO’s partnership should be anchored in value-based principles on all levels, political, capacity-building and operational engagements. A decade ago, we might have taken for granted that: our values and the direction of travel, but we can’t afford to do that any longer. We need to lean in. And that’s why NATO needs a global partnership for peace with an open horizon to the world and an active approach to partnerships with democratic nations, also outside the North Atlantic region.

So in 2030, we would like to see NATO lead by example at home and abroad in a transparent and accountable way, while building the democratic foundations for an era of global competition on values. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thank you very much, Ulrik. And let me just say, there was a very, I thought, important question we did not get to in the discussion earlier from Rachel Smith, who talked about precisely what you raised, the issue of values and whether the Alliance can remain as committed and how it could do it. So thank you very much for those comments Ulrik, incredibly important. Katarina, you’ve got the very big issue now of climate, over to you.

KATARINA KERTYSOVA: Thank you, Robin, and thank you, Secretary General. As we speak, climate change is affecting our security environment. NATO can and should do more to climate-proof its policies and operations. I’d like to offer three recommendations from our climate chapter.

First, we believe that NATO should capitalise on the current political momentum and put climate change in the top of the political agenda, starting with the next NATO summit. On that occasion, the Allies should publicly state that climate change is an existential threat and a fundamental security risk to the Alliance.

At the North Atlantic Council, an informal caucus of Allies that are already actively engaged in addressing climate security risks could be established to facilitate the exchange of lessons learned and best practices and to regularly brief the NAC. And ultimately, to echo what the Secretary General has already stated: climate change should be embedded in an updated Strategic Concept.

Second, NATO needs to better understand the conflict and instability implications of climate change. Partnerships at all levels, military cooperation programmes and diplomatic tools are very important for NATO to understand the underlying dynamics on the ground and to be prepared to respond in time. A combination of remote sensing, big data and A.I., while improving intelligence sharing amongst Allies, would increase NATO’s capacity to better forecast future environmental shocks.

And lastly, NATO should lead by example and act as a catalyser for climate action by supporting Allies in their emissions reduction and adaptation efforts. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Secretary General, some questions or comments back to . . . to Ulrik and Katarina?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first, Ulrik, I very much agree that values is what NATO is actually founded on. So, we need to stand up for those values. And NATO has, of course, partly been important in defending those values by defending those values against authoritarian threats and challenges from the outside, especially in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Then, after the end of the Cold War, NATO played a key role in spreading those values, through the enlargement – we have gone from 12 members to now 30 members and just by that we have helped to spread democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, throughout Europe.

But then, thirdly, we need to be honest and also talk about the concerns that some Allies express about our own ability to live up to our own values. And there I think that the most important thing NATO can do is that we are open, we are frank. We provide the platform, also, for Allies to express their concerns and to look into how we can make sure that we defend and protect the values also internally.

I refer to the attack on the US Capitol or the US Congress building as one example of how we can never take these values for granted, even inside our own countries. This is not the first time we see concerns expressed about values in our own countries. But I think that NATO’s role is to address these concerns in an open and frank way. And I’m absolutely certain that that will be also part of the NATO 2030 agenda.

Then, on climate change, I already said some words about climate change, but again, I really hope and I – I not only hope, but I know – that climate change will be on the top of the NATO agenda. It will be an important issue when leaders meet and also as we start to develop a new Strategic Concept.

But climate change is so important that it’s not enough only to talk and write about it. We need to do something concrete to reduce emissions. And therefore, I also welcome your third element that we need to actually help Allies to reduce their own military emissions. And, therefore, my question is that: do you think that NATO Allies should set voluntary targets for reducing their emissions from military activities, military emissions? And what more could we do to help to reduce emissions by the military?

ROBIN NIBLETT: Katarina, I think that’s for you.

KATARINA KERTYSOVA: Thank you for that question. I would say that before we speak about voluntary targets, the first step would be to help Allies measure their military emissions. And once those are known, and may be made public, in the next step, NATO could help Allies set voluntary targets so they can reduce their emissions in ways that do not compromise operational effectiveness.

But there’s more that NATO can do. Another step would be to set green targets for defence planning, and such targets could include a 25 percent fuel efficiency increase, higher standards for military facilities, or cleaner equipment and support solutions.

And to revert back to our recommendation about a reformed two percent defence spending metric, we believe that the development of sustainable technologies, of green technology should form part of that reformed metric.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thank you very much for that reply, Katarina, and for keeping this conversation going. And we are moving, again, pretty well on time here, Secretary General.

What we’re going to do now is come to the last third block and we’re going to get some opening remarks from Cori Fleser, Women, Peace, Security Adviser at Booz Allen Hamilton, nominated by the German Marshall Fund of the US, the GMF. We’re going to hear from Jan Lukačevič, a research assistant at the Czech Academy of Sciences, who was nominated by the Aspen Institute Europe. And we’ll be hearing from Andrea Garcia Rodríguez, who’s a research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for National Affairs – CIDOB – nominated by CYBERSEC.

Cori, can you kick off this section first, please, with your comments about partnerships and cooperation? Over to you.

CORI FLESER: Thank you, Robin. Secretary General, I’ll highlight two recommendations on partnerships.

Our first recommendation aims to enhance cooperation between NATO and the European Union. The group acknowledges a deeper NATO-EU partnership would further cement the existing bonds within the Euro-Atlantic community and benefit both common members as well as single membership nations of both organisations.

To streamline and elevate cooperation, the group recommends appointing a NATO Special Representative for NATO-EU relations. This Special Representative would be responsible for strengthening existing recognised areas of cooperation, as well as identifying new or underexplored areas – this could include emerging technologies, space governance and climate security.

Our second recommendation focuses on Allied cohesion, unity and coherence and NATO’s engagement with partners in the Indo-Pacific. Our report highlights the increasing geopolitical importance of the Indo-Pacific region and the need to enhance Allies’ collective understanding of China’s regional activities and global influence.

The group recommends establishing an Alliance-wide approach to Indo-Pacific partnerships with a focus on political and practical cooperation with like-minded nations and multilateral organisations.

NATO should engage in structured political consultations with key Indo-Pacific partners on topics that reflect shared areas of interest, such as economic security, freedom of navigation and resilience.

Such strategic engagement would help the Alliance achieve a more uniform understanding of the challenges posed by China and expand NATO’s global network of democratic values-based partnerships. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thank you Cori. Let me turn straight now to Jan Lukačevič for his comments on emerging and disruptive technologies. Jan.

JAN LUKAČEVIC: Thank you. Dear Secretary General, to keep a technological edge, NATO needs to change its mindset. In a rapidly evolving environment of emerging technologies such as space technologies or biotech, NATO needs to take a proactive approach in their development and adoption.

I’d like to highlight three recommendations here. Our first recommendation is to NATO to go digital. NATO should put more effort to fully digitise Euro-Atlantic political and military institutions. Efficient gathering and processing information from Allied countries can greatly enhance the speed of our decision-making. Digitisation enables the use of A.I., machine learning and quantum capabilities. These are also in a focal point of major innovation.

Second, NATO should strive to identify new technologies early on, strive to accelerate their development and adopt them across the whole Alliance. We propose the creation of a new agency focussing on emerging and disruptive technologies. We call it: NATO Strive. In short, this ecosystem will encompass the early identification of emerging technologies and therefore their research and development. This will result in accelerated adoption and bridging the gap between the private sector, academia and leadership of major Allies.

Our third recommendation suggests NATO being an ethical norm-setter. A newly established ethical framework would enable NATO to set norms in the area of emerging technologies, allowing the Alliance to protect and uphold its values in the future. Thank you.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thanks very much, Jan. Let me turn first to you, Secretary General, to respond to those comments. Any questions you might have back to the group and we’ll get Andrea to reply. Over to you, Secretary General.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So, first to Cori, I totally agree that partnerships are important for NATO. No single institution, no single country can manage all the security challenges we face alone. So we need to work together.

Therefore, for instance, for NATO, it has been extremely important to strengthen the cooperation with the European Union. And I am glad to see that we have been able to lift cooperation between NATO and the European Union to unprecedented levels. I meet regularly with the EU leadership and we are constantly in dialogue with them about how we can further strengthen. Just the fact that more than 90 percent of the people in the EU live in a NATO country illustrates the importance of us working closely together.

I also agree with you on the importance of trying to look into how we can further strengthen cooperation, partnership, with our partners in the Indo-Pacific region. We have four partners there already, in South Korea, Japan and New Zealand and Australia. And I think also when we look at those partners, we see that these are countries which are also important when it comes to standing up for our democratic values. And they are eager to work more closely with NATO. We are eager to work more closely with them. And in the light of the rise of China, I think that the partnership in the Indo-Pacific region becomes even more important. And we need to also discuss, based on your recommendations, how we can further strengthen cooperation with like-minded democracies around the world.

Then, technology. I think it’s hard in a way to understand how much new disruptive emerging technologies are changing the nature of warfare. I have read some books about the First World War and people didn’t realise the horrendous brutality of that war because they hadn’t really taken into account the consequences of the Industrial Revolution for war fighting.

In one way, I think we risk doing the same mistake now, that artificial intelligence, facial recognition, autonomous weapons systems, quantum computing and all of that combined, it’s not only changing our civilian societies, but it’s also fundamentally changing the way conflicts will be fought in the future. And, therefore, NATO needs, of course, to keep, maintain the technological edge.

But we also need to look into how can we develop arms control addressing new technologies? Arms control has traditionally been about counting warheads, now it’s about having regulations of cyber, of algorithms, of a lot of other areas where the normal counting of warheads doesn’t work. So how do we apply arms control to disruptive emerging technologies? That’s a big chapter.

And also when it comes to ethical dimensions, and there I think also NATO should be, as you also allude to, a standard-setter. And this is in uncharted waters. And we should really have an open mind on how NATO can play a constructive role in addressing all these challenges related to technology. I have one question. Is that now, or should I wait?

ROBIN NIBLETT: You’ve got one more . . . one more question coming to you, or one more comment, maybe in reply, from Andrea. Andrea, over to you.

ANDREA G. RODRÍGUEZ: Thank you very much, Secretary General, for your comments. I agree with you – and the group agrees – that certainly, emerging and disruptive technologies is a very big topic, and the issue of partnerships is another big topic.

And I would like to highlight two issues that you’ve mentioned in your comments. The first one is about arms control and the second one is about ethics. We believe that by the creation of this new entity, called NATO Strive, we could work towards these two issues.

First of all, because if NATO guides, globally, the development of the emerging and disruptive technologies, it can also guide the way they are developed. For that reason, we believe that the creation of an ethical framework that should guide the development of these new technologies should be a priority for the Alliance.

Because not only through this NATO Strive agency, NATO would be able to maintain its technological edge by speaking out and finding these technologies as well as the companies and start-ups, in the ecosystem itself,. They have the potential to develop them, but also by exporting these ideas of this, like, ethical EDT, ethical emerging and disruptive technologies, to the world, and therefore reaffirming its power as an ethical norm-setter and also as a democratic giant.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thank you very much, Andrea. Secretary General, that brings us to the end of this section. I don’t know if you wanted to make any last comments right now, otherwise I’m going to thank you and introduce the hackathon. But anything, any last comment from you, sir?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I have one comment on this issue of this new entity you have proposed, or . . . both Andrea and Jan mentioned, that we need a new entity to deal with disruptive and emerging technologies. I think that’s an interesting idea. It’s not for me now to conclude. I will consult with Allies, with capitals, with leaders, before I put forward my proposals for them. But I think that’s an interesting idea, because I think that we need to relook into how NATO can deliver when it comes to bringing Allies together in addressing the importance of new disruptive emerging technologies.

One challenge we have is that, traditionally, new technologies were very much developed by the military. So everything from nuclear to the Internet to GPS has been developed by government actors and often the military. Now, very much of the technology is developed in the private sector. And, of course, if we develop or establish a NATO entity for addressing emerging and disruptive technologies, then we also need to look into how can we link that entity with the private sector, including with start-ups. So, that’s my last question: the link between the NATO entity on technology and the crucial cooperation link with the private sector, including start-ups, which we know are so important for new technologies.

ROBIN NIBLETT: Thank you, Secretary General. I’m glad you brought that point in right at the end, because actually that was another of the questions we were unable to get to, which was the connection with the private sector, in one of the earlier points, so I’m glad you had an opportunity to plug it at the end.

Let me say right now, having moderated quite a few meetings in my time as Director of Chatham House, I thought that was one of the most content-rich, concentrated dialogues I’ve had the privilege of moderating and witnessing. Huge thanks to our young NATO 2030 Young Leaders who showed many of us who are less young how to be able to really put good ideas over in a thoughtful and organised way.

Thank you, Secretary General, for making the time, for inspiring and driving this process and all of your teams as well, back in . . . at NATO. It really . . . has been incredibly productive moment.

Now, this is not the end. I want to remind everyone, I said at the beginning, we’re now going to be going into the policy hackathon. It will be starting at quarter past the hour, I’ll put it that way, depending on where you are. It is six past the hour right now. But at quarter past the hour, we will be going into the hackathon. Those of you who’ve been watching this on live stream, stay with the same live stream. You will have an opportunity to continue engaging and offering questions through the Slido function that you’ve already done. Those of you who’ve been joining the session through Zoom, many of the Chatham House members and others who’ve been in through that platform, you’ve had in the chat line the link to follow, to be able to now engage in the hackathon, it’ll be . . . you need to follow the links that were provided there. And also there was a Slido link that you can use to be able to engage in the conversation as well.

And this is going to go on for two hours. So GMT from 16:15 to 18:15, at the end of which we should have some fascinating insights, voted on with a jury, which of the best ideas, as you always get with a hackathon, on how NATO will adapt, for all the big questions that we discussed today, the values battle, the economic as well as security resilience, the climate challenge, the technology disruption challenge, the interoperability, and where NATO sits in the world.

Again, let me just thank you, Secretary General, for taking on so many of these ideas and engaging with these young NATO leaders. And again, I think on my behalf and everyone’s here, great job to the 14 Young Leaders putting together these . . . these great ideas in such a concentrated way.

So that’s it from me. I look forward to seeing you in the hackathon. Go straight there, but it’ll kick off at quarter past. Have a good productive rest of your day. Thank you very much. Bye . . . bye, Jens.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thanks Robin, thank you.