Updated: 06-Oct-2000 NATO News articles

Janes Defence

23 August 2000
Issue No 8.

The challenges facing Europe and NATO and Partnership for Peace member countries

by Admiral Venturoni

NATO has been and remains the most effective military Alliance in history. No other organisation has done more to preserve the peace, freedom and democracy of its members. In recent years, it has met the most demanding security challenges in the Euro-Atlantic region. But that is not a reason for NATO to rest on its laurels. The New World security order, signalled at the end of the Cold War, has increased the range and complexity of security challenges facing Europe and NATO and the Partnership for Peace member countries. The Alliance has to adapt and restructure to meet these challenges and continue its evolution from a purely reactive defence organisation to one that is actively building security right across Europe. As Chairman of the Military Committee, my task is to contribute in guiding the military arm of the Alliance, ensuring that NATO will continue to be able to meet the challenges of a demanding and as usual uncertain future.

And what are those challenges to security in Europe? The distinct line of the Iron Curtain has been replaced by an arc of instability. This arc stretches from sub-Saharan Africa, through the Balkans to the Middle East, into the Caucasus and Central Asia and is witnessing risks from separatism, extremism, ethnic disputes, border conflicts and mass migration. The rise of non-state actors has resulted in increased risks from terrorism and organised crime. To the ever-present threat of natural disasters, we must now add the risk from nuclear plants. For the Allies of NATO and the PfP member countries who face these threats, they are aware that one of the organisations best able to deal with crises is NATO.

To begin with, NATO has to address improvements to our defence capabilities. Military capability is the heart and soul of this Alliance. To carry out all of NATO's missions - from crisis management, to peacekeeping, to Partnership and cooperation, to collective defence - our forces must be effective, and able to work together effectively. Kosovo was merely another reminder that while NATO's management of the crisis and its application of force was ultimately effective, it was by no means perfect.

Effectiveness is achieved in several ways. First, by ensuring that our forces remain interoperable, and secondly that forces of PfP members, with whom we increasingly operate in crisis management, achieve higher levels of interoperability. Imbalances in abilities between Allies are undoubtedly posing a challenge to interoperability as some countries invest more quickly in new technology. So, we need to ensure that we take advantage of technology to enhance our teamwork, rather than letting it get between us. The purpose of the Defence Capabilities Initiative is to address these imbalances and we have identified 58 specific areas of NATO's capabilities that need improvement. For example, in air operations, Kosovo showed there is a clear requirement for additional capability in the field of SEAD (suppressing enemy air defence) and support jamming as well as improved all weather capabilities and secure communications. Additionally, the demands of recent operations have placed an increased premium on the need to minimise unwanted damage and human casualties leading to an increased requirement for precision guided munitions, early and precise intelligence and more efficient battle damage assessment.

We also need to re-structure and re-equip our forces to be more effective in modern operations. In many ways we have not fully adapted our forces to face the new challenges. On paper, we have 2 million men under arms, yet we struggled to come up with 40,000 troops to deploy as peacekeepers in the Balkans. Today, we need forces that can move fast, adjust quickly to changing requirements, hit hard and stay in theatre for as long as it takes to get the job done. This means that NATO's military forces must be mobile, flexible, and effective at engagement, sustainability and survivability in theatre.

We are currently reviewing our force structure which has not changed since the early nineties, when the Rapid Reaction Corps HQ (HQ ARRC) and a multinational division were established. One clear lesson of recent crises is that we need additional headquarters and forces that are at a high state of readiness, and capable of rapidly deploying to the periphery of the Alliance and beyond. NATO must have the capacity to cope with simultaneous crises and still retain the capacity to deal with an operation under Article 5 - collective defence - which remains key to Alliance cohesion. Put simply - it is not sufficient to have just one fire engine when there may be several fires in the town. Without anticipating the results of this ongoing review, I imagine that NATO may require up to possibly 3 land corps HQs and forces at high readiness, together with comparable HQs and forces for maritime and air. In order to sustain operations, we may further require up to 6 land corps HQs and forces that will be at lower readiness.

In parallel to this work, the EU is also taking action to establish a defence capability to meet future challenges to security. The EU has agreed to meet an ambitious headline goal of having 60,000 troops for rapid reaction. This is wholly welcome, as it will concentrate the European Allies on improving their defence capability and closing the gap with the US. A stronger Europe, within the context of a transatlantic link, will be capable of responding to many more contingencies without being unduly dependent on the United States. The end result will be a stronger and more flexible NATO.

Through all of these measures, we will be able to face an uncertain future with the confidence that we have the tools, the people, and the vision to do the job.