WEB EDITION
No. 4 - Jul 1995
Vol. 43 - pp. 27-31

THE MARSHALL CENTER
AN EXPERIMENT IN EAST-WEST COOPERATION

RICHARD COHEN
Professor of Defence Management at the
George C. Marshall Center


The Marshall Center is the only full-time academic institution specializing in the issue of management of defence in a democratic society. Formally opened in the summer of 1993, the Center is devoted to fostering the principles and processes of democratic defence in the newly independent states of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Initial indications are that it is achieving its aims and the first graduates are spreading their knowledge and ideas gained at the Center to their colleages at home.

The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, situated on the edge of the picturesque town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the heart of Germany's Bavarian Alps, brings together military officers, diplomats and civilian defence officials from Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and several NATO nations. The Center's students, from 26 countries, studying simultaneously in three languages, are part of a bold new experiment in East-West Cooperation.

Hungarian defence officials, Romanian members of parliament, Russian colonels and Uzbek diplomats, are amongst the 156 graduates of the first two five-month courses at the Center's College for Strategic Studies and Defense Economics, which opened its doors to its first students in August 1994. The late NATO Secretary General, Manfred Wörner, described the Marshall Center as "the single most substantial initiative to date to provide the support that the ministries of our NACC Partners so desperately need". By the end of 1995, over 240 graduates will have become alumni of the College, taking home with them a spirit of shared ideals and an appreciation of the theory and practice of how defence is managed in a democratic society.

The Marshall Center is a senior academic institution devoted to fostering the principles and processes of democratic defence in the newly independent states of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The concept had its genesis in 1991, at a time when East-West military cooperation was still in its infancy. However, it was apparent even then that there was an urgent need to establish some kind of centre where significant numbers of the future leaders of the emerging democracies could be exposed to the principles and processes of Western defence management. This kind of education would be essential if the delicate balance of civil-military relations, so fundamental to a democratic society, was to be achieved and maintained. It was hoped that by their influence and example, the graduates of such an institution could gradually transform their defence establishments into bodies which would underpin and support the democratic process.

This was not going to be an easy task. It was appreciated from the start that in order to produce such a fundamental conceptual shift, even amongst a carefully selected handful of the brightest young leaders, a reasonably long course, of considerable depth, would be needed. The US European Command suggested that Sheridan Barracks, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which then housed the US Army Russian Institute, might be a good venue for this kind of course.

On 5 June 1993, the George C. Marshall Center was officially opened by the late Les Aspin then US Secretary of Defense, and Volker Rühe, the German Defence Minister, in a ceremony attended by the Ministers of Defence and Chiefs of Staff from 28 NATO and Partner countries. Les Aspin had recalled the legacy of General George C. Marshall, a former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, whose vision and inspiration helped to rebuild the shattered economies of Western Europe after the Second World War. This new Center would continue the work of George Marshall by "underscoring the US commitment to a new partnership between East and West. It will be part of the web that brings us closer together." A few months later, the framework of that web, Partnership for Peace, was proposed by Secretary Aspin at an informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers at Travemunde.

Unlike a War College, the Marshall Center does not seek to teach the operational art of war. In the words of the Director, Dr. Alvin Bernstein, who previously headed the Institute for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, it focuses on the role of an "...apolitical military under civilian oversight and the defence priorities necessary for the maintenance of a stable government." In February and August of each year, 80 military officers and civilian officials generally of the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel or equivalent, representing virtually all the non-NATO NACC countries and several NATO nations, assemble in Garmisch for the commencement of a new course. For the next five months they will live, work and play together. They study a variety of subjects ranging from the theory and practice of the civil control of the military, and how defence budgets are developed in a democracy, to new security relationships in Europe.

The Marshall Center is under the wing of the US European Command with Headquarters in Stuttgart. The Director, one of the two Deputy Directors, retired Lt. General Robert Chelberg, and the majority of the academic faculty and supporting staff are American, and the US government funds the travel and living expenses of the Partner country students. The German Ministry of Defence supplies a considerable number of teaching and administrative personnel, as well as the other Deputy Director, former air force chief, Lt. General Jorg Kuebert. The British Ministry of Defence has posted a naval officer to the Center as an instructor and other NATO nations, such as Belgium and Italy, have sent military officers as students to the Course. These officers, along with US and German students, provide the NATO "voice" in the classroom and an important personal link with the Partner students. They also gain excellent background and invaluable contacts for future work with the Armed Forces of the Partner states.

The faculty is drawn from a wide variety of institutions and backgrounds, including leading American diplomats and academics, serving and retired US, German and British military officers, and Polish, Russian and Hungarian academics and senior officials. The course is taught simultaneously in English, German and Russian.This allows more flexiblity in the selection of the best candidates for the course from a whole range of backgrounds without regard to their English language capabilities. Partially as a result, the quality of course members has been extremely high.

There have also been some surprises. A Spanish-speaking member of the faculty discovered that, although he spoke no Russian, he could carry on a meaningful conversation with a Kyrgyz student who had spent three years in Cuba as an advisor to Fidel Castro!

Components of the Center

Aside from the College, the Marshall Center has absorbed the former U.S. Army Russian Institute, now given a new role and renamed the Institute for Eurasian Studies. The Institute trains American and other NATO officers and officials in the Russian language and in Russian history, economics and culture. It also runs a series of six-week refresher courses, in several languages, for the US European Command.Its studies have been significantly boosted by the active participation of Russian and other students from the former Soviet Union attending the five-month College course next door. The Institute's students doing the 18-month Foreign Area Officers course travel extensively in Russia and in the other states of the former Soviet Union. They and their families help to sponsor the College students whose own families live a long way from Garmisch.

The third major component of the Marshall Center is the Research and Conference Centre (RCC). The RCC sponsors seminars, conferences and courses for more senior military officers, parliamentarians and defence officials who cannot get away from their jobs at home to attend the five-month long College course. In August 1994, the RCC ran a highly-acclaimed 10-day course for Central and Eastern European parliamentarians, in conjunction with the North Atlantic Assembly. This event, which focused on civil control of the military in democratic states, was so well received that it will now become an annual activity. On his return from Garmisch, the Chairman of the Russian Duma's Defence Committee, Sergei Yushenkov, in an interview with Rossiyskiye Vesti, described how he and his colleagues came away from the course with a greater awareness of "...how the system of civilian control of the military should be formed, what structures are necessary for that and what functions they should have..."

How the College works

The College Course is organized into discrete weekly blocks, each of which focuses on a particular topic, such as "Defence and the Economy" and "Crisis Response. "Twice a week, formal lectures are given by members of the faculty and by visiting lecturers. Some of the more notable speakers who have addressed the class are Secretary of Defense William Perry, Sergei Yushenkov, General John Galvin, a former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Sandy Woodward, the British commander in the 1982 Falklands War, State Secretary Schoenbohm of the German Ministry of Defence, Georgi Arbatov, Director of the USA/Canada Institute in Moscow, Jack Matlock, former US ambassador to Moscow, and Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute in London. The lectures are followed by question and answer periods and then, the following day, the students assemble in small groups for three-hour seminars, each led by two members of the faculty. This format has produced some lively intellectual exchanges in the lecture hall and in the seminar groups where much of the real learning takes place.

The Course is in two parts, separated by a 10-day field trip to Bonn, Washington and New York where the class gets a first hand look at democratic defence in action. The first half of the course deals with the concepts of liberal democracy and how defence establishments function in a liberal democratic state. The second part, which includes a field trip to Belgium to visit NATO headquarters, SHAPE and the European Commission, discusses East-West relations after the Second World War and the future of European security. Students are exposed to the thoughts and writings of such modern thinkers as Samuel Huntington, Milton Friedman, George Kennan and General Sir John Hackett. They also read and discuss the classic works of Clausewitz and Von Moltke on the subject of the relationship between the soldier and society.

The curriculum stresses the essential role of the military in helping to solidify democratic structures. The role of the Armed Forces and its relationship with the Head of State, the Government, the Minister of Defence, and the Parliament are the subject of some interesting debates and discussions. The class examines and compares the very different models of the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden and other NATO and neutral countries as well as the Soviet and Russian systems familiar to many as a legacy of their recent history.

The systematic development of a national security strategy, a national military strategy and an efficient, defensive force structure are new concepts for many of the students. The crucial part played by parliaments and the other complex factors which go into the development of an affordable defence budget, is another area new to military officers whose Armed Forces were once accustomed to getting virtually all the resources they demanded from the government.

It is sometimes difficult to avoid bruised feelings when the Cold War is analyzed in lectures and in seminar groups. It has been suggested that this section of the course be dropped. However, unless these issues are discussed openly and frankly there can be no firm basis for discussion of contemporary risks and the future framework of European security. Predictably, the enlargement of NATO is a topic which has also stirred considerable debate.

The foremost challenge for the faculty is to open minds to new approaches to old and deeply ingrained ways of doing things. There are often surprises on both sides; one officer, from Central Asia, recently brought momentary silence to a seminar discussion with his comment that in his country there was no difficulty in achieving consensus between political parties on the major security issues because there was, in fact, only one political party!

The final week brings together all the elements of the Course in a practical exercise. Drawing upon what they have learned in the Course, the students work in country groups to develop their own version of their nation's security strategy, its military strategy, and a force structure and defence budget to support it.This exercise has been hailed as a great success; it encourages students, perhaps for the first time, to think about their nation's vital security interests in the context of a new, free and democratic society. It also draws together the military and civilian members of the national contingents in a joint effort to produce a series of documents, fundamental to their country's security.For many of the national groups this is a new experience in civil-military partnership which should yield significant dividends on their return home.

The Marshall Center has built up considerable expertise in a relatively short period of time. The faculty and staff are gaining invaluable experience from their professional and social interaction with military officers, politicians and civilian officials from the new democratic states. General George Joulwan, in his role as Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander-in-Chief United States European Command, has offered the services of the Center as an important complement to Partnership for Peace.

Already, the Marshall Center has sent teams of expert instructors to several Central and East European countries to teach civilian and military leaders a variety of defence-related subjects, including the formulation of security strategy and the mechanics of defence budgeting. This programme is expanding to meet a quickly developing demand, partially fuelled by requests from a growing number of Marshall Center graduates as they move into positions of influence in their Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs and their Parliaments.

The very successful College Electives Programme, which encourages students to further investigate specific areas of interest, such as NATO, the media in a democracy, peacekeeping, terrorism, and reserve forces, is being expanded and developed. College students are now participating in, and contributing to, the Russian language Elective Programme at the Institute for Eurasian Studies. There is a growing exchange programme with the NATO (SHAPE) School, in nearby Oberammergau, which allows each institute to benefit from the experience and expertise of the other. In conjunction with the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, the College has also begun a voluntary English programme which gives students the opportunity to learn the English language at their own speed and capability.

A web of cooperation

The George C. Marshall Center is taking its place as a growing element in an expanding web of cooperation. The lessons gained from its very encouraging start will be built upon in the months and years to come.The Marshall Center, and in particular its College of Strategic Studies and Defense Economics, is unique as the only full time academic institution specializing in the key issue of the management of defence in a democratic society. While it is still too early to make any firm assessment, first indications are that the Center's aim of projecting this concept into the new democracies is being achieved and that the first graduates of the Center are using their new knowledge to spread their ideas and to influence their colleagues at home.

The future success of the Marshall Center may have a significant bearing on the achievement of the goal of peace and stability in Europe and further afield. In the meantime, the growing number of future leaders of the new democracies that have passed through the Center are an important link in the expanding network of human contacts and personal relationships that will ultimately tie together old enemies and new friends.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1995.