Closing the capabilities gap
NATO has struggled throughout its history with questions of interoperability and burden-sharing. But because the US lead in technology is now so great, current concerns are more serious. The divergence of capabilities risks creating a division of labour, whereby the high-tech Allies (principally the United States) provide logistics, strategic air and sea-lift, intelligence and air-power, and the others, by default, find themselves increasingly responsible for manpower-intensive tasks such as long-term peacekeeping. Such a division of labour, if it becomes too stark, is politically unsustainable. It would create different perceptions of risk, of cost, and of success, and put enormous strain on NATO's unity and cohesion. Efforts are now underway to bridge the capabilities gap. At the upcoming Prague Summit, NATO will adopt a new capabilities initiative, which will complement, and reinforce, the European Union's efforts to develop, by 2003, its Headline Goal of a deployable corps-sized force. However, NATO's success at developing the necessary capabilities, as much as the European Union's success in meeting its Headline Goal, requires resources.
NATO will launch a new capabilities initiative at the forthcoming Prague Summit that will differ from its predecessor, the Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI), in three respects. Its focus will be sharper. It will be based on a tougher form of national commitment. And it will include a greater emphasis on multinational cooperation, including role specification, and mutual reinforcement with the European Union's drive to develop military capabilities. The four areas of focus are defending against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks; ensuring command, communication and information superiority; improving interoperability of deployed forces and key aspects of combat effectiveness; and ensuring rapid deployment and sustainment of forces. While it is unrealistic to expect the new initiative rapidly to bring about all desired capability improvements, it should improve overall NATO capabilities and narrow the gap between the United States and the other Allies, provided Alliance governments make good their pledges.
Investing in security
The challenges we face today are not as immediately obvious as the threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But they are real and, if anything, even more insidious. In the coming years, we must expect more terrorism, more failed states and more proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Solutions to these challenges are not purely military, but military capability is the crucial underpinning of our safety and security. Today's security environment obliges us to put stronger emphasis on the long-range application of force, deployability, sustainability and effective engagement. There are some encouraging signs that Europe has woken up to the problem. However, many European Allies still suffer from a "zero-growth budget" mentality that restrains their necessary military transformation. Even without major increases in defence budgets, it is possible to build greater capabilities and the Prague Summit should be a decisive milestone towards changing the output from defence. This is not a question of economics or procurement, or even of military judgement. It is a matter of political will.
Hitting the Helsinki Headline Goal
Three years ago, the European Union set itself the Headline Goal to be able by next year to deploy, within 60 days, a force of up to 60,000 and to sustain that force in the field for at least a year. The drive to develop military capabilities is not about building a competitor to NATO but about improving European capabilities in general and, in this way, both strengthening the European pillar of NATO and contributing more effectively to NATO-led operations. The European Union will not be involved in collective defence, but in crisis-management operations, where NATO as a whole is not engaged. At present, many capability shortfalls remain. Some could be eliminated relatively easily through additional offers from member states. In other areas, existing national and multinational initiatives should, in time, deliver the necessary improvements. But there are other areas in which capability upgrades can only be achieved through considerable investment. At a time of tight budgets, getting maximum output for the defence Euro will be critical. Achieving this will require new and innovative thinking and approaches. Arguably, the most important change required is psychological. European decision-makers will have to think and act "European", if they wish to develop and improve European capabilities.
Slowly but surely
The creation of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe in summer 1999 generated great expectations throughout the region. However, a sentiment soon emerged that it had failed to deliver. Part of the problem was a lack of understanding of what the Stability Pact could realistically achieve. It is not a funding body or implementing agency. Rather it is a body of some 40 countries and international organisation that seeks to develop and promote coordinated strategies to problems that affect the whole of Southeastern Europe. An analysis of developments in the region during the past three years indicates that a positive picture is emerging. The countries of the region are moving closer to European and Euro-Atlantic institutions and structures. Contacts among them have been intensified and regularised. And a network of initiatives has been established to deal with what are now recognised as common problems. Current priorities are trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, refugee returns, fighting organised crime, reducing levels of small arms and light weapons, and the establishment of a sub-regional cooperation process designed to engage Kosovo with its immediate neighbours. The Stability Pact is not a panacea for Southeastern Europe. But the region is moving in the right direction and the Stability Pact is increasingly influential in this process.
Since the mid-1990s Central and Eastern European states have - with NATO's support and encouragement - instituted major defence reforms. They have put in place mechanisms for democratic, civilian control of the military, developed forces capable of participating in international peace-support operations and reduced the overall size of the armed forces. When these countries join NATO, their national defence dilemmas will increasingly become part of the wider defence capabilities and burden-sharing questions facing the Alliance as a whole. As a result, Central and Eastern European governments and NATO need collectively to explore ways forward. Solutions may involve more radical reductions in overall forces, the abandonment of some high prestige but expensive procurement plans, the development of more multinational forces and procurement projects, greater national role specialisation within NATO and the European Union, and the direction of more attention to the less glamorous aspects of defence policy such as training, operations and maintenance, and communications equipment. Without taking these steps, the Central and Eastern European military contribution to NATO and the European Union will be less than it could or should be, and the benefits of enlargement will not be fully reaped.