To the
of Canada,

1200-1300 hrs,
27 Oct 98


Current Developments in NATO from the Chairman's Perspective

Address by General Klaus Naumann, CMC

[Thanks to host and CA CHOD and introductory comments]

(The Atlantic Council
of Canada
I find it particularly appropriate that I be asked to address you on the subject of NATO developments in a building named after an outstanding Canadian statesman and one that played such a critical role in the founding our Alliance. Indeed, Article 2 of the 1949 Washington Treaty is a lasting testament to Lester B. Pearson's vision that the Alliance should be much more than an exclusively military-defence orientated alliance. It was the collective vision of Lester B. Pearson and his colleagues in drafting the Washington Treaty that has served us so well in the ensuing almost 50 years. Today as we in NATO effect reforms to ensure our continued success into the 21st Century, we are inspired by that vision. And it is upon this topic, NATO's current developments to prepare itself for future, that I wish to focus my remarks today.

To understand NATO as it looks forward beyond the year 2000, one has to briefly take stock of where the Alliance has been, where it is now, and what factors will likely condition its existence in the future.

Regarding where NATO has been, I would wish to highlight one critical element which definitely merits your attention as it still conditions this Alliance now and will do so in the foreseeable future. That crucial element is NATO's purpose. As set out in the Washington Treaty of 1949, NATO's aim is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Based on common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Alliance has worked since its inception for the establishment of a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe. And this remains its fundamental aim.

Now I know this statement does not surprise you, after all, you have seen it before in the 1991 version of the Strategic Concept and I would be willing to bet a fortune in loonies that you will see a similar, if not identical statement in next year's edition of the Alliance Strategic Concept. The fact of the matter remains, however, that this simple aim is and will remain at the root of all Alliance initiatives and reforms as it strives to prepare itself for the 21st Century. And, of relevance to this group, I know it is an aim which Canada wholeheartedly shares.

This leads me to where we are now. NATO is undergoing a period of unprecedented change and adaptation to adjust to the drastically changed Euro-Atlantic security environment and to prepare itself for the future. Indeed, the various ongoing reforms the Alliance has initiated will not come to an end at the Washington Summit next April. Rather they will continue or be supplemented by other reforms since any large organization, including NATO, needs to keep up with the times to remain relevant and effective if it wishes to avoid the path of the Alberta dinosaurs. I will touch on these reforms later, but first permit me to pull out my crystal ball.

To situate where NATO is now and where it is going, one needs to appreciate the current uncertainties and risks in our security environment and have a sense of what and where new challenges may arise. From my perspective, I see four worthy of particular note.

The first major uncertainty and risk is that of Russia. In saying this, please do not interpret my comments as a desire to return to the days of confrontation. This is definitely not my intent, as I fully believe we should cooperate with Russia, and I would wish to assure you that nothing NATO does is directed against Russia. Indeed, it is to our advantage to cooperate with Her in order to achieve our fundamental aim. That said, one cannot view Russia soberly without coming to the conclusion that this great nation is and will be in a state of considerable instability for some time to come.

Even more worrisome is the fact that no one in this room can predict with confidence the final outcome of Russia's transformation. We of course welcome the fact that this enormous country has tried to embrace the democratic and free-market economic models since the break up of the Soviet Union. But the scale of the challenge sometimes appears overwhelming for a nation whose social conscience never adopted such ideals in its history and so far, Russia, has certainly not taken the necessary steps down the road of true reform. This does not mean we should abandon Russia, far from it, as we should engage this country as much as possible realizing that Her transformation, if it occurs as we hope, will be slow in coming.

But in doing so, we must not compromise on our values and ideals. As a consequence, while NATO needs to engage in fruitful dialogue and cooperation with this great nation, given Russia's considerable conventional and especially strategic arsenal, the Alliance must nevertheless maintain, in all prudence, its efforts in the arms control arena and, ultimately, the means to defend itself including the irreplaceable transatlantic link. This also means that the future Strategic Concept must stick to collective defence as NATO's core mission.

The second major area of risk to the Alliance flows from both the unresolved disputes, claims, ethnic tensions and so forth in Europe and the inherent instability and uncertainty of the nations resting on its periphery from Morocco to India. In this regard, Bosnia and Kosovo are perhaps the most visible examples these days, but we must not forget that several other lingering problems and uncertainties are percolating in the region. While it is true that a direct and intentional attack on an Alliance member may appear remote to many of us at this time, especially those Europeans living North of the Alps, the possibility of such attacks cannot be excluded entirely and neither can the possibility of a spillover from a third-party conflict. I make the point about the Alps since there is no doubt that for today and for the foreseeable future, it is the nations of NATO's Southern Region which are the most threatened.

And as Lester B. Pearson realized, real security is much more than just the military defence of one's territory. Thus, this ongoing area of risk has led, and will continue to lead, to the Alliance looking beyond the borders of its member nations to seek means to project stability and enhance security. This, of course, has resulted in several NATO internal and external initiatives you are familiar with which strive to foster dialogue, transparency, cooperation and sometimes even partnership with its neighbours; which strive to increase its efforts in the crisis prevention/crisis management field including the European efforts; and which strive to enhance its military capabilities to react quickly and effectively to address potential crises within or external to the NATO Treaty Area.

The third major risk from my perspective is the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deploy them. Please do not infer that because I mention this risk third that it is de facto the third in likelihood and/or priority. This is extremely unlikely to be the case. Indeed, many argue that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons with their associated delivery means pose the greatest risk to the vulnerable societies of our Alliance members. This is not surprising given that since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, no nation or group of nations now or in the foreseeable future has the ability to attack the Alliance with conventional military means with any prospect of victory.

Thus our opponents of the future, be they nation-states, sub-state entities, or transnational non-state actors, are likely to seek other ways to challenge us. They will seek our Achilles heel and use unconventional ways to attack our vulnerabilities. And while I share your government's concerns regarding nuclear proliferation, my greatest concern is of some transnational terrorist group employing the "poor man's nuke", namely biological weapons, against one or several of our cities. Our post-industrial modern societies are ill-equipped to cope with such an attack.

As a consequence of these risks and in addition to the variety of inter-state dialogue and crisis prevention/crisis management initiatives mentioned before, the Alliance must, from my perspective, devote more resources to its counter-proliferation efforts, both passive and active while, at the same time, greatly enhancing the inter-state and inter-agency/inter-organization passage of information and cooperation to improve our chances of successfully intercepting any perpetrators before any casualties or damage are sustained. I know this is an exceptionally imposing challenge and that effective results are not guaranteed, but given the consequences of inaction, I feel we must make the attempt.

I categorize the fourth major area of risk as "the new risks". These include, among others, new reasons for conflict such as the search for strategic resources and mass migrations, and new forces of conflict as transnational crime, terrorism, and non-state actors using military means or high technology. I know many of you will have thought of "oil" when I mentioned "strategic resources", but I am more concerned with another critical resource, albeit one that is enviously plentiful in Canada, namely water. A recent United Nations report highlights a scenario of severe water deprivation for 25% of the world's population by the year 2050. And in that report, 14 of the 20 most affected nations lie on or near the periphery of Europe. History is replete with examples of conflicts being initiated for reasons much less justified than the lack of water.

As for mass migrations, I would remind you that even relatively small-scale migrations could be cause for serious concern. One need only recall the security shockwaves emanating from the movement of relatively few Kosovar Albanians to Montenegro, Albania and FYROM this summer at the same time that calls for a "Greater Albania" were being shouted by the UCK. And regarding international criminals or terrorists, just consider the relative ease such non-state actors could destabilize a nation by using a "cyberattack" against, for example, a nation's vital banking, communication or energy distribution information systems thereby disrupting and potentially even destroying the infrastructure of a modern nation.

All these "new risks" exist today and are very likely to gain prominence in the future. To address such risks again demands that the Alliance pursue most of the same initiatives I mentioned with regard to the first three major risks. That said, it should be apparent that to address the risks in this fourth category, NATO's military means are not likely to be the dominant instrument, but they remain indispensable as the last resort and the Alliance expects all member countries to contribute to the maintenance of credible defences.

I have already drawn several Alliance-related conclusions from my description of the four noteworthy current and foreseeable risks and uncertainties. I would like to underline only three.

First, no one nation, even the world's only remaining superpower the United States, can dream of being able to effectively address them all alone. Thus, there is exceptional merit in working within the Alliance and drawing upon the strength and expertise of all members to try to address them all. More generally spoken: security can no longer be achieved by individual nation states; these days, security requires multinational approaches.

Second, even NATO cannot hope to address them all. Consequently, NATO must continue its efforts to promote greater stability and security by means of greater dialogue, transparency, passage of information, cooperation, coordination, partnership, and, when agreed, specific support with its neighbouring states and like-minded organizations. With respect to the latter, our collective experience in the Balkans provided a powerful catalyst and we must capitalize on the momentum it created to enhance and harmonize the architecture of mutually-reinforcing organizations to promote even greater security and stability for the Euro-Atlantic region.

And NATO is and will remain a key player in that architecture as it is the only Euro-Atlantic or European security-related organization that has both the effective political consultation mechanisms to take decisions and all the necessary military means to carry those decisions out. Moreover, and speaking candidly as a European, it enjoys a level of credibility that is unmatched by other security-related organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, and the Western European Union, since firstly, NATO has the means and capabilities to act and, secondly, when NATO takes a decision to act, it combines the regional strengths of the European Allies and Canada with the unparalleled global capabilities and strengths of the United States.

Third, addressing these risks and uncertainties demands that our Alliance military forces can cope with a greater range of missions than was the case during the Cold War. Not only do member nations collectively need to maintain sufficient military capabilities to prevent war, they also need military forces to fulfil the full range of Alliance missions including: collective defence; successful prevention and management of crises affecting the security of its members, including in the counter-proliferation domain; and the continued pursuit of dialogue, cooperation, and partnership with other nations and organizations as part of its cooperative approach to Euro-Atlantic security, including in the field of arms control and disarmament.

Such requirements will naturally have a profound effect on NATO's military force structures, much to the chagrin of the many who believe that with the end of the Cold War, nations can continue to cash in their "peace dividend" or restructure their forces almost exclusively for peacekeeping missions. Indeed, to undertake the full spectrum of envisaged military missions, Alliance nations need to maintain general-purpose combat-capable forces with enhanced flexibility, mobility, deployability, sustainability, and technical adequacy, if not superiority. After years of being focussed on territorial defence, most NATO nations must reorient their force structures with these demands in mind if they wish to contribute to NATO to their full potential.

I know that such restructuring and re-equipping does not come cheap and that financial resources in our Alliance nations are very limited. So I do not advocate great increases in the defence budget of Canada, or any other Alliance nation for that matter. What I do suggest, however, is that nations review the balance between capital investment and all the other expenses in the existing defence envelope. It is only by increasing the former that member nations really stand a chance to acquire the necessary capabilities for the future.

While I discussed the key risks and uncertainties foreseen for the Alliance, you no doubt noticed the explicit or implicit references to the various ongoing Alliance external reforms including the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Partnership for Peace programme, the implementation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the NATO-Ukraine Charter, the Mediterranean Dialogue, several arms control and disarmament endeavours, increased cooperation with like-minded institutions, and last, but certainly not least, the opening of NATO to new members. Such was also the case for the various internal reforms including a more efficient military command structure, a new and effective crisis management tool, the Combined Joint Task Force, and an increased willingness of Europeans to share the responsibilities within NATO as exemplified by the European Security and Defence Identity.

Individually, all these initiatives may have a limited scope or objective, but taken collectively, they effectively form a veritable toolbox of different means all working to a common end, namely to secure a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe. And thus one can see how the different threads of NATO's endeavours are being woven together as part of a cohesive and comprehensive strategy in pursuit of the fundamental aim of the Alliance. Moreover, it should come as no surprise to any of you that in describing the purpose and fundamental aim of the Alliance, the risks and uncertainties it faces now and into the future, its missions, and the means and instruments it intends to employ to achieve its purpose, fundamental aim and missions, I have effectively outlined the tenets of the new Strategic Concept being developed as we speak.

Having essentially mapped out the new Strategic Concept in my brief "tour d'horizon" of current developments in NATO and knowing that the majority of you here are quite familiar with the various internal and external reforms I have just listed. I could stop here to allow us ample time to exchange views on the questions which interest you the most. Before I do so, however, permit me to leave you some food for thought regarding three of these reforms.

Given this audience and the fact Canada was the first Alliance nation to ratify the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO, let me briefly address the opening of NATO first. The opening of NATO, a term I prefer to enlargement, aims, among other things, to enhance the overall effectiveness of the Alliance and where "overall effectiveness" is much broader than just a question of military capabilities. All nations that join NATO bring their inherent capabilities and expertise. There is no question of any second-class memberships here. Indeed, the three Invited Countries will share the same advantages, the same risks, the same obligations and the same responsibilities as all other Alliance nations less one exception, namely France. In the politico-military sphere, they will have an automatic seat on every Alliance committee they wish to join while in the military sphere, they will all participate in the integrated military structure which, incidentally, is one of the best instruments to prevent the renationalization of defence ever devised.

From a military perspective, I can report that the preparations of the three Invited Countries to join the Alliance are progressing well and that things appear on track, especially given our efforts to facilitate their accession. That said, I would be very remiss if I did not indicate that to achieve interoperability with the NATO Allies, even in the priority domains of languages, procedures, doctrine, and command, control, and communication information systems, will take several years, presumably five to seven, and that equipment interoperability for major systems will take several additional years.

In making this point, I am well aware that the decision of when and how many nations the Alliance will wish to invite to join in the next tranche is a political one, but I feel such military considerations are extremely relevant if collectively we wish to maintain the long-term effectiveness, efficiency and credibility of NATO. Perhaps, however, the most important question for Canadian and other Alliance politicians is whether, once the prerequisites have been met, a prospective member will be a net contributor to or a net consumer of NATO security efforts. And let me be clear on that as well: NATO should aim at taking those aboard who promise to become contributors in the mid-term.

Let me say a few words on NATO-Russia relations. Despite the ongoing turmoil in Russia, the fact of the matter is that it will remain in NATO's best interest to cooperate and achieve security with Russia and not against Her. This is especially true these days when there is so much uncertainty in Russia. Turning our backs on this important nation could well lead even greater instability or, worse still, a significant change in Russia's attitude to the West that would unravel all the progress made to date. We should strive to ensure this does not happen, but we should not have any illusions and we should remain sober in our assessment.

Moreover, even at the best of times, we know that that many members of the Russian military and political elites would love to see NATO disappear and we know that they profoundly dislike enlargement since they still believe in outdated concepts such as a geographic buffer zone as an instrument to achieve security. Consequently, while we should continue to seek cooperation with Russia, we should not do so at any cost. We will not grant Russia any co-decision or veto right on NATO's internal matters, and we will never compromise on our values. In this regard, Kosovo was an excellent case in point.

And finally a thought or two regarding NATO's internal reforms. These internal reforms are essentially military reforms and while I acknowledge there is always room for improvement, I would submit that even without the full implementation of these reforms, the Alliance military structures are still relatively flexible and certainly able to react rather quickly and effectively in crisis management scenarios. This was demonstrated numerous times since May with respect to Kosovo. That said, I leave you the question whether the Alliance political structures are similarly flexible, responsive and effective.

That concludes my formal remarks. I thank you for your attention. Do you have any questions?

 [ Go to Speeches Menu ]  [ Go to Homepage ]