Updated: 05-Jun-2003 NATO Speeches


5 June 2003

Video Interview

with Chris Donnelly,
Special Advisor to the Secretary General
for Central and Eastern Europe

Video interview

Q: You're the Special Advisor to the Secretary General for Central and Eastern European Affairs and you have been for a number of years now. You have therefore been able to observe the radical changes in the security environment, and for instance the end of the Cold War, the emergence of new threats and new forms of conflicts. Which factors would you say are having the greatest impact on the security of NATO member countries today?

Chris Donnelly: The whole concept of what security is has changed. When I first came to NATO in 1989, security and defence were synonyms, these meant the same in people's minds. The more tanks you had, the more secure you felt.

Today, that's not the same at all. Defence and security are no longer synonyms. Security today is a whole lot of other issues and it really... the things which people really worry about today is no longer World War III, it's indeed... usually, it's not war at all. It's organized crime, illegal migration, corruption, insecure borders, incompetent government, ethnic strife, religious strife, terrorism. These are the issues that worry people.

Q: Could you explain these points in more detail?

Chris Donnelly: Yes. The fact is that the world has changed. About every 50 years, our world goes through a revolution, a paradigm shift, a really fundamental change in the nature of conflict.

Two hundred years ago, for example, we saw the French Revolution which brought in a whole new concept of conflict, and introduced things like mass conscript armies. With these, Napoleon changed the fate of Europe and we still live with that.

Middle of the 19th century, you've got the American Civil War, the simultaneous introduction of the rapid-firing rifle, the railroad, the telegraph changed the nature of conflict and shaped the United States. And they still live with that.

The end of the 19th, early 20th century, we have the industrialisation of warfare and the First World War which changed the nature of society.
The middle of the 20th century, the globalisation of warfare. The Bomber, the nuclear missile, the missile, the nuclear weapon. And again, these are not just technological changes, it's not just military issues, changes in society.

Well, we are living through exactly such a change today. We know where we're coming from, we don't quite know where we are going. But all those issues (inaudible)..., these are now aspects of this new security environment. And countries and people and NATO, we all have to come to terms with this new reality.

Q: So progress and technology, you're saying, is changing our security environment. Would you say there are other factors that affect it?

Chris Donnelly: Yes, I would pick out three important ones that are really obvious over the last decade.

The first is the increasing gap between rich and poor countries. And this particularly applies if you think of Europe, think of the Mediterranean, and then take the countries to the north of the Mediterranean and to the south. And then, take UN figures for today, GNP per capita income, population, and then the figures for the UN extrapolated 10 years from now. And there's a horrific development, a horrific increase if you like, in the wealth gap between north and south. And then, just think of the implications of that. And then add to that consideration, the points I've just mentioned, the new security threats, the corruption, illegal migration, organized crime, incompetent government, and look at where you think those problems are likely to emanate from. We can see that there is a potential security dilemma here for all countries. We simply can't escape it.

Then, there's the proliferation of technology. This is not weapons, it's all of technology. We cannot stop the threat of technology.

Now, the West has this sort of complacent myth sometimes that it is superior in technology. And our armed forces very often, again, are complacent, sometimes arrogant, in their sense that their technology is better. Well, to some extent, this is true. 19th... Early 20th century British poet Hilaire Belloc summed this up in a short stanza, he said: We shall not fear the Hottentot because we have the Maxim gun and he has not. And if the gap in technology is so great, as between the Maxim gun and the Hottentot or between the B-52 Bomber and the Taliban fighter who has nothing but a rifle, then yes, technology can be a war winner.

But technological advantage is always transient. Technology spreads easily. It is very easy nowadays for a dictator in an emerging country which we would otherwise think of as too poor, if he is capable of concentrating the wealth of his country in building weapons to get access to technology which can threaten the superpowers of the world. And 9/11 is a good example of that, but it's by no means the only possible example.

Q: Would you say the information revolution has an impact on the security environment?

Chris Donnelly: Yes. I think that has an impact in two ways. Firstly, our societies have become more efficient and based that efficiency on information technology. They also become more vulnerable, more easily disruptive, more... less capable of accepting risk.

And the second aspect of this is the media. The media has now developed to such an extent in the world that there is no longer any possibility of controlling it. and its impact, therefore, is enormous.

And so nowadays when we participate in either a military operation, such as the recent operation in Iraq, or when we engage in a diplomatic operation, no matter what it is, a humanitarian operation, everything is done in a new environment and that environment is the media.

The soldier, the diplomat, used to have to consider the environment he operated in. And it was fairly simple: from a soldier's point of view the environment is the terrain, the landscape on which he operates. From a sailor's point of view, it's the sea. From an airman's, it's the weather. Ignore that environment, and no matter what the enemy does, the environment can defeat you.

Well, the new environment we all have to face today is the media. Ignore it and it can defeat you, no matter how just your cause is, no matter how efficient your diplomatic or military or humanitarian operation is.

Q: So from what you're saying here, basically, the definition of security has evolved but so has the definition of threats?

Chris Donnelly: Indeed. Once you change one definition, such a basic one, and lot of other definitions, those changes have to follow. And it's very difficult for a nation which has invested money and people for decades in preparing for one kind of threat to shift that investment, to shift their mentality to deal with another.

And just as the issue of threat changes, than so does the issue of deterrence. How do you deter against a threat? In the Cold War, deterrence was by conventional defence guaranteed conventional defence backed up by the vague threat of nuclear weapons. That was true whether you lived in Moscow or whether you lived in Bonn.

Today, that deterrence doesn't work. Conventional defence, nuclear weapons, did nothing... conventional defence and nuclear weapons did nothing to deter al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. So how do you deter today?

Q: So you're saying there are military implications of these changes of definitions.

Chris Donnelly: There are indeed. What worries people today in terms of new threats to security are not primarily military issues in those parts of the world. In some parts of the world, there still are. A lot of people today are still being killed but particularly in internal wars now, rather than wars between states. There have been something like four million people killed in the last decade in this kind of internal war. This is not a secure world we're living in. And because these are internal conflicts, 75 percent of these victims are women and children. That's another thing which has not been understood, generally not been reacted to.

And somehow or other, our national and international security institutions now have to come to terms with this new security issue. And yes, there is a very important military lesson here because the armed forces have a role to play. But the role the armed forces play in establishing security today is very different from what it was in the Cold War.

Q: Would you say there are implications for NATO and even the EU?

Chris Donnelly: I would say in this case, the implications for NATO and the EU are in fact the same. I see no contradiction here between NATO and the EU CFSP. They both draw on the same countries, they both draw on the same available forces, be they military, police, or whatever other security force. They are now, in effect complimentary, both pieces of the same pie.

The problem is that most European countries, however, have still got armed forces which are effectively simply small scale versions of their Cold War armies. They've reduced them in size but they haven't done the fundamental restructuring. These are forces primarily designed for territorial defence. Now that kind of a force, which made great sense in the Cold War in which in most countries have been built into the national social system, that kind of force can make very little contribution to fighting the new security threats. And therefore, most European countries, most NATO and EU countries and African countries, now face a really serious demand for military reform as a result.

Q: If there are such wide changes in security, obviously there are implications for the whole of society. What other implications therefore do you see beyond NATO, beyond the EU, beyond the military?

Chris Donnelly: Well firstly, for those countries in which the armed forces are embedded in society in a very intimate way --Germany is a good example or Norway, Sweden, Finland, Scandinavian countries are perhaps the best example-- where the whole effort is the make the army and society one. Then, if you're going to have serious military reform, then you need at the same time... that could only be done with serious social reform as well. That's the first aspect of it.

Secondly, the new security threats are changing and now our responses to these have to change. This actually demands us to restructure our societies, to restructure the way we think about virtually everything in the way we run our societies.

We pride ourselves on democracy, on market economy, but new security threats blur the traditional distinctions between war and peace, between internal and external security. And they demand, therefore, new security mechanisms. And if we're not very careful, we could introduce new security mechanisms to protect against these new threats, which actually take away our democracy, which undermine our market economy. And as societies, this is now what we now have to tackle. This is not just an issue for government or for military or for police forces. The whole society has to rethink its relationship with its armed forces and its forces of law and order.

Q: So there would be direct implications for the economy, for the corporate sector?

Chris Donnelly: Oh, absolutely! The corporate sector(?) now has to be an integral element of taking decisions on security. You can longer have a separation between government and an industry government and business.

Just think, we have what, 15... 15 million containers moved during the year world-wide? At the moment, only about two percent of those have any security check at all. The rest could be smuggling drugs, weapons, people, nuclear material, anything. The rest of the 98 percent are not checked.

Well, if we double our security effort on containers, that's only four percent that doesn't help. If we increase it and increase it to a reasonable sense, it would simply stop world trade. That's the most obviously example. But it's the same at airports. You can increase passive security measures till you simply make travel so unattractive, people don't travel.

We can't solve this problem by ratcheting up old security mechanisms. We have to have a completely new perspective. We have to rethink how we do things and that involves business because it involves trade, commerce, the commercial economic health of the country. Governments can't decide that. That can only be done with the business input.

Q: Chris Donnelly, thank you very much, a very interesting oversight of security today.

Chris Donnelly: Thank you.

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