|Updated: 10-Jul-2003||NATO Speeches|
3 July 2003
Peacekeeping: Achievements and Next Steps
James L. Jones
In the early to mid-1990s, civil war and ethnic conflict in the Balkans were Europe’s first post-Cold War challenge to the vision of a peaceful, democratic Europe whole and free. A Europe, once divided in the Cold War by different ideologies, and different economic and political systems, could not be divided in the post-Cold War era into regions of peace and stability and regions of war and instability. The challenge put before Europe and the international community was clear.
In 1995, solving the crisis in the Balkans required new forms of political and military cooperation. At the forefront of the new forms of military and political cooperation, crisis management, and crisis resolution was NATO and Russian military efforts in peacekeeping. The unprecedented IFOR operation united NATO and Russian troops under a special system of command, with NATO and Russian troops conducting missions and tasks in accordance with a single Operational Plan (OPLAN), united by a common purpose, common mission, and common rules of engagement. This was a fundamentally new development, forged at a time when the Founding Act had not been conceived, the Permanent Joint Council or NATO-Russia Council (NRC) did not exist, NATO-Russia political-level consultations as they exist today in the NRC did not occur, and NATO and Russian military relations were at the initial stage of development, with only infrequent, periodic contact at the highest level and little, if any, practical work between our armed forces. However, seven and one-half years later, NATO and Russia have committed thousands of troops to the NATO-led Balkan operations of SFOR and KFOR, serving shoulder to shoulder with a common mission, successfully accomplishing a myriad of complex military tasks while operating in a shared risk environment.
Our military operations, first in SFOR then in KFOR, combined with the wide-ranging political and economic efforts of the international community, are giving this region stability, security, and peace necessary to forge a new future. With this stability, security, and peace in the Balkans, Europe itself is safer, more secure, and more stable. At the same time, NATO and Russia’s relationship in the military sphere – born in the commitment to end war and to face directly the destructive forces of civil war and ethnic conflict in the Balkans – has become a cornerstone of Europe’s future and offers the promise of deeper, more permanent military interoperability that can be called upon by political leaders in the future to solve key security problems. As Russia withdraws its peacekeepers from the Balkans, bringing to an end this historic chapter of military cooperation, it is important to review what we have accomplished together and focus on the future of NATO-Russia military interoperability in light of the security challenges of the 21st century.
Russian and NATO forces have been keeping the peace in the Balkans since 1996. However, the NATO-Russian military partnership in the Balkans actually began on 15 October 1995 with the arrival of Col-Gen L. P. Shevtsov at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Charged with the responsibility to develop an approach to integrating Russian forces with NATO forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Russian military delegation and their SHAPE counterparts developed in three weeks a special command and control arrangement for Russian forces (including a special terms of reference for a new position at SHAPE called the Deputy to SACEUR for Russian Forces), agreed a set of guiding principles that would govern NATO and Russian peacekeeping operations, identified the Russian area of responsibility, and outlined the fundamental military tasks for Russian peacekeepers. After decades of separation, little interaction in the early 1990s, a minimum understanding of the other’s military system, Russian and NATO military officers were able to find a common language, a common set of principles, and a common agreement that first and foremost ensured success on the ground for our servicemen who would be tasked with the difficult mission of implementing the peace. This accomplishment is not only testimony to the professionalism of the Russian and NATO military, but set the stage for maintaining a common operational-strategic framework for the conduct of the peacekeeping operations that would assist Russia and NATO in the subsequent development of future SFOR OPLANs. Moreover, these basic agreements and approaches formed the foundation for the developing the Helsinki Agreed Points for KFOR.
This operational-strategic interaction at SHAPE was accomplished through the presence of a senior Russian General Staff officer at SHAPE, serving as Deputy to SACEUR for Russian forces (Senior Military Representative) and working directly with SACEUR on behalf of the Chief of the Russian General Staff. Representing Russia’s Armed Forces in a multi-national headquarters where 48 nations are represented, Col-Gen Shevtsov, then Gen-Lt A.G. Krivolapov, and Gen-Lt V.A. Loginov and their staffs have played a vital part in the success of the NATO-Russia endeavor as well as a critical part of the overall success of the SFOR and KFOR operations. With this direct day-to-day interaction at SHAPE HQs, NATO and Russia military representatives have been able to maintain open channels of communication between the Russian General Staff and and SHAPE, exchange operational-strategic level assessments of ongoing operations and threats to stability in the region, and work out solutions to the difficult and complex task of maintaining security and assisting the international community as they implement their activities. This common approach allowed NATO and Russian forces to coordinate force redeployments, troop reductions, shift priority missions and tasks at the tactical level – directly improving the continuity of effort and focus on the mission at hand. Most importantly, this common operational-strategic perspective also framed concrete, high-level consultations between the NATO and the Russian military at the highest level – which continues to this day – and now embrace issues of mutual interest and concern as they relate to 21st century security challenges.
While the significant accomplishments at the operational-strategic level played an important role in shaping the potential for the first NATO and Russian military operation to be successful, the actual success of this endeavor fell upon the shoulders of the NATO and Russian servicemen operating at the tactical level. At the tactical level, first Russian Airborne Forces, then Russian Ground Forces have operated with NATO forces for several years. Now routine, and involving a wide range of tactical activities between Russia and the armed forces of several NATO nations, these operations at the outset of our common mission were far from routine. Simultaneous force deployment in 1996 required extensive coordination of air, ground, and sea space by Russian and NATO elements. At one point in the initial deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russian and NATO transport aviation were arriving at Tuzla Air Base and off-loading troops and equipment every 25 minutes with these troops immediately moving to designated tactical positions. Facing heavily armed forces on all sides, forces that had been at war for years, a country and economic infrastructure devastated by the disaster of civil war and torn apart by ethnic strife, extremely difficult terrain made more dangerous by the extensive presence of minefields, NATO and Russian forces operated together with discipline, character, skill, impartiality, and humanity to meet the initial D+90 objectives of the IFOR OPLAN. Russian and NATO forces were up to the challenge and met this challenge with a firm commitment to one another. The first shots fired by any IFOR soldier – NATO, Russian, or other Troop Contributing Nations – was a NATO soldier firing his weapon in support of a Russian soldier. This first 90 days proved that NATO and Russia could interoperate at the tactical level, and the complexity and challenge of working together toward a common objective in a common threat environment cemented relations between commanders and soldiers, producing a clear understanding among all involved in both operations since 1996 that interdependence, mutual trust and confidence is not only a reality, but an essential requirement for success at all levels.
Over the years, the tactical interaction between NATO and Russian forces in SFOR and KFOR has expanded and improved. Common training exercises in all military spheres of interaction – communications, maneuver, command and control, fire support, combat service support, medical, public information, civil affairs – have been conducted. Live-fire exercises, educational exchanges, staff exchanges, pre-deployment training and orientation have occurred with the goal of ensuring that our forces were prepared to accomplish the tasks our nations have asked them to fulfill. It could be said that our troops at the tactical level were at the front of the NATO-Russia relationship, establishing the foundation for a genuine and reliable military interoperability. The spirit of camaraderie, common purpose, and commitment was exemplified in the conduct of a live-fire exercise in SFOR involving Russian, U.S. and British Forces. The live-fire exercise scenario was developed together involving Russian Airborne forces, U.S. mechanized infantry and APACHE attack helicopters, and British Royal Artillery and required a special scheme of combined maneuver, reinforced by coordinated Russian artillery, U.S. APACHE attack helicopters, and Royal artillery strikes to be successful. Our tactical commanders understood, and continue to understand the interdependence of effort and mutual trust required to successfully take on such significant military tasks together. Over the past seven years, thousands of Russian Airborne and Ground Force troops have worked, trained, and exercised tirelessly with thousands of their NATO counterparts on the ground, in the mud, and in the cold. These servicemen know at all levels - soldier, NCO, officer – what can be accomplished together and what is required to do the job right. I can think of no better contribution to Europe’s future than to know that the future generations of NATO and Russian military leaders will have this experience as a frame of reference when they are asked to take on tomorrow’s challenges together.
The withdrawal of Russian troops from the Balkans signifies only the end of the first chapter of this new NATO-Russia military relationship. There is much to be done together and we must prepare for the future. Toward this end, NATO and Russia are embarking on a new phase of developing military interoperability with a view to improving interoperability and making this interoperability a permanent capability that can be called upon by our nations. Most recently, NATO and Russian military leaders approved a new effort designed to improve interoperability and measure progress in developing interoperability, which will be implemented in a four-phase program. I strongly welcome Russia’s decision to structure its training and exercise activities with NATO around core interoperability objectives. It is time to take the necessary steps to ensure that the next time our most valuable national resources – the men and women in uniform – are committed into harms way we are ready at the outset to work together at all levels to successfully meet the demands of the mission. Global events over the past years have shown that an ever increasing complexity and diversity of military missions will be required to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The global terrorist threat, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their associated delivery means, extremism, and ethnic conflict will require an ever-increasing level of interoperability and sophistication to be successful. Thus, the demands are greater today than in 1995 and NATO and Russia must work together to advance interoperability further, and not accept the current level of interoperability as a ceiling, but look upon it as the floor. The new NATO and Russia interoperability effort puts us on the right track, examining new areas of interoperability while simultaneously capturing and institutionalizing the successful tactics, techniques, procedures, and processes that have served our nations well in SFOR and KFOR. This is an important first step, that will be followed by successive steps, leading to the type of overall relationship NATO and Russia seek and the level of interoperability required to ensure success in future common missions.
As Supreme Commander of both KFOR and SFOR, it is with deep respect that I express my gratitude for the many efforts by the Russian Federation and its Armed Forces to preserve peace and stability in the Balkans. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the men and women of the Russian Armed Forces for their historic, groundbreaking service in the Balkans. I can assure you that the sacrifices and service you rendered, the esprit d’corps between NATO and Russian military at all levels, and the important success of our partnership in the Balkans over the past seven and one-half years will not be forgotten. The member states of NATO and the men, women, and children from these war-torn areas have a deep and abiding gratitude for the service rendered by the representatives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to the families of Russia’s servicemen, who endured long absences and persevered through many difficult times while their family member served abroad in the Balkans. Your silent sacrifices and support have also been a vital part of our overall success.
We face together not only 21st century security challenges, but the challenge of answering to future generations for how we fulfilled the obligation of building a new relationship, a new Europe. History will show that NATO-Russia military cooperation ended civil war in the Balkans, and sparked the development of a new, broader, special partnership in Europe. Our continued efforts along this path will ensure that these sacrifices and efforts are not lost or forgotten and will prepare us fully for the times ahead.