Updated: 06-Nov-2003 NATO Speeches


6 Nov. 2003

How did NATO survive the Cold War?
NATO's transformation after the Cold War
from 1989 to the present

Video lecture by Jamie Shea,
Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations
and acting NATO Spokesman

Questions and answers

Q: I'm from Azerbaijan. My name is Sharif Zabaief. Mister Shea, thank you very much for finding time for organizing this video conference. We met last month in Brussels, in NATO Headquarters. I have two questions. My first question is: What is your assessment of the current level of cooperation between the south Caucasus nations and the alliance?

Second: What is your opinion about the following: What should these states do, apart from modernizing their armed forces up to NATO standards and ensuring interoperability, to join NATO? What do you think are the main reasons that are preventing us from proactively cooperating with NATO? Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thank you for that. NATO is, as you can imagine, is becoming more and more interested in assisting the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, because we very much realize, of course, that you face a set of particular problems in the area and that that Partnership for Peace, which began perhaps as a program overwhelmingly focused on the Central and Eastern European countries, has to be developed in a way which is more receptive to your concerns. And therefore, at the moment, NATO is sending teams to the region, in discussion with the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defense, to try to look at how we can upgrade the Partnership for Peace so it deals better with the types of problems you face.

For example, we're trying to develop a particular program for the building of democratic institutions. Another one which I mentioned in my lecture is border guards to stop, for example, drugs or weapons of mass destruction, or terrorist organizations from transiting through open borders and over your territories. Another one, of course, is helping the process of forming police and effective military forces, so that more and more of that security burden can be assumed by your government, nationally.

So I believe that the future of the partnership for peace lies very much in the Caucasus and Central Asia. One of the problems which has impeded this type of cooperation in the past is resources, there's no doubt about that, because obviously, partnership for peace is a largely self-financing activity with some limited NATO money. One way around that is to establish trust funds, in other words, for specific projects, like border guards, or the retraining of retired military officers or humanitarian demining. We are appealing to the allies to constitute trust funds which are enabling us to finance these activities.

Another one is partnering with the World Bank. For instance, in the region, we have a World Bank program now for the retraining of military officers, to help them fit back to civilian life. So to the extent we can solve the resource problem, we will be able to move forward decisively.

We also see more exercises under the PfP. It was true that at the beginning, most of the exercises were focused in Central and Eastern Europe but lately, what we've seen, and I think this is a good sign, is that there are more exercises, for example, in peace-keeping, taking place in the region, which are helping, of course, interoperability between a country like Azerbaijan and NATO. And of course, that interoperability also will allow your country to contribute with forces capability for NATO ongoing peace support operations.

So there's obviously a fantastic amount of work that we still need to do, but I think that the political focus is now much more on your region than perhaps it was the case in the past.

Q: Lieutenant-Colonel Milksza from Romania. My question is if the ever-growing capabilities gap between the U.S. and NATO allies has any influence on the trans-Atlantic link and if it jeopardizes in any way the Alliance cohesion?

Jamie Shea: Thank you for that question. The answer is it could do, yes. NATO is based not just on the political identity of values between Canada and the United States and the European allies. The assumption of You know, despite inevitable political differences which you always have when democracies are debating something, fundamentally, we share the same problems and we have a common interest in working together. America can't solve these problems alone, neither can Europe. The trans-Atlantic partnership is what makes the difference. So that is the credo on which NATO is based.

But you cannot have an effective alliance which is just based on values or a common philosophy. You have to be able to act. That's what makes NATO unique. Frederic the Great used to say that diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments. The values don't exist if you can't defend them and therefore, you have to be able to act together. And what made NATO different from many other international organizations was that it could actually deploy forces collectively as well as take collective decisions.

So enforceability is everything in the alliance. And it's true that we face, now, a challenge. The United States is spending vastly more than Europe on defense. The U.S. is spending upwards of nearly $400 billion, whereas the European figure is about 150. So whereas the gap in the past was about 50 percent, now it's less in Europe. But of course, the consequences are that the United States, with the revolution in military affairs has moved forward into new generations of technology, new ways of doing things, new communication systems, new kinds of precision-guided munitions and a major lift capability based on strategic lift aircraft who go to crisis, whereas Europe, which began its military revolution far too long after the Cold War and has just started in recent years with professionalization, with the end of conscription, with trying to become, like America, a global projection force Europe is lagging behind and some American commentators in the past have said: We want to work with the Europeans, but we can't. What do they have to offer? Or are the problems in working with them greater than the advantages because we're not compatible?

So it's extremely important that we overcome this gap in the alliance. We cannot ask the Americans to stop their development and wait for us to catch up, given the global challenges that America faces, that would be an unreasonable proposition. So Europeans have to catch up.

Can they? The question is yes, if they want to. European technology is as good as American technology: Look at Airbus, which is a very tough competitor with Boeing. Look at Europe's ability to build satellites, which are as good as the United States'. Look at the Airbus 400 aircraft, which when it exists, will be as good as U.S. strategic aircraft. So it's not as if Europe is technologically backwards. The question for Europe, as you know, sir, is to be able to commit resources, to take the decisions, so that we produce technologies, like America, in one year, not in 10 or 20 years, which tends to be the case at the moment.

The second thing is that European countries have got to work together to procure systems that they can not afford to procure on their own, such as precision-guided munitions, tanker aircraft for in-flight refueling and the all-important strategic lift aircraft so that you can go to the crisis and not wait for the crisis to come to you.

I'm glad to say that if you look at NATO today, these initiatives have started. NATO is transforming. We have the NATO response force, which is being developed. We have a new command structure, with one command devoted to transformation. We have a prior capabilities commitment which is now focusing on getting the things that we need, rather than the things that they may wish to have, but which do not allow us to carry out our operations. The question is, though: Can the Europeans do these things fast enough so that we narrow the gap with the United States, but more importantly, so that we are also able to service the greater number of missions that we are taking on?

What we see is a proliferation in the missions. NATO is now in Afghanistan as well as the Balkans. But we do not see a proliferation in the capabilities to undertake those missions. And the credibility of NATO is based on the fact that we have the military resources to make a success. The Secretary General, Lord Robertson, has pointed out that there is a usability issue: Europe has 1.4 million soldiers on paper, but at the moment, can only deploy 55 000 on a permanent basis overseas. This is a tiny fraction of the overall number.

So we need more international cooperation, more polling of resources, fewer troops, but those that we have are more usable than what we have at the moment. It's really a question of political will and going fast enough so that we have the troops there for the crisis and not after the crisis has already burst upon us.

Q: I'm Colonel Robert Tuchec from Bosnia-Herzegovina. You explained 10 min. what happened in my country, but I don't want to think about the past, I want to think about the future and please, could you tell me something more about the future in my country. What about your NATO in my country, SFOR troops, because there is rumor that the U.S.A. will leave the area. Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thank you for the question. I believe NATO sees Bosnia as a success story. It's true we've had to wait a long time to see the successes, but they are now there. This is a country which is finally beginning to gel together as a functioning state and society. Many refugees have come back in recent years and have been able to stay. We now see Bosnia participating in the Olympics, participating in a football game like any other normal country. Even Bosnia, the other day, voting in Parliament to send peacekeeping forces to Africa on U.N. missions, in other words, Bosnia as an exporter of security and no longer as an importer of security for its own problems.

Now, I'm not going to try to paint a picture which is totally rosy. We know from all civil wars, like that in the United States, like that in Spain, like anywhere else, that countries that have experienced that kind of violence take not just one year, but sometimes decades to recover fully.

But one thing that has given NATO a great deal of encouragement had been the fact that recently, the government has approved a defense law which will establish a Ministry of Defense, a Chief of the Defense Staff, which will help to integrate the armed forces of the two entities: The federation and the Republic of Serbia. And this will give much more of a state character to Bosnia's military doctrine and arrangements. And this is a key precondition for Bosnia to join the partnership for peace, which is something which everybody in NATO hopes that can be achieved in the near future. So it's very important that this new defense law be now passed by the assembly in Sarajevo and implemented.

Now, it's true that yes, we wish, hopefully, one day, to end the SKOR mission. And why not? It was never designed to be there forever. It's not good for Bosnia as a country to have international peacekeepers on its territory forever, even if they're a stabilizing factor. We want Bosnia to be able to run its own affairs like any other country in Europe. And it's also important for SKOR to end successfully, to show the whole world that nation-building is possible.

We live in an age where, if you look at Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many African societies, there is a tremendous degree of pessimism about nation-building, the sense that Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again, that conflicts cannot be resolved, that reconstruction, democracy cannot be built. And Bosnia will be an example, hopefully, that will say: No, that's wrong. But sure, it takes time. Sure, it takes patience and perseverance and effort but if we are willing to make that effort, after five, six, seven years, we will see light at the end of the tunnel. We cannot start peacekeeping missions around the world if we cannot finish existing ones successfully, not only to release troops for the new missions because we don't, as I said, unfortunately, have an infinite supply of troops but also to create that kind of a confidence that the job is doable and that, I believe, will happen in Bosnia.

Now, the international community will not abandon Bosnia. It's too early for that. But whether it's going to need 12 000 troops is something that I doubt. I think we can look to the end of SFOR. When, I don't know, perhaps next year, but the EU has already offered to take over that mission. And we'll have to see what happens then. But I'm sure both NATO, through the partnership for peace and the EU, through any follow-up missions which it agrees with NATO to take on will stay committed. But the fact is that it will be more police and judges and fewer heavily-armed troops with tanks on the streets of Sarajevo or Banja Luka will be a sign that we really are moving forward and no longer going around in circles.

Q: Sir, I was wondering: In your article about Kosovo and the Media, the Kosovo Crisis and the Media, you pointed out it is necessary to train experts as long as you have the time and it's important to reinforce the department on information and the press if it deems that the crisis is unavoidable. So I was wondering: Could you carry out your job, because I see that it's always difficult to spend money on something that is not yet happened, this is the problem always, and I was wondering could you convince NATO that it was necessary and have experts been trained for conflicts that may arise that have not yet arisen?

Jamie Shea: Well, thanks for this question. I think there are two aspects here. I think the first aspect is that many modern military missions are controversial. The public wants to know: Well, Afghanistan, I know it's a difficult place, but it's thousands of miles away. What's the connection between Afghanistan and our security? The Soviet Union was, if you like, a kind of Hollywood central casting threat, if I can use that expression: It was in central Europe, it was militarily powerful and not many people needed to be convinced that you needed some kind of alliance as a counter-weight for it.

But we're now dealing with conflicts that take place very far from our homes and the public needs to be convinced that stabilizing those societies is in our interest. As Lord Robertson often says, if we don't go to Afghanistan, Afghanistan, in terms of instability, drugs, will come to us.

So the first point, I believe, the media and press, and information activities is to convince people that it matters, it's worth the efforts and the economic sacrifices, that we live in one world where other people's problems, if not dealt with, eventually become our problems too.

The other aspect, as we've discovered in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (1), is that you have to also convince the local population to support what you're doing. A few years ago I was surprised and depressed to find out that NATO was not popular in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Many people did not understand what we were doing in the country, believed that we were maybe there to divide the country, or to support one ethnic group at the expense of the other. And it was our fault in a way that this bad image had occurred, because we were spending too much time influencing the international press and we were neglecting the local press. We weren't explaining ourselves to the local people. When we eventually realized this and began to set up a big media operation in Skopje, in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia and to demonstrate that NATO was even-handed and was there really to keep the country together and to stop conflict, our popularity went up.

So the local media everywhere is actually the key and now, of course, we face the challenge in Afghanistan, in explaining to Afghani why NATO, a Euro-Atlantic organization is now conducting its most ambitious mission to date in Asia.

Q: Vladimir Lebrenko Ukraine. Could you share with us what are the main problems the new members of NATO have to handle as part of the adaptation process? What difficulties have they met with? Also, the final decision on the part of the big seven, through the Prague Summit, the membership decision, what was it influenced by so Albania, Macedonia did not receive invitations. Why was that? And what are the prospects of a third wave of this process? Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thanks. I think it was the Greek philosopher Herodotus who said, several thousand years ago, of course, that no man ever steps in the same stream twice, because the stream is constantly flowing forward. And I suppose the difficulty in integrating into NATO for new members is the fact that they are undergoing a very thorough process of domestic transformation to get themselves up to NATO standards. But as they're doing it, NATO is changing. So it's rather like a moving platform, trying to shoot at a moving target. And therefore, they have to continuously revise their transformation because suddenly, NATO has a new command structure, or new capabilities commitment and they have to re-adapt to that.

For example, at the moment, one of the big issues that the seven are facing is: How can they make a contribution to the new NATO response force, which requires troops able to deploy not after two months, but after five days? Very challenging indeed.

But these countries, although enthusiastic, very motivated to join the alliance, for them NATO is extremely important. It's not just seen as a doorway to the EU, it's seen as important in its own right and they are able to make the transformation because we're helping them. They are receiving, through the membership action plan, MAP, as we say in the NATO jargon, much more guidance, expert help, advice, than the Poles, the Czechs or the Hungarians had when they joined NATO between 1997 and 1999. So It's not a one-way street, it's a two-way street process.

But obviously, you don't become a perfect ally overnight - That's recognized anymore than you become a perfect motorist one minute after you have passed your driving test. It's a question of time and experience and the adaptation of NATO is not, as I said, a one-time exercise, it's something that all allies, new and old allies, have to be ready to do constantly, rather like permanent education. As the threats change, the world changes and NATO has to change as well.

But I'm optimistic. As I've said, we've discovered that the new allies put more in than they get out. They are always there when it comes to contributing to NATO's new missions, being ready to share the burden and therefore, as I said, being bigger does not mean being weaker, far from it.

Now the open door will remain open. There are many countries that will be joining NATO next year that were bitterly disappointed when they did not receive an invitation in Madrid in 1997. I know that in some countries, there was a sense: Oh, my God! NATO has not invited us. It's the end of the world. We are frowned.

Nonsense. The fact that just a few years later, they are allies shows that in the great historical scheme of things, waiting one year or two years doesn't make a great deal of difference and that's the same message that I'd like to give today to Albania, Croatia or the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, that may have been disappointed not to have been invited in Prague. The fact is they know that it's not only in NATO's interest, but it's in their interest if they join our alliance when they are ready for membership - The European Union is the same when they are able to make a contribution, when they are able to integrate.

And as I have said in my lecture, the fact that they are not in NATO does not mean that they're left in some grey zone, insecure and vulnerable, because the partnership for peace, the map, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, engages them perfectly and helps them in the meantime to deal with all of their security problems.

So I'm certain that this enlargement of NATO, even though it takes us to 26, won't be the last It will be the last if something that I can't predict at the present time.

Q: OK. And a question from Brussels. Yes. Some people say that in NATO's transformation in the 1990s, it made just one, but an important strategic booboo. And that is that it forgot to change its name. Yes, keep the political consensus, keep the security guarantee, especially today, these are things that would be hard to recreate. But a symbolic change of name would have so much better communicated the organization's move from a defense, to a security organization, a North Atlantic Security Alliance, if you wish although that's taken by NASA no something different

But basically, that would help so much better to communicate NATO's new priorities and avoid a lot of what we have today, NATO being perceived as a Cold War relic.

Jamie Shea: Well, it's true that Javier Solana, the previous Secretary General was once told by Russians on a visit to Moscow that if he wanted to change NATO's image in Russia, which was very bad at that time for the reasons that the Cold War stereotypes you can imagine the single most important thing that he could do was simply change the name. And that would be better, as you imply, than spending millions of dollars on a public relations marketing campaign.

But NATO hasn't changed its name, why not? Institutional inertia? No, I don't think so. I few changed the name, we would be sort of saying that there was something bad about the old NATO. And it's true that some people felt that because NATO is new today, we should sort of apologize for NATO as it was in the Cold War, as if there was something bad about that, because it was Cold War, it was status quo, it was east-west confrontation and that we should therefore confront the bad, old NATO with the good NATO of today, which is partnership.

As I implied in my lecture, I don't agree with that. I'm the first person to salute NATO's post-war transformation and to say that an organization which risked irrelevance in 1989, when the threat disappeared, had no choice but to change to survive. It's like the English diarist who once said: The thought of hanging concentrates a man's mind wonderfully. Absolutely true. We had no choice but to transform.

But the Cold War was not a situation we created. We inherited it and we did our best to prevent it turning into World War III. We also dialogued the situation with the other side. We didn't try triumphally exploit the situation in 1989, which we might have done. We helped the Soviet Union to downsize in Eastern Europe. And therefore, I don't think we have to sort of change the name because we're ashamed of what NATO was. So that's the first point I would make.

Secondly, NATO is a brand name like any other brand name, and what would you replace it with? This is the tricky part. For example, you could have said the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation. But NATO is now in Afghanistan. Where will it be tomorrow? So we would then have to change the name every six months as we launched the different operations, perhaps in a different geographical area of the world. And above all, what NATO means is the American-Canadian link to Europe. The Atlantic is the key dimension. There are so many Europeans names and titles and unions today, not just the European Union. There is almost nothing, these days, in the world, an organization which has the word Atlantic in it. And therefore, I'm open, perhaps, to a name change if you really want one, but keeping that word, Atlantic, which is what NATO is all about, in a world in which, unfortunately, the word Atlantic has disappeared so much in the vocabulary of international relations, is the one thing I would always want to be seen there.


Q: Sir, you've been mentioning the EU several times now. I would like to know: Where do you see the future in NATO-EU relations? Is it more a relationship of competition for mandate? You know the EU is building up its own airlift and sealift force, its own headquarter may be planed, its own intervention army. Or is it more a case of burden-sharing and of Europe closing the gap with America where you see the future relationship?

Jamie Shea: Well, I believe that dealing with the problems of the XXIst century is going to require two major organizations working together: NATO and the European Union, in perpetual dialogue with each other, with overlapping interests, overlapping responsibilities, but with each with the ability to maybe do some things that the other can not do.

Both have tremendous advantages. NATO has the United States and Canada linked to European security. NATO has the peace-keeping experience. NATO has the integrated military structure. NATO has the relationship with Russia. NATO has the security partnerships with 27 countries in the partnership for peace, and seven in the Mediterranean dialogue.

The European Union has economic dynamism, although we would like to see more of that in Europe perhaps at the present time. The EU has the whole range of crisis management capabilities: economic aid, justice, election observers, police, and the rest.

So clearly, it makes common sense to put them together as partners, thereby creating that twin-pillar concept that John Kennedy spoke about as long ago as 1962. When we work together, we can be effective. We have seen this already in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, where NATO, under Lord Robertson, EU in the form of Javier Solana went there together, using their respective strengths, EU, economic carrot, NATO, military pressure, and prevented a country, I believe, from degenerating into open civil war.

I mention the fact that in Bosnia, the EU and NATO were working together. The EU had the police role, NATO the military role. And so, there are lots of examples whereby putting the assets together, we can have much more leverage over the situation.

What we want therefore, are two things. The first thing is we want the EU to develop a common foreign security policy. A divided, weak Europe, is no good to anybody, least of all to the Europeans themselves. It's not a partner for the United States. And it will only encourage the Americans to act through ad hoc coalitions of the willing, rather than acting through established institutions.

So it's in NATO's interest that the European Union pushes ahead in developing a common foreign policy but, also, security angle as well. There is enough work in the world to keep NATO and the EU occupied full-time. We don't, certainly, need to compete for each other's business. So we want that to be developed. But at the same time, it makes sense for the corporation to be pragmatic. First of all, we should be transparent to each other. We should tell each other what we are doing. Secondly, we should avoid duplication. There's not enough money to have an EU army and a NATO army with different standards, different equipment, different doctrines. We need to make best use of a single set of forces available to both organizations.

And of course, we would like the EU to focus on the things that we need which is not, at the moment, more headquarters, more superstructures, but capabilities, the ships, the troops, the tanks, the aircraft and the helicopters which the U.N. and other organizations are crying out for in order to be able to stabilize the conflict areas of this world. And NATO has offered the EU an agreement which the EU has accepted, called Berlin Plus, in the NATO jargon, which gives the EU countries and the EU access to NATO's planning, access to NATO's capabilities, so that the EU can use all of NATO's experience and know-how in conducting military missions. And obviously, having got this agreement, it already makes sense not to duplicate it outside, which would be a waste of resources, but to make full use of it.

But we meet regularly with the EU, the cooperation is moving ahead and I believe that we are condemned to work together. You remember Benjamin Franklin's quip that either we hang together or we hang separately. And I think it's true that if we really want a stable world in the XXth century, NATO and EU as rivals, as competitors to each other is the one thing we really don't need if we're actually going to have an impact on events.

Q: How flexible the organization is and how it's adapted over time to the new security environment? It's engaged in crisis, managing operations in the North Atlantic area but also, beyond there. And do you actually see it in the near future engaging in preventative military operations?

Jamie Shea: Well, they exist to some degree already. You could argue that Kosovo, for NATO at least, was prevented in the sense that we stopped it, we intervened to stop what clearly would have been a humanitarian tragedy with refugees on a permanent basis, by the way, not able to go back in the region and further destabilization and so, to some degree, preventative actions have taken place already. The U.N. launched one in 1994 by putting preventative troops, mainly U.S. and European in a U.N. operation in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. We are acting, to some degree, preventively, in Afghanistan, if you want to see it as a way of preventing a situation of anarchy which would undermine the ability of the current government of President Karzai to effectively administer the territory.

So yes, I think it's clear and I think the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, where NATO and the EU intervened together to stop a civil war shows that it's much easier to act early on in a crisis, before things have degenerated to the point of armed conflict and bring both sides to the negotiating table to try to do something once the passions have risen, the fighting has started, nobody wants to make peace because they fear they're going to be the loser and as in the tragic wars of Bosnia, it takes many, many hard, long years, before you can finally convince the parties to give up their tirade and thousands of people have died who otherwise may not have died. So preventative action, I think, is going to be an increasingly important feature of the modern security scene.

Q: Changing the actual nature of the alliance, is it becoming in addition to being a defensive organization often engaging in preventative operations?

Jamie Shea: It's a side of defense, of course. Defensive strategy was never the way to wait for catastrophes to happen before deciding if there was a reason to do something. We've seen, as I've said, in the Balkans, the terrible consequences of delaying, of waiting too long, of trying to sort out whether this was an international war or a civil war and those lives are not going to come back, as we know.

But the key thing is first of all, for the alliance, preventative action will require a basis in international law. That's clear. In many cases, we will seek the approval of the United Nations Security Council, obviously, which NATO has always done, by the way, for every single action, we have never not sought a U.N. Security Council endorsement and in every case except one, the Kosovo air campaign, we've had that U.N. Security Council endorsement. The decision will have to be a collective one of all 19 allies. There will be no majority voting on these things. Many countries, of course, will have domestic constitutional procedures to accomplish, like in Germany, or Hungary, or Turkey, parliamentary approval.

But to answer you question, the key thing is that we are able to speed up our decision-making, not change it, not make it less democratic, but to speed it up in such a way that we can actually use the NATO response force as an instrument of prevention and take advantage of the fact that it will be able to arrive anywhere within five days. There is obviously little point of having more rapid reaction forces if the decision-making is not as rapid as to take advantage of that speed.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank both listeners, friends and colleagues and the audience here for being here today and asking questions, which were obviously better than the answers. That's in the nature of good questions. And I look forward to the second lecture in this series in two weeks time when, as I said, to remind everybody, will be focusing on NATO's experience in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Thank you very much.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

Go to Homepage Go to Index