Updated: 10-Mar-2004 NATO Speeches


9 Mar. 2004

How global can NATO go?

Video lecture by Jamie Shea,
Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations

Transcript of the video lecture
Video interview
Audio file .MP3/14243Kb

Questions and answers

Q: First question Nicoli (inaudible) from Bulgaria. In the lecture it was mentioned that ISAF is looked at as a continuation of Article 5 Declaration. Could the lecturer elaborate a little bit more on this issue and also in the future NATO how Article 5 is being in the core function? Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thanks very much for that question. As a result of Article 5 being invoked by the Alliance on the 12th of September 2001, NATO conducted a number of activities in response to a request for assistance from the United States. But two of these activities are still ongoing.

One is the Operation Enduring Freedom, which takes place in the Mediterranean, and which patrols shipping to deter terrorist attacks against commercial shipping, and that's in a very vital sea lane, of course, the Mediterranean.

The other one is Afghanistan where the Alliance offered the United States support and help in dealing with the terrorist organizations that emerged from Afghanistan, and which were proven to be responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And therefore NATO's role now in Afghanistan started initially from an offer to assist the United States in stabilising that country. And the United States had two choices: one which was to seek an Alliance involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom, fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The United States preferred, for very legitimate reasons, to seek individual involvement of Allies there. Several Allies have participated, and several non-allies as well, rather than NATO as a whole.

The second aspect, though, was to suggest that NATO could play a role in ISAF, which was supporting the government of President Karzai, initially in Kabul in stabilising that country. Because of course, the other part of any operation to defeat terrorism is to build structures of functioning, democratic governments of law and order, which do not prove to be a fertile breeding or training ground for terrorists.
So certainly the two are linked. And I use that as an example that Article 5 today, given the types of new threats that we're facing, can have defensive consequences beyond your territory in a way that was unthinkable, of course, during the Cold War when it was interpreted very narrowly as a conventional attack to seize and occupy your own territory.

Q: Other question in Russian. Can you answer when, why, and how much? I will explain bit by bit, and hope you will explain to me.

You've adopted new strategy and you've come out with a list of new tasks and goals. To be able to put them into practice you started to think about new capabilities. The war in Iraq demonstrates that the new goal, with the new strategy it's only the United States, NATO, partially the United Kingdom, that have enough capabilities.

And the question is, why is it so that the old Europe doesn't want to spend more money to close this capabilities gap?

And the second question: If the old Europe does pay the money, how much would it cost them to modernize the old European armed forces, to bring them up to scratch? And can you give me the magnitudes, just one billion, thirty billion or whatever.
And here, where I can give you an example. Once, old Europe did get dividends from the fact that they were lagging behind the United States. Back in the sixties they bought new aircraft, air defence systems and early warning systems, communications, anti-tank weapons systems. They procured new weapons systems. And the old Europe could also impact the exchange rates, and by doing so this will have a global economic effect.

So the question is, why, when, how much? Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thanks. They are very big questions, obviously. I'll do my best to answer briefly, but of course you could devote a whole series of lectures in a future series just to tackling the questions that you outlined there. They're all very fundamental.

Clearly the Europeans are modernizing and reforming their defence establishments. It would be wrong, you haven't done this, sir, but it would be wrong for anybody to portray it as the U.S. full of dynamism and Europe standing still and doing nothing. Virtually every European Ally is now in the midst of a professionalization of the armed forces, are putting our new reaction forces, increasing the percentage of their forces that are useable, like in rapid reaction forces, buying strategic aircraft, modernizing equipment, buying new communications and the rest.

One could maybe say that the Europeans should have started this much earlier. There was a sense, as you know, a euphoria after the Cold War that military forces could be downsized. That strategic vacation, of course, has disappeared, we know that, and the Europeans are now playing catch-up.

The other thing, of course, is that Europeans do have a lot of very useful capability which the United States has been very happy to have. You mentioned the United Kingdom, but many others have contributed very good special forces in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in ISAF, the Europeans provide 80 percent plus of the forces engaged.
Not in easy peacekeeping, but in demanding peacekeeping operations, and this also takes the burden off the United States.

It's true that at the very top end of the spectrum, what you might call high tech, high intensity combat, the United States has a great advantage, but that is only a very small percentage of the military operations that you see today. Virtually 90 percent of the military operations are the type of intensive, peace support, peacekeeping, stabilization missions. The Afghanistans, now the Iraqs, the Kosovos, the Bosnias, the Sierra Leones, the Ivory Coasts, the Haitis now, and of course, there the Europeans have a great deal of expertise and they have very, very good troops.

So clearly there is a gap, you're right to point to it. We have to close that gap, but we mustn't start from the premise that everything that the U.S. has is excellent and everything that the U.S... the Europeans have is backward. That's not true. The gap is there, but even so, with the enthusiastic European response to NATO's new response force concept, where France currently is the largest contributor, you do see a genuine desire to move in the direction of greater usability, deployability and sustainability. We have to keep the effort there.

Now you ask about defence budgets, and it's true that although some countries, like France, have increased their defence budget significantly, by six percent this year, most of the other increases have been quite small. We have to understand that the political climate, that the economic climate in Europe, is difficult for large defence budgets under present circumstances.

So we have to take 250 billion euros, that the European allies do spend and which, although not as much as the Americans, by the standards of the rest of the world, it's still a very large sum. We have to take that figure of 250 billion and see how we can spend it in a more rational way.

And NATO is doing a lot here to help, by setting clear priorities, by making sure that European Union goals are the same as NATO goals, so that countries are not given conflicting priorities and guidance, by encouraging greater role specialization among allies, by encouraging greater pooling of assets, like strategic lift aircraft, by encouraging more multinationality as well, so that vital functions can be shared.

So the answer is there. The key challenge, though, for the Europeans is to produce those greater assets faster than the new missions are being created. If the new missions, like Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East are coming along faster than the capabilities are being created, then we're going to have a problem.
So I'm satisfied that the Europeans are now on the right lines, the question is, is to speed up the process.

Q: A short question. Mr. Shea mentioned the NATO membership should be reconsidered, so when it should be done? At the Istanbul Summit or later? Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Well, what I actually said -- thank you to that question -- is that NATO obviously has to take a new look at its partnerships. Membership will continue. Seven countries will join NATO in just a few days time, as I said. The door is open for further memberships in the future. There are three countries in particular that are still part of our Membership Action Plan, but which the preparatory track towards membership: Macedonia, Croatia and Albania.

Other countries, undoubtedly will come forward and seek membership in the future. I think there NATO's attitude should be clear, the door must remain open. The incentive of that open door is a key factor in reform in the countries concerned, which we shouldn't lose. And as long as NATO ensures that the new members are ready for the more demanding type of NATO membership in the 21st Century that I referred to, then of course they should be given the opportunity to be members of the Alliance.

However, having said that, membership is no longer the only way of interacting with the Alliance. We've seen, in the last few years, in terms of our relationship with Russia, Ukraine, our relations with countries to the contributed troops, to our Balkans missions, or the contributing troops to date to Afghanistan, the key importance of a country like China, the interest of Australia and Japan to share experiences, that we have to reach out to these important players as well.

Membership may not be what those countries want, or what those countries need, but it's certainly in NATO's interest and their interest to make sure that on the important issues we're joined up.

They can contribute intelligence, they can contribute advice and expertise as NATO goes further afield. Having those countries playing a stabilising and good neighbourly role is going to be crucial to the success of our missions.

So I would argue in the future those partnerships will be just as key a feature of NATO and its day-to-day activities, as membership was in the past.

Q: Question from Ukraine. Well, I want to know about the following point. Your presentation was very interesting. You set out your new vision for NATO, three scenarios. That was very interesting to hear, and I have a question about the countries which wants to integrate with European Euro-Atlantic structures. So they've taken this European Euro-Atlantic route, like Ukraine, my country and Ukraine is following this second scenario so we see NATO as a tool box. But you say this is not very optimistic, not a very useable scenario and I agree with you. This is not the way to go. Not the best way to go.

Talking about a third scenario, how do you see the role of countries like Ukraine, who are trying to integrate into these structures with Euro-Atlantic structure serving as a locomotive of peace and civility? So in the meantime, do you think that Ukraine may join NATO, in the nearest future, and European Union?

Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Thank you for the question. Well as far as NATO having Ukraine as a member is concerned, never say never. NATO has recognized the Ukrainian aspirations to become a member of the Alliance. And we respect the importance of Ukraine by having a special bilateral relationship; the NATO-Ukraine Charter, the NATO-Ukraine Commission. And I think it's a fundamental point that these very important countries in the Euro-Atlantic area, NATO should have these very important bilateral relationships. And where it means... where in the case of Russia or Ukraine inventing a special institution to recognize that fact, and to handle it, then so be it. That can only be to the good.

So the first point is that NATO hasn't and will not have ever close the door to Ukraine and Ukraine being a member.

Now having said that, we have to work on two tracks. There's first of all, the military track, where we have to work with Ukraine on a realistic program of reform. I think there we're in much better shape than we were a few years ago. Ukraine is much more focused on this. It has a national plan. We have no only, with Ukraine, an individual partnership program, but we have a targeted action plan, with verifiable results that we can measure. That's challenging for Ukraine, but the fact is that NATO is seriously devoting the expertise to make that happen.

We've got away from this phase that we were in with too many unrealistic targets towards a much better sense of objectives and the fact is that Ukraine is now, by participating in Iraq, by participating in NATO commissions in the Balkans, showing that clearly it wants to contribute to international security.

But at the same time, this cannot be a relationship based on military relations along. Political track has to develop as well. We have to be reliable, dependable, transparent partners for each other. We obviously have a very keen interest that the process of reform, democratization in Ukraine, continues, and of course the presidential elections that are upcoming, the debates over the new form of the constitution are very important for allies, because after those processes we want to see that Ukraine is moving towards, not just NATO military expertise, but to NATO political values as well.

But to the extent that you want to move in that direction, and I believe you do, you will find NATO not just a passive, but a very active partnership helping you to meet those objectives. And that's what's absolutely key.

Q: In your presentation you said that in the future mini-NATOs might be possible to deal with regional issues. And I have a question, what sort of issues might be dealt with by a mini-NATO and which are the focused regions with that organization?
And the second question, do you see any duplication here, (inaudible) or Shanghai arrangements. There's a lot of overlapping and do you think this might be a problem in the future, if we go this route?

Thank you.

Jamie Shea: My sense is that to have security in the 21st Century we're going to need to have very effective robust regional organizations that are not obviously going to deal with security alone in the economic field. They will be equally important. And I argued that's in the interest of NATO to actively encourage and help the emergence of these regional organizations, provided that they're based on a voluntary, democratic principles of participating members, because otherwise the challenge, maybe even danger, in terms of the Alliance in terms of our coherence will be that we will be sucked into these vacuums, faute de mieux, for wont of anything else. And therefore one can see that there are lots of current international efforts to help these naissant regional organizations to become more effective.

Take the organization of African unity, the African Union, as it is. Many NATO allies are helping those countries develop peacekeeping capabilities, to develop training, so that they can handle regional peacekeeping operations themselves, based on excellent standards. To the extent that they are able to do it the need for allies to be involved will obviously be lessened, although I'm not arguing that we should turn our back on those areas. Far from it. But clearly things are going to be a lot easier if there are functioning regional organizations.

The way in which in Asia the ASEAN has developed the ASEAN regional forum, to handle the security problems of the area, is to be encouraged as well.

Ironically we were in this situation better perhaps back in the 1950s than we are today, when there were a series of interlocking regional organizations around the world, one remembers CENTO, SEATO, which subsequently disappeared in the wake of the Vietnam War. Perhaps they weren't the right model, because certainly they weren't as advanced as NATO. Nor were they, if you like, as egalitarian as NATO. They depended very largely, of course, on the United States and to some degree on the post imperial role of my country, the United Kingdom.

So I'm not arguing we should simply revive those organizations. Clearly we need something that corresponds more to the realities of the modern world. But yes, the UN has made it clear that it wants to work in partnership with effective regional organizations and to the extent that they can do their job, the UN will not be so much the... have the burden of the last resort, often with inadequate means, as it has today.

And so if NATO can transfer to some of those naissant regional organizations, the type of experience, the type of know-how, the type of methodologies that we have applied successfully in dealing with conflicts in Europe, then I think that that's something which would be a good future role for us.

Q: So if NATO goes global then how many members ultimately should it, or would it include, and can it go on indefinitely? And also, do you think the western European countries, which are not yet in NATO, could eventually join NATO as well, like Switzerland, Australia, Ireland?

Jamie Shea: Well, Henry Kissinger used to say the beginning of wisdom in international politics is to realize there are no answers to certain issues, and I think with NATO enlargement it's very difficult to draw lines and to say the Alliance can only function with 30 members. If you have 31 or 32 it's going to mean stagnation or paralysis. There's no real mathematical formula that says, you know, things work with 26, but don't work with 27.

What we've discovered is that NATO has done some of its most demanding things, like Kosovo or Afghanistan or September 11th with the largest number of members, frankly. And certainly it's not the new members who have refused to sign up to the new missions.

So the answer, I think, would be that provided that countries are really ready to meet the tougher, more demanding standards of membership that I've outlined, and of course, the Partnership for Peace, the Membership Action Plan, are really there to ensure that they are ready to join NATO, then there's no reason why NATO shouldn't enlarge.

I mean, one large family where everybody likes each other is going to be happier than a family of three where people are arguing all the time. So I don't think one should look at it in terms of big equals weak and small equal strong. There's no evidence for that.
We also have to recognize that if you draw lines you inevitably exclude somebody. Drawing lines is not only to include, it's also exclude.

Politically it's very difficult to do that. If countries seeking NATO membership were told that it was unlikely the incentive to reform, the incentive to engage, would disappear. And would that really be in our interest to not have them reforming?
Personally, I doubt it.

So we should, I think, leave the door open, not try to draw lines. We've seen completely surreal things take place over the last 10 years. That if anybody had predicted them 20 years ago you would have been condemned for being a crazy person, but yet they've come true. And if that pattern holds to the future, we are going to see some very, very, very surreal things happening as well from here on.

But, obviously as we enlarge, it becomes all the more important to make sure that the countries who join really know what they're letting themselves in for when they become NATO members.

So I think that is the trade-off, if you like. Bigger, but higher quality.

Q: En français donc. Pourquoi un rapprochement avec la Chine alors qu'il y a quelques années, on n'aurait peut-être pas pensé à cela, quoi?

Jamie Shea: Thank you for that question. Partnerships at NATO are often conceived as being a one-way process. In other words that NATO has a strategic interest with a country and therefore goes to it and knocks on the door. The reality is often very different. In the case of China it approached us, seeing NATO in Afghanistan NATO had suddenly become a neighbour of China in a certain sense. China sees that NATO is very engaged in Central Asia, which are also neighbours, and where China has a similar interest, as in Afghanistan, in security, stability, dealing with terrorism, having secure borders.

At the same time I think China sees that NATO is an organization which has outlined the Cold War questioning, which I referred to, is progressing, is taking on new roles, new missions, and it's dealing with issues that are also top of China's security agenda, proliferation, terrorism, the problem of collapsing or felled states. So as in all good dialogues it takes two to tango and the interest has to be a mutual one.

And indeed, China will participate in some of our meetings on proliferation, and offer us, we believe, important information. The first high level NATO official has already been invited to Beijing.

So I'm not arguing or predicting the NATO-China relationship will be like the NATO-Russia relationship or the NATO-Ukraine relationship anytime soon, but I think as NATO does go more global and China emerges as one of the world's most rapidly developing economic powers, a member of the Security Council, with an important role, it makes sense to have a dialogue with it and based on mutual interest and mutual usefulness, not to place any limits on where that may go in the future.

Q: You mentioned the greater Middle East. For a lot of people actually the most essential point for the greater Middle East will be the relationship between Israel and Palestine. Do you ever expect to see NATO troops there, and what would be necessary, what would be the process for NATO to getting involved in that situation.

Jamie Shea: Well I must confess that it hasn't yet come up onto NATO's agenda. Although it has been discussed at a NATO ministerial meeting last year in Madrid. And when it was raised by one minister, who is now by incidentally the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, but who at the time the Dutch minister, nobody said no or it's impossible, it's unthinkable. Everybody agreed, let's keep an open mind.
We've discovered in this fast-moving world that the worst thing that you can do is to say never because who knows what will happen tomorrow.

At the moment it's not on the agenda. It obviously is going to require a peace agreement, freely entered into by Israelis and Palestinians, and also with the Arab states of the region. Unfortunately we are not there yet, but we mustn't give up hope, nor stop trying to bring that about. It's fundamental for, not just peace in that region, but peace in the wider Middle Eastern region as well.

If the subject does come up then clearly you may have a situation where Israel would like certain countries, that it has a close relationship with, to be involved, but the Palestinians would also like certain countries that would have a close relationship to be involved. And therefore the political acceptability to both sides may be, I'm speculating, but may be to look towards an organization like NATO.

Having said that though, we cannot infinitely, as with the Star Trek model, go in search of new galaxies without having conquered the existing galaxies. It's always easier to start a new peacekeeping mission, as we've seen, than it is to terminate an existing peacekeeping mission.

So NATO at the end of the day will have to look very carefully at can we do it, do we have the capabilities, and if we open a new mission, can we stop an existing mission without running the risk, of course, of a return to anarchy or any kind of conflict situation.

But having said that, when you look around the world and say to yourself, which organization has the capabilities, the experience, the members, the partners, the integrated military structures, the proven crisis management experience to do the job, there aren't many entries in the Yellow Pages next to successful security organizations, and so it may have to be NATO, but let's, for the time being at least, concentrate on Afghanistan where we really are; not where we're speculating we may be tomorrow.

Moderator: Thank you very much, Jamie, for this lecture and for the whole series. It was very interesting. And I have a feeling that we might do a sequel in the future.

Jamie Shea: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity. And thanks again to friends and colleagues at the Marshall Center for bearing with us.

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