Updated: 15-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


6 June 2005

Looking back on three years
of military transformation

Farewell video interview with General Harald Kujat,
the outgoing Chairman of the Nato Military Committee

Q: General Harald Kujat, welcome. For the past three years you have been chairman of the Military Committee, NATO's highest military authority. And during these three years NATO has seen remarkable change, perhaps the most change in recent history. What events stand out to you during these three years?

GENERAL HARALD KUJAT (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Well, let me say first that I was very lucky, having an excellent Military Committee team, both at the level of Chiefs of Defence, and of the Mil Reps. They're very high quality professionals, and that allowed us to move forward in very difficult areas.

So just to mention a few of them: One is, of course, the new command structure; leaner, more flexible, more responsive, better adapted to the challenges of the future. And as part of this new command structure, the first time in NATO's history, the creation of a strategic command for transformation, to be the agent of change in the future of this Alliance.

The second very important achievement is, of course, the NATO Response Force. We will see full operational capability sometime in June or July next year. This is a remarkable force which allows us to do two things.

First of all, a force that is ready for an early employment wherever it has to go, according to the political decision; a very capable force, a very modern force, and a force that allows us to reach equal standards among the European and the American forces, which is very important for us to... because we have to operate together in the same environment. We have to operate and to fight together in the same environment. That is very important.

And the last point that I would wish to mention here is that of course we had to change the way we plan our operations, the way we produce the forces that we need for future operations. So that is what we call the comprehensive approach; so a complete change from the history of NATO force planning, which has always been a very important element of NATO. More a planning system that is triggered by the operational needs. So to produce the forces that we need for future operations.

I think we made a remarkable progress in all three areas.

Q: Military transformation, changing the way the military works, at NATO and in general, is a complex process. What do you understand by the term military transformation?

KUJAT: Well, as I said, the agent for transformation is our new strategic command. They will, in close cooperation with the strategic commander for operations, of course, develop new concepts, develop new concepts that allow us to meet the challenges of the future.

So to transform our forces, all our forces, of all NATO member countries, to be more flexible, more better and more modern equipped, to be deployable over long distances, to be equipped with precision-guided munition, to be supported by a network enabled capabilities--a force in one word just--a force that is ready to cope with all the risks and all the challenges that we will be confronted with as an Alliance in the future.

Q: Speaking about risks and challenges, it's difficult to talk about risks and challenges today without mentioning terrorism. What more could NATO do to be able to combat terrorism?

KUJAT: Well, terrorism is international. Terrorism is, of course, the major challenge of today. But it's not the only challenge. So we have to provide forces that can deal with all possible risks in the future, and of course, forces that are in the position to fight terrorism right now.

I think what we need is a closer cooperation with other capabilities that nations can provide. To fight terrorism is, of course, a task for the military, but the military is only one, providing one aspect within this war against terrorism. The police, the intelligence, all state agents that can contribute to that have to cooperate in harmony, so to say. What is very important, absolutely important, is that we are aware of the risks that we are confronted with, so we have to improve our knowledge about the terrorism. We have to improve our intelligence gathering system, our analysis system, and of course, we have to cooperate much closer with other nations that are confronted with the same risk.

And just to expand a little bit on that, I think it is very important specifically to cooperate much closer with the military in Dialogue countries. There's countries that are, so to say, bordering NATO's areas of interest, and we have achieved some progress in that respect as well. So we had two meetings with the Chiefs of the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries, and the main topic, aside from closer cooperation in general, was the exchange of intelligence information; a plug-in so to say, of these nations into the NATO system.

I think this is very important. It's important for our own security, but it's also important for these countries.

Q: Thank you. While you were chairman, in office, NATO took quite an historic step by taking on and lead command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. However, it very quickly turned out that there were problems in equipping this mission, in staffing this mission, in generating the forces necessary for this mission.

Why were... why were these problems, and what could be done to improve the force generation process, something which you mentioned also at the beginning?

KUJAT: Well force generation is, indeed, a challenge. And specifically those operations that take part in strategic distance, so to say, from our homeland, which require a lot of effort in both in strategic transport, in logistics, and things like that, which are expensive, by the way. They are a challenge for nations, no question about that. You mentioned Afghanistan. That's a long distance to go for nations.

So I think we manage. We are quite successful in providing the forces that we need, and we have proved to be successful in the past as well. Be it the support of actions in Afghanistan through periods where we had to strengthen our efforts on the ground, be it in other areas as well. But I think we have to make the situation easier for nations to participate.

So one of the aspects that I mentioned is, of course, that we have to change our planning system. We are in the process of doing so. We need to provide early transparency to nations. We need to, on the other hand, to have early information on the nations participating or not participating. So what I would call predictability.

But we also need to expand common logistics, NATO logistics, that makes it easier for nations to sign up to a contribution because logistics is expensive, and today we have many logistics tails actually, and we are, so to say, working in parallel, so we are duplicating our efforts in that area. We need here to harmonize our efforts in the area of logistics. That is a process that is ongoing. We in the Military Committee are working on that specifically.

The other point is that we need to expand common funding. We need to provide support nations, specifically those nations that contribute with quite a substantial force and we should, as I said provide more common funding. We need to change our procedures in the way that we reimburse nations. It doesn't make any sense. For instance, when we rotate forces every six months that all nations bring their equipment into theatre, they take it out, and the next nation, again, is deploying equipment for a lot of money.

Here we need to... we need to change our thinking in the Alliance. Again, the Military Committee has offered some military advice in that respect. That is being discussed now on the political side in the Senior Resource Board and in other committees, so I think we're on the right track and we will make some progress here. But a lot needs to be done. It's a question, actually, of burden-sharing that we need to tackle here. Both in terms of contributions and as far as personnel is concerned, as material is concerned, and as money is concerned.

Q: Another issue which has been talked about quite a lot during your term are national caveats, or restrictions governing the use of the force of the respective countries, which sometimes make it difficult for commanders on the ground to operate.

One example which is quoted quite frequently is the riots in Kosovo in March and NATO's capability to respond to them.

How great actually is this a problem? And how can it be overcome?

KUJAT: Well, it is a problem. It is a problem from an operational perspective. So there... basically there are two different categories of caveats. One category is implied through legal aspects. So every... as you know, all our soldiers have to respond, of course, to the legal system at home. So and nations apply caveats to their soldiers in order to be consistent with their legal system.

That is important... it's a way of protecting the soldiers on the ground. And I think we have to accept that.

The other category of caveats are those caveats that have an impact on operational flexibility, on our operational capabilities. That is, for instance, a caveat that does not allow a commander to deploy a unit from one area of his responsibility to the other area, or other caveats that have an operational impact.

I think we were very successful in reducing these type of caveats to the absolute minimum, but they are still there. They are still a problem and it's a day-to-day work that we have to do and a day-to-day discussion that we have to undertake with nations and... but I think we're on the right track and nations better understand now that they have to support us in reducing the number of caveats that have an operational impact.

Q: One of the characteristics of the last few years is definitely the number of operational demands on the Alliance is growing. We talked about Afghanistan. NATO has a training mission in Iraq. And you mentioned the fact that these operations are different in that they involve going further at a greater cost. How close is the Alliance to its capacity in terms of meeting these operational requirements?

KUJAT: Well, that depends. When you take into account only those forces that are deployable, that are useable in those operations, of course we are... one or the other nation is already in a very difficult situation. When you take the overall forces into account then of course we are... we have a lot of capacity.

But what we need to do is we need to improve the deployability of our forces, we need to improve the training, the equipment of our forces, we need to make them more and better useable for this type of operation.

So the number of forces that are useable and are available for NATO operations has to be expanded quite considerably. The percentage is too low, too small in some of our nations. In some nations it's acceptable, but for some of the nations it's really a difficulty. This is, of course, an issue for transformation. It's an issue for reform. And of course, it's an issue for money. That is expensive.

But we are working, again. We have a discussion on the question of usability and deployability of our forces in NATO. I think we have increased the awareness of that problem. And my understanding is that nations are determined to improve the situation.

So when we look into that... from that perspective into that question I think there is still a lot of flexibility for NATO to comply with our political intentions and to deal with the risks that we are confronted with.

Q: You mentioned earlier on the creation of the NATO Response Force, and this is undoubtedly one of the most... more exciting developments in NATO's military transformation. And you mentioned the fact that next year we'll achieve full operational capability.

How do you envisage the use of the NATO Response Force?

KUJAT: Well, the NATO Response Force is defined for a broad spectrum of missions. It can be used as an enabling force, an advance party, so to say. In a wider sense it can be used as a force in total, so to say, to be deployed. It can be used in a way that it is being tailored to smaller missions as well. It's a very, very flexible tool that we have created here. So it stands ready for all different types of missions, for the whole spectrum of NATO missions. That is the huge advantage of this force.

And of course, it's a force that is trained, that has been training together, that has been equipped to the same standards. It's a force that after the six-month training and equipping period is on call for another six months. So it's a tool that is ready to be used based on political systems at any time with very short notice, five days notice to move and a sustainability of at least 30 days without reinforcement.

So I think this is an instrument, a political instrument, actually, that is... there is no second... no parallel, so to say, to that, on this globe.

Q: At present this force, the NATO Response Force, is of course a predominantly European force. Would it benefit from greater U.S. participation?

KUJAT: Absolutely. This is one of the founding ideas, so to say, that the European nations, the European forces and the U.S. forces train together and of course, exercise together, and be deployed together. Why is that the case? Because we had a discussion in NATO and outside NATO as well, that there are major differences in terms of the quality of forces, of the professionalism of the forces. The American force on one side, the European force. You can only achieve a better balance when these forces are exercising together and are training together.

So this is one of, so to say, the basic ideas of this force. We want all our forces to have... to achieve the same standards, both in training and in equipment. And you can only find out whether this is the case when U.S. and European soldiers are operating alongside, shoulder to shoulder, and when they are employed together.

That doesn't meant that the U.S. is not providing capabilities to that force. That is, a lot of enabling capabilities is provided by the U.S. But what I would wish to see is that we have U.S. boots on the ground as well. So working alongside European and American forces, operating together. That is very important.

Q: The next question is one which may be difficult for an incoming chairman to answer, but an outgoing chairman perhaps easier. You mentioned the quite radical transformation of NATO's command structure. Considering that NATO now has one command for operations, does it still need a Military Committee, and an international military staff?

KUJAT: Well we still have, at the strategic level, not only the strategic commander of operations, we have the strategic commander for transformation. And it makes a lot of sense to have, so to say, two pillars of that, and one concentrating on ongoing and future operations, and the other actually on the transformation of our capabilities. That is very important.

But aside from that, the strategic commands are so to say the highest level of our integrated structure. The Military Committee represents the highest national military of this Alliance. So we have 26 Chiefs of Defence sitting around the table. This is very important. When you think about the decision-making process that's one aspect only, but just to mention that. Then of course you need to understand that the decision-making process is ongoing and parallel; at home in 26 capitals and here at NATO. So this has to be, and has to on-go in parallel.

So the Chiefs of Defence are preparing the political decision at home. They provide the advice to their ministers, to cabinet. They have to respond to the Parliament in case something happens. They own the forces. NATO does not own forces. If you want nations to contribute forces to an operation, that, as we have said a minute ago, is one of our problems, we need to have the CHODS decide, we need to have the CHODS decide on the basis of a concept of operations and an operational plan that they are satisfied that this operational plan will meet their national requirements; that this operational plan is, so to say, in line with what they can provide to this operation.

So I think the Chiefs of Defence within the Military Committee, are the tool to a successful Alliance, both in terms of operations and transformation. Because they are the ones who own the forces.

And the other point is, of course, the Military Committee is on the basis of discussions of the Chiefs of Defence, not only providing advice to the political side, they're giving direction to the two strategic commanders, direction that is, so to say, the result of a discussion of 26 CHODS. It represents the views of 26 CHODS and the national interests of 26 nations from a military perspective. This is very, very important and I think what we have seen in the past, the success that we have made, and we have discussed that a minute ago, would not have been possible without the Military Committee.

Q: Given all this change that is happening at NATO now, if we were to ask you to take out your crystal ball and say, where do you see NATO ten years from now, what would you say?

KUJAT: Well, that's very difficult to predict. I think NATO is still the place where the transatlantic dialogue, transatlantic consultation takes place. It links both in terms of security policy and actual strategy and security North America with Europe. So the Alliance is... the importance of the Alliance will grow.

And NATO's outreach program, I'm referring now to the Partnership for Peace program, to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, but also the South, to the Mediterranean Dialogue countries, is a success story. And not to mention, of course, the integration of new members to NATO.

So I think the political security policy importance of NATO will grow in the next years. NATO will intensify cooperation with the European Union. NATO will intensify closer cooperation with the United Nations and be better prepared to support the United Nations.

So I think NATO will be, so to say, within the network of international organizations that are compatible. As far as their common goal, security and civility, is concerned, NATO will be at the centrepiece.

And I think NATO will, through transformation, strengthen the military capabilities. NATO is the most powerful Alliance on this globe. So if I should predict the future I would say within ten years NATO will be the most powerful Alliance in this galaxy.

Q: I hope there are no Martians listening, but...

KUJAT: Well, I hope they do.

Q: After three years, as chairman of NATO's Military Committee, what are you moving on to do?

KUJAT: Well, it's of course very difficult to change direction from one minute to other. What I will do is, of course, I will do everything that I wanted to do in the past years and I didn't have the time. So that is my hobbies, horses, photography. But I will also be available for consulting. If there is a need to, if somebody's asking for my advice I will give this advice, but I will never give advice for which I have not been asked to do so. And so that is... and I won't deliver any speeches nobody would wish to hear. So I will be, of course, lean back a little bit, but of course, I will still follow very closely what is ongoing here in this Alliance because I spent most of my time in military service in this Alliance, so it's very close to my heart, and it will remain to be so.

Q: General Kujat, thank you very much and the best of luck.

KUJAT: Thank you.

* * *

KUJAT: Well if I may turn, during, so to say, my last days in office to our soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines, those that are fighting for NATO in very difficult environment, that are bringing peace and stability to people in all areas of this endangered world, I would like to thank you all for the service you perform to NATO; for the courage and your braveness that is associated with your day-to-day service. You are doing a brilliant job for this great Alliance; 26 nations that are grateful for what you are doing for their own security and for security and stability of so many nations.

All the best to you and a safe return home to your family.
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