3 June 2008

NATO: The Next Decade

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the Security and Defence Agenda

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here.  Once again, I must congratulate Giles Merritt and the Security and Defence Agenda not only for the stellar cast they have managed to assemble here today, but also for asking a very simple but intriguing question:  How will NATO develop over the next decade?

Now, of course, this gets us into the realm of prediction – and that can be a dangerous business.  An American local newspaper once had to apologise to its readers for cancelling the horoscope section “due to unforeseen circumstances”.  And the Old Criminal Code of New York even considered prediction to be a criminal offence, liable to a fine of $300 or 3 months in jail.

The dollar being where it is today I might consider paying up, but I certainly wouldn’t want to spend time in jail.  Yet I fully agree with the SDA that it is useful and instructive to occasionally think about the future – because it helps to sharpen our focus on what we want to achieve.

So what will the next decade look like?  And how should NATO evolve?  In security terms, I believe that a few characteristics clearly stand out.

First, state failure.  The current “failed state index” of the US journal “Foreign Policy” lists no less than 32 countries.  Even if that number turns out to be too high, and even if not every failing state becomes a massive security problem for the rest of the world, the message is clear: The problem of ungoverned spaces – that is, of areas that can be safe havens for terrorism, organised crime, and all sorts of other illicit and unwelcome activities  – is not going to go away in the next decade.  And at least in some cases, outside intervention will be necessary to avert greater damage.

Second, the growing power of non-state actors.  Globalisation brings incredible opportunities, yet it also has its dark spots.  One is that it empowers fanatical individuals, by giving them access to enormously destructive means.  I am not thinking of a nuclear “9/11”, but a terrorist attack with a radiological weapon certainly can no longer be considered “science fiction”.  And last year’s cyber attack against Estonia demonstrated that an attack against another country does not necessarily have to entail the use of military force.  For non-state actors in particular, there are other options available.

Third, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their delivery means.  Clearly, much will depend on how we resolve the two critical cases of North Korea and Iran.  But even if we find a satisfactory solution in these two cases, the spread of technology and knowledge is going to continue.  It is, after all, part and parcel of globalisation.  Moreover, the scarcity of fossil fuels is already leading to a renaissance of civilian nuclear energy – and this poses its very own proliferation problems.

This brings me to my fourth point: the growing demand for energy.  The next decade will see continuously rising energy prices and a scramble for energy resources.  At a time when the price of oil is higher than ever before, this is perhaps an easy prediction to make.  But I believe this trend will become even more distinct in the coming decade, when the dynamic economies of China and India will need to import ever increasing amounts of oil and gas.  This will put a premium on energy security.  And it will also put a premium on the political stability of the world’s major  oil and gas producing countries.

Finally: climate change.  I do not want to engage in a scientific discussion here.  But changes in the global climate are already visible today, notably in the High North.  They are widely expected to become more pronounced and visible elsewhere.  And that will have security implications.  It will sharpen the competition over resources, notably water; it will increase the risks to coastal regions; it will provoke disputes over territory and farming land; it will spur migration; and it will make fragile states even more fragile.  Simply put, climate change could confront us with a whole range of unpleasant developments – developments which no single nation-state has the power to contain.

These, in a nutshell, are some of the key characteristics that I believe will be shaping the security environment in the next decade.  Which brings us to the key question: How must NATO evolve in order to offer its members both a maximum of security and a maximum of influence over shaping this new environment? 

Many here at SDA will know the first part of my answer: we must enhance our political dialogue.  Since I took office, I have been arguing that we must complement NATO’s military transformation with a broader strategic debate.  Clearly, for an organisation that is engaged in several operations, it is often difficult to go beyond operational day-to-day management issues.  But looking ahead to the next decade, I see no choice but to scan the strategic horizon much more thoroughly. 

In fact, over the past few years we have introduced changes at NATO that make it a much more suitable framework for such a forward-looking discussion.  The North Atlantic Council now spends more time debating a wider range of issues, including in less formal settings.  And themes that were considered taboo just a few years ago can now be addressed openly and frankly. Energy security being one of them.  In short, we have come to realise that discussions in NATO should not be confined to subjects of immediate military relevance, but that they can, and indeed must, include issues of broader political interest as well.

Of course, debate is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end – which is the adaptation of NATO’s policy and capabilities to meet the evolving security challenges.  As far as that is concerned, NATO already has more to offer than meets the eye.  And if we take the right decisions, including at our 60th Anniversary Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl next year, I am convinced that the Alliance can offer even more in the years ahead.

First, we need to continue to enhance the Alliance’s military-operational effectiveness.  I cannot accurately predict where we will be operating in ten years from now, but I am convinced that we will be at least as busy as we are today.  NATO will continue to be defined by its operations – operations that are likely to include the full spectrum, from peacekeeping all the way to combat.  And so we must ensure that we can deliver in all possible circumstances.

Enhancing our operational performance is a matter of both “hardware” and “software”.  With respect to hardware, we know pretty well what we need: more strategic and tactical airlift; command and control; surveillance; missile defence; NBC defence; increased usability of our forces; better coordination of Special Operations Forces – I could go on.  With respect to software I am thinking of more adaptive planning; more equitable financing of our operations; less caveats; and greater use of commonly funded assets.  Although I realize common funding is not the panacea to all our problems.

I am not harbouring any illusions – there will never come a moment when we will be one hundred per cent satisfied with our progress in any of these areas.  But we must maintain the focus on our military transformation.  Whether today or ten years from now, there is simply no substitute for NATO’s military competence.

Second, in addition to making sure that we can meet operational requirements, we also need to move forward on missile defence, cyber defence, and energy security.  Regarding missile defence, our recent Bucharest Summit has provided us with a clear roadmap for the future.  We agreed that the proliferation of missiles is a growing threat and that the US defence system should be an integral part of any future NATO-wide architecture.  Based on this, we are now examining options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture, to be reviewed at our next Summit in 2009.  Regarding cyber defence, we not only have a Cyber Policy in place now, but we have also created a Centre of Excellence, fittingly located in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.

Many here will know that I have long argued to put energy security on NATO’s agenda.  Of course, NATO will not take centre stage in this field, but the Alliance can provide considerable added value.  At the Bucharest Summit, we defined the areas in which NATO will engage: information and intelligence fusion and sharing; projecting stability; advancing international and regional cooperation; supporting consequence management; and supporting the protection of critical energy infrastructure.  Needless to say, the Alliance is also an excellent forum for consultation on the most immediate risks that relate to energy security.  So I believe that we are on the right track here.

Third, we need to advance our partnerships with other nations, both regionally and globally.  Our engagement in the Balkans was the catalyst for cooperation with countries from all over Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.  Our mission in Afghanistan has led to cooperation with partners from all over the world.  In short, NATO acts increasingly together with other countries, no matter where they are located on the globe.  I believe that the next decade will show that our cooperation in Afghanistan has not been a singular event, but a model for the future.  And so it is both legitimate, and timely, for us to invest in these partnerships.  They are essential to the way we must operate if we are to meet global challenges. (At the same time I stress once again that it is not NATO’s ambition to become a ‘globo-cop’, a ‘gendarme du monde’).

Fourth, we need to implement the Comprehensive Approach.  The Bucharest Summit was a resounding demonstration of the need for the international community to sing from the same song sheet.  In meeting today’s and tomorrow’s security challenges, success will crucially depend on close coordination between the major international actors – the UN, the EU, the World Bank, NGOs, to name but a few.  This means that our planning in NATO must take these other players into account.  It also means that they must be better aware of what NATO can and cannot do.  Above all, it means that we need to develop a much more structured relationship among the key international actors.  The NATO-UN Declaration, which we hope to be able to sign very soon, will be an important step towards such a new quality of institutional relationships.

Finally – another constant theme in my repertoire, especially when speaking here in Brussels – we need to broaden the NATO-EU relationship.  I am not suggesting that we could fundamentally change this relationship overnight; but both institutions will suffer if we cannot bring them closer together.  I would like to see the North Atlantic Council and the Political Security Committee of the EU meet far more often to share analyses and perspectives on the world’s crisis areas.  I would also like to see NATO and the EU support each other’s operations much more substantially.  I would like to see much more pooling of our capabilities, especially in areas such as transport and helicopters, or in research and development, or in harmonising our force structures and training methods. 

Indeed, to achieve all that, we should not have to wait until the next decade.  With a healthy dose of flexibility, pragmatism and, above all, political will, we could achieve all of this well before the turn of this decade.  This should be our aim as the EU develops its new Security Strategy and NATO considers a revision of its own Strategic Concept. This revison will be done at a later stage, following our Summit in Strasbourg and  Kehl for which we will first prepare  a Declaration on Atlantic Security.  And let me also stress that I have high hopes for the French EU-Presidency and their willingness to put NATO-EU relations high on their agenda, as is already demonstrated by the seminar that will take place in Paris on the 7th  of July.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some have been arguing that the next decade will witness the end of the global preponderance of North America and Europe.  They argue that the rise of other global players will inevitable reduce the relative power of the transatlantic community.  I will leave that for the pundits to argue.  I would simply say that, even a decade from now, the ability of the transatlantic community to rally others behind a common objective – and therefore to attain that objective – will remain absolutely unique.

Even ten years from today, no other group of nations will cooperate more closely among each other.  Nor will there be any other group that can generate a similar kind of “magnetism” in terms of promoting political and security cooperation.  And no other group of nations will have the institutional toolkit that is essential to facilitate such cooperation – and the best tool is NATO.

So I am not afraid of the next decade.  As long as we have a solid transatlantic community, build around a solid NATO, the opportunities will continue to outweigh the challenges.

Thank you.