Updated: 15-feb-07 NATO IMS Speech



15 Feb 2007


by the Director of the International Military Staff
to mark the 40th anniversary of the IMS, 15 Feb 07

Ladies and gentlemen of the IMS, distinguished visitors:

First of all I would like to extend special greetings to a special guest we have with us today, Lieutenant General Ole Kandborg, former Director of the IMS, and his spouse Lis].

Lieutenant General Kandborg, from the Danish Army, served as DIMS from 1997 to 2000, times not very different from today. However, the enlargement from 16 to 19 nations, which seemed momentous at the time, raised a lot of new questions, on whose answers we drew for the two subsequent NATO enlargements.

This is an auspicious day, and it deserves to be marked in some small way. It is an honour for me to address all of you on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the IMS. The reason is that this endurance in time makes it clear that the IMS has lived through the years keeping up to the expectations with which it was formed, and 40 years of continued success is no small thing.

This provides me with a great opportunity to remember all the personnel, both civilian and military, that preceded us in this staff, who kept the IMS going all these years. We are only their heirs, and our task is to continue their tradition and hand it over to those who will succeed us here.

I am also very proud to single out and thank the contribution to this staff of its longest-standing members, who are, in more ways than one, the living memory of this organism. Mr. Michel Latteur, from the Registry’s Distribution centre, is working in the house almost since its birth: October 1967! 1968 saw the arrival of Mrs. Monique Bero, C&RS; 1969, of Mrs. Gilberte van Wichelen, P&P, and 70, of Mrs. Monique Vandeputte, Ops. In all, 9 people have been here for more than 30 years. I thank you for your continuous support of this staff, and hope that nothing I am about to say has taken place here contradicts what you have seen!

There are many schools of thought about the value of knowing and understanding history and the roots of one’s organization. For some, history is just “one damn thing after another”; for others, as English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “If we could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines on the waves behind us”. In our case, even if we could hardly repeat the IMS’s history, I would like to give you a short overview of the history of the IMS or, before it came into being, the previous military consensus-building bodies NATO set up. It is indeed a not very well known story, and as it is not a long one and it’s even a little interesting, I will share it with you. It reflects our evolution as a body, and serves to remind us that even in the face of substantial strategic change, a lot of things do change, but then a lot of things stay pretty much the same, providing a certain continuity and security that have been the hallmark of the Alliance’s 58-year life.

So this is the story: As you know, NATO was established in April 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty, and the North Atlantic Council was formed as the Alliance’s highest decision-making body, composed by the member countries’ foreign ministers, which had the mandate to create subordinate bodies as required to assist it, and specifically, a defence committee.

The Defence Committee, composed by the member countries’ defence ministers or their representatives, was directed by the NAC to set up several subordinate bodies, among which a Military Committee, composed of the nations’ CHODs, and the so-called Standing Group, the first executive body for the Military Committee, composed by representatives from France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The NAC and the MC, due to their very senior level, convened only from time to time, and therefore the Standing Group, which was permanent and operated on a full-time basis, had the real control of the MC’s agenda. This was a real source of irritation for the rest of the NATO members, and was the reason behind SACEUR, and not the Standing Group, being made the primary source of military advice to the NAC. Following pressure by the other nine NATO members, a Military Representatives Committee was created to give the MC some continuity, with accredited liaison officers from every country. Later, in 1957, each non-member of the Standing Group was invited to send a planning officer, and in 1963 all NATO members were fully represented. From then on, the Standing Group became known as the International Planning Staff.

Still, the IPS was an organ in which national viewpoints tended to outweight international perspective, thus becoming quite inefficient. In May 1966, in the process of relocating NATO HQ from Paris to Brussels, then-SACEUR Gen. Lemnitzer suggested to unify SACEUR, SACLANT and CMC into one post, or, as a lighter alternative, to create a “completely integrated, international military staff (…) to serve as the executive agency for the Military Committee”. On 15 June the NAC adopted this latter initiative, and on 10 February 1967 the IMS was born.

Since, the IMS has been a key element in the shaping of the military aspects of Alliance’s policy, and, by his very nature, has been in the heart of the consensus over all the important decisions and endeavours. To name a few, the negotiations with the Warsaw Pact over the reduction of nuclear and conventional forces and confidence-building measures, starting in the early eighties; the implementation of a partnership with former Warsaw Pact countries; the evolution from a predominantly military focus to a more political one; NATO support, and later leadership, of peacekeeping and peace-enforcing operations, even out of the territory of the Alliance; the enlargement of the Alliance; the implementation of a framework of cooperation with the North-African countries; the undertaking of counter-terrorist operations; the coordinated development of new capabilities; the decision to open a cooperation with the Middle East countries; the cooperation with the other Euro-Atlantic security organizations, the UN and the AU, and the undertaking of actions aimed to combat the trafficking in human beings.

And, last but not least, the IMS critical contribution to the successive processes of internal transformation of the Alliance, including the creation of the NRF and the CBRN Defence Battalion and the streamlining of the command structure, still under way.

In the meantime, NATO has grown from 16 members in 1989 to 26; has evolved from an isolated body into one having formal ties to 64 countries (nearly a third of the 192 members of the UN), with more countries wanting to join or associate, and has also established close cooperation with other international organizations, including the UN, the EU and the OSCE, and, no longer centered in defending the territory of its member countries, in the last 18 months has conducted nine operations in four continents.

Exciting times lie ahead, for the IMS in particular and NATO in general, with ongoing operations, intensification of partnerships and cooperation, emergence of new threats, development of our counter-terrorist role and the Alliance’s transformation, including another PE Review. I am scheduled to depart in June. LtGen Jo Godderij, the current Dutch Milrep, will take my place. May the IMS, under Gen. Godderij and all the others that will succeed us, always be the place the MC looks when they are in search of their key concept: consensus.

Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, Deputy Secretary General, is also with us here today. Ambassador, thank you very much for taking time to be with us. Your presence is greatly appreciated as a representative of the NAC, to which the MC and therefore the IMS owe their very existence.

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