Home Site map Contact us Switch to Bulgarian
Quick search
Third Annual Security Conference: Security Risks and Transformation -Euro-Atlantic and Regional Perspectives
Sofia, 19-20 November 2005

Dr.h.c. Klaus Naumann, General (ret’d), former Chairman of NATO Military Committee


It does not make too much sense to discuss NATO responses without clarity on where NATO/EU stand in fall 2005. I am neither one of these notorious NATO well wishers who close their eyes to realities nor do I belong to the pessimists who have given up NATO. I believe that Europe as well as the U.S. need close transatlantic cooperation and that there is no better formula for achieving it than NATO. But NATO although doing well in operations and making progress albeit slow in military transformation is still in a crisis which got out of control during the Iraq dispute.

It is a crisis which seems to have revealed one point of permanent change: Europe is no longer confronted with a threat which had united the Europeans and which had made them so often accepting American proposals during the Cold War and the U.S. depends no longer on Europe which provided the potential Cold War battlefield for a forward defence of the U.S. thus making the Americans willing to accommodate European concerns and to settle for compromises. But no longer being forced to find mutually acceptable compromises the arrogance of power met during the Iraq crisis with the arrogance of the impotent who in addition felt to be on the moral high grounds. The Americans and some if not most Europeans have differing views on the use of force and its legalisation. Moreover, most Europeans wish to preserve some of the restrictions which the international law, in particular the UN Charta, imposes on the use of force.

Another concern is decision making. No doubt, the clear majority of the U.S. – Allies wishes to preserve a decision making process in which the views of all allies should be taken into account and at the end of which should stand a unanimous decision. The present U.S. Government, however, prefers “the mission defines the coalition approach” although there is little to no hope that this approach will ever be accepted by NATO.

Finally, there is the capabilities gap which continues to reduce European influence on the U.S.

As these and other questions remain unanswered for the time being NATO is not as healthy as it needs to be in the present situation of international instability.

My conclusion on the state of NATO at this time is therefore:

1.It is indeed no longer the primary place of transatlantic consultation and

2.it is no longer the option of choice for all NATO nations in crisis management.

3.There is no real agreement on how to cope with future crises since there are gaps between the U.S. and its allies in the

 resolve to use all necessary means including military means,

 the capability to act across the full spectrum of political options,

 military capabilities which seems to develop into a gap of conceptual thinking and there is

 the absence of the political will in most European countries and in Canada to take appropriate steps to modernise their armed forces.

4. There are quite a few differences of views on the future role of NATO ranging from a global alliance on the one side ready to act in expeditionary operations where needed to being more or less reduced to collective defence plus some PSOs on the other hand.

The EU is not much better off. It is divided and appears to be in a deadlock. Moreover, its stubborn defence of an undefendable agricultural protectionism will most probably widen the transatlantic rift should the Doha-Talks fail.

In a nutshell, in my view neither NATO nor the EU are at this time capable of providing common responses to new security risks. Nobody can afford to leave things as they are. We need the US and they need us Europeans. This means as well that the Europeans must not tolerate an American failure in Iraq which in my view although hypothetically possible is still unlikely, regardless whether they were against or for the war. Iraq must not become a failure since then Europe will feel the consequences first.

The challenge is therefore threefold: In the short term to find a way of cooperation in Iraq and in the mid term to repair both NATO and the EU. I will primarily focus on NATO when talking about responses to the new threats.

What is needed?

First, a common appreciation of the situation and common and agreed conclusions.

The experts in NATO and in the NATO Nations do not suffer from a lack of threat awareness. There is a relatively strong consensus on the scope and the nature of the threats NATO is confronted with and there is not much difference in the threat assessments of NATO, the EU, the U.S. and the U.S. allies. The differences lie in the political preparedness to make the public aware of the threats and in offering views on how to cope with these threats which are global in their nature and trans-national in scope, including views on the use of military force.

You all are aware of the uncertainties, risks and dangers ahead of us. Therefore to offer to you a risk assessment would really mean to carry coals to Newcastle.

I could imagine that most of us could agree to the following statement:

“With the requirement to meet the threats from where they may come, the Alliance will operate in a wider strategic environment that is influenced by several key factors and drivers for change. Foremost among them are: globalisation, the increasing sophistication of asymmetric warfare, the effects of changing demography and environment, failing states, radical ideologies and unresolved conflicts. These factors are liable to lead to shocks to Alliance security interests over the next 15 years, particularly as tensions, crises and conflicts will occur with little warning.”

This is unfortunately not a quotation from NATO’s Strategic Concept it is from the Bi-SC Vision Paper, an unofficial document.

This is the reality but it is not the reality in which our nations live, notably not in Europe. Most Europeans believe to live at peace and the task of finding responses to new risks is not too prominently placed on the political agenda.

Moreover, Europe is politically deeply divided on almost every issue of importance.

But Europe knows on the other hand that there is no chance at all to be listened to in Washington as long as Europe does not speak with one voice, with a voice which is backed by capabilities. Henry Kissinger got it right when he recently said: Eventually there is a European telephone but it does not answer.

The first conclusion should therefore be that the transatlantic partners must develop the political will and the resolve to weather together the upcoming storms of globalisation and the determination to prevail.

This requires more than a lukewarm commitment to military transformation. It may require a fresh look at military transformation and it will require to get a better return for Europe’s substantial defence expenditures inter alia through improved defence cooperation.

First and foremost, however, the situation requires beginning with political transformation, an area in which almost nothing was achieved so far. This means in addition to procedural improvements as well to develop a better formula for EU-NATO cooperation since NATO having exclusively military instruments in its tool box does simply not dispose of the instruments necessary to manage today’s crises.

Elements of Change

I have three categories in mind in which changes are both necessary and urgent and which render themselves for decisions to be taken at the NATO Summit in fall 2006:

Political transformation of NATO;

Improved EU-NATO cooperation;

Continuation and possibly reorientation of transformation leading to enhanced military capabilities.

Political transformation

As the strategic environment changed and is likely to change further NATO needs a new vision:

1. The strategic outlook is no longer regional, it is global;

2. The range of missions goes far beyond collective defence. It encompasses crisis prevention, crisis management including conflict pre-emption, expeditionary intervention, post conflict stabilisation and collective defence should prevention fail.

3. NATO must pursue a holistic approach which calls for a wider set of tools as well as much closer and deeper cooperation with other international bodies.

NATO must therefore, and that is my first answer to the question of what is needed, widen its scope of transformation which must include political transformation and it must further adapt to a profoundly changed strategic environment.

NATO must transform its political side of the house as profoundly as NATO asked the military to do. Such a transformation must in its procedural dimension raise quite a few delicate questions, prominently among them the issue of decisions by consensus. At this moment all committees in NATO are bound to achieve consensus and the result is unavoidably that the best one could achieve after considerable time and efforts is the lowest common denominator. Is this really what we need in a time full of uncertainties, in a time in which prevention might be the appropriate answer?

I could therefore imagine that NATO preserved the consensus principle for NAC decisions but opened the door for a majority rule at the committee level.

Political transformation calls also for a reaffirmation of all NATO nations to use NATO as their option of choice in all situations which will require co-ordinated transatlantic action and a consolidated transatlantic appreciation of the situation. To do so would require the Europeans to give up the idea of consulting first in the EU and US to abandon the flawed idea to develop a concept in Washington and to ask the allies to join a coalition of the willing. What I have in mind is consultation in NATO leading to a decision at 26 and delegation of the execution to a coalition of the willing. It is the moment of execution when the mission defines the coalition but not necessarily the moment of the political decision. This obviously means at the same time that allies which do not contribute to the execution have no right to influence the conduct of operations.

Moreover, as the military transformation aims at the exploitation of the qualitative edge which NATO and its nations will enjoy through their ability to win and maintain information dominance time will be of the essence in decision making and in the execution. Thus delegation, quite often pre-delegation of responsibility to the executing commander will be indispensable.

Delegation of responsibility means as well to allocate all necessary resources to the commander in the field. NATO must therefore modernise its procedures of financing operations beyond the Cold War formula of “cost lie where they fall”. To apply this outdated formula on the NRF could well mean that the NRF will remain a dormant force which will never be used for what it was created: A rapid response at the early stages of a conflict which may allow for extinguishing a spark before it became a fire. Delegation of responsibility means as well to reduce to the extent possible nationalreservations which often hamper NATO commanders to use their forces in a proper and meaningful way and which prevent ROES without amplifying national instructions. None of these issues represents a military problem. They all require political solutions. Should NATO´s nations be unable to find solutions we might see an Alliance disposing of a military rapid reaction capability but being unable to use it in time for political reasons

NATO/EU Cooperation

The best solution would be a decision to grant NATO access to other than military means but the political climate for such a decision does not exist and it is not likely that it will exist in the foreseeable future.

But the next crisis might come tomorrow. We need to find a short term solution which will give NATO access to non-military instruments. I therefore believe that one should look into a “Berlin Plus in Reverse” approach, i.e. an agreement between NATO and the EU that the EU will provide non-military assets and capabilities for NATO in crises which affect both and in which NATO was asked to take the lead.

Military transformation

Military transformation is at this time more or less reduced to getting the NRF operational by fall 2006. But with a NATO Summit in fall 2006 on the radar screen it is simply insufficient to pocket the NRF’S IOC as the main summit result. It would also lead to nowhere to shoot once again for new decisions such as those taken at the Washington 1999 and Prague 2002 summits respectively. In my view NATO should at the 2006 Summit invite its nations to agree on building the “roof” for the NRF aiming at the transformation of this force into a true 21st century expeditionary force.

To this end I envisage some multi-nationally manned but NATO owned and operated assets for the NRF in the enabling forces and force multiplier category. Such assets are really urgently needed otherwise this force would be condemned to fight while remaining blind and deaf.

This means focusing upon three functional areas:


 Effective engagement

 Focused logistics.

Obviously it is not sufficient to agree on generalities. The 2006 Summit should invite the nations to agree on certain specific capabilities, where possible as NATO owned and operated (NO&O) component forces following the most successful model of the NATO AWACS Component Force.

Such forces could be:

-a NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Component force,

-a NATO unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) component force for long range precision strike,

-a NATO Strategic Airlift Component including an air to air refuelling (AAR)


- A NATO roll on/roll off (RoRo) sealift component. Such elements, multi-nationally manned, commonly operated and financed would constitute meaningful, affordable and badly needed capabilities which would help to close to some extent the gap between the political aspirations of the non-US nations and their capabilities.

But force planning which is limited to intervention and post-conflict stabilisation does not suffice. Europe must focus as well on tackling new threats to its security stemming from terrorism and organized crime. This requires linking defence and homeland security in ways so far not foreseen in EU countries. One of the most important instruments that will enable nations to do so is one which the nations need to have for their military forces anyway: information management that produces information dominance.

Let me add two final thoughts. Such approaches might help both the US and the Europeans to leave some flexibility in their planning since one phenomenon must get much more attention than it gets today: We are facing opponents who seek to hit us where we are most vulnerable. To this end they watch and they analyse. Their desire is to attack us below the level at which we could use and take advantage from our security forces. Therefore we must remain prepared for the unexpected and we must remain capable of quick responses to unforeseen challenges. This requires as a minimum to leave some flexibility in the force planning of all NATO nations as well as of bodies such as NATO.

But I said earlier on that a reorientation of the ongoing military transformation might be necessary. It seems to me that too much of the political and military thinking is still devoted to winning a war, i.e. a war between nation states, and too little thought has been given to the utility of force in modern conflicts. I believe General Sir Rupert Smith got a point when he raised this question. We have to think through which instruments and which mix of instruments we will need in order to prevail in tomorrow’s conflicts which might in addition be characterised by a shift of strategic paradigms which could well be the product of the next revolution in military affairs which we could see around 2020. Such a shift, should it occur, will no longer put the main emphasis of military operations on the destruction of an opponent’s capabilities but on its preventive paralysation. For all these reasons I would wish to see in addition to my three technical proposals on military transformation a conceptual one: a Summit decision in 2006 to begin work on a new strategic concept for NATO which has to answer the question of the utility of force in tomorrow’s world.

Such a NATO Strategic Concept could do what the extant 1999 Strategic Concept fails to do: It could provide guidance to all NATO nations for the future development of their security organisations and forces.
E-mail this page to a friend Home | Site map | Send a link | Privacy policy | Calls | RSS feed Page top     
   © Center for the Study of Democracy. © designed by NZ