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NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance, the American Perspective

NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance, the American Perspective

March 1st, 2012
Ambassador Daalder at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs

Ambassador Daalder at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs with Mayor Emanuel and Amb. Hartog-Levin

(Watch Video Here)

I want to take you through the story of how NATO became and is now today a revitalized, strong military alliance that brings together not only 28 Allies, but close to 40 other countries that, in one way or another, are related to NATO, want to be part of the experiment that NATO has, want to be part of the hub of security building that NATO is providing.
Today’s NATO is not my father’s, or indeed some of your grandfathers’, alliance. It’s a very different alliance than the one that we read about in history books that I studied when I was in university.
We today have what I would call NATO 3.0. We’re in the third version, a new version of NATO.
If you go back, NATO 1.0 – the alliance that was founded in 1949 when 12 nations came together in Washington to sign the treaty on April 4th, 1949 – it came together for a singular purpose: to provide confidence to the countries of Western Europe, devastated from an extraordinary period of 30 years of war starting in 1914 and ending in 1945, and to give those countries strength and confidence to stand up against a threat that was coming from the east, represented by the Soviet Union and communism.
And NATO’s foundation, NATO’s purpose was to make sure that those countries could rebuild themselves, could become revitalized, could stand up again and become the full and productive and democratic members of the international community that the people of those countries wanted to be.
And NATO provided the foundation for the re-emergence of Europe. It provided the foundation for the European Union, or the – as it was originally called—the European Economic Community.
It was the foundation for the rebuilding of the prosperity in Germany, in France, in Britain, in Italy and throughout Western Europe, but it also was a bulwark against the advance of Soviet communism and, indeed, a deterrent to the expansion of that communism into the rest of Europe. That was the original purpose of NATO. That’s what NATO 1.0 was all about.
And then in 1989 the wall that had divided – literally divided Europe came down. And a new NATO was born. Indeed, at that time many were questioning whether NATO still had a purpose, whether there was a reason for having NATO.
One of Chicago’s great sons, John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, wrote a famous article, why NATO would in fact be coming apart because the raison d’être had disappeared.
It turns out NATO 2.0 was born. This was a NATO that was fundamentally concerned about stabilizing and transforming Central and Eastern Europe. It would do for Eastern Europe what the United States and NATO in the first 40 years of the existence of the alliance had done for Western Europe: provide a basis for countries to transform themselves, to throw off the yoke of dictatorship, to become prosperous and real members of the West – and indeed, of the European continent.
The NATO of 1989 had 16 members. The NATO of today has 28 members, 12 new members who came from the area in Central and Eastern Europe that had either been dominated by and run by the Soviet Union or had lived in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Of those 12 new countries, all but one, Albania, has also become a member of the European Union.
And it was this approach by the European Union and NATO together that allowed the stabilization of this part of the world, the emergence of this part of the world as part of a new Europe that was united, democratic and at peace.
And today it can be said that Europe is more united, more peaceful, and more democratic than it has ever been in history. That is an accomplishment that NATO, the European Union and the countries that make up these organizations can be proud of.
So having done that, the question was: What’s next? And that is where NATO 3.0 comes in.
This is the new NATO, the NATO that was born at the last summit of NATO leaders in Lisbon, and it has two fundamental characteristics.
One is it is an alliance that is focused on operations – it is an operative alliance. Last year there were six NATO operations on three continents. Of course, we know about the operation in Afghanistan, which is still ongoing, and I’ll say something more in a minute about that.
But we also have a major operation in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea to counter piracy. We have a continuing operation to help stabilize the Balkans, which is where we started in the 1990s. We have a counterterrorism operation in the Mediterranean. We had, until the end of last year, a training mission in Iraq. And of course, for seven months last year during Operation Unified Protector, NATO was in charge of protecting civilians in Libya.
This is the new NATO. It’s a NATO that is engaged in operations.
But secondly, it’s not only an operative alliance; it has also become a hub for global security. In Afghanistan, we have not just 28 NATO countries that are involved, but 22 non-NATO countries, 50 in all that are providing military capability in order to help the Afghans to secure their own future.
In the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, NATO is the anchor that brings together 19 other countries plus the European Union to counter piracy. In Libya, we were the instrument of the internationalist community to make sure that there was a protection for civilians who were being attacked in a brutal fashion by the Gadhafi dictatorship. NATO became – and others were part – of that organization.
NATO is not just about the security of Europe and in Europe but is increasingly seen as the hub of a global network of security.
That’s the new NATO. And that was a NATO that was born, as I said, in Lisbon, which was truly a transformative summit for a transformative organization. It laid the basis in Lisbon for transforming NATO into a 21st-century alliance dealing with 21st-century threats and issues.
It did so by adopting a new Strategic Concept. And unlike most documents that bureaucracies put together, this one was clear, it was concise, it was short, and by the way, it was readable. You can read it in about 10 minutes.
And it was a clear statement of what NATO’s purposes and NATO’s goals are about. I sum it up in what I think are the four Cs. NATO is a community of values committed to collective defense, cooperative security and uses common capabilities and structures in order to do that.
First, it is important to remind ourselves that NATO is not just a military alliance. It is above all a military alliance of likeminded states who share a fundamental community of values, values of democracy, of human rights, of the rule of law, of what makes countries like the Europeans and the United States different from those who are elsewhere. And without that community of values, without the fundamental underpinning of that commitment to these values, NATO would be a very different alliance.
The second C and the third C have to do with the tasks that NATO has for itself. First and most important remains the fundamental core commitment for collective defense. Article 5 of the NATO treaty, signed in 1949, is a commitment to regard an attack against one as an attack against all and to respond accordingly. That is the core foundation of what NATO is all about. It is why countries want to join this alliance. They want to enjoy the benefit of collective defense that the original founding members of NATO have had for a long time.
This challenge is not just about making sure that you have collective defense of territory against armies coming across borders, but it is as relevant in the 21st century when the threats are different. They come atop ballistic missiles, perhaps armed with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. They can come through cyberspace as new networks are taken down by countries who wish one ill. They can come through terrorism.
And indeed, the first and only time in the history of this alliance that Article 5 was invoked was not, as many had believed, when the Soviet Union or some other country invaded Eastern Europe, but it was when terrorists took airplanes and turned jetliners into weapons of mass destruction on September 11th, 2001. The next day – the very next day NATO invoked Article 5 in recognition that that attack against the United States was the kind of thing that represented an attack against all.
Collective defense therefore remains, even in today’s world, a fundamental core principle. But NATO is today more than a collective defense organization. It is also a cooperative security organization, the third C, that is based on the recognition that today security at home requires security abroad, that our ability to be secure requires not just that we have safe borders, but that there is safety and security for others outside.
Threats now can come across borders and from anywhere and at any time, and we need to be able to cooperate with other countries in order to deal with those threats.
So we are working within NATO to establish the procedures for crisis management to make sure that we can deal with issues and threats before they become too great to our security.
We are engaged and supportive of arms control and nonproliferation measures designed to reduce threats or to contain them and control them before they can threaten the security of any of our members.
And we have recognized that even 28 strong countries from the United States, Canada, and Europe, alone can’t deal with all the threats around the world, that we need NATO to work together with other countries.
Just as the United States has recognized that it can’t resolve all problems by itself, so NATO has recognized that it needs partners around the world.
I mentioned the 22 partners in Afghanistan, the 19 partners that are joining together with NATO on counterpiracy. But even in Europe, even in Kosovo, we have eight countries that are not NATO members, including Morocco – think about it: Morocco – that is providing troops to ensure that there is security in Kosovo.
And of course, in our Libya operation, it wasn’t just the NATO members that dedicated themselves to the operation, but there were four Arab countries, including one North African country, Morocco again, that was a central part – a legitimizing part of the operation. So NATO has now become a forum for bringing together not just the 28 member states but other countries in an effort to create and enhance cooperative security.
Finally, what makes NATO unique and different are the common structures – the fourth C of the new NATO. It has an integrated command structure, an ability to turn the decision to act into action in a matter of hours, or least in days. In Libya, it took 10 days for NATO to decide that it would act militarily in order to protect the civilians there after the U.N. Security Council passed this resolution. And within four days after that, NATO had taken complete command and control of the military operation because it had an integrated command structure consisting of some 10,000 officers from different NATO countries that was able to act quickly and swiftly when the time was necessary.
Not only is there an integrated command structure, NATO also has capabilities that we have in common.
Airborne early warning systems, AWACS aircraft are owned and operated by NATO. We have an integrated air defense system.
We have pipelines that allow oil and lubricants to be moved from one part of Europe to other parts of Europe so that you have the fuel necessary for military operations.
We have forces that are training together and are interoperable, where we know that the radios, when they talk to each other, we can listen to each other.
We make sure that the fuel nozzles of refueling planes fit whatever aircraft is within the structure of our armed forces to make sure that 28 nations can operate together – and increasingly, not only 28 nations, but the partner nations that work together.
We have spent common funds in order to make sure that these integrated common capabilities exist and are ready to go when the need arises and the day comes.
That is what NATO – what makes NATO different from the coalition of the willing.
If you were to put together a bunch of countries to say we need to engage in military operations in this or that theater, they don’t have the interoperability per se. They don’t have the common command structure.
They will rely on the United States, which is the biggest military power in the world, to provide all of that – not NATO. And that’s a recognition that is important, because what NATO provided was the foundation for the Obama administration to pursue a different version and a different way of ensuring our security.
We saw this in Libya, that NATO is an organization that is fit for purpose, ready to act, and to do so in a way in which burdens can be fairly shared. It is an organization that can make a decision to act very rapidly, that can then sustain the unity of an alliance for a long period of time and bring in other countries to make sure that the maximum military effect and the maximum political legitimacy is achieved through a military operation, and that, in the end, it can succeed militarily.
The Obama administration came to office believing that in today’s world – in a world of globalization and threats that are diverse and difficult to counter—we need partners and we need alliances in order to deal with those challenges.
And the Obama administration set out to rebuild the alliances, to strengthen the partnerships and to make NATO a core institution in that effort.
There was a fundamental understanding that we needed to work with others in order to get things done, that Europeans, when it comes down to it, would be not only our preferred partners, but the ones that were most likely to provide the capabilities necessary to get the job done, and that NATO, as that organization that had the integrated capabilities, was the core of such an engagement. And that remains as true today as it was when NATO was founded.
NATO remains the fundamental core of our engagement in the world because it is where partners can come together and work with us in a fair and burden-sharing way to achieve the objectives that we have set ourselves.
So that’s the NATO that came together in 2010. And that became operational and evident in 2011.
So why do we have to meet in Chicago if everything is so well, you may well ask.
Well, one, because it’s a great city. And it’s a good opportunity for the United States to showcase to our NATO allies what the United States still does for and cares for when it comes to European security. That’s one good reason. In fact, it’s a very good reason. But it’s not the only reason.
In order for us to continue to make sure that this alliance remains as vibrant and as ready and fit for purpose as possible, we need to come together. And we must come together 80 days from today in Chicago in order to address the pressing problems of our day.
Those problems are, number one, Afghanistan, which is and remains the key and most important priority for this alliance;
number two, how in an era of fiscal stress, of austerity are we going to maintain the defense capabilities necessary to ensure that NATO tomorrow can do what NATO did in Libya and in other parts of the world in years past.
And finally, we need to come together to make sure that the countries around the world will continue to want to be part of and partners of NATO. So we want to showcase not only our partnerships, but the strength of NATO as a hub for security.
So let me talk about those three elements – Afghanistan, how to maintain capabilities, and what we should do with regard to partnerships.
On Afghanistan, the United States, together with our NATO allies and partners, may have made extraordinary progress in Afghanistan towards our core goal –which is to defeat al-Qaida and to deny it a safe haven in Afghanistan.
We have worked very hard.
And our soldiers each and every day – not only ours, but those of NATO countries and those of NATO partners – are sacrificing each and every day in order to – first, halt and now to reverse the momentum of the Taliban and second, to start building the capacity of Afghan security forces in order that they ultimately can take responsibility for security.
That is our goal. Our goal is not to be there forever. Our goal is to provide the capability for the Afghans to provide for their own security, to be able to deny Afghanistan once and for all as a safe haven to terrorists.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010, NATO leaders and President Karzai agreed that we would support an Afghan-led transition process. We agreed that the transition would begin in 2011 and lead to the Afghan government having full responsibility for security across the country by the end of 2014.
The United States and all of our allies and partners in Afghanistan remain fully committed to this fundamental Lisbon framework. We are committed to executing it together. And we are committed to the principle in together, out together. We came into Afghanistan together, and we will leave Afghanistan together.
The transition that we announced in Lisbon is now under way. Nearly 50 percent of the Afghan population is now living in areas where the Afghan security forces have the lead responsibility for security.
In those areas, it is the Afghans that are providing security, and it is NATO and ISAF countries and partners that are providing support. As this transition progresses, the role of the NATO forces, of U.S. forces and of our partner forces will evolve from their lead combat role to a support, advice and assist role as Afghan forces become more and more responsible for security.
During this entire transition period, however, until the end of 2014, NATO’s forces, including American forces, will continue to be fully combat ready and will conduct combat operations as needed and as required.
Now when President Obama last June announced that he would host the NATO summit in this wonderful town this May, he said that at the summit leaders would define the next phase of transition. And in the lead-up to the summit in 80 days, we are engaged in active consultations and close coordination with our ISAF and Afghan partners about how a shift in mission can occur most effectively within the Lisbon framework.
Ultimately, any final decision on transition and how that next phase will be implemented will be made by President Obama and his fellow leaders here in Chicago on May 21st.
As part of our transition discussions in Chicago, leaders will also discuss how we can support a sustainable and sufficient Afghan national security force for Afghans’ future and how we can further strengthen the NATO-Afghan strategic partnership so that we can ensure that Afghanistan not only is secure until 2014 but beyond 2014.
Chicago will therefore represent a critical milestone in our effort in Afghanistan, as leaders come together to determine the next phase of transition and the future of how we will support Afghanistan and its security forces in 2015 and beyond.
That is the fundamental purpose of what we’re seeking to achieve as we come here in 80 days: to recognize the progress that has been made, to chart the future course of the continuing transition that we embarked upon, and to make sure that Afghanistan knows, the world knows, and above all the Taliban knows that we remain committed in an enduring relationship with Afghanistan. That’s goal number one for the summit.
Goal number two relates to making sure that NATO retains the capabilities in these difficult financial times (when everybody is cutting their defenses) to find a way to maintain the capability necessary to do the job as effectively in the future as we have done in the past.
As Libya showed, the requirements for a strong and flexible and deployable military force is as needed today as it was during the height of the Cold War. New threats require new defense responses that are just as capable, just as immediate, just as agile as the ones that we had before.
The key question for NATO countries, for each and every one of our countries, is how do we square that circle of dwindling financial resources with the need for critical capabilities?
And the answer that NATO is providing is two-fold.
First, we’re going to concentrate on the truly important and critical capabilities, and we’re going to fund them and deploy them. Two of those stand out as critical.
One is missile defense.
In Lisbon, the 28 leaders agreed that NATO would create and deploy a missile defense system to provide protection for NATO European populations, forces, and territory.
The first phases of that missile defense system are starting to be deployed. And when we get to Chicago in a few weeks’ time, we will be in a position for NATO to take command and control of the NATO missile defense system and to provide a limited defense of a limited territory against a limited threat.
As the threat evolves, NATO’s capability will evolve. And we will work with countries in Europe in order to ensure that the capabilities to defend against a ballistic missile threat will be increased.
We have made agreements, as the United States, with Turkey, with Poland, with Romania, with Spain and Germany on deploying critical elements of the U.S. missile defense system. We have also made agreements with NATO that we will integrate those critical elements into a NATO system so that everyone who has capability to defend against ballistic missiles can contribute to the wider effort of providing protection against this growing threat that is coming from the Middle East.
The second key capability, which we found in Libya was so important for us to be able to conduct military operations, is intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. These are the kinds of assets that fly over territory, that find out where there are targets, what distinguishes those targets from ones that are not legitimate, that make sure that if we were going after a command and control site or a tank or whatever, that you do so with maximum precision and minimum – minimal collateral damage.
The United States in Libya provided between 70 and 80 percent of all the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capability. But we found it hard to do so. We were in Afghanistan. We were in Iraq. We were using these assets in various other parts of the world, and we would have liked a NATO capacity to fill in that role.
Four weeks ago in Brussels, the defense ministers of the NATO countries finally agreed, after 19 years of trying, to purchase a system – five drones, major drones – that will provide NATO with the capacity to acquire the kinds of targets that it needs to acquire to provide the basis for the very intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that are necessary to achieve our objectives.
So missile defense and ISR, in the lingo of the military – the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – are those critical capabilities that even in times of financial stress, the NATO countries have been willing to provide the resources for in order to acquire them.
But aside from critical capabilities, the second way in which we would try to square the circle is to emphasize that we need to do more together.
It is unrealistic for the United States, or indeed for any country in Europe, with one or two exceptions, to think that they can increase defense spending in the next few years. It’s not going to happen, for all the reasons that we know. So while we can’t spend more, we could probably spend more together. And if we spend smarter, we can get more capability for the euro or the kroner or the dollar that is available.
Let me give you three examples.
Sweden bought one half of a C-17 transport airplane. Now, unless somebody else buys the other half, it’s not a particularly useful plane. (Laughter.) But Sweden worked together with 11 other countries to buy three C-17s. A C-17 is a big airplane made by Boeing – I believe you are aware of where Boeing is – made by Boeing that will provide the ability to, over long distances, transport troops and equipment and what have you. Sweden, by having bought one-half plane, is now allowed to use one sixth of the flying hours of that fleet for any purpose that it feels necessary.
Most of them use it to resupply their troops in Afghanistan. But when the earthquake happened in Haiti, Sweden used its allocation for these airplanes to provide humanitarian relief into Haiti. Sweden couldn’t afford one plane, and Finland, which is another non-NATO country that is part of this consortium, couldn’t afford that plane, but these 12 countries together were able to afford three planes. That’s how you spend smart, more together.
Missile defense is the second example. The Dutch government has decided, even as it was reducing its spending quite drastically, that it would invest 250 million euros in upgrading radars on its first-generation, advanced generation frigates, so that those radars could track ballistic missiles as they were flying to targets in Europe. Now, if you have a radar that can track ballistic missiles but you don’t have an interceptor that can shoot them down, it’s not a particularly smart investment, frankly.
So the only way in which the 250 million euro investment to upgrade these radars makes sense is if the data from those radars can be plugged into a system that can be used by other countries that do have the interceptors, to intercept the ballistic missiles that are coming towards you.
So ballistic missile defense, by having NATO provide the core capability in which you can plug and play your interceptors and radars, and then for a small investment, means that the Netherlands, by investing 250 million euros into its radar systems, now has a defense capability because it’s part of NATO. That is smarter spending together.
Finally, air policing.
When the Baltic countries joined NATO in 2004, they asked, we need somebody to police our airspace but we don’t have any aircraft. NATO took on the responsibility to air police, to provide air policing for the Baltic countries, and the Balts were then capable and used the resources that would otherwise be necessary to buy airplanes to invest them in real capabilities that we see today in Afghanistan.
Estonia has the largest per capita deployment of forces of any country in the world in Afghanistan. And all of them are in the south, in Helmand, and all of them are in the fight. And indeed, Estonia until recently had the largest per capita casualty rate. They were able to be an active participant in Afghanistan because NATO took care of their air sovereignty and air security.
So an effective and efficient alliance is one that does more together. It doesn’t mean that we have to spend more; we just have to spend smarter in spending it together.
Finally, a word about partnerships.
NATO is increasingly an organization that provides critical capabilities with which all member states want to be associated. In Europe, nonmember states like Sweden, Finland and Austria – and even Switzerland, the world’s number-one neutral country – increasingly see NATO as a vital institution to promote security and then to cooperate and contribute troops and money to operations and activities that NATO is engaged in.
In Asia, NATO is no longer a dirty word. It is not just Australia, but New Zealand and South Korea (which has 500 troops in Afghanistan) and even Japan (which provides vital resources in Afghanistan) that now look to NATO to be part of the international security effort.
And in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar preferred to work through NATO when it came to the question of whether to use military force in Libya rather than to do so in a coalition of the willing.
All these countries have come to recognize that NATO is a hub for building security –not that NATO is the world policeman, which it is not, but that it is a forum for dialogue and a forum for bringing countries together for collective action.
That is another area that we will recognize, and we will bring together in Chicago those countries that have contributed the most and recognize their contribution in order to both value that in and of itself and to provide them and other countries an incentive, in the future, to contribute more to collective security by being partnered and associated with NATO.
As the title of this series suggested, many have long heralded the end or the withering of this alliance. Indeed, I probably have written one or two articles myself doing that in my previous career. But what’s most remarkable about the debate today about NATO is that no one is thinking or writing about the withering of NATO or the end of this alliance. We just don’t hear that kind of talk anymore.
NATO proved itself in Libya. It proves itself every day in Afghanistan. It is, as President Obama has said, the cornerstone of our American engagement in the world and the catalyst for global cooperation. And the reason, I think, is simple: NATO, in 63 years, has proven to be adaptable. NATO, in 63 years, has proven itself to be enduring. And NATO, in those 63 years, has proven itself to be an alliance that delivers. It delivers value for money and it delivers security for all.
That is what we are going to come here in Chicago to underscore and to celebrate, and that is why we are all looking forward to coming back to Chicago in 80 days. Thank you very much.