174 DSCTC 09 E bis - Protecting To Project: NATO’s Territorial Defence and Deterrence Needs
RAGNHEIDUR ARNADOTTIR (ICELAND) - RAPPORTEUR
II. A RENEWED DEBATE: ADDRESSING LEGITIMATE CONCERNS
A. DOES THE ALLIANCE HAVE THE RIGHT CAPABILITIES?
III. CONCLUSIONS / RECOMMENDATIONS
“… We will continue to improve and demonstrate more clearly our ability to meet emerging challenges on and beyond Alliance territory, including on its periphery, inter alia by ensuring adequate planning, exercises and training.”
Paragraphs 3 and 48, Strasbourg/Kehl Summit Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council on 4 April 2009
2. Since the end of the cold war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has had to re-focus its strategic horizon and redefine the threats against which its defensive capabilities would be tailored. For forty years, countering a European invasion by Soviet forces was the all-consuming purpose of the Alliance, and the immediacy and gravity of that threat was perceived unanimously throughout NATO’s member states.
3. However, the sudden disappearance of this threat eliminated a simple, overarching organizing principle on which the nations could agree. As a result, in the post-Cold War world, it was natural that the threat perceptions of NATO nations with vastly different geo-political situations should, to a certain extent, drift apart. Maintaining the imperfect consensus on how best to structure the Alliance’s defences was perhaps also complicated by successive rounds of NATO enlargement.
4. The Alliance, stung by its experiences in the Balkans and working from the broadly shared perception that no direct military threat to NATO territory existed, came to consensus on the necessity of expeditionary “out-of-area” operations as a new organizing principle to complement the collective defence mission. Capabilities and defence planning turned evermore towards ensuring that NATO could call on the assets it needed to fight a distant war in difficult territory, a process accelerated by the demands of the ongoing operation in Afghanistan.
5. However, throughout this period, some of the more recently joined member states continued to express concerns about what some have called a degree of strategic exposure – a sense of growing threat to their territorial integrity or political independence – and sought reassurances of NATO’s ability and willingness to respond to a contingency involving an attack on Allied territory, rather than an out-of-area event. How, political leaders of these nations asked, could our publics be reassured that the security of their homelands was adequately planned for in the Alliance context when their defence reforms were shifting national military forces towards deployed operations?
6. The conflict in Georgia in August of 2008 served as a grave reminder that war in Europe was not an impossibility in the 21st century. As Norwegian Deputy Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide told our Committee in Oslo in May 2009, “it is not any longer true that all potential conflicts NATO members can become involved in are asymmetric and far away from the home turf.”
7. In the wake of that conflict, the concerns detailed above were expressed more urgently, acutely and publicly than ever before. Debates emerged in some NATO member states regarding whether major recent national force planning choices, on issues such as conscription, the overall size of the military and major acquisition programmes, had tilted too far away from territorial defence needs.
8. Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General John Craddock saw a new geopolitical reality in the aftermath of the war in Georgia. “For years there's been an assumption that no nation, either member nation or PFP, had to worry nor should fear an invasion of their sovereign territory,” he said. “I think there's change now as a result of August …There are nations who are concerned. We should be responsive and understand that there are indeed legitimate issues here."1
9. In this context, several member states sought bilateral security guarantees amongst themselves to supplement their NATO commitments. For example, the Polish government insisted on the inclusion of a bilateral defence commitment with the US as part of the missile defence basing agreement it signed shortly after the Georgian war. And in terms particularly troubling for the Article 5 guarantee, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated that NATO would be too slow in coming to Poland’s defence in an attack, suggesting that the Alliance would take “days, weeks to start that machinery… Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later - it is no good when assistance comes to dead people.”2
10. Indeed, if such statements indicate the disconcerting possibility of a broader lack of confidence in NATO’s ability to effectively provide its fundamental benefit of collective defence, another key element of NATO’s purpose will be undermined, namely preventing the re-emergence of conflicting security guarantees and purely nationally-based defence in Europe that proved disastrous in the 20th century.3
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11. In response to such concerns, your Rapporteur seeks to explore in this report some of the realities behind these questions and to provide the information necessary for an informed debate on this issue. This report of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Co-operation will review recent Alliance discussions on the concerns expressed by some member states, and track the Alliance’s response to those concerns thus far. Information gathered during the course of the 2009 activities of the Defence and Security Committee as well as feedback from Assembly members has informed this updated version of the report.
12. Your Rapporteur has deliberately excluded from this report an assessment of whether a conventional threat to a member state exists in the current geo-political situation. Rather, the report focuses on addressing the stated concerns of member state publics about their security in relation to NATO’s collective defence mission. It must not be forgotten that the success of all of NATO’s endeavours – whether in Afghanistan, the Balkans, or elsewhere – rests on the continued support of our citizens, and ensuring that they continue to recognize the Alliance’s relevance and effectiveness.
13. In order to reduce any misunderstanding on this potentially sensitive issue, some of your Rapporteur’s conclusions are best stated early in this report:
14. It is your Rapporteur’s strong conviction that Article 5 has always remained the core priority of the Alliance and one it has been ready to assume and carry out throughout its 60 years. This commitment, enshrined in the Washington Treaty, to which all of our nations have pledged themselves, remains true today and has been reiterated often and resoundingly by our Heads of State and Government. The NATO Secretary General was right to state, at the October 2008 meeting of Defence Ministers in Budapest, that “…since 1949, NATO has been ready for all eventualities and NATO is ready for all eventualities and nobody should doubt that.”4
15. The Article 5 commitment is supported in the Alliance context by the prudent internal preparation conducted through the NATO defence planning process, as outlined in documents such as NATO’s 2006 Comprehensive Political Guidance, described in detail in your Rapporteur’s 2008 report.5 A renewed statement and amplification of the member states’ commitment to collective defence featured prominently in NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit Declaration, as cited at the beginning of this text, and will certainly appear in any new NATO Strategic Concept.
16. Your Rapporteur fully supports NATO’s expeditionary focus and the need to develop the capabilities to address security problems facing the Alliance that originate and fester outside of its geographical territory. However, NATO cannot be – and is not – only about operations outside its territory. If it is perceived as such, it runs the risk of losing the support of our publics, which is critical in order for the Alliance to succeed in its out-of-area operations, in particular its top priority mission in Afghanistan.
17. This message was recently underscored by a distinguished group of Central and East European political leaders in an “Open Letter to the Obama Administration” on 15 July:
“A key factor in our ability to participate in NATO's expeditionary missions overseas is the belief that we are secure at home. We must therefore correct some self-inflicted wounds from the past. It was a mistake not to commence with proper Article 5 defense planning for new members after NATO was enlarged. NATO needs to make the Alliance's commitments credible and provide strategic reassurance to all members. This should include contingency planning, prepositioning of forces, equipment, and supplies for reinforcement in our region in case of crisis as originally envisioned in the NATO-Russia Founding Act.”6
18. There is, therefore, utility to ensuring the visibility of NATO’s contributions in-area and the demonstration of its effectiveness in order to underline its proven ability to meet the full panoply of its commitments in the 21st century.
19. Although some NATO member states have, behind closed doors, long sought a greater element of demonstrable NATO presence on their territory in order to raise NATO’s visibility, the issue flared into public view in the wake of the war in Georgia in August 2008.
20. The specific in-area concerns that have emerged publicly have centred on three main lines: debates on the Alliance’s mix of expeditionary versus territorial capabilities; requests for additional ‘contingency planning’ for Article 5 scenarios; and an appeal for increased physical demonstration of Allied ‘presence’ in areas of perceived strategic exposure.
A. DOES THE ALLIANCE HAVE THE RIGHT CAPABILITIES?
21. All NATO nations first conduct their defence planning on a national basis, by assessing threats in relation to their history, resources and existing capabilities as well as their geopolitical situation and goals. And clearly, a nation’s first line of defence is always its own military force. However, some nations rely more heavily on the Alliance for their defence; the spectrum ranges from your Rapporteur’s home country of Iceland, which has no military, to the United States. NATO’s influence on national defence planning choices varies accordingly on this spectrum. It places particularly strong influence on the force development of the newer NATO members. The relationship between national defence planning and NATO’s processes is thus an important element in determining what is brought to bear in any territorial defence scenario.
22. The NATO defence planning process, through which it decides what capabilities the Alliance as a whole should pursue, has moved away from the “threat-based” approach it emphasized in the cold war, when the threat was readily identifiable. In today’s far more unpredictable security environment, NATO uses a “capabilities-based” approach that seeks to ensure that the Alliance has the tools to meet the full range of potential challenges to its security. This was set out as a shared objective of all Allies in the Comprehensive Political Guidance endorsed at the Riga Summit in November 2006.7 The premise laid out in the Guidance is that the Alliance will have to be able to meet challenges to the security of the Allies’ populations, territory and forces, irrespective of where those challenges may come from. It also stipulates that NATO - anticipating as well as it can future threats, risks and challenges - will need forces and capabilities that can conduct the full range of missions and operations, from low to high intensity, and in a multitude of geographical settings.
23. The potential impact of the Georgia war on NATO’s capabilities plans featured on the agenda of NATO’s discussions as early as the first NATO Ministerial meeting after the conflict – the informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in London in September 2008.
24. In London, the Ministers took up a discussion on continuing to ensure that NATO has the right balance between expeditionary forces and those required for its core task of collective defence. While no decisions were made and no formal communiqué agreed (as is the case for all informal ministerials) the Ministers arrived at what the Secretary General called a clear and shared view on a number of key points, the most important point of agreement being that “…we have that balance just about right between expeditionary and our core tasks.”
25. The former Secretary General categorically stated that “there is no difference between the forces you need in Afghanistan and the forces you might need in a scenario, God forbid, where you have to defend the NATO territory.” The defence of Allies on the periphery of NATO territory, for example, can only be ensured if other Allies have fully deployable and expeditionary forces and the means to get them quickly to a remote location – similar to the requirements of out-of-area operations.
26. However, dissenting views on this point do exist outside of NATO. For instance, a recent Jane’s Defence Weekly analysis suggested that the capabilities necessary for NATO to counter a conventional territorial assault – including fighter aircraft, maritime forces and tank-killing airpower – have been de-emphasized across the major defence players in the Alliance, due to the near-total focus on counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 8 As Estonian Ambassador to NATO, Jüri Luik, stated in the Assembly’s joint meeting with the North Atlantic Council in Oslo in May, training to fight in an Afghan village doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to stop a tank in an Article 5 scenario.
27. This rebalancing of procurement and personnel towards counter-insurgency is in accordance with the priorities laid out in these nations’ most recent security strategy documents. A move towards a territorial concept of defence would have very significant budgetary implications for any NATO country. Jane’s argues that any new such investment in the maintenance or replacement of territorial defence equipment would largely fall on European Allies, given the likelihood of a continued US focus on Southwest Asia and the Far East.9
B. DOES THE ALLIANCE HAVE THE RIGHT PLANS IN PLACE?
28. Given that the details of NATO’s defence planning are (quite appropriately) classified, it is difficult to address this question in a detailed manner here, beyond relating the reassurances of NATO leadership. As the former NATO Secretary General put it when asked by a reporter what specific elements of collective defence might change after the Georgia war, he answered firmly: “You'll forgive me if I do not go into detail on what NATO plans and what NATO doesn't plan; we do the necessary.”10 Even so, certain elements have emerged into public debate.
29. It is public knowledge that some member states have consistently sought greater military planning for Allied territorial defence contingencies under Article 5 scenarios. For example, as recently as February 2009, the Polish government was publicly calling for updated contingency plans – defence strategies for each member country – which were last updated in the 1990s, or for some of the newer member states, nonexistent. “We are interested in updating the contingency planning to adjust it to the current reality in terms of possible threats and appropriate answers to them,” Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer told Reuters11, adding that such a move should not be seen as against Russia. He further noted that current contingency plans also omit other threats, such as terrorist attacks. Your Rapporteur heard similar calls for updated contingency plans directly from Polish officials in June 2009.12
30. In response to the concerns expressed after the conflict in Georgia, SACEUR General John Craddock was reported in October 2008 to be drawing up plans to protect several Alliance members under an Article 5 scenario.13 While SACEUR has the authority to write contingency plans, formal defence plans require a threat assessment that must be approved by NATO's political leadership through the North Atlantic Council. General Craddock was again reported in December 2008 to be pushing ahead with “prudent planning” under military authorities that do not require political approval.14
31. For his part, NATO’s previous Secretary General, perhaps seeking to avoid any misunderstanding by non-member states that could risk escalating any existing tensions, emphasized that contingency planning is a matter of course for the Alliance: "Planning and training for collective defence of NATO territory is what this alliance has done for 60 years", he said. "We may step up some elements here or there", he told reporters, but "planning and training for collective defence is, for NATO ... business as usual … No one should be surprised or alarmed, in other words (…)."15
C. IS THE ALLIANCE SUFFICIENTLY ‘PRESENT’ IN MEMBER STATES?
32. Several other concerns have been raised that could best be addressed collectively as the question of Alliance “presence” in member states, particularly those feeling strategic exposure. While the idea of “sufficient presence” is difficult to define precisely and remains in the eye of the beholder, several elements, alone or in combination, have emerged as contributing to the concept.
33. In the wake of the 2008 Georgia war, some analysts called for the rapid development of infrastructure, particularly in the newer member states. They believed that this would allow for rapid reinforcement of Allies, should it become necessary.
34. An Estonian defence official recently told the defence publication Jane’s that “capabilities and visibility need to be enhanced around NATO’s borders. New member countries lack defence infrastructure and territorial defence must be a NATO cornerstone. The development of Estonia’s Amari airbase [for example] is essential to regional air policing and air defence.”16
35. During the Sub-Committee’s visit to Poland in June 2009, Polish officials hailed a recent decision by NATO to base a command of NATO’s Signal Battalion (and its 200 NATO personnel) in Bydgoszcz, Poland. However, several speakers made clear Poland’s view that additional NATO infrastructure projects in Poland would better guarantee its defence. Indeed, the lack of such ‘significant’ infrastructure frustrated Polish officials who remained concerned that Poland not be treated as a ‘second-class member’ of the Alliance in decision-making or infrastructure/investment decisions. A similar calculation lay behind Poland’s continued desire to see the US station forces in Poland in the context of the proposed missile defence system.
36. According to expert Ron Asmus, NATO avoided the permanent forward deployment of large numbers of combat troops in new member states for very valid political reasons, committing instead to the development of infrastructure and reinforcement capability necessary to quickly bring forces in to defend a country in a crisis. However, this infrastructure was not developed for many reasons, including the increased prioritisation of outofarea expeditionary operations. Asmus has therefore suggested that “it is time to put into place the infrastructure, reinforcement capabilities and symbolic deployments we are fully entitled to as a stabilizing and confidence-building measure for new allies.” 17
37. The Washington NATO Project has made a similar recommendation, suggesting that infrastructure upgrades in new member states be funded in order for new NATO common assets to be based there, such as the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. These would serve as physical demonstrations of NATO presence.18
38. However, it is difficult to imagine the Alliance budgeting for significant new infrastructure spending, given pressing needs to address urgent requirements in Afghanistan as well as the squeeze put on defence budgets by the financial crisis. The question also remains of whether such infrastructure projects could be unnecessarily provocative.
39. Another potential element of “presence” requested by some member states is an increased number of live (or table-top) exercises based on territorial defence scenarios. NATO’s 2006 Military Training and Exercise Programme, which provides information on training and exercises over a six year period, includes 11 live exercises as well as 30 command post and computerassisted exercises. The programme is based on strategic commanders’ priorities and intents, which typically include areas such as current and future operations, the NATO Response Force, transformational experimentation and NATO’s military co-operation programmes.19
40. Since the creation of the NATO Response Force (NRF) in 2002, the Alliance has focused its exercises on the NRF and on ensuring that the Force is able to deploy quickly and operate effectively in a variety of situations.20 This focus on the NRF and expeditionary operations has come under scrutiny since the Georgia conflict. For example, General Franciszek Gagor, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, told a visiting Assembly delegation in September 2008 that, in his view, the focus of NATO exercises on crisis response would have to yield to a greater emphasis on Article 5 exercises.21
41. Addressing this request, particularly if done without adding significantly to the cost or strain of the existing regular exercise programme, should be feasible, if the reluctance of some NATO members is overcome. For example, NATO planners could ensure that already scheduled periodic NATO exercises regularly test Article 5 scenarios. This could, without great difficulty, be a point of emphasis in future iterations of NATO’s annual crisis management exercise (CMX), a “table top” strategic political level exercise of NATO’s decision-making procedures under which no troops are actually deployed.
42. Of course, any additional or modified exercise programmes must make it a priority to avoid any potentially provocative or escalatory elements that could produce counter-productive developments in non-member states. Exercises demonstrating capability can be conducted far from geographic areas of tension, and done within regular schedules in order to ensure they are seen as routine elements of NATO’s business.
43. It is also true that any additional exercises for this purpose come at a significant cost in terms of funds, staff time and other resources, particularly when all of these are in short supply in the operational theatre of Afghanistan. However, the cost must be weighed against the potentially significant benefits: ensuring NATO’s visibility on its own territory could be a crucial element of maintaining public support for the Alliance as a whole in NATO member states and for its expeditionary operations in particular.
44. In recent years air policing has come to represent a significant NATO effort, providing demonstrable “presence” to requesting member states. Initiated at the request of the Baltic states and currently also covering Slovenia and Iceland, air policing by Allies is intended to help member states which do not have the necessary assets to independently preserve the integrity of their (and NATO’s) airspace. Instead of investing in the purchase of expensive fighter aircraft, for example, these nations invest in other niche capabilities of use to the Alliance as a whole, while other Allies assist with patrolling their airspace.
45. Thus, air policing encompasses radar surveillance and identification of air objects through regular patrols and round-the-clock, quick reaction alert air defence. When required, fighter aircraft may be employed to assist in identification, or to assist/escort aircraft. Your Rapporteur and this Sub-Committee had the opportunity to learn about the air policing policy first hand during a visit to Estonia in June 2008.22 While costly – NATO nations station fighters in Lithuania at a cost of between 20 to 50 million euros per rotation of four months – Estonian officials insisted the air policing operation was needed, due to daily flyovers by Russian military aircraft over the Baltics.
D. RAPID REACTION CAPABILITY: THE NRF AND THE “STANDING SOLIDARITY FORCE” CONCEPT
46. As early as September 2008, Allies had begun discussing the possibility of a rapid-response force that could be deployed to nations under threat, not only as a potential combat element but also as a “tripwire” to signal to an aggressor that the Alliance was absolutely committed to the defence of a particular territory. Although NATO has struggled to increase rapid reaction forces on several previous occasions, this idea had the benefit of avoiding permanent deployments or infrastructure that could generate even more hostile responses from Russia.23
47. Such a measure was officially proposed by the UK at the February 2009 London Defence Ministerial. The UK suggested that NATO set up a standing force of 3,000 troops dedicated to the mission of territorial defence. The proposed force would, when deployed, indicate Allies’ commitment to, and willingness to invoke, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, thereby enhancing the potential effectiveness of the Alliance’s deterrent posture.
48. In an interview, the British Defence Secretary John Hutton argued that such a move would reassure east European NATO members and the Baltic States in particular. He also hoped it could contribute to resolving the internal NATO deadlock on the use of the NATO Response Force (NRF), which was seen by some member states as excessive preparation for expeditionary operations at the expense of territorial defence preparations.24 Hutton also hoped that a new force for territorial defence could “… make it easier for NATO to do more in Afghanistan, certain in the knowledge that there is a dedicated homeland security force that will have no other call on its priorities [other] than European homeland security."25
49. Ultimately the British proposal for a separate Solidarity force was considered unpractical due to cost and force generation issues and was dropped. In its place, according to Polish officials, Allied Defence Ministers incorporated the functions of the Allied Solidarity Force into the NRF, ensuring that it would be available for operations both in and out-of-area. The revised NRF is envisaged as the immediate military response to an emerging crisis as part of the Alliance's comprehensive crisis management system for both Article 5 and Crisis Response Operations. Polish officials told this Sub-Committee that this outcome goes even further towards addressing outstanding concerns than the Solidarity Force Proposal did, and was therefore seen as an important sign of movement in the ‘right’ direction by those Allies concerned about their strategic exposure.
50. The above elements all contribute to the goal of ensuring that NATO’s focus on expeditionary operations does not preclude its capability to perform its core function of Article 5 territorial defence. However, the analysis has thus far omitted what may be the most important part of such an effort: a coordinated and effective public diplomacy strategy that raises the profile of NATO’s efforts in this regard. A public diplomacy campaign would serve the dual purposes of reassuring member state populations while reinforcing to external actors an impression of the Alliance’s continued vigilance regarding its core function of collective defence.
51. Public diplomacy is and will continue to be critical in ensuring that any concrete actions by NATO in this regard, be they new infrastructure projects or live exercises, are not perceived by non-NATO countries as overtly threatening. As stated by a Russian delegate at the Committee’s meeting in Oslo in May 2009, there is a danger that, if improperly handled, such steps could be misperceived by the Russian public as a potentially threatening military build-up. Preventing a potentially escalatory response to NATO actions should be a priority. The Secretary General surely had this in mind at the London Ministerial when he stated that “planning and training for collective defence is for NATO…business as usual. No one should be surprised or alarmed, in other words, when we continue to do it through, for example, routine contingency planning, security assessments, tabletop or other exercises or joint training.”
52. As stated in the introduction of this report, the ability and readiness of Allies to respond to an Article 5 scenario has never been and will not be in question. The Washington Treaty’s robustness endures, and the defence planning processes at NATO headquarters ensure that the Alliance will continue to be able to address the security concerns of its member states effectively.
53. Additionally, even in making the below recommendations, your Rapporteur continues to fully support the idea that expeditionary operations are currently the Alliance’s top priority and that transformation of NATO to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in places like Afghanistan must continue. NATO must continue to address those security problems facing the Alliance which originate outside of its geographical territory.
54. However, NATO cannot be – and is not – only about operations outside of its territory. If it is perceived as such, it runs the risk of losing the support of our publics. Therefore, NATO must be more visible at home in demonstrating its role in providing for the defence of our societies. And as Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg put it in his address to our Assembly in May 2009,
55. The following measures, if adopted by NATO and its member states, could contribute to an effort to ensure that the Alliance’s visibility in this area is heightened and unquestionable, and that NATO’s territorial defence and deterrence needs are met:
i. Conduct comprehensive public diplomacy efforts to ensure that member state publics are aware of Allies’ universal and unwavering commitment to Article 5, the extent of NATO’s current presence in their geographic area and any new measures designed to reassure them;
* NATO’s Heads of State and Government should continue to use opportunities such as the discussion of a new Strategic Concept to reaffirm their mutual defence commitment;
* Equally important, leaders who have expressed concerns regarding this commitment should publicly reassure uneasy publics by expressing their belief that the Alliance stands fully ready to fulfil Article 5 commitments, should it become necessary;
* Ensure that publics understand that NATO’s expeditionary operations are not distractions from efforts to protect core Alliance interests but rather are ensuring the security of those interests where the threats to them are most likely to emerge;
* The NATO Parliamentary Assembly could play a key role in these efforts;
iii. Ensure defence planning is complete and addresses the legitimate concerns of all Allies;
iv. Ensure a rapid-reaction capability that can respond to Article 5 scenarios, inter alia through the NATO Response Force, as a means of resolving territorial concerns and potentially freeing up personnel, resources, and political support for expeditionary operations such as the Alliance’s top priority mission in Afghanistan; and
v. Consider, if cost effective, options for infrastructure deployments of common Allied assets and reinforcement capabilities in new member states.
1 Interview - “NATO reviewing security post Georgia war”, Kristin Roberts, Reuters, 10 October 2008