Sunday 30 May 2010 - Summary of the meeting of the Defence and Security Committee
Hall A, Kipsala International Exhibition Centre
1. The Chairman, Julio Miranda Calha (PT), opened the meeting.
2. The draft agenda [131 DSC 10 E rev. 1] was adopted without comment.
3. The summary of the meeting of the Defence and Security Committee held in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 November 2009 [232 DSC 09 E] was adopted.
4. The Committee reviewed the comments by the Secretary General of NATO, Chairman of the North Atlantic Council on Policy Recommendations adopted in 2009 by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly [078 SESP 10 E]. The Chairman expressed his gratitude to the NATO Secretary General for responding to the Assembly’s Policy Recommendations every year in writing.
5. Imants Liegis gave an overview of the redefinition of NATO’s Strategic Concept, as well as Latvia’s role in this process and in the Alliance in general. Latvia’s Defence Minister also outlined proposals for improved relations with Russia.
6. Mr Liegis underlined the strong influence Latvia has played in the Strategic Concept’s Group of Experts, thanks to the role of Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis as an expert representing the three Baltic States.
7. Overall, the Alliance can take pride in the open, transparent and wide ranging manner in which group of experts have worked, according to Mr Liegis. The approach has been very different from that of the Harmel Report and the 1999 Strategic Concept.
8. Mr Liegis then highlighted some aspects that Latvia considers of importance. He first reaffirmed the continued relevance of collective defence, giving the example of air policing of NATO airspace in the Baltics. Second, he called for a more imaginative use of article 4, which could be used for example as a means to discuss potentially significant transfers by NATO member states of military equipment and technology to third countries. Third, Mr Liegis insisted on the government’s commitment to continue to assume the country’s responsibilities in Afghanistan, in spite of a difficult economic situation. Although wages and defence personnel have been reduced by 20% in 2009, Latvia has maintained its 175-strong contingent on the ground.
9. Before taking questions from the floor, Mr Liegis welcomed the recommendations of the Group of Experts concerning the ongoing NATO dialogue with Russia on nuclear issues. He then invited all countries to build on the current partnership in Afghanistan to seek further practical cooperation with Moscow. According to Mr Liegis, the Alliance should continue to pursue a united policy of engagement with Russia, which in no way contradicts the two-track approach of upholding the reassurances for Alliance members mentioned earlier.
11. Maj. Gen. Juris Maklakovs, Chief of Defence of Latvia, presented his views on how Latvia, a ‘small’ country, contributes to Allied security. He outlined the roles and responsibilities of the Latvian National Armed Forces, with a special emphasis on the Alliance mission in Afghanistan, highlighted the benefits of multinational cooperation, and provided his personal outlook on how the Latvian National Armed Forces could contribute to NATO in the future.
12. The biggest challenge for the Latvian National Armed Forces before Latvia could join NATO was to transform them so they could act in a system of collective defence and security, paving the way for Latvia to become an active provider of security instead of being a security user. This meant developing a professionally trained and well-equipped force with a balanced structure and tasks, capable of adapting to various combat and security environments and being interoperable with the other Allies.
13. Turning to Latvia’s contribution to ISAF, Maj. Gen. Maklakovs underlined Latvia’s commitment to the new NATO strategy in Afghanistan, particularly in moving towards full partnering with the Afghan National Security Forces. At the same time, he also stressed the importance of sustaining OMLT (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team) functions to facilitate the ongoing development of the Afghan National Army.
14. The Major General told the Committee that a priority for Latvia’s Armed Forces is maintaining and enhancing cooperation between the three Baltic States as well as with the Scandinavian countries. He expressly thanked Denmark and Norway for their help in training, education, and operational support in Afghanistan.
15. The most important international military cooperative ventures for Latvia are the NATO airpolicing mission in the Baltic countries, which is very highly appreciated; the establishment of the Baltic Defence College in Estonia; and the joint exercises carried out in cooperation with the other Baltic countries and NATO. Both the air-policing mission and the military exercises are excellent demonstrations of NATO reassurance, he said.
16. The future of Latvia’s National Armed Forces, according to Maj. Gen. Maklakovs, revolves around three objectives: to sustain the number of troops in Afghanistan and possibly extend support in the medium term; to probe the possibilities of building additional common regional capabilities; and to remain vigilant against new threats and provide expeditionary capabilities to NATO operations and missions.
17. Members asked Maj. Gen. Maklakovs about whether further defence budget cuts were planned in Latvia in light of the financial crisis; Latvia’s engagement in Afghanistan, including its ‘unique’ approach to OMLTs and Latvia’s approach to the protection of civilians; and finally about how maritime surveillance in the Baltic Sea could be improved.
18. Maj. Gen. Maklakovs informed the Committee that the Latvian defence budget would probably not fall any further in the near future, since the 2010 budget is already only 50% of the budget of 2008. The Major General underlined the importance of winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan by reorienting all efforts towards protecting the Afghan people, and acknowledged the challenge of police training. He praised the unique partnership of his deployed forces with the Michigan National Guard. On maritime surveillance, the Major General pointed to the upcoming Nordic-Baltic Chiefs of Defence meeting and said that Latvia is interested in joining the Scandinavian cooperation in this area.
19. On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked departing General Rapporteur Frank Cook (UK) for his highly valued and long service to the Assembly. The Committee observed a minute of silence for the fallen in Afghanistan.
20. Frank Cook presented his draft Report to the Committee. The report was a factual briefing on the state of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), namely the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police (ANP), as well as the newly launched NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTMA). The experience Mr Cook gathered during the Committee’s latest visit to Afghanistan in April reinforced his factual findings. The Mission report on that trip was made available as separate document [136 SC 10 E].
21. The report focused on the Coalition’s partnering the ANSF at all levels to speed up their development. Their capability to take over lead responsibility for security in their own country, Mr. Cook emphasised, will make possible the withdrawal of Alliance’s soldiers from the Afghan frontlines. However, Cook stressed he did not want his report to be understood as call for a quick exit; the coalition would need to remain in Afghanistan for many years to come.
22. Cook pointed out the troubling shortcomings in the Army’s and Police’s current aptitude to provide basic security for the Afghan people, in particular leadership deficiencies, corruption, drug abuse, illiteracy and equipment shortages. He also outlined positive developments such as prioritising the police, major pay raises, and literacy training. However, according to Cook, these new initiatives would succeed only if properly resourced.
23. Cook generally saw the mission in Afghanistan as on the right track, but requiring proper resourcing, patience, and resolve.
24. On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked Jack Segal for his highly valued contributions to the work of the Assembly and to the Alliance as a whole and wished him well on his retirement from the U.S. Foreign Service.
25. Mr. Segal suggested that because the Alliance’s strategy has remained unclear and a definition of success elusive, it has been difficult to coherently explain to our publics and the Afghan population what we are attempting to do.
26. The military strategy is to disrupt the Taliban’s efforts to overthrow the Afghan government, develop the ANSF to a level that allows them to operate independently, and to hand over control to the Afghans. Mr. Segal was concerned about too great a focus on target numbers of trained Afghan forces; sustainment of a force that is being provided equipment that may not be suitable for their expertise and resources; and the approach of relying on a large professional army. Indeed, he agree with President Karzai’s suggestion that conscription was necessary. He also suggested that ‘transition’ strategy needed re-thinking, as Afghanistan has never been ‘ours’ to hand back.
27. The political strategy, Mr. Segal suggested, relied on reconciliation and reintegration and a political settlement with various fighting factions that will involve unpleasant concessions. We must stop imposing our own parameters for what is acceptable in reaching such a settlement, Mr. Segal stated, suggesting that it was not for us to determine the rights of women, impose a system of government, or define democracy for the Afghans.
28. The security situation remains serious and it is too soon to tell whether the new measures put in place by General Stanley McChrystal have reversed the trends towards further deterioration. The coordination of security, governance, and development has not been resolved, Mr. Segal pointed out.
29. Turning to the ‘focused district’ strategy now being employed, Mr. Segal suggested that recent operations had not yet proven successful. The outcome of the Marjah operation, for instance, remained unclear because governance problems remained critical, with only 20 of the 60 promised trained civil administrators in pace, and squabbling between powerbrokers about whose police forces will take control of a potentially lucrative zone.
30. Mr. Segal lamented the fact that we are as large a part of the problem of corruption in Afghanistan as our Afghan partners, with huge and poorly monitored funding being poured into an unaccountable situation.
31. Balancing the significant costs in terms of lives and resources of the conflict against the strategic interests that continue to be in play is increasingly difficult as publics tire of the sacrifices, Mr. Segal underlined. While we cannot allow Al Qaeda to even untruthfully claim to have beaten the Soviet Union and NATO, we must not allow ourselves to sink into an endless pursuit of distant dreams.
32. Segal’s definition of success, therefore, mandated helping the Afghans build their own system of security; tightening controls over our massive financial contributions; and leaving it to Afghans to sort out political arrangements with their opponents. The outcome is likely to be ambiguous, uncertain, and imperfect. We need to accept that.
33. Several delegates said that they were struck by the rather pessimistic picture that Mr Cook and Mr Segal had expressed on the current situation in Afghanistan. The speakers urged the audience to not judge the situation from a western perspective and to set realistic expectations, especially since the Alliance’s forces cannot remain on the front lines indefinitely.
34. When asked about developments regarding the police forces, Cook emphasized that this had been an ongoing concern for the Assembly and that he hoped that higher pay would lead to recruiting improvements. Mr. Segal pointed out that NATO was short not 400 trainers as is often claimed but in fact 1500, and that this number would grow along with the numerical growth of Afghan forces. The speakers were asked about the future of the Dutch contribution; challenges in strategic communication; and the reconciliation process. Members also expressed concern about the upholding of women’s rights and whether President Karzai suffered from a lack of legitimacy with the Afghan public.
35. A member of the Afghan parliament suggested that the Afghan people were losing confidence in ongoing military operations, given the mixed success of the heralded Marjah operation, for example. Many members raised the role of Pakistan in the ongoing conflict. Mr. Segal recognized the nature of the problem, but was adamant that the Alliance could not and should not go into Pakistan.
VI. Committee and Sub-Committee Activities in 2010-2011
36. The Chairman reminded members of upcoming Committee activities, including a visit to Kosovo and Bosnia from June 21 to 24, as well visits to South Korea, the High North, and Turkey.
37. Given the need for a new General Rapporteur, the Chairman used his prerogative to nominate Sven Mikser to fill the position on an interim basis until the Annual Session. He also nominated Marek Opiola (Poland) to a vacancy on the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council, again on an interim basis until the Annual Session. No objections to the Chairman’s suggestions were made.
38. Joseph Day (CA) first relayed to the Committee the regrets of Ragnheidur Arnadottir who was not able to attend the meeting. He then presented to the Committee her report on security and sovereignty issues in the High North, and NATO’s role in the region.
39. The last few years have seen new opportunities emerging in the Arctic region, notably shorter and safer shipping routes between Asia and Europe and North America, easier access to significant energy reserves, and increased fishing and tourism. Senator Day relayed that Ms. Arnadottir’s report insisted that the current situation should be characterized as “High North, low tension”, as Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg likes to put it. However, some commentators have also expressed worries about the future stability of the region. Therefore, he warned the Assembly that closer attention needs to be paid on how to ensure that the opportunities emerging in the region be preserved in a spirit of responsible, environmentally friendly and sustainable stewardship, rather than lost through self-defeating competition or exclusion.
40. Ms. Arnadottir’s report put the situation in the High North into perspective, according to Senator Day: all Arctic actors by and large agree on a basic legal and institutional framework to govern their cooperation in the region, which includes, for example, the Arctic Council and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. Besides, none of the Arctic actors have any interest in rising tensions negatively affecting the new economic opportunities emerging in the region.
41. On NATO’s role in the region, the report suggested the Alliance should make sure to avoid any kind of duplication with the frameworks in place. NATO could nonetheless play a positive role as a forum for dialogue and information-sharing and maintains an appropriate level of awareness of developments in the region. More notably, the issue could usefully be raised with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council. Sharing information and working together on surveillance and patrolling, for example, could be one useful step. By doing so, the NATO-Russia Council would fill a gap created by the fact that security issues are not part of the Arctic Council’s mandate.
42. Members from several NATO nations and Russia took the floor to discuss the report. Johannes Koskinnen, from Finland, warned that the NATO-Russia council is not the right place to discuss issues related to the High North, given that Sweden and Finland would be excluded, as non-NATO members. Sverre Myrli (NO) announced that the territorial dispute between Norway and Russia has been solved and this should be updated in the report. US Congressman David Scott suggested that the U.S. was very supportive of the UNCLOS, and hoped that ratification in the Senate would be forthcoming. Victor Zavarzin (RU) suggested that NATO was not the right organization to discuss these issues. A stronger involvement from NATO could potentially destabilize the situation, notably by further militarising the High North. Bilateral negotiations were preferable, as illustrated by the recent resolution of the dispute between Russia and Norway.
43. Senator Day finally thanked all parliamentarians on behalf of Ms. Arnadottir for the very useful comments and pledged to transmit them to her for her consideration as she updated the report for the Annual Session.
44. Raymond Knops (NL), Rapporteur, presented his report on the future of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. According to Knops, a window of opportunity has recently been opened to discuss concrete steps towards a nuclear weapons-free world. This has raised the profile of the role of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. When coupled with the development of a new Strategic Concept for the Alliance, the Assembly had an opportunity – even an obligation – to consider the role of nuclear weapons in NATO strategy, he argued.
45. Knops provided a short update on recent developments on nuclear arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, including on the recent meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers in Estonia and the Group of Experts contribution to the new Strategic Concept. He then reviewed the arguments in favor of maintaining the nuclear status quo. A key concept of the Alliance is that all must share the roles, risks, and responsibilities of defence. Hence, advocates argue that the current nuclear arrangements contribute to Alliance solidarity.
46. The presence of U.S. nuclear weapons also provides strategic reassurance to NATO Member States. Withdrawal could be interpreted as a weakening of U.S. security commitments and could diminish the European influence on NATO’s (and U.S.) nuclear policy. Indeed, if the weapons left Europe, some Member States might be tempted to develop their own national arsenals. Furthermore, the nuclear arsenal in Europe is a proven capability and thus serves as an insurance against tomorrow’s threats – whatever they might be. Lastly, supporters of the current policy argue that it would be naïve to think that withdrawal would change the behaviour of other states regarding their nuclear posture or ambitions – a key argument for advocates of withdrawal.
47. On the other side of the debate, those who favour withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe also put up strong arguments. For one, their rationale has arguably expired after the end of the Cold War, as they were meant to be dropped on Warsaw Pact tanks. Also, these weapons are almost useless against the threat of international terrorism. Thus, through withdrawal, NATO could set a positive example for other nuclear-weapon states or would-be proliferators.
48. Furthermore, many advocates of withdrawal doubt that the opposition against these weapons in the NATO’s eastern Member States and Turkey is as deep as commonly believed. In any case, other non-nuclear deterrence options exist or are being developed that could alleviate the need for U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Concerns over the safety and security of the nuclear bombs as well as very costly medium-term investments to keep up the status quo further bolster these arguments.
49. Knops also raised the increasingly important question of whether any reductions in Allied tactical nuclear weapons should be made contingent upon Russia’s willingness to reduce their much larger arsenal, or whether they could be made unilaterally by NATO. Knops also sought members’ views on the necessity of the presence of these weapons in terms of reassurance value, the availability of alternative measures, and the relationship to emerging ballistic missile defences.
50. In the ensuing comments and questions, Giorgio La Malfa (IT) argued that Italy would never doubt the U.S. security guarantee – with or without U.S. nuclear weapons on European soil. He was not asking for them to be withdrawn, but if the U.S. and Russia could come to an agreement on reducing them, it would be a great step. David Scott stated that the discussion was welcome, and reminded the Committee that the U.S. and NATO had already reduced non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe substantially and that any changes in number must be made unanimously and with the continued U.S. commitment to defend Europe in mind.
51. Sir John Stanley (UK) praised the timeliness of the report, and suggested that the crucial prize was not elimination of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, but bringing the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty to its logical conclusion by eliminating all short-range nuclear weapons. All NATO decisions on this matter must not jeopardize the U.S. negotiation position vis-à-vis Russia, however, a point supported by Francesco Bosi (IT), who further suggested that while a worthy objective, a nuclear weapons-free world was not an immediate prospect.
52. Vahit Erdem (TR) noted that Turkey is very committed to a world without nuclear weapons, but he believed that they are still critical to the Alliance, as long as others have them. Any review of the current status quo should take into account the wider strategic developments and be taken unanimously within NATO. The presence of U.S. conventional and nuclear forces in Europe remains vital to the security of Europe, he stated. The conditions necessary for re-evaluation NATO’s nuclear posture would require halting proliferation, increased transparency into the programs and capabilities of countries of concern, effective enforcement measures, and resolved regional disputes; these conditions were not in place today. Mr. Erdem underlined that Turkey has not intention to use its resources to develop its own nuclear capabilities; NATO’s security guarantee was sufficient to protect all Allies in this respect.
53. Teodor-Viorel Melescanu (RO) came out strongly in defence of the nuclear status quo. Elimination of these weapons would be based on a bet; keeping them would make for a realistic assessment of the current security environment. In his view, they still have a military role; they could never come back if withdrawn; and withdrawal would be the wrong political signal to send. Missile defence is directly related to these weapons, he stated, and only when there has been substantial progress can non-strategic nuclear weapons be reconsidered. Mr. Melescanu cautioned that discussions on this sensitive issue must be carefully managed.
54. Russian State Duma member, Victor Zavarzin, encouraged talks on non-strategic nuclear weapons, with the “New START” as a backdrop, even though one would have to proceed very cautiously. He pointed out that Russia has reduced its tactical nuclear arsenal substantially since the end of the Cold War. He added that tactical nuclear weapons have gained a strategic value to Russia. He suggested any arms cuts must be tackled in a global context, and must be reciprocal.
65. Roberto Gualtieri (European Parliament) suggested that the conclusions of the report should go even further. Consolidating the nuclear weapons in two countries, an option described in the report, would not be a viable solution as it would only stoke fierce debate and opposition in those countries. Gualtieri argued against linking reductions to reductions by Russia, arguing that Russian weapons are on Russian territory, not on that of non-nuclear weapons states.
66. Mr. Knops ended the consideration of this report by welcoming the many comments and said that he would take a close look at them as he revised the report. He pointed out that, despite the sensitivity of the issue, the NATO PA is an appropriate forum to discuss the issue.