Saturday 23 May 2009 - SUMMARY of the meeting of the Defence and Security Committee - Sal A, Oslo Kongressenter, Oslo, Norway
1. The Chairman, Julio Miranda Calha (PT), opened the meeting and presented the regrets of Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, who would not be able to attend the meeting due to personal reasons.
2. The draft agenda [102 DSC 09 E rev. 1] was adopted without comment.
3. The summary of the meeting of the Defence and Security Committee held in Valencia, Spain, on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 November 2008 [262 DSC 08 E] was adopted as written.
4. Espen Barth Eide reviewed the outcomes of the recent NATO summit from the Norwegian point of view, as well as the evolving strategic context NATO must adapt to. He outlined Norwegian proposals on strengthening the relevance of NATO, both ‘at home’ and ‘away,’ and its approach to the High North. Finally, he outlined Norwegian views on the ongoing NATO involvement in Afghanistan.
5. Mr Eide suggested NATO would continue to be the cornerstone of Norwegian security, and the primary multilateral security forum for dialogue between the U.S., Canada and Europe. NATO should focus both on the challenges facing us at strategic distances and on those confronting the Alliance closer to home; Norway regarded this as a prerequisite for maintaining the required political and public support in all Allied member states.
6. The ISAF operation will continue to dominate NATO’s agenda for years to come, according to Mr Eide, and Norway will remain engaged, militarily as well as through civilian and diplomatic efforts. There is an urgent need for a more effective comprehensive approach in Afghanistan and a coordinated strategy between international actors and Afghan authorities.
7. Mr Eide suggested there was a need to readdress the broad set of issues pertaining to NATO’s tasks and responsibilities closer to home. The situation in the High North is at the top of the Norwegian government’s policy agenda, and Norway sought to ensure that NATO also increased its focus on this issue. A more active role for the Alliance must balance the signal of solidarity with cooperation, and lay the ground for interaction with Russia. This is also relevant for many of the other areas in the vicinity of NATO. The challenge will be to devise policies that address fundamental Western security interests, while at the same time recognizing Russian concerns.
8. Members from several NATO nations and Russia took the floor to discuss Eide’s briefing. Many agreed that the High North was a crucial issue that deserved greater focus. The Parliamentarians raised issues including whether NATO was the right institution to address the issue; various legal regimes governing the region; and the role of Russia, as well as the recommendations made by Norway concerning the geographic responsibilities of NATO headquarters.
9. The Committee reviewed the Comments of the Secretary General of NATO and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council on the Policy Recommendations adopted in 2008 by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly [091 SESP 09 E]. The Chairman expressed his gratitude to the NATO Secretary General for responding to the Assembly’s Policy Recommendations every year in writing.
II. Discussion of Committee and Sub-Committees activities for the rest of 2009 and for 2010
10. The Committee reviewed the activities of the Committee and the Sub-Committee for the rest of this year. The Chairman reminded members about the visit to Poland planned for June 22nd to 24th, as well as travel to Canada the week of September 7, and Ukraine in mid-October. He thanked the host delegations for their excellent organization of the visits. A member of the British delegation strongly recommended Committee visits in 2010 to Afghanistan and to Japan and South Korea.
11. Frank Cook (UK) presented the Defence and Security Committee’s Draft General Report for 2009, suggesting that several critical developments in 2009 allowed for some very cautious optimism that this year could represent a turning point in the NATO effort in Afghanistan.
12. While undeniable challenges remain - including corruption, the slow development of the economy, the narcotics trade, and Pakistan’s safe heavens for insurgents - the increased attention and resources being devoted to Afghanistan (chiefly by the United States), along with the presidential and local elections scheduled for August, represent milestones that could have significant impact on the course of the war.
13. The Rapporteur also underlined the NATO secretary general’s stated concern regarding a potential “Americanization” of the war, which would shift the centre of gravity of decision making to the U.S. The U.S. increase of resources should not be seen as an opportunity for European Allies to decrease their commitment. Members of Parliament had a particular role to play in ensuring that commitments made by their governments were seen through, particularly in difficult economic times. The Rapporteur also reiterated his longstanding concerns regarding civilian casualties.
14. Ambassador Gentilini, NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, offered a perspective “from the ground” in Kabul.
15. He related some positive trends, the first of which was that life in Kabul was dominated by politics – rather than security concerns. He suggested that the elections were on track, with a better proportion of female registered voters than was initially expected. He described increasing effectiveness in the way the Afghans and the international community are cooperating. In his view, national policies were increasingly shaped by Afghans themselves. In the security area, Afghan national forces now lead more than 60% of the missions on the ground.
16. Ambassador Gentilini underlined the need to support the elections, which were notably Afghan-led. A successful outcome that is accepted by all Afghans could provide new legitimacy to Afghan institutions. He was optimistic that this would be the case.
17. Beyond the elections, Ambassador Gentilini suggested that the most important priority was to properly resource the existing comprehensive, long-term Afghan-based strategy. Supporting the Afghan National Police was central to any longer term progress in providing security to citizens. The notion of civilian “uplift” is essential, but NATO does not have a direct role in this.
18. Ambassador Gentilini also insisted on the regional differences in Afghanistan, the importance of the emerging dialogue between Kabul and Islamabad, as well as the now-recognized necessity for a broad regional approach. He hailed the increased engagement by the United States, regarding it as an opportunity. He concluded by once again appealing for resources and the patience to see this progress through, assuring the Committee that time had not been wasted since 2001.
19. More than two dozen delegates took the floor to discuss the report and presentation, including parliamentarians from most NATO member countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and the European Parliament, among others.
20. The themes of the interventions addressed both the specifics of the General Report as well as the substance of NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan.
21. On the report, a delegate from Turkey suggested an amendment in writing to be submitted after paragraph 52. An Italian member suggested including a dismissal of the linkage between NATO’s survival and success in Afghanistan; more detail on Afghan-Pakistan issues; and analysis of the role of Iran. He also suggested reconsidering the statement that the Afghan people unquestionably oppose the return of the Taliban. A Spanish delegate highlighted Spanish contributions for paragraph 70, and a Dutch delegate raised the importance of civilian leadership of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, raised in paragraph 37.
22. On NATO’s Afghanistan operations, members raised a range of issues, including:
- ensuring appropriate funding for Afghanistan, even if other assistance programs faces cuts in the current economic climate;
23. Sverre Myrli presented to the Committee his draft report on the growing problem of threats in cyberspace to NATO security. The Rapporteur in particular referenced Estonia, which experienced serious cyber attacks in spring 2007 during a political crisis with Russia. In addition, Belgium, France, Germany, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all publicly announced serious breaches in their governmental networks. Cyber attacks represent a most serious threat not only to national security, but to open economies as well. He noted that the lack of a uniform and robust international legal framework has hurt efforts to investigate and prosecute attackers that operate across multiple borders.
24. The Rapporteur informed the Committee that NATO developed a cyber defence programme as early as 2002, after Serbian hackers targeted the NATO public affairs website during the war in Kosovo. A body called the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability was formed to detect and prevent computer viruses and intrusions into NATO’s networks. The cyber attacks on Estonia, however, showed that NATO needed a policy to protect critical systems beyond NATO headquarters.
25. By January 2008 a NATO Policy on Cyber Defence was politically approved. Efforts are under way to create a permanent body at NATO that manages all existing NATO cyber defence entities. Mr Myrli concluded by urging national parliaments to play a more active role in advancing NATO and member-state cyber defence capacities by shaping and voting on national laws, ratifying international agreements, and providing oversight to the application of those laws. More specifically, he recommended the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, and informed the Committee that Brazil, China, India, and Russia were among the most notable non-signatories.
26. Comments from delegates included recommendations that the final version of the report make a more conclusive statement regarding the argument that Article 5 might be invoked in the case of a cyber attack. The Rapporteur took the comments for consideration as the report was updated leading up to its presentation at the next session in Edinburgh.
27. Espen Barth Eide briefed the Committee on the Oslo Process on cluster munitions and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which both Norway and Eide in particular were heavily involved with. He also discussed humanitarian aspects of the Law of Armed Conflict, and the ban on cluster munitions in particular. Finally, he outlined the practical applications of the Convention.
28. Frustrated with a lack of progress in the traditional forum for such discussions (the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, CCW), Norway invited interested states to Oslo in February 2007 to establish an international process (to be known as the “Oslo Process”) to address the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions. The aim was to conclude a new, legally binding instrument by the end of 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provides adequate resources to assist survivors and affected communities and clear contaminated areas.
29. The process culminated at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions in May 2008, where as many as 107 countries negotiated and adopted a new treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The result is a clear and categoric ban on all types of cluster munitions which cause unacceptable humanitarian consequences - in practice all types of cluster munitions that have been used.
29. Mr Eide urged NATO, as well as governments and armed forces around the world to develop weapon types, doctrines and tactics that maximise precision and military effect in order to minimise collateral damage. He warned that a failure to realise that the use of cluster munitions is highly counterproductive would result in adverse long-term consequences for both civilian populations and soldiers alike.
30. Michael D. Miggins reported that NATO had not arrived on consensus on the issue of the application of the convention on cluster munitions to Alliance operations. Only 20 of 28 NATO members have signed the Convention. He noted, that in regards to the use of cluster munitions, Allies are guided by Article 21, sub-paragraph 3, of the Convention, which addresses the relationship between states parties to it and states not party to the convention. It states that “…states parties, their military personnel or nationals, may engage in military cooperation and operations with states not party to this convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a state party.” This implied that Allies could still operate effectively together.
31. Comments from delegates generally lamented the effects on civilians of cluster munitions, as well as the lack of political will in arriving at a consensus on the issue at NATO. Delegates were concerned that major producers of mines and cluster munitions were not affected by the relevant conventions, and that this was hindering progress on the issue. An exchange of views on what member states were or were not signatories followed, as well as a discussion of the dynamics at NATO on this issue.
32. Mr Eide stated that the United States was the most well known non-signatory, and that there were also 7 other NATO states that had yet to sign. He was quick to point out that there was no interoperability problem, given Article 21 as outlined above. He hoped that eventually, NATO would move away from cluster munitions and use its influence to build international norms against their use. He opined that NATO was already a de facto leader in this regard, despite the lack of consensus.
33. Mr Miggins was constrained by his status on the NATO international staff from explaining national positions on cluster munitions, but opined that small arms and light munitions such as the AK-47 were the major arms control problem faced today.
34. Mr Eide saw the fact that both Georgia and Russia, non-signatories of the Convention, accused each other of using of cluster munitions in order to influence perceptions of their actions, as a clear sign that norms against their use have spread. A delegate from Georgia declared that Georgia had used cluster weapons in very deliberate and careful fashion on advancing Russian convoys in unpopulated areas during their recent conflict. He also stated that Russia had used more primitive and indiscriminate cluster munitions on highly populated centres such as the town of Gori.
35. Reflecting on the larger debate on controlling land mines and cluster munitions, a delegate reminded the Committee of the U.S.’s defensive obligations to states such as South Korea, where certain armaments play a critical role in maintaining the status quo on the peninsula. Mr Eide commented that cluster munitions were not necessary in these cases, and argued that the adverse, secondary effects of cluster munitions were so well known to NATO that it should move away from their use.
36. Ragnheidur E. Arnadottir presented to the Committee her draft report concerning NATO’s preparedness to fulfil Article 5 obligations. Since the end of the Soviet threat, NATO has re-organised around the idea of addressing threats in the place of their origin—through the development of expeditionary capabilities. This growing number of out-of-area operations has raised concerns among certain NATO member states, especially the newer ones, that these expeditionary operations have proportionally increased the sense of threat to their territorial integrity or political independence. These members have lately sought reassurances that NATO Allies remain able and willing to respond to potential attacks on their territory. Consequently, debates have emerged concerning the wisdom of defence reforms that have been oriented toward contribution to NATO out-of-area operations rather than to national defence. Within this context, the conflict in Georgia in August of 2008 served as a grave reminder that war in Europe should not be considered an impossibility in the 21st century.
37. Ms Arnadottir believed that a lack of confidence in NATO’s ability to effectively provide collective defence risked a re-emergence of conflicting security guarantees and nationally based defence orientations that proved disastrous for Europe in the 20th century. She maintained that the success of all of NATO’s endeavours rested on the continued public support of the continuing relevance of the Alliance. She added that this relevance hinged on both NATO’s ability to maintain its expeditionary force capabilities and its commitment to Article 5. In this sense, she stressed the importance of success in Afghanistan and the need to demonstrate NATO’s willingness to defend the territory of member states. She mentioned that Allies have begun to discuss the possibility of a rapid-response force that could be deployed to nations under threat.
38. Members commented on the potential costs of any new infrastructure development; details on the development of a new element of NATO’s rapid-response force; and the utility of including politicians in the process of planning and creating other defensive measures under Article 5, even if classified. A Russian delegate suggested that viewing Russia as a continuing threat was counterproductive, and that the Russian population would not understand increases in NATO’s defence spending and capabilities. A delegate from Estonia suggested that NATO’s current Article 5 strategy was insufficient to protect member states from new threats. The European Representative for the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation suggested that the Committee might find useful the recently issued results of ACT’s Multiple Futures Project.
39. Before closing the meeting, the Chairman announced that the next Defence and Security Committee meeting would take place in November in Edinburgh, Scotland.