Monday 22 June 2009

Evening Debate with Ivo Daalder
A Full and Urgent Agenda for NATO in the 21st Century
Monday, June 08, 2009 – Bibliothèque Solvay
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Ivo H. Daalder
U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Security & Defence Agenda
8 June 2009

(As prepared remarks)

Good evening, Bonsoir, and Goeden avond, Ladies and Gentleman,

Thank you for your kind introduction. I am delighted to be here – both in Brussels and in the think tank world. As you know, I have spent much of my professional life in this world, and I feel very comfortable returning to it – at least for one evening. I am also familiar with the good work and high reputation of SDA, and I look forward to working with you on security and defense issues in the years ahead. We certainly have a lot on our plates.

If you will indulge me, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself, since I think it’s important that we get to know each other. I’m pretty new to the job – this being the start of just my fourth week at NATO.

I am a transatlanticist at heart. I spent the first half of my nearly 50 years on this side of the Atlantic. I was born in Holland, lived in Italy, and attended university in Great Britain. For the last 25 years, I have lived and worked in the United States; and made a career in academia and the policy world of my adopted country. So I am particularly honored to cross the Atlantic once again as America’s Ambassador to NATO, the organization that links the two continents that I am proud to call home.

Now that you know a little about me, let’s turn to a matter of urgency: “NATO’s Agenda in the 21st Century.” The good news is that I imagine most people here tonight strongly support the institution of NATO itself – the question now is: how do we best adapt the Atlantic Alliance to a rapidly changing world?

We are living in extraordinary times. We’re combating an economic crisis of historic proportions. We’re fighting a war four thousand miles away from the core of the Euro-Atlantic area. We’re confronting a host of threats that define this young century – threats like violent extremism, proliferation, insurgency, piracy, and cybercrime.

These are global threats in scope even if their impact is local. Terrorists do not recognize geographical limits. Pandemics know no borders. Climate change does not stop at frontiers. Hackers are not deterred from attacking critical infrastructure by firewalls in local computing systems. In short, in this age of global politics, events anywhere around the world can have an immediate – and often devastating – effect here at home.

President Obama said it best at Strasbourg, “The same forces that have brought us close together have also given rise to new dangers that threaten to tear our world apart – dangers that cannot be contained by the nearest border or the furthest ocean.”

Some people speak of these issues as if they were looming on the horizon, but I firmly believe they are already at our doorstep. Addressing these new challenges is not just a matter of political agreement, but of adapting and reforming our international institutions – starting with NATO – so that they are oriented and prepared to respond when and if necessary.

NATO today is accomplishing things that only a few years ago were unimaginable: sending bridges to Indonesia after a tsunami and helicopters to rescue earthquake victims in Pakistan, organizing a flotilla of ships to protect vessels from pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, deploying tens of thousands of troops to fight insurgents in the Hindu Kush, and keeping the peace in southern Europe.

The demands are growing, and our global responsibilities are getting heavier. We have to find a way to do more, with greater efficiency of resources, and in partnership with others. That means America doing more, Europe doing more, our Partners doing more.


I assure you that the Obama Administration understands that the United States cannot act alone; to succeed in this world, we need strong and able partners. Our task is to help our nation, our Alliance, and a wider world deal with these serious, far away dangers that threaten us all. The North Atlantic Alliance has always been the place where Washington looks first for international partners. It does so today and will do so tomorrow.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that NATO is currently at the center of American foreign policy.

It’s no accident that the President’s first extended overseas trip was to Europe, or that he will make three trips to Europe in the first six months of his Presidency. It’s no accident that Vice President Biden has traveled to Europe three times in four months. It’s no accident that President Obama’s first four ambassadorial appointments were to the UN, Afghanistan, Iraq and NATO.

So I come to Brussels with a very clear mandate from Washington: I come to listen and to learn from our Allies and then to lead the way. This is my commitment to you – and America’s to Europe – not because we think working together is nice or easy, but because we live in a world where doing so is an absolute necessity.

What we do together in NATO directly contributes to the security, the prosperity, and indeed the liberty of the people of the United States and of all our Allies and partners. Collective security, then, is still our raison d’être, and I don’t foresee any reason to change this core mission, especially given the international security environment we face today.


Ladies and gentlemen, as we look to the future, I believe NATO has three fundamental priorities: one, our operation in Afghanistan; two, our relationship with Russia; and three, building a new Alliance for the future. In the next few minutes, I would like to explore these priorities further with you.

First and foremost is Afghanistan, and the absolute necessity to succeed there. We must disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. I simply cannot overemphasize the importance of this goal, or overstate how critical a role our Allies must play in making this happen. Why?

Because success in Afghanistan is crucial for all of us in the international community, and is particularly critical for NATO. Together, we must ensure that Afghanistan is secure for all Afghans, and through that effort, that our own countries are secure from the threat of terrorism and extremist violence. We do this for North America’s security, and for Europe’s security.

As President Obama said last week in Cairo, “It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans […and – I would add – Europeans…] as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.”

Afghanistan is the largest and most challenging operation in NATO’s history. It’s the key priority for the United States as it is for NATO, and we must get it right. This Administration spent two months consulting with our Allies and Partners to build a new Afghanistan strategy that incorporates their input and adopts three guiding principles: a regional framework that includes Pakistan, a buildup of Afghan capacity so that Afghans can increasingly take responsibility for securing their own future, and a comprehensive approach that combines enhanced security, improved governance and the rule of law, and economic development.

This strategy follows the policy of defense, diplomacy, and development long favored by some of our Allies, which Secretary Clinton in The Hague described as “exactly the right framework.” These are all areas of critical concern to the people of Afghanistan.

The Review was Phase 1. The Allied endorsement at Strasbourg-Kehl makes it NATO’s strategy. Now we have to implement it.

We must make visible progress by July 2010. We will need to achieve “a perceptible shift in momentum” to maintain our publics’ support for this critical effort, which means acting quickly on what we agreed to at the Summit. And that means that we – all of us – have to do more. Now, and over the long term.

The United States is deploying an additional 17,000 new troops, as well as 4,000 trainers.

We have spent more than $4 billion on development programs in Afghanistan since 2002. Next year’s budget allocates $2.8 billion more in additional assistance. We are sending more than 400 civilians to assist with reconstruction and development at all levels.

Our Allies too are adding 5,000 additional troops to the international effort.

Together we are establishing a NATO Training Mission to oversee higher levels of training for the Afghan National Army, which currently engages in 90 percent of all missions. To grow their strength to a size of 134,000, Allies are contributing 70 embedded training teams and expanding a trust fund to cover the costs of sustaining the Afghan forces.

Several Allies are committing more than 300 new paramilitary trainers to further support the Afghan National Police, which need to do a much better job of securing the peace and gaining the trust of the Afghan people than they have in the past.

All of this will help us get through the next critical phase – a presidential election in August. In less than three months, millions of Afghans across the country will vote in their third democratic elections since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It is vital that they be able to do so securely, that their votes be counted accurately, and that they regard the result as credible and fair. NATO will have a crucial role to help make sure the Afghan people’s expectations will not be dashed.

Overall, NATO will deploy more than 3,000 additional forces to help ensure the safety of voters, with a significant number coming from 16 European nations, along with troops from the United States and Australia.

But NATO’s mission does not stop with the elections.

I believe our Allies understand that Afghanistan is THE priority mission. We need to think about what we can bring to the task collectively, both in terms of troop totals, but also in terms of strategic thinking. This is not a U.S. exercise that we have asked others to join; this is a NATO mission, and we expect others – Europeans, Canadians, and Partners – to contribute their fair share.

We do not underestimate the contributions to date. Think about it:

We have 42 nations participating in the largest NATO operation, ever. We have the largest number of non-U.S. contributions to any operation – ever – by the Alliance. We have countries like Croatia, a brand-new NATO member, with 280 troops on the ground. Or Germany contributing 3,500 troops – the third largest national contingent.

Getting Afghanistan back on track is vital to the world’s collective security. The rise of fundamentalism threatens global peace and stability – we need to do a better job of convincing both the American and European publics that this is the case, and that NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan go to the heart of addressing the problem.

At least there are glimmers of hope. A recent ISAF survey for the first quarter of 2009 showed that public perceptions of security rose, despite a large increase in attacks by the Taliban. This perception of an improving security climate has increased six months in a row.

Simply providing the basic trappings of a state can make all the difference in a region that previously had none. An effective police force, better government services, and economic opportunities – these are the reasons Afghans will reject the Taliban.

The United States has decided to step up to the plate, and Europe must too.

• The additional forces we deploy for the elections should stay.
• We need more trainers as demands rise on Afghan forces to take the operational lead.
• And to ensure these forces are sustainable, we need to fully finance the Afghan National Army trust fund.
I recognize that we all are facing desperate economic times, but the European Union and its members need to increase their assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stabilizing this entire region and ridding it of the scourge of extremism is, of course, a long-term goal but it is an achievable one.


My second priority for NATO is our relationship with Russia. It is vital that Europe and the United States agree on how to deal with Russia. We need not only a “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations, but a much more productive NATO-Russia relationship as well. For that, we look to engage Russia – not as a reward for good behavior – but as a means to resolve our differences, while fostering cooperation whenever possible.

When we differ, as we do on some important issues, we should say so clearly. For example, we will not recognize a Russian sphere of “privileged interest,” nor will we recognize as independent countries the breakaway Georgian territories. Russia is a potential partner in many areas, but its “sphere of influence” ends at its border. We also strongly affirm the right of all countries, including Georgia and Ukraine, to choose their own alliances and alignments.

Cooperation with Russia is achievable, nonetheless, starting on arms control and nonproliferation. At the moment, America and Russia are engaged in serious negotiations to a follow on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – or START – which will expire on December 5th. The goal is to extend the Treaty’s critical transparency arrangements and to negotiate lower limits on strategic weapons.

Russia has said it wants to link the nuclear talks to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Europe. This is not the time or the place for an open debate on missile defense, but I will say we intend to discuss the full range of issues around missile defense with Russia, but not directly in the context of the START negotiations.

Also, as the President said in April, we are open to cooperation on missile defense with Russia, since we face some of the same potential threats.

The Administration is conducting a thorough missile defense policy review that still is ongoing. No final decisions have been made. Future decisions about deployment of missile defenses in Europe will be driven by our assessment of the costs and effectiveness of the system and the nature of the threat from Iran.

As President Obama said in Prague, “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.” Let me assure you that we will make decisions about missile defenses in Europe in the closest consultations with our allies.

NATO, meanwhile, has a specific role to play with Russia on many issues of importance: cooperating in Afghanistan, combating terrorism, countering missile and nuclear proliferation, containing narcotics trafficking, and confronting piracy.

I look forward to working with my NATO and Russian colleagues in revitalizing the NATO-Russia Council to forge a new era of cooperation and to transform our relationship into an effective partnership to defeat common threats and enhance common interests. And I am particularly pleased that our Foreign Ministers will meet in the NATO-Russia Council in Corfu on June 27 to start that important work.


Our third and final priority is building a new NATO for a new century. We have a great opportunity to revitalize the most successful military alliance in history. We have a new Administration in Washington. We will have a new civilian and military leadership in Brussels and at SHAPE. And we have a mandate to draft a new Strategic Concept to guide the Alliance in the years ahead.

NATO will continue to be a beacon of stability and peace and freedom in Europe – as it was in the 20th century – but it will have to achieve this mission in a world that is vastly different from the one which founded it in 1949. Now, our Atlantic partnership must be relevant to the new generations in Europe and North America who were born after the Cold War’s end.

The last Strategic Concept was written more than a decade ago, before 12 new states joined NATO. Before NATO became involved in operations outside Europe. Before 9/11, before Afghanistan. In short, it is out-of-date and out-of-touch.

During the Cold War, the core commitment of our Alliance – that an attack against one is an attack against all – was clearly directed against a specific threat: a possible attack by the Soviet Union. This core commitment remains just as strong and important today – but against what threat? Clearly, an armed attack against any of our countries would constitute a reason for invoking this commitment – as it was for the first and only time on September 12, 2001, when terrorists had turned airplanes into weapons of mass destruction in New York and Washington, DC.

But would it cover, for example, aggression in the form of energy strangulation, or a cyber- or bio-weapons attack from an unknown origin? NATO’s founding fathers could not have foreseen these threats in 1949, but such terrors are all too plausible today. And the applicability of Article 5 in response to new threats must be just as certain and credible as it has been since 1949.

Another major issue involves nuclear deterrence. How to redefine the future role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s strategy will need to be addressed, especially in light of President Obama’s clear commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons. But he is also committed to ensuring that, until that day arrives, we maintain a nuclear deterrence that is safe, secure, and effective.

There are other questions NATO will need to address – how, in a world of global threats and the evident need for international cooperation, should NATO interact with other nations and organizations?

Currently, NATO is building and enhancing partnerships with other actors in the realm of security, particularly the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, and we are collaborating as well with the African Union and the United Nations. But these are only the first steps. We will need to take many more if we truly want to take on the challenges of this new century.

France’s return to NATO’s military structures offers an opportunity to strengthen the NATO-EU cooperation on matters of security and defense. NATO and the EU for too long were sitting opposite each other in the same rowboat, drifting in circles. Now, they are repositioned to row downstream in the same direction.

One region in which we already work together is off the coast of Somalia, where NATO and the EU are actively engaged in counter-piracy activities. There, we have seen our vessels successfully intercept and stop pirate attacks. The threat is growing – doubling in size from 53 to 102 attacks a quarter in just one year. Here is a mission that is both real and necessary, and NATO must do its part.

Our counter-piracy mission shows exactly how global our security interests have become, and why our new Strategic Concept must be adapted to these new realities. NATO is a Euro-Atlantic security organization, but that security is intimately tied to security around the world. Just as international events affect NATO, NATO affects the international community.

NATO Institutional Reform

Of course, we won’t get far unless we modernize the way we do business. Secretaries General since Lord Robertson have called for significant reforms of how the Headquarters works. Reforming how we operate on a day-to-day basis is going to be necessary in order to succeed in Afghanistan, to improve relations with Russia, and to fashion a coherent new Strategic Concept.

The global economic downturn has had an impact on all of us. But some Allies have been quick to reduce outlays for defense in response to an anticipated downturn in government revenue. What this means in practice is that within the Alliance – unless there is some turnaround soon – the burdens of Alliance defense will fall more and more heavily on a few. At the same time, calls for NATO to do more will come from many.

When President Obama spoke at the Strasbourg Town Hall meeting in April, he said, “Every citizen must choose at last how we respond to a world that has grown smaller and more connected than at any time in its existence.”

NATO at 60 needs to be a mature, flexible institution poised for a new era. It is at the epicenter of a changing dynamic in global security and politics – a dynamic newly marked by interconnectedness and international cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your questions.

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