Center for Strategic Decision Research


The North Atlantic Alliance and Its Security Strategy:
Go Where It Is Needed

General Harald Kujat
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee

I could not have hoped for a finer public event to close my mandate as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, nor could I have hoped for such an excellent audience to convey what will be my parting shot, my last message in an official capacity. Before I begin I would like to say that while I am ending my much-enjoyed term as chairman I am confident of the Military Committee’s future. 


The key question of this workshop is, “How should we respond to the present challenges?” In my view, because the risks know no boundaries and are as fluid as sand through your fingers, dealing with them requires innovation, creativity, and a strong desire to take the fight to the source to protect our societies. Furthermore, I believe that no nation can afford to operate in a vacuum. Because of the elusiveness of the risks, partnerships, cooperation, and alliances are the secrets to a successful security strategy. 

In 2004, when I addressed the workshop in Berlin, I spoke about what NATO had been doing for the past few years, where we were going, and, more important, what our purpose was. I also discussed the transatlantic link, which, as far as NATO is concerned, is an absolutely fundamental pillar of our security strategy. Defense-industrial cooperation is a critical enabler of that link.  

Notwithstanding the ripple effects on transatlantic relations caused by the debate on support to Turkey on the eve of coalition intervention in Iraq in 2003, NATO remains the United States’ preferred security partner. If you stop for a minute and make a cold, fact-based, calculation of which countries have both the interest and the capabilities to help maintain security on a global scale, the answer is found around the table at NATO Headquarters. 

While the capabilities gap between the United States and the non-American Allies is very real, some nations, such as France, are leaders in deploying assets on the ground. Indeed, France remains one of the most important contributors to NATO operations. In Kosovo, for example, where the situation is relatively calm but unstable, 2,300 French soldiers represent 17% of Alliance contributors, third behind Italy and Germany. 

The development of a strong “Europe de la Défense,” with initiatives such as the European Union’s Battle Groups concept, will indirectly strengthen NATO’s capabilities as well as benefit the transatlantic link, complementing both while achieving unity of purpose. Perhaps a scheme to allow the land Battle Groups to train with the NATO Response Force would be a good way to reinforce this complementary approach. We have tried to promote such an approach because nations have only one set of forces, and they can be assigned to NATO or the European Union but not both at the same time. 

Within NATO we have also taken steps to sustain the transatlantic link. For example, we have taken measures to accelerate the political-military decision-making process by providing more transparency earlier in the process. The Alliance’s chiefs of defense are intimately woven into this course of action and are the key to success. The Military Committee is the first place where NATO’s command structure will face the litmus test of the nations’ collective and consensual sovereignty. 


Much has been said in the past year about increasing the usability of forces for NATO operations. I would add that we must also focus on increasing the availability of forces. Allies have told us time and again that, in this fluid security environment in which nations are very often engaged outside the NATO framework, they want to achieve greater operations predictability.  

Of course, clear political guidance is vital for the work of the NATO military authorities and for the delivery of thorough and timely military advice for speedy decision-making in council. But political guidance and decision making are only two parts of the process needed to achieve a higher degree of predictability, and they too often risk remaining only words if they are not followed by concrete implementation and commitments on the ground. Too frequently, force generation has been pointed to as the culprit in delivering forces and capabilities once decisions have been made. But we know that the problem is much more complex: It has its roots in outdated delivery processes for capabilities and funding mechanisms as well as in a lack of national political will and commitment that is, in most cases, a product of limited financial resources. 

The military has an important role to play in these processes if we are to treat the “illness” rather than its most visible symptoms. This is why the Military Committee started its work in autumn of 2004 when the chiefs of defense agreed on a comprehensive approach to improving NATO’s ability to conduct military operations. The key principles and objectives of that approach, which are guiding the Committee’s work reviewing intelligence, logistics and resource planning, force designation, force activation, and deployment procedures, are: 

  • First, to provide nations, early in the process and before a decision is made, with more visibility, transparency, and predictability on current and future commitments to determine what is available 
  • Second, to improve our military preparedness by elaborating generic plans based on realistic situations that are frequently reassessed on the basis of mid-term actionable intelligence 
  • Third, to propose ways to use more common and multinational funding to address at least some of the most urgent capabilities shortfalls. 


The NATO Response Force is at the center of this work and process. It provides the rationale, the requirement, and the catalyst for transforming the way we do business. But a great deal of work remains to be done if we want the NRF to reach its final operational capability in 2006. The Military Committee has always put the NRF at the top of its priorities list and the chiefs of defense recently gave their guidance for further Military Committee work to implement the NRF.  

I would like to add to our priorities list the issue of funding. The need to change our approach to funding operations and the NRF is more than urgent. The current mechanism is no longer relevant, nor is it equitable or suitable for the NRF. It has severely impacted nations’ willingness to contribute to NRF rotations and to the development of the critical capabilities we need if we want the Force to accomplish the missions for which it was established. 


The NRF and improved capabilities are not the only vectors of a strong transatlantic link. Defense-industrial cooperation is also needed for a strong link. The end of the Cold War left the world with considerable overcapacity to develop arms, but with little money to meet the requirements to modernize; reductions in defense budgets did not help in transforming our capabilities. To add to this problem, our ability to tolerate collateral damage decreased as conflict became more visible, which means we need more precision-guided munitions. In addition, our governments are expected by their constituents to project stability abroad as well as prevent insecurity at home, which means expeditionary capabilities. And the list goes on and on.  

As the security challenges went global, so did the arms industry. But the arms market has shrunk and so has the industry. This does not necessarily equate to a safer world, as we know. The bottom line is that 21st century national defense markets are too small, in most countries, to sustain the high-technology defense production that is necessary to defeat insecurity. The creation in 2004 of the European Defense Agency will go, I believe, a long way in smoothing the rough edges of multinational cooperation. It is important that we reduce the fragmentation of the European markets so that we can encourage the creation of an internationally competitive industry built on a strong technological base. Such an industry has become unavoidable as the costs of state-of-the-art military technology have become prohibitive. However, any decision to permit the transfer of technology will obviously remain subordinate to sovereign governments. This is where we need to make progress and try to break down the remaining barriers to the development of cheaper and more relevant solutions. 

Those who are against technology transfer usually raise the spectre of the dangers of proliferation. But it is important to note that barriers could be erected to prevent technology from landing in the wrong hands, and these barriers would be agreed to multilaterally by like-minded nations. Having said that, however, I think it is still premature to assert that the internationalization of the defense industry will mean the end of governmental authority over national armament production. The state is still master when it comes to deciding how this process will play out, and governments will remain the critical bastion of control. The middle powers must accept the reality of internationalization and adjust their organization to fit within the global defense-industrial system. 

Harmonization, then, is the key to success. The Alliance Ground Surveillance system, with its TIPS solution, is an excellent example of what can be achieved when organizations cooperate. NATO’s Research and Technology Organization can certainly interface with the industry, and I encourage all to exploit this connection. 


Another requirement of a successful security strategy is to have an engaging policy regarding the broader Middle East. There, the Alliance is very active, following its new perspective that providing security means reaching out. NATO currently contributes to stability in the Middle East in a number of ways. First, together with the members of the Mediterranean Dialogue, we seek to examine how NATO’s existing mechanisms could be focused to suit the specific need of each individual nation. For example, the Partnership for Peace program could certainly be adapted and used with our partners to the south. However, as we do this work, we must remain very conscious that specificity is key, and that each and every nation with which we interface has its own set of priorities as far as security is concerned. Those countries must remain in the driver’s seat, and cooperation will go only as fast and as far as they, individually, want it to go. But if we are unable to extend the Partnership for Peace per se to the south, we can certainly work towards applying its spirit and its standards. 


Still another element of our strategy is to achieve greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism. In that field, I am very encouraged by the progress we have made since the Istanbul Summit. In the fall of 2004, for the first time ever, the NATO chiefs of defense met with their counterparts in the Mediterranean Dialogue. After agreeing to continue meeting twice a year, we met again in May of 2005 in Brussels. I am very happy to report that we made substantial progress, especially regarding the exchange of intelligence; the mechanisms for such exchanges will soon be put in place.  

Another point of encouragement is that several countries have expressed a desire to participate in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour, our Article 5 naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea to defeat terrorism. We are now establishing the modalities to enable that participation, especially with Israel and Algeria, and we hope to finalize our arrangements soon. 


I would like to conclude by saying that NATO is the only organization that engages North America and Europe both politically and militarily. It has the structures necessary to effectively manage politically as well as the means to conduct militarily peace-support operations. To defeat insecurity, we need such structured intergovernmental security organizations and we need multinational solutions to capability deficiencies. 

While there is still too much Cold War-era materiel, we continue to find it extremely challenging to deploy assets in theaters of operation. To meet this challenge we need to raise the predictability of operational commitments while promoting a climate of industrial cooperation to enable nations to transform their forces as well as improve their security culture. The adoption of what I call a comprehensive approach to operations planning will close the loop with the defense industry and put the Alliance in a much better position to deliver security. In fact, now that the last “Star Wars” film has been released, I can confidently say that the North Atlantic Alliance will remain the most successful security alliance in the galaxy! 





Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research