Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop


British Amb to NATO Stewart Eldon

Ambassador Stewart Eldon
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom on the North Atlantic Council

British Ambassador to NATO Stewart Eldon (center), with SHAPE Chief of Staff Gen Rainer Schuwirth (left) and Polish Chief of Defense Gen Franciszek Gagor (right).

"...should NATO be active and expeditionary, ready to take on the hard security challenges
of today’s world, while retaining its core defence role? Or should the Alliance
concentrate on the more basic Article 5 functions?  I know what my
answer is to that—it is the first alternative."

The title for this panel is “NATO After the Riga Summit,” and I’d like to start off the discussion by being perhaps unfashionably positive. I don’t think the Alliance has done badly since that summit. That isn’t to say that we must not do better, but I think it is important to remember that Riga’s accomplishments were quite substantial in many ways. The summit focused on Afghanistan, and I believe that the agreement that if any ally got into serious difficulty in Afghanistan that the others would come to his assistance was very valuable.


          A lot of other achievements came out of Riga, including on the Comprehensive Approach and new initiatives relating to Partnership, Training, Heavy Lift and Special Forces.  So it is important not to think that Riga was a failure. It was not. It did a lot. And in several respects since then, we have not done too badly. In Afghanistan, for example, many of the major capability gaps that were identified at Riga have been filled. This achievement is very much the result of contributions from the United States—modesty forbids me from mentioning what the U.K. and others contributed—but I think it is important to recognize transatlantic and American input to meeting the gaps in the operation.

          On the ground, we are also making strides. An upward trend existed from September 2006 to April 2007.  The non-security effort in Afghanistan, which is crucial to success there, is also beginning to deliver. Things are not entirely smooth, and there is a long way to go.  We also face difficulties with the EU police mission in Kosovo and potential difficulties caused by NATO/EU tensions involving Turkey and Cyprus—there is growing recognition that Turkey has a point when it argues that in some respects it has been treated badly since the agreement on the 2003 framework for Berlin plus.  However, there are two sides to every argument, and we need to work hard to resolve the issues between the two organizations.


          The outcome of the Defence Ministers’ meeting that took place earlier this week also suggests that the scorecard is mixed. There has been some progress, including a good discussion on the Comprehensive Approach, but a lot remains to be done on the NATO/EU aspects of this concept.

          On transformation, Defence Ministers agreed on a tasking on the NATO Response Force, but the substance over the next several months will be highly contested. There has been little progress on the review of the NATO command structure and as I speak a long technical argument, sparked by Allies not participating in the C-17 consortium about how to legally implement that initiative, has not yet been quite resolved.

          The difficulty in reaching agreement on all these issues underlines the importance of taking a long hard look at NATO Headquarters structures’ and working methods to improve the way the Alliance does business.  We need to be very careful that NATO Headquarters is not acting as a brake to transformation, when a lot has been done in the military command structure and elsewhere.

          Russia is another big issue, which we can cover in the Q and A. I am sure that some of my colleagues will want to cover that subject as well, because it is going to be a big issue, not just NATO’s relationship with Russia but in terms of Russia’s relationship with the West, as a whole.


          I would like to leave you with four questions that I hope will guide my colleagues on this panel and help you form some questions for later.

          1. The first one is what is the Alliance for. I have some sympathy for Jim Jones’ views about the need to take into account a broad definition of security.  But should NATO be active and expeditionary, ready to take on the hard security challenges of today’s world, while retaining its core defence role? Or should the Alliance concentrate on the more basic Article 5 functions?  I know what my answer is to that—it is the first alternative.

          2. How should the Alliance relate to other organizations? A Comprehensive Approach is easy to define broadly but less easy actually to implement. Some Allies’ hesitation about NATO’s engagement with other international organizations needs to be balanced against others’ willingness to allow development of more linkages and civil capabilities.  The relationship between NATO and the European Union is a particular case in point.

          3. Linked to both of the previous questions is how far NATO should go in non-traditional security areas such as energy security.  A tasking has been agreed on energy security, but it has taken us months to get that far. 

          4. A final question concerns how much NATO should interact with other organizations with broader strengths on new security issues such as maritime domain awareness and cyber-defence.      

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