Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO—A Military Perspective

General Klaus Naumann
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee

The setting for this 15th NATO Workshop is particularly apropos because many of the topics to be addressed relate to the building of a new European security architecture. Such discussions, of course, are very reminiscent of discussions held in Vienna over 180 years ago during the Vienna Congress. At that time, all of Europe was saying that the Congress dances but it does not move. Fortunately for us, NATO does not dance, but it does move a lot.


Let me start my address by listing four key risks and uncertainties that I believe will condition NATO’s transformation as it prepares itself for the challenges of the next century. The first is the residual risk emanating from Russia as it struggles with its enormous societal, ideological, and economic transformation. While we know neither the duration nor the outcome of this struggle, we intend to cooperate and work on security issues with, not against, Russia. It is not necessarily a reassuring sign that former Soviet Defense Minister Marshal Jasov, a man who was involved in the attempted coup d’état, was appointed to a top position in the Russian Defense Ministry, but I leave that decision to the politicians.

The second key risk is that posed by the various unresolved disputes within Europe—ethnic, religious, and territorial—with the Balkans as the most visible example. There is no need to echo what SACEUR said concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, but we should never forget that what we have achieved there is the absence of hostilities, not peace. There is still quite a way to go to bring about reconciliation and self-sustaining stability. Operation Joint Forge, which started in mid-June, is our contribution to this effort.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Kosovo in a discussion of unresolved disputes in Europe. The points I would like to make are:

1. Kosovo is not Bosnia—the lessons learned in Bosnia-Herzegovina are not necessarily applicable in Kosovo.

2. Heavy-handed, violent suppression of civilians cannot be tolerated. When this type of suppression occurs, the conflict becomes internationalized.

3. Kosovans are not angels either, and they should refrain from increasing the violence.

4. Former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) leadership has maneuvered the issue into a dead-end street. These leaders should see this and, before it is too late, reverse course.

5. NATO nations seek a peaceful solution, but they have the military capability to act very quickly if needed.

The third risk to NATO is the instability that exists along the periphery of Europe, from Morocco to the Indian Ocean to Central Asia. Tied to this instability is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, such as missiles. While nuclear weapons concern me, I am even more concerned about the extent to which our societies are vulnerable to the “poor man’s nukes,” namely, biological weapons.

The fourth key risk is made up of the so-called new risks or new causes for conflict, including mass migrations, scarcity of water, and new forms of conflicts. New forms of conflict include attacks on societies by international criminals employing military means, and using information technology to disrupt fragile financial, telecommunication, or energy distribution infrastructures.


Given the range of the four risks I have just described, I am led to three deductions. First, one cannot expect any one nation, even the only remaining superpower, to address singlehandedly all the diverse and transnational dangers of the 21st century. Therefore, we still need NATO, since NATO links the U.S.’s global power to the regional capabilities of the European Allies. The range of risks and uncertainties requires a coordinated, multi-national, and multi-institutional response. NATO can provide that, since it is the bedrock of security and stability in Europe. But to promote its objective of lasting peace and stability for the Euro-Atlantic area, NATO must continue to develop and enhance cooperative and effective relationships with non-NATO nations and with other international, especially European, security- and stability-related institutions. This is in the strategic interest of all our nations, NATO and non-NATO alike.

My second deduction is that crises and conflicts will continue to be complex and multifaceted and involve multiple agencies. Interventions will require military forces to work closely with non-governmental organizations and other non-state actors to make effective use of force multipliers such as psychological operations and civil-military cooperation, and to contribute to solutions that have linked political, socioeconomic, and security dimensions. Moreover, we will have to intervene in conflicts in post-modern, modern, and pre-modern societies, each with its own forms of conflict. And we will have to intervene in a world in which war continues to be alive and well.

My final deduction is that crises and conflicts may flare up with little or no notice and, if they have deeply rooted ethnic origins, they will require long-term intervention. Also, the longer intervention is delayed, the worse the situation will become, making any eventual deployment even more problematic. And once in theater, the very real need for an extended solution, and thus a continued military presence, will run counter to the desire of most coalition member-nations to repatriate their forces as soon as possible. The Alliance must have reaction forces and the means of rapidly deploying them to deal effectively with such eventualities, but NATO must also have the capability to sustain the effort. More important, however, NATO must increase its understanding of crisis management in a multipolar world full of multifaceted risks. It must also realize that crisis management will require coordination with other organizations and, above all, pro-active approaches that will not be easy to reconcile with bottom-up consensus building by 16, let alone 19. Admittedly this is a political issue, but we should keep in mind that the military can act on very short notice but the political process, again and again, requires time.


In the period of almost continual change since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has not stood still. NATO has added three new mission arrows, namely, crisis prevention/crisis management, stability projection, and counter-proliferation, to its collective-defense quiver. It has also undergone significant transformations, especially with respect to its military capabilities:

1. NATO has considerably reduced force and readiness levels, even more than required by the CFE and other arms control agreements.

2. It has retained its defensive nature and its capability to defend the NATO Treaty area. Its military forces are not, however, directed against anyone nor do they have an offensive orientation.

3. Its military forces are willing and increasingly capable of coping with roles on the periphery and outside the NATO Treaty area.

4. Its forces are increasingly multinational and therefore sustain more interoperability and logistics difficulties.

5. Although its forces are generally in good shape, NATO is struggling to modernize its equipment to avoid capability gaps and gaps between forces from the United States and Europe.

The Alliance still has a way to go to be able to address all the challenges that are likely to confront it in the 21st century. But there is no doubt that we have made enormous progress and that the London Summit of 1990, the Brussels Summit of 1994, and the Madrid Summit of 1997 were all extraordinary milestones in NATO’s evolution, as the Washington Summit will be next April. But the transformation of the Alliance will not, and cannot, end next April. It will take a considerable amount of time to implement key decisions that have already been made, and NATO must also continue to strive to retain its effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance in a constantly changing world. The world is changing faster than any organization can follow, and though we may never achieve every goal, it is critical that NATO follow a long-term vision. The guiding document that will set the course toward this vision and address the challenges of the future is the new Strategic Concept.


Given the continuing objective of the Alliance to promote long-lasting peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, I expect that the new Strategic Concept will rest upon a coherent continuum of missions. This continuum will range from projecting stability through dialogue, cooperation, and partnership, through crisis prevention and crisis management, including peace-support operations, counter-proliferation, and collective defense. As the ultimate guarantee for member-states, collective defense would retain its core function within the Alliance and the transatlantic link would continue to be irreplaceable.

With such a continuum of missions, force structures would need to be adapted. These new missions will require more than one tool, indeed a toolbox filled with political and military tools. The concept will be to promote, strengthen, and deepen democracy, human rights, peace, and freedom, and to do this through dialogue, cooperation, and the ability to defend against any threat while not threatening anyone who does not act against NATO. The political tools that will be necessary to do this, which were addressed by the Secretary General later in the Workshop, include NATO-Russia discourse, NATO-Ukraine discourse, the EAPC, the Mediterranean Dialogue, and the NAC.


 To underpin these political efforts, the military will contribute not only military means, but open, transparent, NATO-Russia military-to-military dialogue to overcome Cold War misconceptions and to promote trust and cooperation. General Ivashov, who is well known for his profound dislike of NATO, may make strong public statements, but there is no chance and no common will to return to the Cold War. We will cooperate with Russia as we are doing successfully in Bosnia.

Regarding NATO-Ukraine relations we must promote and deepen cooperation through the PFP framework; Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty are the keys to European security and stability. While the EAPMC is a forum for exchanging views with Partners on aspects of NATO-Partners cooperation, PFP is the flagship for cooperation and a stand-alone element of European security. PFP Staff Elements already exist and PFP exercises are becoming more and more meaningful through full military cooperation. PARP, the Planning and Review Process, is enhancing the goal of achieving full interoperability. But even today, the degree of interoperability and military cooperation across Europe that NATO has achieved is one that was unthinkable just a few years ago.


The process of opening up NATO to new members will contribute greatly to enhancing stability in Europe and to spreading the rule of democracy, which no one should see as a threat. Enlargement is not directed against anyone. Indeed, even the prospect of membership has proven to be an excellent tool, exemplified by the impressive number of stability-inducing bilateral agreements that have been signed by Central and Eastern European nations, a true fireworks of reconciliation. Certainly you all know the political and economic implications of enlargement. But from a military perspective, we hope that future Alliance members will be net contributors to and not merely recipients of security and that, above all else, NATO will remain an efficient organization. We must keep this in mind as well as our sincere commitment to keeping the doors open in the years to come, so that NATO will be able to retain the capabilities that make it unique. As far as interoperability is concerned, despite the best intentions of all concerned, it will take several years to fully integrate invited countries into Alliance military structures. Equipment compatibility will also prove a challenge although, in the short term, language, common procedures, and communications interconnectivity will be the greatest hurdles. We and the Invited Countries are working hard to address these issues, and we will succeed.

And lastly, in the area of external adaptation, the Alliance is expanding its contacts and pursuing closer cooperation with other international, especially European, security- and stability-related institutions. The mechanisms being established can only enhance NATO’s ability, in collaboration with similarly minded nations and institutions, to address the multifaceted and transnational risks of the future.


The Alliance’s military structures also need to be reformed to ensure that they will be able to undertake any mission from the continuum of missions that may come their way. One of these structures, the new NATO command structure, which was agreed to in December of 1997, is no longer focused on defending against attack from the East. It was redesigned against the background of NATO enlargement and the new strategic environment, and is now designed to cope with the continuum of missions I mentioned earlier. I do not expect the need for additional major changes as a result of the updating of the Strategic Concept.

Work on the Combined Joint Task Force concept is also proceeding well. Implementation of the CJTF concept, expected in the year 2000, will add flexibility and responsiveness to NATO’s military posture and allow the Alliance to react more quickly to collective defense, ESDI, and “out of area” contingencies, including peace operations such as the one in Bosnia. Indeed, CJTF-provided flexibility to respond to collective defense tasks is a major factor in making it unnecessary for NATO to establish command structure headquarters on the territories of the three Invited Countries. CJTF activities will in all likelihood include Partner participation, even within the CJTF headquarters, where the details of non-Article 5 missions will be analyzed, decided upon, executed, and supervised. As you can see, the CJTF concept offers an extremely versatile tool with which the Alliance can accomplish its missions.

The NATO command structure and the CJTF concept are key components of ESDI, an instrument that will enable Europeans to act if the U.S. is not willing to. ESDI will foster U.S. commitment to Europe. Its policies and procedures are more or less in place now, i.e., Europeans can act using NATO’s assets and capabilities. However, ESDI can only be fully exploited if all European NATO nations eventually participate in NATO’s integrated military structure.

To be able to meet the demands of increased flexibility, mobility, deployability, and sustainability that come with the continuum of missions that NATO faces requires that NATO address another one of its tools, namely, the structure of its military forces. A force structure review is now underway and we are seeking ways to enhance our capabilities through deeper integration and more multinational force-multiplier areas such as C41 and missile defense. Individual nations will have to review their force planning as well since it is becoming increasingly obvious that focusing on only territorial defense will not suffice in the future. And despite today’s fiscal restraints, deliberations on the “Euro,” and incredibly fast technological progress, nations will also have to allocate the necessary resources to implement the Force Goals they have accepted. This does not necessarily mean that we must spend much more money for defense, but rather that we should cooperate more closely in Europe and encourage cooperation between Europe and the United States as well.


I cannot close without reiterating that the incredible success of this Alliance has essentially rested on two fundamental pillars: collective defense and the transatlantic link. It was these two pillars that allowed NATO to apply diplomacy successfully during the Cold War, ever mindful of what Frederic II of Prussia once said: “Diplomacy without weapons is like an orchestra without instruments.” Not only did collective defense serve us well during the Cold War, it continues, particularly through the integrated military structure, to provide us the wherewithal to carry out complex operations with both NATO and non-NATO nations. It also enables us to orchestrate, even on extremely short notice, significant and successful exercises such as Determined Falcon, a complex exercise comprising 83 aircraft from 13 nations. Twenty-eight hours after the Defense Ministers determined its need, a concept was planned and approved, and executed in unknown air space two days later.

The transatlantic link, including the coupling of Canada and especially the United States to Europe, has been instrumental in securing peace and in countering renationalization in Western Europe over the years. This link, combined with collective defense, has been a successful formula for NATO, one that we should never take for granted and must work hard to preserve and enhance. To do otherwise is to invite failure.

In the world of soccer, many coaches follow the rule of never changing a winning team. If the Secretary General were the coach and I the assistant coach for fitness, prowess, and stamina, I would say look at NATO’s military. It is the instrument that makes NATO unique because it is the military that enables NATO to act. To politicians and diplomats, I say you can rely on your military. The NATO team is in good shape and prepared to enter the next millennium. The NATO team is a winner.


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