NATO's Istanbul Summit: New Mission, New Means
NATO's Istanbul Summit: New Mission, New
Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Royal United Services Institute.
London, June 18, 2004.
I am delighted and honoured to speak at this distinguished
institution. RUSI can look back on a proud history of over 170 years. That makes
it probably the world’s oldest “think tank” on security.
The secret of RUSI’s success is its penchant for thinking out
of the box. If you want to hear middle-of-the-road stuff, you have to turn
elsewhere. So, in my speech this morning, I would like to honour RUSI’s interest
in the non-conventional.
Of course, I will speak about what is advertised – our
forthcoming Summit in Istanbul. But I will not do this in the way you would
probably expect it from a NATO Secretary General. I am not going to extol at
length Istanbul’s showcase initiatives, no matter how tempting that might be.
Instead, I would like to push the envelope a little – by
speaking about something that NATO Secretary Generals rarely touch upon in
public: how to generate the forces we need to conduct the Alliance’s current and
Why do I broach this subject here and now? In fact, there
are three good reasons why:
First, capabilities are essential to everything NATO does.
NATO’s political clout is directly related to its military competence. The
Alliance enjoys such a strong international standing because it can convert,
when necessary, political decisions into concrete military action.
We have seen in Bosnia that moral condemnations or the use of
economic sanctions availed us little without the backing of military power. In
Kosovo, our military competence was essential in reversing a humanitarian
disaster. Without our military capabilities, Afghanistan would risk a return to
the Taliban boot and to become again a safe haven for Al Qaida. In short, to
quote Kofi Annan, diplomacy works better when it is supported by credible
Second, our missions are changing. Projecting stability has
become a precondition for our security. NATO’s core function of defending its
members can no longer be achieved by maintaining forces only to defend our
borders. We simply can no longer protect our security without addressing the
potential risks and threats that arise far from our homes. Afghanistan is a case
in point. Either we tackle these problems when and where they emerge, or they
will end up on our doorstep.
Projecting stability calls for forces that are very different
from those of the Cold War. Simply put, we need more wide-bodied aircraft, and
fewer heavy tanks. We need forces that are slimmer, tougher, and faster; forces
that reach further, and can stay in the field longer but can still punch hard.
In short, to use the catchphrases, we need forces that are more “deployable” and
“usable”. We will only have them if NATO member states consciously plan for them
and are prepared to put aside traditional ways of doing business.
My third reason for raising the way we generate forces is my
strong conviction that the demand for NATO is likely to increase, not diminish,
in the future. NATO will be called upon by the international community to be a
peacemaker, peacekeeper, and the provider of security and stability. Right now –
and for the foreseeable future – I cannot envisage any other organisation that
could do the job of projecting stability as well as NATO can. When Kofi Annan
recently delivered a speech inviting NATO to play a more active role in Africa,
he indicated as much. And the UN’s interest in closer practical cooperation with
NATO is pointing in the same direction.
So can we deliver? The simple answer to this question is that
we must deliver. We must make sure that our means match our ambitions. There
simply is no other choice.
The Istanbul Summit will help us deliver. It will provide us
with many new tools to help us project stability: enhanced Partnerships, notably
with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia; a deepening of our
Mediterranean Dialogue and a new offer of cooperation to countries from the
wider region of the Middle East; new capabilities, notably the NATO Response
Force and our new Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence
But the Summit will also decide on a stronger NATO presence
in Afghanistan. And it is here where we have been confronted with challenges we
have never had to deal with before.
Let me be blunt. Missions such as Afghanistan present wholly
new challenges in terms of generating forces. We have never done anything quite
like this before and it should not be a surprise that there are challenges.
We have already made a real difference on the ground. And I
am confident that by Istanbul we will have generated the forces we need to
expand NATO’s ISAF mission beyond Kabul. But our force generation system is far
from optimal. We must improve this system so that we can meet future challenges
These challenges can be big – a new headquarters, an
operational reserve. But they can also be small – a medical facility, a handful
of C-130’s and medium lift helicopters, a couple of infantry companies, and
certain surveillance and intelligence assets. Given the vast quantities of
personnel and equipment available to the Alliance overall, we have to ask
ourselves why we still cannot fill them. What is wrong with our system that we
cannot generate small amounts of badly needed resources for missions that we
have committed to politically?
In my view, the answer lies in taking a hard look at three
critical areas. We have to look at:
the way we take political decisions
the way we plan and generate forces, and
the way we are funding our operations and equipment
First, a few words about political decision-making. Picture
this: NATO's nations take and announce a political decision to undertake a
mission. We task the NATO Military Authorities to plan for it and to resource
it. And then we suddenly find out that nations are not prepared to make
available the necessary capabilities.
Does this sound familiar? Well, this is pretty much what
happened in NATO regarding Afghanistan. And you also know what followed: my
predecessor and I have had to go around and around to ask nations for
This must change. I don’t mind taking out my begging bowl
once in a while. But as a standard operating procedure, this is simply
intolerable. We must adapt our political decision making process to take force
generation into account. Whenever we enter into a political commitment to
undertake an operation, we must have a clear idea beforehand as to what forces
we have available to honour this commitment.
But how can we achieve this greater clarity? This brings me
to my second critical issue, NATO’s force planning and force generation system.
There is an obvious disconnect between our longer-term force planning system and
the way we generate forces for a particular operation. We need to overcome this
I am happy to report that work is already underway to address
some of the shortcomings. For example, we are looking at defining concrete
targets for deployability and usability of our forces, and a clear understanding
of what nations are able and willing to do to match these targets.
This will provide us with more predictability about what
forces we will have available when we agree to conduct an operation. But this
predictability needs to be based on a clear view of future needs. This requires
many nations to confront some rather traditional mindsets in their military
establishments. There are still too many out there who are comfortable with old
ways of doing business, and who prefer to run on the structures of the past
rather than making the radical changes that real transformation means. The time
has clearly come for us to challenge these traditionalist views.
A more responsive force planning and force generation process
will get us a long way towards ensuring that our means match our ambitions. But
there is yet another critical area we need to look at, which is funding.
We also have to re-examine the way we finance operations. Our
established procedures have a nation pay for all equipment and personnel it
deploys abroad. This is encapsulated in the formula “costs lie where they fall”.
As a principle, it is a good one. But it can mean that those nations with
certain key capabilities will always be asked to deliver – and always expected
This is not just unfair to certain nations. It also
undermines the very logic of NATO as a coalition in which burdens are shared
equitably and fairly. We will have to re-examine these arrangements with care,
particularly to make sure that these certain nations do not end up paying twice.
That is why I want Allies to examine alternative options like,
for example, common funding of essential capabilities, such as airlift or
medical facilities. Given that transport helicopters and airlift are so
difficult to find, is it outrageous to suggest that a group of nations come
together to provide a NATO transport fleet of helicopters and aircraft. Isn’t
this what we did – and very successfully – with our AWACS aircraft?
And could the same not be done for medical facilities as well?
Or, could nations outsource to provide these specialised capabilities?
I also want nations to take another hard look at how they go
about developing certain capabilities. Let us be realistic: some capabilities
are simply unaffordable to individual smaller nations. Developing these
capabilities bilaterally or multinationally can offer an affordable solution. So
can the pooling of resources through outsourcing.
Some multinational capabilities are already being pursued in
this way through NATO’s Prague Capabilities Commitment. But we should consider
pushing the envelope to include other capabilities as well.
The structure of defence budgets is another area where new
approaches might help us make progress. Some countries have one defence budget,
out of which they finance peacekeeping and other operations as well as new
military hardware. I personally do not think that is the best way to meet these
requirements. Because it creates a zero-sum situation, where operations become a
drag on military modernisation, and vice versa.
Ideally, therefore, the cost of real-life operations should
not come out of the defence budget. At the very least, we should encourage
nations to develop contingency funds within their own budgets, in order to be
able to respond to possible unexpected demands related to crisis response
The bottom line is that we must ensure that nations not only
have the capabilities, but also the funding to use these capabilities in NATO
operations. This is an issue that both Defence and Finance Ministers need to
address. And I believe they should do so quickly.
If NATO intends to be serious about operations, now and in
the future, then it has to get serious about capabilities and force generation.
We need a much higher level of confidence that nations can and will provide the
forces that are necessary. This means changes in the way we do business – in the
way we take decisions, in the way we plan and generate forces, and in the way we
fund our missions.
My predecessor, Lord Robertson, was fond of his mantras “capability”,
“deployability” and “usability”. In my view, we need to add another one: “predictability”.
We must devise a formula that both encourages and enables nations to honour
their collective decisions and commitments.
I am perfectly aware that procedural changes alone will not
do the trick. NATO is an Alliance of sovereign nations. The decision to send
troops abroad is always a sovereign one. So it is ultimately a matter of
national political will. And it is not just an issue for Chiefs of Defence and
Defence Ministers but also for Foreign Ministers, for Finance Ministers, and for
Heads of State and Government.
Which brings me back to the Istanbul Summit. This Summit will,
I trust, adopt new approaches both to force planning and force generation. But,
transformation is a process, not a single event. Istanbul is the place where we
will make a start. If we are serious about the need to project stability in
today’s volatile security environment, we must continue to make sure that our
means match our ambitions.