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NATO’s Political and Military Transformation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

NATO’s Political and Military Transformation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Transforming NATO A Political and Military Challenge: Speech by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General, at NATO Annual Conference, Brussels, Sodehotel, April 14, 2005. Source: NATO.

    Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome. Nothing is more important for NATO’s continued effectiveness than the success of its transformation process both political and military. Which is why I chose transformation as the theme for this, my first Annual Conference.

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (NATO Photo).

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (NATO Photo)

Let me begin by thanking NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division which has put a tremendous amount of work into organising today’s event. Let me also thank the Royal United Services Institute and Allied Command Transformation, which are co-sponsoring this year’s conference.

At NATO, transformation is nothing new. But it is fair to say that changes during NATO’s first 40 years were relatively gradual and comparatively small. Changes over the past 16 years, however, have been much more sudden and far-reaching. Today’s NATO is preserving security and projecting stability in ways and in places that could not have been imagined just a few years ago. And it is my responsibility to ensure that the transformation agenda carries on delivering, not just today, but also tomorrow and into the future.

What I intend to do over the next few minutes is to review the progress we have already made with the transformation of our military capabilities. Then, I will explain why we should widen our transformation lens to include promoting much deeper and broader political dialogue. And I will touch on a specific area where I believe dialogue and coordination will be of ever-increasing importance: post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction.

Let me start by reviewing where we are now with our military transformation. It is not in the nature of a Secretary General to be easily satisfied. And while we have made progress over the past few years, there is a lot more work to be done.

  • One success story has been the change to our military command structure, including a new strategic command that is dedicated to the military aspects of transformation.

We will hear a little later from Admiral Giambastiani about the work he is driving forward within that command. But le me say that it is already paying dividends in the way we do business in the Alliance, and in our operations and missions as well.

The Prague Capabilities Commitment was launched just over two years ago. That too, has made progress but not enough. Nations have undertaken specific commitments to overcome shortfalls in four key operational capability areas: CBRN defence, information superiority, combat effectiveness, and deployability and sustainability. Capabilities key to success in modern operations.

Now, I know that the development, acquisition, and fielding of new capabilities is a lengthy process. And we have already moved the yard-sticks forward when it comes to air and sea lift within NATO. But we should be clear. There is a major lack of strategic transport in the European inventories.

We need more of our own strategic transport, and some other key enablers as well from air-to-air refuelling, to helicopters, to combat support and combat service support. And until we have them, we will simply not be able to move as fast or as far, and be as effective as we might need to be, in the face of a real emergency.

The NATO Response Force is designed to give the Alliance some of that speed and reach. We have achieved Initial Operating Capability of the NRF, within two years. And it is a substantial capability. This is a robust and fully joint force that is at high readiness, technologically advanced, deployable within 5 to 30 days, and sustainable. It has utility across the full range of Alliance missions. Next year, by October, we will see the Force reach its Full Operational Capability, which will represent a major step up in Alliance effectiveness.

  • The primary challenge at this point is no longer in setting up the NRF. The challenge is to figure out how, when and where to use it.

The NRF is clearly no substitute for the normal force generation required for operations; nor should it be kept on a shelf forever to gather dust. To my mind, we shouldn’t get too caught up in theological debates. When circumstances demand that we use the NRF, we will know it. And we should not hesitate, in those circumstances, to do so. For example, if the Asian tsunami had happened closer to the NATO area, I have little doubt we would have deployed the NRF.

All of the initiatives I just mentioned focus primarily on getting the right capabilities into our resource pool. But we have a second challenge: to ensure that these capabilities are available when required.

  • That means changing the way we generate forces and we have already started.

The force generation process now takes a more comprehensive and longer-term view of our military commitments, in order to provide Allies with greater warning of the requirements. It also now provides a clearer overview of how Allies contribute across all our operations and reassures contributors that plans are in place to relieve them.

The first of these new style force generation conferences was held last November, and the intention is to hold them annually. We are now looking at the lessons to be drawn from the first conference, and we are also considering how best to involve Partners and other non-NATO nations in the process. But it is already clear that this approach makes sense.

Last year, Defence Ministers agreed that 40 per cent of each nation’s land forces should be structured and equipped for deployed operations, and that at any one time, 8 per cent would be either be engaged on, or earmarked for, sustained operations. This work on usability is well under way, but here, it is clear that further work needs to be done. We need to ensure that all nations are using the same baseline, and we need to consider how to include air and maritime forces as well.

  • If we want to make it easier for nations to contribute to our missions and operations we also need to make better use of common funding.

Some critical capabilities, such as hospitals, airfields and ports, aren’t just used by individual nations. They are theatre-level functions, and they should be eligible for common funding. That is why we are developing funding mechanisms that will ease the financial burden for nations providing these critical capabilities for their Allies and partners in the field.

Which brings me to defence budgets overall. It will come as no surprise that I am not pleased with the general trend in defence spending in NATO. With some notable exceptions, the trend is down.

I am all for spending taxpayers’ money more efficiently. As a long-time politician, I could have no other view. But the reality is that restructuring costs. It cannot be done on the cheap. So nations will keep hearing from me to spend what it takes to meet their defence requirements even if I admit that sometimes I feel like Jerry McGuire, continually asking nations to “show me the money”.

So, overall: we have succeeded in changing and improving the way we do our business. We have moved away from purely individual national efforts and achieved much greater coordination and cooperation across the Alliance. Improvements to our capabilities have been made, and we have developed procedures to make it easier for nations to commit the capabilities to NATO operations. But that most definitely does not mean that we should now sit back and rest on our laurels. We must maintain the momentum. And I will do my part to keep it up.

That is the state of play, to my mind, on our current capabilities. But military capabilities are only one part of transformation. They will be worthless if Allies cannot agree on how, when and where to use them. Which brings me to the importance of NATO as a forum for political dialogue to help the transatlantic Allies share views, shape consensus and, where necessary, to take action together.

That is also what Chancellor Schroeder was getting at in his speech for the Munich Security Conference a few weeks ago. It is something I have been saying almost since I took over this post. And while NATO has been strong on action over the past few years, the Alliance has been less strong on dialogue.

Next week, when our Foreign Ministers meet informally in Vilnius, I will present to them my ideas for further enhancing political dialogue within NATO. And to my mind, the logic of doing this is as clear as its importance.

NATO’s founding charter makes the Alliance’s mission clear: to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means. And to do that, we must consult closely, continually and freely on any topics and could affect our freedom and our security. This is a fundamental task of the Alliance.

If we want to agree on how to act together; if we want to guide military transformation in a coherent, multinational way; then we need full, open and transparent political discussions. Our operations and missions take place, and themselves affect, the political context we need an ongoing political dialogue to help shape them. The same is true for our partnerships. And a broad political dialogue within NATO is essential to build and maintain support in our publics and Parliaments, because the old Cold War automaticity is long gone.

  • But we need more than just discussions within NATO. Given the global nature of the security challenges we face, the Alliance also needs a more structured political dialogue with other international organisations, especially the United Nations and the European Union.

It would be foolish and wasteful not to make the most of the synergies between these international organisations in the places where we so often work side-by-side.

Usually, practice follows theory. In the case of cooperation between NATO and the UN, practice has come first. In the Balkans, as well as in Afghanistan, NATO and the UN have worked effectively together for years. But this cooperation has developed ad-hoc, and without the same level of cooperation at the strategic level. It is in the interests of both organisations that we now develop a more structured approach to our relationship.

In July, the United Nations will host a meeting with regional organisations and with NATO, and will discuss the implications of the United Nations High Level Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and Change in preparation for the UN General Assembly in September. There are a number of practical areas where NATO support to UN operations might be a good idea, and we will look into that in the coming months. Because I believe the time has come for closer NATO-UN cooperation.

We also need to strengthen the relationship, and the dialogue, with the European Union. And let me be frank there is plenty of room for improvement. The NAC-PSC agendas are getting very thin, when they should be broad. We should be discussing all the areas where both organisations are engaged, to support each other and to avoid duplication. Except for the Balkans, we don’t. There are also critical issues of capability development that need to be explored more fully, for example harmonising commitments to the EU’s Battle Groups and the NRF.

The NATO-EU agenda is artificially constrained for reasons which can, and should be put behind us as soon as possible. NATO and the European Union both work to build security and promote democracy and freedom. That is why both organisations are already involved in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in North Africa and in the Middle East. And as the membership of our two organisations increasingly overlaps, I am convinced that closer cooperation will become inevitable.

I say very clearly cooperation, and not competition. It is naïve to imagine that the European Union can develop a military capability to rival that of NATO, which includes the US. It would be equally naïve to propose that NATO should develop the civil capabilities available within the European Union.

Both organisations have comparative advantages. The EU has huge expertise in police training, judicial reform, economic assistance, and reconstruction. NATO has robust military capabilities, and long experience in peace operations. While both organisations can be effective in isolation, we can do more good bring more security, to more people if we talk and work together.

And that applies very much to post conflict and stabilisation operations more broadly; not only to win the war, but also to win the peace. Indeed, I believe that we must focus much more on that phase of our operations; after the hard combat is over, but before peace is self-sustaining. Because post conflict and stabilisation operations are going to be a big part of what we do, as an international community. And with some fresh thinking, and broader cooperation, we can get results.

Look at the Provincial Reconstruction Team concept that we pioneered in Afghanistan. These teams include both military and civilian elements, working alongside each other. Alone, the soldiers couldn’t help rebuild the country. Without security embedded security, in this case the civilians wouldn’t be as effective. And it works. As Kofi Annan remarked only last month, you can’t have security without development, and you can’t have development without security.

We need to better integrate and harmonise the security, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts at an early stage in the process. We also need to develop more structured mechanisms for cooperating with other international organisations, non governmental organisations, and other agencies an enhanced external political dialogue mirroring the deeper and broader political dialogue within NATO itself.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have covered a lot of ground. So let me summarise the key points. We have made significant progress in improving the quality, quantity and availability of certain key military capabilities. We have also succeeded in improving the procedures that enable nations to contribute those capabilities to NATO-led operations. We need to keep up the pressure in all these areas. And we must now also start to consider how to enhance international coordination for post conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in particular between international organisations.

However, all these transformed military capabilities are worthless if Allies don’t conduct the political dialogue necessary to agree how, when, and where to use them. An enhanced role for NATO as a forum for discussion of the security issues affecting Allies is therefore absolutely essential. That is why I remain convinced that political transformation and military transformation are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. And I will be a determined engineer, and driver, of both.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).