Stronger Transatlantic Alliance and Europe together for protecting citizens

The Institute for International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University (IIRPS), in cooperation with the Embassy of Italy in Vilnius organizes a lecture given by Former Italian Foreign Minister and Vice President of the European Commission Mr. Franco Frattini.

November 26th (Tuesday) from 11.30 a.m.- 1 p.m., Conference Hall (4th floor).

The Atlantic Alliance remains the cornerstone of our shared and indivisible security, as our Countries get prepared to face old and new challenges. The next NATO summit will be held soon after the 10th anniversary of the March 2004 enlargement, when Lithuania, together with EstoniaLatviaBulgariaRomaniaSlovakia and Slovenia formally became a member of the Alliance. I can see no better occasion to celebrate the vital role of NATO as the pillar of our indivisible security, and to find inspiration for reaffirming our firm and unshakable solidarity. 

For 64 years NATO has fulfilled the mission best captured by President Kennedy, whose assassination day the democratic world sadly commemorated few days ago. I quote “let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty” (John F. Kennedy). On that Inauguration Day in 1961, by “we”, President Kennedy meant first and foremost “we Americans”. But he could have as easily meant “we, Allies, – alike”. Because this is the Washington Treaty and NATO’s article 5.

This is what NATO did, during and after the Cold War, and will continue to do. I don’t see any other alliance of nations as successful in deterring and preventing aggression against any of its members. 

Today, we also should take into consideration some new complexities: post 2014 Afghanistan mission; the European perception of American “pivot to Asia”; severe defence and security budget constraints; damage in mutual trust inflicted by Snowden disclosures; clear perception of failures in the so-called Arab awakenings. 

Furthermore, the first priority for Western countries is growth and creation of jobs. I advocate a continuing strong role for NATO, but the Alliance itself will have to work for confirming its priority role as the invaluable provider of security. 

In the current times of misperceptions and need to rebuild full mutual trust after the so called NSA Gate, NATO again proves that Allies trust each others, by sharing confidential information and intelligence, including on the top secret nuclear posture. 

Goals achieved by the Alliance in the last few years have confirmed and strengthened its deterrence capability. I refer to the efforts devoted to the realization of a functional missile defence; to the completion of contingency plans for all Allied countries; to the conduction of Art. 5 joint exercises such as “Steadfast Jazz” a few weeks ago.At the same time, a variety of new challenges and threats have emerged. A new Division on “emergency security challenges” was even created a few years ago at NATO HQ. New security dimensions include, just to name a few, cyberspace, critical energy supplies, satellite communications, fight against terror and the proliferation of biological and other unconventional weapons.

We need to get prepared to counter those new treats and, possibly, to deter our adversaries from directing them against us. The Cold War paradigm entailed that the two opposite sides did share the same essential objectives and interests (to safeguard at the very least the security of their citizens and allies and their own sovereignty and independence). This is not necessarily the case when we are confronted with non-State actors such as terror networks or cells, high sea pirates, transnational criminal organizations, or even individuals (like home-grown terrorists or internet hackers).

It requires a combination of tools, political, diplomatic, economic. Whether or not NATO could or should have that kind of tools in its arsenal it’s matter for debate. Probably some; probably some would have to be shared with other fora or organizations. Certainly it requires more reliance on Art. 4, on partners and on engagement.The core of the notion of deterrence is the “price” factor. The cost to be paid must be clearly understood by both sides; it must be “credible” (capacity to inflict it by one side; it must not be beyond the other side’s capacity to absorb it). It must be known whom to inflict it: do we know whom to strike at after a cyberattack? There are two kind of guys with whom deterrence won’t work: the ones who think they are not going to be caught and can get away with it (again, possibly the case in cyber); the ones who don’t mind the pain (terrorists usually don’t).

A new possible approach to deterrence in our era of unconventional and asymmetrical threats is to make deterrence itself asymmetrical as well (or “bottom-up”). That means dealing ultimately with the “root causes” of emerging threats, something that is beyond the scope of the Alliance. But NATO can do a lot to prevent crisis degenerating in States failures. Libya is a case in point; not letting post Khaddafi Lybia fail we avoid repeating Somalia where we are still paying the price for the failed State. There are limits to what deterrence can do against non-conventional, asymmetrical threats. Then we fall back on defence. The catch is that defence has to be collective. If not, security is not a common good any longer, and that would be the end of NATO.

The Alliance does not need to change its raison d’être or its core focus, which is enshrined in the Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty, but it must update its own tool box, as it has to face a wide area of geopolitical instability, ranging from Libya to the Hindu Kush. And if I think of cyber security, we should further reflect on whether a new evolving meaning of art.5 could extend the principle of solidarity to cases where a member of the Alliance is under a cyber attack. Therefore as members of our transatlantic security Alliance, we will need to define the requirements for cyber defense of national networks critical to the performance of NATO’s core security tasks of collective defense and crisis management. To this end, the NATO Centre of excellence on cybersecurity in Estonia should be further strengthened. Also, talking on energy security, I would praise the Centre of excellence here in Vilnius, to be also strengthened in the near future. 

The kind of “bottom-up” or asymmetrical deterrence I have just hinted at, could also be a test for NATO, in the context of a broader initiative by the International Community in its entirety. This is not “traditional”, Machiavellian, deterrence, but would be an additional tool to add to the rich arsenal of NATO deterrence and of purely military capabilities (conventional and nuclear). As I said at the beginning, in an asymmetric and global world, military deterrence only, indispensable as it is, won’t be enough to deter. This preventive role that I see for NATO after 2014 will include partners, as I will explain later, but it involves as well building on NATO’s experience and expertise, advising and assisting countries requiring help in the field of capacity building. Which means: supporting countries in their efforts to reform security and defense institutions where they exist, or even helping them build security institutions where they do not exist. 

Libya is a case in point, since its Prime Minister asked for NATO’s help. But in the future, other countries undergoing transition could ask for NATO’s assistance in the security field.

If we think of the American partial readjustment towards Asia, it is clear that we Europeans will have to be more “in charge” of our Southern backyard, while it is evident that US will continue to support EU leadership in facing challenges and threats in Mediterranean, North Africa, Sahel, Somalia, etc.
Alongside this preventive role that the post 2014 NATO should play in terms of capacity building, it cannot be ruled out that in a fast changing and unpredictable international security environment NATO could be called again to manage a military crisis. Perhaps, of a lower intensity character than Afghanistan but nevertheless requiring NATO to project its forces beyond the Alliance’s territory. Our Alliance must therefore have the right capabilities to deal with future military contingencies. Flexibility, preparedness, rapid deployable forces, specialized units, are some important keys there. 

We cannot allow defense cuts to undermine the military capability that, from the lessons learned most recently in Afghanistan and Libya, our Alliance needs the most. These are for example: joint logistics capabilities deployed during operations, precision guided munitions, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, refueling aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, special operations forces and cyber defense capabilities. 

At a time of major financial constraints both in Europe and North America, finding the resources to invest in these modern capabilities could prove very hard if defense cuts are carried out indiscriminately by the Allies.

I would advocate for a “portfolio approach”: time has come to agree that defense cuts that the Allies will be forced to make, especially under the pressure of the current economic crisis, are coordinated through NATO.

While respecting national prerogatives, this would nevertheless require coordinated political choices, instead of horizontal cuts, optimizing defense spending, facilitating high-end capabilities, avoiding national duplications and creating economies of scale.

This would allow eliminating old capabilities, while adjusting defense spending to sustain investments in more modern capabilities.

While it is indeed true that over-dependence on one country (the US) for critical capabilities is a dangerous trend for all Allies and that the 50% guideline and the 2% GDP goal are crucial part of the burden sharing equation, uncoordinated defense budgets cuts among the Allies risk to undermine those critical NATO capabilities needed to deploy its forces to manage effectively today’s crises.
We should therefore define a threshold of acceptability of defense cuts, defining where gaps are acceptable and where gaps are not acceptable and require fixing of the more urgent short falls in the right time frame. Equally important is to explain to our public opinion why money for the security of our people, even at a time of austerity, is invested and not wasted. So, I would think of more and better public communication, and reaching out to civil society representatives, to explain that security is a common good for the daily lives of citizens.

I see these efforts to be conducted by NATO in a complementarity fashion with the European Union, avoiding duplication of efforts, thereby maximizing practical ways to provide security, while minimizing costs to all member countries of both NATO and the EU. 

NATO and the EU have 22 members in common. Complementarity between NATO and the European Union is a must, in order to deal effectively with modern security challenges at a time of growing financial constraints. Cooperation and division of labour proved very successful in Kosovo, Bosnia, or in the anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

And we should of course include in this equation, the efforts aimed at providing a coherent, ambitious response to industrial, strategic, economic and political challenges for the organization of defense and security markets within the EU, under the Task Force Defense, led by EU Commissioner Michel Barnier. 
We will need to look also with great attention to the EU’s December 2013 European Council on defense issues to identify synergies for the way forward in NATO-EU Complementarity. A better EU-NATO cooperation became, in my view, a strong NATO priority.

This requires developing a new mind-set between the two institutions, to multiply regular political consultations at all levels and organize cooperative activities between NATO and the EU. In other words, while the traditional EU “soft power” is an added value for our transatlantic cooperation, Europeans cannot be seen as just a “soft power” appendix to the strong american security provider! Europeans, there, will have to do more, not less! And I take the opportunity, since I talked on EU activities, to congratulate Lithuania for its very successful EU Presidency so far. 

And also to express my deep disappointment and concern for the last minute decision of the Ukrainian government not to sign the association agreement with the EU. We can just hope for a last second positive development.

Finally, one crucial area for NATO after 2014 is the one represented by the enhancement of the partnerships that our Alliance has successfully developed with countries in different world regions.NATO’s partnerships with countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue, in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, or with Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, show how through political dialogue and practical cooperation it is possible to build a new culture of cooperation in the security sphere. 

This engagement provides a better mutual understanding between NATO and a large number of countries of different cultures and it helps preventing tensions and therefore preventing conflicts. NATO’s engagement with its partners also helps us build the political consensus and military interoperability required to manage successfully complex crises when they occur from Mediterranean to Africa or the broader Middle East. 

Partnerships, however, have to be a two-way street. We’ll have to raise, on a case by case basis, partnerships towards a more comprehensive strategic and political level of cooperation, keeping, of course, well firm the line between an “Article 5 Ally” and a “partner”. I would not imagine “one size fits all” on upgrading partnerships. They remained tailored to mutual needs, interests and constraints. But I think that consultations in case of crises, and sharing threat assessments could give more substance and reassurance to partnerships outside NATO’s geographical space. 

Relationship between NATO and RUSSIA is a special case. Cooperation is in the mutual interest. But we have to acknowledge a current Russian attitude more oriented towards scepticism and confrontation, rather than engagement. We should be open and firm at the same time.

We recently expressed new hopes, after the Geneva agreement with Iran, that should be closely monitored and fully implemented. But, to be frank, this cannot lead to give up NATO’s strategy on missile defense.

In conclusion, a New Transatlantic Bargain, that I would define a Transatlantic Renaissance – as recently US Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland said – is needed. By confirming the mutual commitment under article 5 but also by better implementing a division of labour among Allies, implying a high degree of flexibility regarding the operations that involve NATO members and partners alike. But the Transatlantic Renaissance should include in this new security equation the establishment of a free trade transatlantic space, helping us to boost jobs and growth and so, to strengthen the broader concept of “human security” that Europeans and North Americans Allies need. 

On this perspective, I cannot see a better partner for Europe than U.S. and a better partner for the U.S. than Europe.

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