|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.11, 21.3.02, pp15,18|
Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO, tells European Voice editor Dennis Abbott why he is confident about the Alliance's relationship with the EU, why NATO enlargement will be good for EU security - and why he trusts Russian premier Vladimir Putin
Q: DA: Where do you think the EU-NATO relationship works at its best?
A:GR: The EU-NATO relationship works at its best where it matters most: on the ground. The clearest example is in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. One year ago, ethnic tensions in that country threatened to explode into open war, in a Balkan pattern unfortunately familiar to us all.
From the very beginning, the EU and NATO have coordinated our diplomatic and military efforts to prevent the violence from spiralling out of control. The High Representative for the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and I have worked closely and cooperatively together. The results have proven that NATO-EU cooperation can deliver on its potential. Peace is taking root, and NATO and the EU are now cooperating to help it happen.
The EU has unarmed observers in the country to encourage stability. A NATO task force is present to provide security for the EU personnel. Practically and politically, EU-NATO cooperation has shown its worth, and its potential, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
There are, of course, many other examples of fruitful cooperation - in southern Serbia, in Kosovo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in the increasingly regular political consultations that take place between the two organisations in Brussels.
Our challenge is to build on this success, in particular by getting agreement from all EU and NATO member states to finalise the formal arrangements on NATO-EU cooperation. I hope that approval comes within the next few months.
Q: Can you explain what difference recent changes in NATO's relationship with Russia will mean in practice? Do you trust Vladimir Putin?
A: Let me first answer the second part of this question: yes. President Putin is determined to lead his country towards greater integration with the West, as a trusting and trustworthy European partner. We can only applaud, and support, those efforts.
As part of that support, NATO and Russia are moving to a new quality of relationship. We are developing a new framework for NATO-Russia cooperation and co-decision making. In those areas where we know that Russia and NATO can cooperate and move forward constructively - such as, for example, terrorism - we will develop and take decisions 'at 20', rather than '19 plus 1'.
Now, let me be clear: this does not mean that Russia has suddenly joined the Alliance. NATO will still retain its autonomy of decision making on all issues, as will Russia. But this new quality relationship gives us the opportunity to move a concrete step closer to the outcome we all want: a Russia that is, and feels, part of the European mainstream, contributing cooperatively to solutions to our common security challenges.
Q: Do you share former NATO Military Committee chairman General Klaus Naumann's concern about the capability gap - and does this pose significant problems for the Alliance?
A: My simple answers are yes, and yes. I have said for years that Europe's relative military weakness must be recognised and rectified. Lack of capability is undermining Europe's ability to contribute to its own security in an uncertain new era. It makes it harder for our forces to work together in the multinational operations that are the norm today, including in Afghanistan. It is also encouraging those in the United States who claim that Europe will never carry its fair share of the burden.
Put another way, Europe's military weakness threatens to make accusations of US unilateralism a self-fulfilling, and to a degree self-inflicted, prophecy. That is why I am determined to continue calling for better, and smarter defence spending by the European and Canadian allies.
Q: Do you agree with former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Rupert Smith's assessment that the EU has failed to meet three basic tests for ensuring its security: namely 'having a credible force with the evident will to use it, the evident ability to find and strike the appropriate targets, and the evident will and ability to escalate'?
Q: Let us not forget that it is early days still for the EU's Headline Goal. It was only in 1998 that the UK-French St Malo Agreement set this whole process in train, and effective military capability and culture aren't developed overnight.
Europe has made more progress in the past four years than it had in the previous forty.
With appropriate will, and sufficient resources spent in the right way, Europe can meet its target to be a much more effective security actor.
A: Was Javier Solana being over-optimistic when he declared recently that the Union has the resources, capabilities and structures to mount some 'Petersberg tasks' [military missions ranging from crisis management to peace-making]?
Q: After having been Secretary-General of NATO, and now High Representative, I am sure that Javier is never over-optimistic! However, most of the military operations the EU will want to launch will need support capabilities which the EU does not at present have.
We are therefore working with the EU to implement the so-called 'Berlin Plus' arrangements that will give the EU access to NATO's military assets in these circumstances.
Q: Even if the European members of NATO increase the proportion of GDP they spend on defence, they will never match US capabilities. Is there any benefit for them, therefore, to spend more on procurement?
A: Of course. The challenge is not to match US capabilities - that is clearly impossible. The challenge is to have the capabilities necessary to make a credible contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, including as a strong partner to the United States.
That means concentrating on key capabilities, useful force multipliers, and on interoperability amongst NATO allies. And the vast majority of additional equipment needed by the European allies can be produced by European industry. So yes, there is a benefit to spending more on procurement, done in the right way.
Q: Are you concerned that the US largely overlooked the potential contributions of its European NATO allies during its operations in Afghanistan?
A: No - because it didn't happen. Right now there are many NATO allies fighting alongside the US in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda forces. NATO logistics are supporting those operations. NATO AWACS aircraft are patrolling US airspace.
NATO forces have already done excellent work in smashing dangerous Al-Qaeda cells in the Balkans. Moreover, the European members of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul can work so effectively together and with the United States only because of decades of practical cooperation in NATO.
Likewise, the assistance of the Central Asian countries, without whose airspace and bases success in Afghanistan would have been impossible, is the product of years of quiet work building partnership and trust in the Alliance. Above all, the political support provided by Europe, and made concrete through invoking NATO's Article V, is an invaluable contribution in and of itself. So to my mind, the US has seen, appreciated, and relied on the concrete support provided by its allies in this struggle.
Q: Do you think NATO, having invoked Article V - its collective defence pledge - could or should have played a more prominent role in the war on terrorism?
A: As I just mentioned, I believe NATO, and NATO's members, have already played a prominent and important role in the war on terrorism.
And as we move toward our November summit of heads of state and government, the Alliance is quickly adapting to be better able to combat terrorism in future.
Amongst many other steps, allies will improve intelligence sharing; our forces will be better equipped and trained to protect our populations against terrorism and the so-called asymmetric threats such as weapons of mass destruction; and we will deepen our cooperation with non-NATO countries in this area, as many of them have valuable contributions to make as well.
Q: Some analysts suggest that NATO is developing into a more political than military organisation. Is there any justification for that view?
A: NATO has always been a political organisation with a security focus and a military vocation.
That hasn't changed. The Alliance is still pursuing important political projects: assisting the transition of new democracies; promoting European integration by bringing in new members; integrating Russia and Ukraine into Europe as stable, contributing and prospering countries; and maintaining the health of the transatlantic relationship.
At the same time, however, NATO is a unique crisis manager, and an unprecedented organiser of multinational military operations. That, too, has not changed.
Q: What role is NATO playing in efforts to resolve the question of assured EU access to NATO operational planning capabilities?
A: Of course, all NATO allies want to solve this question as quickly as possible.
Permanent arrangements between NATO and the EU, on this question and many others, are key to the successful development of Europe as a security actor.
That is why we have all been working very hard to solve any outstanding issues.
I am confident that we are now very close to find agreement, which will benefit NATO, the EU and more broadly Euro-Atlantic security.
Q: Not everyone agrees that NATO enlargement is a good thing. What do you say to the doubters?
A: I say look at the record. Each time NATO has taken in new members (four times since 1949), there were concerns that NATO would lose focus, or speed of response, or effectiveness.
Instead, NATO entered the 21st century as the most effective, most capable alliance in history. And each time, enlargement promoted reform, and enhanced stability for the new members.
Today's enlargement process is no different. It makes sense for NATO, it makes sense for aspiring countries, and it makes sense for Europe.
Interview with Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|