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Roundtable on DoD views concerning NATO-European Union defense planning.

Presenters: Dr. Frank Kramer, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
October 18, 2000

(Roundtable on DoD views concerning NATO-European Union defense planning. Also participating was Lisa Bronson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs)

Kramer: -- is seeking to do more and more, and we welcome that.

From our perspective, it's hard to imagine any real scenario with a significant use of force in which the U.S. would not be involved or where the allies wouldn't want us involved in that kind of situation, but nonetheless, as the French defense minister said, Europe wants to have the capability to put out fires in its own backyard if NATO as a whole is not engaged, and we think that makes sense also.

So what we have undertaken to do is to ensure that NATO and the EU work closely together. That means common priorities, that means common planning procedures. It means common forces, and I think this is the fundamental point. There's only one set of forces. If they are potentially two different political directives, they have to have common priorities, common planning so that there won't be inconsistent directives for those single set of forces. That means there has to be a real transparency.

We have had discussions, therefore, about planning of NATO, we've had discussions about ensuring the participation of NATO members who are not EU members in the EU process, and I'm happy to get into detail.

And we also had discussions on increasing capabilities which, as you know, has been an important aspect for us with the NATO Defense Capabilities Initiative. And we have some progress on that. Some examples are we have five countries working on developing a consortium to purchase precision-guided munitions. We have discussions, nothing final, of a European Airlift Command. The Germans and the French are leading that effort. The French and the Dutch are working on what they call a Maritime Coordination Cell focused on sealift. There are at least seven countries who are involved in a major transformation of their forces at various stages. The U.K. which is having a strategic defense review; the French have been doing this for a number of years; Germany which just announced its program, had it approved by the parliament last week as I recall; Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

So let me stop there. I don't want to make too long a speech, but that's the broad perspective from which I see it, and I'm here to answer questions.

Q: Let me take on the planning cell issue. I guess I don't understand how that will work. To me when I read that, it sounded like well, okay, we'll accept the European parity with NATO but through the planning cell we still have veto powers, essentially over new actions. So how do you think that can be sold, and how will that work?

Kramer: I'm going to give you a somewhat long answer and we can talk about this.

There are three levels of planning that we need to talk about if you're going to get the full picture. They have names that are a little bit jargony. I'll try to explain what they really mean.

There's strategic planning, force planning, and operational planning, and let me come back to each.

Strategic planning you might think about as the political planning associated when a crisis develops. It's what the NAC talks about -- North Atlantic Council -- and the Europeans will have their comparable arm in the EU. They'll need a little, relatively small group to support that, to help propose options and the like for their ministers, for their permanent representatives, a lot of whom by the way overlap with NATO.

Secondly you have what NATO calls force planning. That is to say when NATO sets goals for its member states, how many forces would be available to the alliance, the nature of the force, its quality, etc., etc., how you improve them and the like. And we are talking about... We have had a meeting already of the NATO countries and the EU countries to discuss this in these, I don't know how up you are on this, but we've had sort of a series of four different informal type group meetings. Security is one of them, this force planning is another. And we've proposed, the Secretary proposed in his paper that we continue to do some of this, it's again a jargony word, at 23. If you add up all the countries who are in NATO and the EU, there are 19 in NATO and 15 in EU, but because of the overlap there are only a total of 23. So you'd have some ability to do this at 23.

Because of the Partnership for Peace, most of the EU non-NATO countries -- Sweden would be a good example -- already are doing some kind of force planning with NATO in the PARP. Help me, Lisa.

Bronson: Partnership Assessment and Review Process.

Kramer: Another jargony word that you can see I don't remember. But the point is simply that it's defense planning for non-NATO countries with NATO in the context of the Partnership for Peace.

So to bring these countries together with NATO is not hard because it's already being done for the most part. The one country as I think you all know that doesn't do that kind of planning with NATO is France, and they're working out how they're going to do this because they have the issues for themselves with respect to the headline goal and their capabilities conference and how they're going to do all of that.

But other than that, all the countries are already planning with NATO.

Then there's the third level, operational planning. That's a good way to think about it. That would be contingency plans. How do you actually operate?

SHAPE has a tremendous capability to do that. We have had all of these countries involved in actual operations in Bosnia and now in Kosovo. And there is, again, if you'll pardon me, a jargon term which is called Berlin Plus. Berlin was the 1996 meeting in Germany where amongst other things there was an agreement to go forward with the SDI effort, an agreement to use the Deputy SACEUR as an important element to be the strategic commander for the EU forces, or what was then the WEU forces, or the European forces.

Berlin Plus means, among other things, that the Europeans would have assured access to the NATO planning mechanism, even if the U.S. was not involved. So there is no veto. It's a long answer to your question, but I think it's important for you to know. And we've agreed on Berlin plus, we've been working our way forward. There have been some issues about how to go forward, and some countries have been concerned about going forward too fast if there's not comparable involvement in the EU processes for NATO countries who are not a member of the EU, and that's all been working its way forward.

I would hope by December, as I say the round of meetings that will take place in December for NATO and also the EU meetings, that we would have it either totally or effectively if not formally worked out.

Q: My impression was that the staffs, the SHAPE planning staffs, were largely U.S.

Kramer: No. That's just wrong. That maybe your impression, but probably if you go over there and talk to them they'll show you an American, but I can't give you an exact percentage, but it's largely not American.

Q: Okay.

Kramer: There are certainly Americans, but not... And also, again, not suggesting that you were making this mistake, but just remember we do have U.S. forces... General Ralston's head of CINCEUR. He has a lot of component commands there, and he has EUCOM, which can do planning. So again... But SHAPE is a multinational force...

Q: ...talking about...

Kramer: Exactly. And it's mainly Europeans.

Q: How are assets affected? For example, the NATO AWACS in a scenario that the EU countries want to use them and the U.S. may not be inclined to.

Kramer: Again, that's part of Berlin Plus, to provide presumed availability of NATO assets. And one of the theoretical, though I must say improbable circumstances, is if NATO was involved in one or two scenarios and there's also an EU one, there's the issue of how would you allocate that. That's why it's presumed availability. But NATO has indicated that we'll lean forward and in the normal circumstance, assuming that there was a scenario in which the United States was not involved, that called for the use of the NATO assets, then I would expect that those assets would be available.

Q: Isn't that sort of a far-fetched scenario, that we would have many scenarios going on at that time?

Kramer: Yes, and that's what I said at the beginning when I said it's hard for me to think of a scenario in which there's a significant use of force, in which number one, from our perspective, our interests were not involved to a substantial degree; and number two, from the Europeans' perspective, that they wouldn't want us to be there.

So I think the likelihood is that in any significant, and I can't define that exactly, scenario, we would be there.

It is not irrelevant, however, for the Europeans to say well just in the event that something happened, we should be able to, for example, in (French defense minister Alain) Richard's words, put out fires in our own back yard, take care of our own problems. That makes good sense, too.

So if you recognize that, or you accept my point of view which is that there's only one set of forces to start with, there are no new armies. That stuff is inaccurate, any headline -- I'm not suggesting that you guys have written that, but there are no new armies. There are new ways of organizing for possible scenarios. The probability being that we would all continue to work together as we have.

But to give you a real life example, in the problems that Albania had in 1997, I believe it was. I may get my dates wrong. The Italians actually led a European effort. I can't remember the number of countries involved. If it's important we can get it to you. They were Europeans. We, the U.S., did provide them some support if I recall correctly, intelligence support, and we may have done a little bit of logistical. It was a very small operation, and later of course NATO got involved in Albania and we've been there, too. For the larger effort we were obviously there. So it's not a bad example of what might occur, although it shows you that it's not, this is not completely off the boards. It's not a wholly theoretical exercise. But that was not a major situation, and in major situations we have been there.

Q: And in a scenario like that, and NATO holding jointly operated assets, in this case AWACS and at some point there may be more in the future. The Europeans could call on them if they need to do that? How do you decide how many European countries need to be doing this?

Kramer: The finales of those agreements are exactly what we're in the process of working out so I don't want to give you more of an answer than I can give you.

The concept is they would be available. The concept is that it would be the EU that would be the organizing institution for the European involvement.

I've already said that one of the more important things is that... There are 15 members of the EU. There are a lot more countries in Europe than 15. And one of the very important issues is how to involve the countries of Europe who are not members of the EU, and in particular, the NATO members. Because, among other things, first of all their interests are involved. Secondly, as you have implicitly pointed out and I will say so explicitly, their assets are involved. So they would want to be there.

So we'll need to work out the exact mechanisms. We had worked out some arrangements with the WEU which didn't get, if I recall correctly, it never got totally finalized, but there was an agreement that was written out, and I don't think this would be hard. It's always hard to get the final semicolon on a piece of paper, but the concept basically is if there's a problem we want a solution to be available, and if part of the solution is making the assets available that would be good sense.

Remember, if you say NATO/EU, that tends to act as if they're two different entities, and that's true in some sense, but 11 out of the 15 EU members are NATO members, and then you've got eight of the 19, so 11 out of the 19 of the NATO members are EU members. So the countries that are not are the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

Q: Norway?

Kramer: Oh, pardon me. Norway, right. And Turkey.

Q: How does this fit into the desire on this side of the Atlantic for Europe to be able to handle some of its own problems? And what's the danger of empowering Europe so much that they can jettison the United States?

Kramer: Well, number one, we have said that we are in favor for a long time of Europe enhancing its capabilities, and we are also in favor of them being able to go forward with their own solution if for some reason or other we can't be involved.

I brought down for you, just so you could take a look if you wanted to, a whole bunch of the communiques on this point. Communiques are dry as dust, but they nonetheless are positions of the United States. You'll see I started with the Berlin one, which is June 1996, and then every single one of them you'll see the position is that one of the objectives is the development of the European Security and Defense Identity. The U.S. signs these communiques. So they're ours, and you can have these if you want to.

Secretary Cohen likewise, contrary to some of the stories that came out... Again, I just went back and quickly, I didn't pull anything, but the good folks in public affairs did, some of his statements, for example of February earlier this year, this is a quote. He says, "We in the United States endorse it", that's the SDI, "and support it, provided that it does what Secretary General Robinson has talked about, and that is maintains the three I's which is indivisibly, no severance, between NATO and the SDI, improving the capabilities, and inclusive."

Now that point about indivisibility goes to your second point which is well, is this going to break the trans-Atlantic link, if you will. Again, to use jargon.

The United States has vital interests in Europe. Europe has a vital interest in the U.S. continuing our involvement there. So at the interest level we have huge reasons to stay together. The effort here has been to enhance overall capabilities, both in the operational forces sense and in the institutional sense that they can take action without causing that schism that you talked about. That's why we have worked so hard to say, and that's why the Europeans have agreed to say, that they might go forward with their own activity, but that's when NATO as a whole is not engaged. That's a European statement, not a U.S. statement. It's a statement that's very welcome to us. And at the same time we've had comparable statements in the NATO communiques.

So the idea is to avoid the very problem that you talked about, and you do that by both having, as I said earlier, common priorities, common goals, then you set up the institutions in such a way that they won't generate problems but they'll be able to work together.

Right now we are doing reasonably well. We aren't finished. There is work to be done. Some of the problems are not solved. We don't have these agreements for short access written out, as I said. We have working groups working. We have some more technical things that have to be finalized like working groups and security, the participation issue which involves, for example, as some people mentioned, Norway and Turkey. Well, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland. Also NATO members. It has to be resolved, and we're working along step by step. I don't want to tell you everything is done until it's done, but I do want to tell you that the process is reasonably sensible and making progress. If it was all finished and we didn't have any issues, then I would just say it's finished, but we're midway. But it's midway...

Q: Do you hope to have it finished pretty much by December?

Kramer: I hope to have a lot of it done by December. I wouldn't expect to have everything finalized because it's just too hard from an institutional point of view.

But there was a very good reaction throughout the alliance to the Secretary's statement, and we put down some particular ideas which had been floating around, but he made them concrete and, if you will, formal. It was informal in the sense that he put them out like this meeting at 23 kind of concept. And now it gives a good basis on which to organize the conversation, if you will.

So this is news or this is... Let me say it differently. You guys decide on what's news. This is important to the alliance not because it was a change in position but because what it does is it develops and advances in very particular and concrete ways, the position and allows the Europeans to know very clearly where we stand, that we support it, but also that we have some things we want to get done. And again, I don't want to overburden this. I'm happy to talk about anything you want. But the defense planning at 23 idea was not an idea that had been put out in public before like this, so that was new news. The short access to assets had been, but we reconfirmed it. The talk about participation. Of course he was the one who launched the Defense Capabilities Initiative two years ago, so he's been talking about that regularly, he talked about some of the progress in that. I think that's what the speech was about.

Q: My question is, why now? What prompted the Secretary at this point, fairly late in his tenure with only a few more weeks left, to... why this speech now? Why not a few months ago when he would have had more time to implement this?

Kramer: Number one, we've been doing a number of things and you have to do them step by step. This speech at this point allowed us, as I said, for him to get out an organizing principle, a series of points around which the alliance could help shape its decisions for December. He has done this on other issues before. When he launched the Defense Capabilities Initiative in 1998 he used the informal meeting in September to get ready for the formal decisions which were made in December of that year, prior to the summit. I think it goes it too far to call it traditional, but this is a regular format and we have often used the informal this way.

Q: Our policy on a lot of those things, intelligence sharing for example... There's the NATO countries and then Japan and maybe Australia are in kind of a separate category. With this new structure, if there any thought to expanding to the - EU members because things that are available to NATO would now almost be automatically available to the EU planning staffs?

Kramer: One of the issues that we're looking at... Good question. I think one of the issues that we're looking at is the security issue. I told you that. And how you... what is it that you can provide to other countries who are not currently getting those things and what is more difficult.

Some of the countries who are not NATO members but who are EU members have very good security systems. Sweden would be a perfect example. They're not allies, but they have a very good system of protecting information and the like and we have, for that reason, been able to have good industrial cooperation with them.

Again, we have to just take a look at this. I wouldn't, I don't know that you used the word automatic, but I wouldn't want to say that everything that goes to NATO would automatically go to the EU. I would doubt that. But I think we would want to have a good amount of sharing.

Again, the core reason for that is because most of the EU countries are NATO members and are getting it, so...

Q: Which ones aren't?

Kramer: Sweden, Finland.

Bronson: Austria and Ireland.

Kramer: Right.

Q: What has France's reaction to this been? And would this be a way to get them back in more solidly into the NATO planning?

Kramer: France has worked... Let me say the part I know the very best.

The Ministry of Defense of France has worked very closely with us. One indication and one useful background set of information would be to take a look at the speeches that Minister Richard gave when he was here -- It was February I think of this year. It was definitely this year. I think he gave two speeches. One's a longer one, one a somewhat shorter one. And I think he came over deliberately in order to speak to, if you will, an American audience. I mean he not only saw us, which is normal, but he went on the Hill, went public and the like, so that there would be a clear understanding.

Secondly, the reaction to this particular presentation has been very positive, both, if you will, privately and publicly. So we've heard a lot of positive.

But I will say that that's not only France, it's been... My experience so far, it's across the board.

Q: What about the U.S. contribution to the NATO assets? Would that create a conundrum if we have U.S. forces in, as part of the NATO assets, that the EU could deploy?

Kramer: Ask me the question again.

Q: If we have American members aboard NATO AWACS, or if NATO expands its assets...

Kramer: Right. You have precisely that question, again it's a very good question, in how can you both be in and out at the same time?

I think there's a major difference between providing all your forces. Back in the old world in which I once lived in at one spot of time, the ten divisions in ten days, as opposed to just having a few guys on an airplane. There are other situations in which we'll secunda guide movement to another force and they'll work with that force. So this is not the only time it comes up.

But again, it's one of the things that we need to be precise on. I don't have -- I personally don't have a problem with it, we just need to be clear to ourselves and to the Congress what they're doing so they understand where we're headed.

Q: I assume that, let's take the AWACS for an example, because that's what I think of right now.. There's an EU operation. For one reason or another we decide not to get involved. We're occupied somewhere else.

I assume that would just mean that the aircraft supports the EU operation. There would be no U.S....

Kramer: And that may be the way it turns out.

Q: But that's not necessarily the case.

Kramer: Right, and it hasn't, and we haven't worked out the details. By that I mean we haven't worked out the details one way or another.

Q: Fair enough. But that sort of thing, those communications assets...

Kramer: Right. But we have not ruled out that some U.S. personnel might be involved, and if it's necessary, again, I don't want to tell you more than... Once upon a time I knew a lot about the NATO AWACS because I was involved in developing the program. But I'm vague to say the least on what the manning is these days, and we can get you that if its useful.

There's no point in saying we're going to provide assets but then -- I'm making this up. It's a hypothetical. -- Fifty percent of the people were U.S. and we pull them away so they can't work the assets. We're not trying to do that. We're not trying to pull the rug out.

So the idea would basically be to make sure that the assets are available and workable. I've got a high -- or much more important, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States -- have to figure out how we do that precisely and be clear on that.

But no, it has not been ruled out that there would be some U.S. people involved. And I go back to the example of the Albania -- it was called Operation Alba. We weren't involved in the operation. We did provide some relatively modest, I honestly don't remember exactly what it was, but my recollection is we did a little bit of intelligence support, a little bit of logistics.

Q: (inaudible)

Kramer: You may be right. That's your answer, not mine. I'm not saying it's wrong. I just honestly don't remember.

Q: A few U.S. troops in Bosnia, when there are no U.S. troops in Bosnia.

Kramer: For example.

Q: What was Lord Robertson's reaction to the speech?

Kramer: I think he was very pleased with it. I'm trying to remember. I think he did not make, I'm just visualizing here. I do not recall him making a direct response in the context of the meeting other than to say it was a very positive speech. But he asked lots of people to speak so you wouldn't expect him to. And I didn't see his news conference afterwards so I'm a little... I have no doubt that it was received positively, but I honestly can't tell you the specifics of it, so... I'm sure you guys could get off the internet his news conference, but we were preparing for the Secretary so I didn't see it.

Q: He wasn't real pleased about the coverage, I'll say that.

Kramer: Is that right?

Q: What are the primary challenges you have between now and December when you get some more things shaped up?

Kramer: I think there are a couple of challenges. One, the Europeans themselves have the challenge of what they call the Capabilities Conference. There's one more C in there.

Bronson: Capabilities and Commitments Conference.

Kramer: Right. And that's when they come forward with their own statement themselves of the kinds of forces they will provide to meet the headline goal. This is the so-called 60,000 person force.

Again, I want to say the Europeans have under arms well over a million people, so providing 60,000 is not the trick. The trick for them is to do the same thing as in the Defense Capabilities Initiative, to have forces that can go some place -- mobility; that have the necessary capabilities -- we focus on lethality, precision guided munitions; that can be sustained away from home.

In the old days, the Soviet days, for very good reasons people thought that they would have to fight in place, so you could have a support system that relied on your country being right there. That was not a mistake that was the right decision. That threat having gone away, you need to change the nature of the force.

This is not because anybody made bad decisions in the past, it's because the circumstances of the present and the future have changed.

Anyway, one thing is they have to go through their capabilities conference and commitment conference.

Second of all, I mentioned a number of things that we're doing, various countries are doing on the, under the DCI. That needs to continue.

You wouldn't expect between now and December that any of these countries that are in the process of transforming their forces will have finished. First of all, it's a never-ending process; and second of all, it takes more than a few months to make progress, but they need to be going forward. And you can tell whether they're going forward or not, and that's very important.

The third thing is that we would hope on the institutional side to have some of these arrangements that I talked about, either agreed to or sort of far enough down the road that they're not done with finality, but we have so to speak a handshake deal and it's got to be put into lawyer form. That hopefully would be a good understanding of how countries who are not in NATO would participate -- excuse me. Countries who are not in the EU but are NATO members would participate in EU. That's important. A good understanding of how NATO would in fact provide the assets for a European operation.

We haven't talked specifically about the Deputy SACEUR, but the concept is he would be the strategic commander for a European operation. That was worked out in the context of Berlin. That needs to be formally translated over into the EU context, because before it was for the WEU. So we need to finalize that.

I mentioned the security agreement. That's an interim agreement.

I don't think all of these things will be done by then, but I would hope for progress on them all and maybe some to get done.

Q: Thank you, sir.