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Informal NATO Defense Ministerial Meeting
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, , Tuesday, October 10, 2000

At this mid-point between our important formal meetings, it is very useful collectively to step back and look again at the big picture. From my perspective, the big picture looks like this. During the decade since German unification, Europe’s security environment has changed dramatically. The Alliance has faced new security challenges, for example, the violent spiral of conflicts in the Balkans. NATO has shown itself to be flexible, adaptable, and relevant in meeting these new challenges.

We also have embraced new opportunities—for example, through the Partnership for Peace and special outreach to Russia and Ukraine—to advance our shared vision of a Euro-Atlantic family of nations committed to democratic governance, economic prosperity, and the rule of law. In the Alliance’s Strategic Concept approved at the Washington Summit, we have an excellent, comprehensive blueprint for NATO’s indispensable role in strengthening transatlantic security in the new millennium. That said, developments since the Washington Summit have given us an even clearer appreciation of challenges that we must address together as Allies, and I would like to focus on two of these.

First, we must develop a clearer and, to be blunt, a more positive vision of the future NATO-EU relationship. For my part, I am convinced that a close, coherent, cooperative, and transparent relationship will prove to be in the best interest of Allies and EU members, both current and future, and further our overarching vision for the entire Euro-Atlantic community in all its political, economic, social, and security dimensions.

Second, we must ensure that the Alliance and the EU have the necessary military capabilities to perform their respective missions. This means that both organizations must: take a hard look at what they really need in terms of military capabilities, based upon an objective assessment of current and likely future threats; identify those areas where their capabilities fall short; agree together on how to rectify those shortfalls; and find the resources for the task.

In my view, these challenges are closely interrelated. Meeting these will take political courage, a sense of cooperation and compromise, and adequate resources. But I am convinced they can be met while fully respecting the autonomy and integrity of decision-making in both organizations and with each organization dealing with the other on an equal footing.


NATO will continue to be the indispensable anchor of American engagement in European security matters and the foundation for assuring the collective defense of Alliance members. At the same time, it is right and natural that an increasingly integrated Europe seeks to develop its own Security and Defense Policy with a military capability to back it up. Let me be clear on America’s position: we agree with this goal—not grudgingly, not with resignation, but with wholehearted conviction. The notion that Europe must begin to prepare for an eventual American withdrawal from Europe has no foundation in fact or in policy.

While there is always debate within the United States on how we fulfill our long-term role in Europe, there is a broad consensus that the United States intends to remain fully engaged in European security issues, both politically and militarily. The United States intends to remain a global force for peace and stability with a continuing focus on Europe. Our deployment of troops, our active engagement in European issues and the broad support for NATO across the political spectrum testifies to this fact. It is overwhelmingly likely that in any situation where any ally’s involvement on a significant scale is justified, and where there is a consensus in Europe to undertake a military operation, the United States would be part of the operation.

In addition, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which the United States was prepared to participate, but our European Allies would prefer to act alone. That said, it is clear that in the future NATO will no longer be the only major multilateral structure with a role in responding to crises, including military crises, which could affect European stability and security. At the same time, as Alain Richard stated very succinctly in a speech last February, "[Europeans] want to be able to put out fires in their own backyards." This is confirmed in the EU’s Presidency Conclusions from the Helsinki summit last December, wherein the European Council stated its intention to "develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises."

We recognize that development of a foreign and security dimension to the EU is a natural, even inevitable, part of the process of European integration begun after World War II—a process that the United States consciously promoted as early as 1947, when we encouraged Western European states to cooperate among themselves as part of our Marshall Plan assistance. Therefore, the United States actively supports European efforts to increase and improve their contribution to collective defense and crisis response operations within NATO, through the ESDI, and to build a capability, through the ESDP, to act militarily under the EU where NATO as a whole is not engaged.

We seek a relationship that will benefit the current, and the potential future, members of both organizations—a relationship wherein NATO and EU efforts to strengthen European security are coherent and mutually reinforcing; the autonomy and integrity of decision-making in both organizations are respected, each organization dealing with the other on an equal footing; both organizations place a high premium on transparency, close and frequent contacts on a wide range of levels, and efforts that are complementary; and there is no discrimination against any of the member states of either organization.

Since we last met in Brussels, I believe significant progress has been made in forging positive links between NATO and the EU. For example, we have reached an interim security agreement between NATO and the EU to permit the exchange of classified documents and sensitive information; NATO and EU experts have conducted an intensive and fruitful series of consultations to flesh out the list of forces and capabilities required to achieve the EU’s Headline Goal; and the NAC has held the first of what we hope will become regular meetings with the EU’s interim Political and Security Committee and its eventual permanent successor.

However, important work remains to be done to achieve our goal. We should be ambitious in this regard, not prisoners of past practice or theologians who quibble over the most unlikely of scenarios or abstract formulations. For example, I would foresee that at regular intervals, NATO and EU members would meet at 23—at the level of Permanent Representatives and of Ministers—to consider cooperative approaches to building security and preventing conflict within our Euro-Atlantic community and beyond; respond effectively to crises that we cannot prevent; and rebuild war-torn societies after the shooting stops so that the cycle of violence will not repeat itself.

I also would foresee frequent contacts between NATO and EU secretariats and staffs, both military and civilian, where subjects could be addressed on the basis of joint papers. NATO can and should be flexible and generous in establishing such a relationship. Equally, the EU—a strong, confident, and vibrant institution that has accomplished so much in bringing Europeans toward an "ever closer union" in so many areas—can and should be flexible and generous in its outreach to fellow Europeans who currently are not members. In this regard, let me emphasize that it is not the place of the United States to offer any specific prescription to the EU on the "participation" issue.

However, it is clear to many Allies and EU countries that, to build the best foundation for success of any EU-led operation, the six non-EU European Allies should be invited to participate, to the widest possible extent, in EU preparations to meet its Headline Goal and to consult closely with EU members before an EU decision on a military operation. In addition, once EU members have decided to conduct an operation, non-EU European Allies willing to contribute to the operation understandably should participate in decision-shaping on implementation of that operation—not unlike Partners who have elected to contribute to a NATO-led crisis response operation.

This participation by non-EU European Allies seems justified to many Allies and EU members alike on several grounds. After all, the non-EU European Allies share security guarantees with the NATO members of the EU; they contribute to common NATO assets that likely would be available to the EU; and they likely would be willing to contribute their important national capabilities to EU military operations.

So let us turn to the way ahead, and here I believe some concrete next steps can be taken soon, especially when several key underlying principles already have been agreed. I have in mind, of course, the "Berlin-plus" decisions at the Washington Summit, wherein our heads of state and government pledged assured EU access to NATO planning capabilities able to contribute to military planning for EU-led operations; the presumption of availability to the EU of pre-identified NATO capabilities and common assets for use in EU-led operations; identification of a range of European command options for EU-led operations, further developing the role of DSACEUR in order for him to assume fully and effectively his European responsibilities; and the further adaptation of NATO’s defense planning system to incorporate more comprehensively the availability of forces for EU-lead operations.

NATO should move forward now on "Berlin plus," starting with those elements where, I believe, there is more than adequate basis for demonstrating to the EU that NATO—in deeds as well as words—intends to be a reliable partner. Specifically, we believe that the EU should be able to count on NATO’s operational and defense planning capabilities in peacetime, during an emerging crisis, during an EU-led crisis response operation using NATO capabilities and common assets, and during an EU-led crisis response operation that does not use NATO capabilities and common assets.

We should not lose time arguing over highly improbable scenarios that are advanced with the intent of demonstrating that NATO operational planners somehow would be "overtaxed" by multiple crises and, therefore, unable to respond to EU requirements. After all, under existing Ministerial Guidance, NATO must have the capability to conduct up to three major operations, including two corps-sized crisis response operations, which implies of course that we must maintain a quite robust planning capability, which will not be overtaxed by concurrent operations. In the real world, if Europe were to face one or more crisis response operations, we are confident that priorities for how to apportion NATO operational planning resources will be self-evident to all concerned.

In regard to defense planning, which would not be directly affected by crisis operations, we would envision a unitary, coherent, and collaborative approach that meets the needs of both NATO and the EU. I could very well imagine this unitary approach taking the form of a "European Security and Defense Planning System," or "ESDPS."

Our rationale for this approach is very straightforward. Every European country, like the United States, has only one set of forces and one defense budget. It would be highly ineffective, seriously wasteful of resources, and contradictory to the basic principles of close NATO-EU cooperation that we hope to establish if NATO and the EU were to proceed along the path of relying on autonomous force planning structures. This is particularly true when 11 of the 15 current EU members are members of the Alliance, and 10 of these participate in the existing NATO defense planning process. Thus, it is hard to conceive of any argument based on logic, practicality, or effectiveness that European Allies who are also EU members should proceed along separate defense planning tracks—one within NATO, the other within the EU—to prepare for the same range of crisis response operations.

The same reasoning applies to the four non-NATO EU members. We should recall that these Partner countries participate in the Planning and Review Process (PARP)—the essential purpose of which is to better prepare Partners to participate effectively in NATO-led crisis response operations. Thus, it is hard to understand why they would be better off by creating a new, separate defense planning and operational planning track in the EU.

Practically speaking, ESDPS would entail a combined and fully reciprocal NATO-EU defense planning process, enabling all 23 NATO and EU members to track how others will be meeting their complementary NATO Force Goals and EU Headline Goal objectives. Under ESDPS, Turkey, for example, would be present when the headline goals of EU countries are reviewed; similarly, Sweden, to cite another example, would have a seat at the table when the force goals of Allies are reviewed. Such steps would go far toward achieving a high level of transparency, which in turn would reinforce our progress toward a unitary, coherent, and cooperative ESDPS.

In this context, we should note that ESDPS, not unlike NATO’s Defense Planning process, would not commit any country to participate in a given crisis response operation; that would remain a political decision for each country to take according to its own constitutional prerogatives. And conducting an operation would be a matter for decision by the EU and NATO respectively.

There would be no contradiction between the four non-NATO EU members gaining broad transparency into NATO Defense Planning and the eight non-EU NATO members gaining reciprocal transparency into the EU headline goal process and these nations’ status outside NATO and the EU respectively. Simply put, the issue is creating a rational, cooperative, complementary NATO-EU approach to building security across the Euro-Atlantic community; it is not about bringing four of the 15 EU members into NATO through the backdoor or the six non-EU NATO members into the EU.

On another dimension of "Berlin plus," the United States believes the role of DSACEUR should be straightforward and robust. We envision DSACEUR as the "strategic coordinator" between NATO and the EU in peacetime, including the role of "force generator" during a crisis. He should perform this function during an emerging crisis; an EU-led crisis response operation using NATO assets; and an EU-led crisis response operation that does not use NATO assets.

Our experience in Kosovo serves as a useful example of the practical benefits of such an arrangement. Partners were brought into the planning process for KFOR early on through the Political-Military Framework, which helped smooth their participation once their national authorities gave political approval for actual deployment. I should emphasize here that, in offering this way ahead on ESDPS and on the role of DSACEUR, we have no intention somehow to diminish the EU’s capability for independent decision and direction, which understandably would include planning at a strategic level.

Indeed, we recognize that the EU would require such capabilities to be credibly prepared to consider and, if agreed, undertake a specific crisis response operation. Still, we are convinced that practical solutions are at hand for realizing the vision of a close, collaborative, and transparent NATO-EU relationship that I outlined above. This is why it is so important at this historic juncture—when European countries are building new capabilities and preparing to take on the increased responsibilities "in their own backyard"—that our countries rise above the temptation to seek tactical victories at every turn.


Even as we work to adapt and strengthen the structures of Euro-Atlantic security, we cannot let up on efforts to improve our military capabilities in the fields most relevant to modern warfare. We know in general where the needs lie. The task is to take the specific steps needed to meet them. This is a multifaceted effort, with several key elements coming together this fall.

It is important at this point to note that the EU draft "catalogue of forces" prepared for the Capabilities Commitment Conference and reviewed by NATO experts contains requirements that are very similar, if not identical, to those identified within the Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI). This should not surprise anyone, since capabilities—such as strategic lift, deployable C3I, precision guided munitions (PGMs), support jamming, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), and chemical and biological protection—needed for "high end" Petersberg tasks undertaken under EU leadership would logically be the same as those needed by Allies for demanding NATO-led crisis response operations.

In NATO, Ministerial Guidance serves a vital role by providing NATO Military Authorities with political guidance on what the Alliance expects the military to be able to do. While it is premature to discuss possible specific refinements to Ministerial Guidance 1998, it is appropriate that we use this occasion to exchange ideas on our conceptual approach to future Ministerial Guidance.

Our approach should be guided by a realistic assessment of the current and likely future threat environment, which clearly has moved even further away from the worst case and very remote scenario of a large-scale conventional Article 5 threat to NATO territory. While the Alliance must maintain the capability to meet its Article 5 mission in the face of any emerging threat, whether a land operation or missile or WMD attack, our experience in the Balkans demonstrates that we also must have the capability to conduct significant crisis response operations.

In addition, our experience in Kosovo demonstrates that the old paradigm of thinking about NATO missions—i.e., that Article 5 scenarios in all circumstances would be the largest, most demanding of missions and that non-Article 5 operations would be relatively short, small, police-like peacekeeping missions—has to be discarded once and for all. Specifically, I would remind colleagues that we conducted over 38,000 sorties in Kosovo, and one of the planning scenarios developed during that crisis would have called for an Allied ground force of approximately 200,000 personnel.

Therefore, the time has come to consider a conceptual refinement to Ministerial Guidance that clearly reflects our need for forces incorporating our five DCI areas of deployability and mobility, sustainability and logistics, command and control information systems, effective engagement, and survivability of forces and infrastructure. After all, these are the types of forces the Alliance would need for any Article 5 or non-Article 5 operation.

This conceptual refinement also would recognize two broad categories of NATO missions: one that requires a high state of readiness for very capable, deployable, and sustainable forces able to undertake the most demanding operations in a short period of time; and one that requires an ability to reconstitute such forces in the event a different type of threat emerges beyond the current planning period.

There can be no dispute that the existing Force Structure contains important anomalies, such as the fact that it includes only one rapid reaction force—the UK-led ARRC—notwithstanding Ministerial Guidance that posits the need for an Alliance capability for three major operations, including two corps-sized crisis response operations. There also can be no doubt that the requirement for a Force Structure that totals over fifty divisions no longer appears credible, given the current and projected threat environment, and should be reduced at the same time that the deployability and sustainability capabilities of those forces need to be increased.

Because Ministerial Guidance serves as the basis upon which NATO will formulate its Force Structure, Force Proposals and eventually agreed Force Goals, it is critical that our analysis, assessments, and direction be as realistic, thorough, objective, and clearly stated as possible. Absent clearer Ministerial Guidance, we risk perpetuating the aforementioned anomalies by steering our Defense Planning system incorrectly toward identifying Force Structure requirements for the type of heavy, static, territorial defense-focused forces that were more appropriate for the Cold War than for the most likely challenges of today and tomorrow, whether Article 5 or non-Article 5. In addition, we perhaps should consider whether the role of Partners in NATO-led crisis response operations—a role which we have seen validated in Bosnia and Kosovo and which we are working to strengthen through the PARP and PFP Operational Capabilities Concept—should be integrated into Ministerial Guidance.

We must keep in mind that our decisions on Ministerial Guidance are closely interrelated with DCI implementation, and in this regard, the Alliance has made some noteworthy progress since the Washington Summit. For example, several Allies have taken important steps toward restructuring their forces and/or reallocating their defense resources consistent with both DCI and the Alliance’s Strategic Concept. Several are looking seriously at joint procurement of certain defense equipment and technologies, including precision guided munitions. In addition, several countries recently have announced an increase in defense spending, in real terms, over the next few years, which will further their ability to implement DCI goals.

I congratulate those who have argued successfully for such increases, despite understandable pressures to direct resources elsewhere. I encourage others to continue to press for the additional resources needed to create the capabilities we all agree that we need.

The United States also supports Secretary General Robertson’s call for putting in place specific DCI cooperative projects by the next NATO Summit. We see particular promise in the proposals for a multinational purchase of a wide-body airlift fleet, joint funding of a core Alliance support jamming capability, and coordinated development, acquisition, maintenance and storage of PGMs (precision guided munitions), including SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) munitions. The United States remains committed to doing our part, for example by augmenting or accelerating procurement in major DCI areas such as strategic airlift, ground surveillance, electronic jamming, and PGMs.

We also are pursuing implementation of our Defense Trade Security Initiative, streamlining our export control processes to improve the chances for industry on both sides of the Atlantic to share critical technologies, improve the ability of our respective military forces to operate together, and reduce further the risk of diversion of sensitive technologies to potential adversaries.

Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency. It is noteworthy that, since the Washington Summit, references to "improving defense capabilities" have come to permeate our speeches, multilateral discussions, and bilateral agendas. Nevertheless, to use a popular American expression, when it comes to improving defense capabilities, the Alliance cannot just "talk the talk"; it must "walk the walk." Thus, I would ask all ministers personally to look into how we can accelerate real progress on DCI goals between now and our December ministerial.

Capabilities should not only be a concern of NATO, however, particularly as the EU countries approach next month’s Capabilities Commitment Conference in Brussels. Those Allies who are not members of the EU share an important interest with those who are: we want to see the Headline Goal produce additional European capabilities that can meet the challenge described so succinctly by Alain Richard. This is why we will be watching closely the Capabilities Commitment Conference and doing what we can to lend our support, where appropriate, to encourage its success. Here, again, there are solid grounds for optimism.

Several of our colleagues have made clear their resolve to see the Headline Goal force package contain robust requirements, which would allow the EU to meet the most challenging of Petersberg tasks. We agree that this is a necessary criterion for success. Several also have emphasized that the Conference must produce an honest assessment of shortfalls—another criterion for success that we would endorse. Finally, a number of colleagues clearly recognize that a successful Conference must present a realistic plan, to include a meaningful timetable and review process, to remedy those shortfalls.

Logically, the shortfalls in capabilities identified at the Conference should be very similar, if not identical, to those identified by Allies in the context of the DCI and Defense Planning process. Again, this underscores the need for a unified and collaborative NATO-EU defense planning process to meet, efficiently, effectively, and transparently the needs of both organizations, while not diminishing the status or independent decision-making authorities of either.


The NATO-EU relationship, Ministerial Guidance, and implementation of DCI are not separate, parallel processes that we can allow to proceed in isolation from one another. Rather, they are all vital strands in the powerful and enduring fabric of Euro-Atlantic security, which we have all sacrificed so much to build and which, with renewed vision and bold determination, we can make even stronger and more resilient for generations to come.