NATO — Stavridis Expands on NATO Strategic Concept’s Aims

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2010 — The new NATO strate­gic con­cept looks to build on the alliance’s obvi­ous strengths, the alliance’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe said yes­ter­day.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis said NATO is look­ing at a com­pre­hen­sive approach to secu­ri­ty for the future.

“I would argue that the future of secu­ri­ty in this 21st cen­tu­ry is not an on-and-off switch between hard pow­er and soft pow­er, between com­bat and peace,” he said dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Atlantic Coun­cil here. “It’s a rheo­stat — you’ve got to dial it in.”

The imag­i­nary rheo­stat runs from pure hard pow­er to pure soft pow­er, he said, and while the alliance remains mil­i­tar­i­ly capa­ble, more often than not, secu­ri­ty will need ele­ments of both hard and soft pow­er.

Stavridis talked about the new­ly released strate­gic con­cept drawn up by a broad­ly based group of experts. For­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Madeleine K. Albright chaired the group, and she intro­duced Stavridis at the Atlantic Coun­cil. Albright said her work was a start­ing point for dis­cus­sion on a strate­gic con­cept that NATO lead­ers are expect­ed to approve at the alliance’s sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, in Novem­ber.

Peo­ple who say NATO is an out­dat­ed rel­ic have not looked at its his­to­ry or its present, and have not tried to look at its future, the admi­ral said. “When we talk of this alliance, we need to rec­og­nize the wealth of it, the reach of it, the pow­er of it,” he said. “No nation has ever attacked a NATO nation, and no NATO nation has ever attacked anoth­er NATO nation.”

Stavridis likened the alliance to a bridge between North Amer­i­ca and Europe that bridges cul­tures and is a bridge in time. “It bridges the Cold War past to the present, and leads us in to the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he said.

It also is a large alliance, now con­tain­ing 28 mem­ber states and more part­ners. This cre­ates a chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment to get deci­sions made, but it is doable, the admi­ral said. “We have 130,000 sol­diers, sailors, air­men and marines on mis­sions on three con­ti­nents,” the admi­ral said. “Those are hard deci­sions, but they’ve all been made at [the NATO] table among 28 dif­fer­ent states. I main­tain we’ve done a good job of get­ting 28 [nations] togeth­er.”

The alliance also makes good use of the cul­tur­al, lin­guis­tic, mil­i­tary, eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal strengths of 28 nations, Stavridis added.

Alliance lead­ers need to focus on a com­pre­hen­sive approach, Stavridis said, and NATO has learned much from its expe­ri­ences in Afghanistan.

“Fun­da­men­tal to suc­ceed­ing there is the idea of a com­pre­hen­sive approach – com­bin­ing mil­i­tary and civil­ian orga­ni­za­tions as one,” he said, adding that civil­ian gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the Unit­ed Nations, the World Bank, var­i­ous gov­ern­ment aid orga­ni­za­tions and pri­vate-sec­tor enti­ties all will have to work togeth­er to suc­ceed in Afghanistan. NATO needs to under­stand this, he said, and devise ways to include these enti­ties in plan­ning and exe­cu­tion.

The new strate­gic con­cept also calls for increased engage­ment with Rus­sia, and Stavridis acknowl­edged that two views of Rus­sia exist with­in the alliance. On one side are coun­tries that still wor­ry about aggres­sion or intim­i­da­tion from Rus­sia, while anoth­er set of coun­tries wants to engage with the nation, he explained.

“We must reas­sure one set of allies and we must con­tin­ue to find a dia­logue and find zones of coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia,” the admi­ral said. Poten­tial areas of coop­er­a­tion include arms con­trol, coun­ter­pira­cy, coun­tert­er­ror­ism, mis­sile defense and Afghanistan, he added. The con­cept also calls for NATO to devel­op cyber­se­cu­ri­ty defens­es.

“We need to come to grips about what is a cyber attack,” he said. “We need cen­ters that can focus on it. We need pro­ce­dures to pro­vide defen­sive means in this world of cyber.” Com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism is not the pri­ma­ry mis­sion of the alliance, the admi­ral said, but he not­ed that more than 400 ter­ror attacks took place in Europe in 2009. “It’s not a direct mis­sion for the mil­i­tary or for NATO,” he said, but there are sup­port func­tions we can pro­vide.”

Inter­na­tion­al pira­cy is a lab­o­ra­to­ry for coop­er­a­tion in the 21st cen­tu­ry, Satvridis said, not­ing that the Euro­pean Union is the lead agency address­ing pira­cy off the coast of Africa. “That’s fine,” he said. “NATO is there with a com­ple­men­tary oper­a­tion. The EU has the lead, and I see that as a com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion. NATO does not always have to be the lead agency in every secu­ri­ty dimen­sion.”

The long-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat already is real and will get worse in the years ahead, Stavridis said. Iran­ian mis­siles can reach some of Europe’s cap­i­tals, he said, and this chal­lenge requires mis­sile defense.

“The Unit­ed States is mov­ing for­ward with a phased, adap­tive approach,” he said. “Much of the dis­cus­sion before the Lis­bon sum­mit will be how NATO wants to be a part of that.” NATO also needs to do a bet­ter job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing what the alliance is and why it still is impor­tant to a new gen­er­a­tion, the admi­ral said.

“We’re very good at launch­ing mis­siles,” he told the group. We need to get bet­ter at launch­ing ideas.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)