European Affairs

The Transatlantic Link Remains Vital     Print
Klaus Naumann

In the present and near future, it is clear there is only one global power, namely the United States. But we may well see a more multi-polar world in the longer term. Increasingly, we can expect the United States to be less able and willing to act alone due to military downsizing, over-stretched resources, weariness of overseas commitments, and the desire for support from allies, especially in the political field.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Europe is definitely moving towards greater integration, especially in the pervasive economic domain. There is no shortage of architectural designs to address European security issues but, regrettably, the same cannot be said about Europe's will and capabilities. It is quite obvious, as demonstrated in Kosovo, that Europe definitely does not have the military capabilities to be an equal partner to the United States.

The first and foremost challenge for NATO is to maintain its transatlantic cohesion and its credible ability to act which, after all, have been the underpinning of its unparalleled success over the years. Regarding the first aspect, I certainly agree with the Secretary General of NATO when he stated that it is not a matter of too much United States, but rather of not enough Europe.

It is no surprise that Americans sometimes act unilaterally in certain crisis scenarios when we Europeans do little more than offer a kaleidoscope of opinions. We can definitely improve in the field of consultation, but we, in Europe, also have to improve considerably in formulating a common view.

That said, I cannot help but think that a little preliminary consultation and "preparing the battlefield" with Allies by the United States Ñrather than the last-minute surprise declarations as we repeatedly saw during the early phases of the Kosovo crisis Ñ would pay enormous dividends to the United States and the Alliance as a whole.

Maintaining credibility de-mands that NATO's military forces are able to act across the entire spectrum of missions they may be asked to execute. If we retain the cohesion and the military capabilities, the Alliance will retain its strong deterrent value against all potential adversaries or regimes.

The European role in NATO, which in turn could reduce the burden on the United States, is the core of the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). In this challenging yet promising domain, the messages are quite simple.

First and foremost, ESDI is ready for use now. It remains to be seen, however, if the necessary European political will, common vision and resolve can be generated so that it really will be used.

Second, ESDI cannot reach its full potential as long as France does not fully participate in the integrated military structure. That, however, we will not see in the near future.

Lastly, I remain concerned that there may still be an inclination to move away from the basic premise of "separable but not separate" forces and operations. If these latter concerns are justified, such an approach threatens to undermine rather than strengthen the transatlantic link.

Despite all these challenges, however, I could imagine that ESDI has a bright future in the mid- to long-term, especially if the amalgamation of the Western European Union into the EU produces the results that Europe hopes for. Personally, I would see the implementation of such a proposal as a positive development since I believe it would accelerate the attainment of the currently elusive European Common Foreign and Defense Policy.

Another challenge for the Atlantic Alliance stems from the fact that despite all its assets, NATO is unlikely to have the wherewithal to address all the risks and uncertainties alone in the future. Hence, NATO must strengthen and deepen its cooperation with other security and stability-related organizations, especially those in the Euro-Atlantic sphere such as the OSCE and the EU.

Even against the backdrop of our experience in the Balkans, however, our efforts to date have been, to put it frankly, rather meager at best. On the other hand, the Balkans will give such cooperation some new momentum since cooperation between NATO, the EU and the OSCE may offer the most promising mid-term solution for Southeast Europe.

NATO's internal reforms and related initiatives aim to address this critical issue but in many respects, the key challenges lie with the member nations themselves to provide the type of military forces the Alliance needs for the future.

Alliance nations will be asked to realign their forces to make them more able to undertake a variety of tasks, more able to react quickly and decisively, more able to get to where they are needed within or beyond the NATO Treaty Area, more interoperable, given the greater propensity for multi-national formations, and more able to remain effective and efficient over the longer term in remote or austere areas.

Some of these forces need to be on high readiness, and all of them need to be properly equipped with modern material, especially in the sphere of command, control, communications, and information technology, lest we reach a point on actual operations where certain Allies can no longer communicate with others.

Last, but certainly not least, nations need to enhance the effective engagement capabilities of their forces. These areas I have just mentioned will be the primary focus of the Force Structure Review that the Military Committee will conduct as a matter of priority now that the new Strategic Concept is agreed.

These are also domains where the United States leads the Alliance and sets an example other NATO nations would do well to emulate. After all, in this new era of diverse risks and uncertainties, NATO can no longer afford significant forces that can only be employed exclusively for territorial defense on national territory. This presents an important challenge to many European nations.

The trend towards considerably smaller national armed forces has given rise to another challenge, namely that of more multinational formations at much lower levels than was the case before, including, on occasion, even at the individual unit level. This, of course, greatly increases the relative importance of operational and tactical interoperability.

I personally do not believe, incidentally, that multinationality below the level of a multinational army corps will enhance NATO's military capabilities. Multinationality, however, could help us to achieve more efficiency if it were applied to force multipliers in a way similar to our AWACS component.

Examples for future application of that model could be: strategic command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, Alliance Ground Surveillance systems, Theater Ballistic Missile Defense systems, strategic air and sealift, and air-to-air refueling.

I am fully aware what it means politically to go increasingly for multinational approaches in these critical capabilities, but in these enduring days of scarce resources, there is no other way in which we can secure these essential means in an acceptable time.

A related challenge derives from the decrease of non-US NATO military capabilities and falling defense budgets creating an ever-growing dependency on American defense technology. The irony of the situation is heightened by the fact that we, in Europe, are often so averse to "buying American" that we pay quite a premium to "buy European" or, even worse, to "buy only national."

The fact is that in most cases, we are not getting the dividends in terms of combat capabilities that our investments deserve. The United States spends $36 billion annually on its defense-related research and development in a well-coordinated and defined approach.

Europe spends only $10 billion, and much of that effort is fragmented and devoted to competitive efforts against both the United States and other European countries. If we, in Europe, continue to take this line, the technology and capabilities gap between Europe and the United States can only widen.

I submit that we, in Europe, can no longer afford to reinvent the wheel and that our colleagues in the United States should consider whether true technology-sharing will not give them more advantages in the long run than their current attempts to win a dominating position on the market in the short run.

There is no doubt in my mind that if we collectively, Europeans and North Americans alike, fail to break the narrowminded national procurement mold, not only will the Alliance continue to suffer, but ultimately so will the armed forces of all our nations.

We also need to correct the imbalance that exists whereby the European Allies and Canada spend approximately two-thirds of what the United States is spending for defense, but the output achieved is, sadly, somewhat less than two-thirds of the American military capabilities.

What makes NATO so unique among security-related organizations is that while all such organizations profess to have effective political consultation and decision-making mechanisms, only the Alliance has all the necessary military means to act.

This capability, however, needs to be nurtured since history is replete with examples where the best intentions of one side were overridden by the better capabilities of the other. It is the political cohesion, combined with the military capabilities of the Atlantic Alliance, that continues to determine NATO's success and credibility.

The truly invincible formula which led to NATO's unparalleled success in surviving the demise of the enemy was the transatlantic link, combined with a credible collective defense capability.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number I in the Winter of 2000.