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Historical archive

Collective defence in today's security environment

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Defence

Collective defence in today's security environment. Article V, credibility and changing environments. Address by Mr. Espen Barth Eide, Deputy Minister of Defence.

NATO strategic concept conference


Deputy Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of my presentation today is the continued relevance of the Atlantic Treaty’s Article V, and the need to strike the right balance between our Article V and our non-Article V activities, or as others have put it, between our mission “at home” and our mission “away”.

Let me point out right from the outset that nothing of what I am going to say here today is intended to question the continued relevance of our “out of area” missions. Quite on the contrary; I am going to argue that in today’s security environment, there is a mutually constituting relationship between the two. Salience in non-article V and “away” missions is built on the credibility of our core mission. But it is also true that an alliance inept at dealing with new and non-traditional challenges would run the risk of becoming overly static.

That said, there is little doubt that the political cohesion among NATOs Allies has Article V at its core. This was true in 1949 and it is true today, 60 years on, although this fundamental feature may be forgotten in the day-to-day business of running a number of deployed, non-article V operations.

The Strategic Concept will be at the centre of our efforts to maintain NATO’s relevance, capacity and readiness in facing new and increasingly global security challenges. This endeavour must be based on the enduring principles of trans-Atlantic solidarity and the indivisibility of security among Allies.

We need to ensure that the new concept focuses on the fundamental principles and purpose of the Alliance, so that these remain valid and stand the test of time even as the security environment and the immediate tasks change. NATO’s role as the primary guarantor for the security of its members, embodied in Article V, collective defence, and in our security consultations, should continue to be the bedrock of alliance activity. To achieve this, we must make sure that the Alliance adapts its political and military structures to effectively execute even the most demanding tasks, rather than solely focusing on the shifting demands of current operations or the flavour of the day of threat perceptions.

What makes NATO a truly unique, potent and relevant organisation is the combination of its integrated military structures and its permanently available political decision-making mechanisms. No other organization has this combination of common planning, a common command structure, and a North Atlantic Council that – at least in principle – is able to make decisions on a 24/7 basis. This unique character of the Alliance sets it apart from all other comparable international organizations, and must be maintained, not diluted.
It is also this unique character that makes NATO such a useful partner for other international actors. Furthermore, it is what gives the Alliance a comparative advantage in undertaking operations like ISAF.

As we are now meeting to lay the foundations for the Alliance’s next strategic concept, it is important that the fundamental content of Article V – to collectively meet an armed attack on its member states – is not weakened, especially in an era in which the Alliance tends to have most of its focus beyond NATO territory. Losing sight of this essential starting point would be short-sighted and unfortunate, and could, in the long run, lead to a renationalisation of core security policies among allies. If that happened, we could end up finding ourselves engaged collectively in deployed operations, while drifting apart in our preparations for existential self-defence.

It is our ability to meet potential threats against our own territories and populations in a robust manner, including in high-end scenarios, which makes it possible for us to sustain high-intensity conflicts also beyond our borders. At the end of the day, it is this ability that forms the bedrock of public support for the full spectrum of NATO’s tasks. I am afraid that this link was gradually somewhat forgotten during the last decade and a half. Partly, this happened due to the increasing, day-to-day attention to operations, and partly, because in one way or the other, we all seemed to share the assumption that “history was over” and peace had come to Europe, once and for all.

At least, that is what the old members thought. I think it is fair to say, however, that when our newest member states joined NATO from the late 1990s onwards, they did so for exactly the same reasons that those of us did when present at creation back in 1949. They did so because they saw it as being in their own national interest to link their national security to the collective defence of the Euro-Atlantic area and the American security umbrella, rather than to attempt to solve their security challenges each on their own. This was true for Poland, The Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999, for the Baltic States, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Rumania in 2004 and for Croatia and Albania in 2009, just as much as it was true for Norway and the other founding members in 1949. Fundamentally, this is why countries join NATO, and this is how public support for the membership is forged and maintained.

When NATO began going “out of area” in the early to mid-1990’s, it could draw on an already established credibility, cohesion and internal solidarity that had developed over more than four decades during which NATO’s contribution to peace and security was quite obvious to its membership. Let’s not make a mistake about this: it was this pre-established politico-military cohesion, rather than a spontaneous coming together of previously highly diverging views on how to deal with the Balkan wars, that made NATO a relevant instrument that could contribute to the end of a decade of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

This worked once again when we decided to put NATO’s credibility and politico-military apparatus behind the Afghan mission – but we should not take for granted that we will able to uphold this level of cohesion in the future if we lose sight of the core mission. New generations with very limited experience of what NATO originally was all about will increasingly influence the alliance decision-making.

NATO as a security community
Let us reflect for a moment on the reasons behind NATO’s historic success. During NATO’s first 40 years, preventing a third world war was not the whole story. It probably did; but the establishment of the transatlantic alliance had a number of benign secondary effects that, with the benefit of hindsight, turned out to be equally important. Membership in NATO “solved” the security puzzle for the individual member states. Old mistrust was overcome, and the member states could engage in other forms of international cooperation with each other, focusing on non-military aspects of cooperation. It is fair to assume that the European integration process that led to what we now know as the European Union would not have been able to take the path it took if it did not take place within the overarching transatlantic security framework that NATO provided. Over time, a de-facto “security community” emerged in which no member would seriously consider using military means against each other. This is a very strong quality of modern European history and a clear contrast to Europe’s troubled past. For the states that emerged from authoritarian rule in the 1970s, and then again from the 1990s onwards, NATO membership provided both a means of broad internal political unification as well as a means by which their security forces were able to find a new identity and purpose, leaving past repression behind. This fundamental quality was also one of the reasons why NATO was such an important tool in dealing with the re-unification of Europe in the 1990s. The Alliance provided a framework of order and shared purpose in a decade that could otherwise have been quite problematic.

However, we shouldn’t just assume that peace and stability has come to Europe once and for all. To the east of our current membership, we find a number of countries where there is as much resemblance of “1913” than of “1980”. Rather than the predictable stability of the Cold War, we see young, emerging states, fledgling democracies, and geopolitical competition over spheres of influence. The current financial crisis adds a touch of the 1930s. The optimism surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall is over. Hence, we need to reconsider some core assumptions that we have made over the last twenty years.

We witnessed the Georgia war last year. The competition over the future shape of the Ukraine is going to be a much bigger issue. The Western reading of recent history, that a Europe whole and free is emerging, is challenged by Moscow’s sense that the goalposts were moved while Russia was weak. The whole Black Sea region is going to be a very important area to follow in the years to come, and the alliance needs an elaborate and shared strategy for dealing with this in a manner that contributes to peaceful and sustainable solutions. So far, our record has been less than ideal.

The quest for further enlargement of NATO and co-operation through the establishments of various partnerships continues to illustrate the important political role of the Alliance as a security community. This has in effect widened the geographic area of collective security further east, even outside the borders of Europe. However, for this strategy to be effective, it does depend upon the continued credibility of NATO to execute the security guarantee to all of its members and act as a stabilizing framework for partners. In this regard, it is essential that the gradual enlargement of the Alliance does not result in a two-tier alliance, where some members are more members than others. If a country is allowed membership in NATO, our Article V commitment to this new member must never be put in to question, be it politically or militarily.

The Strategic Environment
Let us step back and take a broader look at the range of security challenges NATO and its members are faced with today. We broadened our view about what security entails over the last two decades. Both the intra-state conflicts of the 1990s and the “9/11” set of threat perceptions taught us that non-traditional and asymmetrical challenges can be very real and very much a part of our broader security environment. Many of those challenges are, needless to say, still with us. The increasing pace of globalisation and its consequences, in terms ranging from terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to cyber-threats and organized crime are still highly relevant. The world is becoming interconnected, for good and bad.

This is not the whole story, however. We now know that history was not over anyway. Geopolitics is back. The fundamental structure of the international system is again in flux. The short, uni-polar moment is already over, and the global centre of gravity is moving eastwards.

China is emerging as an increasingly important global player, and the steady rise of regional powers like India and Brazil is also an important part of this picture. The relative economic and political power and influence of “the West” is declining in favour of emerging powers, particularly in Asia. The current global financial crisis is likely to further strengthen, not weaken, this trend.

In Europe, Russia has re-emerged as a dominant regional power. Relations with Russia have become more diverse. A year ago, we almost broke off ties with each other, this year, we are in reset mode. Today’s Russia bears little resemble of the USSR, but then again, it is not any longer the Russia of the Yeltsin years either.
Let me be very clear here: we are all best served by having a constructive relationship with Russia. We have to make every effort to move these relations forward. It is important that we think of ways to make our relationship with Russia stronger and that we revitalise areas of cooperation. We need mutual confidence building measures to again take NATOs essential relationship with Russia forward. But this goal should not make us blind to the developments in Russian behaviour, internally and externally, that we find concerning. Norway’s experience here may be of some relevance. My country is the only current NATO-member sharing a border with Russia that also shared a border with the Soviet Union while in NATO. The last 60 years has shown us that upholding stable and predictable neighbourly relations were actually made far easier by a strong commitment to NATO and a balanced policy of deterrence and reassurance.

In that tradition, a strong NATO dedicated to collective defence is in no contradiction to a constructive relationship with Russia. To assume that there is such a contradiction would actually challenge the fact that this, after all, is and should remain a defence alliance.

The return of geopolitics does not imply that we by implication will see more inter-state conflicts. While the world is becoming multi-polar, international institutions are stronger than ever before and many shared norms and regimes already exists that may help to soften this global systemic change. The return of geopolitics does suggest, however, that we can not simply go on assuming that all future conflicts that we might get involved in, will continue to be asymmetric or against non-state actors, or for that sake, against odd and isolated “rouge states”. We do have to take a critical look both at the key assumption of the 1990s: that all contemporary conflicts were transitional on the way to solid democracy and market economy. We must also put the post-9/11 assumption that terrorism as the main security problem in the world, under close scrutiny.

The combined thrust of the relative decline of the West and the return of geopolitics is actually a strong argument for strengthening a transatlantic partnership based on common values, norms and principles. The new American administration has triggered a new optimism in transatlantic relations after years of strain due to transatlantic tensions over issues like Iraq and the “Global War on Terror”. Obama’s administration has moved impressively fast to re-establish the pre-eminence of key universal values and norms as the basis of America’s foreign policy. And with America re-investing in NATO, so should we, as European and Canadian allies.

Collective Defence – Article V
As I stated at the outset, it is of vital importance that Article V of the North-Atlantic Treaty remains relevant. The strategic environment described above illustrates the continued relevance of collective defence. These fundamentals of the integrated co-operation in the Alliance foster a deep and robust political cohesion among members. In my mind this is an important prerequisite for the ability of Allies to successfully co-operate on other non-article V issues.

Furthermore, formal alliance commitment to contribute to NATOs force structure makes it easier for member states to assure the necessary minimum defence spending in times of peace, when defence must compete with a host of other worthy causes.

As a result of the increasing number of operational engagements, NATO’s focus has to a large degree been on the actual use of military power. In today’s operation-rich environment, it seems that we’ve come to assume that this is actually the normal state of affairs – i.e. that soldiers and weapons are there in order to be used, here and now, in our several operational theatres. But let us halt a second here. This is actually a marked change from the Cold War days were the lesson was that military capacity is at its very best when it is not being used. That “deterrence through presence” was the main reason to keep armies, navies, air forces and a readily available, common command structure. 

Of course, times have changed. We need to continue to give priority to the Alliance’s operational engagements, but we need to find a sustainable balance. It is simply not true that a unit that is not deployed in an operation is irrelevant.
The North-Atlantic Treaty provides us with a generic definition of what constitutes an Article V situation. In the current strategic environment, it would not be in the Alliance’s interest to excessively limit the types of challenges that can constitute an Article V situation. Constructive ambiguity can be helpful at times.

I believe there is wide support to the fundamentals in the North-Atlantic Treaty among Allies. This entails the ability to respond, individually and/or collectively, to any armed attack to the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any member of NATO. Our understanding of what constitutes an “armed attack” has to evolve with the strategic context, and we should avoid a too stringent definition of what falls inside and outside Article V. This way we will be able to maintain Article V as the ultimate expression of Alliance solidarity, while at the same time transforming our political and military perceptions, structures and capabilities in the face of new threats and challenges. On the other hand, we must make sure that we maintain a definition between Article V and non-Article V activities. 

New threats, new technologies and weapons, new strategies and tactics, and the close inter-linkage between national and international security characteristic of modern societies must be taken into account.

In this regard we think that the US decision to go forward with a new concept of missile defence within the framework of the Alliance rather than bilaterally with individual states is welcomed. The renewed emphasis on the indivisibility of security of allies is positive, and an example of how NATO must adapt its concepts and capabilities in the face of new and emerging challenges. This will clearly have a positive effect upon the credibility of the Article V commitment of the Alliance. On the other hand, Article V should not be watered down to include everything that theoretically could be perceived as a threat to our nations and populations. Put in other words – there are and will still be many reasons to engage in non-Article V activities – but we should be clear on when we are doing what in order not to dilute the very essence of the Washington Treaty.

Key in this respect will be to maintain the credibility of our Article V commitment, both politically and militarily. The issue of credibility will also be important both for the internal reassurance of members, and externally for convincing potential adversaries of the Alliance’s intent and capabilities.

Politically, the continued cohesion of allies must be facilitated through an effective decision-making process at the political level. In this respect it is important that we retain NATO’s unique ability to convene the NAC 24/7, and make sure that the threshold for convening for formal consultations according to Article IV remains sufficiently low. This will cater for an effective ability to demonstrate Alliance solidarity and common commitment. However, we must not forget that the Treaty also specifies the individual responsibilities of its allies. 

Militarily, we must retain our common structures and adapt them to the challenges facing us. We need to reform the command structure by making it less static and more operational relevant. The new defence planning process must be implemented and new generic contingency plans should be developed.
The transformation of military capabilities must continue,

and we must make sure that they are well suited to address current and future security challenges. We must continue to ensure that our forces and capabilities are deployable and interoperable. Deployable assets do not only support operations at strategic distances. Interoperability and deployability are crucial to NATO security both on and beyond NATO-territory. On the other hand, it is crucially important that we recognize that out-of-area operations at times requires rather different capabilities than those that are required in a high-end conflict between organized states. For years, planners have been trying to solve the puzzle of dual requirements and rising costs by reiterating the mantra that there is no difference between the capabilities required. Wrong. In reality, there is.

Several years of experience has shown us that operations like the ones in the Balkans or Afghanistan requires the ability to deploy relatively light forces but also to sustain their operations over long periods of time. Regeneration over time becomes the main headache of every MOD in the Alliance. On the other hand, modern conventional high-end Article V scenarios in will require highly capable and heavily equipped forces at high readiness, but on the other hand, a lesser requirement for sustainability. Hence, if we want to do both Article V and non-Article V tasks we have two sets of tasks and two sets of force requirements. I am not suggesting that they do not overlap, I’m just stating what any MOD actually already knows, that they are not the same, however much we would have liked them to be fully compatible.

A fully manned NATO Response Force will be an essential capability for high-readiness availability. That is why we gave our warm support to the British proposal of establishing an Allied Solidarity Force, and we are very pleased that the intentions behind this initiative is now reflected in the new NRF-concept.
In other words, we must avoid the mistake of allowing that long-term capability development is driven by the requirements stemming from one type of operation only.

For instance, upon choosing the candidate for our next generation of combat aircraft for the Norwegian Armed Forces, the decision was ultimately influenced by the requirements stemming from the most demanding high-end scenarios. If we had concentrated on analyzing the different candidates’ ability to perform crisis response operations, all the candidates at hand would actually do very well. When we put capable, technologically advanced adversaries into the war-game scenarios, however, the difference became stunning. In other words – the long-term security outlook becomes important for today’s procurement decisions – and in military procurement, we sometimes have to think in terms of several decades ahead.
We need to use ACT and its crucially important “Multiple Futures” program effectively as an input to Allied defence planning to make sure that force planning is taking sufficiently into account the variety of potential future challenges that we may end up encountering. Extrapolating our vision of the future from the reality of today does not always bring us in the right direction – indeed, it may reconfirm the old assumption that generals (and politicians!) always plan for the last war. Here we must remember that what is most urgent does not always equal what is most important.

Particularly in light of the strains experienced by many Allies related to their defence expenditures, we must make sure that resources are used wisely and effectively. In this regard efforts to reform Alliance structures and increased multinational co-operation between Allies should be explored further.

Home” and “Away” – The Norwegian Core Area Initiative
Norway believes that the Alliance should seek to improve, and equally important, demonstrate its ability to meet these challenges. We think the time is ripe to raise NATO’s profile as the primary organization for dealing with the full range of security issues of its member states, also closer to home. The development of parallel security arrangements and the renationalization of Allies’ security policies must be avoided. The enlargement of the Alliance and the extensive partnership co-operation in troublesome areas adjacent to NATO’s territories further enhances this fact. 

Therefore, in the course of the last two years, Norway has been highlighting the need for renewed focus on security challenges on NATO territory and in our neighbourhoods – be they around from the Arctic via the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. 

Our work on these issues started well before the events in Georgia. However, I believe that the war in august 2008 reinforced the need to take a closer look at how the Alliance is being perceived, and how can we redress the balance between collective defence and crisis response operations, as they are mutually reinforcing in safeguarding the freedom and security of Allies.

The proposals in our non-paper include:
• Re-introducing regional responsibilities to NATO commands.
Joint Force Commands Brunssum and Naples should again be given a distinct regional responsibility. This would facilitate and improve contacts between NATO’s command structure and the national military authorities. Furthermore, it would give NATO’s military authorities a better insight into the security challenges in different parts of NATO. In parallel with the re-introduction of regional responsibility prudent contingency planning should be initiated for relevant regions of Alliance territory.
• Improving geographical expertise and situational awareness.
A key to strengthening the Alliance’s profile in its member states would be to increase our shared situational awareness about events in NATOs vicinity. We should strive to improve intelligence co-operation, analysis of security trends, strategic communication strategies and we should continue to improve Alliance defence planning.
• Developing closer links between national- and NATO-headquarters.
A cost-effective way to improve Alliance cohesion would be to develop closer formal links between national joint headquarters and NATO headquarters. Allies have over the past decade established large national operational headquarters with limited or no formal links to the NATO structure. This reduces the collective qualities of military command and control. Also, the national headquarters continuously gain critical competence and regional expertise that the Alliance does not possess.
• Increasing NATO involvement in training and exercises.
To further improve the Alliance’s collective capabilities, expertise and experience, NATO should become more directly involved in national exercise and training activities. Since the 1990s NATO exercises have largely been replaced by national or multinational exercises. Exercises yield valuable experience and competence and they generate critical regional expertise. Today this knowledge does not to a sufficient extent reach NATO headquarters or commands. It is important to engage NATO’s command structure in order to train it in conducting allied forces and operations on NATO territory and on its periphery. As well as beneficial for NATO, this would be cost-effective since these activities in any case take place at a national level.

Deterrence and disarmament
A discussion about the continued relevance of Article V would not be complete without addressing the dual, but closely interlinked, challenges of deterrence and disarmament.

The Alliance’s deterrence policy since it also has bearing on the credibility, and ultimately the effectiveness of NATO’s collective defence. A deterrence policy for NATO is built on the two pillars of political solidarity and credible, joint military capabilities. In my mind, an effective deterrence policy is political in nature, and the ultimate goal should be to preserve peace and avoid war.

In today’s strategic context, the balance between the nuclear and conventional components of deterrence have changed fundamentally. Since the height of the cold war, the numbers of Allied nuclear weapons in Europe have been reduced drastically, while the strength of our conventional forces, although numerically downsized, have increased in relative terms to any potential adversary. In effect, this has increased its importance for NATO’s policy of deterrence. I believe that by retaining a strong conventional capability, NATO is in a better position to engage in constructive nuclear disarmament efforts.

However, we must also recognize that both the conventional strength of the Alliance and our will to intervene globally does affect how NATO is perceived in different regions of the world. In several present-day settings, it is precisely our dominance over the classical battle field makes that battle field irrelevant. Many potential adversaries seek asymmetric strategies to counterbalance our conventional strength, even attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In addition, major powers like China and Russia, and regional powers like India, Israel and Pakistan as well as three NATO states still retain their nuclear capabilities. For the foreseeable future, the current nuclear states are likely to maintain a mix of conventional and nuclear capabilities, and a zero option is hence only possible through a serious, balanced approach and when a watertight international verification regime with credible sanctions is in place. What we should do, however, is to strive to reduce the role of nuclear weapons to an absolute minimum. Further reductions require a multilateral commitment, and should take place in a wider disarmament context, in a balanced and verifiable manner encompassing all other nuclear powers.

In this regard it is important that NATO enhances its efforts to support the renewed attention to international disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control mechanisms. Balanced, nuclear disarmament will enhance our collective security. Failure to achieve tangible progress on this front, in our doctrines as well as in practical terms, will also cause further inducement for other states to acquire similar capabilities, with the perceived political clout that accompany them.

Our stance on nuclear disarmament is important as we move closer to the 2010 NPT Review Conference. To make it possible to move effectively towards a zero solution, all nations must agree to participate in the process. Moreover, it will be essential to put in place a comprehensive and credible multilateral verification regime to oversee the disarmament effort and to prevent further proliferation. But our ability to win support for this agenda depends to a large extent on the perception of our nuclear disarmament record and our perceived continued reliance on nuclear weapons. We must work across regional groups and political divides to foster a new common understanding on how to address the nuclear danger. President Obama’s initiative to host a Summit on Nuclear Security next year is an important contribution to these efforts. 

Lastly, NATO should continue the process to reduce the relevance of nuclear weapons in line with President Obama’s vision of a nuclear weapons free world, while at the same time ensuring continued strategic stability and the future credibility of the Alliance’s deterrent capability. The integrated co-operation in the Alliance regarding its nuclear deterrent also serves an important purpose, by giving non-nuclear Allies insight and influence on nuclear issues that would otherwise would have been clouded by national secrecy and the potential for nuclear “aleingang”. I believe that this integrated co-operation also prevents potential proliferation of nuclear weapons among Allies, even if more sinister security scenarios again should evolve in Europe. 

1. While we will still have to deal with a broad array of asymmetric challenges, geopolitics is back. The uni-polar moment is over, and the world is already de facto multi-polar – as it, historically speaking, normally is. To me, this is a strong argument for strengthening the transatlantic partnership, based on common values, norms and principles. If NATO wasn’t already there we should rush to invent it.

2. NATO’s role as the primary guarantor for the security of its members, embodied in Article V, collective defence and security consultations, should continue to be the bedrock of alliance activity. These fundamentals of the North-Atlantic Treaty cater for a strong political cohesion that is essential for everything we do. In a world ripe with unpredictability, the security community dimension of NATO is no less important today than it was in the early days.

3. What makes NATO a truly unique, potent and relevant organisation is its integrated military structures and capabilities, its joint planning capacity and its effective political decision-making mechanisms. This unique character of the Alliance sets it apart from most other relevant international organization, and must be further developed, not diluted.

4. Key in this respect will be to maintain the credibility of our Article V commitment, both politically and militarily. This requires a good mix of political wisdom and military relevance. Credibility will also be important both for internal reassurance of members and for convincing potential adversaries of the Alliance’s intent and capabilities.

5. The security environment is constantly evolving. New challenges are emerging on Alliance territory and on its periphery. I believe that the Alliance should seek to improve, and equally important, demonstrate its ability to meet these challenges. The time is ripe to raise NATO’s profile as the primary organization for dealing with the full range of security issues of its member states. This does not imply, however, that the Alliance should not engage in out-of-area operations. In-area and out-of-area are mutually dependent on each other.

6. The Strategic concept should build on a deterrence concept that is credible, relevant and useful. We must adapt our doctrines to the security realities of today. We must strive to reduce the salience of nuclear arms in our doctrines, which in turn means that we need a capable and credible conventional capacity, and a shared commitment to the security of every member state.

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