Speech/statement | Date: 01/10/2010
- The financial crisis [...] will affect the assumptions on which NATO’s new Strategic Concept is being based, says Minister of Defence Grete Faremo.
Army Summit, 1 October 2010
Minister of Defence Grete Faremo
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here today, and to have the opportunity to speak to you about a very important subject: NATO´s new Strategic Concept and new security challenges. But before I start, I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on what I have said in the last days´ debate on values and attitudes amongst our soldiers.
It is very important for me that you understand where I am coming from on this matter.
First, I want to express my deep commitment to our soldiers. I am very proud of them. Nobody should have any doubts about that. This commitment is the reason why I am concerned about some particular attitudes and values that are being expressed by a minor group of our soldiers.
The history books tell us it can actually go wrong. I don´t want this to happen to our soldiers in Afghanistan. They will have to live with their memories and actions afterwards.
I want to stress that this debate is not about the way that the soldiers chose to express themselves before, during or after a battle. In such situations, we must take into account the great risks and the intense pressure that the soldiers are experiencing.
We must keep in mind that extreme actions can lead to extreme reactions.
This is the reality and we have to face being exposed to it. Knowing, is the consequence of the openness that we need to have around our missions abroad. For this reason, I defended the soldier who described a successful attack on the enemy in Afghanistan by the Norwegian word “lekkert”.
The attack was made in self-defence. It is obviously easier to weigh words behind a desk, than when being exposed to an ambush in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, what I have spoken out against, does not concern single, forceful – and loaded – expressions, but attitudes. We must react when signs point to modes of expression that signal lack of sufficient ethical reflection around taking lives and what points to acts of vengeance for lives lost.
We cannot accept the growth of attitudes that are not in accordance with our core values. It is natural that military units use symbols and expressions that build the team and bonds its members. But symbols are powerful, and must not be used in a way that undermines the soldiers’ moral values and understanding of their mission.
What our soldiers do, must be understandable to a wider audience – the general public and civil society.
It is an oversimplification to say that those at home do not understand what it means to be in Afghanistan – the daily toll of it all. It is civil society through its government that defines the mission and sends the soldiers off to fight.
The use of military force is our strongest means of power and soldiers may ultimately have to take lives. They are trained to do so. Therefore, we must never doubt that our soldiers operate within the definitions set by that same society though its government. Leadership means providing our soldiers with the right moral values and the reflexes required to act ethically.
We can return to this debate after my speech, when you are free to ask me any question you wish.
But now, I will turn to my speech about NATO.
The financial crisis has created new challenges and reinforced those already facing the countries of Europe. The EU member states saw their GDPs fall by about four percent in 2009.
This fall has affected countries in different ways. Nations like Greece, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Ireland have been struck particularly hard by this crisis. But larger countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have also experienced an economic recession above the average.
Many European countries were struggling with a high level of public debt even before the onset of the financial crisis. Emergency measures taken in response to the financial crisis have in some cases created even larger budget deficits and other problems.
Millions of people, especially young people all over Europe are facing unemployment and an inevitable decline in living standards. In Spain, for example, approximately 40 percent of young people are currently unemployed.
Norway has been less affected by the financial crisis than most other European countries. The Norwegian government is a net creditor and we have been better positioned to apply fiscal stimuli without accruing debt. And the structure of our exports, which is to a large extent based on energy products, has made us less vulnerable to the slump in demand when compared with many other economies.
Nevertheless, developments in the rest of Europe are of great importance to us.
The economic situation will most likely lead to spending cuts and tighter budgets for many European countries in the coming years. This is not only due to the financial crisis, but also to other trends as for example demographic profiles.
In Norway, as in the rest of Europe, we will have to handle an ageing population. In 1950, around 8 percent of the Norwegian population were over the age of 67. Today the figure is 13 percent. And we expect this percentage to continue to raise further when those born in the post-war baby boom can retire in 2015.
Most European countries are facing the same situation.
But this ageing of the population is not simply due to the fact that we are living longer. Equally significant are the low birth rate figures. In the post-war years the annual population growth was about one percent, largely due to the high birth rate. By the 1980s the annual growth rate had fallen to about one third of one percent, from which time it has increased slightly.
In Europe overall, the population reduction has been dramatic. Over the next 40 years Europe’s population is expected to fall by between 40 and 50 million. While Europe as a whole had a post-war total population of more than twice that of Africa, by the year 2050 Africa is expected to have a total population three time that of Europe.
We are entering a new historical cycle in which there will be proportionally fewer Europeans and Americans, more African and Middle easterners and – with greater relevance economically and strategically – many more Asians.
The financial crisis means that a number of our closest and most important allies have had to cut – in some cases to the bone – their defence budgets. Thus the situation in which the global economy now finds itself will inevitably have direct implications for NATO cooperation. It will also affect the assumptions on which NATO’s new Strategic Concept is being based – which is the main concern that I wish to address today.
Need for reform
The international finance crisis also has direct implications for NATO. 17 member states have reported reductions in their defence budgets in comparison with 2008 when the financial crisis first began to have an impact. Defence budget funding has remained more or less unchanged in the remaining 11 members of the Alliance.
The economic situation of course imposes limitations on NATO’s room for manoeuvre. Investment plans, operating budgets, and not least the ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, will all be affected.
NATO has set in motion a process of reform to adapt the Alliance to this situation. It is more important than ever to ensure that NATO’s resources are used effectively and in the right way.
The aim is to achieve a sensible balance between the resources available for jointly financed NATO projects and the needs for investment in new materiel and infrastructure.
We have to face the fact that the economic situation within NATO is not likely to improve over the next few years. In fact, we must expect the economic uncertainty to continue to put the defence budgets of member states under even greater pressure. In the longer term this could lead to further saving measures in NATO, for example in the form of investments being postponed and procurements re-evaluated. In addition there is a need to streamline the command structure.
Norway is among the countries that have advocated a less costly and more efficient command structure for NATO. The new command structure will be an important factor in determining the premises on which the Alliance will operate in the future. So far it appears likely that there will be a move towards fewer headquarters and more reliance on national headquarters from within NATO’s force structure.
New Strategic Concept
NATO is now in the midst of a comprehensive process of reform. The present Strategic Concept dates from 1999. We need an updated political basis upon which to match the new and emerging challenges that the Alliance faces today – and not the challenges of yesterday.
It must also reflect the new economic realities created by the financial crisis, as well as the new global security picture.
The process of developing a new Strategic Concept for NATO began formally in August 2009. At that time a group of 12 experts was tasked by the Secretary General to produce a report with recommendations. The Group was led by the United States’ former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
During the course of the next nine months the various member countries were brought into the process through seminars and consultation.
The Group of Experts submitted its report on 17 May 2010. On the basis of this report, supplemented by inputs from the consultations with member states, the General Secretary has produced a proposal for a new Strategic Concept.
We have just received this proposal and we are now in the process of studying it in detail.
This draft proposal will be considered formally by member states during the run-up to the NATO Summit to be held in Lisbon on 19-20 November.
Norway’s input to the new Strategic Concept
Norway has focused on the need to preserve the Alliance as a mutual defence alliance for the member states, with regard in particular to the core tasks set out in Article 5 of the NATO Charter.
We believe that the Alliance’s focus on “out of area” operations – geographically remote from the territories of member countries – has become so dominant that the Alliance’s core tasks have, to too great an extent, been relegated to the background. This lays at the heart of the so-called Core Area Initiative that Norway put forward a couple of years ago.
There are three main reasons for our wish that the core tasks – that is to say looking after the security and defence of the member countries – should be given higher priority in the future.
First, we believe that it is in NATO’s interest to focus more on the core areas of the member states, whether it be round the shores of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea or the Mediterranean, or in the High North.
In this connection the Government has been working actively to highlight the High North as a strategically important area for the Alliance.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the northern regions were of strategic significance because of their geographical location between the two superpowers.
In more recent years the region has gained renewed significance due to questions associated with climate change and natural resources. NATO should play an important role in the area and preventing the emergence of latent conflicts.
Secondly, there is a close linkage between involvement “home” and “away”. All the member countries must be able to feel that their fundamental security interests are being safeguarded if the Alliance is not to lose support and legitimacy.
It is this security umbrella that new member countries are seeking when they apply for membership of the Alliance. If any doubt were to arise as to whether the Alliance is in a position to safeguard the security of member countries, support for “away” operations could fall away or disappear altogether.
And last, but not least, NATO’s organisation must be reformed to ensure that we have at all times a credible and cost-effective organisation. NATO must limit its expenditure and avoid engaging in activity which is no longer of high priority. The financial crisis and an uncertain economic situation in many of the member countries serve to underline the need for this.
The restructuring and modernisation of NATO in which we are now engaged is necessary if the Alliance will in future continue to be able both to fulfil its mutual defence obligations and to engage in “out of area” operations on a sound basis.
One of the proposals now being made is for the national headquarters to be associated more closely with NATO. This is a question that is high on the agenda in connection with the ongoing discussion of changes in the Alliance’s command structure.
From the Norwegian side the groundwork is already being done to enable the Norwegian Joint Operational Headquarters in Bodø to embrace such NATO role. Such a step would provide a good opportunity to broaden awareness within the Alliance of the importance of regional focus and for us with special emphasis on the northern regions.
Another proposal is to strengthen still further the Alliance’s involvement in training and exercising in our home areas. This is something on which we are working hard.
Such exercise and training activities help to give others an insight into the special challenges that characterise our region, while at the same time giving greater public visibility to the fact that Norway is a part of NATO.
In other respects, however, the resources that the Alliance has at its disposal for increasing its presence above the current level are limited by today’s realities.
New security challenges
I mentioned that the new Strategic Concept for NATO must reflect the new security challenges of today.
During the last two decades, we broadened our view about what the conception of security contains. The lessons learned from the intra-state conflicts of the 1990s, and the “9/11” set of threat perceptions, are that non-traditional and asymmetrical challenges can be very real.
Many of those challenges are still with us and they must be understood as a part of our broader security environment. Globalization 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 better and for worse.
We see changes in the fundamental structure of the international system, indicating a return of geopolitics. In short, uni-polar moment is already over, and the global centre of gravity is moving eastwards.
Increasing interdependence will bring the world ever closer, but not necessarily make people more inclined to live in peace. From a security point of view, the most prominent aspect of our era is that events in one part of the world are far more likely than in the past to have repercussions elsewhere.
Anarchy in one country can create an opportunity for terrorists to find a safe haven from which to operate across any border. A cyber attack that leads to chaos in one city, may inspire criminals in another.
NATO must find its place within a less centralized and more complicated international order. Its new role will be influenced by the emergence of specific threats from a diverse spectrum of possibilities.
NATO may be called upon to respond to challenges that do not directly affect its security, but that still matter to its citizens and that will contribute to the Alliance´s international standing. These challenges could include the humanitarian consequences of a failed state or the devastation caused by a natural disaster. Or they could be posed by genocide or other massive violations to human rights.
Demography and population growth represents one of these challenges. Regions like the Middle East and North Africa have undergone demographic transitions that are still unfolding. Although overall birth rates are declining, there is a distinct bulge in the youth population.
Over the coming decade, approximately 65 % of the population of the region will be less than 24 years old. This will decline over the time and the trend varies somewhat from country to country. But this demographic profile has major implications for the future of the societies in this region.
According to some studies, there is an association between high proportions of youth in the population and a rise in political violence, civil unrest, state repression and state militancy.
In populations where there are high numbers of youth, we see that the political mobilisation and recruitment of young adults – particularly young men – by non-state and state-supported organisations capable of political or criminal violence is facilitated.
This fact is enhanced by the fact that the Middle East and North Africa have a very high youth unemployment rate, ranging from more than 40 % in Algeria and the Palestinian Territories, till 6 % in the UAE (the Emirates).
The rising unemployment is due to world economic conditions that are worsening. The region also suffers from a looming food crisis. As the Middle East population increases, food prices will continue to rise and the lack of water will increase. The problem is not limited to the Middle East. It affects Africa, South America and South Asia as well – the entire world poverty belt.
These are trends that NATO must take into account while analysing the new security challenges we are faced with.
The new 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 garantor 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.
Thank you for your attention.