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Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson testified on NATO before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia on April 26, arguing that NATO should also make room for a serious discussion on future enlargement and pursue a more ambitious partnership agenda at the upcoming Chicago summit. He also argues that the major allies--US, France, UK, Germany, and Turkey in particular--must look beyond Chicago and focus on their own commitments within the Alliance to ensure NATO's vitality into the next decade.
As NATO leaders gather in Chicago next month, they will seek to achieve consensus on a difficult mission in Afghanistan, to protect military capabilities in a time of deep budget cuts, and to forge more meaningful partnerships with allies in Asia and the Middle East. The Atlantic Council maintains that the transatlantic alliance remains not only relevant, but vital, to today’s changing world. However, if it is to remain so, the transatlantic link must be modernized to account for our new fiscal and changing geopolitical circumstances. The Council will provide a cadre of experts who are available for analysis of the major issues shaping the Summit in Chicago, while also engaging and developing the next generation of transatlantic leaders in a host of related activities and resources. Click here to learn more about Atlantic Council programming around the Summit.
Damon Wilson's segment begins around 1:15:12.
Damon Wilson's segment begins around the 20:15 mark.
Read the full testimony below
US House of Representatives
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia
NATO: The Chicago Summit and U.S. Policy
April 26, 2012
Prepared testimony by
Damon M. Wilson
Executive Vice President
Chairman Burton, Ranking Member Meeks, Members of the Subcommittee, I am honored to speak before your committee on NATO’s upcoming Chicago summit.
As NATO leaders gather in Chicago next month they will seek to preserve consensus on a mission in Afghanistan facing potential crisis, to maintain allied military capabilities in a time of deep budget cuts, and to forge more meaningful partnerships with allies in Asia and the Middle East. This is an important agenda for the Alliance and one addressed well by previous witnesses.
I would like to use my testimony today to make the case that, in Chicago, NATO should also make room for a serious discussion of future enlargement and pursue a more ambitious partnership agenda. Furthermore, I believe the major allies must look beyond Chicago and focus on their own roles within the Alliance to ensure NATO’s health into the next decade. I will address each of these three themes.
On Afghanistan, NATO needs to achieve a united view of its strategy, especially on the pace of troop withdrawals and the nature of long-term support for the Afghan national security forces. With some contributors tempted to rush to the exits before 2014, and key allies sending conflicting public messages, agreeing on a single clear and effective drawdown strategy is essential. The summit should commit all contributors both to the concept of “in together, out together” and an enduring alliance partnership with Afghanistan. This will allow NATO leaders to communicate a more certain strategy on how to negotiate an end to the war while denying the Taliban a military and political victory.
NATO leaders must also commit at the Chicago summit to halt the rapid weakening of its military capacity through draconian and unwise defense budget cuts. Agreement on a new “Smart Defense” strategy may help to arrest the decline and better manage austerity, but allies need to commit and to develop plans to reinvest in defense as their economies strengthen to preserve NATO’s military credibility.
On both Afghanistan and capabilities, the Alliance must play defense. However, on enlargement and partnerships, NATO has an opportunity to go on offense and forge new policy.
An Enlargement Agenda
NATO officials often say that Chicago will not be an enlargement summit. Indeed, Allies are not prepared to offer invitations to candidate nations. However, NATO would make a mistake not to use Chicago to give a boost to the candidacies of Macedonia, Montenegro, Georgia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
First and foremost, the aspirants have earned it. Each has demonstrated it is able to contribute to security, including by providing forces to Afghanistan, committing niche capabilities to the Alliance, and following NATO’s “smart defense” model of cooperating with neighbors on joint defense projects. These nations’ integration into NATO will also help stabilize their regions, contributing to transatlantic security.
Despite economic challenges, NATO members must not forget the vision behind enlargement. The concept is simple. Enlarging NATO advances a Europe whole, free, and at peace by integrating once vulnerable European nations into a community of free-market democracies committed to each others’ collective defense. New members never again must worry about their survival as sovereign nations or domination by foreign powers. Enlargement makes Europe more stable and NATO stronger.
Chicago’s enlargement agenda should, first, be featured at a meeting between NATO leaders and leaders of those nations aspiring to membership. Such a meeting would back politicians who must take tough decisions to reform their nations as they prepare for membership and acknowledge those who are acting as de facto allies. Second, the leaders’ declaration should make clear that NATO’s “open door” policy remains a cornerstone of the Alliance’s strategy to promote security. Specifically, the leaders should underscore the urgency of resolving Macedonia’s only obstacle to membership, the dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s name; recognize Montenegro’s rapid progress and uniquely good relations with all its neighbors; and make clear that NATO’s commitment that Georgia will become a member is genuine and agree that Georgia’s path to membership is through the NATO-Georgia Commission. Chicago should also welcome Bosnia-Herzegovina into the Membership Action Plan as it meets a final benchmark on ensuring federal control of defense properties.
Furthermore, Chicago should announce that all nations of the Western Balkans who desire membership and are prepared to meet Alliance obligations will be welcomed into NATO, to include Serbia and Kosovo. This declaration would dispel any misperception that enlargement would create new divisions within the region.
Finally, NATO leaders should commit to take decisions on enlargement at their next summit. Such a dramatic statement would provide candidate leaders additional political capital to advance difficult reforms, boost defense spending, and sustain contributions to Afghanistan.
Following Chicago, top NATO officials should travel to the candidates to recognize their progress, urge continued hard work, and make clear that the enlargement process remains alive and well. These visits should be the start of a campaign before the next summit to help the candidates succeed. Such a strategy means doubling down on support for efforts to advance the rule of law, strengthen democratic institutions, and implement defense reforms. This campaign should include a coordinated strategy among Washington, Paris, and Berlin to resolve the Macedonia name issue.
Some argue that adding more, small allies to NATO only complicates decision-making. The reality is that small allies rarely block decisions within the Alliance.
Some will argue that this agenda would alienate Russia further. NATO should continue to seek to cooperate with Russia on issues such as Afghanistan and missile defense and Allies should affirm that an even closer relationship, to include an “alliance with the Alliance,” could be an option for a democratic Russia.
NATO’s task is to ensure the lack of invitations in Chicago does not signal that the enlargement process is stalling.
Ambitious Partnership Initiatives
For NATO to remain effective in an era of borderless threats and emerging powers, it will have to develop stronger global partnerships. Valued partners such as Australia, Sweden, the UAE, Jordan, and others have been crucial partners in NATO operations in Libya and Afghanistan. NATO leaders should use the Chicago summit to forge arrangements that will allow the Alliance to form more flexible and durable partnerships with like-minded countries and regional organizations around the world. As long as threats can emerge from any corner of the globe, NATO should welcome a stronger relationship with partners who can contribute in addressing shared security objectives.
With the Libya mission completed and NATO’s combat role in Afghanistan scheduled to conclude after 2014, the Alliance’s challenge is to devise a means of maintaining effective relationships with valued partners. The administration is correct in insisting that partnerships occupy a primary place at the Chicago summit.
But for NATO to operate more effectively in a world in which security challenges can be of a global scale, the Alliance must think more creatively and ambitiously about how it engages its partners to both make them more meaningful and more expansive. A fundamentally different global security environment demands a fundamental rethink of NATO’s partnerships. To this end, NATO should update its partnership strategy and respond with partnership initiatives reflecting the realities of the 21st century.
First, such an initiative would build on the Lisbon summit’s decision to open up the Partnership for Peace’s toolkit to all partners by relaunching the Partnership for Peace (PFP) as the Partnership for Peace and Security, opening up its charter and its programs to any nation that seeks to cooperate with the Alliance regardless of geography. Alliance partnership activities would no longer be hampered by regional tensions or exclude new partners because of geography.
Second, reflecting the value of those partners who already contribute effectively to NATO operations, the Alliance should introduce a program for those who desire a closer degree of interoperability with NATO short of membership, such as Sweden or Australia. Just as NATO’s military command must certify any national unit prior to deployment to a NATO operation, partners should be able to complete a process that would lead to the formal designation of their militaries as NATO-interoperable armed forces. Such certified nations should then be eligible for special access to Alliance structures, including being invited to join NATO technical committees focused on interoperability, to place officers within the NATO integrated command, and to participate with the North Atlantic Council in decisions for operations in which they are deployed.
Third, NATO allies must not miss the historic window of opportunity to defuse their greatest security threat by launching a partnership initiative to help political and economic transformations in the Middle East and North Africa succeed. The circumstances differ dramatically among Arab nations and therefore the Alliance must develop and offer an approach tailored to each. But NATO should not wait for new, struggling governments to formulate specific requests for assistance; allies need to be working with these governments to help them develop and articulate such requests. In each Arab nation in transition, the role of the military has been critical in determining the trajectory and level of violence during the uprisings; the role of the military will likely be decisive in determining the success or failure of these transitions. While NATO nations will often take the lead bilaterally or work through other international institutions, NATO must play a role in opening up the toolkit that proved so effective in assisting the transition of nations in Central and Eastern Europe.
Fourth, rather than “pivot” from Europe to Asia, the United States should consider how to better link its allies in Europe to its allies in Asia through more concerted cooperation. A specific initiative to more closely bind our European and Canadian allies with America’s Pacific allies could serve as a precursor to multilateralizing US treaty alliances in the Pacific and ultimately forging alliances with the Alliance.
Fifth, NATO should expand its partnership dialogue with rising democratic countries such as Brazil, India, and Indonesia. The goal of these dialogues would focus on joint assessments of the security landscape, possible cooperation on shared challenges, officer exchange programs, and means to encourage transparency. The aim would be over time to transition from competition to convergence to cooperation with key emerging democratic nations who could become valuable Alliance partners in the future.
Finally, the Alliance should focus its partnership outreach efforts on helping to train individual nations or organizations such as the African Union on crisis management. Over the last decade and a half NATO has developed a strong brand in training and developing security forces of partner countries. Investing in security sector reform and development in strategic countries or valued partners hedges against the prospect of regional insecurity and instability and can lead to more capable partners when NATO undertakes operations. Such an initiative will allow NATO to decide not to lead an operation, but to play a critical role in preparing others to lead such operations.
Preparing for the Next Decade
Beyond the formal agenda in Chicago, leaders must begin to repair a growing rift within the Atlantic Alliance. Over the last several years, the credibility of NATO has been threatened by the debt crisis and major cuts in defense spending. The crisis has weakened Europe’s military capabilities, sapped its ambitions for global leadership, and called into question US leadership in Europe and within the Alliance. The decline in European defense capabilities has grown so severe that outgoing US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned of a ‘dim if not dismal’ future for NATO if allies fail to act.
An Alliance adrift would be an historic strategic setback for the United States and its Atlantic allies. For all its shortcomings, NATO remains home to the United States’ most capable and willing allies. The Alliance is the glue that binds the United States, Canada, and Europe into the greatest community of shared values, democratic governance, and prosperity on the planet. A stronger, more ambitious, and more united transatlantic partnership will be essential in shaping a future in which the West accounts for a relatively smaller share of the world economy, population, and military might. For the United States to achieve its international aims in a competitive world, it needs a strong, capable, and ambitious Europe.
Fortunately for the United States and its Atlantic allies, a dismal future for the Alliance is not foreordained. For NATO to build a better future, the United States will have to demonstrate strong leadership of the Alliance, Europe will have to maintain its global ambitions, and the Alliance will have to strengthen its engagement with global powers.
Strong US leadership has been a crucial element of Europe’s peace and prosperity since World War II. This formula will remain relevant to the revitalization of the Alliance. Unfortunately, many in the United States today view Europe as passé given the emergence of China and other Asian powers. This perspective blatantly ignores the fact that our European allies serve as a force multiplier for US foreign policy initiatives worldwide. Afghanistan serves as a primary example, where Europe has 40,000 troops fighting alongside their US counterparts. If the United States withdraws from Europe and turns away from its primary allies, it will likely find Europe less willing and able to assist the United States in achieving its foreign policy priorities. As the United States draws down it forces stationed in Europe and begins to end over a decade of continuous NATO operations, the US military must redouble its effort to train and exercise with allied forces to preserve their ability to fight together.
But US leadership of the Alliance is no substitute for European political ambition. While all allies have a responsibility to strengthen NATO, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Turkey in particular will play key roles in determining whether Europe remains Washington’s top global partner. France will need to continue the path initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy that views cooperation with the United States and within NATO, rather than competition with the United States, as the best means to enhance France’s influence. The United Kingdom – America’s closest and most stalwart ally – will have to maintain the ambition and make the investments in defense necessary to preserve its ‘special relationship’ with Washington. Germany must begin to show the same level of ambition to influence global events that it shows in its economic leadership of the Eurozone crisis.
And Turkey, a crucial bridge between west and east and NATO’s only member growing in influence, should be offered a position of leadership in the Alliance commensurate to the leading role it is playing in the emerging Middle East. In turn, Ankara needs to stop obstructing Alliance activities over issues such as Cyprus, Israel, or NATO’s work with the European Union.
Furthermore, NATO’s next tier of allies – Poland, Italy, Spain, and Canada – should be challenged to step up their roles within the Alliance and bear more of the burden of NATO operations. As they do, these allies should be given greater say in leading the Alliance.
The NATO summit in Chicago will not solve all the challenges facing the Alliance. But it can set the table for a brighter future for the Alliance. With the right mix of US leadership, European ambition, and stronger global partnerships, NATO can begin to trade its ‘dim and dismal’ future for another decade of success.
Thank you Mister Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee. I look forward to answering your questions.
On June 19, please join the Eurasia Center for a discussion on the IMF’s recent presentation Two Decades of Transition in Caucasus and Central Asia: Taking Stock and the Road Ahead with Dr. Juha Kähkönen, deputy director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, and the Honorable William Courtney, former US ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan and former special assistant to the President and senior director of the National Security Council staff for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. This event will be streamed LIVE from 10:30 a.m.
On June 24, the Brent Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council will host a panel discussion on the most recent claims of Chinese cyber espionage and the implications of this threat for the US-China relationship and China's ties with its neighbors in Asia.
On June 27, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force will launch a new issue brief by Ramin Asgard and Barbara Slavin entitled US-Iran Cultural Engagement: A Cost Effective Boon to US National Security, along with a public briefing on people-to-people exchanges with Iran.