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NATO: Upcoming Summit in Riga, Latvia

NATO: Upcoming Summit in Riga, Latvia

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks to Defense Writers Group
Washington, DC
November 21, 2006

MODERATOR, DEFENSE WRITERS GROUP: Welcome this morning to Ambassador Daniel Fried. He’s the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. A career diplomat, has served in at least two administrations in high positions. A lot of time in Eastern Europe on the ground. Welcome. We’re glad to have you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

QUESTION As we were discussing on the way up, I wanted to combine a couple of things, artificially maybe, but to get you to talk about NATO. You pointed out in your presentation to foreign journalists about a month ago that NATO has become kind of like an alliance with no geographic boundaries at this point. It ’s changing quite a bit. It’s going to change more as a result of what happens at Riga next week. Yesterday we also heard the speech by Prime Minister Blair about the need to hunker down for a long haul in Afghanistan.

I wonder if you would take a few minutes here at the top and talk about what you do see coming out of Riga with respect to the alliance and what are the big changes that you said you expect to occur there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Riga is going to be another step in the process of NATO changing, transforming, to use the phrase, from its Cold War identity to the 21st Century identity. You said NATO has a kind of global scope, or there aren’t geographic limits. NATO is and will remain a transatlantic alliance, and its core mission remains the Article 5 mission of defending the security of its members. But in a 21st Century world, this takes place in new ways. The Soviet Union is gone. NATO of the Cold War was prepared to fight one titanic battle in central Germany. Now NATO is adjusting to new threats, and, of course, after all the decades of NATO’s preparation to defend Germany, it’s a great historic irony that the one and only time NATO has invoked Article 5 was in response to an attack on the United States that originated in Afghanistan. And on September 12th, NATO was thrust into a new world for which it was not any more prepared than we were, the United States.

NATO has spent the intervening years beginning to expand its mental horizons and develop its expeditionary capabilities. This does not mean that it becomes a global NATO. It’s a transatlantic NATO, but it has missions around the globe and global capabilities. And this is not so much an assertion by me that NATO has made some huge theoretical shift. This is a statement of fact of how NATO has adjusted to new challenges since 9/11. NATO is in this process of doing so. Riga will mark another step in that process, neither the first nor the last, but it is a case of a transforming alliance which is happening, whose transformation is so profound it is one of the unsung stories, less written stories of the past five years, and it is a success for the transatlantic community that despite disagreements about Iraq, despite politics and partisanship, that NATO has undertaken a set of new missions with Afghanistan front and center that changed the nature of the organization. Again, this is a process, not an act. It’s not as if at Riga there will be some new NATO born from the sea. NATO is in the process of putting together the capabilities and the mental horizons to do this.

QUESTION Back to what Blair had to say yesterday about Afghanistan. It’s the position of the United States government, I believe still, that the NATO allies need to do more in Afghanistan. Do more in terms of operations, more in terms of reconstruction development. That’s correct, isn’t it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: It depends on which hat I want to wear.

QUESTION I was going to ask the question, what does the United States want them to do at this point?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Based on what I said, the next step is for NATO nations to develop military capacities of an expeditionary nature, to have forces they can send to the field at far distance.

The second thing NATO countries have to do is be prepared politically to commit those forces.

Now you can look at glass half full, glass half empty, and both are valid.

QUESTION Around here it’s always half empty. [Laughter].

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Whether I’m half empty or half full depends on who I’m talking to and what my point is. I tend to be half full when I step back and look at progress, because I believe progress is incremental. I& rsquo;m a big believer in half steps which take you a far distance if you take enough of them. Day to day, when I’m talking to allies, I’m glass half empty because I always want countries to do more. But both are valid points of view.

There are now in the south in Afghanistan, where this debate has come up, countries like Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, as well as the United States, that have done a lot. That went in, have done a lot of fighting and have suffered casualties. They have done extremely well on the battlefield.

I should say, to put this in context, it was not a surprise that the Taliban went after the Dutch, the Canadians in the south when they came in. We knew they were going to do so. We knew that when NATO expanded to the south where there had been no international presence and not much Afghan government presence that the Taliban would go after them. We also knew the Taliban, or strongly suspected that the Taliban would go after non-U.S. NATO countries because they believed these would be softer targets, so we knew this would be the case beforehand.

The Taliban’s calculations were wrong. The countries – the Dutch, the Canadians – were extremely tough, and they had battlefield success. They paid a price. There were casualties. But they succeeded on the battlefield.

Now battlefield success in Afghanistan gives you only the time and space you need to create the conditions for strategic success, which is non-military. There’s a lot of stuff that has to happen, but you have to start with basic security.

That is a story of NATO success in the field, but it’s also true that there are four allies that were doing a disproportionate share of the fighting. This is not to criticize allies like Germany that have large effective PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams] in the north. That is also important. They’re doing the job.

The point we have made to allies is that caveats, that is national restrictions on the use of troops, are not what we like to see in NATO operations. It doesn& rsquo;t mean that everyone has to do every job or that the German job in the north or the Italian job in the west is intrinsically somehow irrelevant or less important. That’s not true, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that caveats aren’t a good idea.

The NATO commanders need the operational flexibility to move troops in case of emergencies. That’s what this debate is about. I don’t know if there’s anybody from Canada here, but the Canadian press – this is a big deal for Canada. I think they’ve lost over 40 people. By the standards of 20th Century war, that’s not much, but by Canadian standards and by anybody’s standards these days, that’s a hard price. That& rsquo;s a hard price. The Canadians feel that they ought to know that the rest of NATO is at their back and we understand this and respect it.

QUESTION I take it that the issue of the caveats is going to be raised at Riga.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well look, Afghanistan needs to come up. I don& rsquo;t think it’s right to say we’re going to go in there with a big caveat mission. Afghanistan will come up in a broader context. I think a lot of countries want to hear from us our assessment of how things are going, what’s working, what’s not working, what we can do better. Because, as I said, success in Afghanistan is not simply military. It’s more than military. So we need to be thinking more broadly, and, in fact, we are.

So it’s a lot easier and more constructive to discuss caveats within the context of the whole picture. So countries – so their publics see that this is not simply the Americans trying to solve the problems of Afghanistan through purely military means. That’s not the case. But if the publics believe that is the case it becomes harder for them to accept a role, a fighting role for their troops.

So yes, Afghanistan will come up, but I think it will come up in a way – I hope it comes in the way I describe.

These NATO meetings are sometimes predictable, sometimes not, and especially in the unscripted portions, leaders have a way of not really caring what their advisers say. They will often take the discussion the way they want to take it. That’s why they’re leaders.

QUESTION This summit is not scheduled to be one about expansion, but I’m wondering if communiqués should be expected saying the right kinds of words, and if so to whom? Croatia, Macedonia? Then looking one step further, what kind of language will be there for global partners far beyond the NATO area?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Both good questions. It is not an expansion summit. That is, NATO is not going to be making invitations to new members this time around.

The issue of NATO expansion is, of course, on the agenda in a general way and there are three countries who have been in the so-called Membership Action Plan. Let me step back.

Some of you remember the debate about NATO enlargement in the 1990s, and at that time NATO set up a series of steps starting with Partnership for Peace, then going through Intensified Dialogue on membership questions, then going to a MAP, the Membership Action Plan, and then an invitation to NATO membership. It’s hard to believe NATO membership was as hotly debated as it was ten years ago because it turned out to be such a fabulous success. Look at the Poles, look at the Romanians. These are fighting allies, they have capable militaries. Some of the Polish units are world class. The Romanians fly themselves to Afghanistan. They’ve got C-130s. A fabulous success and the process will continue.

Three countries – Macedonia, Croatia, Albania – are in the so-called Membership Action Plan. President Bush told the Croatian Prime Minister Sanader that he believes Croatia will be ready in 2008 to receive an invitation and that there may be more countries like Macedonia and Albania. We& rsquo;ll see how they do. They’ve all made progress. They all have a way to go. I expect the communiqué will say something about this. It won’t offer an invitation, but I think it will be – it’s still under discussion but it will come up.

There are two other countries that are not in the MAP program but are in the Intensified Dialogue program, and that’s Ukraine and Georgia. Both countries are very different. Ukraine has a large capable military but at the moment there’s no national consensus quite in Ukraine about whether they want to join NATO. The government says it wants to work with NATO; it wants to draw closer to NATO and help its public opinion advance. Georgia, on the other hand, very much wants to join NATO but they have a further way to go in terms of consolidating their institutions. So they are, for different reasons, but Georgia and Ukraine are further removed. We want to work with them and help these countries consolidate.

There is a debate in the alliance, as always, about how far NATO enlargement should go, and my answer to my European colleagues has been what it’s been for the past 15 years on this subject which is let these countries get themselves ready to join NATO, let them work on their democratic institutions, reform of the military, relations with their neighbors. Let them do their homework and when they are ready, then our decision in NATO as to whether to take them in becomes a lot easier. Don’t debate it in the abstract, debate it when these countries clean up their act, so to speak, pull themselves together, and then the question will take care of itself just as it did with Poland, just as it did with the Baltics, just as it did with Romania.

QUESTION Could you tell us which countries will not commit to fighting, to sending in fighting forces? Will anything be done beyond rhetoric possibly at the summit to try to get them to change? And just for the sake of argument, considering the history of some of these countries, what’s so awful about the fact that they’re not going to get in fine fighting shape? Are we just going to forget everything that’s happened before the end of World War II?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Not to be argumentative at all –

QUESTION It seems to me that if some of these countries are not up to fighting battles there may be more people around.

Just stick to the facts. Who’s outside the charmed circle and are you going to do anything to try to get them to join up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: The way you put that, there are so many opportunities for me to generate a story that I’d rather not generate. [Laughter]. That’s fair enough for you to ask, I just have to be careful the way I answer.

Look, I wouldn’t put it in terms of charmed circle or refusing. There has been some speculation in the German press and some debate in Germany, which is obviously one of the countries you’re referring to, about what their role is and should be.

First of all, the Germans have a couple of thousand troops in the north, in Kunduz. I’ve been to their PRT. They are out there, they are patrolling, they are working, they are providing security. So let’s be clear, the Germans are doing a good job in the north.

QUESTION They can do a good job without fighting.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Yes. And I want to be clear, that has to be the start.

Secondly, you raised a question about history. Well look, Germany itself is still working through the issues of what it means to be a leader in Europe and what it means to be a leader in the world. What does this mean? It was a big deal for Germany to send combat troops to the Hindu Kush. I don’t minimize that. The Germans also have troops in KFOR in Kosovo. The commander of KFOR is a German. So this is not a case of knocking the Germans or saying they& rsquo;re not doing a lot, because they are doing a lot.

I want to slice this accurately. The question is, should the NATO commander in the field have the ability to move his, that is NATO resources, in a contingency where they need to be moved? Is the issue of caveats a problem? National caveats are a problem. This doesn’t mean that what the Germans are doing or what the Italians are doing is not intrinsically worth doing. It is. These are worthy efforts.

The question is, do the NATO commanders have the operational flexibility? We think they need that kind of flexibility. I’m putting it in a way differently than your question suggests, but that’s okay. So our view is national caveats are not a good thing in general. NATO commanders should have the flexibility to deploy troops. A country like Canada and the Netherlands have every right to expect that their allies are at their back, which means if they get into trouble they can count on support from all of NATO. That is our approach.

On the one hand, you can write a lot of stories about all of these debates, about whether or not there are enough countries doing the fighting, whether it& rsquo;s working, whether NATO has enough lift capability. On the other hand, the fact that we’re having this discussion at all, the fact that NATO is involved at all in Afghanistan, is rather astonishing. This is a very big deal.

I want to be careful the way we define this debate and respectful of both the Canadians and the Dutch, and understanding of the German position, and we hope that the Germans, as they work through this, will understand that removing caveats is a good thing. That’s a question of allied solidarity.

Another interesting piece of this, four or five years ago if we were sitting around talking about NATO you would have probably asked me whether or not we believed in NATO as an institution or whether we’d rather abandon it in favor of a “coalition of the willing.” Remember that debate? It& rsquo;s interesting that nobody would think to ask this because we – the debate changes. Our thinking has changed. I just thought I’d point that out.

QUESTION But is this coming up at the summit? Is Germany the only caveated country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: No. A lot of countries have caveats. I don’t mean to single out Germany. I mentioned them because your question mentioned them and because they have a large military, they have a large presence in Afghanistan, and the way you framed the question it was obviously about Germany and they’re debating it.

QUESTION I’d like to ask you about energy security. How important will that be as an issue in the summit? And how does NATO approach issues on energy security at a time when Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use it as an instrument of pressure?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: There are two aspects to the question. One is about the transatlantic communities and then Europe’s energy policies, in general, with respect to Russia. A second question is what is NATO’s role within that larger question?

The Europeans are debating themselves questions of their energy dependence and energy diversification. It’s our view that monopolies are not a good thing in economics generally, and they’re less good in energy. We believe in diversification of sources of energy. We believe in open energy markets, meaning that they should be open for investment, pipelines should be not the property of one country, and an open market is going to be good for everybody, both consumers and suppliers. It’s good for suppliers because an open system attracts the highest quality investment which is what you need to develop resources.

For Europe, the debate on energy policy is generally between member nations, that is each country has its own national energy policy – the Germans anti-nuclear, the French pro-nuclear. There’s a debate between how much of Europe’s energy policy should be EU-wide and how much should be national; so that’s one debate. Another debate is what their position should be about Russia and the gas problem. A third debate is what, if anything, NATO should do. I want to unpack that question a little bit.

Jim Jones and people in the United States, I’m thinking of Senator Lugar and others, have started addressing this question. There may be certain niche capabilities for NATO. And these are not decisions; we’re thinking about these issues. Does NATO have a role in possibly protecting pipelines from terrorism? Does it have a role in helping countries provide for security of LNG and other energy hard points on their territory?

QUESTION You mean terminals?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Terminals, yes. NATO 20 years ago discussed and vigorously debated pipelines. You remember the pipeline debates from the Soviet Union in the ’80s. A huge debate in NATO. I myself have discussed energy questions at NATO. So this is something that NATO is beginning to get its mind around. It’s a critically important issue. The Europeans are, there are various views in Europe. The Poles are at sort of one end and their view very strongly is Europe needs to reduce its energy dependence on Russia but not eliminate it. The Poles don’t want to not buy gas from Russia; they want to also buy it from other sources so no one has a monopoly and the market forces can then prevail. Other countries think well, there is less of a problem than the Poles think, that Russia needs to sell gas to us as much as we need to buy it from the Russians so this isn’t as big a deal. Nevertheless, NATO may have a niche capability here and it’s our view that NATO ought to think about this. It’s a large complicated problem and NATO may have a role.

I hope I answered it.

QUESTION I wonder if you could speak broadly about what you see as the extent of Russian cooperation with American diplomacy. From time to time, Sergei Lavrov seems to kind of flamboyantly show his unwillingness to play along with us. Others suggest maybe this is just a show. Maybe Putin is more cooperative.

Could you just run through the list? Where are they helping us? How much of an obstacle? Do they want to appear more uncooperative than they are?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: That’s an interesting way you put it. They& rsquo;re better than they seem. [Laughter]. Mark Twain on Wagner’s music – it’s better than it sounds. [Laughter].

Look, the U.S.-Russia relationship is very broad and runs through a spectrum. In some areas we are cooperating quite well. I’ll give you an example.

Nuclear proliferation issues and counter-terrorism – really working very well together. Bob Joseph and Sergei Kislyak help run a global initiative on countering nuclear proliferation.

QUESTION But you're not speaking of Iran when –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I’ll get to that, but I want to start by identifying areas where we really are working very well together.

A couple of areas like that. Then there are some areas where we are basically on the same side. We wish that the cooperation was a little smoother, but we are on the same side. Iran is an example. North Korea, we’re working pretty well together. On Kosovo we have been working well together. I hope it stays that way. They’re part of the Contact Group.

There are issues, on economic issues. We range from good cooperation, U.S. investment in Russia’s economy, both energy and non-energy industrial investment. We’ve signed a WTO bilateral agreement, finally. It’s a good achievement.

On the other hand, there are areas – we wish that the Russian energy sector were more open. But that’s an area of cooperation.

There are other areas where we have different points of view. Georgia, for example. I was in Moscow last week; I talked, had about two and a half hours with my Russian counterpart about Georgia. Areas where we think we can work together, areas where we have real differences. So we’re working through this.

You can’t describe the U.S.-Russia relationship using any particular word. We are realistic about Russia’s achievements and its problems. We cooperate wherever we can. Where we disagree, we say so, we push back, and we do that openly. So that is not the kind of relationship where we’re wildly enthusiastic about everything or we’re really mad at the Russians. Those are two modes that American administrations in the past have indulged themselves, and neither one is particularly appropriate. We have a partnership with Russia. It’s realistic I think on both sides; areas of cooperation, areas of disagreement. But I think we’re pretty open-eyed on both sides about this relationship.

QUESTION Do they sometimes want their music to appear worse than it is?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: You know, I think there is a range of views in Russia about the United States which reflects the Russian debate about what their place is in the world. They’re debating issues themselves – Eurasianism, Third Way, Russia as apart from the rest of the world or Russia as more cooperative with the United States, more cooperative with Europe. These are debates that Russians have had for some time and you see that reflected in different views by different people. But I think from a Russian point of view, they see their country as having regained some of the strength from a period of national chaos and decline in the 1990s. Again, that would be their view, as I& rsquo;ve heard it expressed. They think they’re back. They want to be more of a power in the world. But that doesn’t mean they want to have a hostile relationship with us. That’s their point of view.

We want to cooperate with them wherever we can. We have our own concerns about some of the developments in Russia that we’ve expressed, and this is something we work at every day.

QUESTION Go back to energy, wearing your wider European hat. There clearly are people in Europe who are very worried about what they see as being a Russian strategy to, both by differential pricing, by control of supply, but also by buying up chunks of the supply chain. They see Russia as having a fairly clear strategy of achieving at least a potential predominance over Western European energy and therefore the potential to shut it off.

What’s your view, what’s the U.S. view about what one knows or can surmise about Russia’s energy strategy vis-Ã -vis Europe?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: We see the same things that a lot of the Europeans see. We’ve talked about it with the Europeans. We believe that energy markets ought to be open, that supplies ought to come from multiple sources, both functionally – fossil fuel, non-fossil fuel, exotic sources, nuclear, there ought to be a variety of supplies functionally and geographically. It’s probably a bad idea to rely on only one national supplier for your oil or gas. That just strikes me as a principle, not anything particular to Russia, but in general you want to have options.

Therefore, we think that multiple pipelines make a lot of sense.

Look, this is actually, an open energy system is going to be good for Russia. That will mean that investment will flow based on commercial terms in a more efficient manner. But Russia energy policy isn’t written in Washington, it’s written in Moscow. Our view is that opening up multiple sources is probably a good idea and that’s what we support on commercial terms. We don’t believe in politically chosen routes, we believe in commercially chosen routes, but with that general caveat in mind – if I can use the caveat word in a different context.

QUESTION To come back to that. Commercially chosen [inaudible] pipeline. That of course gets to the debate about routes of pipelines out of the sands to let& rsquo;s say Ceyhan in Turkey, where the commercial line would go through the Russian network. But again, that would allow for pipeline diversity. [Inaudible] head south.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I’m not sure that’s accurate. I remember the discussion, this debate starting ten years ago about the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Shah Deniz gas pipeline, where it was argued that it didn’t make commercial sense. That, in fact, it would be better just to go through Russian controlled pipelines. But it turned out – and, by the way, I’m incapable of doing this – if you crunch the numbers, Baku-Ceyhan was, in fact, commercially viable; it was the best route. On price terms alone. And therefore the problem you were trying to outline doesn’t arise.

I’m not in a position to talk about trans-Caspian routes, and, for instance, whether Kazakhstan fields in the North Caspian Sea would be better sent through Russian pipelines or through trans-Caspian South Caucasus pipelines. I don’t know the answer to that question. But I suspect that just as it’s a good idea to have multiple sources of supply, a seller may want to have more than one option for selling gas as a prudent policy.

Look, this is for the Kazakhs, but we think that companies ought to be able to crunch the numbers and pipelines ought to be built where it makes commercial sense and obviously environmental sense too.

QUESTION I’ll take you back to caveats, if you will. Which countries do have troops in Afghanistan? Which ones don’t have caveats on them? And what are you doing to change that if anything? Do you see anything happening in Riga? Do you have any reason to believe that those caveats will change?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: A list of countries with caveats. I don’t have a list of countries with caveats. There are almost 32,000 NATO troops. The big contributors are U.S., UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, France, Romania, and the Poles are going to be a big contributor. They’re sending in a mechanized infantry battalion without caveats early next year.

QUESTION Who doesn’t have caveats?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Honestly, I am not sure which ones don’t have caveats. You’re not going to get a list like that. But some of the countries in the north, some of the countries in the west, we went into the south earlier and the Dutch and the Canadians agreed to take this on. This is a tough debate in the Netherlands. I was in the Netherlands almost a year ago and talked to their Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Chief of their General Staff. They knew this would be tough. It’s a good thing they debated it because had they not, their publics would say why the hell didn’t you tell us? But they did know it would be tough and they’ve done a good job.

QUESTION But we know that the U.S. doesn’t have them. Canada, Netherlands don’t have them.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: They’re in the south. The countries in the south are the UK, U.S., Netherlands, Canada, and there are others. The Estonians have a small contingent in the south, and I’m sorry, I don& rsquo;t have a list based on geography. I’ve got a total list.

QUESTION Is it possible for us to maybe get one later? This gets talked about all the time.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: A fair question. I’ll see what I can get you.

QUESTION Do you have any reason to believe that it’s going to change, and are you going to take any steps to change it at Riga or elsewhere?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I think countries are beginning to debate this. I think what precipitated this is not so much what the United States did; it& rsquo;s the fact that the Canadians and Dutch were doing a lot of fighting. The Canadians especially said, wait a minute. How come us? Why did we draw the short straw? Shouldn’t allied solidarity mean at least countries are going to be standing at our back? I must say, the Canadians rather have a point.

But again, I don’t mean and I don’t think the Canadians meant to say that any other kind of a mission is not a worthy mission. So it’s not that kind of a debate. We think caveats are a bad idea. Anybody who follows Kosovo probably remembers the March ’04 riots where because of national caveats NATO lost control of the situation for about a 24/48 hour period. I hated that. I was in Slovakia meeting with the then Serbian Defense Minister, now the President of Serbia. Churches were being burned. These were riots. And NATO, KFOR was not able to do its job because of the caveats. We’ve since eliminated them for Kosovo and the force there is much more ready. God knows, I hope it doesn’t get tested, but it is in better shape to deal with these sorts of contingencies.

You shouldn’t reintroduce these kinds of things in ISAF. It doesn’t mean that every country has to do the fighting. Obviously there are jobs in the north and the west that are relatively secure. Those are worthy jobs. But you shouldn’t have countries saying no, we don’t do fighting, we don& rsquo;t get our hands dirty.

QUESTION So why do you allow it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: What do you mean, we allow it?

QUESTION Why not say if you want to participate in this we need –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we want countries to participate and then you have countries saying we’ll participate but our parliament has put on a couple of restrictions. Do you really want not to take a battalion or a couple of companies? We’d rather have them without caveats, even if they are going to relatively secure areas.

QUESTION I’d love to hear your thoughts on the role that money will play in Riga. I’m interested in your thoughts on the cost of operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan and other places. Also there’s been more talk lately of joint NATO assets like air to ground surveillance and the C-17. So where’s the money going to come from and how’s it going to play in the discussion?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: The C-17 initiative is rather interesting. It& rsquo;s the first time that NATO has agreed to develop its own strategic airlift capability, and it’s between three and four C-17s. This is a big deal. Fifteen allies and one non-NATO partner, Sweden, have created a consortium to buy, sort of time shares, in a fleet of C-17s. This may grow a little bit.

It’s a major initiative. Basically the rule was you buy time shares. The more money the more time in a C-17 you get. This actually made a tremendous amount of sense because countries know they need to be able to lift their troops. They didn’t want to have to scramble each time ad hoc. It’s a very big deal. C-17s that are kind of a NATO asset. I say kind of because it& rsquo;s time shares, but basically will function as a NATO asset.

There’s also been some discussion of common funding for more pieces of NATO operations. The argument, that charge has been led by the Poles and the Spanish. The Poles, who have a very capable military, argue that they don& rsquo;t have a big budget and they would rather spend their money on force development and they would rather be in the field, but if they can’t afford to get there they’ll be less willing. It’s fair that NATO pitches in and helps the willing but less affluent allies.

So NATO’s discussing that. I think slowly there’s going to be a little more common funding for pieces of NATO operations.

Generally, money, at NATO there’s never quite enough. Defense budgets. We ’ve had this debate for a generation. The issue in terms of defense budget is not so much the raw budget; it’s what you're spending it on. Some of the smaller allies have developed capable forces they can send into the field and they’re willing to do so without major up ticks in spending. They’ve just reformed their militaries.

The Baltics do not have air forces, they don’t have fighter planes. NATO does air policing for them, a rotational squadron of four fighters. So the Baltics say the money we don’t spend on an air force that we don’t quite need, we can spend training forces, getting them into the field on NATO operations. You decide, they’ve said to us. No decision. This is a good thing to do.

So you have NATO countries spending for useable capabilities rather than trying to create tiny little, 360-degree militaries. Some progress with all the problems.

QUESTION What scale do you think common funding might take? Millions, billions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Start low. The wealthier NATO countries say wait a minute, why should we pay twice? We pay for ourselves, and then we pay through increased NATO budgets for common funding. So these debates always take a while and you advance these issues a slice at a time. As you’re building this expeditionary NATO, you're adding capabilities, you’re adding political will, you’re adding budgetary mechanisms, and this is an incremental process. Like any incremental process you don’t see it every day and then you wake up and bang. No. When did this happen? A lot happens in the medium term.

QUESTION President Bush spoke a while ago about NATO’s role in Darfur, in Sudan. Has that completely gone now? You’re talking about this hybrid force, and then the UN-AU force. Secondly, I wonder if you’re going to look at the frozen conflicts while you’re at NATO? Will that come up? Russia-Georgia tensions and frozen conflicts?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: On Darfur, NATO did provide a strategic airlift for the African Union force. The AMIS force. I think they put in 5,000 peacekeepers and civilians into Darfur. NATO’s provided the AU with training capability.

Could NATO do more? Yes. Physically it has the capability to do it. You know what the problem is, which is a political problem. Sudan, the UN, this is a very slow dance and it is frankly frustrating. We wish more were happening and faster. From where I sit, NATO has the capability. It’s not the only organization with the capability. It may be that the UN and AU take the lead and NATO plays a very low profile role behind them.

In the future, in the 21st Century, NATO’s missions will vary. Some of it will be high profile – Afghanistan. Some of it will be lower profile & ndash; Darfur. Some of it will be stuff that happens and you don’t even notice, like NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation patrols in the Mediterranean. And slowly, NATO will develop into the security arm of the transatlantic community, dealing with contingencies where these might arise. When this happens, as I think it will, people will look back and say wait a minute. When did this happen? The answer is, you were all writing about the fights about Iraq and old Europe and new Europe and coalition of the willing, all this stuff, NATO has been moving forward. So it’s an interesting process.

Frozen conflicts. South Ossetia, Abkhazia. For those that don’t know, those are break-away provinces of Georgia and very nasty conflicts they are in deed. There’s a third one in Moldova, the Transdniestria, a long sliver of land. It probably won’t come up directly at NATO. NATO doesn’t have an immediate role. It comes up indirectly because Georgia has a relationship to NATO. NATO obviously discusses these issues from time to time, but NATO doesn’t have a direct role.

OSCE is active in South Ossetia. The UN is active in Abkhazia. There are very serious issues of confidence-building and keeping the peace there, but probably not NATO for a long time, if ever.

QUESTION My question is about Iraq. Is the time right for NATO to step in? What can NATO do?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: NATO has had a training mission in Iraq for some time. I think it’s trained about 2,500 Iraqi officers. It’s had a training facility; about 200 NATO officers are there. NATO allies have donated a lot of equipment. I doubt NATO would take over a more formal combat role. I notice that my former colleagues Dick Holbrooke and Ron Asmus have talked about NATO sending troops to Kurdistan. I read that and I thought well, that means Holbrooke and Asmus have accepted the argument of NATO’s far-flung missions and now they’re just making suggestions based on that model. That’s probably a good thing. If you’ve got that kind of a consensus about what NATO should be doing at a strategic level and you’re debating which operation makes sense, that’s a good thing. Ron Asmus is kind of famous pro-NATO. So that’s good. Underneath that you have a more bipartisanship, but Holbrooke and Asmus probably wouldn’t like to hear it coming from me. They’re friends. They’re good people.

But I don’t think NATO is going to play more of a combat role.

QUESTION What is the status of ground-based [inaudible]? And related to that, can you talk about any kind of missile defense-related goals you may have for the Riga summit.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Not really this time at the Riga summit, and as for the missile defense, that’s not quite a NATO issue but we’ve been having bilateral discussions with some countries – Poles and Czechs, as you well know. But you should put that question to my Defense Department colleagues. It’s being debated and discussed now.

QUESTION Any [inaudible] where you are towards [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I don’t know. I thought there would be a decision this year, but again, it’s a military thing. Discussions are continuing. Sorry, you’ll have to ask them.

QUESTION I was just wondering if you could elaborate a bit on the common funding idea. It seems like the C-17 issue came up pretty quick this past summer. I was wondering if you saw anything like that in the pipeline. You& rsquo;ve mentioned a couple of examples of Spain and Poland being particularly interested. What kinds of capabilities in particular do you see them looking for form NATO? And is anything else –

Secretary Fried: The C-17 initiative is not common funding. It’s time shares. You buy time shares in a C-17, you buy a slice of the airplane, which means Country X buys so many hours. The common funding came up with the question of the NATO Response Force. Remember this was launched at Prague and it was intended to be NATO’s expeditionary, rapid deployable force. NATO had tried that before, it never got off the ground. The NRF is actually the most successful effort so far to put this together. It’s big. It’s core strength, which is something that had never been done by NATO before, but it made sense given this expeditionary emphasis. That’s how the debate about common funding came in.

The NRF or part of the NRF was used to help Pakistan earthquake relief. I think it was the Spanish, maybe the Poles, but I think the Spanish were on call. They were doing their NRF rotation, and that unit was needed, and under the funding formula the costs fall where they lie. The Spanish had to pick up the whole tab. They said, wait a minute, that’s just luck of the draw. In another six months or a year it would have been someone else. We thought, you know, they’ve got a point. Countries will be more willing to pitch in to the NRF with capable units if they know they’ve got some financial backing.

You don’t want to sit there and think, oh, for God’s sakes, I& rsquo;m in but I don’t have the money to do anything. God, I hope nothing happens. Or if it does, I better vote against it so we don’t have to use it. You don’t want that perverse incentive structure. Therefore, this issue has come up and I think countries are debating it now.

Like I said, all of these things take a while to debate. NATO sort of chews these things over for a long time and then it comes out with an answer. So we& rsquo;ll see.

I’m giving you a kind of real world sense of how this debate arose.

QUESTION I want to just ask one final question, and maybe get a brief answer. Back in the ’90s, Klauss Naumann, General Klauss Naumann came to this group several times. On virtually every occasion he brought up the problem of the widening technological gap between NATO Europe militaries and the United States military. He was concerned that over time that gap was growing to such an extent that NATO and the United States would not be able to interoperate in military actions. If anything, it seems like that has gone way beyond even what Naumann worried could happen, to the point where no one even really discusses that any more.

Has the technological gap gotten so wide now that the European allies can& rsquo;t even play in the same game that the United States plays in?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I’m familiar with that debate, and you should ask somebody like Eric Edelman or somebody at JCS about this. But I can answer it by describing the discussions we’ve had about Afghanistan and KFOR. My Pentagon colleagues have never come to me and said, wait a minute, we don& rsquo;t want this Polish battalion because they don’t have all the high-tech gadgetry. When the Poles offered up this mechanized infantry battalion without caveats, the reaction was, man, that’s great. The Poles know what they’re doing. Their officers are serious. Their soldiers are well-trained. We want them. That was an honest, real world answer. Nobody said wait a minute.

Obviously Naumann knows what he’s talking about. He’s one of the best thinkers about strategy and military issues in Europe today. So obviously he has a point, but all I can say is in practice we were glad to have well-trained, capable troops. Political will, willingness to use forces, good training of forces makes a lot of difference. Capability of command, the basics makes a lot of difference.

I’ll tell you a story. The Lithuanians took on a PRT in Afghanistan in the middle of the mountains, a terribly remote place. They made it around October. The Afghans said you’ll be going for the winter, right? Tell us when you’re leaving. The Lithuanians said no, we’re going to stay through the winter. That impressed all the local leaders. They stayed in the winter and they made a lot of friends.

QUESTION But that’s kind of a low technology –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: That’s my point, and that made a big difference.

QUESTION But I’m talking about in kind of main conventional forces. No one even discusses that any more.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Obviously these things come up. I’m not suggesting the problem has gone away. I’m just saying that in the real world, where I operate, other factors have been important, in addition to those. Now this doesn’t mean that in some operation, it doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. I’m just saying that in Afghanistan and in KFOR you wanted well-trained, capable, modern troops, well-equipped, but the high-end battlefield, cutting-edge technology was not as much of an issue.

The Dutch fought very well – the Dutch have a modern military. These people are serious. But no one ever came to me and said you know, they would have done better had they had X amount of equipment. Don’t take my word as the final one. Go to the military people and ask their opinion. I’m giving you my impression rather than a studied judgment. You asked, so I’ ll give you the best I’ve got.

QUESTION We’re out of time. Thanks very much.

Released on November 22, 2006


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