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Security Challanges in a fast changing International Enviroment

Sofia, 30 January 2013

Public Lecture for the “Sofia Forum for the Balkans”

Introducing the guest: Franco Frattini, nominated by the Italian government for the position of Secretary General of NATO and an honorable speaker at the last Sofia Forum for the Balkans, gave a public lecture at Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan on Wednesday 30 January. The lecture has dealt with the topic: “The Changing Security Challenges in Today’s Changing World”. Mr. Frattini is on a working visit in Bulgaria at the invitation of the Bulgarian Minister of Defense, Anu Angelov, and the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nickolay Mladenov.


I am particularly pleased to be in Sofia today, upon invitation of the Bulgarian Government, in a country in which I have many friends and that I convincingly supported during my tenure as Italy’s Foreign Minister and EU Commission’s Vice President in her bid for membership in both NATO and the European Union.

I was then and I am all the more convinced today that Bulgaria plays a crucial role in our Euro-Atlantic Community, not only regionally in South Eastern Europe but also as a security provider on a broader international level. This is testified by the fact that only last year, Bulgaria took part in 6 NATO and EU missions and operations, while participating in 14 international missions and operations in the year 2011.

Today’s fast changing security environment is characterized by a high degree of unpredictability. This has required the members of our transatlantic community, several times since the end of the Cold War, to project military power far beyond our national borders, making use of a mix of diplomatic and military capabilities in order to manage successfully crises that have had direct impact on our security.

Who would have predicted, while watching on our TV screens the Berlin Wall coming down and welcoming the historical opportunities for democratic change in Eastern Europe, that only in a few years time war would have erupted in Bosnia? And that the then 16 NATO nations together with 21 non-NATO partner countries would have been asked by the parties in the Dayton accords and by the UN, to deploy to Bosnia 65,000 troops to help bring peace there? And who would have predicted that again NATO, with a very broad international consensus, would have conducted an air campaign over Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and would have subsequently deployed a NATO Kosovo Force there to help stabilizing the country leading 30 NATO and partner countries?

Neither any think tank or intelligence agency had predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States; or the chain reaction that the extreme gesture of a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouaziz would have triggered in North Africa and throughout the Middle East, where people were and still are seeking better living conditions and the protection of their human rights in societies that they would like to be based upon the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.

Likewise, no one predicted either that NATO would have intervened militarily in an Arab country to establish and enforce a No Fly Zone there, upon the request of the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council and of those of the League of Arab States, under two UN Security Council resolutions and with four Arab countries taking part in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector in Libya.

All these events and others that continue to unfold as we speak today, in Syria, in Mali, or in the Sahel, to name just a few, clearly point at the fact that we are living in a fast changing international environment characterized by transnational security challenges, very difficult to predict. These security challenges to be adequately met by our transatlantic community require, at one time, highly flexible crisis management tools and robust political and military capabilities.

During the last twenty years NATO has undergone a major adaptation process to the new Post-Cold war security realities, to continue providing security and stability to the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. In an uncertain and fast changing security environment, NATO embodies the transatlantic link and remains the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security. This transatlantic alliance is a unique source of political and military capabilities to manage successfully unpredictable crises and to build new partnerships through a new and cooperative approach to security, while continuing to provide for the security of its members.

But I am also convinced that transformation for NATO must be a continuous process.

Indeed, only by continuing to flexibly adapt to a fast changing international environment will our Alliance be able to continue to provide for the security of its members and to project internationally the security needed to manage successfully today’s crises.

With the end of the Cold War a new and broader concept of security has emerged, one no longer characterized by the defense of the borders of our countries from clear and predictable security threats but rather, one characterized by multifaceted and multidimensional security challenges and threats that are more difficult to predict.

The security risks and threats emanating from international terrorism, spill over from failing and failed states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, the protection of sea lanes of communication and energy supply routes and cyber security, do not know borders and affect us all. They also require a focused effort to develop the right capabilities to deal effectively with these security challenges and threats.

When looking at international terrorism, for example, we need to reinforce our capabilities to better fight this evolving threat through intelligence sharing, border security, the protection of critical infrastructures, consequence management, improved threat awareness, the development of adequate counter-terrorism capabilities and enhanced engagement between international organizations and with partner countries. It is also crucial to improve our ability to detect, disrupt and defeat terrorist attacks, including through countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ensuring the survivability of large aircraft against Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), or providing critical infrastructure protection.

And of course one potential threat that requires our utmost vigilance is represented by the risk that terrorist groups could acquire and combine weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means.

This is for example a major international concern today in Syria, where there are fears that the Assad regime could use chemical weapons in the ongoing unrest, or that these weapons of mass destruction could fall in the ends of terrorist or extremist groups operating in the country. This would clearly be a game changer in the evolution of the current conflict in Syria.

I followed last month the December meeting of your Interdepartmental Council on the participation of Bulgaria in NATO and in the EU’s CSDP. I saw that Defense Minister Angelov spoke on the Bulgarian contribution in providing reliable digital platforms related to cyber security, stressing also the need for close coordination not only at national but also at NATO and EU level. I could not agree more.

Cyber security is, indeed, another emerging transnational security challenge for which we need to develop both in NATO and in the EU the capabilities to secure the digital infrastructure that our economies and our military security depend on. The multiplication of sophisticated cyber attacks across borders makes it, indeed, all the more urgent to develop hi-tech cyber defense capabilities to protect our civilian and defense information and communication systems.

During the 1999 Operation Allied Force in Kosovo NATO’s web site and the websites of Allies came under cyber attacks, Estonia was the target of major attacks in 2007 and so were the financial institutions of the United States in 2012. These attacks have highlighted the importance to secure the digital infrastructure upon our economies and our military security is dependent on.

Our societies must therefore prepare for cyber emergencies and our states must develop strategies to manage successfully cyber crises, which will necessitate both technical and political responses and that will require coordination across states, as well.

New concepts will need to be absorbed in our strategic thinking such as, for example, the one of “cyber resilience”, in order to make our digital infrastructure more resistant to penetration and disruption, developing new capabilities to defend against sophisticated cyber threats and to deal quickly with cyber emergencies.

I am convinced that cyber defense will give in the future a new meaning to both article 5 and article 4 of the Washington Treaty. Because once again an attack against NATO or its members could come from far away and in a total asymmetrical way, from state or non-state actors, through cyber warfare. Therefore as members of our transatlantic security Alliance, we will need to define minimum requirements for cyber defense of national networks critical to the performance of NATO’s core security tasks of collective defense and crisis management.

In an effort to respond to this new security challenge, in February of last year, NATO has decided among other measures, the establishment of a NATO Computer Incident Response Capability and at its Chicago Summit last May to bring all of NATO networks under centralized protection. I believe that time is ripe for the Allies to begin discussing and agreeing the role that NATO should play in defending our member countries from cyber-attacks.

This is all the more so at a time of austerity. NATO countries and our partners will have to deal at a time of growing financial constraints with new security challenges and threats.

During the Cold War years, the European members of NATO accounted for about 34 percent of the defense spending, while the United States and Canada accounted for about 66 percent. With the end of the Cold War, we witnessed a 20 per cent decrease of defense spending by the European member countries of NATO whose combined Growth Domestic product had, conversely, a 55 percent increase. We should consider that between 2000 and 2009 India increased by 59 percent its defense spending, while internationally raising China tripled its own defense spending. In light of today’s economic crisis we can expect that all European member countries of NATO will be forced to reduce their defense budgets.

Looking at the United States, the outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that he has asked the US military services to look at a freeze of civilian hiring, delay maintenance work and undertake precautionary planning for unpaid leave, fearing that the US Congress would apply this year across-the-board defense cuts that in order to reduce the US deficit, would have the Pentagon face 487 billion dollars in cuts to defense spending over the next decade, under the procedure known as sequestration, that the Department of Defense began already implementing during the last fiscal year. Only this year the Pentagon faces 45 billion dollars in defense cuts unless Congress can agree on an alternative package of spending reductions.

Projecting NATO forces outside Europe could become very difficult if we allow defense cuts to undermine the military capability that, from the lessons learned most recently in Afghanistan and Libya, our Alliance is very much in need of. These are primarily: joint logistics capabilities deployed during operations, Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), refueling aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Special Operations Forces. Finding the resources to invest in these capabilities will be very hard if defense cuts are carried out indiscriminately by the Allies.

If NATO’s level of ambition to conduct two major operations and six small ones is to be credible, the Alliance must examine carefully the impact of defense cuts on its ability to manage these operations and decide soon how to address this issue. A few days ago, Secretary Panetta said in London (I quote) “To be prepared to quickly respond to a wider range of threats in a era of fiscal constraint, we must build an innovative, flexible and rational model forward-deployed- presence and training” (end quote)- I completely agree, this is a big challenge for all of us.

Some efforts in the right direction are being made already. European countries have developed the Pooling and Sharing initiative to help compensating the impact of defense cuts, rationalizing defense efforts while reducing costs; particularly in the areas of tanker aircraft, modular field hospitals, training courses for helicopter pilots and maritime surveillance.

Tanker aircraft especially are a crucial capability, because they are essential in the long-distance deployment of forces as support to other aircraft.

Through the Smart Defense Initiative, NATO countries are working to harmonize and prioritize their requirements, to better align the collective requirements and national priorities of member states. Instead of pursuing purely national solutions, Allies have decided that, where it is efficient and cost-effective, they will seek out more multinational solutions, including for acquisition, training and logistic support. They will give priority to those capabilities which NATO needs most, specialize in what they do best and look for multinational solutions to shared problems.

Another important effort is represented by the Connected Forces Initiative, in order to ensure that NATO forces are more inter-operable and therefore better able to work together, while sharing common doctrines and procedures, among member countries and also with our partners. Especially if this initiative is able to enhance the ability of our military equipment to share common facilities and to interact, connect, communicate, exchange data and services with other equipment.

However, I fear that these efforts will not be enough to compensate for the considerable defense cuts that especially European defense budgets but also North American ones will be forced to make at this time of austerity. Certainly, no NATO country can shoulder alone the responsibility and burden for our collective security. There is therefore much scope for transatlantic coordination.

I do believe therefore that time has come to agree that defense cuts that the Allies will be forced to make, as a consequence of the current economic crisis, are coordinated through NATO consultative political process.

One way to coordinate defense cuts among Allies could be to cut considerably some areas of defense spending while investing in new capabilities needed to deal with new challenges. This would allow to eliminate old capabilities, while adjusting defense spending to sustain minimal investments in more modern capabilities, in a coordinated way among the member countries of NATO, such as: ISR platforms, missile defense, Precision Guide Munitions, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Special Forces and cyber defense capabilities, to deal with new security challenges.

Certainly, I think there is a growing need to start discussing within NATO, among Europeans, the US and Canada, how to ensure that the defense cuts that our countries will have to make, will not end up undermining our ability to deal effectively with future unpredictable security challenges and threats.

NATO must, indeed, continue to meet the risks emanating from instability and unpredictable security developments likely to affect the security of its member countries by developing the defense capabilities needed to meet its new post-Cold War missions.

In this new political and strategic international environment, the success of a policy aimed at preserving peace and preventing conflicts depends even more than in the past on effective preventive diplomacy and on the successful management of crises affecting our security. Maintaining our collective defense capability effective and efficient at a time of financially constrained budgets can also be achieved by increasing “multi-nationality” whenever possible, to facilitate acquisition of high-end capabilities, avoiding national duplications and creating economies of scale. Thereby maximizing practical ways to provide security, while minimizing costs to all member countries of both NATO and the EU.

One thing is certain: if the capabilities are available for NATO they will also be there for the EU. But if the capabilities are missing for NATO they will not be there for the EU. The maintenance of adequate capabilities for our core tasks of collective defense and for crisis management is crucial if NATO and the EU are to continue to promote international security and stability for the years to come.

Following the creation of the European Defense Agency (EDA) to coordinate the development of the EU’s defense capabilities, cooperation, acquisition and research, the NATO-EU Defense Capability Group can further work to promote complementarity between NATO’s Smart Defense Initiative and the EU’s Pooling and Sharing Initiative.

Another important effort underway is the one undertaken under the Task Force Defense, established under the leadership of EU Commissioner Michel Barnier, aiming at providing a coherent, ambitious response to industrial, strategic, economic and political challenges for the organization of defense and security markets within the EU. The EU Defense Task Force’s focus on competition, industry, and policy, to open up EU defense markets can also complement NATO’s Smart Defense Initiative.

There is also a growing need to do more together between NATO and the Europeans in other areas, as well. The complementarity of efforts between the EU and NATO can, indeed, be promoted and extended to all areas of mutual interest, starting with more focused political consultations at top level as well as the level of working groups and respective staff.

These practical measures would help develop a new mind-set, a new culture of complementarity and cooperation between the NATO and the EU in areas of mutual interest.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Managing the diversity of security challenges and threats facing the transatlantic community requires a broad approach to security. This is reflected in three mutually reinforcing elements of NATO security policy: political dialogue, co-operation and, of course, the maintenance of an effective collective defense capability.

NATO’s main function must be to remain the primary forum for coordinating transatlantic political consultations and effective security cooperation. NATO helps reducing duplications in the defense and in the security fields and prevents the renationalization of its members’ defense and security. NATO’s cost-effectiveness allows the individual members of the Alliance to spend much less than they inevitably would have to without the Alliance.

But NATO is most of all to me the embodiment of the transatlantic partnership between Europe, the United States and Canada. A partnership based upon the enduring and shared values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as upon the shared interests of ensuring the defense and well-being of our countries by projecting security and stability internationally.

Furthermore, NATO continues to fulfill, in an irreplaceable way, the main security tasks common to its members. The new NATO Strategic Concept approved by NATO’s Heads of State and Government in Lisbon identifies, indeed, three core security tasks to ensure the security of our territory and populations: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security with a broad range of countries and organizations around the globe.

Allow me to conclude by underlining that I believe that cooperation with these partner countries and institutions is crucial to NATO’s current and future ability to be an effective security provider. The strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union is also an important element in the development of an international “Comprehensive Approach” to crisis management and operations, which requires the effective application of both civilian and military means. Equally important will be for NATO to deepen ties to other international institutions that it has been in touch with in recent years, namely the Gulf Cooperation Council, the League of Arab States and the African Union.

NATO’s partnerships with countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue, in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, or with Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, show how through political dialogue and practical cooperation we can build a new culture of cooperation in the security sphere.

Partnerships help us promote a better mutual understanding between NATO and a large number of countries of different cultures, thereby preventing conflicts but they also help us build the political consensus and military interoperability required to manage successfully complex crises when they occur. This is particularly evident through the political and military contribution of our partners to the successful management of the NATO-led operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.

Since the end of the Cold War NATO moved from confrontation to cooperation in the security field, taking advantage of the political dialogue and practical cooperation it has developed through its security partnerships with different countries in different world regions, contributing effectively to a more secure, stable and peaceful international environment.

The Alliance must therefore continue to build on these wide network of partnerships, having learned during the last two decades that the new transnational security challenges and threats of today’s fast changing international environment can only be addressed through the multilateral and cooperative approach to security developed by NATO, which is to the direct benefit of the peoples of our member countries and of those of our partners as well.

Thank you.

Franco Frattini