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Center for Strategic Decision Research


Challenges Facing European Security

Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr.
CINC, Allied Forces Southern Europe

I would like to address, from the southern region’s perspective, four major aspects of the challenges to European security: responsibilities, resources, relationships, and adaptation. Perhaps the first thing we should recognize is that the Alliance has the responsibility and has demonstrated the ability to critically examine itself. The Defense Capabilities Initiative, the 1999 peacetime establishment, and the ongoing Kosovo Lessons Learned process are clear examples that we can and must continue to transform ourselves.

I am confident that there is no lack of will among either the political or the military leaders in NATO to move our organization in the direction that will best serve the security needs of the next 50 years. And there appears to be no question that those security needs are likely to be far different from those of the last 50 years, and will require a more flexible and responsive Alliance.


With respect to the responsibilities of the southern region, the Balkans clearly and necessarily occupy much of our thinking and planning. But I also hasten to add that we need to transition away from thinking of Kosovo and indeed the Balkans as a crisis, as a short-term situation requiring emergency funding, temporary personnel supplementation, and the like. It is reasonable to assume that Kosovo is a long-term challenge, and a problem that will certainly require some adjustments in the other three areas I mentioned: resources, relationships, and adaptation.

But perhaps we should not even be referring to a “problem” at all. Former United States Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger once said, “If a problem has no immediate solution, it is no longer a problem—it is a fact.” It is hardly defeatist to acknowledge Balkan realities and to imagine that we will be talking about ethnic conflict in the Balkans over the next decade as often as we have over the last.

That being the case, if NATO involvement in the Balkans is now a chronic, if not long-term, condition, then NATO must adapt itself to best deal with that reality on a sustaining level. There are many other Alliance-wide and southern regional challenges out there from which we must not allow events in Kosovo to distract us. There are engagement opportunities in our Area of Interest, even beyond our Area of Responsibility, which it would be unwise to overlook. The most significant of these exist among the nations of the Black Sea area, the Caucasus, and those seven nations that are a part of the Mediterranean Dialogue.

Although engagement has been the watchword of our efforts for a number of years now, I believe that we are currently seeing only the tip of the iceberg regarding what can be achieved on this front, and real opportunities await us, particularly in the southern region. An example is the unquestioned success of the Partnership for Peace (PFP) program, which has now generated the requirement for an enhanced program of increased scope, designed to meet rising member expectations.


Resource constraints are a reality with which we all must deal. As just mentioned, if the Alliance’s effort currently reflects a long-term, clearly NOT temporary, condition in the Balkans, then it is essential that we periodically reassess resource allocation to ensure that it realistically reflects current and future conditions.

Furthermore, the engagement opportunities I mentioned are real, and expanding. We will need to increase resources to support those efforts if “engagement” is to be more rigorous and responsive, and if it is to signify that NATO looks at European security in a broader context.

There has been much agreement in recent years by all levels of Alliance leadership on the shift in NATO’s focus toward the southern region. One could argue that the resources must now follow the rhetoric if we are to deal efficiently and effectively with the proliferation of many real responsibilities.

Peacetime Establishment (PE) manpower levels, for example, can have a snowball effect when you look at the support for Crisis Establishment (CE) manning levels that we are seeing. The PE that was crafted five years ago was not designed to support the CE requirements we see today or the regional responsibilities of the immediate future. Our swelling personnel augmentation requirements dramatically bear this out. It is a significant problem, underlying all we do, and it is simply not sustainable given the current and foreseeable conditions.


My third point concerns relationships. If the Balkan challenge is to be met optimally, then we must draw on regional expertise and capitalize on the relationships that have developed among national contingents within the region in the newly expanded and engaged Alliance. The key point is that the relationships within the Alliance should be adapted to best fit a sustainable, long-term effort, whether it be in the Balkans or regarding other challenges and opportunities facing NATO. A regional approach would also allow us to interface logically with the efforts of the EU and the OSCE with respect to Southeastern Europe policy. Regional rebuilding and stabilization should logically include a regional security element. We have seen what can happen when it is included, and we have seen what happens when it is absent.


My fourth point is a function of the first three: adaptation. We must, as a matter of routine, continue our honest assessment of whether the Alliance is configured properly to meet the military challenges of the present and the immediate future.

If we are not satisfied with the configuration, we must match our priorities with resources, our planning and decision processes with our strategy, and our structures with our operational tasks. We cannot allow ourselves to be put off balance by every changing current or crisis, but neither can we ignore irrefutable mid- to long-term change or challenge. It is a strength, not a weakness, to acknowledge that the structure and processes of the Alliance that so successfully met the challenges of the last 50 years may not be precisely what is needed to match the critical needs of the next 50 years.

We need to tailor the lessons learned regarding NATO’s seminal experience in Kosovo, the accession of three new members, our relationship with Russia, and our Mediterranean Dialogue initiative to meet the new demands on a constantly changing Alliance. Does our strategic perspective reflect our evolving Alliance, including the unique regional needs? What is the impact on the Alliance given the new reality of non-Article 5 operations, which now increasingly dominate our planning for the challenges we are likely to face over the next ten years?


Our Alliance was founded on principles that have changed little in 50 years, and quite simply by their nature remain irrefutably constant. But as you have heard at this Workshop, our military approach to the operational support of these principles, guided by SACEUR’s priorities and the political direction of our overarching strategy, must be flexible enough to selectively focus our military support across a wide range of political and security goals, disparate both in geography and in scope.



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