free website hit counter
Center for Strategic Decision Research, Peter Struck, Michele Alliot-Marie, General George Joulwan, SACEUR, General James L. Jones, SHAPE, NATO, EU, BDLI, ILA, EADS, Northrop Grumman, Under Secretary Michael Wynne, Assistant Secretary Linton Wells, Ambassador William Burns, NATO Military Committee Chairman General Harald Kujat, General Dynamics, Boeing, Global Security Terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rainer Hertrich, David Stafford

Center for Strategic Decision Research


A European Perspective on the Lessons Learned from Kosovo

General Klaus Naumann
Former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee

To be the last speaker of a three-day seminar means at least to be brief—something which is not easy for a German. So I will try to renounce the usual ado and repetitive statements. I will not bother you with another lengthy list of rights and wrongs of NATO’s Kosovo intervention, but it seems to me that there are three categories of lessons which the Europeans have to keep in mind:

  • The European NATO Allies and the EU have to study together with the United States and Canada the crisis management phase of Kosovo—i.e., primarily the time span between spring 1998 and 23 March 1999 with utmost intensity to learn why we did not succeed in forcing Milosevic into a peaceful solution. The Allies should not wait too long to do that since the next crisis could come tomorrow.
  • The European NATO Allies and the EU should think through which options they might have to act in cases of a blatant violation of human rights to stop atrocities and how to conduct military operations in such a situation.
  • The European NATO Allies and the EU have to act urgently to improve their military capabilities and, in the case of the EU, to establish them as agreed to in Helsinki in December 1999.

Let me briefly turn to each of these three categories.


Kosovo demonstrated once again that democracies are not doing too well in preventive crisis management. I am afraid this will not be different next time. NATO did not consistently show the resolve and the unity of purpose necessary to deter a ruler such as Milosevic. To do better, one should insist on a clearly formulated and agreed political objective before any military steps, including the threat to use force, will be taken. As soon as the decision to initiate military action is taken, there has to be 1) the readiness to act the next day; 2) the resolve to see it through; and 3) the preparedness to take all necessary steps to achieve the set political objectives. All three ingredients were not there when NATO began to threaten the use of force. Their existence would allow for uncertainty in any opponent’s mind denying him the opportunity to seek to drive a wedge into an opposing coalition, and it would simultaneously help the Alliance to stay on course and to avoid changing horses midstream. Thus we might have a chance to restore deterrence.

The prerequisites to conducting crisis management properly are strategic intelligence and secure communication. NATO and the EU do not have both in adequate quality. They both should therefore take action to enhance HUMINT, strategic reconnaissance for which HA UAVs may be much better suited than satellites, an Alliance AGS for which US/European co-development appears now possible and to exploit the emerging global commercial broadband services as the main provider of communication. But the EU should also think through which deterrence and hence conflict preventing value an EU action has as opposed to a NATO action. I do hope that a sober assessment will lead to the reaffirmation that NATO has to remain the first choice.


Should NATO or the EU take military action, then nations should be prepared to authorize an adequate level of force being brought to bear and to accept that there might be casualties. This does not mean authorizing overwhelming lethal force, but it means authorizing a level of force which matches the objectives to be achieved. This will not rule out that coalition operations will retain their peculiarities, but we have to work to reduce their impact. Furthermore, there will always be some incrementalism, but the impact of operations could lead to an appreciation of the situation on the opponent’s side, which could make him accept a settlement earlier than we saw it in Kosovo last year where we signalled to a determined opponent that we would wish to avoid to see it through security. Thus, we destroyed pre-war deterrence and weakened intra-war deterrence.

Secondly, NATO and the EU should learn from Kosovo for future operations that the only way to succeed within an acceptable time frame is to go for joint operations of land, air, and naval forces. More generally spoken and looking at the longer term, there must never be a two leagues of players situation in which one group is doing standoff force projection and/or over the horizon operations, and the other group has to do the technically less demanding but more prone to casualtiese operations. This will require a comprehensive modernization program on the side of the non-U.S. NATO allies, a reaction capability plus a deployability which has to be faster than the 60 days foreseen by the EU. From my perspective a two weeks NTM is the aim we should strive for. Speedy reaction and resolute robust action are critical if the aim is to protect human life.

I will stop here but not without stating that we succeeded in ending hostilities since we succeeded to stay on course and maintain the cohesion of NATO which was the key to our success, and it is cohesion which we need today to finish our work in Kosovo by establishing lasting peace.

But there is one other lesson which we learnt as far as operations in Europe are concerned: The enforcement phase of an operation will require those nations which are capable of force projection to shoulder the bulk of the burden, whereas the peace implementation phase will require the European NATO nations or the EU to shoulder the bulk of the burden. This reality, which preserves the strategic flexibility of both the U.S. and NATO, will and must impact on future force structures.


All I have said so far underlines the urgency of my third category of lessons learned, namely the improvement of European military capabilities.

The EU decision of Helsinki ought to be welcomed on both sides of the Atlantic, since it is intended to result in a deployable and sustainable European Expeditionary Force of up to 60,000 soldiers plus the appropriate navy and air force components. As most of these forces will have to be provided by EU members, who are NATO members as well—most prominently France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—this means improved NATO capabilities as well since we are talking about one set of forces.

The EU was not really precise in describing the forces needed, but the set of missions makes it clear that most of the combat elements may exist—questionable as their ability to inter-operate may be—but the decisive enabling forces and force multiplier do not exist. Therefore, the EU’s commitments to a conference foreseen for Fall this year cannot simply be a donors’ conference. Helsinki cannot be implemented through force generation; it can only become a reality if the EU nations agree to launch a force planning process. If they do not, the EU will not achieve something tangible by 2003. There is no C4 ISR, no real transport capability, insufficient AAR and CSAR, inadequate standoff strike capabilitities and a total absence of capability to conduct intrusive information operations, but it is these capabilities that guarantee the qualitative edge over an adversary.

Unfortunately, they do not come cheap, which indicates that in most cases multinational AWACS-type solutions may be the affordable solution. Moreover, they stand for areas where our U.S. ally enjoys a technological advantage which calls for increased transatlantic co-development.

I do hope that the EU NATO members will conclude that they have to avail themselves of NATO’s force planning machinery since anything else would come too late to match the 2003 timeline. I also hope that they get the priorities right. In my view, the first priority should be given to the instruments which are needed first in crisis management, and they are: intelligence, secure communications, and lift capabilities. Intelligence means to strengthen HUMINT, to exploit the potential of HA UAVs, to provide strategic imagery and to acquire manned theater ground surveillance capabilities to achieve situation awareness which—linked to global communication—could give the EU and NATO decisive advantages. Secure communications means to seek global communications, if possible broadband, which should be capable of connecting static as well as mobile elements at land, in the air, and at sea, and which have to be interoperable with the systems used by the U.S. Commercial systems with dedicated gateways could be the affordable solution, presumably available earlier and more reliably than any dedicated military system could be. Lift means to create a European Air and Sealift command and to provide them with transport aircraft and ships plus the appropriate AAR and replenishment capability, respectively.

If these three categories were complemented by a European Strike Force capable of launching standoff PGM, preferably a supersonic cruise missile, the most urgent gaps would be about to be closed. In addition, but possibly later, a couple of further steps to enhance interoperability and to replace ageing material have to be taken. If the EU were able to increase in addition forces such as Gendarmerie, Carabinieri etc., it would be another most welcome contribution.

This list indicates that many of the EU steps could and should be seen as DCI implementation as well, which underlines the need to harmonize NATO and EU efforts and to synchronise in particular R & D both in Europe and in the transatlantic area—seeking mergers of competing programs wherever possible. To create a capable EEF will require additional defence investments plus more intelligent ways to spend allocated defence budgets.

Action taken along these three categories of Lessons Learned would strengthen NATO, would enable the EU to act across the entire spectrum of crisis management and could restore deterrence. Thus, we might eventually be able to succeed next time in achieving the ultimate goal of crisis management: To achieve our political objectives without firing a single shot.


Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research