Center for Strategic Decision Research


European Defense Needs: Challenges and Answers

Dr. Walther Stützle
State Secretary of German Ministry of Defense

From listening to the speeches and reading the papers that have been submitted, I have come to the conclusion that by now everything that can be said has been said. So, I have decided not to read my prepared speech and offer instead a few observations as an introduction to what I hope will be a lively discussion.


My first observation is that we are still not in the habit of reminding ourselves of the enormous progress that we have made. We seem to know all our deficiencies, but we do not seem to appreciate the headway that we have made. Clearly, I am biased, but I will tell you that I was in the crowd that listened to John F. Kennedy in 1963 at the Schonberg Rathaus. General Polk was the United States Commander in Berlin at that time. Had anyone said to me then that on 5 June 2000, I would be sitting in the Palace Hotel in West Berlin( that was no longer West Berlin, but Berlin) to participate in a NATO Workshop with countries from all over Europe, the United States and North America, and that we would be talking about NATO’s future with an ever-increasing number of members—with the Principal First Deputy Defense Minister of the Czech Republic reminding us that we are not being speedy enough—if someone had said this to me in 1963, I would have smiled and probably would have said, “Why don’t you go and see your doctor?”

It is reality today. This city is united, this country is united, and the interesting thing is that the people of this country, our partners, friends, and allies, do not put a question mark next to NATO. They have accepted the change and they have also accepted the institutions that actually brought about the change.

If we are unable to celebrate our own achievements, let us note the fact that our people, who are perhaps less sophisticated but in most cases much better than we are, know of them. They want us to continue with NATO and with the transatlantic relationship, and they want us to remember who brought the change about and what made us, in the end, prevail. This, I think, is very encouraging, because most of us have forgotten—though I have not—those gospel writers and preachers along our road who said that NATO would fall apart; that there is no need for the United States to stay in Europe; that there is no need for soldiers, for integration, for expensive military structures or complicated, sophisticated military equipment and armaments. All of this has disappeared, except of course in small circles, as there should be in democracies.

You may be interested to learn about why I could not be here for the opening session of the Workshop on June 3. Minister Scharping had asked me to go to Hamburg to serve on a panel at the Catholic Church convention. It was great fun, because it was very different from when I was in Hamburg in 1981, in a different capacity, but also at a church convention. It was an informed, educated, well-structured, interest-minded debate, with pros and cons. And there was no serious question mark next to the basic principles of bipartisan policy, and no one raised questions about the existence of the Alliance, only about the internal dealings within the Alliance. I add this so that we do not forget that one of the defense needs we should keep in mind is taking note of the attitude of the majority of our people, and seeing to it that a lack of question marks remains the majority attitude.


The history of the Alliance is a history of reconstruction and reconciliation. It is a history of progress, as manifested within the framework of our discussions this morning, in the Atlantic Alliance, and in what then was the European Economic Community. It is also a history of failure and setbacks. One project that marked that failure probably more than any other (in the context of our discussions at this NATO Workshop) was the European Defense Community effort that failed in 1954, for reasons of which we all are aware.

Why do I revive this memory? For one reason only: because, with the Cold War behind us, we have started our journey, our Alliance journey, into what I call a period of transition—a period that has yet to have a name and that is not taking place in completely charted waters. But we still have the courage to enter these waters, and we have the instruments and the will to see us through.

As we continue our journey, it is very fitting that we are holding the first NATO Workshop of this new millennium in Berlin, because it was in West Berlin in 1996 when NATO decided on its fundamental concepts: that the Alliance is ready to accept the future, to accept the responsibility, to accept that there is an emerging European Union and to no longer see the Atlantic Alliance traveling one way and the European Economic Community traveling in another. That is the umbrella under which those who worked with the Treaty of Amsterdam see the future of the Union. That is the single most fundamental change in post-war European history, apart from, of course, the prerequisite to all of this, the end of the Cold War. Europe decided to take its fate into its own hands, but not without the North American umbrella above it. That made Cologne and Helsinki possible. And it was in that spirit that the headline goals finally came to replace all of our headaches about the defense future of the European Union.

Now, I am fully aware that quite a few of our observers—and all of them have my sympathy and my understanding—think that 55,000 to 60,000 reaction forces are not sufficient given the needs most recently highlighted in Kosovo. But let me say again that if someone in 1994 or in 1995 had argued that in December of 1999 Europeans would sit in Helsinki (which is not yet a NATO member) and talk about serious defense issues, agree on a headline goal, make heads of state and government not only ratify language but make bureaucrats and civil servants actually address their attention to numbers and capabilities and put a time tag on it—if someone had forecast that in 1994, a number of people, some in this room, would have seriously doubted it. “Finlandization” was the word in the ‘70s. That was always wrong. But now, Finlandization has a very positive, future-oriented, defense-loaded meaning, which I think all of us should welcome as major progress.


Now, even though I am not saying anything new, I would still like to talk about the three key lessons of Kosovo as I see them.

  • The first lesson is that, throughout the Kosovo campaign, people have accepted the idea that, despite the end of the Cold War, we are still in need of a very solid defense. Now, that is not easily said in a country whose federal budget has a very special sub-budget that covers only the expenses serving the federal debt. Actually, the sub-budget services the interest rate, but this amount is almost double the size of the defense budget. In a country that must shoulder this rather heavy burden and, in one way or another, would have to cut it back to make military reform possible, this idea cannot be taken for granted. Certainly, it was not so before the campaign started, but this new attitude lasted throughout the campaign and still determines the situation—which is no small achievement.
  • The second lesson learned, which had immediate consequences for European defense, is that there was not “too much America” but that there was “too little Europe.” I had many occasions to talk with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and I can testify that he took the European view as much to heart as he took any other important view, including that of his own nation. But it was very clear to him, as it was clear to us, that there was not too much America, but too little Europe.
  • The third lesson is that there is no lack of transatlantic military capabilities, but only the lack of a concept to translate the marvelous military success into lasting political progress. Here is a point that is not addressed only to political leaders: I think we must protect our forces in many ways. We must not send them into situations in which they cannot deliver. We must not send them out without knowing how to get them back. And we must not send them on military missions in which they score the military success but then find that the political side of the spectrum is not able to translate their success into lasting political progress. Kosovo is not a military exercise, it is a political exercise. To cut a very long story short (it has 610 years of history), the principle that is at stake here is: Does Helsinki apply to the Balkans or not? Does 1975—which gave us the single most important breakthrough in post-war European security history, the renunciation of force principle—apply to the Balkans or not? Our forces are there to protect the political effort, to give the political leaders adequate room to breathe, to construct, to build, and to provide for social and political development. But they should not be expected to serve there endlessly if they do not see the appropriate political progress.

Why do I mention this? Because it introduces a new, political element into the issues of European defense needs and defense answers and into transatlantic leadership and requirements—and that element is patience. We are dealing with a problem that needs attention and focus, but also patience. Now obviously, not endless patience, but a little patience. We cannot expect to correct the issues of 610 years within a year or two, but all of us should work hard to generate that patience, not alone but in Congress, because it cannot be done without the United States.


European defense has entered a period in which it is reshaping itself under the umbrella of the Atlantic Alliance. We know from experience that our American friends will accept us as partners only if we are competitive. That has been a fundamental requirement ever since John F. Kennedy actually encouraged us to get our act together. So we are finally becoming competitive. But there is an element of danger in this course, and that is the possibility of misunderstanding. Competition is very healthy as long as it does not derail into destructive rivalry. We must not allow competition—be it in the field of technology, in economic relationships, or in any other field—to turn into dangerous and destructive rivalry, yet we must protect it. If we do not allow competition, there will be no partner equal to the United States.

This calls for a very careful handling of the political process and for remembering something that is completely forgotten: wherever and whenever the United States and Europe have allowed each other to compete, they ended up being each other’s single biggest investment partner. This fact has resulted in the NATO area being the largest in the world with a non-war guarantee—an area of shared values and shared responsibility, an area where Europeans are the most important investment partner for the United States and the United States is the most important investment partner for Europeans.

As the European Union continues to reshape itself, we must all keep in mind that our Alliance is about values, about defense, and about jobs. So wherever you go, and whenever you are questioned about the future of NATO, you can, without question and without checking numbers, state with great confidence, “Under the NATO umbrella there is economic development, and economic development means jobs. And jobs are social security. And social security is democracy. And democracy is the future that we want to offer to those countries that do not yet belong to the Alliance.”


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