Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO Moves Forward

Admiral Guido Venturoni
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee

"Va lentement-je suis pressé" ("Go slowly-I am in a hurry").

These words said by the famous diplomat Talleyrand to his coachman are apocryphal perhaps-contradictory certainly. However, I believe that they describe very well the situation in which the Alliance finds itself today.

There is much to be done; yet we must not be hasty in getting results. The temptation is to rush forward and take advantage of present circumstances. Yet we must achieve our goals with care, we must be thorough, and, above all, we must ensure that the views of everyone-each of the 19 nations that currently form this Alliance-are taken fully into account.

As the first military person to speak on behalf of NATO at this Workshop, I would like to expand on this theme of apparent contradiction. I would describe it in terms of "measured urgency." Indeed, in order for the Alliance to move forward and bring stability, security, and peace to a wider Euro-Atlantic region we must increasingly anticipate the need for more meticulous consultation, preparation, and consensus. I would like to emphasize the following:

  • The need for action-why we need to get timely and concrete results in this transition period for NATO
  • The need to be prudent-why we need to take the right steps, especially as we construct a crisis management capability with new nations and open enduring links to the European Union

The Alliance is in transition, and NATO is redesigning the military structure that it has been familiar with for the last 50 years. However, this process of change is proving more far-reaching than was anticipated. As we change from old to new, and as we pass through this transition phase, there is a natural tendency to rush to the finish. We must guard against this.


We have already passed the first milestone-the Washington Summit. It clearly set out one key objective: to keep NATO strong by keeping NATO together, based on the transatlantic link. But perhaps more significantly, the Washington Summit also forced us to appreciate, quite simply, that in establishing a defense system we have achieved only part of what we need. In the past we talked of defense and security in the same breath. Now we realize that "defense" does not exactly equal "security"-that they are subtly but significantly different. The post-Cold War era highlighted this and indicated to us that the solid, robust, yet essentially static nature of NATO had to change. The embedded "fortress mentality" that was so successful in staring down the competition, of winning the Cold War, was no longer good enough. It was not sufficiently cooperative and flexible, and could not provide the level of security we needed in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The defense interests of nations have shifted and the emphasis has evolved from being consolidated, enclosed, and with a clear objective to one of being flexible, open, and multi-faceted. Instead of the simple statement "all for one and one for all," the message is now more complex-more like "all for most and usually everybody together." This is not a criticism-just a statement of fact, a reality to which the Alliance has to respond. However frustrating it might appear, during the post-Cold War period (over the last ten years), nations were giving the Alliance a wake-up call that demanded a swift response. Nations were clarifying the issues of defense and security, and realized that the increased cooperation they desired within Article 4 does not fit easily with the collective defense requirements of Article 5. Put bluntly, consensus in defense is one thing; consensus in security is something entirely different.

I mentioned the fortress-like mentality we had to adopt after World War II. It successfully faced down the opposition and was a strong, stable arrangement that led to the construction of a highly integrated military structure. In the future we will remain integrated, but in a different way-the NATO integration of tomorrow must be significantly more flexible and be based on multinational formations. In the past, the strength of the integrated NATO military structure rested on a vast array of static headquarters. Today, solidarity is no longer seen in terms of such fixed cohesion. Cohesion today is driven by consensus and, above all, by determining crisis management on a case-by-case basis. Consequently, following the current review, the Force Structure is able to respond more quickly and to act more flexibly to meet the requirements of nations. I cannot emphasize enough our current need for a sound militarily, multinational force structure that is able to meet the evolving political demands of the nations-it will be a key part of tomorrow's NATO. In addition, it will also provide cooperation on a broader basis and allow nations and organizations, both inside and outside the Alliance, to be involved.

Let me make that clear. The new NATO command structure is made of only 20 "integrated commands" compared with the previous number of 69. This reduction is more than a peace dividend-it is the chance for nations to strengthen their own command structures and orient them towards multinational contingents that are more useful to the Alliance-like those currently in the Balkans. The result is a more fluid arrangement that views speed of reaction, deployability, and mobility as key assets in the Alliance of the future. In addition, such a structure will allow closer cooperation with other security-related organizations such as the United Nations, the OSCE, and the European Union.

On a practical level, the success of this vision to allow greater involvement from more nations depends firmly on the success of the initiatives endorsed by the Washington Summit. DCI, as it has come to be known, will boost the return we get from our defense budgets. It will provide a "value-added" factor across the spectrum of resources, force goals and defense planning, and be specifically formulated to assist European nations to put more weight into their punch. An example of such a "value-added" factor would be the proposed Alliance Ground Surveillance System (AGS), which will provide NATO commands with near real-time, continuous information and operational situational awareness. The key to its success, besides the advance in technology, will be the willingness of nations to interlock and pledge their national interests in support of a system that, first and foremost, strengthens the Alliance. In any event, the acquisition of improved operational capabilities is an area where we need urgent action-NATO commitment to future crisis management will just not be possible if we fail to support these new capabilities.

In our drive to modernize, we have also been forced to review another part of our fortress-like structure from the Cold War days. A fortress is, by its nature, static and immovable. Today, these qualities are neither welcome nor indeed militarily viable, and ESDI and PFP are aiming to restructure our way of doing business, especially in crisis management. ESDI will provide the means with which to integrate EU nations into a security-related decision making process, and settle problems that do not concern NATO as a whole. Enabling Europe to solve its own problems raises some obvious concerns, but it is a logical step forward for the Alliance. PFP is addressing nations outside the Alliance and permitting them to become more involved according to their abilities and their ambitions.

The drive for globalization, or "convergence," as I prefer to call it, is just as relevant to the military, with our multinational forces, as it is to worldwide multinational corporations. Convergence can mean more than unifying technical standards for equipment. It can also cover the ways in which military force is graduated when applied to resolve a crisis. This modern, inclusive approach will allow the Alliance to use the varied resources of its members more effectively by including a certain amount of task sharing in which each nation does its part. It is this collective or inclusive mentality we are developing that will allow us to use the best of what each nation has to offer and then combine it into a crisis management force that will be, I believe, second to none. Like pieces of a puzzle, nations can offer varied but essential elements in undertaking a task, and the Alliance can then provide the unifying structure to make the force effective. This approach is already reality for SFOR and KFOR.

All of these factors place the new NATO in a strong position to conduct crisis management operations. The new Force Structure will not only permit member-nations to deploy and orient their forces more quickly and effectively, but it will also allow them to respond to the incremental changes in force projection that are needed in modern crisis management. The Force Structure also has the capability to respond swiftly to political direction. In the future, it is increasingly likely that non-NATO nations will participate through consultation mechanisms in crisis management missions led by the Alliance; this is why the Alliance is putting considerable effort into the enhanced PFP process. We must continue to fully back NATO commitments and not rely on non-NATO assets to fulfill our responsibilities. But let us be honest: our operations in Kosovo and Bosnia would simply not have been possible without our partners.

Our efforts to encourage the Mediterranean Dialogue process are precisely in line with our vision of breaking down barriers. The Mediterranean Dialogue is opening up NATO to military cooperation in that geographic area, and supporting the increasing wish of these non-NATO nations to participate in NATO-led Peace Support Operations. Also, the modern tools that we need for crisis management are already beginning to take shape within the Defense Capabilities Initiative. And let there be no mistake-DCI is not an attempt to cover for the lack of scarce resources. On the contrary, it calls for strong commitment to a long-term strategic enterprise. In short, the Alliance of tomorrow will conduct crisis management operations within the constraints of an increasing array of security interests, and we will be involved in more and more common projects and joint ventures and with interoperable forces. This strategy will provide defense for nations from the outside, while allowing security to grow from within.


In my talk I have portrayed a picture of an Alliance that is anxious to advance and develop a sound, effective crisis management capability. NATO is willing to take on the modern security challenges that are confronting the Euro-Atlantic area. However, we must realize that, like rushing to cross the road in the face of oncoming traffic, one mistake could be fatal. We must advance with caution, constrained until we reach genuine, lasting agreement from all our members.

As it moves forward, the Alliance must ensure that we all get to the other side safely-not only us, but also possible new nations that may join along the way. This is a challenging task by any standard and, since we are already halfway there and have set ourselves ambitious timelines, there is a great temptation to hurry ahead. We must resist this temptation.

I talked earlier of our desire for military integration and the military's evolution towards multinationalism. Multinationalism will mean that future crisis management operations in the Euro-Atlantic area will be supported by a variety of nations and linked to both NATO and the European Union. While these nations fully support the principle of ESDI, it is essential that we tackle the problem of involving, in the appropriate way, the six non-EU NATO nations. From my perspective, we cannot afford the risk of weakening our military cohesion with agreements that are less than clear or are ineffective. Over the next year we will be conducting the fundamental negotiations that will ultimately decide these questions. It is essential at this stage that we move forward with prudence and wisdom to preserve the safety and effectiveness of our forces in the future. We must prepare the ground thoroughly and sow the seeds of cooperation with great care. The same applies to the "Open Door" policy that aims to expand the area of stability and democracy. To this end, we welcome the determination of aspiring member-countries, yet, at the same time, we must not relax the membership criteria so that we keep membership mutually beneficial. We must strive to strengthen the Alliance through positive contributions to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area.


Allow me at this point to say a few words about NATO and Russia. I am often asked why it seems from the outside that NATO treats Russia as a special case. Why, for example, is there significant Russian military representation within NATO while there is no apparent reciprocation in Russia? Certainly this is an area in which we are working actively to establish a suitable balance, and I can confirm that the return to talks in Brussels by the Russian Chief of Defense was a landmark for the resumption of NATO-Russia relations. Their meetings demonstrate precisely what we in the Alliance have been saying for many years now-that, certainly within the military sphere, Russia and NATO have much to offer the international community in the field of peacekeeping operations.

NATO-Russia cooperation within the framework of the Founding Act is essential for the security of our Continent. The initiatives that NATO is spearheading to further this aim should not, therefore, be seen as treating Russia as a special case, or as appeasement. We should not miss the chance to support and build on our common commitments to the international community. Russia's approach may be charged with rhetoric, but the signs of their willingness to move forward together with NATO are, in my view, sufficiently clear. In short, the 21st century demands and deserves a sensible, realistic military relationship between Russia and NATO. We must proceed in a step-by-step fashion since many parts of the political and military elite in Russia still need to be convinced that cooperation with NATO will be good for both sides. This, too, will take some time.


The Alliance in transition is keen to move forward, yet constrained. But as we move forward we must be fully committed to achieving the many goals that we have set, and, above all, we must succeed in improving our crisis management capability. There is much work still to do to complete the adaptation of the military structure, develop better crisis response capabilities, and improve cooperation with our Allies, Partners, and friends. Our Secretary General, Lord Robertson, described this mood of measured urgency as one of "constructive impatience." It will be complex, time-consuming, and occasionally very frustrating, but the process is well underway and there is one certainty-failure is not an option.



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