Center for Strategic Decision Research


Global Responses to the 21st Century Challenges

His Excellency Linas Linkevicius
Minister of Defense of Lithuania

Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius
"The enemy we face is a far more unpredictable one than we have ever had. His cause is not ideology or politics, but hatred and destruction, and he will not hesitate a moment to obtain weapons of mass destruction."

Today we live in a very dangerous world, where we have to expect the unexpected. The enemy we face is a far more unpredictable one than we have ever had. His cause is not ideology or politics, but hatred and destruction, and he will not hesitate a moment to obtain weapons of mass destruction. I would like to raise a few ideas about how the global community should respond to these challenges of the twenty-first century. 


A good security concept must outline clear goals, evaluate threats, and indicate means for eradicating those threats. But do we really need a new concept? We already have clear goals: combating terrorism and the proliferation of WMD, preventing ethnic bloodshed, and strengthening democracy across the globe. We know where the threats come from: rogue regimes, failing states, religious hatred, frozen conflicts, and so on. We also know what we have to do to deal with these problems. What we need now is action, not reflection, not new concepts, not food-for-thought papers. The Madrid bombings were another wake-up call to European leaders. But while the tragedy of September 11 led to the defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, will we remember March 11 as the day terrorism defeated Europe? We all know what happened when Europe ignored the threat of Fascism back in the 1930’s, and we must not make the same mistake again. 

We do not lack resources—we lack efficiency. We have developed a lot of good concepts, for example, the EU’s Headline Goal for 2010, but the first one has not yet been properly implemented. It is good to have ambitious plans, but good planning must take into account the reasonable allocation of assets. On the one hand, small countries such as Lithuania seek to pool resources in order to avoid unnecessary duplication. On the other hand, we cannot keep tearing ourselves apart and devoting all of our people, time, and money to analyzing an ever-growing number of new initiatives. Perhaps we should consider declaring a moratorium on the creation of new concepts until we manage to implement existing ones. 

We cannot fight real threats with paper concepts. What we lack is the political will to take radical steps that may be ahead of their time. The UN peacekeepers were unable to stop genocide in Srebrenica, but what was right in that situation—to abide by existing international law or to defend innocent people at any cost? NATO intervened in Kosovo without a clear UN resolution and saved many lives, but this year we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, where 800,000 people were murdered in 100 days. Are we ready to prevent that from happening again? We must finally admit that while we live in the twenty-first stcentury we still do not have a reliable, legal international crisis-management mechanism for responsive decision-making procedures and capabilities. We have many international organizations, but in most cases these organizations can act only when it is too late. 


We must rethink the overall framework of international institutions. The UN does not provide global security the way it is expected to—the Security Council, which has the supreme authority to preserve international security, vetoes peacekeeping initiatives more often than it endorses them. But reforming the UN would not be sufficient: only the combined efforts of nation-states and several institutions—the UN, NATO, the OSCE, and the EU—can bring peace, security, and well-being to the world. Only by working together can the UN, NATO, and the EU bring the Middle East Peace Plan back to life. The Greater Middle East Initiative must grow beyond dialogue to a wide network of relationships and partnerships among different institutions and states.  


Europe is not yet whole, free, and at peace. We must admit to ourselves that the isolating strategy being used on Belarus has failed and must be adjusted. We cannot expect positive changes within a country by isolating it from the outside world. Combined efforts by the UN, NATO, and the EU paid off in the Balkans, and these organizations could take a similar approach to the South Caucasus, another troubled region close to EU borders. We must draft an extensive peace plan for this region before it is too late. Instead of isolating failing states we must reach out to them, and help them turn into states of success. 

In addition to diplomatic crisis-prevention efforts, we must also be ready to use military force preemptively. We cannot afford a strategy of reacting to threats of the kind we face today. Using conventional measures against non-conventional threats will not work—we simply cannot deter ruthless fanatics with conventional forces. We must be one step ahead of our enemy if we are to succeed. This means having expeditionary forces carry out preemptive actions (we do need a world police force).


As a Minister of Defense, I must ask myself what the role of the military should be in ensuring human security and providing civil defense. The armed forces can remove Taliban-like regimes but can they win peace and establish a constitutional order? As we are learning in Iraq, to prevent post-conflict anarchy, civilian crisis management and peace-building efforts must take place at the same time as military operations. A good example is the situation in Afghanistan, where a NATO peacekeeping force provides security and order while provincial reconstruction teams work with local authorities to rebuild the country.  


We must change our mindset and remove the notion of national borders from our perception of security. Modern threats do not target borders—they erase borders. Terrorists do not target territory or state sovereignty—they target people. Therefore we must shift our focus from national security to human security, the security of each and every human being. Economic deprivation, water and food shortages, organized crime, corruption of state bureaucracy—these are the old causes of what we call the new threats. As long as human life and welfare are at risk, new failed states, new Husseins, and new bin Ladens will emerge. 


We need to find collective solutions to transnational threats. I am happy to see that NATO is dealing more often with security problems in a collective way, through air policing, the NATO Response Force (NRF), Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS), and multinational logistics, to name some of the most important allied projects. I would like to express sincere gratitude to Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Norway for providing air force assets for the air-policing mission above the Baltic States. It is a great indication that the spirit of collectiveness within NATO is stronger than ever.


NATO–Russia relations present another good example of our ability to transform our thinking. The former enemies now sit at one table and make common decisions in some 20 working groups. Of course, there is always room for improvement in taking concrete steps forward. For example, a Russian peacekeeping brigade assigned to NATO operations would be a real breakthrough into the kind of cooperation that is needed in the twenty-first century. NATO and Russia could also consider launching a common training project in Kaliningrad. Lithuania is ready and willing to play an active role in further strengthening this partnership.  


I do believe that small countries such as Lithuania can make a difference in today’s world. Threats to peace and security concern each and every nation— size does not matter. Small states must start thinking and acting globally: if we make the right decisions and adapt our military to the new environment, we can narrow the capability gap between the U.S. and Europe. Usability of forces in international operations must become the buzzword in our defense planning. For example, one day Lithuania may find itself in a situation in which a substantial part of our armed forces is deployed in a region far away. Though some say that modern soldiers are no longer glorious heroes, defenders of the motherland, I ask you, what can be more heroic than to risk one’s life fighting for the peace and welfare of another nation?


While we talk about the uncertainty of the global security environment, the tragedy of September 11 was in fact the end of the world as we knew it. Since then the world has changed, and our thinking regarding global security must change accordingly. But let me finish my remarks on an optimistic note: Saddam Hussein is a war prisoner, Colonel Quaddafi wants to disarm, India and Pakistan are holding peace talks, Iraq will soon have a democratic government, and, last but not least, Afghani children can play football again. I hope these are only the first signs of how the global security order will look like in the twenty-first century. But to get there we need to act and we need to act now.


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