Rome '08 Workshop

Welcoming Dinner Debate 

General George Joulwan - Former SACEUR 

George Joulwan



These workshops have taken on a special meaning not only for Europe but indeed for the world. Frank, candid discussions have been the order of the day, and, judging from our earlier experiences, this discussion will engender the same candor. As someone who has been through 14 of these conferences, starting when I was the Supreme Allied Commander, back in 1994, I would like to commend the workshop chairman, Roger Weissinger-Baylon, and his team, for again assembling an excellent set of speakers and an exciting agenda set against the background of Rome. 

I think all of you will agree that this has been an excellent forum in which to discuss freely and candidly the issues confronting the post-Cold War world that we live in. May I also give to our Italian friends a special salute for sponsoring this workshop in the Eternal City. Rome has witnessed great triumphs, great glory, and also occupation during the nearly three millennia of its history. The city has contributed much to our culture, our language, law, science, and politics, and of course, as witnessed here, to wine and food. 

On a personal note, it was to Rome in 1996 that I came to discuss the first two months of the Bosnian operation with members of NATO and the Contact Group. To the surprise of many, NATO was able to coordinate a force of 37 nations, separate three vicious, warring factions, transfer land from one entity to the other, demobilize the warring factions, and set the conditions for an election in September of 1996, all in the first six months and without losing a single life to hostile fire. That has continued for over 10 years. So, if you do it right, if you have the political will, if you have the planning, if you establish conditions for success, you can achieve the right results and I ask you to look at all of that in Afghanistan today. 

It was also to Rome, if I may give you one more example, that I was summoned to meet with Pope John Paul in 1996 for what I thought would be a brief photo opportunity, but which turned into a substantive 45-minute discussion about Bosnia. It was like going to confession with the pope. He was well prepared and wanted to know how NATO accomplished this difficult mission while others failed. This story relates to our discussions now because I discussed with the pontiff the importance of political will in NATO. 

At that time, 16 democratic nations acting as one created the conditions for success: clarity of mission, unity of command, robust rules of engagement, timely political decisions, and a U.N. resolution condoning NATO intervention. We also discussed the importance of Russian participation in that operation as well as troops from Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. The pope wanted me to know that the challenges in Bosnia were not only ethnic but also religious and that he could help. His Holiness said that the worst day of his papacy was the day his trip to Sarajevo was cancelled the year before because of the violence. He looked at me in great surprise when I told him that I guaranteed that he could go to Sarajevo the next year. That was the confidence I had in our strategic plan and our political will. And the pope did indeed go to Sarajevo during Easter of the next year and held a religious service with Orthodox and Islamic clergy in the bombed-out cathedral. It was a great signal to the world about the value of cooperation and reconciliation, and a great lesson to me that more than just the military factor is important in the kinds of engagements we are involved in now. 

In 2007, we started the workshop dinner debate on the issue of Russia. We also had a very good discussion about Russia at this workshop, which I think illuminates why this forum is so important. In 2007, President Putin’s remarks at Wehrkunde were mentioned. Some of you saw Russia returning to the ways of the past, others who Russia frustrated perceived the country as a threat and not as an ally or a partner. A year later, today, you heard a discussion that I thought was excellent, because it is very hard to have such a discussion anywhere but in this non-attribution, open sort of forum. 

NATO now has enlarged to 28 nations, with the door still open to Ukraine and Georgia. Missile defense is still being actively pursued. There has been a change in the presidency of Russia—President Medvedev succeeded President Putin, as you know. Let me quote here, because I think it’s very important, a comment that President Medvedev made in Berlin in June, some of which was mentioned today. To use John Le Carre’s words, Russia has “come in from the cold after almost a century of isolation and self-isolation. Russia is now actively returning to global politics and the global economy, bringing with it all of its natural, financial, and intellectual resources and possibilities…” “The end of the Cold War made it possible to build a genuinely equal cooperation between Russia, the European Union, and North America as three branches of European civilization.” He also said, “It is my conviction that Atlanticism as a sole historical principle has already had its day.” We heard the Russian ambassador talk about that as well. We need to talk more about unity between the whole Euro-Atlantic area, from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Life dictates the need for this kind of cooperation. 

I do not want to keep beating that same issue, but I think we need to have a little more discussion about it. What is the way ahead with Russia? Is it confrontational, cooperative, combative? Do we share common interests? Can we create conditions for mutual trust and confidence? What do you think? Who would like to comment? 

Since there are no comments now, I will go to question number 2. 

We are now engaged in a six-year war in Afghanistan, with five years in Iraq; the Near East continues to be a battleground between Palestinians and Israelis; Central Africa is ready to implode from tribal war, poverty, and disease; natural disasters in Myanmar challenge humanitarian efforts of the U.N. and NGOs; energy prices have skyrocketed as have global food prices. We will be discussing many of these issues during the workshop, including what should be an interesting panel on civil-military integration. My question to you is, How do we get international organizations like NATO, the EU, the U.N., and OSCE to work together? Why is it so difficult to get these organizations to act together to meet some of the challenges that we have? Will the tension between them continue? We cannot afford to have the duplication we are having now. When will it be time for these organizations to come together and act together? 


General Rainer Schuwirth. We may be forgetting that the organizations you refer to—you could add the G8—may not have a common target or objective, though as operators we wish they would, to build a stable Afghanistan, a stable Balkans, or a stable Africa. And of course they have their electorates back home and their national scenes, and the governments want to be reelected, the importance of which is often underestimated. When you take the specific German situation in Afghanistan—I am German—the question is not, although it is posed again and again, why don’t the Germans go to the south? They are in the north. The question is, What do you want from the next German government, because we have elections in 2009. Do you want Germany to continue to participate in Afghanistan or do you want to have an election result that throws the German forces entirely out of Afghanistan? We have seen similar questions in the Irish referendum, without any attacks or any bad feelings towards Ireland. When we talk about values, we have to stick to our own rules, and this of course makes life not as easy as we would like to have it. This is just one piece of an answer to your question, George. 

General Joulwan. Thank you very much. Are there any other comments? Is there some way, given what Rainer said about individual nations, that there are some common interests, some common areas? I look at Africa and the problems that are developing there. Is there some sort of cooperative effort that can be made to put an end to the breeding ground for much of the extremism and terrorism we see in the world? Is the United Nations the answer, and how do we make it more effective? I do not think it can be done just with troops alone. 

Ambassador Youcef Yousfi. I think that Africa is the forgotten continent. The international community looks at the disasters, the wars, the diseases, and the lack of development there without any reaction. One of the problems is that in Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the international community is unable to make decisions, at least to help the African Union face these problems. 

General Joulwan. But the issue is, “What prevents the international community from taking action?” Is it that each nation is concerned about committing its forces or committing its budget? Or is it that they are waiting until we have what we have in Bosnia and in Rwanda, a train wreck? Is there some way to prevent the train wreck? To prevent the sort of atrocities that we have seen? 

Ambassador Yousfi. There is really no desire to go to Africa for many reasons, for political reasons, mainly. 

Ambassador Tacan Ildem. Your question suggests the need for more effective cooperation among international organizations. At NATO we are dealing with this issue very seriously. What we call as “Comprehensive Approach” aims at more effective cooperation not only among international organizations but also between the military and civilian components in an operational theater and within different bodies in the same organization. I must say, however, that such an integrated approach has perhaps been undertaken in a very idealistic fashion by NATO only. In other international organizations, for instance, the United Nations, there is a hesitation in cooperating with NATO. Same applies to NGOs. When we talk about Afghanistan, we know that many NGOs do not want to be seen as cooperating with NATO. They consider NATO to be a military organization and they do not want themselves to be associated with its work. 

When it comes to the EU, EU-NATO relations are certainly something that my country believes are of great importance. Nevertheless, the tendency on the EU side is to see NATO as a toolbox. Whenever there is a need, the EU just sends a wish-list to be ensured by NATO—substantial assistance such as in-theater airlift capability, logistics support, intelligence sharing. It depends on the safe and secure environment provided by NATO. 

I think organizations have to be candid with each other. They have to better understand the circumstances and the modalities for such cooperation. Certain modalities of cooperation agreed upon by both organizations are already in place and they have to be respected. Effective consultation is required in accordance with the agreed format. However, we do not see such consultations taking place in an effective manner. When the EU wants to initiate a mission, be it in Afghanistan or Kosovo, we receive a list of requests before such consultations take place. I think that all organizations should focus on the responsibilities that they undertake. NATO cannot be a coordinating body. It can only be one of those who are coordinated. I agree with you that the United Nations’ effectiveness is a must, something we urgently need in Afghanistan. I am happy that the new Special Representative of the United Nations, Ambassador Kei Eide, will be focusing on the need for an effective coordination among different international actors. I hope that he will be successful. We need to support the efforts of the United Nations in that respect. 

One personal observation: Sometimes, when we deal with problems related to effective coordination and cooperation between NATO and the EU, it is as if there are two sets of governments, one for the EU and one for NATO. Within the capitals, I think there is need for an effective coordination of efforts for the work undertaken by different organizations. Comprehensive approach should first be implemented at the capitals. 

General Joulwan. Thank you very much. Let me just follow that by saying that one of the ways to have a better chance for success is with planning. I know, for example, that the EU now has a cell at SHAPE. But it cannot bring peace without the active involvement of international organizations and NGOs, in my view. So how do you get the planning? If you wait for the train wreck before you do the planning, you are not creating the best conditions and you are putting soldiers at risk unnecessarily. I know it is difficult, but we should more highly value the troops we are committing by doing what needs to be done before we commit them. I think that some good, clear planning by the international organizations and NATO would help. 

Ambassador Jaromir Novotny. The world is in turmoil now. The United States population is deeply divided—we shall see what the elections bring. So there is a lack of consensus. Societies in the European Union are also deeply divided: The Irish referendum is not the end. The Czechs may be the second people to refuse to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, and then the EU will be in crisis. 

The war in Iraq also has divided NATO. Some allies in NATO support the United States, and some allies refused to go to Iraq. It is the same with Afghanistan. Everybody supports ISAF with words, but if you ask them to send another 500 soldiers to southern Afghanistan, there is lots of trouble. Elections will be held in Germany in 2009, so nobody in Germany will decide that the soldiers should go to the south of Afghanistan. It is the same with the other countries. The European Union is very rich, and rich nations have lost the will to sacrifice something. Everybody in the rich world would like to keep the standard and not sacrifice. 

Africa was mentioned as the lost continent. What about South America, Latin America, Hugo Chavez? There may be a renewal of Marxism in South America. Hugo Chavez is building a new axis, with Venezuela, Teheran, maybe not Korea, I don’t know. The balance of power has moved to Asia, China, India, Vietnam. These are our new powers. China has such reserves in dollars that the United States will collapse if China withdraws its reserves in dollars. China could do the same thing to us, and we are discussing what we should do about the fact that we are becoming less and less important. Russia is very rich. Russia does not need advice and Russia could advise us. What have we gained? The Security Council has acknowledged Kosovo. Did we stabilize the Balkans or did we start a new round of crises? This applies to Macedonia because the Albanians and Macedonians would apply for the same status as Kosovo. Would it be the beginning of a new crisis in the Balkans? We have lost Serbia by this—what have we gained? States that cannot survive? 

Now we have Central Asia, including Afghanistan, and other problems. But rich nations have lost the will to sacrifice. That is the problem, and international organizations are now fighting each other about who will bring the flag higher. The NGOs are the same. Remember when we were in Bosnia and the NGOs were fighting each other? They did not want to be coordinated by NATO. It was the same in Bosnia, and it is the same in Afghanistan. It is the same in Myanmar. So everybody is fighting to be highest and is only prepared to sacrifice a small bit. 

General Joulwan. In doing that, are we really concerned about the nations we are trying to help and about the troops we are trying to commit? If we on the political side cannot get clarity are far as what needs to be done, I think we are not really supporting the forces we send in. Let me go to my Russian General Buzhinsky. 

Lieutenant General Evgeniy Buzhinsky. I will try to answer your first and second questions about NATO and about the interaction of organizations in Europe. First, you mentioned that the United States, the EU, and Russia are main contributors or main forces of European security and stability. Maybe that is true. But speaking about the interaction of organizations, it seems to me that the West, led by the United States, is promoting a division of labor between organizations. NATO is responsible for security, the EU is responsible for economic issues, and the OSCE is responsible for mainly humanitarian issues: elections, human rights. But where, I ask, is Russia? In this case, where is the place for Russia? 

In terms of security, we are not members of NATO; the OSCE is not responsible. Six years ago, when the Rome declaration was signed establishing the NATO-Russia Council, we thought that it would be quite a different story from the previous fora, that it would be a fora of individual nations. What do we see now? It is the NATO position plus Russia, it is again 26 plus Russia. Originally it was 16 plus Russia, and so on and so forth. So that is the big issue for us. Where is the place for Russia in terms of security? That is why my president offered this new security treaty arrangement, which will include Russia as the CSCE did back in 1975. But the first question is, “Why is Russia so nervous about enlargement?” It is true that it is an alliance of 26 democratic nations. But it was said this afternoon that this it is not a club, it is an alliance; it is a powerful military alliance at war. 

General Joulwan. In Afghanistan. 

Lieutenant General Buzhinsky. Okay, but we see NATO as a military alliance, and when NATO enlarges, what does NATO do first? It increases its military expenditures—2% of GDP—and modernizes the infrastructure. What for? For what purpose is NATO modernizing the infrastructure in the Baltic Republics? Against whom? And against whom are you conducting exercises under Article 5, especially in the Baltic? We are participating in the first stage: PfP, stage rescue, humanitarian aid. Then we are told, Thank you, gentlemen, now we are holding our exercises under Article 5. We know the scenario of those exercises. We have our intelligence, thank God. So if a big, unstable, nuclear-powered nation in the East attacks a small, defenseless NATO member in the West, might NATO decide to counterattack and defeat this country? We ask, “What is this country?” 

General Joulwan. You know, when I had my discussions in Bosnia with Russians, you agreed with me, or your leaders did, that instability in the Balkans could spread instability to the rest of Eastern and Central Europe, and that was in your national interest as well as in NATO’s interest. And we agreed to cooperate. It was not that NATO was here and Russia was there. We were together, we had a common interest. Do we not have common interests in Afghanistan and in Iraq? 

Lieutenant General Buzhinsky. We do have common interests. We do. By the way, tomorrow we will be discussing Afghanistan, and I would like to make a small personal remark now about Afghanistan. I recently spoke to some Afghanis who fought us back in the 1970s and 1980s. There is a sort of nostalgia regarding the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, because the Soviet Union fought quite a different war there—we fought it at night and in the day, and everything was all right because the Afghan government controlled practically all of the country. We fought but we also constructed a lot: schools, roads, farms, and plants, and there was no unemployment, no drugs, and we did not convene any donor conferences. We did it ourselves, quietly. 

General Joulwan. Where is the ambassador from Italy? 

Ambassador Stefano Stefanini. Just a remark after listening to the Czech ambassador. I think that the West has been in decline for over a century but still has not done too badly. We have to put things into perspective, and if I am correctly quoting Secretary Gates, who was asked whether or not he was concerned about Russia’s defense spending, he said that Russia’s defense spending is still a fraction of the overall defense spending, so there is no need to be concerned. 

My answer to your original question, Is it confrontational, competitive, or combative, is all of the above. But what it will be depends very much on what we and Russia make it. Regarding the question that was just asked by our Russian friend, I am a great believer in the division of labor, but I do think that some of the problems we run into sometimes come from the fact that we try to have too many organizations working on the same battlefield, which makes it more complicated. But the question asked by our Russian friend as to whether or not there is space for Russia in this should be taken seriously. 

General Joulwan. I hate to ask my final question here, but since we talked in Paris about the new French president Sarkozy and he has already made some comments about moving closer to integration with NATO, and since in November a new president will be elected in the United States, I ask, What are the strategic realities that this new president will face and what do you say are his immediate priorities? I think this is a very critical time. 

Mr. Patrick Worms. It seems to me after the exchange we heard this afternoon that there is a little piece of unfinished business in this room and in the wider European alliance. That business is the way that our Russian friends and we behave with one another. In that context, I recommend to the next president, whoever he may be, that a good start may be to buy 100,000 copies of Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People and send it to our friends in the former Soviet Union, especially in Russia. 

Ambassador Franciskus baronVan Daele. I dare say that the challenges any new American president will face will be no different from those we face now, be it Afghanistan or Africa. But how do we put the pieces of our puzzle together? The problem is not the United States, contrary to what many people pretend. The first problem revolves around Europe and the European Union. Individual European countries have different sets of regional interests but no global policy, and such a policy will only come about if we go further with European integration. For that to happen we have to convince the Irish, but as long as that process has not run its course, we will never transform our transatlantic relationship into an entente cordiale, as it used to be called between France and England in the last century. 

The other structural problem we have is the one we discussed this afternoon—the place of Russia in the European security architecture. The one thing I find fascinating about it is why people in Moscow continue to consider NATO a threat. NATO cannot extend. I was a party to many of the consultations inside NATO, and saw how many tries there were to make Russia a partner in the missile shield issue, which would have had not only high practical value but symbolic value as well. So the two questions are, “How is America going to work together with an evolving European Union,” and “How is America going to bring Russia as a full partner into some form of European security architecture?”Only when these different pieces of the puzzle are together can we start thinking together about the wider world, with all its challenges and with security being threatened from far away. 

General Joulwan. Let me just piggyback on that by saying, “What is the leadership role of the United States, for example, in NATO?” Has it been reduced over the last several years? Is it important for that leadership role to come back or not? 

Ambassador Stewart Eldon. I can try to answer your first question. One of the things I think we are facing now is a period of unprecedented opportunity. France has hinted at it, and I think with the arrival of the French administration there is real opportunity for a new understanding of European and Euro-Atlantic security. One of the most important things we all can do, and that includes the new administration, is to figure out a way to capitalize on that. I am not trying to put this in quite the same way as France put it, but I think there is potential for a new deal, for a new understanding of how the system will work. 

Another thing I have noticed is that U.S. involvement in NATO has increased over the last couple of years. The administration has attached a growing importance to NATO, but not in the old stereotypical sense, because ultimately the Alliance is now a security provider. Part of the reason for the difficulties that were raised earlier is politics and stereotypes, and they are part of the reason for the question I asked Vladimir Chizhov this afternoon: What are we really all about? Our other friend from Russia was not terribly charitable about the NATO-Russia Council this evening, but there is an explanation for that. It is not that there is a NATO position ganging up on Russia. It is simply that the 26 countries do not agree with Russia, and they do not have to be in NATO to do that. So I really think there is a need to take a good, hard look at abolishing stereotypes about what each other is. That is a particular issue between the U.N. and NATO, and it also applies to NGOs. NGOs have perfectly clear and respectable difficulties about working with the military, but in the 21st century there is a good case for thinking laterally about that and thinking more widely about whether the understandings and political agreements we have—some of which Tacan Ildem referred to—are appropriate for all we want to do and all we need to do in the current situation. 

General Joulwan. Thank you very much for getting at the issues and discussions we just had because we need the kind of candor we just heard if we are going to develop political, diplomatic, military, and social arrangements and have some trust and confidence. 

I have always said that Russia is a great country with a great history and that we have a great opportunity to contribute to peace and stability in the world. Somehow we have got to find a way to do that by having respect for one another as we go forward. We all want—and I am a grandfather now with eight grandchildren, so I can say this—to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. But what have I done to prove that? Are we going to continue down this path on which all that we have built up is at risk because we cannot come together for whatever individual, national, political, religious, or ethnic reasons? Must these problems always exist? I think we have an opportunity with the communications we have today to come together and come up with a way to solve problems. The great nations and the great institutions—and that includes Russia, all of the nations of NATO, and indeed much of the world—need to work together, whether they like it or not, to find the way. If they don’t, then all that we have sacrificed is at risk. 

I think that we are off to a good start on this 25th anniversary of the workshop. Thank you for your participation. I wish you the very best during the next few days, and I believe that when we all go back to our organizations and to our countries, we will have a great opportunity to find a way ahead. 

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