Center for Strategic Decision Research

Lieutenant General Patrick de Rousiers

Lieutenant General Patrick de Rousiers
French Military Representative to NATO and the EU

Missile Defense and Strategic Communications


We all know that missile defense is a topic at the top of the agenda in Brussels. There are high expectations for the Lisbon meeting at the end of 2010. But where do we stand in my view? It is 20 years after the first Gulf War, during which SCUDs fell close to Ryadh and the King Khalid military camp, as well as close to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Since then, missile capabilities around the world have increased and will continue to do so. So it is hard to say that missile defense is not an issue, that there is no need for it now or in the future.

What are the consequences? The question is, Do we consider that there is a threat or is it just a concern for the future—“un risque ou une menace?” This is a difficult question, but one whose answer will shape the future of our national and multinational organizations and investments. In any case, of course, it is obvious that we need to be able to protect our troops, our staging areas, and other areas. But do we need to protect all of our territory in Europe? Do we need to do it from Diyarbakir to Porto and from Oslo to Palermo? If so, if we need to protect the whole of our territory, what about our allies? What about, for example, Mediterranean Dialogue countries or ICI partners?

My first conclusion is, once we decide—I should say, if we decide—that territorial missile defense is a NATO mission, we will need to say for whom and how this should be done. What are the questions I see? What is the threat? Is the threat Iran, as highlighted in the Group of Experts report, or are there other threats now or will there be others in the future? And do we need to be able to react to an evolution of the threat? Do we need to address ballistic missiles or are we sure that RPVs and cruise missiles or other means of transport of weapons will not be used? The threat for sure is not that of one missile; it is, of course, of a group of missiles heading at different targets, because this will lead to a situation that would challenge our decision process.

What do we need in that situation? We need to know, to detect; we need to analyze, that is, to track what is incoming; we need to decide, and time is very limited—there are 5 minutes if it goes to Istanbul or Bucharest, 20 minutes if it goes to Madrid, Paris, or London. That does not leave time for a military committee meeting or a NAC meeting, for sure. And then we need to destroy. The question then would be, What mixture will we in NATO have? What do we think we need?

If territorial missile defense is for NATO countries exclusively, it would be the first decision. Are we politically ready for that? And the second decision would be, How would we transfer the decision process to military authorities? Since it would not only be one but many missiles that would come, the decision process would be mainly one of not acting with exclusion, with all the impact that would have. The third decision would be, What is the level of ambition, especially in the financial situation we are in now and will be in the future?

My final thought on this issue is a personal view: That the threat is coming, slowly coming but coming, and it is increasing and we need to deter it and, if need be, to be able to respond both through offensive and defensive measures. For this, we need to implement a specific phase-adapted approach for NATO similar to the one that the U.S. is implementing. It has to be operationally and technically realistic and also it has to be financially sustainable. And we will need to explain it to our publics, and this leads me to the next topic, strategic communication.


Microsoft’s presentation at this conference showed that the world has changed in the area of information exchange. Our nations, NATO, and EU have also changed, and we need to put a greater, different focus on strategic communication. The targets are multiple: There is, of course, the media, the population, the blog users, the iPad friends, the teenagers, the voters, and, of course, our adversaries, whether they be in Somalia or in some part of Afghanistan or the vicinity. And the question is, Should that strategic communication be inside looking or should it be outside looking, that is, within NATO or the EU? Or should it be looking toward the nations and between those nations, especially now that we are in a wartime environment? Another question for me is, Do we need to act offensively or defensively? A final political decision is, To what end do we accept that nations leave room for those multinational organizations in the area of strategic communication?

Both of the subjects I just discussed are complex and interesting, and they will take time and keep us busy both in Paris, in Brussels, and in all of our capitals.

Top of page | Home | ©2009-2020 Center for Strategic Decision Research