Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe


Fitzgerald Mark

Admiral Mark Fitzgerald
Commander Allied Joint Force Command, Naples
Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and
U.S. Naval Forces Africa

Threats and Concerns in Africa:
What It Means for NATO

Security to me is what is seen with the eye of the beholder. As I sit in Naples, what is seen with the eye of the beholder is not necessarily the same as what is seen from Germany or from the United States. Therefore, I want to focus on some of the concerns in the Southern Region. Though we do have a good number of high-end threats in the reports from the 12 wise men (1), their primary focus was on the east. The threats, as I look at them, focus primarily on the south. Today I will talk a little bit about that and how this focus should or might impact thinking in relationship to (NATO’s) Strategic Concept.


One of the most overlooked places, and probably the most dangerous place that threatens the vital interests of the Alliance, is Africa. As you look at what is currently happening in Southwest Asia and you look at what is going on in the United States, a confluence of many things cause me concern as I look south. First, as we make gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, the flow of violent extremist organizations is spreading down the Arabian peninsula through Yemen, and across into Somalia. Threats also exist as well in Saharan Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb; and, these threats are starting to spread south into places like northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Chad.

It is almost a perfect storm. And the same thing is happening now with illicit drug flows. As drugs flow out of South America, and meeting resistance from the north, we are starting to see new drug channels open up into West Africa and then work their way north into Europe. This has the dual effect of increasing the drug flow into Europe and also destabilizing the countries in Africa.

We also have, in my opinion, some significant vital interests in the energy sector in Africa. We see today that five percent of the world’s oil is being supplied by West and Central Africa; and, that number is projected to increase as oil fields in Ghana and additional oil fields in Angola become operational. The world’s largest liquid natural gas terminal is opening on the Congo River and also one in northern Angola right on the Congo border.

What is the effect of this destabilization? Piracy in Somalia gets all the headlines, and it certainly challenges the flow of free world goods out of both China and the Persian Gulf. But when you look to West Africa, the piracy in Nigeria and Cameroon is much more violent. The significant numbers of tragic deaths and illegal oil bunkering not only takes three million dollars a day out of countries like Nigeria, but also has a significant environmental impact on the region. Illegal fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), which is reported by the EU to be about a billion euros a year, drags on the economies and reduces the fishing stocks as well. This, too, destabilizes these countries.

The illegal migration of 600 thousand people a year also adds to the security concerns in the region. This does not take away from the real security concerns coming from the Middle East, but it certainly gives a nod to the future that we will have to start paying attention in that part of the world as well.


What does this imply for NATO and the Alliance? NATO and the Alliance typically look at the world from the point of view of nuclear and conventional war threats. And, while the severity of such a war in Europe is certainly the most severe threat we have, the probability of such a war is also the lowest. But as you work down the spectrum of threats to those things we have just discussed, such as illicit trafficking and humanitarian disasters, the Washington Treaty cites very clearly that NATO maintains a core role in keeping us secure from these threats. Although NATO’s role may not be as a primary provider of security, NATO does have a critical role. So, how do we square the corner between operations and efforts such as Operation Active Endeavor, in which NATO conducts maritime operations in the Mediterranean to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorism, to stopping the transit of weapons of mass destruction or counterterrorism, with things like FRONTEX, which exists to prevent drug smuggling and human trafficking?

This goes straight to the heart of the question we have been asking: “How does NATO fit in with other organizations and national interests?” Right now, we have dual assets operating in different roles in the same geographic area, both equipped to do the whole mission. We dilute our capability, and not just Mediterranean’s maritime sphere, when we do this. I see similar inefficiencies in the Balkans, where NATO has dual missions. We have to find a solution as to how we go about doing this in the future.

Another point I want to make is, as NATO has expanded and as our partnerships have expanded, we have not kept up with how we want to address such an expansion. In the traditional view of the pre-1990’s, we had the two big powers aligned against each other: NATO and the Warsaw Pact. When the wall came down, we began Partnership for Peace. And this led to the Mediterranean Dialogue, which opened up the northern part of Africa, which then led to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which further opened up the four countries of the Persian Gulf. Then, with Iraq, we have a special cooperation framework, and in Afghanistan we have a cooperation program. As Karl-Heinz Lather pointed out, we have begun to open up the countries of the Eastern Asian area as contact countries.

All of this has implications for NATO. First of all, when the question came up about NATO’s Area of Responsibility (AOR), I think it was probably not properly presented or considered. This is because in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, a practical bilateral cooperation between individual Partner countries and NATO, allows Partner countries to build up an individual relationship with NATO, effectively choosing their own priorities for cooperation. Article 8 of the PfP Charter is almost word for word Article 4 of the Atlantic Charter, the Washington Treaty, and provides for consultation for any partnership country that is attacked. So, the AOR has opened up considerably the number of contact countries we have as well as potential partners. There are currently 76 of those, though not all of them are partners with signed charters. We in the military have to design our forces in order to respond to the alliance and partnership treaties we have signed. I think that starts to paint a much larger picture than the traditional Article 5 defense of the Alliance.


What does that mean for NATO’s global security contributions? Is NATO going to be a global power projection force or will it be a global enabling force? What exactly is NATO going to be as we move into the new Strategic Concept? There are implications in the Strategic Concept for both defense infrastructure and the forces that we want. It is imperative that we ensure alignment as we move into the future so that we do not take a bigger bite of the apple than we can handle.
Karl-Heinz talked about a new kind of future security, a partnership structure that I fully support. Right now, in my opinion, NATO’s partnership program is set up in a way that is very contrary to the Alliance’s goals—almost a smorgasbord approach in which a partner aligns with NATO and NATO, in turn, gives that partner a set of 2,000 or 2,500 opportunities for exercise training or other options. The partner nation picks what it wants to participate in, many of which are nice seminars in various Alliance countries, which may or may not contribute to improving the security of that nation. I think we need to turn this approach around and say, “What is in it for the Alliance in these partnerships?” We also need to look at partnerships both regionally and functionally. Where are the security gaps in the region? Are they in energy security? Are they in counterterrorism? Are they in humanitarian assistance? Or are they in crisis response or anti-piracy operations? We need to focus that region’s countries on wherever the security gap exists. NATO must develop these capabilities in partners so that the Alliance does not have to respond or provide its own forces. The goal is to have the region organize and provide the security in that area.


The final point I want make, an issue that State Secretary Rüdiger Wolf talked about, is the comprehensive approach. I fully agree that NATO is not the right organization for executing the full spectrum of a comprehensive approach. At the strategic level, however, we need the capability to plug in to whichever organizations are going to execute the strategic approach. That means that NATO needs to be aligned with the comprehensive approach, and right now you cannot find a shingle anywhere in the NATO command structure that reads, “Comprehensive Approach.” You also cannot find a place in Brussels to plug in to that coordinates the comprehensive approach. In the future we need to align NATO’s command structure and political structure to service the comprehensive approach.

When I think about the comprehensive approach, I believe it requires some degree of trust and transparency with respect to other organizations. That certainly involves intelligence sharing but certainly data sharing, cooperation, and non-traditional partnerships, both with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and with the legal and the commercial sides. As we look at the comprehensive approach and as we look at NATO’s future missions, it is easy to see that we have already taken on what we call the air-policing mission, in which our forces are on daily alert to police the air for renegade aircraft. I think this mission will also soon have to be applied to the Maritime environment. I see the future of the Alliance, in both the air and on the sea, protecting the flanks of NATO and the Alliance’s interests. That will drive us into a more comprehensive look at how we share information and data across the spectrum of both defense and security, meaning law enforcement.

Finally, as we look at the comprehensive approach and as we partner for peace and start to build partner capacity, how do we ensure that our partner-nations undertake appropriate security sector reform so that we do not build the forces that ultimately are employed to repress that country? To me that requires a comprehensive approach. We must strive to build not just the military capacity, but also partner capacity in all areas of the security sector.


To sum up, I think that we need first to sort out and very clearly define NATO’s role, not just in defense but in security. And this can be a supported-supporting kind of relationship that we work on the military side; and, second, determine that if NATO does indeed have a global role, what that global role is. For example, is NATO’s role as a provider or security enabler? It could be both, but the role or roles that NATO is to play must be defined and understood so that the Alliance can design our future force accordingly. We need to resolve our partnerships, determine NATO’s vital interests and shape our partnerships to address those interests.
The comprehensive approach certainly needs to be organized along the lines I have described, so that the entire command structure is organized around a comprehensive approach. I believe that in order to follow a comprehensive approach regarding partnerships, we need to have a full view of security sector reform and understand that information sharing will be critical across organizations taking part in this endeavor.

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