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NATO After 9/11: Crisis or Opportunity?

Author: Richard G. Lugar
March 4, 2002
Council on Foreign Relations


Prepared Remarks delivered by U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar

at the Council on Foreign Relations

Washington, DC.

Monday, March 4, 2002

Note: Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Bob Kimmitt, for that warm introduction. It is a pleasure to be back at the Council on Foreign Relations among many old friends. I would like to thank Les Gelb and Chuck Boyd for providing me with the opportunity to speak tonight. The Council has done a wonderful job in sponsoring debate about the implications of the war on terrorism for American foreign policy -- and I am honored to be part of it by co-chairing one of the CFR Roundtables on NATO after September 11th. Our discussions have helped shape some of the ideas that I will present tonight.

The title of my talk this evening is: NATO After 9/11: Crisis or Opportunity? If there is a single message I would like to leave with you this evening, it is the following: amidst all the current signs of crisis, we must not lose sight of the enormous opportunity that we have to build a new trans-Atlantic relationship that can be a central pillar in the war on terrorism and the constructive prospects for peace, which will follow. Unfortunately, this is an opportunity that, thus far, neither side of the Atlantic has enthusiastically welcomed.

The opportunity we have is two-fold. First, overcoming the division of Europe and fulfilling our vision of a Europe whole and free is within our grasp. In Prague and in Copenhagen later this year, NATO and the EU will hold summits at which they will make historic decisions on their respective enlargements. Both institutions are considering launching rounds of enlargement that will encompass many, if not all, of the countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In addition, both NATO and the EU have launched new initiatives to expand cooperation with Russia.

If we get this right, we should, by the end of the decade, be able to say that the job of securing a new peace in Europe is largely complete. That would be a truly historic accomplishment.

But we also have a second opportunity. September 11th has shown us, in all too tragic a fashion, that we still face existential threats to our societies and our security -- and that these threats largely come from beyond Europe. For a number of years, experts have been writing about the threats to our security posed by terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But such threats seemed too theoretical and too abstract for many people. In 1996, I made an unsuccessful bid for President. Three of my campaign television ads depicted a mushroom cloud and warned of the horrible threat posed by the growing danger of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist groups. I argued that the next President should be selected on the basis of a perceived ability to meet that challenge.

At the time, those ads were widely criticized for being far-fetched and alarmist. Recently, the ads have been replayed on national television and are now viewed in a different perspective. The terrorist attacks on the United States of last September have graphically demonstrated how vulnerable we are. And when I say "we," I mean the West in general, including Europe. The terrorists seek massive impact through indiscriminate killing of people and destruction of institutions, historical symbols, and the basic fabric of our societies. The next attack could just as easily be in London, Paris, or Berlin as in Washington, Los Angeles or New York. And it could involve weapons of mass destruction.

The sober reality is that the danger of Americans and Europeans being killed today at work or at home is perhaps greater than at any time in recent history. Indeed, the threat we face today may be almost as existential as the one we faced during the Cold War, because it is increasingly likely to involve the use of weapons of mass destruction against our societies.

The central question of the day in the trans-Atlantic relationship is whether the U.S. and Europe will be able to fashion a common strategy for a global war on terrorism. Will we stand shoulder to shoulder just as we confronted the Soviet Union during the Cold War? Are our political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic willing to make the same kind of political commitment to hammer out common objectives and policies and recast our institutions to meet this challenge? We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we as leaders are prepared to draw the right conclusions and do what we can now to reduce that threat, or whether it will take another, even deadlier attack to force us into action.

A Clear Definition of Victory

Before I turn to NATO specifically, I would like to step back and discuss how we should define victory in the war on terrorism. It makes sense to first define what needs to be done and then look at what role NATO and our allies can play in helping to achieve success. As an elected official, I am sensitive to the need for a clear definition of victory in the war on terrorism that the American people understand and support. We have not yet found that definition. We must have it if we are going to sustain the support of the American people as well as that of our allies overseas.

The problem we face is not just terrorism. It is the nexus between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. There is little doubt in my mind that Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda would have used weapons of mass destruction if they had possessed them. It is increasingly clear that they have made an effort to obtain them.

Without oversimplifying the motivations of terrorists in the past, it appears that most acts of terror attempted to bring about change in a regime or change in governance or status in a community or state. Usually, the terrorists made demands that could be negotiated or accommodated. The targets were selected to create and increase pressure for change.

In contrast, the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States were planned to kill thousands of people indiscriminately. Osama bin Laden was filmed conversing about the results of the attack, which exceeded his predictions of destruction. He sought massive destruction of institutions, wealth, national morale, and innocent people. We can safely assume that those objectives have not changed. It is the possibility that future terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction that poses a new, potentially existential threat to our societies. As horrible as the tragedy of September 11th was, the death, destruction, and disruption to American society was minimal compared to what could have been inflicted by a weapon of mass destruction.

Victory must be defined not only in terms of finding and killing Osama bin Laden or destroying terrorist cells in this or that country. We must also undertake the ambitious goal of comprehensively preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Let me propose a fairly simple and clear definition of victory. Imagine two lists. The first list is of those nation- states that house terrorist cells, voluntarily or involuntarily. Those states can be highlighted on a map illustrating to all of our citizens who and where they are. Our stated goal will be to shrink that list nation by nation. Through intelligence sharing, termination of illicit financial channels, support of local police work, diplomacy, and public information, a coalition of nations led by the U.S. should seek to root out each cell in a comprehensive manner for years to come and maintain a public record of success that the world can observe and measure. If we are diligent and determined, we can terminate or cripple most of these cells.

But there is also a second list. It would contain all of the states that possess materials, programs, and/or weapons of mass destruction. We will demand that each of these nation-states account for all of the materials, programs, and weapons in a manner that is internationally verifiable. We will demand that all such weapons and materials be made secure from theft or threat of proliferation, using the funds of that country and supplemented by international funds if required. We will work with each nation state to formulate programs of continuing accountability and destruction.

Victory, then, can be succinctly stated: together, we must keep the world's most dangerous technologies out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people. This requires diligent work that shrinks both lists. Both lists will be clear and finite. The war against terrorism will not be over until all nations on the lists have complied with these standards.

The U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan has succeeded in destroying most of the Afghan-based Al-Qaeda network and the Taliban regime. The Bush Administration has made it clear that it will extend the military campaign to other countries and to other terrorist cells or governments that support terrorism. But as we prosecute this war, we must pay much more attention to the other side of the equation – that is, making certain that all weapons and materials of mass destruction are identified, continuously guarded, and systematically destroyed.

Globalizing the Nunn-Lugar/CTR Program Today, we lack even minimal international confidence about many weapons programs, including the number of weapons or amounts of materials produced, the storage procedures employed, and production or destruction programs. Unfortunately, beyond Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, Nunn-Lugar-style cooperative threat reduction programs aimed at counter-proliferation do not exist. They must now be created on a global scale. Given the size of the problem and the resources needed, this is not a task that the United States can undertake by itself. It requires a multilateral solution. In other words, we need allies.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program has demonstrated that extraordinary international relationships are possible to improve controls over weapons of mass destruction. Programs similar to Nunn-Lugar program should be established in each of the countries in the coalition against terrorism that wishes to work with the United States and hopefully its NATO allies on safe storage, accountability and planned destruction of these dangerous weapons and materials.

Over the last several months I have explored a number of different ways to provide the Administration with the ability to engage in cooperative dismantlement and counter-proliferation efforts with states currently outside the legislative scope of Nunn-Lugar. I am working closely with the Administration to provide them with the authority they need to launch emergency operations to prevent a proliferation or WMD threat from "going critical," as well as to extend cooperative threat reduction programs beyond the states of the former Soviet Union.

Some have pointed out that Pakistan and India might be future partners in Nunn-Lugar-style threat reduction efforts focused on improving the safety and security of weapons, materials, and delivery vehicles of mass destruction. Under the right conditions and with the requisite transparency, such programs would be a great service to U.S. national security interests.

In short, the first step in building new Nunn-Lugar threat reduction relationships is ensuring that our government has the power to explore options and engage with states outside the former Soviet Union. My goal is to provide the Administration with this power and capability. I will be offering legislation to accomplish these goals in the weeks ahead.

The precise replication of the Nunn-Lugar program will not be possible everywhere, but a satisfactory level of accountability, transparency, and safety can and must be established in every nation with a WMD program. When such nations resist such accountability, or their governments make their territory available to terrorists who are seeking weapons of mass destruction, then NATO nations should be prepared to apply all their collective diplomatic and economic power, as well as military force.

Some nations, after witnessing the bombing of Afghanistan and the destruction of the Taliban government, may decide to proceed along a cooperative path of accountability regarding their weapons and materials of mass destruction. But other states may decide to test the will of the U.S. and our allies. In such cases, the Alliance must have the fortitude to back up diplomacy with the military force necessary to eliminate the problem. Military force is less likely to be required if the NATO allies stand shoulder to shoulder now with the U.S. in pursuing such a counter-terrorism policy.

What Role for NATO

What does this mean for NATO? For me, the answer is clear: NATO must now become an effective organization in the war on terrorism and in addressing both lists. It must play a central role in addressing the central security challenge of our time. I say this not because of NATO nostalgia or a desire to keep the Alliance relevant, but because I believe that a U.S.-European strategic partnership is essential to winning a global war on terrorism.

We need the Europeans -- their political support, their police and intelligence cooperation, their economic assistance and, not least of all, the military support they can provide. Americans do not want to carry the entire burden of the war on terrorism by ourselves. Nor should we. The last attack may have been unique in that regard. We were shocked by attacks on our homeland. The U.S. was prepared to respond immediately and to do most of the work itself. But what if the next attack strikes European and American targets at the same time?

Obviously, shifting its focus toward terrorism will require NATO to change dramatically. But the Alliance has shown before that it has the capacity to adapt to new challenges, particularly when the United States offers leadership. In 1993, after the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, I was among the first to call for enlarging NATO to Central and Eastern Europe as part of a broader overhaul of the Alliance. At the time, there were many on both sides of the Atlantic, including some distinguished members of the Council on Foreign Relations, who said it could not be done. But President Clinton and European leaders did not succumb to the nay-sayers. They took the lead in setting a new strategic direction -- and today we see the results. Both Europe and NATO are stronger and better off as a result.

It is now time for the Alliance to make another historic commitment. In the early 1990s, I often said that the task we faced was to reorganize the West to deal with the East. By that I meant that NATO had to switch from thinking about defending the Fulda Gap in the heart of Germany to assuming responsibility for the defense of Europe as whole, including the eastern half of the continent. I used the phrase that NATO had to go "out of area or out of business" to try to capture this shift in alliance responsibility.

Today we must advance the next logical step. In a world in which terrorist "Article 5" attacks on our countries can be planned in Germany, financed in Asia, and carried out in the United States, old distinctions between "in" and "out of area" have become meaningless. Indeed, given the global nature of terrorism, the old kinds of boundaries and other geographical distinctions that guided our thinking on NATO are without relevance. If Article 5 threats to our security can come from beyond Europe, NATO must be able to act beyond Europe to meet them if it is going to fulfill its classic mission today.

Are we -- both the U.S. and Europe -- up to it? Some observers will say: "No, Senator, expanding the role of NATO is a great idea, but it is simply a bridge too far. And it would be a mistake even to try because you might fail and that would hurt the Alliance." I disagree, and ask in return how many more, and possibly far deadlier attacks, will we have to experience before we get our act together. If the U.S. and Europe -- the most advanced Western democracies and the closest allies in the world -- cannot organize ourselves to jointly meet this new threat, then something is truly wrong with us. If we fail to unite to fight terrorism, we will have given the terrorists a huge advantage, for there is nothing they would like more than to see the Western democracies divided on this key issue.

Let me add that I have no illusions that this is going to be easy. During my recent travels in Europe I have come away with a mixture of hope and concern. The tragic attacks of September 11th did bring us closer together. Many Europeans recognize that the threat is real and that Europe is also a target. While we don't publicize it for understandable reasons, the support they are providing to us in terms of police cooperation and intelligence is unprecedented and has been essential in some of the progress we have made. Today there are more Europeans on the ground in Afghanistan than Americans. And it is Europe, not America, that is going to foot much of the bill for Afghan reconstruction. In these areas, they have been exceptional allies.

But I also have come away with a sober understanding of where we differ and the hurdles we need to overcome. Our views diverge sharply on how to deal with Iraq and Iran. The Europeans have neglected their defenses. While I detect a growing willingness to try to remedy that, it is not going to be easy while their economies are mired in recession. But there are many signs that our allies are aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

Europeans have doubts about the U.S., too. They ask me whether the United States wants to act together with our allies and whether we are willing to make the political investment and show the strategic patience this will require. They worry about the United States going into "unilateralist overdrive."

In recent weeks, much has been made of President Bush's State of the Union address and his naming of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil." I am sympathetic to President Bush from previous experience. At a point of fairly high Cold War tension, in July 1984, I led a U.S. delegation to Scandinavia. The Soviet news agency, TASS, charged that I was trying "to raise the waves of anti-Sovietism." TASS reported that my mission was "to deceive public opinion and to wear down the opposition" with a "jungle of words" and "worn out fabrications about the alleged danger threatening northern Europe from the Soviet Union." They called my trip a "raiding party ... of feverish activity to pressure northern Europe against peaceful relations with socialist nations."

This came as a great shock to me and to those who read John Goshko's 1985 Washington Post headline: "Virtuoso Performance Surprises Hill: Mild-Mannered Lugar Rescues Reagan, Reinvigorates Foreign Relations Panel."

So was President Bush's "axis of evil" comment too provocative? I would suggest that he did not go far enough. To continue with a geometrical metaphor, I believe we are facing in the world today a "Vertex of Evil" – the intersection of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. The threat is greater and the response more sweeping than the debate surrounding the phrase "axis of evil." September 11 was the wake-up call. The United States and our allies must be vigorously preparing to keep separated the lines of terror from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials, and know-how. The U.S. must lead this effort, but we need partners -- and there are no better candidates than our NATO allies.

I believe it would be a historic mistake to let this opportunity to forge a new trans-Atlantic understanding slip through our fingers. America is engaged in a difficult and dangerous war, and we need allies and alliances if we are to win. Those alliances can no longer be circumscribed by artificial geographic boundaries. All of America's alliances are going to be reviewed and recast in light of this new challenge, including NATO. If NATO is not up to the challenge of becoming effective in the new war against terrorism, then our political leaders may be inclined to search for something else that will answer this need.

It is a time to think big, not small. It is a time when our proposals should be measured not by what we think is "doable," but rather shaped by what needs to be done. Specifically, it means that the question of new missions and the war on terrorism has to become the focal point of the Prague summit later this year. While NATO enlargement and deepened NATO-Russia cooperation will be central to the summit's agenda, they must now be complemented by making the campaign against terrorism a central NATO mission.

To my way of thinking, it would represent a severe degradation of U.S. capabilities if NATO cannot be redirected at the Prague Summit toward combating the sources of international terrorism. Indeed, the current military nature of the campaign against terrorism suggests that the Prague agenda ought to be focused on development of a comprehensive plan for restructuring European military capabilities. This could extend to totally rethinking the current Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) that was formulated with Bosnia and Kosovo in mind. In its place should be substituted what I call DCI-2 – namely, a capabilities package born of the lessons of Afghanistan. A Defense Capabilities Initiative designed to close the gap between the European allies and the United States is no longer feasible, if it ever was. More important now is a redirection of the Capabilities Initiative so as to create and harmonize counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation capabilities in a way that will serve both American and European interests.

To leave NATO focused solely on defending the peace in Europe from old threats would reduce it to a housekeeping role in an increasingly secure continent. If we fail to defend our societies from a major terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction, the Alliance will have failed in the most fundamental sense of defending our nations.

That is why terrorism has to be front and center on NATO's agenda at Prague. The reality is that we can launch the next round of NATO enlargement as well as a new NATO-Russia relationship at Prague, and the Alliance could still be seen as failing – that's right, failing – unless it starts to transform itself into an important new force in the war on terrorism.

The leadership of the President of the United States is crucial. President Bush has spoken out clearly on the need to continue to pursue NATO enlargement. His speech last June in Warsaw was historic in sketching out a vision of NATO embracing new democracies from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The President also has spoken out on his desire to expand the NATO-Russia relationship. But he has not spoken out on the need for NATO to assume a central role in the war on terrorism. I hope that he will do so -- to send a clear message to friend and foe alike that he is prepared to lead a transformation of NATO to meet this new threat. Perhaps the Council on Foreign Relations could offer him a venue to do so.

President Bush needs to identify the critical components of a stronger Alliance that, if properly articulated at Prague, can define the foundation for a new NATO. This is not the time for the Administration to sit back and referee among competing interests as they jockey for influence over the Prague agenda. Last June in Warsaw, the President offered his vision of a Prague Summit that "does as much as possible." It now falls to the President not only to envision Prague on a grander scale and to identify the key elements of a reinvigorated trans-Atlantic alliance, but also to sow in the ashes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the foundations of the Second Post-War order.

NATO has prevented war in Europe for more than fifty years. That, in itself, is a remarkable accomplishment. But if NATO does not now help tackle the most pressing security threat to our countries today, a threat that I believe is existential because it involves weapons of mass destruction, it will become increasingly marginal. That outcome is neither in the national security interests of the United States nor our NATO allies.

This is the moment for leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to focus on our rich heritage of cooperation and mutual sacrifice. This is the year to establish at the Prague Summit a NATO which has clearly defined the requirements of victory in the war on terrorism and is organized to win that victory.

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