Next Steps for NATO

Monday, May 7, 2012

In advance of the mid-May NATO summit in Chicago, Ambassador Daalder discusses the alliance's priorities and future, as well as broader transatlantic relations.

MICHAEL GETLER: Well, welcome, everybody, to tonight's Council on Foreign Relations meeting. I want to go through our standard stuff here but remind you to please completely turn off all your -- and not just put them on vibrate but turn everything off -- your cellphones, BlackBerrys, all wireless devices -- to avoid interference with the sound system.

I remind you that this is an on-the-record session.

And before we begin with the program, the council is pleased to announce the rollout of a report of the -- a council-sponsored independent task force on Turkey, and copies of the task force's report will be released at a meeting in New York tomorrow, and here in Washington this Wednesday, May 9th, also.

For more information on upcoming events and -- please refer to the insert in the back of tonight's program.

I -- also tomorrow night in New York -- (chuckles) -- our guest is going to be on "The Daily Show." So you can tune in there, if you like.

Well, anyway, this is another well-timed council session. Not only do we have the U.S. ambassador to NATO with us just two weeks before the NATO summit gets under way in Chicago, but we have a newly elected president of France, Francois Hollande, who may well become a factor in NATO's future, both in Brussels and in Afghanistan.

You all have Ambassador Daalder's biography, so I'm sure -- and I'm sure many of you that are here this evening have met him or heard him on one occasion or the other. He's been a prominent figure not only in U.S. government and international affairs but also with the council. And equally important, to those of us outside of government, he's been and remains, even in his official capacity, an important public voice, a frequent writer, explainer and debater on issues of great importance to American national security and global security.

So, Mr. Ambassador, we will of course all want to know this evening your sense of whether NATO, like everyone else, will manage to lose the blues in Chicago. But first let me go straight to the news of the day -- there's actually a couple of stories that are newsworthy today about our topic this evening -- and ask your views about the election in France. Monsieur Hollande, as I'm sure you know, has suggested he was not happy with his predecessor's taking France back into NATO. He said he's -- would be likely to withdraw France's 2,500 or so combat troops from Afghanistan this year rather than next. And even though he has tilted towards less austerity, he's also talked about defense spending needing to be cut further.

So I know you're going to probably say -- or I think you might say -- well, we'll have to wait and see what the post-election realities are. But since we're here and onstage and you are such a good source on this, how do you analyze this?

IVO DAALDER: Well, of course have to wait and see. (Laughter.)

GETLER: Right. (Chuckles.)

DAALDER: But I think, you know, one of the unique features of NATO is that it's an organization of 28 democracies. So this is hardly the first time a government has changed while I've been there or indeed -- which is happening all the time. Seventeen governments have changed in the time that I've been here, and this is just the latest.

The French Socialists are not strangers for the United States. They shouldn't be strangers. It's been true that it's been 17 years since the Socialists were in power and had the presidency, but of course they ran the government in -- about a decade ago, when Lionel Jospin was in power. We have always had a very good relationship with any government that is there in France, and I am confident we will have a good relationship with this government in France.

We do have to see how this government has -- is going to deal with the issues of the day. It's one thing to be campaigning. It's always something different to be governing.

It's not up to me, certainly not my job to predict how this will evolve, but I would note that Francois Hollande during the campaign did say he would remain -- keep France integrated in the military command structure. That was a remarkable decision by President Sarkozy, after so many years, to come back into the command structure. I think France learned in the Libya operation that being integrated into command structure gives you a voice and a say over what happens in the internal affairs of a military operation -- that's important -- and learned that there are benefits from being fully integrated. And I would suspect that this is a benefit that will remain even if there may be differences of degree as policies go on.

That's what -- that's what elections are about. It is to enable the people to express themselves and vote in new governments, who will then have to decide how they want to pursue policy. But, on the big foreign policy issues, I expect more continuity than change.

GETLER: So, I mean, he takes office very soon; the NATO summit is very soon. Do you see any risk that the program in Afghanistan, both in terms of troop levels and in terms of financial support for the Afghan army, that that could erode before you're at the finish line here?

DAALDER: No, I don't actually. I think there -- what's remarkable about Afghanistan in the last three years is the degree of unity within the alliance and among the 50 countries that contribute troops to ISAF. That has persisted throughout the time that I've been there, and I think is -- remains solid. And we'll see when we get to Chicago that this is indeed a very solid coalition committed to a strategy that was agreed in the last NATO summit in Lisbon when it was decided that a process of transition would take place over four years, that we would try gradually and over time build up the Afghan national security forces to provide for the security of the country, and so that, by the end of 2014, it is the responsibility of these forces to ensure security throughout the entire country.

That strategy, I think, has been proven to work. We will get together in Chicago in a few weeks where we will reaffirm the centrality of that strategy. We will announce that, as things are moving on, we believe that in 2013, it will be possible for all of Afghanistan to be in a situation where the Afghan security forces are in the lead for security, and the NATO and ISAF mission will slowly shift from a lead focus on combat to a lead focus on supporting the Afghan security forces. And then over the next -- 2013 until the end of 2014, be in a position to ensure that Afghanistan will be secured by Afghan forces rather than by international forces.

That's the strategy. I think every country is committed. I -- and so far no one has left. We are committed to an in-together/out-together strategy. Some countries have decided to change the focus from combat to training; that is their national decision. We accept that. But, for now, I think we will get to Chicago fully committed to this strategy and united in implementing it.

GETLER: So just -- so you would also be optimistic that there won't be any French troop withdrawals beyond the ones that are different from what has been forecast before by Sarkozy?

DAALDER: Well, we'll have to await to see how a new French government will relate to that. I do think French troops will remain in Afghanistan till the end of 2014.

GETLER: Combat troops?

DAALDER: We'll see. Remember the Dutch don't have combat troops; the Canadians don't have combat troops. But they make very important contributions by training the Afghan forces. There're many jobs to be done in Afghanistan, and individual countries will make their decisions of how they want to contribute. But they need to and they are, I think, committed to the strategy that we have all agreed to.

GETLER: Let me turn you to other news today.

Vladimir Putin took office in Moscow. And among the things he said, was that Russia will also seek a predictable relationship with the United States, will adhere to the START treaty on nuclear arms, and push for guarantees that the U.S. missile shield in Europe will not be directed against Russia. Is that something that he wants in writing or is that a "trust, but verify" type of thing? Or how's -- what's -- what does that mean, that statement?

DAALDER: Well, we've had a discussion with Russia since Lisbon where the NATO allies agreed to -- for the first time, to deploy a NATO territorial missile defense system that would provide protection for NATO-European territories, populations and forces against a growing ballistic missile threat from outside of Europe. That decision was not directed at Russia nor were the systems that are going to be deployed capable of undermining strategic stability with the -- with Russia or indeed undermine the nuclear deterrent of Russia. We have been saying this for three years. We are more than happy to put it in writing because we have already done so; be happy to do it in the future.

Russia -- at -- the second time -- the second thing we did in Lisbon was also to invite Russia to cooperate with us on the deployment of missile defenses in which we had to have two separate systems that could be used as separate systems, that could cooperate and be combined to provide a better defense for both NATO and Russia against this growing ballistic missile threat. We've been in discussions for the last 18 months with the Russians. They continue.

They are, frankly, not moving forward, because of a Russian demand that the guarantees be legally binding, not only the guarantee that it is not directed against Russia, but that are objective criteria, and limits, therefore, on the nature of the system that we would be deploying to provide those guarantees.

We have made very clear that since the system is not designed or directed against Russia, it makes very little sense for us to have a legally binding agreement with Russia and limits on the capabilities of that system that have nothing to do with Russia but have to do with the threat that we're facing.

What we've also made clear is that if we sit together and cooperate together, they could find over time that in fact our system is not designed to deal with the Russian threat, and through kinds of confidence-building measures and cooperation we engage in, could make clear that they don't need a guarantee because they can see for themselves that the system is not capable of undermining their strategic deterrent. That discussion is ongoing. We're willing to -- (we're ?) continuing that discussion, and hopefully one day we will be able to convince them -- (inaudible, cross talk).

GETLER: So how do you interpret the fact that he repeated it again today?

DAALDER: It's the standard Russian line. They've said it before; we'll probably see it again. In the meantime, we are continuing with the deployment of the system. We will announce in Chicago that NATO will have reached an interim capability. It will have agreed to the tools to enable NATO to take command and control of the ballistic missile capacities that the United States and other countries would provide. And we will go ahead because we think the threat warrants that kind of system.

And anybody who looks at what is the threat from the Middle East is like, that is growing and not getting any less, will know that this is a response that is necessary, as well as all the other steps we're trying to take to reduce that threat.

GETLER: When President Obama had that open-mic situation with Medvedev some months ago, he talked about having more flexibility on this issue after the election. What did that mean? (Laughter.)

DAALDER: You'd have to ask him. (Laughter.)

GETLER: Well, you've talked to him about that, I'm sure.

DAALDER: I think what he was reflecting was the reality that the last six months of a presidential campaign usually aren't the easiest to have serious international negotiations, particularly on issues that are political sensitive. And I think that was just a truism. I think that's recognized by the Russians, it's recognized by us. We have committed to continuing a dialogue, which is continuing right now at the political level and over time may be focused on the technical level, until such time that the political situation allows a more -- a more thorough discussion of these issues.

GETLER: Well, the Russians are not going to be in Chicago. And I want to ask you about other countries that are not going to be there, but of the whole group, as you well know, of smaller European states that want in under the open-door policy. And as far as I can tell, enlargement is not on the table. And I was wondering where these expansion possibilities stand for countries like Bosnia and Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia -- you know the whole list -- Kosovo. Where does that stand?

DAALDER: Well, of the list, there's at the moment four countries that have declared that they would like to become members of NATO: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Georgia. All four will, in fact, be in Chicago, because all four are active troop contributors to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

We, from the United States perspective, and I think I can speak for all 27 other allies, remain committed to an open door. Under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, we can have an invitation to European member states, European states whose membership in NATO can contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area and who meet NATO standards. These four countries have declared that they would like to be members of NATO. We are working actively with them -- we as NATO, we as the United States -- to foster the circumstances and ability for them to become members sooner rather than later.

The time is not yet, for various reasons, and each country is unique and each country will have to be dealt with separately, but the time will not be yet in Chicago for them to be invited, either because there remain differences with other member states, as in the case of Macedonia, where we remain committed to inviting them as soon as the mutual satisfactory issue of the name has been resolved with Greece.

We are working hard with Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina to resolve issues both internally and in relationship to their reform of their country. We work with Georgia on a day-to-day basis. Georgia will by October be the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF, a remarkable deployment of over 1,700 troops, and not just in the north or in the west, but down south in Helmand province.

And Georgia has -- faces an important election, parliamentary election later this year and a presidential election next year. And we will work with them to ensure that those are democratic elections. And that too then will be another step on the road to membership, which won't happen in Chicago, but we are committed to have it happen as soon as possible.

GETLER: Thank you. You know, one of the themes of the -- a major theme of the French election was this approach of -- a less austere approach to the economic crisis. And I was just wondering if -- whether there's a sense that that also could have some effect on defense spending, but not -- probably not with the French, but perhaps with others, in terms of loosening some of the restrictions on NATO defense budgets.

DAALDER: Well, I mean, austerity hasn't been good for defense spending. And I think that's true -- some say austerity hasn't been good for a lot of things. But it certainly hasn't been good for defense spending.

I don't see that loosening the austerity constraints that currently exist will now lead to a massive increase in European defense spending. But it is clear that we need more defense spending if you look at just two statistics. A decade ago Europe still spend 50 percent of the total amount that NATO spends on defense. Today, even after the cuts that the United States has engaged in, 70 percent is U.S. spending, and 30 percent is Europe.

Now, part of it is because the United States expanded its defense spending in the last decade, but the other part of it is that Europe has been cutting it. And there will come a time when if you continue that divergence between European and American defense spending that the gap becomes so large, the ability to operate together in military operations becomes so constrained that there is a real need to start thinking about how do we meet the ability of the Europeans to be good partners and strong partners -- as we saw in Libya, they can be -- but continue to be over the future. And that will require not only spending more, but it also will require Europeans to spending (sic) better and smarter.

One of the issues and initiatives that Secretary General Rasmussen has been pushing is a notion of having what he calls smart defense, which is having Europeans working together to procure critical capabilities that alone they couldn't afford, but together they could. And we will encourage all Europeans to do more of that so that even if they don't spend necessarily more in dollars or in euros or kronen or whatever it is that they are spending, the output of that spending will be larger and better.

GETLER: You've talked and written about how effective the NATO campaign in Libya was, the many lives that it saved for those who were trapped in the struggle. But as you also know, The New York Times last month reported on a lengthy confidential post-action NATO report that highlighted just how poorly equipped and staffed are many of the NATO allies and that they would basically have been unable to sustain combat operations for very long even against such a weak opponent as the Libyans were without very crucial U.S. assistance in a whole range of basic contemporary warfare and smart weapons, intelligence gathering, aerial refueling. And that story really does make one wonder about the real-world military capabilities of NATO if against a weak opponent like that, they were really -- all these shortcomings were made very obvious to NATO. It's a very disturbing report. Is there -- you have a reaction to it, or --

DAALDER: Well, of course, I can't --

GETLER: I'm sure you didn't like it. (Chuckles.)

DAALDER: Well, no, actually, first, I of course can't comment on the classified reports. But what I can do is people -- point people to reading the Foreign Affairs article that I wrote with Jim Stavridis, the supreme allied commander of Europe, which said much the same thing. So in that sense, it is not surprising.

We -- there's two parts to the -- to the European contribution in Libya. There's a -- there's a good-news story, and there's a not-so-good-news story. The good-news story is that Europeans, led by President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron, decided to take the lead in much of the military campaign, including in particular in the military -- in the bombing campaign in Libya. The statistic that we cite in the Foreign Affairs article that really point -- makes that clear is that in the Kosovo war, 90 percent of all precision-guided munition that were dropped on Serbia and on Kosovo were American. Ten percent were European. In the Libya war, it was exactly the opposite. Ninety percent was European; 10 percent was American.

That said, there were critical capabilities, these gaps that I mentioned before, that were exposed by the -- by the Libyan war, most importantly, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, where between 70 (percent) and 80 percent of the ISR effect was provided by the United States; aerial refueling, where 75 percent of the aerial -- of the tankers were flown by the United States; the capability to do strategic targeting, precision-guided targeting, to take the information you get and turn that into precise targets that was necessary to have a low-casualty kind of low-collateral-damage kind of strategic bombing campaign that we saw in Libya was provided by the United States. So it exposed those weaknesses.

The good news is that, as a result of Libya, the Europeans are now trying to focus on how to close down these gaps. So, in Chicago, we will -- we will sign a -- an agreement where 13 nations will procure -- and what's called the Alliance Ground Surveillance System: five most-advanced kind of drones that will provide the capability that was so evident in Libya we needed to have, radar capability to look at what's going on on the ground, which will be procured by 13 nations and will be owned and operated by NATO.

Aerial refueling -- the Europeans have decided that, within the European Union, they needed to invest in the capabilities to bring these capabilities together and do more.

So there's a lesson learned here, and that's in fact the report in The New York Times was a lessons learned report. It exposed the problems that existed within NATO, and we're now addressing them by making the investments in those kinds of activities that are particularly important and the shortfalls that were demonstrated, just trying to start to fill that and overcome these gaps.

GETLER: Is that one reason why -- I mean, the current shortcomings -- is that a reason why NATO has not been involved in the Syrian operation in a sense, that it would have to be -- the United States is a much more formidable opponent there, and the United States would have to be more involved --

DAALDER: I hear you.

GETLER: -- just in terms of capabilities.

DAALDER: The reality is that Syria is a very different kind of situation than Libya in -- both in terms of the military capability that is there and, therefore, would require a very different kind of engagement. But that isn't the main reason; the main reason is that there is no legal basis right now for a foreign intervention, which was -- which did exist in Libya and would be important for NATO, as 28 countries, to come to a consensus to act.

There is no desire within the region for foreign intervention. Quite to the contrary the Arab League has made clear that this is not something they seek at this time. Again, in the Libya case, the Arab League was the body that in fact asked for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone.

Those are two fundamental reasons why there is a hesitancy to engage in -- militarily on the part of NATO and, in fact, a fundamental reason why an alliance of democracies, which operates on consensus, would find it at the moment difficult, if not impossible, to have the consensus necessary to intervene.

GETLER: OK, we're going to now invite audience members to join in the discussion. Let me get the ground rules out here first.

Please wait for the microphone. Speak directly into it. Stand up, state your name, tell us your affiliation, and keep your questions and comments concise so we can get as many as possible.

Yes, sir. Just wait for the mic.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Josh Rogan (ph), Foreign Policy magazine. Thanks for taking the time and thank you for your service.

I wanted to ask you about your mentioning of an announcement in Chicago about interim milestones towards the 2014 full transfer of power over to Afghan hands as per the Lisbon treaty. I'm wondering, is that the same announcement that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made on the plane to Brussels in February and then clarified at the Munich security conference?

We were told that announcement by Leon Panetta in February was made because he accidentally read his internal talking points, instead of the press points, to the reporters on the plane. And I guess I'm wondering since that -- if that announcement was scheduled for Chicago, before Secretary Panetta accidentally blurted it out, I'm wondering if that's going to be the same thing or that's going to be something different or you're going to add meat to the bone? Are there -- is it going to be -- is it going to be something new? And if it's new, what's new besides what we already heard? Thank you.


DAALDER: This history of when, how, what, I will leave to the historians to dig out of. But, as the president said in Bagram Air Base, as he said in his press conference with Prime Minister Cameron when Prime Minister Cameron was here, we are committed to this strategy that we adopted in Lisbon, which was to have a transition starting in 2011, completed by the end of 2014, in which Afghan forces would over time take more and more responsibility for security so that, by the end of 2014, they would be fully responsible for security throughout the country.

In 2013, there will come a period where the Afghans will have lead responsibility throughout the country for security, at which point we will shift the main focus, the main effort of the NATO and ISAF contribution from combat to support, as the president also announced in June of 2011 that we would do.

That's -- that will be a milestone, a milestone when we shift from one point to the other, which should happen in 2013, depending on, of course, how the situation on the ground evolves. We expect it to happen in 2013. And that is where in Chicago we will solidify how we get to 2013, what we will do until the end of 2014, and by the way, what is the nature of NATO's role and the international role post-2014, which the president started to address in his visit to Bagram Air Base a week ago as well, where we are -- and as part of the strategic partnership agreement that the United States has now signed with Afghanistan and NATO, which has an enduring partnership agreement signed in Lisbon. We'll start filling out that that really means as well.

GETLER: Yes, sir.

DAALDER: Behind you.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Mike Alsop (sp), Johns Hopkins, SAIS. Ivo, good to see you again. I'd like to get back to NATO enlargement, both in the north as well as the south. First of all, in the north, Sweden and Finland have not asked to join, but they've really become almost allies in any sense of the word. Swedes took part in the combat missions in Libya. They're doing Baltic air policing. Swedes and Finns are going to to, as I understand it -- well, in any rate, cooperating very closely, if you could just say a few words about that cooperation.

But the second and perhaps more important question has to do with Macedonia. You said that the U.S. favors Macedonia's accession to NATO when the name dispute is solved. But the International Court of Justice ruled about six months ago that Greece had no right -- it was almost a unanimous decision -- Greece had no right, on the basis of the 1995 interim agreement, to keep -- to block Macedonia's membership in international organizations, that -- while the negotiations are going on.

Sounds like the United States has -- in a sense has raised the bar, because, you know, if I understood the ICJ's decision, it shouldn't matter that the negotiations are going on as -- and in fact Macedonia, as you know, was slated to get in in Bucharest in 2008, with Croatia and Albania.

So if you could -- if you could speak to those issues, I'd appreciate it.

DAALDER: Sure. Thanks for both parts the question.

On Sweden and Finland, Sweden even more than Finland, they are extraordinary partners. They participate -- Sweden participates in every single operation that we are conducting with major cooperation and operation Unified Protector in Libya, a leading role in the north in Afghanistan until recently, although that's gone down, has contributed significantly in Kosovo, as has Finland in many different ways.

They could be allies tomorrow. By the way, I remind them of that too. (Laughter.)

It is -- there is something -- there -- membership does have its privileges. For one, you get to sit at the table to make decisions, and if you don't, if you're not a member, you get to sit at the table, but you don't get to make decisions.

But it's a national decision. Sweden will have to decide, Finland will have to decide, like every country, whether or not they want to become members of NATO.

The good news is, you don't have to be a member of NATO to be an extraordinary partner. On Baltic air policing, they have air covers in the Baltics, but they're not part of the NATO mission of Baltic air policing as of yet. So that's why I was shaking my head.

On Macedonia, the issue is very simple. In Bucharest it was decided by all 28 -- at that time, 26 members of NATO -- that Macedonia would be invited to join NATO as soon as the name issue was resolved to their mutual satisfaction. This is a consensus-based organization. The way it works, you need all members to agree.

Since Greece has insisted that it needs to resolve the name issue prior to being willing to say yes to an invitation, the reality is, until that name issue is resolved in a mutually satisfactory way, an invitation will not be forthcoming. That's how this organization works. We are not going to have the ICJ or anybody else telling NATO when and how it should take in new members. That is for NATO to decide, among the 28 countries. That is the recognized way in which every enlargement has happened from 1952, when Greece and Turkey were the first two countries to join NATO, until 2008, when the last two, Albania and Croatia, became members of NATO.

And we will continue to adhere to that fundamental decision which we all made in Bucharest, which is an invitation will be forthcoming once a mutually satisfactory issue (sic) to the -- to the name issue has been reached. In that sense, it's not a -- there's no change in the U.S. position. We've had same position since 2008.

GETLER: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Clara O'Donnell, a visiting fellow at Brookings, originally from the Center for European Reform. I had a question on smart defense. Most European governments recognize that defense industrial interests do remain an obstacle to close defense cooperation, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how this obstacle could be overcome.


DAALDER: Big question and very important question. I mean, part of the -- part of the obstacles for smart defense is that if you want to have industrial cooperation, joint procurement of weapon systems, you need to do that in the industrial side as well as in the policy side. And one reason why nations are hesitating in cooperating internationally is because they want to defend their own defense industries.

Now, some of those multinational programs actually are designed to enhance international cooperation. I mentioned AGS. The AGS program has very specific -- in the contract has very specific benefits for local industries of those countries that are participating in the procurement of that system. So all 13 countries, not just the United States, are providing significant industrial input and getting significant industrial benefit from that cooperation.

But working out these deals is very complicated, requires good politics as well as good industrial cooperation. That is very difficult, takes time; and it's much easier, particularly if you have a large enough defense industry, as some Europeans still do, to just buy -- you know, buy local, whether that's French or British or Italian or what have you.

So trying to figure out how we're going to mesh these two pieces -- the need for industrial cooperation to help drive procurement cooperation -- is one of the areas that we're increasingly looking at and recognize as important, not just within Europe, but also between Europe and the United States.

QUESTIONER: Bill Courtney, retired diplomat. When Sergei Lavrov announced that Ulyanovsk might be used as a transit facility in Russia, this caused some stir among Russian nationalists because Putin had just campaigned on a kind of anti-U.S., anti-NATO platform in running for president. Why do you think the Russians agreed?

And then more broadly, how do you see the mixture of cooperation and competition with Russia with regard to NATO?

DAALDER: Bill, thanks for asking the question, because I think it's very important. The one success story in the NATO-Russia relationship -- one of many, but the one that really stands out -- is the cooperation on Afghanistan. Russia came -- has come to the conclusion that for NATO and ISAF to succeed in Afghanistan is in Russia's fundamental interest; and therefore, it has cooperated with NATO and with the United States on the transit of goods, equipment and personnel.

Two hundred twenty thousand American troops have been flown into and out of Afghanistan through Russian airspace in the last few years. Similarly, many thousands of tons of material have now transferred through rail lines through Russia into Afghanistan. And as we start drawing down our forces, getting the stuff out becomes equally important, and Russia has been a great -- a great member of that coalition, of the transit coalition that exists.

The multimodal transit, which is what -- the basis being used for it, which will allow us to fly out of Afghanistan into Russia and then transport the same materials onto trains, is yet another step in the direction of making sure that the transit system really does work to the benefits of all.

And despite the protests that have been -- we've been hearing on the streets in Russia because of this agreement, the government remains committed to fulfilling it. It sent out my good colleague, former colleague Dmitry Rogozin to make the case for why this is important. And when Rogozin says anything nice about NATO, you ought to listen because that's an important -- that's an important event -- (laughter) -- and it means that in fact they want something to happen in a positive way. And they do.

And on this issue, as, for example, in counterpiracy and counternarcotics training -- two other issues where the NATO-Russia and U.S.-Russia cooperation is extremely beneficial to both sides and we remain committed and we remain implementing it despite the differences we have on other issues.

GETLER: Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTIONER: Do not believe, but my name is Ivo also. Ivo Politz (ph). I'm journalist from Al-Jazeera Balkans. Can we go back a little bit to enlargement --

GETLER: Can you speak a little louder, sir?

QUESTIONER: Yeah. Croatia and Slovenia, they're already in NATO. You said Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Georgia have big desire to be part of Montenegro, Kosovo same thing. But Serbia didn't show any desire to be part of NATO. Is NATO actually afraid -- a little bit, I mean, afraid -- that Serbia will be too close to Moscow; maybe Russia can open some military base in the south of Serbia maybe? And also, in Bosnia -- and you know Bosnia have practically divided -- (that under ?) Serbian control, they're saying that they will put referendum about NATO if it's necessary. Just one part of country. And also they will want to see what is Belgrade saying about NATO membership.

Please, your comment. Thank you, sir.

DAALDER: Serbia has an evolving relationship with NATO. It's a relationship where we now have an individual partnership plan signed and negotiated with Serbia. Serbia has not indicated it wants to become a member of NATO. As I said, this is a decision individual countries will have to reach themselves.

For now Serbia has focused primarily on moving towards the EU. And it gained candidacy status a few -- a few months ago, which was important. There was a(n) important election. There were many important elections on Sunday. There was another one in Serbia, which -- and we will see the second round next week. But the forces that want to continue the process of Euro-Atlantic integration in Serbia remain strong, which is a good -- which is good for Serbia, and it's good for -- it's good for Europe.

How and when and whether that integration will have a NATO angle is something for Serbia to decide. We are open to it. The Serbs in fact have a mission to NATO. They have an ambassador at NATO whose sole job is to have an interaction with NATO, and we will find whatever partnership activity and -- (inaudible) -- partnership, relationship Belgrade wants, we are willing to support it.

With respect to Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the interesting things about Bosnia is that NATO membership remains one of the few areas in which there is large agreement across the entire country. And Bosnia has made significant steps in recent weeks and months on meeting some of the key requirements with respect to defense property registration that will enable them to have a new relationship with NATO in the -- in the -- in the weeks and months ahead, demonstrating that NATO and the ability to become a member of NATO remains one of those things that helps political consensus form in a country to make the kind of difficult political decisions that sometimes are necessary in order to move forward. So we are -- we're hopeful that Bosnia will continue down that path and enable it to move closer to NATO membership as it makes the reforms that are necessary.


QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)

GETLER: Can't hear you. Can you -- can you speak up a little?

QUESTIONER: (Off mic) -- Bosnia, Republic of Srpska is going to have a referendum about NATO. I'm not talking about all Bosnia, because a president of that entity of Bosnia -- he said that few days ago, we are going to have referendum in the Republic of Srpska.

DAALDER: I will leave the internals -- politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina rather than for me to comment on.

GETLER: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Jeff Bialos, Washington lawyer, occasional academic. The United States has articulated something of a pivot toward Asia. And I wondered what the -- have we thought about the implications of that for NATO, in particular with respect to assigning or encouraging Europe to take more responsibilities in the European theater?

DAALDER: Thanks, Jeff, for the -- for the -- I know what it means to be an occasional academic, so -- (laughter) -- I feel your pain.

In the pivot of Asia, the pivot, if you want to use that word, was -- which it seems to have resonated around, needs to be understood in the right way. This was not a pivot away from Europe. It was a pivot away from a decade of war, in which Europe needs to become a partner. And we see Europe as a -- as a partner in that -- in that -- in that activity.

For us, Europe remains our partner of choice. It remains the place where the economic and military and political weight of that -- of that coalition is larger than in any other part of the world. We need Europeans to be with us to deal with the global challenges that we face together. The fact that we are spending now more time thinking about operating in Asia should be seen as something that Europeans ought to welcome, both because it's important that there is stability in Asia, but also because we see Europe not as a competitor in Asia, but very much as a partner, as a -- as a part of our solution to deal with the global challenges that we face together.

That does mean that Europe will probably have to continue to think about what can it do for Europe. That is an important question. It's important for all -- question that Europeans need to ask each and every day. But it doesn't mean that we're going to do Asia, quote, whatever that means, so you can do Europe. It is, we have global challenges that need to be addressed together; we think that what is happening in Asia is fundamental to global security, it's fundamental to Asian security, it's fundamental to American security, and oh, by the way, it's fundamental to European security.

So that's why it's important for us to be engaged there. But that doesn't mean we should be less engaged in Europe, which we are not, nor that we don't want Europe to be part and parcel of that very engagement in Asia and around -- and around the world.

GETLER: Yes, this lady in the back.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for your service. Mary Beth Long, former DOD and former High Level Group. There are some critics that say that some of the NATO member states have gone wobbly when it concerns political will regarding the actual facilities of nuclear weapons on their territory and that that wobbliness of political will, coupled with the actual deterioration of the facilities and the equipment, puts at real peril NATO's nuclear posture in the coming years if NATO doesn't act quickly. Is that an overstatement? Or where is NATO on that? And is the U.S. concerned regarding the future nuclear posture of NATO?

DAALDER: Yeah, I think it's an overstatement, in both the political and the technical sense. In the political sense, I think there is a fundamental consensus that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance as long as nuclear weapons exist; that that requires a widespread cooperation and -- on the nuclear issue, which we have been engaged in for 40, 50 years and we need to continue to be engaged in.

At the same time, there's an interest on the part of many European countries to contribute to the president's Prague agenda and to help create the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons. And we are trying to manage that political desire, on the one hand, to ensure that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, as long as nuclear weapons exist, while also working to create the conditions for nuclear weapons to -- for nuclear weapons no longer to exist.

Technically speaking, we have made -- we have done the investments necessary to ensure that the weapons are safe and secure, which is ultimately the most important thing that we need to have when it comes to any nuclear weapon, no matter where they are: They need to be safe, secure, and they need to be effective as necessary. For as long as they exist, that needs to happen. We are continuing to make the financial and technical investments necessary -- not only we, the United States, but we, all European countries -- to ensure that's the case.

So I think we are in a position where we have reached a level of nuclear burden-sharing of risk and responsibilities that are -- most allies are comfortable with, and we're continuing to make the investments necessary to ensure that the weapons that are -- that remain are safe, secure and effective.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Stewart Patrick, CFR. Good to see you again.

DAALDER: Good to see you.

QUESTIONER: You mentioned that this was a pivot away from a decade of war. And I guess my question is, what is NATO's rationale post-Afghanistan, in the sense what is NATO pivoting toward? Obviously residual guarantee of security and reassurance for European allies, who are still on edge about Russia's future trajectory, but you mentioned a number of global challenges without necessarily specifying what those were. Are -- is NATO's future in the counterpiracy business? The counterterrorism business? The COIN business or occasional stability operations business? Energy insecurity? A lot of those things would seem to be -- crime, perhaps? A lot of those things would seem to be things that are -- they certainly link us to our trans-Atlantic allies, but where NATO may or may not be the instrument of choice, that one would turn to first off. So just your reflections on what is its mission.

DAALDER: I appreciate the question, Stewart. It's a -- it's apropos, given that we're meeting in Chicago in two weeks.

I'd start off with the most important verity of NATO is, it's the only organization, besides the U.S. military, that is capable of conducting coalition high-intensity combat operations. There's no other place in the world where you can bring a number of very capable militaries -- and these are the most capable militaries in the world -- together and operate together in a way that it shares fair -- the burdens more fairly than one would do if one had to operate by itself. That's point number one.

Point number two is, in the Strategic Concept that was adopted in Lisbon, I think the most important sentence was the sentence -- third sentence in the Strategic Concept that says that NATO is a source of stability in an unpredictable world. When those words were written and agreed in November of 2010, there wasn't a single person -- not a single person -- who thought that three months from then -- from that moment NATO would conduct a major air operation over Libya. And the only organization capable of doing that -- again, aside from the U.S. military -- was NATO. There was no other organization that could have done this. And having the capacity to be ready to act militarily when the need arises is something that we ought to value greatly.

And we, Americans, ought to value it greatly because the alternative to NATO doing it is us doing it. And that is costly for us. It is unnecessary. It's probably less effective politically as well as, in some ways, militarily, than if we have a strong NATO capable of acting together.

Again, the Libya operation is an important example. I mentioned the statistics in terms of combat operations. Here's another one. The total cost to the U.S. taxpayer of the Libyan operation was $1 billion. That's what we were spending in Afghanistan each and -- each three or four days. That's value for money.

Now rightly, the interest that NATO countries had, and particularly European -- Southern European NATO countries -- in Libya was higher than ours, so they should do it. But NATO existed to enable to do it. And that's why we need to invest, even if it's a little bit, so you can be ready, when the time comes to use military force or to threaten to use military force for deterrent or signaling purposes, to have an alliance that is capable of doing so. That's why it's important for us to invest in it, it's important for Europeans to invest in it, because the alternative is Uncle Sam doing it, which is something that neither they nor we should want.

GETLER: I love that question, because it's so durable. I remember -- (laughter) -- in 50 years in journalism, if you were ever stuck for a story, you could say, whither NATO, no matter whether it was '60s, '70s, '80s.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Elise Labott with CNN. Thank you for your comments --

GETLER: Would you stand up, please.

QUESTIONER: Sure. Thank you for your comments, Ambassador. I was wondering if we could take that a bit further and, as NATO is evolving, about whether this is not just a trans-Atlantic security organization or is it -- do you find that NATO is going to increasingly be going out of theater to do such counterpiracy operations, counterterroracy (sic) operations? I mean, obviously there's an interest in investing in these type of security operations, but are we going to see NATO evolving into a more nontraditional security organization which deals with these 21st-century threats?

Thank you.

DAALDER: I think you're already seeing NATO evolving over time to something like that. Last year NATO had more than 150,000 men under NATO command and control operating in six operations in three continents. That was last year. We shut down two operations. We succeeded in Libya and we ended the training mission in Iraq, so now we have four operations: Afghanistan, the Gulf of Aden, Kosovo and a -- still a counterterrorism operation in the Mediterranean.

Not only do we have these operations as NATO countries, each and every of those operations now has partner countries that are contributing directly to these operations. Some come as far away as Australia, New Zealand, who are actively cooperating not only in Afghanistan but also in the counterpiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. You have a country like Morocco, that has 220 troops in Kosovo. Just think about it. A country like Morocco has 200 troops in Kosovo and participated in Operation Unified Protector because it now looks at NATO as a source -- what you may call a hub of an international global security network that you want to be associated with in order to deal with the challenges that you can't do by yourself.

And increasingly we see a NATO where it's not just partners like Sweden and Finland, who have long seen this as their natural places, but partners in the Middle East. Remember Operation Unified Protector, where four North American -- North African and Middle Eastern countries participated in Afghanistan? Twenty-two countries, from Mongolia to Malaysia to Singapore, to El Salvador and Tonga, are -- have forces in Afghanistan to be part of an international operation.

So that's part of what NATO's mission has to be, part of that being being there as a source of stability in this unpredictable world, building these partnerships that are necessary in order to deal with the security challenges that are more diffuse, more global and more difficult to tackle unless you do it in partnership with other countries.

GETLER: Last question. And I need to remind you this is on the record. Let's see. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Bart Szewczyk at WilmerHale and GW Law School. The U.S. administration recently announced the establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board. I was wondering what was the reaction among the NATO allies to this new institution. And have there been -- has it triggered any developments in their thoughts about expanding their intelligence capabilities and their military capabilities to deal with R2P types of missions, given that NATO will be likely to be the instrument of choice for these sorts of missions in the future? Thanks.

DAALDER: I can't say there's been a direct link between that decision by the Obama administration and thinking inside NATO. What I can say is these are -- these are hardly new issues for NATO. After all, every single use of force in the 1990s had to do with the prevention of mass atrocities in one form or another. Afghanistan is the one -- the one big exception. But Bosnia, Kosovo and the Libya operation were all operations closely linked to the protection of civilians, to deal with a humanitarian emergency that required the use of military force. And as part of the (new aqui ?), to use a(n) EU term, of the new thinking within NATO, there is an increasing emphasis on making sure that we have the capacity to respond to whatever situation may arise that -- in which the use of military force may prove to be useful.

And one of the lessons we learned from Libya was that a very precise application of air power, the most precise application of air power we've seen to date, can have a major -- a major positive impact on the ability to protect civilians, particularly when those civilians are being attacked by their own government. Not every situation will allow that. Every situation will be unique. But it is something where NATO does, as it -- as 28 democracies coming together, needs to be and is thinking about how can it be in a position to act, if it is desirable to do so.

GETLER: Thank you.

DAALDER: Thank you.

GETLER: Thanks very much.

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