Mr. Sherwood McGINNIS

Deputy Political Counselor, United States Embassy Paris


Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar "The European Security and Defence Identity: A Threat to to the Transatlantic Relationship?", PARIS, 14 December 2000


Thank you, Mr. Van Herpen. I am very pleased to be here today to start off what I am sure will be a stimulating discussion of this extremely important and timely subject: The European Security and Defense Identity - A Threat to the Transatlantic Relationship? As America and Europe each face a changed political milieu - a new administration in Washington and a post-Nice European Union - questions have been raised about the state of the transatlantic relationship. This is particularly true with respect to European security and defense. Since the end of the Second World War, and even at the height of that conflict, America's peace and security have been inextricably linked to that of Europe. When one speaks of European Security and Defense Policy ( ESDP), one must not forget that whatever happens in Europe has a tremendous effect on the United States and the other non-EU members of the Atlantic Alliance. Transatlantic relations have never been easy, however; witness the differences between Churchill and Roosevelt over the conduct of the European campaign and later between De Gaulle and the United States, ending with France's withdrawal from the integrated military structure of NATO. Still, for all of the disarray during much of the period from the 1950's through the 1980's - we argued about the right balance between deterrence and détente, between military spending and foreign aid, between modernization and arms control - the NATO alliance was able to act decisively when it counted. While hard fought politically, the INF decision was a major victory for the alliance. It demonstrated collective American and European will to stand up to the threat posed by Soviet missiles aimed at Western Europe, not at the United States. Our resolve paid dividends, not only on removing this threat, but also in the collapse of Communism and the Warsaw Pact, which followed the SS-20 removal by just a few years.

The Transatlantic Partnership after the Cold War

Victory, however, brought with it uncertainty. In the early 90's with the end of the Cold War, NATO fell into genuine disarray, as it confronted and failed to respond adequately to Europe's first post-Cold-War challenge, and Europe's first post WW-II military conflict. Faced with war in the Balkans, what was NATO's purpose if it could not prevent or bring an end to that war and the resulting instability and insecurity in Europe? As Yugoslavia fell apart, and as ethnic violence graduated into open international conflict, Europe and the United States talked about divisions of labor, rather than shared responsibility. It took three plus years of seeing a war-ravaged Bosnia on the evening news (the CNN effect) and then the leadership displayed by President Chirac and others to finally engage the Alliance in using military force against the Bosnian Serbs. NATO actions brought an end to the fighting. The Dayton Peace Accords helped give NATO and the transatlantic relationship new purpose. In the Balkans, NATO forces have been deployed to keep the peace in Bosnia and Kosovo. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have become members, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe other former adversaries are lined up to get into NATO. Even Russia has accommodated itself to this new reality, contributing thousands of troops to the NATO forces in Bosnia and Kosovo, assigning an Ambassador to NATO Headquarters, and exploring ways to further expand cooperation with the alliance. Building on these successes and taking them a step further, the Alliance has found a clear post Cold War purpose. It now has a mission to establish, in parallel and in partnership with the European Union, the institutional framework in which the countries of Central and Eastern Europe can be integrated into the European and Atlantic communities, as stable and successful market democracies.

Kosovo Could Not Have Been Handled by Europe Acting Alone

But this process has not proven to be easy. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Alliance again faced a major challenge - the threat of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Like a deployment of INF, the decision to strike Serb military targets was taken after a prolonged and intensive debate, but it was an alliance decision taken on the basis of consensus. Some question the wisdom if this decision, given the turmoil and loss of life that resulted. However, based on evidence of ethnic cleansing, the history of the region, the success of the air campaign in bringing an end to Milosevic's efforts in Kosovo, and the eventual triumph of democracy in Serbia, one would have to argue that the decision resulted in achieving the Alliance's goals. Kosovo was a dramatic reminder that NATO is still needed - and that NATO works. It is extraordinary that 19 nations, with differing political views and traditions and serious domestic constraints, united to take action to stop criminal behavior of the Milosevic regime against the Albanian people of Kosovo. While we might, with hindsight, have waged the air campaign differently, the fact remains that in less than three months, the Alliance reversed a humanitarian catastrophe, saved thousands of lives, and contained a crisis that threatened to fundamentally destabilize the entire south Balkan region. A crisis as serious as Kosovo could not have been handled by Europe acting alone. No one disputes that fact. And since the crisis was in Europe's backyard, it would not have been right for the United States to solve this crisis alone. Therefore, Kosovo confirmed for all the Allies that we must continue to maintain NATO as the effective "option of first resort" to deal with the full range of missions, from peacekeeping and crisis management to collective defense.

European Defense to Duplicate the 'Holbrooke Effect'?

Yet, ironically, it was the Kosovo experience that served as the catalyst for renewed efforts by the EU-Allies to create an autonomous European security and defense policy within the European Union. There were two principal reasons for this.

The first was that the Kosovo air campaign highlighted the yawning gap between European and American capabilities when it came to waging a modern war. Many of our Allies wanted to play a more prominent role but simply could not work with more advanced U.S. forces on any but the most basic missions. Not only did U.S. pilots deliver the great majority of weapons; even more importantly, the U.S provided almost all of the combat support, electronic warfare, air-ground surveillance, aerial refuelling and other missions key to high-intensity combat. This illustrated the huge gap between European ambitions and means, as well as Europe's excessive dependence on the U.S. The capabilities gap was also seen in the follow-on peacekeeping operation, KFOR, which was deployed after Milosevic's capitulation. Although KFOR is under European command and the majority of forces come from European Allies, those allies were stretched to the limit by the need to deploy and sustain just 2-3 % of their manpower. It is, of course, the deployability and sustainability of forces away from home territory - not just the numbers of troops in uniform - that is the name of the game in crisis management.

The second major impetus to the development of a stronger European defense role is what our Ambassador to the NATO, Alexander Vershbow, has called the "Holbrooke effect". The Kosovo experience, and the Bosnia experience before that, drove home the harsh reality that, at the present time, only the United States has the ability to marry military power and diplomacy as a means of managing - and resolving - crises. Diplomacy backed by force was the secret to Dick Holbrooke 's success at the Dayton negotiations in 1995 in brokering an end to the Bosnian conflict; and U.S. political-military "clout" has been key to the implementation of the Dayton accords since then. (I say this without in any way denigrating the enormous contributions - political and financial - of our European partners.) In similar fashion, in October 1998 Dick Holbrooke used the threat of the U.S and Allied air strikes to compel Milosevic to accept the deployment of thousands of OSCE verifiers and NATO air surveillance over Kosovo. These verification regimes saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians who had been driven from their homes by Yugoslav ethnic cleansing during the summer of 1998. Although, in the end, these actions only secured a temporary lull in the fighting between Milosevic's forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, the lesson for the EU was clear: without more military muscle to back it up, the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy could never duplicate the Holbrooke effect. These lessons inspired UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to call on his fellow EU members to shift the focus of the debate on European defense from building new institutions to building real military capabilities. The goal was to create conditions in which, in a future crisis, the EU would have the capacity to deploy a "European Holbrooke" rather than having to look to the United States to take the diplomatic initiative each and every time.

What is ESDP?

What is ESDP? When I served at the US mission to NATO from 1987 to 1990, I witnessed the debates and differences among allies but also the emotional high of seeing the Berlin Wall come down. It was at that time, in 1989, that a journalist suggested to me that Europe and then European Community would never be united until it had the military means to act when its interests were threatened. ESDP will give Europeans what they have wanted for some time - the capability to act in times of crisis. ESDP is a crucial element in building a united Europe. ESDP provides the potential for the EU to extend the political will of the Europeans by having military force at its command. However, everyone - even our French allies - will admit that the collective defense of Europe depends on NATO and the presence of the United States. As an American, I am a real advocate of ESDP. A major goal of U.S. post-war foreign policy has been to support and encourage the development of a strong, united Europe, a Europe that is prosperous and democratic. As secretary of State Albright and Foreign Secretary Cook recently wrote:

"Our governments fully support Europe's common security and defense policy and the contribution it can make to European and transatlantic security. What does European defense involve? It means that where NATO as a whole chooses not to become engaged, the EU will be able to act in response to humanitarian crises, to provide disaster relief and also undertake peacekeeping tasks. Europe's security and defence policy is not and will not become a European army run from Brussels. Nor is this a blueprint for dividing Europe or the Atlantic alliance. NATO remains the foundation of the collective defense of its members. An important part of this initiative is the crafting of new arrangements to link the EU and NATO in unprecedented ways, laying the foundation for a true strategic partnership between the two key institutions of the West."

Thus, as the European Union has begun creating a European security and defense policy that is intented to be autonomous from NATO, should the United States and other non-EU members feel threatened? Should we see this as something that puts the transatlantic link at risk? The short answer is no. The longer answer is no, as long as certain principles are respected and several pitfalls are avoided. Certainly, the members of NATO that are also members of the European Union - what we call the " EU - Allies" - are not operating on the assumption that NATO is no longer necessary or that it has failed to keep up with the times. In fact, few members of the Alliance would dispute the assertion that NATO is, if anything, more important today than it was during the Cold War as a tool for shaping the security environment in ways that serve our common interests and values. Indeed, the Alliance has adapted itself to the post-war world, taking in new members, forging partnerships with all the former communist nations, ending two violent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, redefining itself at last year's Washington Summit. Development of ESDP will strengthen NATO - and also be advantageous to the United States - if it is done in the right way.

The ESDP - Done In the Right Way

First, ESDP must respect the indivisibility of transatlantic security: it should not call into question NATO's primacy for the collective defense of its members or its role in managing future crises.

Second, ESDP must be inclusive, ensuring that all the European Allies who are not members of the EU (and Canada as well) can participate in the shaping of decisions and in the conduct of EU-led operations in situations where NATO as a whole is not engaged.

Third, and most fundamentally, the development of ESDP should result in new and improved military capabilities so that the European Allies can effectively exercise the greater responsibility they seek - whether acting through NATO or the European Union. If the European Union neglects these factors and focuses more on building autonomy for its own sake, then the effects could be serious: new frictions within the transatlantic community; a reduced capacity to manage crises; and, in the worst case, an increasing tendency on the part of many people in my country to reduce American engagement in European security. Crucial ESDP decisions were taken a few days ago at the EU Summit in Nice. We look forward to today's meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels to determine if ESDP will continue to move in the right direction. By the end of this year, the European Union and NATO should have laid the foundations for new European defense structures and for the close relationship between these and NATO. Europe will have its own defense ministers' council, its own military committee, and its own military staff. But it will also draw upon and use NATO assets, and in particular NATO planning capabilities. Our desire is to support the development of autonomous European arrangements, while linking these closely to NATO. European Allies will, after all, have only one set of armed forces, committed both to NATO and the EU. We believe it desirable that Europe also have one multinational military planning staff, available both to NATO and the EU. This can be achieved by assuring that NATO's planning capabilities are made available to the European Union when Europe is envisaging military operations in which NATO as a whole has chosen not to be engaged. This year we can do no more than agree on the barest blueprint for such NATO-EU cooperation. It will be left to the next American Administration to work with Europe to give life to such arrangements.

ESDP Is Also About Capabilities

ESDP will be for naught, however, if the headline goal force remains only a force defined on paper. As Secretary General Robertson has said, the three top issues in determining the success of ESDI and ESDP are "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities". If our overall effectiveness and range of options for responding to crises is to increase, European nations must focus on capabilities. In most cases, this means cutting back on the numbers of static combat forces configured for yesterday's Cold War tasks, while making more of the remaining forces deployable and sustainable for out-of-area missions. This, in turn, means raising readiness and investing in the airlift, sealift, logistics, and command-and-control capabilities needed to move and sustain forces away from home for extended periods. Since not all crises will present a benign environment, European forces also need to acquire some of the sophisticated combat capabilities that only U.S. and a few other Allies possessed during the Kosovo air campaign - such as precision-guided munitions, electronic warfare, and unmanned surveillance vehicles. It would be unwise for the EU - and politically unhealthy for NATO - if a division of labor emerged in which the Europeans were only equipped for light peacekeeping missions, with the U.S left to do the high-intensity warfare. Achieving all these goals will require resources. While some of these can be found through reprioritization (spending existing funds more wisely), for many European nations, increased defense spending will be necessary. With Europe prosperous and at peace, publics and parliaments may see little reason to increase defense budgets. Political leaders, however, have a responsibility to make the case if they are serious about creating an effective European defense capability and a more balance transatlantic partnership. Creating new institutions, new committees and organizational diagrams is a lot cheaper than building new capabilities. But organizational diagrams don't solve crises. Someone in Brussels was once asked how many people worked at the European Commission. He said: "About a third of them". If the only result of ESDP is new development opportunities for Eurocrats, the U.S. will consider it a failure.

An ESDP That Strengthens, Not Weakens the Transatlantic Relationship

What then can be done to ensure that ESDP does not weaken but strengthen the transatlantic relationship?

First, we must ensure the development of a truly balanced partnership between our European partners, especially the EU, and the United States. This involves the U.S. acceptance of autonomous European operations. At the same time, our European allies and partners need to be transparent and inclusive in their decision-making. We share common goals and values. For the most part our interests are compatible. In the search for peace, security and stability in Europe we should work to remove the adversarial elements.

Second, the members of the alliance and the EU need to improve their capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. More mobile, better armed forces will provide the EU its rapid reaction force; it will also give NATO the added capability it needs to act decisively in today's environment. There is no false choice between strengthening NATO and supporting the larger process of European integration. Getting both of these processes right will provide the basis for a more balanced transatlantic security partnership that should be our common goal for the 21st century. The end of the Cold War gave rise to legitimate questions regarding the durability of the transatlantic partnership. After some false starts, and painful lessons, America and Europe have succeeded in re-cementing that partnership, coming anew to the recognition that European security is indivisible, and that its preservation is a common, an Atlantic responsibility.