The Committee on Foreign Affairs’
Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia
United States House of Representatives
Chairman Burton, Ranking Member Meeks, Members of the Committee, I am honored to speak to you today about the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.
My name is Luke Coffey. I am the Margaret Thatcher Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.
Having lived and worked in Europe dealing with defense and political issues for the past ten years before recently joining the Heritage Foundation, I have first hand understanding why a strong trans-Atlantic relationship is a necessity for America, and not a luxury. This is why the Summit in Chicago will be so important.
On May 20-21, 2012, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will hold its first summit in the U.S. in more than 13 years. This will also be the first NATO summit in the U.S. ever to be held outside Washington, D.C. The theme running through the conference is expected to be renewing the transatlantic relationship between North America and Europe.
The agenda is likely to contain three major items:
- Afghanistan: Finalizing the transition plan by the end of 2014 and establishing an enduring political and financial commitment to Afghanistan after 2015.
- Smart Defense: Realizing the ambition of the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to better coordinate investment in defense capability in the era of reduced defense spending.
- NATO’s Partnerships: In light of the interdependent and globalized nature of the world, examine how NATO can better work with non-NATO partners.
Other issues, such as solidifying agreements made at the Lisbon Summit on NATO transformation, the future of NATO’s ballistic missile defense, NATO’s open door to enlargement, and the future of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, will also be addressed at the Summit.
Absent from the Summit will be enlargement, even though Macedonia is more than ready to formally join the alliance; Russia, which has chosen not to attend; and any meaningful discussion on Syria.
This Summit will also bring unique challenges for some NATO leaders. With the U.S. presidential election being held later this year the Administration will want a carefully choreographed and “good news” summit. The British Prime Minister David Cameron will be attending the Summit at a time when he is experiencing his lowest poll numbers since the election in May 2010. Finally, whoever wins the second round of the French presidential election on May 6 will be heading straight into the NATO Summit only a fortnight later.
The Road from Lisbon.
In November 2010 NATO leaders met in Lisbon, Portugal, for the Alliance’s 24th Summit. The main focus of this summit was publishing NATO’s new Strategic Concept, which defined the Alliance’s strategic priorities for the next decade. However, what the Summit was most remembered for was the formal beginning of the Afghan transition strategy and agreement by NATO to end combat operations by the end of 2014.
There were several notable outcomes of the Lisbon Summit:
Transition plan for Afghanistan. In addition to the usual Summit Declaration, two Afghan related declarations were also agreed: Declaration by NATO and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on an Enduring Partnership and the Declaration by the Heads of State and Government of the Nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Summit formally agreed that ISAF-led combat operations would end in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 with full security transition to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) taking place during this time.
The publication of the Strategic Concept. This was the third NATO Strategic Concept published since the end of the Cold War. The document aims to chart a path for NATO over the next decade by examining what capabilities the Alliance will need in order to best be prepared for future threats.
NATO Transformation. This was probably the biggest accomplishment of the Summit but the one left largely unnoticed. After decades of bloated and costly NATO command structures, the new command structure agreed at Lisbon represents a significant reduction in the number of headquarters and in manpower totaling a savings of 35%. Also, agreed was the reforming and consolidation of NATO’s 14 Agencies with the aim of reducing this number to three: namely the Communications and Information (C&I) Agency, the Support Agency, and the Procurement Agency.
NATO-Russia relations. There was a NATO-Russia Council meeting at Lisbon which focused on mutual security concerns including Afghanistan, regional terrorism, and counternarcotics. Although vague, there was language in the Summit Declaration that invited Russia to cooperate with NATO on missile defense. However, there was also strong language in the Declaration calling on Russia “to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states.”
In addition, NATO agreed at the Lisbon Summit to:
Develop a missile defense capability to protect all NATO European populations, territory, and forces.
Continue to review NATO’s overall defense and deterrence posture. This further delayed the decision on U.S. tactical Nuclear weapons in Europe.
Maintain its open door policy for democratic European countries wishing to join the Alliance. Although NATO didn’t grant Georgia a Membership Action Plan, the Alliance reaffirmed its commitment to eventual Georgian membership agreed at the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest.
What to Expect from the Chicago Summit
The current situation in Afghanistan remains stable but fragile. As a result of the surge of U.S. and coalition troops, and the implementation of a robust population-centric counterinsurgency strategy in 2010, there have been notable security gains on the ground.
Levels of violence are also lower across the country, and the recent attacks in Kabul should not be viewed in isolation. Although Kabul accounts for almost 15% of Afghanistan’s population, the city accounts for less than 1% of the country’s violence. Nationally, the level of enemy-initiated attacks during the last three months is 21% lower compared with the same period in 2011. Each month since May 2011 had fewer enemy-initiated attacks than the corresponding month one year before. This is the longest sustained downward trend in enemy-initiated attacks recorded by ISAF. 
Since late 2009 the main effort for the military campaign in Afghanistan has been in the south and southwest of the country—mainly in Zabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces. This was considered to be the center of gravity for the Taliban-based insurgency. With the security situation largely improved in the southwest of Afghanistan the main effort will shift to the east of the country, primarily Paktika, Paktiya and Khost provinces (known as the P2K region). This area is directly across the border from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, contains many of the traditional avenues of approach from the Pakistani border regions to Kabul, and is the operating home base for the Haqqani Network. Also, securing Highway One between Kabul and Kandahar will be a priority for ISAF.
At the 2010 Lisbon Summit NATO agreed on a plan to transition security responsibility to the Afghans. The first tranche of provinces, districts, and municipalities comprising 25% of Afghanistan’s population was handed over to the Afghans in July 2011. The second tranche of provinces, districts, and municipalities to be transitioned was announced in November 2011. Currently, the Afghans have the security lead for more than 50% of the country’s population. The next round of transition will take place before this summer and the final stages are expected to be decided at the Chicago Summit. The goal is that by the end of 2014 all of Afghanistan would have transitioned over to Afghan security lead.
For the Chicago Summit to be considered a success two outcomes regarding Afghanistan must be realized.
First, even as more of the country is transitioning from ISAF to Afghan security lead this cannot be used as an excuse for countries to leave Afghanistan prematurely. Any withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan must be based on improved conditions on the ground and on military advice. When these security conditions are met, NATO’s withdrawal should be a phase-out and not a walkout.
The language used in the Lisbon Declaration stated that “transition will be conditions-based, not calendar-driven, and will not equate to withdrawal of ISAF-troops.” Since then the use of “conditions-based” language has all but disappeared. NATO leaders must ensure that similar language is used in the Chicago Declaration. However, words are not enough and NATO must implement a conditions-based strategy in practice.
Many European NATO allies are coming under considerable public and political pressure to leave Afghanistan. The situation was exacerbated earlier this year when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that the transition process could be completed by 2013—earlier than the end of 2014 deadline agreed at the Lisbon Summit. Comments suggesting that the U.S. may end combat operations earlier than agreed at the Lisbon Summit could potentially persuade many of our European allies to leave Afghanistan sooner than originally planned.
The UK will soon decide its rate of withdrawal when its National Security Council meets later this year. In fact, it would come as no surprise if Prime Minster Cameron announced further troop reductions at Chicago. Such an announcement would be popular back in the UK at a time when the government is polling low. It is well known across Whitehall that there are cabinet members in the British government who would leave Afghanistan tomorrow if given the opportunity.
Some European partners have announced troop reductions for 2012. The issue of Afghanistan has featured prominently in the recent French presidential campaign. President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to speed up France’s withdrawal timetable, pulling out 1,000 troops instead of the originally planned 600 by the end of 2012 with the rest of French troops leaving the country by the end of 2013. His socialist presidential contender, Francois Hollande, has campaigned on bringing all French troops home in 2012.
Most recently, Australia has announced that all of its troops will be leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2013 instead of the end of 2014, as previously planned. There are concerns in Australia that this announcement was politically motivated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as the new timeline of withdrawal would mean that Australian troops would be home before the next general election.
On a positive note, it is worth pointing out that Georgia is the only country committing more troops to Afghanistan in 2012. It will be doubling its contribution later this year in Helmand Province, making it the largest per capita troop contributing nation in ISAF—an example for all of NATO.
Secondly, there must be some clear commitment to Afghanistan made for the NATO-Afghan relationship post 2015. Afghanistan will need financial support from the international community for the foreseeable future.
A major part of the post-2015 commitment to Afghanistan will be mentoring, training, and funding the ANSF. The current size of the Afghan National Army is 176,350 and more than 143,000 for Afghan National Police. Added to this will be integrating the members of the Afghan Local Police program currently numbering around 12,000 personnel with a goal of 30,000.
Under current plans the total number of the ANSF is expected to fall to 240,000 sometime after 2014. This will come with a price tag of approximately $4 billion per year for the international community— or equal to what the U.S. currently spends every 12 days in Afghanistan. While an agreement may not be finalized at Chicago, it is important that the groundwork is laid for the next international summit on Afghanistan in Tokyo this summer.
However, there is currently a debate inside NATO on how big the ANSF should be. Of course, this will affect its future funding requirements. NATO leaders should not be tempted to reduce the size and capability of the ANSF, and therefore the security of the Afghans, simply for financial reasons. As the Afghan Defense Minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, recently pointed out:
Nobody at this moment, based on any type of analysis, can predict what will be the security situation in 2014. That's unpredictable. Going lower [in Afghan troop numbers] has to be based on realities on the ground. Otherwise it will be a disaster, it will be a catastrophe, putting at risk all that we have accomplished together with so much sacrifice in blood and treasure.
The ANSF are for the first time reaching a standard of capability required to carry out autonomous operations. The ANSF are far from being perfect, but that was never the goal. The goal is to get the forces to a level where they can handle the insurgency themselves, without tens of thousands of Western troops on the ground. Paraphrasing T. E. Lawrence on the Arabs, it is better that they do it tolerably than we do it perfectly.
After Afghanistan, the Smart Defense initiative will feature prominently on the Summit’s agenda.
According to the NATO website, Smart Defense aims to encourage allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring, and maintaining military capabilities in a more economically efficient manner in the new age of economic austerity and defense cuts. In sum, the goal is to do more with less as a result of changing NATO members’ mindset on how to do business and being “smarter” when investing in defense capabilities.
Smart Defense is the brainchild of the NATO Secretary General and he has invested a lot of personnel and political capital in developing it. While the aims of Smart Defense are noble, and the plan is ambitious, it is likely to amount to very little in terms of substance and real capability. For this reason NATO leaders should avoid placing all of their hope on Smart Defense as the panacea for NATO’s capability shortfalls.
Although Smart Defense was not a Lisbon Summit issue, the leaders of NATO endorsed the Lisbon Package of reforms which planted the seed of Smart Defense.
The goal of the Lisbon Package was to provide a renewed focus inside the Alliance to ensure that critical capabilities required by members were available on time and on budget. In turn, this would allow NATO to meet the demands of its ongoing operations, prepare for evolving and emerging security challenges, and acquire key enabling capabilities. While NATO has been good at identifying the trend of future threats, its members have not been good at funding the capabilities needed to address them.
As Libya and other NATO campaigns have demonstrated time and again, Europe relies too much on the U.S. to pick up the slack when key enablers such as air-to-air refueling and ISTAR are required for Alliance operations. This is mainly the result of a decrease in defense investment by the members of NATO since the end of the Cold War and the lack of political will to use military capability when and where it is needed.
Many leaders in Europe say that the first duty of government is the defense of the realm, but few leaders actually implement this view in practice. Spending is about setting national priorities. To this end Europeans have become complacent about their own defense and overly dependent on the U.S. security umbrella.
Since 2008 16 European members of NATO have decreased their military spending. Real-terms declines for many of these countries have exceeded 10%. Information provided by NATO shows that in 2011 just three of the 28 NATO members—the United States, Britain, and Greece—spent the 2% of GDP on defense that is required. As expected, France fell below the 2% mark in 2011. However, Estonia claims it might reach the 2% requirement this year.
To put this into perspective, with an annual budget of $4.5 billion, New York City spends more on policing than 13 NATO members spend on defense.
The UK is currently meeting the 2% benchmark only because of its expenditure on combat operations in Afghanistan. The current British government has only committed to the 2% benchmark through the end of its current Parliament in 2015. It is difficult to tell if America’s number one ally will even meet the NATO threshold by 2015.
What makes this even more worrying is that the definition used by NATO to define what can be counted towards the 2% benchmark is very generous. It includes the core defense budget, extra expenditure on operations, and expenditure on military pensions. Even so, only a handful can meet this benchmark of 2%.
Spending on European Union (EU) defense initiatives also exacerbates the dire financial situation since it diverts scarce resources away from NATO. For example the proposal to create a permanent EU headquarters would have cost hundreds of million of euros at a time when NATO is streamlining and reducing the number of its headquarters. Thankfully, this was vetoed by the British.
Every euro or pound spent on EU defense is one less that could be invested in NATO. For this reason the U.S. should send a clear and unequivocal message that it does not support EU defense investment and integration.
Proponents of EU defense integration argue that EU capabilities can be also be made available to NATO. I would caution against the belief that capabilities developed through the EU will be readily available for NATO. There are six veto-wielding members of the EU that are not members of NATO. Some of which, for example Cyprus, are politically hostile towards NATO as an alliance.
The European Union can never be a serious defense actor, because it has six neutral member states and it excludes two important NATO defense partners, Norway and Turkey, from its defense and security decision-making process. Furthermore, NATO and the EU cannot formally cooperate because Cyprus regularly blocks NATO–EU cooperation for self-serving reasons. Therefore, EU defense initiatives are not only a waste of resources but also are politically pointless.
At the Chicago Summit we can expect NATO to agree on a number of Smart Defense measures. These measures will include areas such as force protection, communication, surveillance and intelligence gathering, and missile defense.
However, some of NATO’s best examples of Smart Defense have proven to be neither new nor smart. For example, two examples of Smart Defense regularly given are Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) and Baltic Air Policing.
Allied Ground Surveillance is a NATO initiative designed to increase the Alliance’s intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities. However, the development and agreement of AGS by NATO took 20 years—hardly a model for Smart Defense.
The addition of Baltic Air Policing in 2004 was the natural extension of the comprehensive system of air surveillance that has been in place since the 1970s—not particularly a new way of doing business.
It is also expected that the Chicago Summit will formally approve the Secretary General’s Connected Forces Initiative as a key part of Smart Defense. According to the Secretary General the Connected Forces Initiative will complement Smart Defense by “mobilizing all of NATO’s resources so we strengthen our ability to work together in a truly connected way.” There are three parts to the Connected Forces Initiative:
- Training and education—getting more value for the alliance from national education facilities
- Increased exercises—a result of NATO training being reduced over the years due to the high operational tempo of NATO forces in places like Afghanistan. As these operational commitments decrease, the number of training event should increase.
- Better use of technology—improving interoperability between NATO partners through the use of technology. 
For Smart Defense to work there must be willingness by NATO members to potentially give up certain capabilities so that the Alliance can collectively fund and maintain them. However, there is a risk that the capability being shared by NATO won’t be available, or be authorized for use, when it might be needed by a member state.
For example, AWAC planes have been shared by the Alliance since 1982. This has allowed member states to pool a niche capability that allowed them to free up investment for other capabilities. However, during the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war Turkey requested support from NATO, in the form of NATO AWACs, to defend its airspace, against possible Iraqi intrusion. Initially, this request for NATO support was vetoed by Germany, Belgium, and France on the grounds that any move by NATO to protect Turkey’s airspace would be implicit support of the pending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Eventually an agreement was made and NATO assets were deployed but only after a parliamentary procedure was used allowing NATO to agree to deployment inside its Defense Planning Committee, which at the time did not include France. With French opposition sidelined, Germany and Belgium eventually supported the move. If it wasn’t for this fact Turkey would have been denied the use of a capability that it had invested in and in which it thought was required for its national security.
A similar situation occurred with AWACs during the recent NATO-led Libya operation. Germany would not allow its crews to operate the NATO AWACs over Libya so German crews had to backfill other NATO crews serving in Afghanistan so they could be diverted to support NATO operations over Libya.
The Smart Defense initiative runs the risk of allowing European countries to believe that they can do more with less, when in actuality they will be doing less with less. Smart Defense has been the topic of countless conferences, meetings, and seminars across Europe but has resulted in very little beyond a list of aspirations. The language describing Smart Defense may read well in a Summit Declaration but until there is real money, backing up real investment, delivering real capability to the modern-day battlefield this will be meaningless to the men and women serving on the front lines.
For Smart Defense to work, it requires real military capability and real money. No clever nomenclature can get around this problem.
The 2010 Strategic Concept states that cooperative security is one of NATO’s three essential core tasks. As NATO becomes a security actor in more places around the world the Alliance will have to continuously adjust how it manages its external relationships.
There is not a NATO led mission currently taking place that does not include non-NATO partners. There are 22 non-NATO partners in Afghanistan. There are seven non-NATO partners in Kosovo as part of NATO’s KFOR, including more than hundred Moroccans. NATO’s counter-piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield, regularly cooperates with non-NATO countries, including Russia and India. Most recently, the NATO led operation in Libya included four non-NATO partners. So it is important that NATO is able to plan, coordinate, and fight alongside non-NATO partners.
Currently, NATO manages its relationships with regional and global partners through a myriad of networks with non-NATO countries. These are:
The Euro Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace. These form the basis of NATO’s relations with Euro-Atlantic partners who are not formally part of the alliance for various reasons.
The Mediterranean Dialogue. Launched in 1994, this grouping forms the basis of NATO’s relations with its Mediterranean partners. Participants include Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Although these relations are normally done on a bilateral basis (NATO+1) there have been occasions when this forum meets as NATO+7, meaning Israel would be at the same table as some of its regional neighbors, where it otherwise would not be.
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Launched in 2004, this grouping forms the basis of NATO’s relations with the Gulf States. Initially all six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council were invited to join but only four, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait, have become participants so far.
Contact Countries or Global Partners. This concept allows NATO to cooperate with countries well out of the traditional Euro-Atlantic area such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea.
Any nation participating in any of these schemes can also agree to establish an Individual and Partnership Cooperation Program (IPCP). The IPCP allows increased political and security cooperation on a bilateral basis in order to meet the specific needs of the participating country.
The Lisbon Summit Declaration agreed to further develop political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO partner nations. The importance of these relationships was strongly reiterated but there were few concrete proposals beyond the usual flowery language to take these relations to the next level.
Although it has been touted as one of the big three agenda items, it is unclear how NATO leaders plan to enhance NATO’s partnerships at Chicago. However, in light of the 2011 popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle-East, the nuclear threat from Iran, and the recent NATO-led operation in Libya, many in NATO have rightly decided to place a renewed focus on how NATO works with regional partners on its periphery.
To date both the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative have received mere lip service. Beyond the occasional meeting or limited joint training exercises little has been done between NATO and these organizations. One proposal that could come out of Chicago would be a formal invitation for Libya to join the Mediterranean Dialogue. This idea has already been floated by the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. This would illustrate NATO’s commitment to the new Libyan government simply formalize an already existing relationship.
Building on lessons learned from Libya there could be more concrete proposals to enhance the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. For the first time air forces from the UAE and Qatar were fully integrated into a NATO command during the Libyan operation. This experience could be used to increase cooperation and reach out to other countries in the Middle East who are not participating in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. . The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, with its focus on the Gulf region, could become increasingly important as Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapons program.
In the Mediterranean Dialogue only Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia have IPCPs with NATO. None of the participants in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative have an IPCP with NATO. The Chicago Summit could offer an opportunity to invite Gulf States like Qatar and the UAE, both of which have proven to be credible partners, to agree to IPCPs with NATO.
Absent from the Summit’s agenda: the enlargement of NATO. Since taking office, President Obama has done little to support the membership of qualified candidates.
NATO’s “open door policy” is critical to mobilizing Europe and its allies around a collective transatlantic defense. According to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, any European state that fulfills the requirements of the treaty and demonstrates the competency to contribute to the alliance’s security is eligible for membership. The U.S. should take steps to make sure that the open door policy is not stifled.
There are four countries that are considered NATO aspirant countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. On a positive note there is expected to be a “NATO+4” meeting during the Summit.
Macedonia. Upon completing its Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008, Macedonia anticipated an invitation to join the alliance at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Yet, despite fulfilling all necessary requirements for membership, Macedonia’s accession was unilaterally vetoed by Greece, with which Skopje is engaged in a long-standing dispute regarding its constitutional name. The International Court of Justice found last December that Greece’s veto was in blatant violation of the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord, in which Athens agreed not to impair Macedonia’s integration into Europe. Greece has jeopardized NATO’s open door policy and NATO members should pressure Greece to work with Macedonia to seek reconciliation.
Montenegro is making steady progress in its path toward NATO membership. Having received a MAP in 2009, Montenegro is currently in its second Annual National Program (ANP) cycle. Despite its progress, Montenegro will not be ready to join the alliance by May.
Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Offered its MAP in 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina must make substantial improvements politically and militarily before it can be considered a serious NATO aspirant. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made some progress and has even deployed troops to Afghanistan. However, before its government can begin work on the MAP, it must register all immovable defense properties as state property, for use by the country’s defense ministry. Little progress on this has been made.
At the Bucharest Summit in 2008, Georgia was promised NATO membership. However, owing to opposition from France and Germany, the alliance substituted a MAP for the NATO–Georgia Commission. Unfortunately, the NATO–Georgia Commission is not expected to meet during the Chicago Summit.
Georgia has made significant strides toward defense reform and spends approximately 4 percent of GDP on defense, when the NATO average is less than half of that. While many NATO members have announced troop reductions in Afghanistan for 2012, Georgia is the only country committing more troops to the mission this year. Georgia has become a serious security actor in recent years. In addition to Afghanistan, Georgia has contributed to peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and, at the time of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, was the second-largest troop contributor to Iraq after the United States.
The biggest hurdle for Georgian membership from a western perspective is the continued Russian occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, equating to 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory. Privately, Georgian officials say that they are happy to accept a NATO membership arrangement/compromise that temporarily excludes the two occupied territories from NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee until there is a peaceful resolution to the matter with the Russians. NATO should continue to support and assist with Georgia’s reform process and offer a MAP. However, the U.S. should also point out that MAP is not the only way towards NATO membership.
In conclusion, it is in America’s interest to see a successful Summit. With the perception that the Administration is shifting its defense priorities from Europe to Asia, America’s NATO allies should not be forgotten. NATO has done more for Europe to promote democracy, peace, and security than any other multilateral organization, including the European Union. It is essential that the United States continue to be an active participant in the Alliance’s future.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
I look forward to answering your questions.