Security and Stability in the 21st century
Athens, December 20, 2010
Foreign Ministry Auditorium
Ambassadors, Mr. General Chief of Staff, Mr. Secretary General of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to warmly thank Mrs. Afentouli and Mr. Georgiou for their opening remarks. I also congratulate Mr. Georgiou for his well-organized, persistent and systematic efforts over the years and I hope that the Association will celebrate its 20-year anniversary in 2011 in a befitting way.
The Lisbon acquis
Indeed, about a month ago a very important step for NATO’s overall transformation, for the 21st century NATO, took place during the Alliance’s Lisbon Summit. In reality, following the collapse of the communist block, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, NATO had to reinvent its role and mission. Three attempts were made since 1989 to formulate NATO’s new identity and without doubt the most systematic and complete attempt was affirmed during the Lisbon Summit on November 20, 2010 thanks to the preparation by the Albright Commission, a member of which was Mr. Zeppos, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The text was formulated and later assumed more political and communicational features of course, but its core remained unchanged. And this was perhaps the most important decision made by the Lisbon Summit, within the framework, however, of many other important decisions that now shape the Lisbon acquis.
The historical evolution of the European security problem
A historical truth, one that we should frame from the outset, lies in the core of this effort. Europe and the U.S. realised, almost from the middle of the World War I, that the problem of European security is in fact not just a European problem but also a Euro-Atlantic one. This is how things evolved during the late phase of World War I, this is how the interwar world in Europe was shaped -based on the famous terms of President Wilson- and of course this is how things progressed towards the outset, the duration and the end of World War II and throughout the long period of the Cold War. It was based on the perceptions and the stereotypes of that era: that the European security problem was unquestionably a Euro-Atlantic one.
It’s how this perception became a reality; Through NATO’s foundation in 1949, an Alliance of which Greece –simultaneously with Turkey- have been members for the past 58 years, since 1952. Of course things have radically changed since then, the world has been transformed. There is fluidity and an uncertainty which can be deducted into other dangers and threats: cyberspace, terrorism, illegal immigration flows, etc. A different international and regional balance of power exists now. And all that had to acquire both an institutional and a legal cover.
It is said –and I believe it too- that a theory appears either to prejudge a development or to justify it. The Lisbon acquis in this case comes, to a large extent, to verify a development that has taken place relatively to NATO’s character, its political and military priorities and of course NATO’s own perception regarding its place within the global and regional balance of power. It’s not Lisbon that has shaped NATO’s major military mission in Afghanistan or the actual state of relations between the Alliance and the Russian Federation. But Lisbon does use its declarations to provide a specific political and organizational character into what it is called upon to manage.
Over a long period of time, the 21st century and post Cold-War NATO has been transformed into an Organization that is not primarily, or mainly at least, military. It is undoubtedly, however, a political-military Organization. NATO has long exceeded the limits of the European Continent and the Euro-Atlantic arc. Its true breadth is reflected upon the number of countries that participate in the ISAF and its Afghanistan mission. The countries that now show an interest in NATO are not just its 28 member-states actually, but the more than 45 countries that participate in Afghanistan.
Moreover, NATO has not just been a defensive Alliance but a security and defence Organization that manages crises. When NATO’s new Strategic Concept comes along shaping the character of the Alliance and the Lisbon acquis obviously places collective defence (because this is provided in the Founding Treaty), crisis management and collected security as an Alliance mission, it actually describes a shift that has long ago taken place. And no-one believes that these initiatives are not driven by primarily political thoughts and central ideas. Besides, the field of a supreme strategy is purely political so it must communicate itself with a sense of history and have an active historical consciousness because in reality it manages history in the making.
The new Strategic Concept
In this sense, the decisions regarding NATO’s character are indeed very important because they verify and codify a change that has been made and been placed on the tracks of an evolution which must be politically, and hence democratically, controlled and transparent. Because all NATO member-state Governments are democratic and constitutionally legitimate and are answering to peoples and societies that must have the necessary information and take a position on these issues. But this does not happen a lot because not only information is not disseminated to the extent necessary but the technical nature of those issues have not allowed –perhaps deliberately- public opinion in NATO member-states to play the role that we would like it to play in a global and democratic society.
This undoubtedly is the first acquis of the Lisbon Summit. It changes the priorities and will be now transformed into a series of practical questions that the Defence Ministers will be called to answer during the Summits of March and June 2011, as per the directive of the Lisbon Summit. The level of NATO’s military ambition must be clearly specified now. NATO’s area of responsibility, the area of responsibility of its New Command Structure and its time and place must be specified now. The time to issue very specific ministerial directives to NATO’s military commanders, in order to translate political decisions into a strategic and operational planning is now.
The New Command Structure
That is why the New Command Structure is equally important to the New Strategic Doctrine. In reality, NATO understands the need to become more flexible, smarter, more focused and more fiscally responsible. At a time of drastic budgetary cuts, at a time of a global debt crisis, there is no doubt that the limitations that are being recorded in the defence budgets of member-states must also be recorded at an Alliance level. We constantly say that, given the fact that Greece is among the few NATO member-states that exceed the goal of a defence budget that is at least 2% of GDP. Despite the drastic cuts that we have accomplished in the Greek defence budget lately, it still exceeds 2% therefore meeting this NATO requirement.
There’s also no doubt that the discussion about the New Command Structure, for less NATO General Staffs –if I may speak more broadly-, is a discussion that can, in a way, be deceiving. Because the discussion about the New Command Structure must take place in parallel to the discussion about NATO’s Force Structure. Any decrease in the Force Structure, any decrease in NATO’s budget, any decrease in General Staffs may be accompanied by an increase in national contributions, an increased burden that national budgets are called to bear. And naturally, when an Allied General Staff is absent it often is the case that it must be substituted by a General Staff or a formation that has national characteristics and is offered to NATO by a member-state that participates in it.
All Allied member-states are –I believe- fully aware of this very simple and practical truth. Of course Greece, as an old NATO member-state and as a country with a particular interest in NATO’s south flank and in what takes place in the Aegean Sea and the Easter Mediterranean region, is fully aware of what the relation between the simpler, more flexible, less costly New Command Structure and the New Force Structure truly means. Greece contributes to the latter bearing a very important responsibility given that in 2012 our own NATO entity, NDC GR –the former 3rd Army Corps- will activate NATO’s Rapid Response Force (NRF). Greece already hosts staffers from many Allied countries in the NRF and will happily welcome and host other staffers from all Alliance member-states, not just from the region, not just from Southern Europe but from the Alliance «family» in general.
Therefore, a problem of «communicating vessels» between the New Command Structure and the New Force Structure exists and the truth is that «the devil lies always in the details». A very tough and detailed negotiation begins now. We will start discussing about how to specialize the New Force Structure and we will talk about distributing entities within this geographical area. Greece’s choice –one that I believe is totally in line with the Lisbon acquis- is for the New Command Structure to not create problems and additional tension in the region. In this case we are particularly interested that in our own region, the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, the same rules, practices and principles that apply in all NATO regions apply here as well. This will certainly reduce tension in Greek-Turkish relations, especially tensions manifested through air and maritime incidents in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.
And I say this because in the past, and even today, we have experienced the aftermath of initiatives by previous NATO Secretary Generals and commanders who did not abide by the profile of their statutory authority but instead adopted strongly political texts, creating tensions that reflect upon the design of NATO exercises. It is inconceivable to have a defence planning that creates problems and tensions in a region that must be treated like all other NATO regions under Article 5, because right now –at least in this narrative- we are still within the limits of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. It is obvious for anybody who plans exercises that those exercises take place during peacetime in order to prepare for war or a time of general crisis. From this viewpoint, under such an introvert assessment of NATO’s region of responsibility, things are sometimes much harder than from a viewpoint beyond the Article 5 area of responsibility.
Therefore, within the next 6 months Greece will manage many and important issues. It will use its experience as an Alliance member-state from 1952-1974 (during the first phase of its membership) and from 1980 onwards during the second phase, following its return to the military leg of NATO. I do remind you that the difficult period from 1974-1980 had interceded, when Greece had left the military leg of NATO. What is also true is that from 1980 until 2011 a negotiation has been taking place concerning the conditions under which issues of operational responsibility must be resolved. There is no doubt whatsoever that two fundamental criteria must be respected under all circumstances: the status until 1974, the status in other areas, the common NATO practice in critical issues, namely those that are of our interest in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
The Lisbon Summit’s major event was certainly the turn that the NATO-Russian relations took, a result of the level that the Russo-American relations are moving on despite the fact that the process for ratifying the START II Treaty is still in motion. President Medvedev’s presence in Lisbon and the content and nature of his statements, as well as the content and nature of President Obama’s statements and the common realization that the NATO-Russian relationship must be upgraded is, in the end, an equally important outcome –if not more important- than the wording of NATO’s New Strategic Concept text.
It’s another era. The question now is, who the enemy? It’s a question that can acquire vital dimensions because it calls for a constant strategic self-consciousness which is obvious neither within NATO nor within the EU.
The Missile Shield
The field in which this makes the most sense at least for now, is the famous NATO missile shield that aligns itself with the American strategy and the Russian planning regarding those issues. In reality a new era begins in relation to the missile shield and I think we must apply our own regional perspective within this context. You might remember what the Turkish position on the matter was: Undoubtedly very interesting, going from totally negative, to strongly cautious and finally accepting the Lisbon Summit texts and decisions.
Therefore, NATO-Russia relations are in fact entering a new era that has very practical characteristics. Perhaps the most practical of those are linked to Afghanistan and the Russian contribution in this endeavour, in order for the policy of “Afghanization” of control to be implemented. And certainly, the second level is that that of the missile shield.
All this is happening without overlooking the fact that that Lisbon “winks” -through its texts, its framework of the preventive concept and NATO’s nuclear policy- at the Alliance’s nuclear forces, the US, France and the UK who make their arsenal available so that NATO’s preventive force remains operational.
One very important last topic, preoccupying the EU and NATO, is how to formulate EU-NATO relations more clearly. This is not only a policy that is included in the Lisbon acquis but is also constantly preoccupying EU bodies. And It preoccupies Greece as well and you know why. Because in reality this policy deals with the course of the EU-Turkish relations and the institutional equality of the Republic of Cyprus as an EU member-state. There is no doubt, therefore, that the EU-NATO relations are based on the equality between the two Organizations and the institutional equality between the member-states of those Organizations. It is a more complete and equal relationship between the 27 EU member-states and the 28 NATO member-states, between two Organizations that share a common field of responsibility but at the same time have different features.
It was not an accident that the UN Secretary General was in the Lisbon Summit –UN Security Council or UN Assembly resolutions have been invoked many times and NATO acts under a UN mandate many times. The EU’s institutional bodies were also present [in Lisbon]: the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission, and the High Commissioner on EU External Relations. Moreover, the major international and regional financial Organizations were also represented, as well as the Heads of States and Governments from 48 countries that play a special role in issues that concern Greece, issues of European defence and security.
The national Defence priorities
This is how things are. Naturally, each and everyone have their own priorities and undoubtedly Greece, like any country, always looks at its national priorities that stem, first and foremost, from its national Defence and Security policy. And that is very important for a country like Greece that, as far as the threat assessment is concerned, it does not merely identify itself with the assessments by the NATO or the EU (as part of the CFSP). There are very important additional national and regional threat assessments. That’s Greece’s major problem, the fact that it must add to the overall assessment many more special regional characteristics.
This is the major regional contradiction we live in. There no doubt that an active threat from the neighboring and amicable Turkey –the Turkish Grand National Assembly- exists. This happens at a time when Greece is the major advocate for Turkey’s European perspective and its accession in the EU and when Greece sees the Greek-Turkish approach, the confidence building measures and the exploratory contacts for handling the issues concerning the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean as very important things. The exploratory contacts, of course, always take place under the prism of International Law and always in an absolute and clearly defined respect for Greece’s national sovereignty, its national sovereign rights and the administrative duties that it has as International Convention decisions and decisions by International Organizations recognize. But this is a reality that Greece must manage at all levels, relative to NATO’s Command Structure, its Force Structure and relative to the EU and the European perspective on NATO-EU ties that must be in accordance with the Alliance’s perspective.
Life goes on after Lisbon. I wish matters that concern Greece had been different, for the correlations to have been different, to have entered a new era. But everything that takes place at an international and regional level, must be included in a strategy that controls and limits conflicts, overcomes crisis and safeguards peace and stability in our region. That’s Greece’s Foreign and Defence Policy doctrine. Greece is a force for peace, stability and growth.
Those things are important during a period of a deep and sharp financial, social, political, intellectual crisis that in reality affects the quality of life and the implicit conquests that are now in danger. When a country, or a continent like Europe, is going through a similar crisis, we must look to the past, discover history’s lessons and look into all the parameters of national power. The challenge is to always shape our national power because through its national power Greece can be a force –as I said- for peace and stability in the region.