Toespraak

06-02-2014

Midwinter Meeting Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers NATO

NATO HQ, February, 6, 2014


- - - The spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

Général Breedlove, Commandant Suprême des Forces alliées en Europe,

Monsieur le Commissaire en Chef (R) Richard Roll, Président de la Confédération Interalliée des Officiers de Réserve,

Général Georges Lebel, Président du Comité des Forces de Réserve Nationales,

Colonel Professeur Olaf Penn, Président de la Confédération Interalliée des Officiers Médicaux de Réserve,

Capitaine de Vaisseau Jacques De Decker, représentant permanent belge de la CIOR à l’OTAN,

Excellences, Généraux, Amiraux,

Mesdames et Messieurs,

 

[Introduction]

 

Tout d’abord je voudrais vous remercier chaleureusement pour l’occasion qui m’est offerte de prendre la parole devant votre assemblée. Si j’ai répondu à votre invitation avec autant de plaisir, c’est qu’il me paraît essentiel d’affirmer le rôle du réserviste au sein des forces armées modernes.  J’apprécie donc tout particulièrement l’action de la CIOR, de la CIOMR et du CFRN qui contribuent à redéfinir les orientations futures en ce qui concerne la réserve.

 

Dans une première partie de mon exposé, je me pencherai sur la place à réserver aux officiers de réserve dans les forces armées modernes. Je continuerai en développant le rôle de l’OTAN et vous livrerai ma vision de son évolution dans les prochaines années. Enfin, je souhaite bien sûr profiter de cette opportunité pour entamer avec vous un échange d’idées intéressant et constructif.

 

[La place du réserviste au 21ème siècle]

 

Mesdames et Messieurs,

En tant que Vice-Premier Ministre et Ministre de la Défense, je soutiens fortement une coopération intensive en matière de défense et ce à tous les niveaux, y compris dans le domaine des réservistes. Vous ne l’ignorez pas, la Confédération Interalliée des Officiers de Réserve (CIOR) a été fondée en 1948 par la Belgique, la France et les Pays-Bas. Cette même année, la Confédération Interalliée des Officiers Médicaux de Réserve (CIOMR) était créée à l’initiative de la ‘Belgian Union of Medical Reserve Officers’. Regroupant un nombre sans cesse croissant de réservistes en provenance de pays membres de l’OTAN et autres, ces deux organisations ont su guider les officiers de réserve à travers quelques décennies de tensions et de conflits, depuis le lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, à travers la Guerre froide, jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Rien d’étonnant à ce que la CIOR se soit muée en un temps assez court en l’organisation regroupant le plus grand nombre d’officiers de réserve au monde.

 

Ces deux organisations se sont encore affermies en 1981 avec la constitution du Comité des forces de réserve nationales (CFRN) au sein de l’OTAN. A l’heure actuelle, toutes trois fournissent un gros travail sur le terrain pour renforcer le rôle du réserviste et promouvoir la coopération en matière de Défense et l’interopérabilité à un niveau international. C’était le cas dans le passé et c’est toujours le cas aujourd’hui, surtout car nous constatons une évolution générale vers des armées professionnelles mais aussi plus petites, qui doivent faire face à des défis technologiques importants dans un monde en pleine évolution. 

 

En effet, les menaces modernes requièrent une réponse rapide, flexible et efficace. A cet égard, le passé nous a enseigné le rôle souvent déterminant de notre suprématie technologique combinée à notre savoir. En ces temps de restrictions économiques et budgétaires, la plupart des forces armées sont confrontées au défi de poursuivre une politique d’investissement dans des capacités de haute technologie et un personnel hautement qualifié.

 

C’est surtout dans ce contexte plus large que je souhaite définir le rôle du réserviste. En fait, la dénomination ‘réserviste’ ne me paraît plus optimale. Une réserve implique une portion de forces militaires non engagées, maintenues disponibles pour intervenir selon les besoins de la situation. Telle n’est pas mon ambition pour la réserve actuelle. Le réserviste moderne est une figure active, un spécialiste dans son domaine, un relais de la Défense vers la société civile et dans certains cas ou certains pays même un élément qui contribue, renforce et amplifie la Défense. Cette interaction s’inscrit dans un contexte gagnant-gagnant dans lequel la Défense ne peut que s’enrichir de l’apport d’experts extérieurs au département, vecteurs d’idées nouvelles, tout en offrant au réserviste la possibilité d’élargir son horizon. Vous qui êtes présents ici aujourd’hui, avez donc un grand rôle à jouer dans deux domaines qui me tiennent particulièrement à cœur et qui interviendront aussi de manière croissante dans le fonctionnement de l’OTAN et dans la défense de nos intérêts:

 

D’une part le développement de la coopération interalliée et de la coopération avec nos partenaires en matière de défense et, d’autre part, le renforcement de la collaboration avec le secteur académique et civil. 

 

Le meilleur exemple est celui de la cyber-défense, qui par définition se situe surtout dans le monde civil. Les technologies de l’information et de la communication ont irréversiblement bouleversé notre mode de vie. Si elles nous apportent bien des avantages, force est de prendre la mesure des risques qu’elles génèrent pour nos sociétés et de garantir une protection efficace. Le danger peut provenir de tous les coins du monde, il faut donc organiser notre protection à un niveau transfrontalier, tout en prenant sa responsabilité au niveau national. Nous devons collaborer non seulement avec les autres pays et avec quelques organisations internationales, mais aussi avec le secteur civil qui doit fournir les efforts nécessaires en matière de protection et avec le monde académique qui peut nous apporter une précieuse assistance.

 

Dans cette matière, le rôle et la contribution du réserviste est crucial et à promouvoir. En effet, vous êtes souvent le médiateur idéal pour réunir ces différents acteurs.

 

Un autre exemple est celui du secteur médical qui, lui aussi, a tout à gagner d’un échange de compétences. Nous avons besoin des connaissances du secteur médical civil, tout particulièrement lors des opérations militaires. Mais les médecins et l’ensemble du personnel médical acquièrent une expérience unique sur le théâtre des opérations. Et je parle d’expérience car la Défense belge a régulièrement déployé des équipes médicales à Kandahar dans le cadre de l’hôpital de rôle 3 sur l’aéroport.

 

Excellences, Messieurs les généraux et amiraux, Mesdames et Messieurs,  

 

Ce ne sont là que quelques exemples parmi tant d’autres des domaines où votre action peut effectivement faire la différence et où vos expériences et savoir-faire apportent une vraie valeur ajoutée. Je tiens donc à vous remercier chaleureusement pour le travail réalisé, mais surtout je vous invite à maintenir votre engagement pour l’avenir. Les nouvelles menaces demandent une nouvelle approche, une approche collective, impliquant la société civile - dont les réservistes font intégralement partie – qui a un rôle extrêmement important à jouer dans ce contexte. Pour relever ce défi, nous avons besoin de vos compétences. Mon propos n’est certes pas de vous garder en réserve, mon ambition est de vous confier un rôle particulièrement actif et je compte donc sur votre futur engagement.

 

[NATO post-2014]

 

Generals, Admirals, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

This brings me to the second part of my speech, during which I wish to share a few thoughts on NATO’s future role.  After all, 2014 will be a pivotal year to the Alliance considering the planned summit in September. I consider this summit as a crossroads between NATO’s present and future, a crossroads which is two-fold. Firstly, there is the importance to keep emphasizing NATO’s necessity and value. Secondly, important decisions are to be taken. The summit therefore needs to be considered from two angles. On one hand, it will herald the end of the ISAF-chapter in Afghanistan. On the other hand, it will be the prelude of a reflection about the Alliance’s future.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Before we direct our gaze towards the future, let us briefly reminisce about the past. Because the writer Marc Twain was right: “history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes”. The North Atlantic Treaty Association can build on a long and successful history. Ever since 1949 up until today, NATO has never ceased to prove it is the anchor we can rely on. Throughout the years and the geostrategic changes time brought with it, NATO has demonstrated an impressive capacity for adjustment, always guaranteeing safety for its Member States. The fact that the Alliance’s enlargement process has been that substantial only proves the beacon of trust it must present to countries that are aspiring membership.

 

During the Cold War, it was NATO’s deterrence effect which enabled us to contain the communist threat. In turn, the end of the Cold War brought about the necessary preconditions for peace, security and stability, allowing us to attain our current levels of prosperity. As from the early 1990s, a period of interventions followed in the Balkans and Afghanistan, during which NATO offered a crucial contribution to stabilization and laid the foundations to foster more democratic regimes. It deserves to be stressed that in purely military terms, it was never the intention to score a “victory” or to end a conflict through a peace agreement. The Alliance’s main goals have always been in line with its core values. For decades Allies have indeed always been – and I quote from the Washington Treaty “determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area”. End of quote.

 

Today, we witness a number of indications which may herald yet another fundamental change to NATO’s role, and that is the high probability that the Alliance will focus its efforts more in the field of “Advise, Assistance and  Training” as from 2015.  A prime example of this would be the “Resolute Support” mission which is to ensure that the results of our efforts in Afghanistan are maintained. Yet, some also think of the possibility to make NATO capabilities available to the United Nations. This is a train of thought which merits further reflection. After all, we can find numerous references to the UN Charter in the Washington Treaty. Should we and ought we not ask ourselves the question whether NATO, as an institution, is to “volunteer” to the UN to act “as such” during UN operations? Defence capacity building also remains an important issue. NATO has all the strengths and expertise to help nations emerging from crisis - such as Libya for example - organizing and coordinating their resources.

 

All of this goes to show that NATO demonstrated in the past that it is a successful institution with an excellent record in the field of international peace and security. Now what could be possible points of attention for the future? What does the future has in store for NATO? To answer such questions, we have to reflect about where the world is going? And in which order NATO will have to adapt to a changing world.

This is why I would like to go through a number of focal points and suggestions with you that I deem relevant and important in the future. I will underscore a few elements in particular and look forward to your interesting and constructive reaction. Now, as the summit approaches, the following points demand a particular attention:

 

1. Reaffirmation of the transatlantic bond and link.

 

NATO is a natural and indispensable partnership, based on shared values and a common history.  It is a political instrument for facilitating an improved political consultation. As the world becomes an ever smaller and faster evolving place, we rely on this partnership to safeguard the position of the west on the global geostrategic chessboard, especially since its pieces will be increasingly shifted. Among the most visible changes I would include the rise of the BRIC-states, a fast-accelerating arms race in the Middle East, the scramble for natural resources, disproportionate population growth in poor countries, the rise of certain fanatical religious creeds and the re-emerging threat of nationalism. These issues already present us with ample arguments to recognize the growing importance of the bond between the US and Europe. Indeed, the necessity of this bond is often mentioned in speeches but the notion must truly trickle down again to our daily attitude and decisions. The US pertaining the lead role and a growing European awareness is equally indispensable. We may share a common history, but, more importantly, we must actively strive to share a common destiny. The US and Europe will only be able to reinforce their global strategic position if they intertwine their destinies. This year’s summit could therefore also concentrate on a ‘Transatlantic declaration’, by building further on the achievements of ISAF.

 

2. The past is also the future.

 

The absolute bedrock of the North Atlantic Treaty is and must remain Article 5, for it remains the cornerstone of collective defense and our most solid guarantee to peace and prosperity, as this had been the case for the past 65 years. I therefore consider it useful to regularly remind people of this fact. Especially because it is one of the main reasons why so many countries have chosen to join NATO and many others are aspiring membership. Today as well, we establish among a growing number of NATO-members the fear for looming threats, amplified, for example, by Russia’s recent attitude in a number of issues. Or by current developments in the Middle East, where the power struggle between Islam’s two mainstream schools is destabilizing the region with Syria as its recent culmination point and where the Peace Process is still very much vulnerable to setbacks.

 

3. Necessity of rebalancing of NATO

 

A more balanced NATO is crucial. End of line. The Europeans need to realize “yesterday” that mere discussion about assuming a more equitable share of the security burden within their own sphere of influence is not sufficient. It is a necessity, rather than a virtue, as the United States has made clear on numerous occasions. Therefore, it must be a number one priority to Europe to take its destiny more firmly in its own hands. After all, what use is there in cooperating if one partner is shouldering the bulk of responsibilities? This is why we must not cease to emphasize that the US considers the European Union as NATO’s most important partner. In this respect, the “complementarity” notion between both institutions needs to be further developed and implemented. This must equally be the case in the realm of “burden sharing” amongst allies, and more particularly between the US and European nations. It goes without saying that the short-term priority is for European countries to augment their efforts. Taking into account the existing trend of increasing military expenditure cuts, the “Pooling and Sharing” exercise will become ever more necessary. Of course, such an endeavor is far from easy and (national) economic interests are not conducive to facilitating this process.

 

4. A better prepared, usable and deployable NATO

 

We need to draw the necessary lessons from our deployment in Afghanistan, as well as ensuring that our acquired experience and knowledge is safeguarded. I am specifically thinking about the Chicago Defense Package here, which consists of Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI). It is especially CFI which is to enable the Alliance to translate the experience from long-term joint deployment into lasting benefits in the future. CFI builds (among others) on education, training, exercise and evaluation, in which the role of the Reserve undoubtedly has its place. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary General Rasmussen for the efforts he is constantly undertaking to place and keep these points high on the agenda of the Council and for his insistence towards the nations to make the necessary efforts in this area.

 

Let me stress here also the importance of interoperability, that starts with a thorough understanding of NATO languages and English in particular. Yet, wherever defence cooperation touches the sensitive issue of national autonomy the exercise proves to be a delicate one. They are still often water and fire: the protection of national interests and further coordination and/or integration. It is in this context that I wish to underscore the importance of the NATO Defence Planning Process (the NDPP) as an overarching mechanism within which we can, or, at least, should align our national defence planning efforts with collective priorities. This planning process certainly needs better visibility at the highest political level. The recently devised Framework Nation Concept also merits further reflection as it could substantially optimize further the way we work together. After all, the past has demonstrated that working within clusters for capability development (DE) and for operational planning (UK) may deliver fast and tangible results. Many of you will realize that I am speaking out of experience in this case, as the Belgian Defence has been involved since the very beginning in successful projects as the EATC or the Benelux Defence Cooperation. All of this should support NATO in reaching its objectives in the field of “crisis management” and “security cooperation”.

 

5. NATO needs to be an alliance which extends a hand of cooperation

 

I am referring to the further development and extension of NATO’s partnerships. This needs to occur in close cooperation and coordination with international organizations as well as with individual countries or groups of countries. Partnerships, ladies and gentlemen, are a win-win situation. Why is that?

 

Political, financial and military support by partners to NATO missions. The ISAF Mission in Afghanistan and UNIFIED PROTECTOR in Libya demonstrated once again that troop-providing countries have a crucial role to play in supporting NATO-led operations.

 

NATO as a stabilizing force. Through partnerships, NATO may help to influence political developments in volatile regions and control crisis situations or mitigate tensions;

 

Empowerment. Enabling partner countries to achieve regional strategic autonomy, in line with NATO’s norms and values, may alleviate a part of the security burden on the Alliance’s shoulders;

 

A truly global vision. Partners may also be international organizations such as the UN or the EU, which can offer the Alliance extensive experience in the “comprehensive” approach, the effective deployment of military, political, civilian, diplomatic and humanitarian means.

 

Partnerships are meant to render NATO a more open, capable and flexible organization in the spirit of a broader vision on today’s cooperation. Partners directly contribute to our security. In this context, I would like to stress the need for this broader vision on security. Prosperity and stability cannot exist without security and vice versa. Preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention must pay attention to economic and social issues which could be the breeding ground for future escalations.

 

6. Keeping pace with technological progress is crucial

 

Do you realize that 1/3 of our university students are now studying for to end up in a technology-related job that is yet to be invented? Technology will become exponentially more important.  NATO needs to keep in touch and up to date with technological evolutions and innovation to maintain a geostrategic comparative advantage. To keep track with modern science and technology together, in the spirit of cooperation and mutual support, we should ask ourselves which capabilities we need in the future to tackle which challenges. It is good to remember in this case, and the Generals amongst us should agree – that a technologically more advanced army has a huge comparative advantage over its adversary during the early phases of armed conflict.  Hence, NATO has the obligation to make its Member States invest in modern weaponry and state of the art defence equipment to keep the technological edge. For if history has taught us one thing, it is that one must always remain one step ahead of one’s enemy. In the future, this step will be measured in technological progress.

 

7. NATO is the ideal platform to further foster transatlantic relations

 

Our trans-Atlantic bond is unique and does not only underpin our defence cooperation, but also our prosperity and development. The solid bond of trust which we forged within NATO must open the door to new types of cooperation. And yes, these relations should exceed the realm of security and defense and comprise, for instance, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which offers us the potential to mount the world’s largest economic and trade bloc! Again, I revert back to our constituent document. Article 2 of the Washington Treaty says, and I quote: “They (the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty) will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them”. End of quote. The strength of a military Alliance is also measured by the quality of its economic foundations. 

 

[Conclusion]

 

Generals, Admirals, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

An Alliance is like an architectural design. It needs a number of basic components or the structure will collapse. An Alliance needs three indispensable elements that hold it together:

I. Political will translating itself in a preparedness to act;

II. A more shared threat perception and political vision, to achieve through intensified dialogue;

III. And finally, a degree of solidarity amongst allies. And yes!  Solidarity means elevating the Alliance’s interests above strictly national interests. This solidarity should be reinforced through the preserving and strengthening of the common capabilities, standards, structures and funding that binds us together.

 

This was the case in 1949, when the Atlantic treaty was signed, and this remains the case today. In 1949, we were facing a tangible, clear and present communist threat. The war in Korea was the first proxy war of this conflict, followed shortly in 1956 by the Hungarian uprising. Such events shaped our understanding that the danger was real and a strong defence was needed. It is quite safe to assume that this is no longer valid today. Even the terrorist threat is less prevalent in most of the public opinion. As for Afghanistan and Mali, those countries are considered faraway places that do not evoke much empathy. Just ask any man or woman in the street what he or she considers the greatest danger and you will be surprised by the answers you receive. They will mostly include a reference to decreasing prosperity or the failure by our governments to steer us unscathed through economic turmoil. Even the most graphic images about the horrible crimes against humanity committed in Syria seem to move but a minority of us. In addition, one of the Alliance’s foundations, “threat perception”, is also more diverging amongst allies than in the Cold War era. This results in clear consequences.

 

First of all, it affects political will. Albeit verbally still very present, it rarely translates into meaningful and tangible results. The absence of uniformed threats at our borders and the illusion of security in which most of our citizens live are indeed leading some governments to implement less political action-oriented policies. We are increasingly showered in promises, without seeing many concrete deeds. The immediate consequence of decreased political will is a weakened show of solidarity. One would almost think certain allies are “re-nationalizing” their politics… Although the Washington Treaty leaves it up to each ally to determine the level of solidarity it wishes to display, this does by no means absolve it from the obligation to display this solidarity openly, publicly and by concrete action. This is still not sufficiently the case today!

 

The real challenge of the 2014 summit could therefore be a “spiritual retreat” in the spirit of the Treaty of Washington. A reflection, if you will, which results in an Alliance in which its member states have responsibilities transcending mere treaty obligations “stricto sensu”. Thus, the feeling of solidarity and “belonging” to an Alliance should be rekindled and reaffirmed in the future! NATO needs to remain that security Alliance that can field military forces able to operate together in any environment; that can control operations anywhere through its integrated military command structure; and that has at its disposal core capabilities.

 

Generals, Admirals, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is with these words that I wish to conclude my speech. Yet, I hope my intervention will be followed by an interesting exchange of views with you. I am eager to hear your opinions on NATO’s future and thank you all for your kind attention.

 

Pieter De Crem

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister of Defence

 

- - - The spoken word alone prevails - - -

 


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