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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » July 2, 2010
Mapping Out NATO’s Future
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Mapping Out NATO’s Future
July 2, 2010   
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Prof. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, member of a NATO Group of Experts (GoE) appointed by the alliance’s secretary-general to prepare the ground for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Strategic Concept, talks to Andrzej Jonas and Witold ¯ygulski.

How did it come about that a special group of experts was tasked with mapping out NATO’s strategy for the next decade?
The group of 12 experts was made up of former politicians, diplomats and experienced security analysts in both their own countries and abroad. The former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was invited to chair the work of our Group. The mandate of the Group of Experts was approved at NATO’s special 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg and Kehl April 3-4, 2009.

Earlier, the previous NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, appointed an ad hoc six-person team to prepare the Declaration on Alliance Security. That group included myself as well as members from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Italy. The document was supposed to be brief and written in a simple language. We drew up such a document, expressing our opinion on what was the most important for the Alliance. In short, I was the only person among the 12-strong group who was also a member of the small team the secretary-general had appointed earlier to define the mandate of Group of Experts.

What future for NATO emerges from the document prepared by your group?
In the history of NATO we have had six fundamental strategic concepts—that’s roughly one per decade. This explains why we assumed from the start that our proposal would concern the time horizon up to 2020.

The new thing about our GoE’s mandate, as presented by the secretary-general, was that the new concept would not be prepared by official representatives, who are obliged to follow specific instructions and orders from their capitals on every matter. Such instructions, as experience has taught us, are as a rule rather conservative. Diplomats are always afraid of change because it could make things worse. So, it’s better to maintain the status quo. That’s why civil servants and ambassadors all over the world are rather conservative—if we change nothing, no one can blame us for anything. A creative approach is not a strength of diplomats, but it certainly occurs among statesmen.

Did the group demonstrate a creative approach?
Our group was not a team of people who could be held responsible for decisions. This meant they could be expected to display a certain degree of freedom—implementing the new strategic concept is not up to them. Decisions will be made by the NATO secretary-general and the heads of state or government of all the member states. Thus, the group can take a bird’s eye view of the pros and cons of the current state of NATO, and raise all the most important questions—what is wrong with the alliance today?

When the new NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with us at a working lunch on Sept. 4 last year, he said he expected to receive a document with the necessary “building blocks” by the end of April 2010. Mr. Rasmussen said he didn’t expect us to provide a comprehensive strategic concept, because that would depend on the member states; our task was to provide the building blocks. Of course, we were supposed to propose them after consulting officials both from NATO countries and the Alliance Headquarters and International Secretariat, but they should—as the secretary-general put it—contain a certain freshness, not only in the way they were written, but also in terms of the ideas and content conveyed.

The current situation in Europe is to some extent like the one we had in the mid-1960s, when the Harmel Report saw the light of day. This was a document—also drawn up by a group of NATO experts—outlining the future strategy for NATO under Cold War conditions, with the partition of Europe and the Berlin Wall still in existence. The major innovation in that report was that it stated the necessity of openness and readiness for cooperation and détente in mutual relations—while preserving the strategy of military deterrence of any potential aggressor—with countries on the other side of the Wall. The Harmel Report reflected a political philosophy suggested earlier by Egon Bahr, a well-known German strategist and thinker. He put forward the idea of Wandel durch Annäherung, or evolution through rapprochement.

Now, I share the view that we should, to some extent, follow the pattern modeled after the 1967 Harmel Report. In the context of the new security environment, all the NATO members, especially the Central and Eastern European countries, need some additional security guarantees adequate to the new threats. If they receive them, they will be prepared to open up substantially in their relations with Russia, to demonstrate a more cooperative and constructive approach.

This leading idea, or, if you wish, a new organizing principle, is reflected in the title of our report, NATO 2020: Assured Security, Dynamic Engagement. The point is to act in two directions. Today there is no one we want to deter. Who knows, we might even find ourselves in one indivisible security system with Russia in the coming decades, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to grow uncertain and weaker. At the end of the day, NATO is not an association of mutual admiration, but is an alliance of democratic nations to secure their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

What are the most important components of your report?
Our document contains six chapters. We shared out the work at the outset and decided who was responsible for what. Together with my German colleague Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, I was tasked with drawing up the first chapter, on the new security environment and new perils. Many old threats are still present, but new ones have appeared and that’s why we are working on a new strategy for the Alliance. A lot has been said in recent years about NATO in its current shape being incompatible with the new challenges. Critics argued that the Alliance had lost the trust of the public in the member states, which it had enjoyed uninterruptedly throughout the Cold War. Back then nobody raised the issue of whether we needed NATO at all; now such questions are being asked. As a result, some ideas have been put forward for the Alliance to play a role similar to that of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a role limited to the political aspects of security only.

The new challenge is that since the end of the Cold War threats have arisen mainly inside the countries, within the states and not between them. The problem is how to neutralize them. NATO is trying to accomplish this in Afghanistan and has gotten stuck there. Contrary to some suggestions, I don’t think we should treat this operation as a test of the Alliance’s effectiveness—but it is a task. We have to avoid building a trap for ourselves. We undertook an unusual task that corresponds to the new challenges and risks, but there is no simple answer to many complex new questions.

The second chapter of our document described the core tasks for the Alliance today. These key responsibilities primarily concern confirming the obligations stemming from Article 5—the so-called musketeer clause, “one for all, all for one.” This was so important because, since not all the member states have the necessary NATO military infrastructure, they have to know that in case of danger, they can expect that the Alliance’s entire infrastructure will help them.

Another important element of our document is the issue of partnerships between NATO and other countries or groups of nations—members of security institutions such as the United Nations, OSCE and the European Union above all. NATO has a strong interest in cooperation with the EU, but it seems to me that the EU’s stance is rather self-restrained. I think this is due to the fact that the EU is only at the initial stage starting to develop its common foreign and security policy and common foreign and defense policy and is afraid that NATO might dominate militarily over it. In our document, we suggest some new forms and ways of developing qualitatively a new type of the NATO-EU relationship.

The next chapter is on political and organizational issues. The key issue is how to prevent the emergence of a disengagement or a kind of dividing line between Europe and the United States. The United States has to see NATO as an important and vital instrument of its national and multinational security system. Madeleine Albright said at many of our meetings that the United States’ military presence in Europe is only because of NATO. If the Alliance proves weak and ineffective, there will be no reason for the U.S. to be engaged in Europe to the same extent as in the past. The fundamental problems of the Alliance’s Forces and Capabilities are tackled in the last chapter and address issues such as reforms, nuclear weapons and arms control and how to respond to unconventional dangers.

What is your view on Russia’s attitude toward NATO?
On Dec. 4, 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov unveiled a new proposal—a draft agreement between NATO and Russia. Previous agreements had been signed before consecutive stages of NATO enlargement, starting from the founding act of 1997, before the accession of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and in May 2002, before the expansion of NATO to include three Baltic states. Later Russia clearly implied several times that there were “red lines” or “hot lines” the crossing of which—by going ahead with NATO enlargement—Russia would treat as a violation damaging its security. Western leaders at the time decided that Russia had to be offered ensured respect for its security, that Moscow had to have guarantees that the alliance would not do anything detrimental against it. May 2002 saw the signing of the Rome Declaration—at the Pratica di Mare air force base near Rome—on a qualitatively new relationship between Russia and NATO.

Documents, even the best written of them, cannot fulfill their role unless they are followed by the signatories’ trust, confidence and readiness to cooperate in good faith. The Russians proposed new documents, but kept holding onto the Cold War rhetoric that NATO is still an aggressive pact acting as an instrument of U.S. policy to encircle Russia. That Cold War rhetoric in criticism of NATO has not changed at all; it still applies in Russia today, though the best and brightest Russian experts know it makes no sense to continue this type of policy of mutual accusations.

In the history of the past 250-300 years Russia has never been as secure from the West as it is today. NATO has an intention to engage Russia in a constructive way into common security arrangements and has no intention, no need and no plan to initiate any kind of anti-Russian steps or measures. The Soviet Union always worked on breaking up the unity and solidarity of NATO members. The Russian approach was always oriented at bilateral relations, not on contacts with multilateral Alliance institutions. Now, the new draft of Dec. 4, 2009 agreement proposed that the countries which joined the Alliance after May 27, 1997 could not have the same non-discriminatory weapons systems as “old” NATO members.

If we were to agree to such rules, it would result in the emergence of two categories of NATO member states.

Do we have a common NATO strategy toward Russia?
The new beginning in constructing cooperative relations with Russia can be successful if it is reciprocal. It is a choice that Russia has to make. We are inviting Moscow to our dinner table. The invitation has been sent—with those well-known letters: RSVP...

While in Moscow, our Group of Experts met with many politicians and diplomats who are dealing with security issues—Foreign Ministry officials, parliamentarians, security analysts and scholars from institutes studying international policy. Most of them agreed that threats were developing not on Russia’s Western borders, but in the south of Russia, where Muslim fundamentalism is growing in strength, and in the Far East. Privately, none of the officials I talked to considered NATO to be an enemy.

What will happen to the document drafted by the Group?
It has been submitted to the NATO secretary-general. Now it is on the table and it will undergo a long process of consultations, so that the report’s guidelines can lay the groundwork for NATO’s new strategy. This strategy should be unveiled by the secretary-general at a NATO summit in Lisbon this fall.


Prof. Dr. Adam Daniel Rotfeld. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland (2005); Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – SIPRI (1990-2002).

In 1992 appointed as Personal Representative of the CSCE Chairman-in-Office to elaborate the political settlement of the conflict in the Transdniester region of Moldova; since January 2006 – Member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (chaired the ABDM in 2008); since March 2008 – Co-Chairman of the Polish-Russian Group on Difficult Matters (2009/2010); Member of the NATO Group of Experts on new Strategic Concept of Alliance (“Wisemen Group”); Commissioner of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative Commission (since January 2010). Member of many other boards and scientific councils in Poland and abroad.

Recent publications: Where is the World Headed? (Warsaw 2008); Poland in an Uncertain World (2006). Under his chairmanship the Warsaw Reflection Group published the following reports: Arms Control Revisited: Non-proliferation and Denuclearization (March 2009); Towards Complementarity of European Security Institutions (2005); Towards the UN Reform: New Threats, New Responses (2004); Transatlantic Security: New Realities, Changing Institutions (2004).
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