General Vigleik Eide, Former Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO
THOUGHTS ON NATO
Chairman: David Edmison, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Bob Papanikolaou, OAC student, Northern Secondary School; Julie Lindhout, Team Leader, Program Policy Support Team, Ministry of Education and Training and Vice-President, The Atlantic Council of Canada; Dr. Antonio Rodrigues, Chairman, Atlantic Education Committee; Dr. Edward Neufeld, former Senior Vice-President Economic and Corporate Affairs, Royal Bank of Canada, Director, Canadian National Railway and Director, The Atlantic Council of Canada; The Rev. Canon Harold Roberts, Rector, St. Timothy's Church, Agincourt and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Michael Wingrove, Vice-President, Westwood & Best Software Corporation; Edward Crawford, Chairman, Canada Life Assurance Company and Chairman, The Atlantic Council of Canada; His Excellency, U. Haluk Bayulken, former Ambassador and Defence Minister of the Republic of Turkey and President, Atlantic Treaty Association; John Woods, City Auditor, City of Toronto and a Vice-President, The Atlantic Council of Canada; Edward Badovinac, Professor, Electronics, George Brown College, a Director, The Empire Club of Canada and a Director, The Atlantic Council of Canada; Ronald Goodall, Partner, Goodall & Peacock and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; His Excellency Jean Beliard, former Ambassador of France and Secretary General, Atlantic Treaty Association. and Robert Spencer, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, President, The Atlantic Council of Canada and Vice-President, Atlantic Treaty Association of Canada.
Introduction by David Edmison
Six years ago we watched with great excitement the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. It was an historic moment which hailed the triumph of freedom and democracy over collectivism and centralist ideologies. It also marked a victory for the Atlantic Alliance which throughout the post World War period remained cohesive and strong.
The "Iron Curtain" collapsed under the weight of a political system which proved incapable of meeting the challenges of a modern age. In the aftermath was left a populous hopeful in their new-found freedoms, yet insecure in how to deal with the harsh new realities. The subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union has ushered in a host of new socio-economic and political problems and peace and security in Eastern Europe remains fragile. Accordingly the need to strengthen our NATO alliance remains as real today as it was when it was founded 50 years ago. John F. Kennedy said: "The 1930s taught us a clear lesson. Aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchallenged, is aggression unleashed."
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for NATO and the United Nations peace-keeping efforts is the civil conflict in Bosnia. It is difficult to view the extensive media coverage without mixed emotions. We feel frustration at the seemingly intractable positions of the insurgents; we feel fear for the possible extension of war to other regions; we feel anger that our peace-keeping forces could be used as human shields, and we are numbed by reports of ethnic cleansing. The situation is serious and the future role of peacekeeping troops is unresolved.
Our guest today is a man of authority to comment on the concerns we may have about the situation in Bosnia. From June 1993 to January 1994, General Vigleik Eide was Special Advisor to the UN Negotiator in the former Yugoslavia and was Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of all UN Operations in this region. His background is impressive.
After graduating from the Military Academy in Norway in 1957, General Eide initially served as an instructor at an infantry training centre and later as Company Commander at the School of Infantry. He received a number of staff appointments, was involved in officer training and was head of the Norwegian Army Long-Term Planning from 1969-1970. After serving on the Directing Staff at the Army Staff College he was appointed Commanding Officer of the garrison in Parsanger and commanded this battalion group until he was appointed Commandant of the Army Staff College in 1978. In 1983, he was appointed Chief of the Army Staff in the rank of Brigadier. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant General and became Commander Allied Forces North Norway.
From August 1987 to September 1989, he was Chief of Defense Norway in the rank of General. In the period from September 1989 to January 1993, our guest held the highest ranking military position in NATO, as Chairman of the Military Committee.
General Eide retired from active service in March 1993, and is presently active as a Strategic Industrial Advisor at an Oslo-based think-tank engaged in security policy research. Our guest has received numerous decorations during his distinguished career.
Ladies and gentleman, I am honoured to present to you our guest, General Vigleik Eide, who will speak to us about peace in a troubled world.
Presidents, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:
Let me first say how honoured I am to speak here at The Empire Club of Canada, how good I think it is to have this occasion together with the Atlantic Council of Canada and how nice it is and how useful it is to have the 41st General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association here in Toronto.
It is in fact good to be back in what I would call the NATO group in this Atlantic Treaty Association. The world around us has really changed and while the immediate threat to our security has been reduced or gone away the advantage of co-operation and the advantage of solidarity has not been reduced. I'm going to talk to you about NATO's post-Cold-War crisis management. In my view that is going to be crucial to the peace of the future and I'll touch on the co-operation with the United Nations. I know that Canada has played quite a role in the UN peacekeeping operations over the years.
It's going to be a personal view. I'm not going to comment on recent developments since I left NATO almost three years ago. You may ask what a retired general has to offer you here at The Empire Club or at the Atlantic Council. Retired generals should keep their heads down and not speak too much. I would like to say that the trick is you have to be retired and still not be retired. I see a lot of people in the audience here doing a marvellous job supporting the Alliance and using their vast experience to promote the co-operation and the continued solidarity of the Alliance. I would like to praise them for their job.
This trick of being and yet not being reminds me of a colleague in the Military Committee of NATO, a Danish representative, who used to quote a Danish poet. I will attempt a small quotation from that poet and the unifying opposites: "I deeply disagree with Shakespeare's bright suggestion: 'to be or not to be that is the question.' The truth has dawned on me, his faithful lancer, to be and not to be, that is the answer." I think it is rather appropriate to be retired and still not quite to be retired. I won't shy back from giving you my personal comments. However I do hope this quotation is not also blind to the future of NATO because I would certainly like it to be and not not to be.
As Chairman of the NATO Military Committee in the period as mentioned, September '89 to January '93, I had the privilege to be part of what I see as a crucial process of change--change in the security environment of Europe and change at NATO. Today it is remarkable. Only a few years later we seem to take the momentous changes from 1989 to 1991 as quite natural. We seem to regard it as an easy natural process with a guaranteed successful outcome.
Back in the late fall of 1989 and the winter of 1990, however, the events did not look natural or self-evident and the outcome was not seen as without grave risks that events might get out of control. It was not commonly realised in the beginning that we were in the midst of a real security earthquake that would fundamentally change Europe, maybe even more than we have seen since the Revolution back in 1789. Some commentators in this period fell victim to uncontrolled euphoric optimism and predicted the end of all conflict or peace for even longer than our time. The peace dividend was seen as the panacea for all yet uncovered budget requirements in our societies.
In this crucial period NATO demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt and to live up to this challenge of change. On the military side, which I know the best, a comprehensive review process was started, taking on intelligence assessments, strategy, force structures followed by a comprehensive review of command structure. The NATO summits, heads of states and government, in December 1989 and in July 1990 gave the necessary political guidance. The reviews were carried out in a remarkably short time and the revised strategy was approved at a NATO summit in Rome in November, 1991. This strategy, while retaining the necessary military strength to safeguard against the risks during the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact, and later the dismantling of the Soviet Union itself, as well as the withdrawal of the Soviet or later Russian forces, clearly recognised the need for crisis management and for more flexible military forces to carry out that strategy.
When looking back on this period with the advantage of hindsight we see more clearly that in this very early post-Cold-War period some fell victim to another euphoric variant: with the end of the East West confrontation and a more co-operative mood among our new partners all crises could be controlled and managed. A new world order was dawning. You may recall comments like that. This may have misled the public and even some political leaders to believe that international organisations were destined to settle all conflicts and create this worldwide order. A plethora of international organisations seemed to seek their role in this new game. In Europe the Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Western European Union were trying to define their role. Globally the United Nations took on more peacekeeping operations in a few years time than it had done in the whole of the previous 40 years. NATO remained, however, the only organisation with a well-developed and credible military capacity while it confirmed its political role, not the least in the North Atlantic Co-operation Council and the work with our new partners from Central and Eastern Europe.
In accordance with this new strategy and the growing importance of crisis management, as the situation in the former Yugoslavia deteriorated, it was a natural consequence for NATO to offer its capabilities to assist in managing this crisis. In June 1992 the North Atlantic Council foreign ministers met, agreed to offer NATO assistance to the Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe, an offer soon to be formerly given also to the United Nations. It should maybe be noted here that NATO, during the Gulf deployment and the Gulf War of 1990-1991, played a major role in support of the operations as well as in crisis prevention and crisis management by strengthening the southern flank of NATO, with command, control, communications, air defence and surveillance, as well as considerable strength in mine counter-mission capability in the Mediterranean in order to discourage any temptation by Sadam Hussein to threaten NATO territory.
In the former Yugoslavia, NATO has been blamed for not acting decisively or aggressively enough. However, whenever NATO was asked by the United Nations to take on some specific military mission it did so resolutely and effectively. I will give you some examples. The economic embargo against Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro was effectively monitored and later controlled in the Adriatic. The operation Maritime Monitor, Maritime Guard and Sharp Guard. The no-fly zone in Bosnia was controlled with substantial effort and since late 1992, early 1993, NATO has continuously planned and updated its plans to deploy NATO troops on the ground to help enforce a possible peace plan or to help bring United Nations forces out if an emergency should arise.
Can NATO then be blamed for not doing more or not to have acted on its own? How could it, given the agreed and accepted fact that the United Nations was the responsible organisation for these operations acting on behalf of the international community? Why blame NATO or the United Nations if nations do not have the wisdom to find a way or the political will and the guts to do what it takes to solve a crisis?
Let me briefly also comment on the relations between NATO and the United Nations--on the overall responsibility, the control-command arrangements and the working relations. As I mentioned from the beginning of NATO involvement the overall political responsibility rested with the United Nations--with the Security Council of the United Nations and with the Secretary-General as the Executive. Any request for NATO assistance had to come from the United Nations and any changes in the tasks would have to be requested or approved by the Security Council of the United Nations. Likewise, there was never any doubt that NATO as an independent entity, an independent organisation, would have to get the North Atlantic Council's political approval of the United Nations' requests, but this again never implied that NATO had a role independent of the United Nations. From the beginning it was abundantly clear that this modus operandi required a close and good working relationship between the two organisations. I must admit, however, that the first period of this co-operation was coloured somewhat by the distance between the two different organisational cultures. NATO was regarded by some of the United Nations personnel as too much a relic of the Cold War, lacking a deeper understanding of the peace-keeping operations. These views were to be found not only at the United Nations headquarters but also lower down among the traditional peace-keepers--Norwegians or Nordic as well as Canadian peace-keepers. From the NATO perspective, the United Nations headquarters were seen as overly bureaucratic and not prone to take military realities or military advice into account.
I must also say that over the months and years since then contact and understanding has improved. NATO's efforts to send liaison officers to the United Nations headquarters and various UN forces headquarters helped quite a lot. Due to the basically different purpose and different organisational structures, NATO has the advantage of a structure for timely military advice at council level--the NATO Military Committee, its international military staff and a professional and capable command structure. Some of the many resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council on the former Yugoslavia unfortunately demonstrates in my opinion the lack of such military advice at the right level and at the right time at the United Nations structure. The United Nations headquarters has over the last few years improved in this respect, but it is highly improbable that it will ever develop a real military expertise and develop effective military capacity or ever deploy such capacity.
As acknowledged by the United Nations Secretary-General in his report to the Security Council last January, the United Nations would be well advised to concentrate on peace-keeping operations leaving capable organisations or ad hoc coalitions (as in the Persian Gulf) to undertake more demanding military operations.
This, however, does not preclude that peace-keeping operations may develop into an enforcement operation as we see partly in the former Yugoslavia. We all have to be aware that such a change of task, such a change of force composition and command will never be easy, not to mention how difficult it will be to change back from an enforcement operation to a peace-keeping mode. Such a reversal is hard to imagine and probably would be even harder to undertake. Specific military support to shore up peace-keeping operations might also be needed in the future. We have to remember that such mixed operations do require a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. Command and control arrangements must be clear and respected throughout. In the former Yugoslavia NATO has agreed to take on some supporting tasks while insisting that the United Nations remain in overall charge.
Sometimes some ill-informed public demands that NATO should do more or act on its own have demonstrated in my view a profound lack of understanding of command responsibilities. Unclear command arrangements and split responsibilities may seem acceptable at some distance from the realities, but it is a recipe for disaster on the ground. For instance it's hard to envisage a separate line of command for air support to ground forces, where the ground forces have no influence on the air support without a disastrous result. Even if it has worked reasonably well in most situations in the former Yugoslavia and probably better on the ground than it has been sometimes reflected in the press, lessons from these operations should of course be studied and taken into account for the future. Let me say that in the complex circumstances we have seen in this area, media confusion and some unrealistic demands may be unavoidable. Military and political leaders must see too that this does not affect the operations on the ground adversely.
It is my personal opinion that if something went wrong ~, in our handling of the conflicts in this area, the former Yugoslavia, it was not the way NATO carried out its tasks, or maybe not even the way the United Nations forces handled the often difficult and confusing situations on the ground. In my judgment the weakest link has been the insufficient political co-ordination and the failure to agree early on a coherent policy and the lack of political will and stamina to carry it through. Development in the recent weeks gives me some hope that these lessons are not lost and I hope that we will be able to cope with such situations in a somewhat better way in the future.
This leads me to my final reflection. The post-Cold-war, more complex dynamic and unpredictable security situation in and around Europe has led to a much more difficult co-ordination and decision process because the common unifying factor of military threat has disappeared.
Security is today rightly defined as more than just military defence but we should not overlook the fact that it is also more than political. Economic and many other aspects of our security have recently been mentioned more often and also the environmental side. This means that the overall co-ordination of the security of the future even at national levels has become more complex and requires interdepartmental co-ordination at government level to assess all aspects of security before a coherent national position or national policy can be formulated. To assist in this process, something like a national security council seems required in quite a few of our countries. Last but not least the international consultation and coordination process may be more complex and difficult than before, but also is immensely more important if we want to see co-ordinated and effective crisis management. For this task, this international co-ordination, a complete and total national assessment seems a pre-requisite. International agreements may otherwise receive contradicting signals even from one and the same government as we have seen some examples of in the recent past.
On the international arena we do not lack organisations for such co-ordination. We may even have some unpredicted competition among some of them. What we really seem to need is political leadership among the more resourceful and influential states acting through institutions like the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, or for that matter the organisations for security and co-operation in Europe. In my view we have the structures and the main instruments and we have the positive experience of the past of our strength when acting together in solidarity. Even with the unifying imminent military threat gone, we should see the positive effect of maintaining strength through unity to manage the dynamic challenges of the future. Let me here add, that with the declining defence budgets, it seems even more important than before to unite all our resources.
All our present international organisations maybe less than perfect but if that is the case we should strive to improve them by a determined and consistent effort, not abandoning them as imperfect instruments. We do need the global coverage and the functions of the United Nations and even if it's a long process to improve that organisation nothing will happen without concerted efforts by all positive forces. We also strongly emphasise that we have been extremely well served by the Atlantic Alliance unifying the power of North America and Europe and we will all stand to lose if we do not maintain our Atlantic strength and Atlantic solidarity. Europe must and Europe will continue to develop the European Union, but security co-operation is and should remain a solid basis for our continued Atlantic co-operation. Instead of losing the advantage of our Atlantic co-operation let us seek to develop it further to meet the future demands--to cover all the needed elements of future North American-European co-operation. Thank you.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Robert Spencer, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, President, The Atlantic Council of Canada and Vice-President, Atlantic Treaty Association of Canada.