Nato has arrived in the 21st CenturyInterview with Supreme Nato commander in Europe, General James L. Jones

Posted in NATO | 30-Mar-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

General James L. Jones: "We have increased the effectiveness"
Confronted with new threats and challenges, the Atlantic alliance is in undergoing a profound change. It will soon comprise 26 members, its mission area meanwhile extends as far as Afghanistan, a quick reaction force, the so-called Nato Response Force, is being set up, and a reform of its command structure will have far-reaching consequences. General James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Saceur), has responded to our questions in an interview conducted in Nato's military headquarters in Mons, Belgium. He was interviewed by the two editors Bruno Lezzi and Jürg Dedial from the NZZ.

General Jones, the new Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer recently said that 2003 had been a year of "bruises" for Nato. What are these "bruises" and how can they be healed?

General James L. Jones:
You will certainly understand that I can only give you military answers, not political ones. And in this regard there are far more positive things to report than negative ones. We have changed a great deal. We have completely restructured Nato's command structure, we have closed a few headquarters that had outlived their purpose, we have translated the planned Nato Response Force (NRF) from a mere concept into reality in less than a year, we have disbanded the Supreme Atlantic Command and we have established the Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, USA, and we have assigned control of all operations to Nato's military headquarters here in Mons. We now have two strategic commands, one for the operations and one for the transformation of the alliance. We have increased the effectiveness of the alliance. Nato is currently engaged in four missions. 2003 has above all brought about the historic commitment in Afghanistan, where Nato has taken over command of the Isaf forces. This is the end of the Nato of the 20th century and possibly the beginning of a completely different Nato of the 21st century. And this makes me very optimistic from a military point of view.

"Overweight and not mobile enough"

Two weeks ago, a seminar was held on the Nato Response Force in Suffolk, Virginia, entitled "Nato Response Force - Vision to Reality". What were the findings?

General James L. Jones:
It was the first time that the two supreme Nato commanders, Admiral Giambastiani as Commander ACT and I as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, took the stage together. Realistic conflict scenarios were discussed, in which the NRF would be needed. It became clear how important the necessity of swift decisions would become in view of the new threats, and how much we will have to develop and refine our capabilities at the military level. We will have to set new standards for our operational readiness and continue to standardise Nato's forces even more. Apart from other topics, discussions focused on the point I almost consider the most important one, namely the improvement of the logistic capabilities of the armed forces on future operations. Previously each Nato country has been responsible for the logistic support of the forces provided by that country. In swift, global deployments, this will no longer be feasible. The Nato summit at Prague in November 2002 obliged the alliance members to increase their military capabilities (Prague Capability Commitment _ PCC), especially in areas such as strategic transport, intelligence collection and reconnaissance, command and control systems, and precision munitions. What has happened so far in this respect? If one looks at this topic by examining the funds provided, nothing much has happened. The budgets of the Nato members have not grown. Our tasks as the military leaders of Nato therefore is to see to it that the far too high personnel levels are reduced. The Nato countries have a total of 1.4 million personnel in their armed forces. That is too much. We are overweight, and we are not mobile enough. In the 21st century, we need small, highly mobile forces. We can save a lot by reducing force levels and investing the released funds in modernisation. That is one point. The other point is that the budgets must not be reduced even further. The large, personnel-intensive armies with their numerous battle tanks and artillery pieces must be disbanded, the money must be invested in precision weapons. The individual countries can of course make additional investments. But the important thing is that they stop reducing their budgets and instead start transforming their forces.

Plea for a professional army

Will NATO show the flags in Iraq?
Do you think that the European NATO members are moving in this direction?

General James L. Jones:
Yes. As far as NATO's transformation is concerned, there are indeed a few things going on. France for example will soon have completed the transformation to a professional army. Professionalization is one of the key elements for transformation. The conscript armies are not necessarily worse and if the individual countries would like to keep them, they may do so. However, professional armies are better adapted to modern requirements and in the end more competent. Especially the new NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe are quickly reaching a professional level and leaving their Warsaw-Pact-era mass armies behind them.

Do these changes also apply to the US forces in Europe? The US still have a number of heavy mechanized divisions here. Will they be substituted by lighter, more mobile combat brigades?

General James L. Jones:
I cannot go into details because the US planning has not been completed yet. We will require more mobility and flexibility for our forces in Europe. The traditional heavy formations could remain in prepared positions. However, the character of the US presence in Europe will become even more strategic. The old paradigm of mass is no longer valid. We need more lethality. This applies to NATO and the US armed forces.

Will NATO go to Iraq soon?

General James L. Jones:
If we look back at the last years, we see a strong expansion of NATO's range. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Alliance is present in Afghanistan. So it is quite natural to ask whether the Alliance will also soon be in Iraq.

Only one year ago, nobody imagined that NATO would get involved in Afghanistan. There was talk of the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. But Afghanistan was still far away. And today, we are present there. I would handle the question about an operation in Iraq in a similar way. It is true that there is talk about it today. However, so far, I have not received any official request from the North Atlantic Council, there is no planning going on. NATO has already rendered a lot of support when the Polish-led multinational force in Iraq was set up. But this is not an official NATO operation. As far as NATO's future in Iraq is concerned, I would say in French: "On verra"...

With seven new members now joining NATO, the Partnership for Peace, in which Switzerland participates, will certainly change. What will this initiative look like in the future? Will it mainly focus on Central Asia?

General James L. Jones:
You are right to ask this question. However, it is a question that has to be answered on the political level. For us, it is relevant whether a country is interested in an official cooperation with NATO and whether its armed forces are interoperable. NATO's enlargement by seven Eastern and Central European nations will change the Partnership for Peace programme. But whether the main focus will shift further towards the East or whether for example there will be an enhanced cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue, is a political question. However, I would like to emphasize that the Partnership for Peace Programme is one of the most successful initiatives undertaken by NATO. We, who are responsible for the military aspects within the Alliance, want to continue the programme.

Good relations with the EU

If you think about NATO's relationship with the European Union - a relationship that have not always been easy in the military field - what would you like to change the most?

NATO Response Force Demonstration in Turkey
General James L. Jones:
I think, in the military field things have been going quite well. The "Concordia" operation in Macedonia was certainly a first step and we have learned a lot there. Now, I could imagine that in the course of this year, the same could happen in Bosnia Herzegovina, that NATO withdraws in the military field and hands over its task to the EU. The EU presence would rather have the character of a police force, and NATO would not have to withdraw completely. For example, NATO could continue the training of the Bosnian armed forces and the NATO Response Force could be some kind of a strategic reserve for Bosnia. Since Bosnia is a more complex problem than Macedonia, the NATO presence could be a bit more comprehensive. This whole process, which was carefully managed and executed by my deputy, Admiral Feist, has already led to the establishment of an EU planning cell here at the NATO Headquarters in Mons. For us, such a development is not difficult. Soldiers know how to handle this.

How exactly is NATO's transformation being implemented? Is Admiral Giambastiani as Commander of the Allied Command Transformation (ATC) responsible for it and do you in your function as supreme military commander receive corresponding directions?

General James L. Jones:
Yes. We are currently in a very good situation. Admiral Giambastiani is responsible for the transformation. This refers to the reforms of the institutions such as the command structure. Anything that is not useful has to go. What is to inflated needs to become leaner. The we have the development of new operational concepts. An infantry battalion of the 21st century will replace an infantry regiment of the 20th century. We also need to deal with the application of the latest technologies so that these concepts may be implemented. And finally, we must be able to deploy our resources better and above all more swiftly. Many development programmes require so much time that the technology becomes obsolete before it is finally used. Admiral Giambastiani and I absolutely agree on this. Our cooperation could not be better. We have to define our requirements. He shows the way how we can implement them. He sets the standards, determines the training. We adopt these standards and then conduct our operations. However, the ATC observes us constantly in the process and reviews whether we have learned our lessons. It also proposes further adaptations and improvements if it deems them necessary. This relationship works extremely well.

Lessons learned from the war in Iraq

As far as lessons are concerned - which are the lessons that you have learned from the war in Iraq?

General James L. Jones:
Well, as far as we from NATO are concerned, one lesson certainly is that the use of force is always the last resort. We hope that NATO will not be dragged into a war and we are convinced that NATO is able to do a lot before a war breaks out. On the military level, it is completely clear that we need to enhance our lethality and our responsiveness. Thus logistics, too, will become more and more important. It has to be able to guarantee a quick deployment. Apart from that, reconnaissance and communications have to be improved. The troops have to know where they are, what they are doing and what is the threat they are exposed to. And finally, the concept of an embedded reporting system is very interesting. How can we inform the public about a conflict? All this will be integrated in our planning under the motto of transformation. The effectiveness of our operations can be improved by different concepts. I would like to direct your attention to the activities of the KFOR commander in Kosovo, the German Lieutenant General Kammerhoff, who is working very successfully on doing away with the traditional division of the conflict area into clearly divided zones of responsibility of the individual national peace troops. Such zones cause friction and enable for example criminal elements to time and again escape prosecution. Kammerhoff has done a lot for the creation of effective multinational forces that not only act more quickly and effective, but also require much less personnel. This saves money. However: This money has to be invested in the technological improvements of the combat troops. The smaller and more agile the units are, the more sophisticated the technology they require has to be.