Ex-NATO General (ret.) Klaus Naumann: "Let's start thinking about a new Grand Strategy for Peace and Security in the 21st Century!"
Dieter Farwick: Sir, how do you describe the present status of the European Union with regard to security affairs?
Klaus Naumann: Turning to Europe and the EU I sadly have to say that Europe is, politically, a partner in disarray. Today’s Europe is deeply divided on its role in the future. Some believe it should be a global player and should strive to be on an equal footing with the U.S., although Europe is not doing too much to acquire matching capabilities. Others are much more modest and see the Europe of the EU as a regional player. Some believe Europe should, in the very long term, become something like the United States of Europe whereas most Europeans favour the idea of a “Europe of the fatherlands”, i.e. a somewhat loose federation of national states. Europe does not have a clear and common vision. I assume that Europe will for quite some time continue to look inward and that it will be far away from being the global player it should be.
The Europe of the EU has achieved some remarkable progress in developing European military capabilities, but compared to what is needed it is too little and too slow. Nevertheless, it is a train that has left the station. Europe must now concentrate on acquiring the capabilities which will matter tomorrow and it must avoid duplication of headquarters. Europe’s military is not running short of “Chiefs”, it is running short of “Indians”; it does not invest adequately in deployable C4ISR and effective engagement capabilities, and many countries spend far too much of their inadequate defence budgets on personnel and running costs. Europe depended on the US during the Cold War; I am afraid it will depend even more on the US in the years to come unless its political leaders are willing to really modernise the military capabilities of most European countries.
Dieter Farwick: Obviously, Europe needs the US. Why does the US need Europe?
Klaus Naumann: The US will need allies to see crises and conflicts through. In the years to come, the US will have neither the political will nor the capabilities to sustain the many commitments it has taken on so far let alone to take on unavoidable new ones.
Dieter Farwick: What is the significance of demography for the US, China, India, Russia and Europe in the future?
Klaus Naumann: Demographic developments are important for all countries as they influence economic and social structures, but looking at the five countries mentioned the differences are indeed dramatic.
In the U.S., India, and China the population will grow, whereas Europe and Russia will see a dramatic decline. In the case of Russia some researchers believe that the population will shrink to below 100 million in the year 2050 which could cause very serious problems for the economy and for the government. In China the population will get older and older since the “one child policy” destroys, in contrast to India, the proper balance of generations and it will probably create serious social problems. In the U.S. the population will grow and will most probably remain as young as it is today, i.e. the average American will be 36 to 37 years old. This is the average age of the Germans today as well, but by the year 2050 the average age will most probably be 50 and the number of Germans, today more than 80 million, will have fallen to less than 70 million. The German figures reflect the general tendency in the EU which could well mean that even an EU which might include Turkey by the year 2050 will probably have fewer inhabitants than the US. Taking into account the changes in the economic structure which will happen in an increasingly globalised world, Europe will have to struggle with incredible social and economic problems as neither its schemes of social welfare nor its economic structures can be maintained. Europe will therefore increasingly look inward, as Russia probably will, and possibly China too.
Dieter Farwick: What is the impact of energy security for the US, China, India, Russia and Europe?
Klaus Naumann: Energy security should be discussed by looking at three different categories: A nation’s energy mix, access to fuel and the security of energy plants and energy/ fuel transportation.
Energy security will be one of the issues which will dominate national and international politics.
Nations will first have to take decisions on their proper energy mix, and the more dependent they are on the import of fossil fuels such as gas and oil, the more they will have to think about nuclear energy as renewable energies will not for the foreseeable future compensate for the gap a renunciation of nuclear energy will generate.
Secondly, nations will also increasingly compete for secure and guaranteed access to suppliers of gas and oil in particular. China, India, and Europe will be competitors in the gas and oil markets of the Middle East, Russia, and Africa; exporters such as Russia might well feel the temptation to use gas and oil exports as instruments in political competitions for influence. The less dependent a country or an organisation such as the EU is, the more political flexibility they will have. This principle will heavily influence the American approach to energy security and it will lead to major changes in the US as far as the production and consumption of gas and oil are concerned. The US will seek to take advantage of its technological superiority and it will find new technologies to reduce its consumption of gas and oil. The rapid progress the US achieved in coal liquefaction is one example; new ways of extracting oil slate may be another. I therefore assume that the US will probably be the least dependent of all major industrialised countries.
Concerning the security of plants and ways and means of transportation, a lot has been done but much remains to be done. There are many ways to disrupt a nation’s energy supply. I could therefore imagine that energy plants or grids might well be the next targets of international terrorists should they eventually believe that the time has come to launch a truly disruptive attack.
Taking all categories into account, Europe appears to be most vulnerable, the U.S. the least vulnerable, while China’s and India’s vulnerability rests primarily with the countries’ dependence on imports and free trade. Russia is by no means as invulnerable as those who are obviously playing with gas and oil as a weapon seem to believe. Russia has to modernise its energy supply system and it needs, to this end, an incredible amount of money and knowledge. Russia has a security problem as long as the unrest in its Caucasian underbelly lingers. Therefore Russia depends on free trade, cooperation and partnership as well. The country is well advised to play its energy card very cautiously and with the utmost care.
Dieter Farwick: Why are climate change and environmental issues relevant to security policy?
Klaus Naumann: Environmental issues could lead to major changes in the living conditions of nations, as could global warming for example.
Take the example of potable water and reflect on what it would mean if the present number of rivers globally for which more than one nation claims ownership – 460 – were to increase, or changes in such property claims occur. Water will probably be one of the scarcest resources as populations in arid regions grow.
Or take the example that global warming may produce new sea lines of communication or will make natural resources exploitable, even though territorial disputes over continental shelves may linger unresolved.
In a nutshell, environmental issues could lead to crises and armed conflicts and they could also enforce changes as far as equipment, training, and organisation of armed forces are concerned.
Dieter Farwick: I remember you saying that in warfare there is a "Change of paradigm from destruction to paralyzing" – e.g. through cyber warfare. Could you elaborate on this new thinking?
Klaus Naumann: I assume that technology will continue to progress with remarkable speed. Its focus in the military field will for quite some time remain on what is called C4ISR plus effective engagement, i.e. the military exploitation of information superiority in conjunction with the forever increasing pinpoint accuracy of standoff weapons. In parallel, the preparedness of post-modern Western societies to use force to achieve political successes will shrink as the vulnerability of these societies to the use of force grows. Consequently, one might see that the future instruments of use in crises, conflicts, and wars will no longer primarily be military instruments. They might be cuts in energy supply, access denial to critical raw materials, the offensive use of abundant monetary reserves and the manipulation of access to knowledge pools such as the software production centres, followed by the offensive use of cyber attack and steps which aim at the paralysation of an opponent’s ability to control its own country and its instruments of power. I would call such a strategy the strategy of strategic paralysation since it aims no longer at the destruction of an enemy as the instrument which enforces surrender. Steps such as the recent Chinese shooting down of a satellite make a lot of sense if one thinks of such a strategy.
Dieter Farwick: What are the main lessons that the US has learned from the military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Klaus Naumann: This question has to be answered by an American.
I do not belong to those who arrogantly criticize the Americans but have no better solutions other than vague and often rather hollow phrases such as “This problem should be solved politically.”
I hope our American allies learned from Iraq and Afghanistan that relying primarily on military means simply no longer suffices. I further hope they learned that a clearly defined political objective is needed before the decision to intervene is taken, and that this objective should be the basis for the exit strategy. But I also hope the European allies learned that the erroneous faith in relying primarily on soft power as the best answer to today’s conflicts is nothing but a rather foolish illusion.
I could imagine that a majority in the U.S. is now of the opinion that the U.S. needs allies if it wishes to prevail. I hope that the same majority understands that allied support will not be granted if the allies are not involved in decision making. Should it also be accepted that democracy has to grow from within a nation and that all actions taken in pursuing the “responsibility to protect” have to be both legitimate and legal, then we, the Western World, might be on the right track to restore lost credibility.
But despite the deficiencies in American politics and the justified criticism of the present administration’s actions, two facts must never be forgotten: first, the U.S. is and remains the only power which really matters and none of the problems of our world can be solved today or in the foreseeable future without the U.S. being involved. Second, the U.S. acts whereas most other players, notably most of the American allies, do not do much more than talk and criticize the U.S. for its actions.
Dieter Farwick: Is there an even more global role for NATO to play and if so, why? Is there sufficient mutual solidarity within NATO – e.g. in Afghanistan?
Klaus Naumann: NATO is still the organisation which is presumably best placed and equipped to act in serious crises, although its tool box is limited to military means which no longer suffice.
NATO is the organisation which ties, in a mutually legally binding way, the US to Europe and vice versa. It is thus the only organisation which could act where necessary. Given alarming international instability, in which most future crises seem to be the result of global dangers, NATO will be more necessary than ever. NATO will have to continue acting where necessary in order to keep risks for its members at a distance, but it must never become a global policeman.
In my view, today’s NATO is not as healthy as its communiqués make the world believe.
NATO is capable of conducting the ongoing and authorised PSO, but its ability to be the anchor of stability for Europe and beyond is questionable since there is lack of unity. The political will to see NATO as the option of choice in future crises does not exist; nor does NATO possess the necessary capabilities.
In addition, NATO is entangled in the Afghan quagmire and its hope for a quick success there is rather bleak. No doubt, success in Afghanistan requires much more than military force but to believe in a division of labour in which a few nations fight in one part of the country and the others concentrate on stabilisation elsewhere will not lead to success. The allies have first to agree on a common strategy for peace and stability for Afghanistan and they have then to act in solidarity. I have not heard of any convincing proposal, nor do I see a reasonable alternative to a strategy which seeks first to eliminate insurgency, then holds and immediately stabilises so that the people see quick and tangible improvements. To pursue such a common strategy requires all allies to contribute to the best of their abilities. Then it will be possible to win peace and stability. Nobody should ever forget that alliances such as NATO have as their very foundation the principle of shared risks and burdens. If anyone allows doubts that all allies stick to this principle then the cohesion of the alliance will be eroded and the future of the alliance is put at risk. It is therefore high time for NATO to review the situation in Afghanistan, to agree on a common way ahead, and to act accordingly by sharing risks and burdens collectively.
Dieter Farwick: What should be the policy to bring Iran to serious talks on military denuclearization?
Klaus Naumann: In answering this question, one should start with a sober assessment of the situation. The point of departure has to be that Iran is a signatory of the NPT, that it is one of the few UN member states which denies another member state, Israel, the right to exist, that it pursues a ballistic missile program which cannot be justified by the requirements of a strategic defence of Iran, and that the country appears to support terrorist organisations.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have eliminated opponents such as Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, which previously prevented Iran from becoming the dominant regional player. Thereafter the Lebanon war demonstrated that success through asymmetric warfare against a dominant regional power such as Israel is possible. Thus, the influence and the ambitions of Iran grew. The country might now see itself as being on its way to being the dominant power in the Greater Middle East; some might even believe that the time has come for the Shia to pay for the perceived injustice of the Battle of Kerbela. Iran might no longer be willing to make any concessions in the nuclear dispute, as it obviously believes that nuclear weapons could pave its way to regional dominance. In addition, some of the Iranian leaders may calculate that the Russian and Chinese reluctance in authorising truly painful sanctions will win them the time they may need to acquire nuclear devices. Their miscalculation could well be an underestimation of the preparedness of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey to go nuclear should these countries see clear evidence of an Iranian bomb. Thus the Greater Middle East might be in danger of becoming a region that sees the use of nuclear weapons. As such a risk cannot be in the interest of Iran, its avoidance could offer the key to a solution which might go beyond the offers on the table and include security guarantees in exchange for a verifiable Iranian renunciation of a nuclear weapons program. The Iranian leaders, as well as their international supporters, should understand that they are running the risk of triggering a global nuclear arms race which at the end of the day will hurt them more than the advantages it might offer.
Dieter Farwick: What should the West do more of to find convincing responses to the challenges ahead?
Klaus Naumann: The many instabilities, the new dangers, and the risks raise many questions; political, legal and military ones. No answers have been found so far. It is, in my view, indispensable therefore to start thinking about a new strategy; a Grand Strategy for Peace and Security in the 21st Century. Solutions can only be found if one applies all instruments of international politics to defuse tomorrow’s crises. But if the world neither disposes of functioning security organisations, nor develops a strategy to cope with the new risks, the first step has to be to tell our nations’ citizens where we stand and to persuade them to develop the will and the resolve to resist – to seek solutions that prevent crises, conflicts, and wars. The will to act and to protect our way of life without imposing our order on anyone is key. Should courageous and visionary statesmen succeed in generating such a will, the strategy will soon be agreed and the means to implement it will be procured.