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New Challenges in Northern Europe EURO-ATLANTIC DEFENSE TODAY

Petr Pavel hershöfðingi.
Petr Pavel hershöfðingi.


Petr Pavel, hershöfðingi, formaður hermálanefndar NATO, flutti erindi á hadegisfundi Varðbergs  í Norræna húsinu mánudaginn 21. nóvember. Að loknu erindinu svaraði hershöfðinginn fyrirspurnum. Fundurinn var sendur út á netinu og má sjá hann hér: https://www.facebook.com/vardberg/?fref=ts

Erindið er í heild hér fyrir neðan:

Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.  It’s a pleasure to have the chance to speak with the members of Icelandic Atlantic Treaty Association today.  And, I must thank you for the opportunity to both join you and for the hospitality of your Director of Defense.


The chance to escape from my office in Brussels to learn about your nation and your concerns is extremely valuable.  As well, the chance to explore one of NATO’s founding members is special treat for someone who was so very proud to join this Alliance in 1999.


I was asked today to speak about “New Challenges in Northern Europe”.  My hope for today is to demonstrate the totality of NATO’s current operations and future strategy.  While there are challenges in Northern Europe, and some of these challenges have certainly changed in scope or context in the recent years, we must address all contemporary challenges simultaneously.


So, today, I hope to give you a brief overview of the key issues facing the Alliance and then to leave plenty of time for your questions.  I would like to start with a short summary of the key components of what I like to call the “Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Area” in the modern era.


I’m absolutely certain that I need not provide you a detailed description of the threats facing the Euro-Atlantic region today, but it is crucial to remind you that we see NATO faced with an arc of instability or crises that surrounds much of Europe.  This is an arc that is affecting every nation in the Alliance as well as many of our partners.


With this arc of instability, we are facing the most challenging security environment since the end of the Cold War.


From the High North to the North African coast, NATO is either bordering countries where Russia is striving to strengthen its influence or those, which are fighting radical Islamist movements.


Therefore, for totality’s sake, NATO has taken a 360 degree approach to meeting these challenges.  NATO has no priority and does not see any challenge as more significant than another.  But, for simplicity we often describe them as two major threat streams- the Northeast and the South – or as State and Non State actors.


Today, the North and Eastern security challenges are dominated by Russia.  In this domain, we are seeing a significant change to the disposition of strategic assets, such as nuclear-capable missile forces, anti-access/area denial (or A2AD) forces, surface ship deployments, cruise missile launches, and even a renewed focus on the manipulation of international opinion.  But, we can recognize that this is still a traditional state-on-state competition.


To be frank, since we all grew up studying this type of warfare, this Northern and Eastern threat is much easier for military and international strategists to understand.  After all, as a founding nation of this great Alliance, you know that NATO was created for just such a scenario.


However, in the recent years, it has become clear that Russia is not solely focused on regional influence, but is attempting to restore her status as a world power.  To accomplish this, President Putin needs to re-write the established, rules-based international security order that has been the foundation of global prosperity.


Russia has adopted a new strategy – and that strategy includes using the military instrument as the lead, rather than supporting element of national power.


This destabilizing pattern of military activities first began in Transnistria, then in Georgia, and subsequently in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  And these activities are also occurring in the Atlantic and the Arctic.  With the changing environment in the arctic, we now see the Russian quest for the control of strategic energy resources and the desire to control new sea lines of communication in your neighbourhood.


In fact, on one of my flights a few days ago I read a couple of articles about the Russian re-establishment of 5 bases in the Arctic, more than a dozen airfields, and several deepwater ports.

These evolving challenges, and the most recent operations in Syria demonstrate Russia’s global interests, as well as her Armed Forces’ expeditionary and strike capabilities to protect and promote these interests.


Today’s Russia, like all of our nations, is using the full range of national instruments to promote their interests.  And they are exploiting the lack of coordinated and effective international action and our incorrect assessments of their strategic aims.


Russia cannot compete against NATO or even the EU, therefore President Putin attempts to engineer division in order to create disunity.


During our last two NATO Summits, we addressed this threat.  In Wales, we focused on assuring our Eastern Allies by providing Rapid Reinforcement to our Collective Defense via the Readiness Action Plan, or RAP, with its spearhead, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, or VJTF.  This mobile and lethal force has air, sea, land, and Special Forces components, and is prepared to react to any threat, from any direction.


In Warsaw, we took this assurance one step further towards deterrence with a clear statement of the Alliance’s unity and solidarity- which is the most critical component of credible deterrence.  This statement was reinforced by the creation of an enhanced Forward Presence of allied ground forces in Poland and in the Baltic nations.


Now, we are working on the final phase of this deterrent posture.  Our unity and Forward Presence will be coupled with Rapid Reinforcement and credible Follow-on Forces.  To provide true deterrence the Alliance will need heavy armor units, air power, and sea platforms that are ready to deploy in times of crisis.


However, we must also remember, whether in Europe, the High North, or in other regions surrounding our Alliance, that President Putin is maximizing Russia’s competitive advantages.  Russia’s rapid decision-making cycle, false narratives, and exploitation of every gap in our own StratCom are evolutionary.  President Putin’s use of asymmetric or hybrid techniques with plausible deniability of any responsibility allows him to operate below the threshold of international rebuke or even Article V.


All of this, coupled with the lack of any viable domestic political opposition makes the Kremlin much more responsive on the global stage.


We should consider that the days of vertical escalation, matching battalion for battalion, are over.  Any true conflict with Russia will not solely occur in Eastern Europe.  If there is renewed strife, we can expect horizontal escalation.  That is to say, NATO will be dealing with the Russian Federation globally, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Outer Space to Cyberspace.


However, this is not a binary problem.  Our relationship with Russia is not as one-dimensional as it might seem at first. It is complex and multifaceted.


A number of common interests exist between the Alliance, and bilaterally between Allies and Russia.


We must accept that Russia can be a competitor, adversary, peer or partner – and probably all four – at the same time.  And we are naive if we attempt to deny that the President Putin’s recent actions have fundamentally changed our perspective.  But, we would also be dangerously naïve if we do not understand that managing this complex relationship will be crucial for years to come.


Thus, in Warsaw, our leaders chose to enhance our deterrence while simultaneously opening dialogue to increase openness and transparency in a bid to reduce the risk of strategic miscalculation.


The very nature of your northern neighbourhood, and the competition for access, resources, and the control of sea lines of communication makes this area rife for a potential mishap.  Our ability to communicate, de-escalate, and coordinate will be crucial.


I would now like to shift from the enduring and important defense issue that is Russia and look south from Europe toward the no less important, yet urgent defense issue emanating from Africa and the Middle East.


The discussion of NATO’s Southern Flank fundamentally changed one year ago when Paris was struck by terrorists.  And the discussion continues following the attacks in Brussels, Nice and elsewhere…And each of these attacks occurred with the backdrop of an ongoing migrant and refugee crisis.


However, the current focus on recent attacks in Europe or war in Syria should not overshadow that there is a chain of crises – such as the historical Sunni/Shia confrontation, Palestinian/Israeli strife, or Kurdish Autonomy issues.  And these issues are compounded by an ever-growing number of weak and failed states.


These weak and failed states to NATO’s south are unable to provide security or even basic services to their populations, often resulting in unrest leading to significant security upheavals in their neighbourhoods, as well as ours.


Another long-term aspect that we should consider is the demography of the region- – – population growth together with economic decline will surely lead to a growing number of disillusioned and angry young men (and women) in the region for decades.


Just as Russia is a common security challenge for NATO, so, too are the symptoms stemming from the varying degree of lawlessness and instability in these weak and failed states to our south.  They are unable to provide the living conditions necessary to persuade their citizens to remain and live their lives.


While your nation may feel geographically removed from some of these challenges, our Alliance must face these issues just as we face any Northern one.


In Warsaw, the Alliance began to address the notion that the southern challenge is rooted in harder-to-address social, economic, and political factors.   The NATO Projecting Stability Initiative is a step towards tackling these issues in partner nations.


But, our aim of Projecting Stability southwards is just one focus area.  The challenges we see in the Middle East are also present in Africa.  The issues of your region, such as control of sea lines of communication and the desire to claim strategic energy resources, are also present in Asia.  NATO must keep an eye northwards, while also monitoring Asia, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans, just to name a few areas of concentration.


But, in this global security environment, it is more important than ever to work together.  We, at NATO, recognize that success in addressing these challenges will depend on the wider nation-building efforts of the international community.


Recently, the European Union has, rightfully so, worked to develop their own ideas, mechanisms, and capabilities to facilitate their ability to support humanitarian crisis operations.


Additional European capabilities are a welcome advancement that benefits us all.  Ensuring capacity while avoiding duplication will be an important goal for everyone concerned with Euro-Atlantic security.


Now, I would like to share some reflections on NATO’s Future.


Certainly, today’s NATO is fundamentally different from the NATO of the 1949 Washington Treaty.


We’ve come a long way since countering the Warsaw Pact via Collective Defence.  But, what is the future NATO?


While it may at first appear we are solely focused on the European periphery, I believe that NATO has a growing global perspective as many of our challenges remain in the complex intergovernmental, interagency, and expeditionary domains.  NATO will remain committed to a 360 degree approach, prepared to meet any challenge from any foe.


This requires our constant vigilance and understanding of the contemporary situation and evolving concerns throughout the globe.  For example, the lessons that an ally or partner may learn in the South China Sea, may have real impacts on our ability to address similar experiences in your region.


Today’s and tomorrow’s challenges are a complicated blend of cyber, hybrid, conventional, terrorist, asymmetric, and irregular challenges.  This complexity demands that our leaders react quickly and our forces are ready and responsive.  These forces can be NATO assets, EU assets, UN assets, or any combination or coalition of those willing to defend not just Europe, but the values and the international, liberal norms we all share and seek to uphold.


The modern world, and the new challenges have re-shaped our view of our own security.  Whether the enduring, important Eastern challenge or the urgent Southern challenge, this modern world also demonstrates our inability to address these issues unilaterally.


These problems will not have a purely military solution.  Just as no one nation could have maintained peace in Europe during the Cold War, no one nation can stop terrorism, or project stability to nations in need of security assistance or democratic reform.


I believe that the Future NATO will have to be the era of broad cooperation.  Our strength comes not solely from our military might.  Our strength comes from our network of allies, partners, and like-minded friends.



Tailored cooperation with bilateral and multilateral organizations is the future of NATO.


Only through existing relationships, expanding networks, and cooperation with multilateral security organizations can we guarantee our collective peace and prosperity.


Iceland has been a vital contributor to this type of projecting stability.  Whether your support to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces or your contributions to the NATO trust fund to help Ukraine modernize its command and control capabilities, your nation understands cooperation.  In fact, your cooperation with our partners such as Finland and Sweden is an example that other allies can follow.


You and the other members of the Arctic Council have worked to build a relationship based on cooperation, rather than confrontation.  You ability to cooperate with the U.S. and others without upsetting what remains of the security balance here in the North is remarkable.  I believe, that security in the modern age can only come through even greater cooperation.  We need to cooperate to be more effective and thus more secure.


In conclusion, I would like to thank you for your time this morning. I would also like to thank you for your commitment to peace and security for nearly 70 years with NATO.


Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your time.  May I take your questions?

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