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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

On challenges, international cooperation, and new defense concept

Knud BARTELS: “Ukraine’s contribution to the current operation is really changing their course”
13 September, 2012 - 00:00

The North Atlantic Alliance is interested in continuing the cooperation with Ukraine, in spite of the nonaligned status of the Ukrainian state, which it chose two years ago. Ukraine, on the one hand, continues to take part in NATO’s military operations. On the other hand, Kyiv’s high-ranking officials and the leadership of the Alliance exchange their experience on a regular basis. NATO is helping Ukraine to reform the defense and security sectors.

The visit of Chairman of NATO Military Committee Knud Bartels (Denmark) to Kyiv is proof of the Alliance’s interest to continue to enhance the cooperation with Ukraine. On his first visit to our country he has held a number of meetings with Ukraine’s high-ranking officials and delivered a lecture at the National Defense University. After the meeting with the students of the military school General Bartels gave an exclusive interview to The Day.

Sir, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski announced the initiative to create anti-missile defense system in Poland. How did NATO assess this step despite the fact that Obama cancelled creation of the anti-missile defense system in Europe?

“First of all, NATO has put into place an interim operation capability system, which is not turned against anybody but is devised to take care of the growing missile armament race. This is going to be fitted into the development of a ballistic missile air-defense system which is at its very beginning. And the Polish authorities’ decision to develop its own system or to be a part of a NATO system with its own assets is entirely for the Polish authorities to decide. I think what is important to highlight is that we must be sure that we do not unnecessarily duplicate, and therefore, use resources which could be used in another place.”

Is there any real progress in negotiations with Russia about anti-missile defense system in Europe and Russian threats to deploy Iskander rocket launchers in Kaliningrad region?

“As you know, we have recently conducted a computer exercise with Russian representatives with the purpose of further clarifying all the dimensions of ballistic missile defense. There is definitely great willingness from the NATO side to enter into negotiation about a common solution with Russia in one way or another. There are some extremely difficult challenges for the time being where a solution has not been found yet. From our perspective, we are open, NATO is open for looking at the possible solutions, keeping its ability to make its own decisions in case threats become substantial.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has repeatedly underlined the importance of the concept of Smart Defense, which was approved at the Chicago summit. Now after that passed three months. Can you say how this concept is being implemented in practice and whether the Smart Defense becomes smarter?

“It’s an issue which I have discussed quite extensively with the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kyiv, as well as with the Chief of the General Staff. We have a good concept as to how to develop Smart Defense. It stretches across common acquisitions, common training, common maintenance, common stocks of spare parts. It needs to integrate not only nations, or I should say, a number of nations and group them together. It needs to integrate the industries of those nations. And of course it raises a number of political issues such as the issue of availability, which needs to be discussed among the nations, who are looking for Smart Defense solutions to their challenges.

“From my perspective, it’s very important that we move further on with Smart Defense. It’s going to be a process. It’s not going to happen that from day one to day two, we suddenly have Smart Defense. This is going to be a process stretching over a long time, but I’m sure that we can get the best possible solutions. Smart Defense has been devised to mitigate the limited defense budgets and to get the maximum effect for the resources which are available, and to make sure that our forces are equipped to face the challenges they will be faced with in the upcoming decades.

“So we have the concept; we are getting a pretty good idea of what the practical and political challenges are and now we need to move on.

“I would remind you that we have already put in place quite a number of projects with either a lead nation (primarily a lead nation) or with a number of nations signing up to support that lead nation. And we are, in fact, beginning to move on, primarily with smaller projects at this stage which we can further develop. And as we build up confidence in the Concept, so we build up the understanding. By expanding the understanding of the Concept, the role of Smart Defense becomes more efficient.”

The summit in Chicago announced cut plans of the military structures and personnel. Could you tell how this idea is realizing into the practice?

“The NATO Command Structure is another issue we have discussed today. You should keep in mind that originally during the Cold War the NATO command structure, as far as I remember, was about 35,000 personnel. And today we are moving to a new command structure which will be a bit less than 9,000 personnel. Of course, we need to have flexibility. This reflects the completely changed environment. There are no threatening neighbors around the NATO Allies, NATO-members. It is important that we have the capacities and, in this case, a command structure which is able to cope with future threats, and that implies that it has to be deployable. It has to be flexible and should be able to adapt and its personnel should be trained to be able to face various challenges. I think, we are in the right path on that issue. And on top of that, we should keep in mind that we are also drawing on the force structures of the member nations which will also be plugged in to the NATO command structure and therefore give added flexibility and added possibility for training.”

During your visit to Lithuania, you praised this country because it increased defense spending. But do you see the desire of other countries to follow the example of Lithuania, which despite crisis gives money to defense sector?

“What I praised in Lithuania was that there was a political agreement to move ahead with an increase of the defense budget, following the very severe difficulties Lithuania had been facing recently due to the economic crisis which has hit numerous countries. And I think it’s very important that there are political decisions which make it possible to move towards the goal, valid throughout NATO, of 2 percent of the GDP being assigned to defense.

“To make sure that we get the maximum out of those resources made available by nations – that’s where the Smart Defense comes in and becomes a tool which makes it possible for nations in cooperation – either of few or of many – to get the maximum out of their resources.”

Sir, what are the main challenges and threats for NATO nowadays?

“As we say in Denmark, it is difficult to predict, particularly the future. I also like to highlight that I still haven’t met the person who on January 1, 2011 predicted the Arab Spring and the air campaign over Libya.

“So when we talk about future threats, we have to be able to adapt to developments which can take place at very short notice. Let me name some of them. Terrorism or terrorist operations (we are already conducting to a certain extent today some counter-terrorism operations), energy security, cyber space. These are three examples that I would mention as potential challenges we face. And of course, those challenges can be a combination of threats which mean that we can face extremely complex threats. And of course, proliferation of missiles etc.”

What vision does NATO have on Iran and Syria problems?

“Well, this is clearly within the field of the Secretary General and the Council to make decisions on this issue. I would have to refer you to what the Secretary General has been saying on the issue, particularly on Syria quite recently, and I have nothing to add to that. The same goes for Iran.”

At your first press conference as CMC, you said that “partners are very important for NATO.” I would like to hear your assessment about Ukraine as a NATO partner. How do you assess Ukraine as a NATO partner?

“(Smiling.) I’m very happy to talk about that. Because I would also like to use this opportunity to express my thanks to Ukraine for its contributions to the ongoing NATO operations. Particularly in ISAF (Afghanistan) and KFOR of course. We have also been talking about the upcoming contribution in the shape of a frigate which will be deploying to operation Ocean Shield from next year. I would like to make it quite clear, that we have a special relationship with Ukraine, both at the political and the military level and Ukrainian contributions to ongoing operations are important and make a difference.

“I have talked extensively about the military cooperation between Ukraine and NATO, both in the Ministry of Defense and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and extensively also with the Chief of the General Staff. It is definitely the intention of the Chief of General Staff and myself to exploit to the maximum those possibilities defined by the political leadership. Of course, all this is within the context of the position of the Ukrainian government as defined within the shape of a non-bloc policy which of course we fully respect. But we also have a wide field of military cooperation which we want to make sure is fully exploited.”

Is there any evolution in the position to expand NATO’s area of responsibility? Is Afghanistan the utmost geographical point?

“First of all there are no plans of expanding anything at this stage. We have the ongoing operations which I have described, but of course we don’t know what the world will bring tomorrow. There might be a new challenge which will have to be addressed first at the political level before it will be addressed at a military level in accordance with political guidance.”

Do you expect that Ukraine will strengthen it’s role in Afghanistan? What hope does NATO have on Ukrainian mission in Afghanistan?

“Ukraine is already contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan. And this contribution is highly appreciated, as I said. A further contribution by Ukraine, particularly post 2014 – will be highly appreciated by the Alliance, and we will be very happy to work with Ukraine in all those lines. But it has to be, first of all, a Ukrainian decision to do that. We stand ready to expand further cooperation in the future in ISAF.”

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his recent interview said that the cooperation between NATO and Ukraine has “significant potential.” In what areas do you see it?

“The basis of our cooperation is the framework of Ukrainian national strategic security doctrine which means that Ukraine defines itself as a non-bloc nation. Then it refers to the cooperation with NATO, which has been one of the important cooperations. I think what we need to work upon of course, pending Ukrainian decisions, is the maximum Ukrainian participation in ongoing operations. And secondly, to expand as much as we can on interoperability to make sure that Ukrainian forces and NATO forces are compatible and can work together. That stretches from common language which is English (I don’t speak my native language, I speak English because this is the language we use in NATO and on operations), procedures, standards of equipment, doctrine. There is a wide field of possibilities which we can expand upon. And as I said it is the ambition of the Chief of General Staff and myself to make sure that what is possible today has to be fully exploited.”

How does the non-bloc status which Ukraine has declared in 2010 influence the cooperation between NATO and Ukraine?

“That is a national Ukrainian decision which, of course, is fully understood and respected by NATO. It still opens up, as I said, a wide field of cooperation with Ukraine which we stand ready to exploit and to make the best use of as soon as possible.”

How do you assess reformation of Ukraine’s defense sector?

“I can only say on that issue that, first, the approval of an overall document describing the position which Ukraine wishes to have in the international community, backed up by the new military strategy, are in fact very good first steps in the transformation of Ukrainian forces. Of course, as with all transformation, it is a difficult process and takes time. It can also be painful for that matter. This, combined with your participation in exercises, participation in NRF (NATO Response Forces), and particularly participation in ongoing operations, I’m sure, provide further impetus to transforming Ukrainian armed forces and making them interoperable with NATO forces.”

You met Ukrainian politicians. Are they interested to cooperate with NATO?

“I’m terribly sorry but I can’t refer to the contents of the meetings. I can only say that I’ve been received extremely well and I have had very good conversations with both the Minister of Defense and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and of course with the Chief of General Staff, who is my host.”

Today you had a lecture in the Defense University. What impressions have Ukrainian students made on you?

“The Ukrainian students quite rightly challenged the person who gave the presentation, and that is very good!”

Nowadays high key positions in NATO are held by representatives from Denmark – you and Secretary General. Is this a coincidence or your country’s merit in NATO?

“No, it’s pure coincidence.”

By Ihor SAMOKYSH, The Day