Foredrag i Oslo Militære Samfund
mandag 16. mars 2009
“Reaching Out and Standing Up:
Moving the Trans-Atlantic Alliance Forward”
Remarks to the Oslo Military Society by
U.S. Ambassador Benson K. Whitney
On June 28th, 1962, young Siegfried Noffke was moments away from completing a tunnel under the watchtowers and barbed wire of the Berlin Wall. The previous August, after visiting relatives in West Berlin, Noffke found his crossing point closed and could only wave to his wife and young daughter on the eastern side. He decided the only chance to reunite his family was to smuggle them to freedom in the west. On that early June morning, Noffke broke through the last of the 200-yard tunnel into a cellar of an East Berlin house. Instead of finding his family, Noffke was met by the Stasi and killed in a hail of gunfire, the first to die for freedom at the Berlin Wall.
For the next 28 years the Berlin Wall stood as the defining symbol of the Cold War, the global struggle between democracy and communism. And we won – the trans-Atlantic alliance won. On a glorious night in November 1989, exactly twenty years ago, Berliners streamed across the border where Siegfried Noffke died and shattered the wall physically and ideologically with hammers, picks, and the joy of freedom. Do you remember that day?
Yes we won. And it was no accident, no lucky break. We prevailed because the trans-Atlantic alliance led the world. We led by staying true to our values. We led by keeping alliance ties strong. We led by making the hard decisions and taking the tough actions needed to win.
This year we celebrate NATO’s 60th anniversary and rightly recognize the achievements of the trans-Atlantic alliance. And what a record of almost inconceivable success – a Europe prosperous, whole and free, total victory in the Cold War, the creation of multilateral institutions that brings global order and progress — the UN, the EU, the WTO, OSCE, IMF, World Bank. And, of course, NATO itself, the greatest defensive political and military alliance of all time. It is no exaggeration to say that this alliance has been the most powerful global force for peace, development, and progress in all history.
Now, I do not want to be a “festbrems.” But as we raise our glasses, I hope our celebration of alliance success in the 20th century is matched by a hard look at its future in the 21st.
We are far enough into this century to know the trans- Atlantic alliance is operating in a very different world. In this world, shrunken by modern communication and transport, the modern challenges of weapons proliferation, terrorism, environment, disease, and poverty leap borders, oceans, and continents. No nation can hide. All are threatened. These global problems demand global solutions, with simultaneous coordinated action by many nations.
Yet any such global solutions are complicated by fundamental changes in the geo-political scene. One unmistakable trend is the rise of emerging powers – China, India, Iran, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and others – each building some combination of significant economic, political, and military strength. These nations have powerful sovereign interests. Some do not share our beliefs and institutions. All are understandably protective of their right to development and prosperity. Many are less willing to compromise their own progress for the sake of some larger good.
The clear lines of the Cold War are now giving way to this more fragmented geo-political scene. As this more complex framework confronts these global problems, the chances for conflict increase and the barriers to cooperation mount. A Rubik’s cube of diplomatic and political variables emerges. Already multilateral institutions strain to operate successfully as national interests clash with post-Cold War dreams of global order. Witness China’s veto of UN action in Darfur, Russia’s rejection of OSCE monitors in Georgia, the failed WTO negotiations.
This new world seems to call for strong leadership, the kind our trans-Atlantic alliance provided in the 20th century. But nothing is guaranteed in the future. History is littered with alliances that came and went with the tides of political, military, economic, and social change. John F. Kennedy once wrote, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past are certain to miss the future.”
So let’s look to the future. Let’s ask the tough questions – will the trans-Atlantic alliance have the same central place in the new century as it did in the last? Will the ties between Europe and the U.S. remain the cornerstone of our global approaches?
Some might laugh these questions off. But, for example, the rising importance of the East to Europe and the U.S. both in economic and security terms, cannot – and will not — be ignored on either side of the Atlantic. Of course, new relations need not undermine older ones. But an alliance is a choice and to have real relevance, it must be genuinely valued by its members. The trans-Atlantic relationship can remain a central pillar of the geo-political structure – but only if the United States, Norway, and Europe ensure the alliance actually achieves our essential policy goals. To meet that test depends on us. What do we need to do?
First we must commit to our values. Without the will to defend the basic values upon which the alliance was founded, it cannot assume any mantle of leadership. This is an alliance of conviction, not just an alliance of interest. If we do not really believe in a world defined by freedom, democracy, rule of law, human rights, and free enterprise, then we have lost the heart of the alliance, lost the will to act. The alliance must speak out for those values without apology and actively defend them, even when it might be easier to do nothing.
Even if, inspired by our values, we have the will to lead, the trans-Atlantic alliance must have the strength to lead. To me, this means vastly different but equally important work must be done on both sides of the Atlantic.
In a 2008 speech before the Atlantic Council, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a simple but powerful recommendation of the basic changes Europe must make and the U.S must make to keep the alliance capable of meeting the demands of the 21st century. He said, “America has to reach out. Europe needs to stand up.” I totally agree.
Our European allies have bitterly complained that the United States under President Bush did not “reach out” enough, either to its friends or its adversaries. Many believed the U.S. was not listening or consulting enough. Norway and others called for more dialogue in our foreign policy. Well, much has now changed. President Obama has made “reaching out” a central pillar of his administration.
In Munich, Vice-President Biden stated it simply and clearly – “We’ll engage. We’ll listen. We’ll consult.” For Secretary of State Clinton the watchword for U.S. policy is not “hard” or “soft” power” but “smart power,” meaning the U.S. will use all its tools – diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military to meet its foreign policy goals.
This has not been just rhetoric. In two short months the President has really put this approach to work. We have explicitly sought the input of allies, including Norway, on key alliance issues like Afghanistan. Ambassador Holbrooke is leading a regional diplomatic push to listen to Afghanistan’s neighbors and gain their contributions to stability.
Secretary Clinton has reached out to reset the relationship with Russia and expand our dialogue. In the Middle East, the U.S. is already fully engaged seeking peace under the full-time leadership of George Mitchell and the Secretary who just visited the region.
President Obama eloquently stated in his inaugural address that the U.S. will extend a hand to those who will unclench their fist. So senior diplomats are visiting Syria for the first time in four years. There is interest in appropriate contact with Iran to persuade that nation not to proceed down its destructive path.
The President has promised that the Guantanamo prison will close. He pledged the U.S. will lead in achieving a new agreement on climate change in Copenhagen next year. The Obama administration is putting its words of outreach into action.
But, of course, there remains much more to do. The U.S. must add to its diplomatic arsenal. Both Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Clinton have called for increasing U.S. diplomatic capacity by adding personnel and funding. The U.S. must continue to improve its active engagement with foreign publics on important policy issues. The U.S. should increase investment in people-to-people contacts through educational exchange and visitor programs. Secretary Clinton has emphasized the importance of increased official development aid to nations that need our help.
These steps at “reaching out” by the U.S. should bolster the strength of the alliance. But as Tony Blair noted, “reaching out” by the U.S. must be matched with a “standing up” by our European allies. Vice-President Biden stated in Munich that the U.S. is totally committed to work in partnership but “America will ask more of its partners.” Another voice, well known to you all, Kai Eide, from his vantage point in Afghanistan, has also called on Europe to assume more responsibility there.
“Standing up” means Europe carrying more of the burdens and risks of leadership. It means building the capacity to have a meaningful impact on global affairs. As much as Norway and Europe want the U.S. to reach out to them, the U.S. wants allies willing and truly able to solve difficult global challenges.
And so, many questions come to mind — what more is Norway and the rest of Europe going to do in Afghanistan to create a secure and sustainable nation? Keeping that country from returning to a terrorist refuge for Al Queada protects all members of the alliance. But is the military burden in Afghanistan equally shared and have caveats to troop deployment crippled the overall security effort? What is the action plan by our European partners to help stabilize the critical nation of Pakistan?
Exactly what carrots and sticks will Europe use to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? Is the lure of trade and business undermining sanctions and diplomacy? If effective pressure on Iran is stalled in the Security Council by China or Russia, should not the trans-Atlantic partners do what they can outside the UN framework?
After yet another experience of gas cut offs in Europe, what real action is going to be taken to diversify energy supplies? What can Europe do to get a resurgent and more aggressive Russia to play a more responsible role in world affairs? Is Norway willing to use its strong ties to influence Russia in a more positive direction?
On the issue of climate, is it enough to just say if the U.S. leads, that China and India will follow? After all, when else has that been true? What concrete steps are Norway and Europe taking to persuade these nations that they must be a key part of emissions reductions to make any real difference on global temperature?
Isn’t it time for Norway and other opponents of the Iraq War to put behind them the beginning of the conflict and start supporting the Iraqi people and their democratically elected government? What is Norway and Europe actually going to do to help close down Guantanamo Bay?
While many do not like to talk about it, another critical area where Europe could greatly strengthen alliance capability and impact is military force. While deeply committed to diplomacy and development, the U.S. still recognizes that the use of force remains an essential tool of peace keeping and peace making. There is simply no evidence that we have reached a post conflict world where force is irrelevant. One need only look to Iran’s aggressive pursuit of conventional arms and WMD, active support of terrorists, and destructive interference in neighbors’ affairs for proof that the world remains a dangerous place.
The new U.S. administration has said we will ask our allies to rethink some of their approaches – including their willingness to use military force. Force should never be our first choice, but a choice it must be. To keep the alliance relevant, all the members must have the political will to use it.
Beyond will, there is the issue of capacity. While the U.S. spends about 4% of GDP on defense, only five nations spend the 2% goal set by NATO alliance. Norway ranks 20th in NATO spending at 1.3% of GDP, dropping from 1.9% just five years ago. Norway is making real and important contributions to NATO in Afghanistan but has stated it has no more troops to give. This may be true, but proves the very problem — capacity.
I know it is an uncomfortable subject for some, but if the wealthiest countries in Europe with real security needs don’t spend enough on military strength, who will? To be truly relevant to the 21st century, the trans-Atlantic alliance cannot fall into functional pacifism. Instead, as the Vice-President stated in Munich, we need to “support the strengthening of European defense.”
No doubt the challenges of the 21st century are complex and daunting. Yet by sticking to our values, by reaching out to build ties, by standing up to carry the burdens together, this great trans-Atlantic alliance can remain the cornerstone of global stability and progress.
But again, there is nothing inevitable about it. We have before us a choice. And our decision will shape the world and affect not just nations, but the lives of many real individual people. Here is an example.
Every day in the Logar Province of Afghanistan, Lida Ahmadyr walks to school by the exact spot her sister was murdered by terrorists who believed girls should not get an education. Lida dreams of being a doctor. She says “I am afraid…but…with [an] education I can save my country.”
Norway, Europe, and the United States led the world to break down the Berlin Wall and grant freedom for prisoners of Communism, like the surviving wife and daughter of Siegfried Noffke. Is that same alliance still truly ready in this 21st century to lead the world to ensure freedom for Lida Ahmadyr to become a doctor, to save her country?
Let us respect NATO’s anniversary by recognizing that we can be ready for the 21st century. That we should be. I suspect many in this very room share my commitment to this great alliance. On the special anniversary, I hope we honor the alliance’s glorious past by working hard to fulfill its future in a changing world. By reaching out and standing up the U.S. and Europe will meet this future.
Let me end on a personal note. In just a few weeks, my sojourn in Norway as my nation’s ambassador will come to an end. Other than my responsibility as father and husband, this position will always be the greatest honor of my life. I love my country deeply and I love and admire this country. To be a mediator between these wonderful nations – interpreting America to Norwegians and interpreting Norway to Americans – has been a challenge and a joy. My greatest hope is that I have helped make the relationship just a little stronger than it was before I came.
Thank you to the Oslo Military Society. Over the past three years I have come to admire many aspects of Norwegian character – your commitment to family, your love of the environment and “friluftsliv,” and your strong sense of fairness. I also greatly appreciate your keen interest in the broader world around you. It is a good lesson for my fellow Americans. The Oslo Military Society represents the finest example of Norway’s genuine interest in public policy. I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to present my views to this prestigious institution and its members.
Foredrag i Oslo Militære Samfund
mandag 27. november 2006
Ambassador Benson K. Whitney
USAs ambassadør til Norge
US AND NORWAY — LEADING A 21st CENTURY NATO?
Det er en ære for meg å få tale til dere i kveld. Jeg takker Oslo Militære Samfunn for invitasjonen, som jeg setter stor pris på. Imidlertid minner listen over fremragende personer, som har snakket i denne salen om sikkerhetspolitikk de seneste måneder, meg om det norske ordspråket ”å hoppe etter Wirkola”. Jeg vil gjøre mitt beste for å følge deres gode eksempler. Nå må jeg gå over til engelsk, før jeg har brukt opp de norske ordene jeg kan.
(English translation)I am much honored to be speaking to you tonight. I thank the Military Society for the invitation and I appreciate this opportunity very much. However the list of distinguished people who have spoken in this hall on security policy just in the last few months reminds me of the Norwegian caution of the danger “å hoppe etter Wirkola.” I will do my best to uphold their fine examples. Now I will switch over to English before I run out of Norwegian words I know.
People sometimes ask me what I have learned in my first year about the relationship between Norway and the United States. Two related points immediately come to mind. The first is that our nations have enjoyed a truly unique and special relationship for the past 60 years. The second is that we cannot merely assume that the US and Norway will maintain that special relationship in the 21st Century. To do so will require more and harder work. I believe strongly that it is important to our mutual interests and the world’s interest that we make that investment. And that means we must carefully attend to the true pillars of our relationship.
One essential pillar has been our common devotion to NATO and that is what I want to talk about tonight. Would it be too presumptuous to call our meeting tonight the unofficial opening of the Riga Summit? Of course, the official summit begins tomorrow with the gathering of the 26 NATO heads of state in Riga, and even as I speak, President Bush is in Tallinn, conferring with our mutual friends and allies. But for us here, I can think of no better way to kick off the summit than to take a closer look at the U.S.-Norwegian relationship to NATO. In doing so, I admit to taking my prerogative as speaker to alter the subject of my speech somewhat. The revised title of my remarks is “US and Norway—Leading a 21st Century NATO?”
Norway’s History in NATO
I was gratified to hear Foreign Minister Store, in his excellent speech in this hall, confirm that Norway is just as committed as the United States to continuing our special partnership.
He went on to say that our continued cooperation is “a partnership that draws on the experience of the past but that is driven by the challenges of the future.” He is so very right, most especially with respect to our common relations to NATO.
The “experience of the past” brings to mind the recent commemorations of Jens Christian Hauge’s remarkable life. Mr. Hauge’s contribution to bringing Norway into NATO was an important turning point in Norway’s history. Norway’s rejection of neutrality and its choice to tie its security to NATO and the U.S. was not assured, as might be assumed today. Strong voices argued that Norway should play a non-aligned role and rely on the UN for guarantees of security. No doubt many of you in this room engaged in that debate. But in the end, Norway took a hard look at the realities of the world and took the necessary steps to ensure its security. Of course, the US too made a deep commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance from the very start.
Any honest assessment of history shows clearly that both nations greatly benefited from their NATO commitment. Our close security cooperation, both within our NATO alliance and bilaterally, was crucial for the defense of Norway and Europe during the Cold War. U.S. pre-positioned equipment here in Norway was just one demonstrable sign of how quickly we could respond to a threat to the alliance. This equipment is just as relevant today as during the Cold War—it is now a demonstrable sign of how quickly we can respond to threats worldwide. Norway has historically been one of the United State’s closest and most dependable NATO allies and one of the most vigorous advocates of the alliance’s value.
NATO has always worked to guarantee the security and independence of its member states. Of course, the methods used to ensure security have varied greatly over the years and continue to evolve. One of the remarkable things about NATO is that it has adjusted to meet each challenge, becoming a stronger institution each time. Today Norway and the U.S. have an important opportunity to provide essential leadership – to lead NATO through a critical transition period necessary to enable the alliance to address the challenges of the 21st century.
A 21st Century NATO
Minister Store’s speech was also right on target that the US – Norway relationship is, and should be, “driven by the challenges of the future.” This is especially true with regards to NATO and defense policy. The very point of the Riga Summit is to continue NATO’s efforts to prepare – “to transform” — for these 21st century challenges. Let me emphasize that the goal of NATO remains exactly the same — to guarantee the security and independence of its member states. NATO cannot remain viable unless its collective members continued to find it in their individual security interest to belong.
The trickier part is that the nature of national security has profoundly changed. Of course, the threat of national armies clashing in Europe has greatly diminished. But globalization in all its forms has so shrunk the world that genuine threats come not from our neighbors, but from across the globe. We face not a common enemy but common threats. And these threats may not come from Europe, but they most certainly threaten Europe.
Global terrorism and proliferating weapons of mass destruction top the list, but in an ever shrinking world the threats of HIV/AIDS, poverty, energy security and what might in the past have been just regional conflicts, all pose meaningful dangers. The fact that any and all of these threats will usually arise from failed states far from our shores makes the dangers far more complex to contend with. The alliance that helped bring down the Berlin Wall, reunite a divided Europe, and bring peace to the war-torn Balkans, is today on the frontlines of a struggle every bit as important: defeating a resurgent Taliban and supporting the development of a free, democratic, and economically viable Afghanistan. The history of the conflict in Afghanistan provides a clear example of the existence, the dangers, and the nature, of these new global threats.
The very nature of these 21st century threats demand very different tools. Global threats demand global – and thus collective — solutions. These challenges have diplomatic, military and non-governmental aspects and require the broadest scope of international cooperation. These threats demand longer and deeper commitments, which require more patience and discipline. They require projecting power and resources far further from home than ever before. Afghanistan again provides a real example of the new tools we will need in the 21st century. And that is precisely what will be discussed tomorrow at Riga.
These are profound challenges. Successfully addressing them will require many complex changes in our national and multilateral institutions. The US believes that a transformed NATO should remain the foundation of our collective security arrangements. NATO is the only institution among transatlantic democracies which has the military capacity to be effective in addressing global challenges. We strongly agree with Defense Minister Stroem-Erichsen who has emphasized Norway’s firm belief in a transformed NATO.
The Demands of Change and Leadership
But we must recognize that understanding 21st century threats and believing in a transformed NATO is really the easy part. Making it happen requires change. Change is hard –very hard, and history shows that change does not happen without leaders willing to drive that change through. My central point here tonight is that successfully developing a “new” NATO will demand leadership and that Norway and the US should be partners in providing it.
Why us? For one, the tradition of a strong NATO has always been important in our nations. We closely share the set of core values that form the heart of this alliance of democracies – freedom, justice, and human rights. We hold these values not merely as a matter of principle but as an agenda for action. These values have driven both nations to actively project our influence far from home to try to change the world for the better. We are also nations with the financial resources to implement the necessary changes in our institutions to make transformation a reality. Both the US and Norway share the same vision of what a 21st century NATO should look like. Not least, we should lead because we have led before. We understand the need for that leadership and have the skills and influence necessary to the task.
Let’s look at what some of the things the US and Norway could do to provide this much needed leadership.
Creating the will
My first point is that NATO cannot succeed in the 21st century without a strong will for NATO’s mission among the people of the NATO countries. Without popular support, change is flat out impossible. Beyond change itself, the likely protracted nature of future actions means that NATO countries need to have the will to stick with its commitments for longer periods. Abraham Lincoln rightly said “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” Thus, political leaders of all the NATO partners must actively and aggressively explain to their citizens about these new threats, why NATO is needed, and what changes need to occur to make NATO work.
This may be harder in Europe, including Norway, because of NATO’s primary role as the Cold War deterrent. The end of the Cold War naturally invites the average person to wonder what NATO’s purpose is today. I was disturbed to read the results of a recent poll which showed a five percent drop in Norwegians who support NATO membership. I hear some voices in Norway suggesting the nation should look to primarily the EU or even the United Nations for its security needs. Other voices question the need for a robust security posture at all, suggesting Norway needs to have just good enough security– whatever that means — and no more.
It is certainly not my business to engage in Norway’s debate about what the nation’s defense policy should be. That is for Norwegians. But as a representative of a NATO partner whose security is directly tied to Norway, I can fairly hope that the government, political leaders and leading intellectuals take the time and energy to really explain to the Norwegian people the new threats and why a commitment to a NATO really matters to Norway after the Cold War. The same goes for US political leadership which must continually confront isolationism and explain why we should devote so much effort and commitment across the ocean.
In particular, I believe the Norwegian people need to better appreciate the reality of international terrorism — to see how this threat poses deep and direct dangers to all the free countries of the world, including Norway, and to see that NATO has a crucial role in fighting it. Norway is not exempt from terrorism, as we have seen in this very year. Popular reluctance to admit threats is natural, but it is up to leaders in the US and Norway to overcome it.
One of the clearest expressions of this need for can be seen in countries’ participation in NATO operations. Of course, this is where the rubber really hits the road. Both Norway and the US have strong records in NATO operations, from northern Afghanistan to the Balkans to Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, and possibly soon to Darfur. We have stood with, and in fact often led, our NATO partners. The decision by Norway to withdraw from the NATO mission in Iraq and, for now, not to send Special Operations Forces to southern Afghanistan are exceptions to this leadership. But, I hope, they are limited exceptions. To demonstrate political will for other alliance partners means showing a complete commitment to these important NATO operations.
It is only by building the will for a transformed NATO at home and engaging in operations abroad that Norway and the US can truly be models for other alliance partners.
Bridging the cultural divide on force
NATO also needs our leadership in addressing what I believe is a genuine cultural divide between the US and Europe in how to solve problems, specifically how to balance between diplomacy and dialogue on the one hand, and the use of harder force like sanctions, isolation, and military action on the other. Please excuse these gross generalizations – but speaking in broad terms, Europeans tend to believe deeply in the process of diplomacy and dialogue as a goal and are more reluctant to think in terms of power. Americans want to solve problems peacefully through negotiation and dialogue, but do not see the process of dialogue itself as a goal and therefore are less reluctant to use power when necessary.
This difference can be characterized as impatience and patience, action and dithering, or operating out of positions of strength or weakness, depending on your perspective. There are quite legitimate reasons for the American and European approach to problems and both can, and do, play an important role in solving international conflicts.
Let us not debate which is right or wrong, but let us not ignore this difference. It is also important to note that this divide is fundamentally a genuine part of the European and American outlooks. As such, it will not change with political shifts on either side of the Atlantic.
So, how do we merge our two approaches to problem solving? Here, I think Norway can help play a constructive bridging role to harmonize these differences. This is because, although Norway has always prized dialogue, it also, as demonstrated in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, has understood there is a time and place for exercising power.
It is essential that we work on this issue. The U.S. cannot solve the world’s problems alone. Europe has significant power but, as Foreign Minister Store correctly stated, the United States must be a part of the solution for the world’s efforts to be successful. We must work effectively together if we hope to have success in facing the new global security challenges.
Ultimately, this is a core reason why NATO remains important for the 21st Century. NATO is where transatlantic democracies gather, consult and forge strategic consensus. And, when necessary, NATO is where they take decisions on joint action. NATO is the one organization which binds transatlantic democracies together. And it should be Norway and the US, in constructive engagement, who help reconcile some of the natural differences in outlook between the allies to creative a more effective and coherent NATO.
Leading in Transformation
Turning now to the subject of transformation, leadership for the new NATO also demands that both the US and Norway stand as strong forces for military transformation. Today’s forces need to be deployable, inter-operable, and supportable. Why? Simply put, to support our foreign policy. This is as Clausewitzian as it gets. Indeed Norway and the U.S. share almost exactly same vision for NATO. Norway has been an excellent example of a NATO ally which has seriously addressed the difficult transition from a static territorial defense to an expeditionary military able to respond to global needs and the complexity of modern conflict.
I wish more Norwegians knew about the great work being done in Stavanger at the NATO Joint Warfare Center. I visited the center the very last day that General Richards completed the training of his staff in preparation for leading the NATO troops in Afghanistan. They were learning to deal with the multi-faceted nature of modern military operations, including coordinating armed forces from multiple countries with multiple roles, working with the media, implementing development projects, and communicating with local populations. This is the future and Norway is helping make it happen in Stavanger.
Another place the US and Norway can lead the way at NATO is the purposeful coordination of development assistance and security. Again, Afghanistan is the model where the generals have clearly said that to win they must fight the Taliban, but equally importantly we must build roads and schools. Both Norway and the US have worked internally to ensure their development assistance supports their nations foreign and security policy. Again, this leadership experience should be proactively shared with other NATO partners.
Transformation has many obstacles but one of the biggest is cost. Change requires investment. In this regard far too many NATO countries are falling short of the NATO benchmark to spend 2% of gross national product for defense. Some NATO countries are as low as a little over 1%. European allies collectively have economies comparable to the US, yet spend only half as much on defense. Norway stands in 14th place among the partners, in the lower half, at about 1.6%. This is a place, I hope, where Norway, the wealthiest country per capita among NATO members, could assert greater leadership and increase its spending to the 2% standard, thereby providing a strong positive example. This would also give Norway the potential to provide more support to NATO operations and show leadership in that way as well.
Of course, spending on security can be hard to prioritize in a national budget. It can be difficult for the public to understand why serious investments are necessary to ensure future security. It is up to political leaders to recognize and explain this. In the U.S., for example, we had a strong debate over the “peace dividend.” In the immediate days following the Cold War, people expected the “peace dividend” would be permanent. Armed forces were cut, and intelligence agencies greatly diminished as we celebrated our new-found threat-free world. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case and it took the tragic events of 9/11 to fully end this debate in the U.S. I hope and pray that other nations don’t have to experience such tragedies to realize the very real dangers of today’s world.
One might ask what business is it of the US what another country spends on defense. The answer is that the failure to meet defense spending needs makes it harder for countries to contribute effectively to NATO operations. That undermines the effectiveness of the partnership. In turn, an ineffective NATO will have no future.
Purchasing modern technology and capability is essential. Airlift capacity is one clear example where investment is not being made in a very critical area. NATO cannot be expeditionary if its troops cannot be moved. The international consortium to acquire C 17s is a hopeful example of how countries can finance needed upgrades to their capability. We welcome Norway’s positive indications on joining the consortium and believe it indicates Norway’s desire to prepare for future needs.
Forward leaning Norway
In summary, let me say that the future I want to see is Norway and the United States working shoulder to shoulder to build a vigorous NATO ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This means leading, not following. It means not doing just enough, but all we can. It means both countries must be the most forward leaning with respect to NATO transformation and supporting the costs to make it happen. It means building a NATO with global reach and perspective, and supporting NATO operations with all the capacity that we have to share. Norway and the US have historically been leaders in NATO, holding NATO as the cornerstone of our defense policies. Now is the time to renew our commitment to leading in NATO. Leadership at NATO is right for our nations, for our relationship, and right for the world.