“NATO in the 21st Century”. Remarks by Ambassador Klemm at the University of Bucharest

Good afternoon everyone. Rector Dumitru, Mr. President Constantinescu, Minister Curaj, colleagues from the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity this afternoon to speak about a very important topic, as was introduced by the rector: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the 21st Century. As you mentioned Mr. Rector, it is also a very timely topic; exactly one month from today, on July 8th, the Summit of the leaders of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Alliance will convene in Warsaw. One of our guests here this afternoon is the Ambassador from Poland who will be the host for that summit.

To give you a roadmap of my remarks this afternoon and given the importance of the topic, I have to apologize in advance, my prepared remarks are rather lengthy, but I do hope there is adequate time afterwards to hear your reaction, receive your comments and also entertain questions. But I will start with the basics and discuss some of the history of this great organization NATO, because I truly believe in the old axiom, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and I agree very much, Rector, with your summary of the focal points that are likely to consume discussion in Warsaw in a month. And then I would however like to discuss the current security dilemmas facing the Alliance and our strong deterrence efforts against those threats. Along the way, I will discuss the U.S. commitment to European security, specifically what the United States is doing today and in the future are in Romania.

So, let us start with the basics. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, first and foremost, is a defensive military alliance made up of 28, soon to be 29, states that are commonly pledged to defend each other according to the principle of collective defense. But what exactly is this? One specific kind of threat that is best met by collective defense is well-demonstrated by a concept many of us were familiar with in our youths: the school bully. Many of us recall in our school days that there was always one kid who was a little bigger, stronger, and meaner than the other kids. This guy would often bully the other kids to do what he wanted, be it to force you off his favorite seat, steal your lunch money, or simply to give you a beating for no reason. Individually, none of the other kids were strong enough or tough enough to take on the bully. However, together, they often were able to defend themselves, and — even better — to deter other bullies from their bad behavior.

The key, however, is that both the bully and the individual kids in the group believe that the entire group will come to the aid of any individual member should a bully attack. There must be confidence in the collective response. If the members of the group do not believe this, certain members may seek to make a deal directly with the bully, maybe even join his side. Conversely, if a bully sees any weakness in the group’s unity, he will exploit it to break up the group’s cohesion. Maybe he will start by picking on the most unpopular kid, or the weakest kid, or the strongest kid. He may start rumors about them or exploit unrelated disagreements among them. He will do just about anything he can to create doubt within the group. Does this sound familiar in the current context? The point is that collective defense is the shared responsibility of the group to stand together against a threat to any individual in the group.

Of course, NATO is more than just a military alliance. It is a community of states that seeks to defend and share our common values and principles. NATO’s preamble emphatically states that our collective defense Alliance is also a community of values, “founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” These principles, again enshrined in the Treaty itself, are just as important as the collective security aspect because they help answer the question of why this Alliance matters. These are the principles and practices we are defending, what is worth going to war over indeed, and how we get 28 states to agree on anything in a consensus based organization.

So how did NATO get started anyway? There was a precursor organization. It was called the Western European Union’s Defense Organization or WEUDO.The WEUDO was a defensive military alliance between Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingom, created by the Treaty of Brussels on March 17, 1948. It was not until a year later, on April 14, 1949 that the Washington Treaty or North Atlantic Treaty was signed. Originally, NATO had 12 members: the five members of the WEUDO, plus the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Portugal.

In 1952 Greece and Turkey joined, followed by West Germany in 1955. After Spain entered the alliance in 1982, it stayed strong at 16 members until the fall of the Berlin Wall, when NATO started offering membership to many countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary were the first to join in 1999, followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004, and then Albania and Croatia in 2009. Montenegro will become the 29th member when all Allies have ratified the accession Protocol signed just last month.

The Washington Treaty itself is a very clean, concise document made up of just fourteen short Articles. The heart of the treaty is Article 5, which states that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members, and that all countries must do something to assist the attacked member…which, of course, is the collective defense concept I spoke about earlier. Article 6 of the Treaty is an interesting, mostly historic aside. When the treaty was signed many of the signers had extensive colonies still throughout the world, and some members — the U.S. included — didn’t want to be pulled into a war just to keep these colonies intact. As a result, Article 6 was created, which put a basic caveat on Article 5. Article 6 noted Article 5 could only be invoked if an attack against a member occurred on its territories — that is the home country — or forces of a member country, which were in the North Atlantic, north of the Tropic of Cancer. So the Treaty truly is geographically limited.

There are several other interesting articles in the Washington Treaty, and I would like you all to read it, it is a short document, but I will only talk about one more, Article 3. This Article states that each member will continue to develop its own military to withstand an attack. This is important because it currently addresses two important concepts in the Alliance: burden sharing and resilience.

Two questions: one, what is NATO’s current role in the 21st Century and two, is NATO still important or relevant? I believe the answers are an emphatic yes to both questions. In fact, the Alliance probably or arguably is more important in the 21st century than it was in the last century, and that is because now we face multiple, complex threats. In the past we had to worry about the threat of conventional war; today we have to worry about this, plus hybrid and cyber threats, terrorism, threats originating out of rogue states, and much more. I would like to use some of our time to examine a few of these threats in detail.

The threat environment is more complex than during the Cold War or at any time in the recent past. First, there is Russia and Russia’s actions – in Ukraine and elsewhere – and the message conveyed by Moscow’s aggressive program of military expansion and military exercises, many conducted without the benefit of military transparency to reassure neighbors, all of which are worrying. Very simply, they are worrying. They have elicited from NATO members a firm and unambiguous response. Of course, Russia’s military buildup in the Black Sea region is of particular concern here in Romania. Russia’s military strategy for the region appears to include developing Anti-Access and Area Denial, or A2AD, capabilities to be able to deny others access to the Black Sea if needed. And according to a very good report by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), Russia seems interested in transforming its littoral Black Sea force into one that can project power into the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and possibly beyond. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shouigu, Russia will spend $2.4 billion on its Black Sea Fleet by 2020 (equivalent to almost 1.3 % of Romania’s GDP). Later on I will be speaking about how much Romania is contributing in terms of its GDP to its defense. Romania has a target to reach 2% of its GDP in military expenditures. Russia in the Black Sea alone and on only its Navy, it’s planning to spend a 1.3% equivalent to Romania’s GDP. So, just to put that in context, that is the enormity of Russian defense planning for the Black Sea. I shouldn’t say defense planning, Russian military planning.

Of course, its naval assets are just one component of increasing Russian military prowess in the Black Sea. Her air force is also strengthening its capabilities, and Russia has threated to put long range bombers in Crimea, like the ones that it has already deployed in Kaliningrad. Russia’s Defense Minister has also recently announced it will deploy three divisions to its western and southern borders.

All of this should sound a bit frightening, especially to us sitting here in Bucharest, this is a main reason why NATO’s approach to 21st century defense – which Heads of State and Government will discuss at the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw – must not focus only on Europe’s northeast, but also on threats to this South-Eastern Europe region and further South. The idea of 360 degree deterrence and defense is an essential component of NATO’s approach. The increased pace of U.S. and NATO military activity in this region is a response to Russia’s actions; the steps NATO is taking are designed to be transparent, public, and announced. Our message is clear: NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee is ironclad.

But the threats NATO faces from other directions are just as complex as the challenge of attempted dominance in the Black Sea region or the Eastern Mediterranean – and more numerous. NATO and the EU are breaking new ground in their cooperation to address the urgent human and security crisis posed by migrants fleeing violence in the Middle East and beyond. Members of NATO are working together to build greater security and resilience in Iraq. Further West, NATO Allies are reaching out to governments in the Sahel that are trying to withstand the onslaught of violent extremist groups.

Among the new and complex threats facing the Alliance is hybrid warfare, defined by defense analyst and author Frank Hoffman as: “sophisticated campaigns that combine low-level conventional and special operations; offensive cyber and space actions; and psychological operations that use social and traditional media to influence popular perception and international opinion.”

Russia’s use of hybrid warfare in Georgia in 2008 and in Crimea in 2014 underscores the complexity of this threat.

Cyber warfare is another 21st Century threat to the Alliance. Cyber warfare is unique, however, because unlike the other threats, cyber attacks do not necessarily need to come from a certain or a specific nation state. Cyber attacks can come from terrorists, organized crime elements, or even individual hackers or disgruntled employees. In fact, one of the problems with cyber attacks is the relative anonymity of the internet, so that determining who was responsible for an attack is often very difficult. While these attacks can be conducted by a limited number of people, the damage done can be devastating, especially to relatively modern states that have digitized so much of their critical infrastructure.

Moving forward, information operations or “propaganda warfare” is another type of threat. Of course, this is not a new threat to the Alliance. We saw it often during the Cold War, but we have seen a considerable uptick in its use over the past several years. Unfortunately, Romania has been the target recently of these types of attacks. Just last week President Putin again made threatening statements against Romania due to its participation in NATO’s ballistic missile defense. The Alliance has spent countless hours talking to senior and working level Russian officials to explain the system’s intent, how it works, what it is capable of, and what it is not. Yet, Russia continues with its false narrative about Deveselu.

So how do we defend ourselves against these types of information offensives? First, by not allowing their false claims to go unchallenged and to put out our own information. As a very senior U.S. official said to me the other day – “be first with the truth.” Now some will claim that we are at a disadvantage, since our opponents are not bound by the truth and are free to engage with our populations due to our open society and freedom of expression laws. At the same time, our adversaries very closely control information in their own societies. In fact, what some might perceive as a vulnerability is our greatest strength. It is our freedoms of the press and speech that will help us win the information war. On this key point, however, it depends on the press, doing its job fully, and not taking the easy route and printing press releases or wire stories verbatim, especially from sources that do not always tell the full story. I encourage the press to dig deep, seek the truth, question everything, and demand accountability from all actors. Only then can the public determine for itself, based on facts and data, what indeed is the truth.

Please allow me to spend a few extra minutes talking about other important threats facing the Alliance. These are threats that were a primary concern to us in the 1990s and the early part of this century, and continue to be very worrying: terrorism, failed and weak states, and rogue states.

Terrorism, and for the most part I am referring to terrorist groups that falsely claim to represent Islam as a religious mantle to justify their crimes, will remain a challenge to NATO and the world for some time to come. Some will claim that terrorism should not be given the same attention in the Alliance to more conventional military threats. I disagree and, in fact, it is interesting to note that the only time Article 5 has been invoked in the Alliance’s history was following the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States. This of course led to the establishment of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Recently, two other Allies, France and Belgium, experienced deadly and despicable acts of terror on their own soil, as did the UK and Spain in the past decade. A significant source of terrorism has come from the so-called Islamic State. While the Islamic States has taken over the top dog slot on the terrorism hierarchy it is important to remember that Al Qaeda, and its affiliates, especially in the Arabian Peninsula and the Magreb continue to be very active and are a very real threat to all of us.

Failed and weak states are also a risk to the Alliance, not just because they are often places of harbor and training for terrorists and criminal elements, but because failed states often lead to other thorny international problems. Weak states can also have security effects on NATO countries. Europe is currently facing the consequences of a Syria weakened by years of civil war, which has led to indescribable death and human suffering, the rise of a new brand of terrorist organization, bent on actually holding and administering territory in Syria, and the consequence of a massive refugee flows, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II.

Finally, NATO still faces threats from so-called “rogue states,” which have isolated themselves from the international community by their inability to abide by international norms. These states may seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in order to blackmail the international community into easing their isolation or to enact revenge against those it believes have caused its suffering.

Now let me discuss what NATO is doing to address this variety of threats that we face. First, on the conventional threats to the East, ever since Russia began its aggression in eastern Ukraine, its occupation of Crimea, and other activities to undermine the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NATO has taken steps to reassure our Eastern Allies that our Article 5 commitment is indeed iron-clad. At the Wales Summit we created a Readiness Action Plan or RAP, to help us rapidly deploy forces to anywhere in the Alliance, should they be needed. RAP created new institutions, like NATO Force Integration Units, and the Multinational Division Headquarters-South East, both of which are present here in Romania. The Wales Summit also created the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, a spearhead force of around 5,000 troops that can deploy at short notice. This task force makes up a fraction of the NATO Response Force, a 30,000 quick reaction force that has been around since the early years of the new millennium.

NATO has also asked its members to become more resilient to hybrid, information, and cyber warfare. For cyber defense this resiliency must extend beyond the defense realm, and include critical infrastructure, government systems, and economic institutions. In order to assist with these efforts, NATO has established Centers of Excellence in the Baltics – one for Cyber Warfare and another for Strategic Communications. Some Allies can also offer assistance to others who are struggling. Romania, in fact, which has rather good cyber capabilities, can play a key role in helping other Allies raise their cyber defenses. And in fact, Romania is currently doing this by leading NATO’s Cyber Trust Fund for a NATO Partner, Ukraine.

NATO also has a robust public diplomacy section at his headquarters, which offers journalists many opportunities to learn issues for themselves. In fact, both NATO and the U.S. Mission to NATO brought journalists to Deveselu for the ribbon-cutting ceremony just last month. NATO has also taken measures to counter Russian propaganda by making our side of the story available in the Russian language. This not only helps us communicate with the people of the Russian Federation, but it also helps us in states like the Republic of Moldova, where a large segment of the population speaks only Russian and until now has only been hearing the Russian side of the story.

In order to counter terrorism and ensure adequate stability in states under threat from terrorism, we remain committed to NATO’s ongoing non-combat train, advise, and assist mission in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are making progress, but they continue to need our support. Allies like Romania, which remains the third largest Allied troop contributor to Resolute Support Mission apart from the U.S., understand what is at stake and continue to stay the course, despite the dangers involved in such work, as we tragically witnessed just in May with the death of two Romanian serviceman.

Related to Syria, NATO to date has decided against military intervention, but it is not standing idle. NATO monitors very closely the situation on the ground in Syria, in the air, and on the seas around Syria. It established a Standing Maritime Group to help patrol the Aegean Sea to interdict human trafficking. Several of its member states, of course, are also making individual contributions to fighting the Islamic States in both Syria and Iraq. Again, including Romania.

NATO also has a Center of Excellence for Defense against Terrorism in Ankara. Turkey’s leadership on this topic, which it unfortunately knows all too well terrorism as is, as we saw yesterday again, has been extremely helpful for all Allies. There are also things each of us can do to help build resiliency and reduce the risk of terrorism, including taking actions to lower the risk of radicalization in our country, helping marginalized, at-risk communities integrate and find opportunities, and sharing information amongst Allies.

NATO also offers protection against threats from rogue states, and in Bucharest you only need to drive a couple hundred kilometers for proof of this. I am referring, of course, to the ballistic missile defense site at Deveselu, which is now operational. At Deveselu, the U.S. government has spent close to $800 million to install an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system and its supporting infrastructure. This system expands coverage of European territory against ballistic missiles threats from outside the Euro Atlantic area. After the Aegis Ashore site in Poland is constructed NATO’s missile defense capability will be able to defend all of NATO Europe from the threat of ballistic missiles originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Let us now consider what needs to be done to ensure that NATO remains relevant and successful. In Europe, some have argued that Europe does not need to worry about its own defense because the United States spends more money on security than most of NATO combined and will always be there to protect Europe. This is not sound thinking.

At the end of the cold war NATO expenditures were roughly 60-40. The U.S. paid 60% and the rest of the Alliance paid the other 40%. By 2013 however, this ratio had changed to 70-30; 70% paid by the US, 30% by the rest of NATO. That year, in 2013, only three NATO Allies were spending 2% of GDP on defense, which has been the NATO guideline for defense expenditure for quite some time. Some U.S. politicians, and indeed American citizens, have begun to wonder why America should pay for European security, when the Europeans seem to refuse to do it themselves.

Things have started to turn around. At the NATO Summit in Wales, all Allies agreed to move toward spending 2% of GDP on defense within 10 years. While currently only five states are meeting this target, at least 16 of the remaining 23 Allies increased their defense spending since then. Romania was one raising its defense investment from 1.49% in 2015 to 1.75% in 2016, and is on track to reach 2% by next year. This commitment to paying its fair share and bearing the burden with its other allies is a testimony to Romania’s commitment to this Alliance.

Now let me tell you why the U.S. needs NATO. The U.S. spends several times more on defense than our nearest competitors. We have also built incredible military capabilities; in some military platforms we are several generations ahead of our adversaries. Yet, in the real world, our challenges and threats are the same as your threats, and we strongly believe the United States is are stronger when we face these threats together, combining our knowledge and talents and resources.

Further, as I noted before, NATO is not just a military Alliance, it is a community of shared values and principles. When we face a security challenge that threatens international peace and security, our fundamental freedoms, and our values, the U.S. will turn to NATO.

Let me now talk briefly about the U.S. commitment to NATO and European Security. Several years ago you might have heard the U.S. was “pulling out of Europe” to focus on the Pacific, and, while it was true we did make a decision to put additional resources on Asia, the extent of our withdrawal from Europe was greatly exaggerated. The truth is, we never left, and ever since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, we have increased our presence significantly.

Shortly after the crisis began in Ukraine, the U.S. military announced the beginning of Operation Atlantic Resolve. This was supported by a large financial commitment by the U.S. Congress called the European Reassurance Initiative or ERI. Together, the goal was to send more U.S. troops to the eastern flank on a persistent, rotational basis; to build critical military infrastructure to support our increased presence; and to build the military capabilities of our Allies. President Obama has recently recommended a four-fold increase of this initiative.

The U.S. seeks to help the Romanian military build its capabilities to be a more interoperable and capable Ally. We do this primarily through two vehicles: security assistance and military-to-military engagements. In 2015, we invested over $50 million in our security assistance programs. During the same time, we held over 130 different “engagements,” or exercises, or joint training here in Romania. We deployed European Activity Sets – major pieces of equipment – to help our forces in this training, and we have kept several hundred rotating U.S. Marines, the Black Sea Rotational Force, in Romania to help Romania and other Allies and NATO Partner countries develop military capabilities.

Currently, all Allies are preparing for the very important Summit next month in Warsaw. At this summit we hope to demonstrate significant progress on our Wales commitments, including our defense spending commitments. NATO will outline its vision of 21st Century deterrence and defense, encompassing threats not only from the East, but from the entire spectrum of danger that we face today. I am confident that NATO will lay out transparently the steps it plans to continue to provide reassurance to all of our most exposed allies. We will continue our efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan through the Resolute Support Mission and encouraging donors to renew their financial support for Afghanistan’s security forces. We also hope to declare initial operating capability of the Deveselu site and transfer command and control of it to NATO. Finally, we are demonstrating NATO’s door remains open by inviting Montenegro to join, as we continue our march towards a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. Most importantly, we will demonstrate unity.

I would like to conclude with a quote from our President. President Obama said it in 2009, the following, something that remains relevant today. “Our nations share more than a commitment to our common security – we share a set of common democratic values. That is why the bond that links us together cannot be broken, and why NATO is a unique alliance in the history of the world. Now it falls to us to work together to face down the perils of this moment in history, while seizing its promise.”

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your attention.