Challenges of Counter-Proliferation for the New NATO
Lieutenant General Malcolm R. O'Neill

At last year's NATO Workshop, my session partner was former U.S. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. His recent death was a great loss to all of us who work in the defense establishment of the United States and to others as well. He was a special advocate of actions by NATO and the United States in the area of counter-proliferation. Partly for this reason, I will emphasize the particular challenge of counter-proliferation to the new NATO, while also examining other challenges to NATO's future including responding to new and different kinds of threats, accommodating the economic realities of today's world, and ensuring that the Alliance participates as the Euro-Atlantic security architecture evolves.


One of NATO's greatest challenges will be responding to the new proliferation threat. Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent has mentioned the activities that NATO is undertaking to respond to this threat. Subsequent to the 1994 Summit, NATO established two committees to implement an approach for dealing with proliferation. First, the work of a senior politico-military group on proliferation, the SGP, led to the adoption in Istanbul last spring of an Alliance policy on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Also, a senior defense group on proliferation, the DGP, which was charged with a three-phase program, completed the first phase of assessing the risks posed by proliferation. The DGP has moved on to the development of defense policy guidance for NATO, grappling with the operational implication of living in a world where weapons of mass destruction can be employed against us, and what this means to the Alliance. The group will later work on the third phase of their program: assessing the capabilities NATO needs to respond to proliferation. This work is an important part of NATO's continuing adaptation to the new security environment.

In the first phase of its program, the DGP concluded that preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular missile-delivery systems for both ballistic and cruise missiles, remained NATO's top counter-proliferation priority. The group also concluded that such efforts are not likely to stop missile proliferation. Accordingly, it was determined that NATO should examine a range of military capabilities to discourage proliferation, including missile defense, to further protect forces, territories, and populations.

NATO's policy on counter-proliferation has two dimensions: political and military. Basically, the political dimension consists of dissuasion, through security assurances, guarantees, and support of our Allies; denial, through measures such as export controls; disarmament, through treaties and agreements; and, finally, diplomatic pressure, through sanctions and isolation of the aggressor.

The military dimension is the area in which I concentrate military counter-proliferation measures, including counter-terrorism, deterrence, defusion, elimination of production facilities that might be used by an adversary, as well as active defense and passive defense; we also ignore offensive counter-force as a counter-proliferation strategy.

Let me show how this translates directly in the world of missile defense. In the political schema, Ballistic-Missile Defense (BMD) can support efforts to discourage the spread of ballistic missiles: if we have missile defenses, missiles will certainly be a less likely weapon choice for a potential adversary. Similarly, active defense of a friendly country could lower the risks of not proliferating in response to an opponent's proliferation. In the arms-control context, by devaluing offensive systems, BMD can actually encourage and facilitate regional or global efforts to negotiate limitations on ballistic missiles.

On the military side, the protection of military forces, key facilities, and population centers by missile defenses would permit military operations to be conducted and would strengthen the solidarity of the Alliance or coalitions in the face of weapons of mass destruction and their potential use. Furthermore, by reducing the potential damage an adversary could inflict on NATO forces and interests, ballistic-missile defense would bolster the credibility of deterrence and reduce the possibility that NATO would decide not to take offensive action. This is an important point, because NATO's central strategic concept is deterrence. Ballistic-missile defense is necessary to avoid any situation in which NATO determines not to employ its forces because it is vulnerable to missile attack.

Active defense could also be used to defuse a crisis or potential conflict; demonstrating resolve has less impact on crisis stability than threatening the use of an offensive system. Active defense would also provide a less provocative alternative to preemptive strikes against enemy ballistic missiles, and perhaps provide more decision space in which to de-escalate a crisis.


Lower defense budgets are a fact of life on both sides of the Atlantic. We therefore need to take advantage of past investments in systems such as Patriot, some of our ships, some of the systems that have been built in Europe, and the SA-12 in Russia, for example.

Research and technology, now maturing in many Alliance nations, are ready to be tapped and could rapidly and economically improve our counter-proliferation posture. Exploitation of these resources, however, will be difficult without a better understanding of each nation's abilities to contribute and how the resources will be provided.

Of course, new systems will also have to be developed, so in this world of declining economic resources we will have to have armaments cooperation. Our former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Deutch, has called this an "economic necessity," at least from the U.S. standpoint.

NATO is doing its part and has just established a group for the development of a Medium Extended Air Defense System, which will have air defense, cruise-missile defense, and ballistic-missile defense capabilities. Right now the program includes France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. It underscores the common desire of those four nations to pursue cooperative programs that will develop and produce affordable tactical weapons systems. In my opinion, it is a model program for the post-Cold War scenario.

Since I announced the formation of the Extended Air Defense and Theater Missile Defense Ad Hoc Working Group last year, this group has completed its preliminary work and suggested cooperation in a large number of areas, including 15 different technical areas. Such cooperation makes economic sense and helps strengthen our transatlantic balance.


The final challenge that we see for the new NATO is ensuring that NATO continues to participate in the evolving security architecture for Europe. In areas like peacekeeping and out of area operations, global use of ballistic missiles could have serious implications for NATO's support of any U.N. or other peacekeeping operation. As ballistic missiles spread, it becomes increasingly likely that NATO forces may be forced to operate in areas where ballistic-missile threats are present. If we do not have protection against these threats, it is less likely that we will become involved.

The Combined Joint Task Force will require Theater Missile Defense (TMD) protection. What that means to me as a developer is that we have to talk about integrated and interoperable theater missile-defense forces and concepts of operations. Fortunately, NATO military and political authorities are addressing these questions right now, while material developers under the auspices of the Conference of NATO Armament Directors are exploring system alternatives. In fact, a NATO military operational requirement for theater-missile defense has been drafted and submitted to NATO through the Military Committee for consideration by the nations. When the review is complete, the proposal will go forward to the North Atlantic Council.

Through the Partnership for Peace program, NATO has an opportunity to build closer relationships with the East in areas such as material acquisition. Secretary General Claes has noted that there is more to Partnership for Peace than military exercises and activities. What we see in the program is an opportunity to bind Allies and Partners in a close pattern of activity covering a wide range of security-related matters.

Cooperative research and development, leading potentially to joint acquisition of systems, is another way to build and strengthen Partners, both militarily and industrially. In areas such as counter-proliferation, technical challenges require the highest level of sophistication, and promise a payoff across a broad spectrum of military and commercial applications. To this end, the U.S. missile defense office, which is my office, has conducted discussions that will lead to bilateral cooperative efforts with several Central European countries. One that comes to mind is the Czech Republic, with which we will be working very actively to develop sensor technologies for use by both of our Ministries of Defense. Such efforts can contribute toward developing a closer Eastern European relationship with Partners and provide an important opportunity to enhance Alliance relations with the former Warsaw Pact.

Ballistic-missile defense could conceivably build better relations with an important PFP member, namely, Russia. The traditional mutual nuclear deterrence relationship with the Soviet Union has been based upon maintaining mutual strategic vulnerability to the threat of nuclear retaliation. Perpetuating this vulnerability can only exacerbate security concerns in a world with expanded threats. By moving away from mutually assured destruction toward mutually assured safety, as recently mentioned by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, we hold the potential for developing a more cooperative and stable partnership with Russia.

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