Madeleine Albright On Redefining NATO
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
After 9/11, for the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization applied Article V: An attack on one is an attack on all. Thousands of NATO troops serve in Afghanistan to this day, and ships from several NATO navies patrol the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia.
Looking ahead to the next decade, the alliance of 28 nations assembled a panel of experts, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and they've just issued a list of recommendations on the future of NATO, and the issues include Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, piracy, terrorism, missile defense and nuclear weapons.
In just a moment, Secretary Albright joins us. Later in the hour, we'll speak with Kenny Leon, the director of the Broadway revival of August Wilson's "Fences," which stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
But first, if you have questions about the future of NATO, give us a call. We'd especially like to hear from those of you who served in Afghanistan or off the coast of Somalia on the role of American's allies.
Our phone number is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website, at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins us here in Studio 3A. It's nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.
Ms. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT (Former Secretary of State): Great to be with you, Neal, thanks so much.
CONAN: And as usual with NATO documents, there's a lot of fine language about shared responsibilities and shared risks. The U.S. provides the vast majority of the troops in Afghanistan, does most of the actual fighting and, as a consequence, most of the dying.
At the same time, it's hard to convince NATO allies to provide troops for training missions, and sometimes when they do provide troops, they limit their exposure to combat. Is this fair?
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Not really. The truth is that obviously the United States has the major activity here, but I was going over some numbers this morning, and in terms of deaths, which is not a great way to really go about this, the United States is actually the fifth in terms of numbers.
Denmark, Estonia and other smaller countries are losing people also. And as a result of a call made by Secretary Clinton and President Obama and the secretary-general of NATO, Rasmussen, there have been great additions of NATO forces to the whole effort in Afghanistan.
You pointed out something truly important that I think is worth talking about. The central aspect of the NATO treaty is this Article V, which is an attack on one is an attack on all. And the article itself had never been officially activated until 9/11.
And then, for whatever reasons that are hard to understand, the United States never really accepted the fact that NATO was willing to be an active participant from the beginning.
Ultimately, or within a few years, there was NATO involvement, but if you talk to some of the NATO allies, their complaint is that they were not part of any planning, that the mission had been in some ways misrepresented to them. But that is not the point here.
The point is that NATO is an alliance of democracies, that decisions have to be made by everybody. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned out of Afghanistan. And the thing we did, Neal, was to look at Afghanistan from the perspective of what lessons could be learned if there were an event like this in the future.
CONAN: And as you look at the role of the alliance, there is clearly there's a NATO aspect to this, which is involved in training, and there are some NATO countries that are involved in holding certain parts of the country, but the majority of the U.S. forces are not attached to that NATO command.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: It's a divided thing in that way, but what they have done now is to have a unity of command, which there was not before. The thing that came out of this is a whole new you know how new words or a series of words develop in international relations, there's now this concept of comprehensive approach, which means that if you go into a country, that it isn't just the military, it's military and civilian.
And because of the way that the Afghanistan events have unrolled, the civilian role is also very, very important.
I don't want to defend what has been happening in Afghanistan. It's a very complicated story. But I do think that it's worth looking at it from the perspective of what lessons NATO can learn for the next decade from it.
CONAN: As you look to the operations off Somalia, piracy clearly, to everybody's surprise, has re-emerged as an issue, and the efforts have thus far been well, they've been there have been some notable incidents, but I have to say it's been ineffectual.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: What is interesting - and if I could kind of go back on something, which is that when this whole project started, and I was asked to chair the group of experts, we had a series of official seminars.
And the first one was about how what are the problems in the world? And it really was kind of like the table of horrors of all the different things that now plague us. Piracy was one of them, but cyber-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, energy security, drugs and all those things.
And the question was: Who should deal with this? And originally, we thought, well, NATO can deal with everything. And then as we started looking at what the capabilities of NATO really were, then we decided to pare down and decide to operate with partners.
And we can I hope we can talk more about that because I think that's the innovative aspect. But on piracy, there is a combination of work that is being done by NATO, but the European Union has taken a major role in this. And interestingly enough, countries like China, that are neither part of NATO or the EU, are interested in helping out on issues of piracy.
CONAN: Indeed, India, as well.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Right.
CONAN: (Unintelligible). And these are the kinds of partners that you would hope would cooperate on an ad-hoc basis when their interests coincide.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Right. And what we found in one of our seminars on partnerships was that there are now more partners than there are allies and that there are different ways that one can cooperate with them.
Now, obviously, the biggest partner is the European Union because there is an overlap of membership. Russia we saw as a partner. We looked at the OSCE. We looked at the United Nations. We looked at individual countries and tried to figure out basically how they can help in terms of dealing with all these different issues that are out there that now plague the international community.
CONAN: You say Russia is a partner. In some respects, yes. In some respects, well, you look at the war with Georgia, and you have to take another look.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, again, Georgia was a huge warning. And one of the things we did was, again, discuss that and say that in some ways, it was a failure of the system. And if in fact the NATO council had had consultations on it under I hate to get overly technical here under Article IV of the treaty, of the Washington Treaty, which by the way is very short and very elegant and has operated since 1949...
CONAN: We'll never see the like of that document again.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Never, right. And so it calls for consultations and trying to prevent problems, and I think the system didn't work.
CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. Our guest is, of course, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of NATO's group of experts who wrote the report "NATO 2020: Assured Security Dynamic Engagement." 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. Mark(ph) on the line calling from Portland.
MARK (Caller): Hey, guys. Yeah, I just wanted to let you know, I was in Afghanistan as a combat soldier in 2006. And I was in Helmand and Kandahar province, and I was working with the British and Canadians and everything else.
And just from an image perspective, it's awesome to actually be able to go in and work with people globally and that the Afghan people can see that and know that, you know, we're not acting unilaterally and that everyone is there working together to help them. I think that's just a wonderful thing that we need to keep up.
CONAN: And were they there if you needed them?
MARK: Absolutely. They have - British Royal Marines are consummate professionals and very, very helpful when needed.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, thank you for your service, and thank you for what you said because I think that those people that have been on the ground can testify to the fact that there is cooperation. There also are civilian activities in addition to the military ones. So thank you very much, but mostly thank you for doing what you did.
MARK: Yeah, absolutely.
CONAN: Mark, thanks for the call, too. Let's see if we go next this is Stuart(ph), Stuart with us from Libertyville in Illinois.
STUART (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.
STUART: Yeah, I served in Kosovo in 2006 as a physician with the United States Army under K4, and, you know, my experience with NATO was just absolutely fantastic. We couldn't have done the medical missions that we were doing there without the entire NATO team. And, you know, I really feel that NATO is an indispensible organization in the world for enforcing, you know, international law where it needs to be enforced.
CONAN: And what countries were involved when you were there in Kosovo?
STUART: Oh my gosh, we had we had everybody. There was Germany, the Swedish medical teams were there. We had Polish units, Ukrainian units, you know, all different medical units there. French forces were there, and we all worked. We put together massive medical missions that involved all of new units together, and we'd go out, you know, for days at a time and do medical missions. It was great.
CONAN: Secretary Albright?
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Again, thank you very much for your service, and also what was so interesting, that was when I was secretary of State, and it was the first time that NATO had really gone to war.
And it tested a lot, parts of the system. It was not simple, but it really made a difference that it was an alliance operation. It couldn't be under the U.N. because the Russians had made clear that they were going to veto it, but the experiences of Kosovo, I think - and again the previous caller in Afghanistan shows that it does work. It's not simple, but it is definitely worth doing, and I'm so grateful for your words but primarily for your service. Thank you very, very much.
CONAN: Stuart, thank you.
STUART: Thank you.
CONAN: Some people, to the degree of accuracy you can tell us, but they call it Madeleine Albright's war, the war in Kosovo. Can you tell us about some of the difficulties, though? An alliance in wartime is an exceptionally difficult thing to manage. This is an alliance that works on consensus.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me just give a little bit of the background of it. What was happening was that there was ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo, perpetrated by the Serbs. We tried very hard to resolve it diplomatically, couldn't get there - long, very involved discussions.
The question was what to do. In the United States, we did not believe it was appropriate to act unilaterally, that it was better to do something where there would be international action on it.
We believed, and the Security Council had in previous times talked about the importance of peace and security in the Balkans, and we thought that we could have a peacemaking mission in Kosovo. But as I said, the Russians had made clear that they weren't going to do it.
I have to say it was called Madeleine's war, primarily when things were going wrong.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. ALBRIGHT: But basically because when we started using force on it, the weather was bad, and the Serbs put out decoys, and then we bombed the Chinese embassy by mistake. But I think that once we got the consensus, it made so much difference to be able to go in there internationally and not unilaterally.
CONAN: Our guest, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. We're talking about the future of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Stay with us. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is our guest this week. She announced a new report on the future of NATO, the North Atlantic alliance created 60 years ago to counter the growing influence of the Soviet Union.
Today, its most public mission is in Afghanistan. Some question why the end of the Cold War did not also bring an end to NATO. The report "NATO 2020" lays out a path to ensure the group's relevance in an age of terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber-attacks. You can find a link to "NATO 2020: Assured Security Dynamic Engagement," on our website at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
If you have questions about the future of NATO, give us a call. Again, we'd especially like to hear from those of you who served in Afghanistan or off the coast of Somalia - or, as we just heard, in Kosovo with NATO allies - on the role of NATO and our allies. 800-989-8255. Email: email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
And a reminder that, of course, NATO was formed to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union, to protect the European democracies. It has expanded since the end of the Cold War from 16 to 28, expanded eastwards, and this is sometimes seen as a threat by the Soviet Union.
Our caller from Kosovo mentioned Ukrainian troops there in Kosovo. They are not members of NATO. Some people in Ukraine would like to be members of NATO. This is seen as a direct threat by the Russians.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think what is interesting is that we're kind of in the third phase of NATO's history. It was created, exactly, against the Soviet Union, against an invasion and for just classic military warfare with a nuclear deterrent.
With the end of the Cold War, there were discussions about what was the relevance of NATO, and the thought was that here was this most powerful military and political alliance that united democracies in Europe, and by bringing in the first tranche of nations - the Poles, the Czechs and the Hungarians - we erased an artificial line that had gone down the middle of Europe.
The Russians, we - at the time, I was first at the U.N. I was secretary. And we talked with the Russians and kept saying this is not against you, and we want to cooperate with you. We created a NATO-Russia Council to have a variety of discussions with them. But the Russians had their own narrative on what was going on.
But what we found was that there was a value to having a tool that allowed us to make Europe whole and free, which is basically what the whole Balkans campaign was about, out of area - that is, dealing with countries that were not specifically members of NATO.
And now we're in the third phase, where, in fact, there are these global issues that are troubling to everybody, as I said, the terrorism, piracy, et cetera. And here, if you are a decision maker and you're looking at a problem, you try to figure out who can solve it.
And the U.N. does not have the kind of enforcement mechanism in all places at all times, and the truth is that NATO is a very powerful tool that we thought should be made more agile and versatile in a period of unpredictability. And that's what it's about.
There still is the issue as to how the Russians look at it, and they have divided views, as do members of NATO. We found - and I decided we had to...
CONAN: (unintelligible). Yeah.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: We had to make it very clear in the report, which is to say as a result of geography and historical experience, we did not all agree on Russia. We did, however, all agree that we needed to engage with Russia. So we had a consensus. We decided you had to acknowledge the differences, but the fact that dealing with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council was a good thing to do. We even suggested that on one of the big deterrence issues, missile defense, that we explore that with the Russians.
CONAN: Let's get some more callers involved in the conversation: 800-989-8255. Desiree's on the line from Cincinnati.
DESIREE (Caller): Yeah. Hi. Ms. Albright, I want to thank you guys for taking my call. One of the I just have more of a comment. I mean, NATO was, specific - you know but in my mind, I thought NATO was there attack on one is an attack on all. But the United States hasn't been attacked by Afghanistan. 9/11 was the people involved were Saudis and Yemenis.
CONAN: Based in what country?
DESIREE: I'm sorry?
CONAN: Based in which country?
DESIREE: I'm talking about Afghanistan.
DESIREE: Well, there's been a lot of criticism of NATO that they're not sending enough troops, that they're not cooperating. Well, you know, that's I think that's understandable. They're there for defense, you know, for defensive purposes, and we're asking them to go there offensively. Well, of course they're going to balk about it because I don't think that was the intention of NATO.
NATO was intended, you know, as a defensive mechanism, and so they feel that the United States is using them, you know, to fight their war. And a lot of, you know, NATO countries have balked and have not been thoroughly cooperative or, you know, very actively sending troops or not sending enough. You know, then there's been a lot of criticism from the United States about this, but...
CONAN: And there is a lot of in Desiree's call, but she is correct that a lot of members of NATO do not necessarily see their interest, their vital interest at stake in Afghanistan, and there's considerable criticism in their home countries about military operations there.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the issue, as I said earlier, is they initially did activate this Article V because they recognized that the people that attacked us on 9/11 had come out of Afghanistan.
But, and this it he big issue, is they were the United States did not involve NATO initially. Other countries were not part of the planning. There are those who believe that the way Afghanistan was described during the Bush administration was basically not the mission that they thought it was going to be, and they weren't part of the planning. And therefore, there was not a unified command and all the issues.
What we did in this report, Neal and Desiree, was to take the lessons of Afghanistan - and since we're trying to create a strategic concept for the next decade, is say these are the kinds of things that need to happen. And what are the guidelines for being in this kind of an operation?
So we've taken the lessons because we do want to have support if, in fact, there's something like Afghanistan again.
CONAN: Let's go next to Brian, Brian with us from Portland.
BRIAN (Caller): Hi. I was in Rwanda shortly after the genocide for a project, and I wonder about the role of NATO in future cases of genocide when they're occurring, and specifically, as well, how U.S. leaders can act and encourage action, quick action, so that we don't have relief efforts impeded, as happened during Rwanda.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, having unfortunately been at the United Nations at the time that Rwanda happened, and if anybody asks me what is one of the first things that happened on our watch, I would say Rwanda. So...
CONAN: President Clinton agrees.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: President Clinton has acknowledged that. I think that what we did say in this report is to suggest that NATO be available when there are humanitarian disasters, whether caused by nature or people.
And so in some particularly way we didn't specify, but, for instance, could - not only in providing troops - though I have to say, just to lay it out, it is not easy to have an alliance of all white people in Africa. So it's a good idea to team up with the AU, the African Union, and that perhaps to have NATO provide some of the lift and communications.
But we did think that it was useful to have NATO available. The other thing, I was involved in work for the United States Institute of Peace on how to prevent genocide. And one of the issues is how to have early warning. Some of the consultative mechanisms that exist in NATO could also be useful for that.
CONAN: I was going to ask about that, because in the situation in Rwanda, once the genocide had started, you talked about a process of consultations among 28 countries, and then consultations with the AU. By the time the first Hercules had taken off, the whole thing would've been over.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, that was the whole issue. I mean, I often said, you know, the airplane of the president of Rwanda was shot down, and then it was volcanic genocide. In Darfur, we've actually been watching rolling genocide. So there would've been time to do something if the international community had seen itself as feeling that it could, in fact, do something about it. I do think we need to.
CONAN: Political will, in other words, yes.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Right. Ultimately - you know, you keep talking about the 28. Ultimately, it is political will. All of it is political will.
CONAN: And some of it and Brian, thanks very much for the call. Some of it is economics. Just a handful of the member nations of NATO spend the recommended two percent of their annual GDP on their militaries, which is sort of seen as the minimum to keep them up to snuff. As we saw first in the first Gulf war, later in Madeleine Albright's war in Kosovo, there was the United States military was so far advanced, there were - some of our European allies could literally not operate with our forces. And indeed, there is still, with the current economic situation, grave concern that these countries aren't going to spend the kind of money needed to keep their forces up to snuff.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say again, we pointed this out in the report, that what that it was essential for countries to live up to their responsibilities.
NATO is not some kind of a philanthropic organization. If you are going to be a member of NATO, you have to live up to your responsibilities. You're not there as a gift. It is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility. So we talked about the need for countries to provide their resources. We also made very clear, that we couldn't have kind of discussions of levels of ambition and hopes and dreams about what NATO could do if the capabilities weren't there.
And let me just say this. I happen to believe in NATO, but I am not here defending everything that NATO has done. And what we did in this report, in our group of experts, was really pick this apart and look at what was doable, what wasn't, what were the problems, what could be fixed. And also, when I said at the beginning that we had put all these horrors of the world on the table - there was a certain moment somebody said, well, wait a minute, NATO can't be... And then I thought it was a great image, like a Swiss Army knife where all the pieces are pulled out, so you can't even pick it up. You have to figure out which of the elements, the tools, really do work, and pick for NATO what makes sense, and then have partners in other areas where, in fact, combining with the African union or with the European Union makes a certain amount of sense.
So we were pretty tough, I think, in terms of trying to figure out what was exactly the right missions for NATO in the 21st century.
CONAN: Of course, it couldn't be a Swiss Army knife because the Swiss are neutral. But the famous - some critics say that NATO - when it expanded, particularly including Poland and the Baltic States - that NATO is not prepared to perform its primary function, which is defend the territorial integrity of its member states. If we don't, the report says, the possibility of cross border attacks at this point is very slight. Nevertheless, in such a situation, should it exist, if Russia did become a threat when you talked about the states with due to geography and history were worried about the Russians - I think those are them.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, we talked about that too. And that's one of the reasons that we made very clear that Article 5 was the core of the Alliance, that protecting the members of the Alliance was the number one job and that NATO needed to be prepared to do that. We talked about strategic reassurance and spent a lot of time talking about whether that - to what extent that remained the central aspect.
The other part that we talked about - there are those who say, well, if you do that, you can't do this expeditionary, the dynamic engagement. We felt that it wasn't either/or. That the kind of training that was necessary went for both - was the way to use the forces. The deterrence factor continues to exist, but we understood that the central purpose of NATO, Article 5, continued to be the core.
CONAN: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
Let's go next to Red(ph). And Red's with us on the line from Cleveland.
RED (Caller): Yeah. Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking the call. My question is in the Gulf War, the first one, the U.S. got most of the neighboring countries of Iraq to get into the war and sided by the U.S., including many of the NATO countries. How come, in Afghanistan, the efforts, the diplomacy efforts were not the same? The NATO was in but I don't think a lot of neighboring countries were on the same page. Thank you.
CONAN: Afghanistan has some difficult neighbors, but perhaps no more difficult than Syria, which was a partner in the first Gulf War.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: I can't speak to why that was. I mean, I think that there were questions initially when the war in - I think we have to go back kind of when 9/11 happened. There was tremendous support for the United States doing something in terms of dealing with those who had attacked us and who had provided haven for the terrorists. Then there was a turning away to the war in Iraq.
And I think a lot of the efforts that might have been expended earlier in the Afghan war would have made a difference. And I do think that what I now think is that a lot of the regional powers have to be involved in trying to find peace in Afghanistan.
CONAN: And while we're in that neighborhood, this email from Steve(ph) in Beaver Dam, Arizona. In a teaser for this segment, you mentioned that containing Iran's nuclear ambitions is an important new mission for NATO. In sharp contrast to nuclear Israel, India, Pakistan, and the U.S. itself, Iran has never engaged in any offensive military activity against any other country since before the American civil war, so why should NATO care about whether Iran develops a nuclear capability in a region already bristling with them?
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, because I think, first of all, they are signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and they had agreed to have inspections. They are not doing what they should. They have a right to have a peaceful nuclear program. We believe that if they develop nuclear weapons that they are a threat. They also have made perfectly outrageous statements about the state of Israel and are also funding a variety of terrorist groups in the region that are destabilizing Hezbollah and Hamas.
CONAN: Now let's go to Deborah(ph). Deborah with us from Austin.
DEBORAH (Caller): Hi, Madam Secretary. First, I want to thank you. I wrote you a letter when I read your book the first time, and you wrote me back and sent me a book plate. And that book plate and that book have become among my most treasured possessions, so thank you.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Thank you so much.
DEBORAH: I wanted to ask you, you're talking about NATO as a strategic defensive alliance. One of the issues that comes up over and over again is how much money we're spending on the war in Afghanistan. Can you really have a military strategic alliance that is not somehow related to the economic alliances we have? The world has become so interconnected. Can you really operate with two different entities or do somehow they need to come together?
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think that we have to be concerned about the costs of the wars, whatever they are. And also we have to realize, in many ways, that when we go into a war with allies that it is a force multiplier in terms of getting more for our money. But I think that one of the things we called upon again for NATO in the future, is to have better budgeting, to do common procurement, to have common funding, to streamline the decision-making system more.
One of the things we really did try to do is we could not, in the course of this particular study that we were doing, was to deal with what what was going on in Afghanistan now or the next year. We were our assignment mandate was, in fact, to look to the future and see what they what NATO was supposed to be like in the next decade. So we decided to take the lessons of what we saw in Afghanistan as lessons for the future. And we saw what you're talking about the problems. And so we decided that we should really talk about how to rationalize the decision-making process and make sure that money was spent well.
CONAN: Deborah, you've had the last word. Thank you very much for your call.
DEBORAH: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Secretary Albright, thank you so much for your time today as always. We appreciate it.
Ms. ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, and for the calls and your comments, Neal.
CONAN: Madeleine Albright served as secretary of State under President Clinton. Chair of NATO's group of experts who wrote report "NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement." You can go to our website. There's a link to it. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Coming up, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's "Fences." We'll talk with their director Kenny Leon. All of those people have been nominated for Tonys. Stay with us.
It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.