tv Former NATO Allied Commander on Strategy and Threats to Alliance CSPAN July 2, 2022 4:33am-5:03am EDT
there were a lot of headlines coming out of -- looking further. you had a hand in drafting the last strategic concepts. he worked with madeleine albright in 2010. when you look back at the 2010 document, they reflected the times. priority was given to afghanistan,, the balkans. china was not mentioned. the most notable departure between where we are now and were in 2010 was the document called for a strategic partnership between nato and russia. february 24 changed all that. russia's invasion of ukraine shocked our consciousness but served as a wake-up call. give us your topline assessment of how the alliance is dealing with the threat and substantial changes agreed to at
the nato summit with respect to military posture bolstering the east. adm. stavridis: let's start with thinking of nato as a computer program. nato 1.0 was cold war nato. the u.s. and nato against the soviet union and warsaw pact. we won that contest. nato 2.0 i think was the time where i was supreme allied commander it was driven by the events of 9/11. it was a time in which nato was in afghanistan, the balkans, libya, counter piracy. it was an operationally expansive nato. one in which nato did not face a significant peer competitor. that was nato 2.0.
the previous strategic concept from 2010. in that period we looked at russia as a potential partner, believe it or not given the current circumstances. i will give you a practical illustration. what i took command of nato in 2009, there was a russian military delegation attached to my military staff in the pentagon at nato in belgium. it would be like the russians having a pretty substantial office set up in the pentagon. we were legitimately trying to pursue zones of cooperation with the russian federation. we worked with, counter piracy, on counterterrorism. they were helpful in afghanistan. we acted together and thought
about arctic operations together. it was a real thing, but unfortunately we come to russia invading ukraine for the first time in 2014. that is what shattered nato 2.0. i think it created nato 3.0. what has increased in such a dramatic terms -- you are right to call this a generational shift -- are the events of the last four or five months. now we are in a significant new nato, nato 3.0. european defense budgets are rocketing up. sweden and finland have joined nato. unthinkable during nato 2.0 or even during 1.0. we see the alliance hanging together remarkably well in the face of this third invasion.
the third being the second invasion of ukraine. we are very much in nato 3.0. defense budgets going up. sweden and family joining. -- finland joining. it's an unfortunate necessity we have to confront russia in such a dramatic way. patrick: we have a lot to unpack with elements of the new strategic concepts. i want to get your views on the russian reaction. senior officials in the russian government said the nato summit confirms the policy of "aggressive containment of russia." i am wondering if you see putin seeing this as a major threat. he's been making similar statements back to 2007.
is this time different? how do you think people respond? adm. stavridis: putin has no option to respond. he leads a weak nation with the defense budget of $60 billion a year. nato defense budget of north of $900 billion. $60 billion versus $900 billion. he has an army he has broken apart fighting with the 15th largest army in the world, the ukraine. he has no military capacity to challenge nato in any realistic sense. nato has 3 million troops under arms, active-duty. another 4 million reserves. russia has perhaps 400,000 capable military. i suppose they could draft a few more. at the end of the day -- i will give you more. 24,000 military aircraft for nato. maybe 5000 in russia.
you get the point. putin does not have a military option here in any significant way. it is a common misconception among many americans that, oh, russia is somehow equal with united states or equal with nato . absolutely not. putin has no real options, particularly since he has cracked his military so significantly in this misbegotten war in ukraine. in some dark, twisted corner of his mind he might. for those who want to weigh whether or not it is an actual threat, and sometimes i hear this from normally sensible people, the line that this is all the fault of nato, because nato expanded to the east. that is what caused russia to invade. that is turning the world upside down. open the book of history. i will show you countless times
russian tanks have rolled west in the second world war raping their way across germany. attacking budapest in 1956. destroying the prague spring in 1968. approaching warsaw when the poles acted independent. russian tanks have rolled west many times in conquest. never has a nato tank rolled to the east. this is a defense of alliance. i will close with this. i have read and participated in the writing of every single nato war plan. every single one of them. i can assure you there are no offensive war plans. nato is a defense of alliance. the events of the last week in the last four months have strengthened our defense in our deterrence against russia. patrick: thank you, sir. i want to talk about finland and
sweden, the most significant thing to come out of this nato enlargement. what are the benefits and drawbacks of them joining the alliance? we had a lengthy land border over 1000 kilometers between nato and russia, creating a new frontier. what does adding finland and sweden do for nato's powers around the baltic sea? it highlights the importance of the north and the arctic. they can take up to a year for them to formally become members because they need the national legislature's approval of 30 members. is there a threat of russian reprisal we should keep a weathered eye on? adm. stavridis: i think this will happen in the fall because of russian invasion, because a russian threats. the more russia threatens, the
more they conduct combat operations, the faster this will happen. no, i don't think there is much risk at all and the objections the turk had have been assuaged. we are on a glide path to bringing these nations in this fall. they are nothing but a plus for nato. think of them as this, turnkey militaries. we don't have to train them. we don't have to improve them. we don't have to inspect them. we don't have to worry about corruption. these are two remarkably professional militaries. i don't say this because i watched cnn this morning. i commanded these troops in afghanistan, in the balkans, in libya. my security detail in the balkans was often provided by the swedish military. believe me, i have never felt safer in my life and surrounded by a bunch of 6'4" inch vikings. they look like chris
hemsworth. they are highly capable on the surface with their troops and then dig deeper these are two nations that are techno democracies. adept at cyber. high-level abilities to reduce high-end military. one example is sweden's griffith fighters. the equivalent in every sense of the u.s. f-18. finns have one of the most professional ground forces. they have more artillery pieces than any other nation in western europe. again, turnkey operation. let's close on this point. because some say we are adding 600 miles, 700 miles of border we have to defend. i look at it the other way around. this is a border that vladimir putin has got to put troops against. if he's going to be sincere about facing nato. he will have to move troops all
along this 600-mile border. guess what? those are troops not available to continue with his tragic misadventure in ukraine. second point. militarily, that border would flank any russian attack on estonia, latvia, lithuania. it complicates his military planning immensely. whereas because we are defense ive, it's a matter of much less difficulty to arrange our defense of needs there. there is zero downside and nothing but upside in bringing them into the alliance. patrick: thank you. you mentioned turkiye. turkiye is at times a bit of a headache, to put it lightly. it's a headache the alliance
will have to tolerate. you see turkiye pressuring sweden and finland to change stances on kurdish support and arms embargoes. f-16 jets. some say turkiye is more valuable than ever to nato. given these developments, what have we learned about the future relations with the alliance more broadly and the importance of turkiye itself within a strategic element in the alliance? adm. stavridis: let me begin with my time as supreme allied commander of nato. every time we went to turkiye and said we need troops or aircraft or ships for afghanistan, the balkans, for the war in libya, every single
time turkiye delivered. every time. i cannot say that about any number of other nations who said we just are not going to put any more troops in afghanistan, or not participate over libya. the turks where their 100% providing what the alliance asked them for. number two, very professional military. it has gone through difficult periods after the coup attempt against president erdogan and the repercussions not at a generation of turkish senior leadership. i think the military has built back from that time significantly. number three, geopolitically turkiye is vital. sometimes people say they are a bridge between the east and west. i suppose that is true. they are really a power center unto themselves. they have a rapidly expanding
population, the second largest army in the alliance, strategically vital position physically and geographically. for all those reasons it is crucial the alliance maintain its relationship with turkiye. to do that, as is the case between friends and allies, there can be disagreements. we have a disagreement with turkiye over their purchase of the s400 air defense system from russia. turkiye paid the price for that. they have been pushed out from the joint strike fighter program, which is why they now want the f-16s. i strongly support providing them with what they need in f-16s and being pushed out of the joint strike fighter program because of the purchase. the point being they will be back and forth between turkiye and the united states and turkiye and the alliance.
this recent conversation about support to the kurds is something i look at between turkiye, sweden and finland. that is how it was resolved, with some personal diplomacy from our president, which i commend. at the end of the day president erdogan had to become double. the swedes and the finns had to become double. that was concluded in a deus ex machina at the summit. again, that is nothing but the strength of the alliance deployed in front of you. i will close by saying we will continue to have disagreements with turkiye. we may have disagreements with other members of nato, the entire alliance. at the end of the day i think the alliance is very strong in this moment of nato 3.0. patrick: within nato there has been divisions about if the alliance is the bedrock of the current international order or
whether it has a more regionally focused security organization. the question appears to be largely resolved in favor of global reach. the leaders agreed to categorize china as the principal challenge. it's important to note there were several leaders from the indo pacific nations in madrid. i would love your thoughts on the significance of directly mentioning china and the significance of the presence of the leaders of south korea, australia, new zealand at the summit. i think this will sharpen perceptions a new caldwell style -- is exhilarating lining up behind china. i would love your thoughts. adm. stavridis: important to differentiate between the way the strategic concept looks at and talks about russia and uses
words like a threat. a clear and present danger if you will. in the way to strategic concept talks about china, which is more in line with a strategic competitor, a kind of warning, i'll watch out, etc. it's important we not lump those two together. if we do that, we will push those two more together. we have to try and find some division between russia and china. in terms of nato, it's a bit of both. it is a regional security structure that has now been in place since 1949. it started out looking at the soviet union as a grave threat. today looks at russia as a grave threat. we have been through nato 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. part of nato 3.0 is in addition
to that regional, immediate, in eurozone concern you have to look -- in your zone concern you have to look more broadly. you mentioned the ice melting following the tragedy of global warming. what it will do is uncover hydrocarbons, leading to competition. it will lead to claims by russia of control of those hydrocarbons . thirdly, it will open shipping routes. the arctic is one area where you should look for nato to operate. cyber will be a global effort by the alliance. we are going to welcome our additional partners and that. third and finally, it is the pacific.
here i think the biggest concern is china's territorial claims in the south china sea. if allowed to stand, if china is allowed to take the south china sea, which is half the size of the continental united states, this would be the biggest territorial landgrab maybe in history. in allowing that to stand we are cracking the international order. particularly the doctrine of the high seas, freedom of navigation. united nations convention. all that we go up and smoke of china's is allowed to something control the south china sea. i think you will see nato conducting freedom of navigation controls -- patrols. i think it's a very short step to seeing that nato mission in the south china sea.
the short answer to your question is nato regional and global is it has to be both in today's world. patrick: nato 3.0 is both regional and global in scope. this strategic concept identified climate change as the defining challenge of our time. this marks a change of the last time nato updated its guiding principles. tell us about how nato is framing climate change. it threatens every -- operations in every domain. adm. stavridis: it really does. let's begin with oceans. if current conditions are led to continue, the deterioration of the world's oceans, the dumping of plastics, the depletion of fisheries, and the potential to diminish the ability of the oceans to conduct the photosynthesis that provides us 70% of the air we breathe would be catastrophic for the human race. al gore said the amazon are the
lungs of the earth. they do their part. the lungs of the earth principally are the oceans. ocean health. rising sea levels that will swamp many low-lying islands. many coastal cities. huge coastal cities. bangkok, saigon city are facing high tide situations that could have significant portions of them underwater by early to mid part of the century. third point. the climate change that creates drought and creates agricultural failures will create instability and unrest. we are already seeing that with the russian shot of grain. that will create unrest in the north african and middle east. take russia out of the equation
and park global warming and drought and crop failure and you see that same level of unrest potentially happening. as a navy officer i look at the largest naval base in the world, nor full, virginia, threatened -- norfolk, virginia, threatened by these rising sea levels. i will point to get to the arctic. the way that could become a geopolitical thunderdome with rush on one side -- russia on one side and seven nato nations all up on that arctic front porch. climate is woven through national security. he will continue to be as the century unfolds. nato has to do his part to maintain security but to help address the climate challenges. patrick: thank you, sir. we have a limited amount of time left.
last and final question. you profile naval leaders acting in extreme crisis. one challenge is the maritime ability to disrupt reinforcements and navigation across the north atlantic. as a student of history and leadership are you struck -- i am struck by one line. the sea is a laboratory that can inform could go decision-making. are there lessons from history we can turn to? characters you profile to risk it all that might be instructive or insightful as we look at nato 3.0 in this new, challenging operational environment? adm. stavridis: the best place to go to think about the history that will unfold in front of us is back to just over 100 years ago. halford mckinder talked about
the world island. europe and asia, that massive land area. in order to have balance between land and sea powers, which is a trope that goes back to the ancient greeks, athens and sparta, back to nelson and the british royal navy against content is all armies of napoleon, i think we are about to see reemergence of the world sea powers operating and challenged by those who dominate the world island. that will be russia and china. this is a chapter from history we have seen before. it is time to dust off our alfred thayer meehan theories of how seapower has to be part of creating this challenge to the land powers and see it we can prove mckinder wrong and alfred
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