Entrevista concedida pelo Professor Victor Marques dos Santos à AJPA, 12 de Maio de 2009.
Victor Marques dos Santos. Professor Associado com Agregação.
Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.
How do you feel NATO handled the transition into a post-cold war era?
The end of the cold war faced NATO with an awkward scenario where the classic enemy had apparently vanished. Althoug the western approach and mindset over security and defence remained the same, soon the revision of the strategic concept became unavoidable. This was based on the available prospective and on the evolutionary perception about new challenges related with the new and different nature, scope and reach of risk and threat management. This was also increasingly related with new global issues and the need for solutions through which governments are evaluated and legitimized by their constituencies.
Handling the transition is still under way, but it has entered a new phase. The hopeful predictions of the immediate post-cold war era didn’t materialize as expected, and the transition process is still unfolding. The cold war era and the inherent international order have not been replaced by a “new world order” that we can deal with from a classic conceptual perspective, through a static framework of analysis.
The present situation implies handling an environment characterized by uncertainty, and sustained interactive processes of dynamic and synergic change. In this new context, NATO must develop a proactive public diplomacy effort, devising innovative ways to ensure sustained public acceptance, support and credibility as a reliable and legitimate player, to promote and provide security, while improving its visibility and image among friends and partners. NATO must be portrayed as being a part of the solution, through an increasingly flexible and diversified performance capacity, by responding to the new issues and challenges often involving non-military missions.
Talking about past and future enlargements, do you support them?
The post-cold war era enlargements have proven to be successful. The partnerships and other relational frameworks and joint instances created and implemented with third countries, seem to be of the utmost importance for a deeper, transparent, mutual understanding, fostering cooperation, improving confidence building measures and gradually replacing mistrust and confrontational attitudes by reciprocal acknowledgement and dialogical settings. Any new enlargements must ensure that this acquired assets and the new the relational environment built so far, are maintained and improved. NATO Allies also face the responsibility to contain, manage and help to settle potential crises, maintain and improve strategic stability in areas of interest where failed states are unable to provide it. Member states’ constituencies are now increasingly “attentive publics”, electorates and tax payers that understand how foreign policy decisions impact their lives. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for policy-makers to seek legitimization of provocative actions, moves or attitudes that, in the eyes of the international public opinion and of the transnationalized civil society, would seem unjustified and contrary to their perceived interests, namely by jeopardizing their security.
The logic behind future enlargements must conciliate the core and binding objectives of member states’ defence and security, as consecrated by the Treaty, with other interests resulting from the new geopolitical environment and the inherent economic evolution, namely the access to basic resources, and institutional, social and political stabilization of certain geographical areas. The U.S.’ new “balanced strategy” principles, aims and objectives, as well as the other NATO countries strategic perceptions, will certainly impact and influence the logic of future enlargements, in defining the conciliation terms of those states’ own interests and strategic visions, with the Treaty’s principles, objectives and tactical adaptations. In any event, future enlargements must equate the convenience of new “out-of-area” memberships with the possibility of developing special relationships, such as operational and tactical cooperation agreements under new partnership frameworks.
Do you think NATO’s enlargement should be focused on other areas? Say the southern area of the North-Atlantic for example?
This is an area of obvious interest, where the partnership agreements versus membership options should be equated. If, on the one hand, the “out-of-area” concept seems to have lost its operational meaning, on the other hand, the Treaty in itself, sustains the original binding principles and commits member states to certain obligations that may be reassessed and rearranged through specific agreements, and adapted to regional and state agendas and requirements. This will ensure strategic and operational cooperation, based on mutual interests, without the need to resort to full membership.
What do you think about NATO’s involvement with Russia? Which path do you think the relationship between the two should take in the 21st century?
Regardless of its strategic implications, this issue still involves perceptions and objectives determined by a strong psychological component. The relationship between NATO and Russia cannot be assessed without taking into account the sharp differences of attitude underlying each one’s approach path to the present stage of the relationship. These differences will remain and its effects will persist, for as long as we don’t recognize that Russia hasn’t overcome de debacle of 1989-1991, and that the West holds, and frequently reasserts, an expanding posture emboldened by the power void resulting from the same course of events. This attitude has allowed for Russia’s legitimate and powerful argument, as well as for a nationwide condoned incentive, to redress itself and regain its pride through the return to its old superpower statute in the community of nations. Russia is showing both the remaking of its military might and its capability to condition its neighbours’ economic interests through energetic dependency, and strategic interests, as well as through its active participation in all the formal and informal international decision making instances.
But by achieving international recognition as an inevitable player, Russia will also be led to identify areas of mutual interest, namely strategic cooperation with the Europe and the West that will come to be dealt with in a constructive manner. The 21st. century is bound to reveal new common threats, interests and objectives as fast growing and complex interdependences become the earmark of the global relational setting. This may determine potential alignments and common agendas, that will foster mutual perceptions about the need to expand common ground to agree upon, identify and limit the areas of consensual dissent, and develop innovative ways to manage conflict, limit damage and improve the stabilising effects on the overall relationship.
How do you foresee the future vis a vis a coexisting NATO and European Defence Force/Army?
I think that operational advantages, interchangeable commands, control systems, equipments, sharing information, viewed through an economy of scale concept, must be central to the criteria for an interactive, synergic and complementary coexistence. The different nature, purpose, scope and reach of each of the two entities cannot be separated from the very different origins and evolving character of each one’s own dynamics and enlargement processes. The undeniable importance of defence and security should also determine the level of commitment of the EU member states to NATO, especially relating to perceived and identified “out-of area” interests.
What would you guess to be NATO’s main challenges and threats in the 21st century?
Prospective is difficult when the century is only nine years old. Experience shows that predictions tend to set up scenarios that remain as such and rarely materialize. Today’s threats may not be the ones of tomorrow. Socio-economic evolutions, migrations, resource depletion and scarcity, climate change, environment and ecological degradation, demographics and the access to basic survival related resources like clean water and food, will change perceptions, priorities, attitudes and collective behaviour, values and mentalities. Terrorism in all its forms and shapes, piracy local insurgencies and anti-social behaviours in urban and rural areas, both in industrialized and developing countries, as well as mass migrations originated either by conflict or by those needs and survival imperatives, are just a few examples of the instability and the consequences of change.
All these factors are potential threat multipliers. They are also bound to reshape the geopolitical setting through the geographically as well as institutionally differentiated allocation of power. The ensuing polarization and proliferation of displaced power centres will depend on the re-evaluation of resources deemed crucial to meet the inevitable needs of each actor, giving way to the identification of new power factors in competition with military might.
However, may be the greatest challenge for NATO will be its members’ perceptions and political will to steer and correct course in a dynamic, sustained and permanently adaptive way, in order to forestall potential crises and conflict drivers as they unfold, by anticipating the new patterns of change. To achieve this performance at operational level, the Alliance needs to be revitalized, and the transatlantic relationship should be rebalanced.
The decision makers’ perceptions about change should lead them to try to conciliate each one’s national interest with both the Alliance needs and the global community imperatives. This won’t happen if political leaders retain a cold-war-era-like mindset and the corresponding framework of analysis, by trying to adapt obsolete conflict resolution instruments and strategies, to a globalizing scenario whose requirements go far beyond the “business-as-usual” attitude of situational threat awareness and operational preparedness.
In the new century, the correct perception of the sustained dynamics of change and the inherently inevitable need for interactive complexity management, become crucial and can only be attained through innovative, communicational, informational interactive and synergic processes and instruments. Dynamic interactive perceptions and critically, mutual knowledge, should be regarded as enhanced drivers for change, rather than as improved power factors.