Interview with NATO-General Domroese (ret.): “We have missed an golden opportunity” “We need a grand strategy”/ “A Russian invasion into the Baltic States means war!”/Russia:”Surge trust”and” Reset the button!”

Interview with NATO-General Domroese (ret.): “We have missed an golden opportunity” “We need a grand strategy”/ “A Russian invasion into the Baltic States means war!”/Russia:”Surge trust”and” Reset the button!”

Global Review had the honour to have an interview with NATO-General (retired) Hans-Lothar Domroese who gave us insights about NATO, the relations with Russia, Turkey and perspectives of the transatlantic treaty organisation. Domroese, born in 1952, son of Bundeswehrgeneral Lothar Domroese, married, two sons, was working at the NATO headquarter since 1995, since 2009 he was commander of the Eurocorps in Strasbourg and since 2012 commander of the Allied  Joint Force Command  Brunssum. He retired in 2016.

Domröse hält handgeschmiedeten Brieföffner

Global Review: Mr. Domroese, NATO had very ambitious plans in the 2000s. Ivo Daalder, US ambassador at NATO wrote in the organ of the Council for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs an programmatic article „Global NATO“in which he demanded the globalization of NATO beyond its transatlantic sphere with an Asian and African pillar. In 2008 5 former NATO-Generals ( Klaus Naumann, John Shalikashvili,Lord Inge,Jacques Lanxade,Henk van den Breemen) published „Towards a Grand Strategy in an uncertain World—Renewing the transatlantic partnership“demanding a joint intelligence center, a joint directorium and Horst Teltschik, chief of the Munich Security Conference was even thinking about a NATOmembership of Russia.These ideas were very ambitious. Were they realistic and what happened to them?

HLD NATO has always been a very agile organisation and is used to adapt its policies, strategies and structures according to the (perceived) threat. The mentioned personalities -diplomats and military- are outstanding characters with a clear vision. In many cases they were simply ahead of time, i.e. they were kind of realistic in the sense of Realpolitik, however, not everyone agreed with their great ideas. During the NATO summit in 2010 the Heads of States and Goverments of all 28 members agreed the new NATO Strategic concept which had and still has three main tasks: collective defense, cooperative security and crisis management. The aim is to protect the people of the Alliance against any threat, to promote security in Europe and its neighbourhood and to maintain cohesion in particular to strengthen the transatlantic cooperation and friendship.

Since 2011, however, the situation in Europe, the Middle East and in the world has fundamentally changed: In 2011 President Assad started a civil war in Syria, which led to more than 300000 people killed and hundred of thousands fled their country. Jordan, Libanon, Turkey and many European countries gave shelter to millions of refugees. Lybia did not recover and caused people to flee. Tunesia, Egypt are in a desperate situation. Mali, Niger, etc. are increasingly becoming failed states. In 2014 Russia invaded into Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea and supports the rebels in East-Ukraine and Moldavia/Transnistria. To summarize: what we need urgently is a grand strategy in order to give peace a chance in Syria and Africa. And to stabilize the situation worldwide. In order to achieve this we need NATO and Russia to be successful.

Global Review: 1997 was the year of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in which Russia agreed that the postsovjet republics could choose to which security pact they liked to belong. NATO agreed that it would not deploy substantial, regular military forces in Eastern Europe. This included the possibility of NATO membership and NATO saw a rapid expansion which Russia under Putin tried to stop in Ukraine and Georgia. Why has Russia changed its mind ?

HLD Generally speaking, I do not believe that Russia or Putin has changed his policy.The main difference between the Baltic States ,Poland, Hungary and the other Warsaw(sic!) Pact members and Ukraine is in fact that the people in the North and in the West demonstrated, fought for their freedom and independence. Lech Walesa is the well-known figure-head. People took huge risks; the revolution caused many casualties. Completely different in Ukraine: „independence“was kind of granted when the Russians returned home from their former WP-bases. In Ukraine nobody ever requested freedom or fought for independence against Russia. I believe they considered Ukraine as „part of Russia“-independent, however closely linked to its neighbour.

The „delayed revolution“occured in Kiev during the Maidan/Orange Revolution when people demonstrated agaionst corruption and bad governance. The former Ukrainian president was allegedly closely connected to and influenced by Russia. People were desperate and hopeless; the economic situation was horrible.Ukraine was almost a „failing state“. Many Ukraine citizens aimed at becoming a member of the EU- and indeed, the EU granted financial help and promised further support.

Some say: The West changed its policy: from „strong and independent Ukraine“to „strong and EU-integrated Ukraine“. Regardless who is right or wrong, we know the outcome: the perception in Russia obviously was that Ukraine would join the EU and subsequently NATO. The loss of Russia´s „only warm water“-seaport for her Southern fleet was endangered. It was unacceptable. Also many Russian citizens still lived in Ukraine and their future was unclear.Strategically a nightmare for Russia!This does not serve as an excuse for Russia to illegally annex Crimea and to support the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. It is simply my opinion that Russia has not changed its hegemonial policy.

Global Review: A military said that Putin´s aggressive policy is the best recruiter for NATO as Ukraine, Georgia, the Balkanstates, the Scandinavian countries all want closer cooperation with NATO and even Centralasian countries want to enlarge their Partnership for Peace programmes versus the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.Is NATO getting stronger?

HLD Yes, after decades of downsizing, NATO members realise that Russia brought war and tensions back to Europe. After Georgia and particulary after Ukraine we had to acknowledge that our forces were not really best prepared to defend our people against Russia.Even worse, some believed that deterrence would be at stack.That´s why NATO has increased efforts to ensure our people are always defended against any threat.

NATO obviously is very attractive; it is an organisation of free peoples to defend our freedom, rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, etc.That is the reason why so many neighbouring countries want to come under this umbrella. NATO´s response is called: cooperative security. Or; reach out. i.e. let´s work together in order to prevent war/ hostilities. Like-minded nations with similar values and similar interests can cooperate as long as they want to promote peace and stability.

Global Review: Russia held military maneuvres at the borders to the Baltic states and Poland with hundred thousands troops. NATO in return held Anaconda 2016 with 31000 troops and decided at the Warsaw Summit to deploy 4000 troops on a rotational basis and passed the „deterence and dialogue“strategy.. Russia and German Foreign minister Steinmeier spoke of „sabberrattling“ and warmongering of NATO. Are there differences between Germany and other NATOmembers in their politics with Russia?What do you think of this?

HLD NATO traditionally conducts training and exercises in order to be relevant and to be prepared, the exercise-circle demands so called „big ex“ every three years in different regions.In 2015 it was on the Iberian peninsula and in Italy and the skies/waters surrounding those countries. The next one in 2018 will be conducted in Norway. In between, NATO countries do their national training. ANACONDA 16 was a Polish-led exercise wth participants of many countries. The aim of this big exercise obviously was to demonstrate that Allies were ready to defend their people. And also that the VJTF-NATO´s spearhead reserve-force was ready to deploy on short notice. The exercise was limited to roughly 30 000 troops to avoid misunderstanding. This ambitious program was tasked by the Heads of States and Goverments at Wales and was subsequently communicated. It was very transparent and well known to Russia and others. And it was discussed and approved by NATO authorities, including Germany. In this regard I was surprised about Foreign Minister Steinmeier´s statement. Personally I believe this was an ad-hoc-interview during a German election campaign at Statelevel. It does NOT represent a change in Germany´s security policy!

The Warsaw Summit resulted-amongst others-in strengthening Alliance defence capabilities because of Russia´s bad behaviour.The US will rotate one brigade with the headquarter in Poland; Canada, UK and Germany will take the lead to form a multinational task force in the Baltic states. These rotational forces-approximately 7000-will be persistent present in order to stick to the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Let me emphazise that these troops do not represent „substantial forces“; substantial forces are a division with air and maritime support-roughly almost 20 000 soldiers. Secondly, these forces will not be stationed-they will rotate and will come from different locations, nations and organisations. In other words: NATO still fulfills its obligations—although Russia had violated all treaties and international agreements trough her annexation of Crimea.

I think these prudent measures do not provoke Russia, at the same time they assure our Eastern allies that they are not alone. NATO must ensure that our people are secured and defended! Russia, by the way, could easily change this if she was ready to leave Ukraine! Also the sanctions were no longer necessary if Russia changes.

Global Review: There is much criticism about NATO out-of area missions. While Jugoslavia was perceived as success, Afghanistan and Lybia are perceived as total mess.Will there be new out-of area missions or will NATO focus on the conflict with Russia in Europe?

HLD I agree we must and can do better. The withdrawl in Iraq was much too early and in Lybia we also did not bring peace to the poor people.In Afghanistan we stopped our withdrawl just in time-we can together with our Afghan brothers achieve great things if we stay committed. We must not concentrate on winning a battle—that is kind of easy and can be achieved relatively quick. We must however win the peace! That requires long commitment and patience on the one hand, and on the other it requires that many institutions contribute to the development in those countries. Military can create a safe and secure enviroment, but it cannot build up development. So, let´s work closely together and give the people a concrete perspective for a better life! We must be perceived better/more attractive than the „Taliban, ISIS et alia“-only if we do so, we will be successful.At the Warsaw Summit it was decided that NATO will act on 360 degree; South and East are the current threats. We have no choice:we must do both simultaneously. But we must not forget the North…

Global Review: The Republican US presidential candidate Trump wants to renegotiate all international treaties– starting from free trade treaties, UNO, bilateral military treaties in Asia and NATO. He said the USA under his leadership wouldn´t stick to its treaty obligations as the NATO members and allies like Japan or Southkorea wouldn´t meet their obligations.He even said that he wouldn´t defend Lithuania or any other state and that Japan and Southkorea should defend themselves and even built up their own nuclear deterence, ignoring the US policy of nonproliferation.Putin and Kim Yongun are praising Trump as a „wise politician“..Is Trump a real danger for NATO or could he be a chance that the NATO states will fulfill the NATObenchmark of 2% gross domestic product for defense purposes?

HLD Elections have their own specific atmospherics, rules and regulations-in all of our wonderful countries. In the end people will elect a candidate and the one who has gotten most of the votes will form a goverment. I do not comment on the American elections nor on candidates- I trust my American friends that they elect a personality who can rule a nuclear world power.The Americans don´t need advice from outside.They know best what is good for their country.And also they know exactly that the US—the land of the free-stands for rule of law, independence of justice, freedom of gathering and speech, human rights,etc. And that they will always defend friends against threats. This „global responsibility“is part of the US DNA.If they no longer do this, if the US went into self-determined isolation, they would loose their „power“ and influence.Why should they? Why should they want to create a gap that will be filled by others- Russia or China? Soon themselves were threatened- I am convinced this ain´t gonna happen.

Global Review The Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment (CSBA) published a new study „Rethinking Armaggedon“, speaking of a second nuclear age which was distinguished from the first nuclear age of the Cold war by the multipolar structure of actors, the occurrence of conventional global strike potentials, cyberwar, mininukes, missile defenses, less deterence by the USA and Russia.In this study the CBSA makes four war scenarios with Russia, China, Northkorea and Iran as main adversaries. In the Russia scenario Putin is supporting ethnic Russian groups in Lithuania, which have their own selfdynamic and the situation is escalating to the point that NATO and Russia think about a limited nuclear war in order to „escalate to deescalate“. Especially Russia would use nuclear weapons as it had conventional inferiority. That´s strange as the USA is speaking of the Baltic gap and Breedlove was even thinking about occupying Kaliningrad if Russia invades the Baltic states.How likely are such scenarios?

HDL Scenarios are very useful for training and thinking; if you want to change something, you must try to develop challenging scenarios in order to get what you want.Also, you may use scenarios to stimulate to „think out of the box“. It is my understanding that Phil Breedlove, my former boss and SACEUR, wanted to underline that in case of a Russian attack against the Baltic states our defensive operation could also include the occupation of oblast Kaliningrad. Since Clauswitz we know „war is an art“–you always must ensure that a potential adversary never exactly knows what your reaction will be. Let me be very clear. NATO will never attack first!It is an aggressor´s choice; we will always defend our people. How we will organize our strong defense will be „art“and we will take action according to our choosing. Nothing more-nothing less.

The so-called nuclear scenario is NOT ours! We consider nuclear weapons as last resort-the Russians, however, do consider nuclear warfare as feasable. We clearly state: do NOT miscalculate. If we were attacked in a nuclear strike, we would massively respond; where and when according to our choosing. Let´s be very clear: a Russian invasion into the Baltic States means war! That is an issue of Article V NATO Treaty, i.e. an attack against one ally equals an attack against all 28 nations. I have NO doubt that all 28 nations were in! And Russia should have no doubt that we will defend our people. I believe in deterrence and dialogue. And security and detente.

Global Review Germany wants to play a more robust role within NATO and issued a Whitepaper 2016. What are the main new aspects of this Whitepaper and do you think that the Whitepaper is sufficient to meet the future challenges for Germany and NATO?

HLD Germany is the biggest European ally and accordingly she has to take over responsibility. Germany cannot and will not hide. Germany´s geopolitical relevance, her economic power, her size and certainly also her history (in particular the ugly Nazi-times) demands a significant role in NATO, the European Union, the OSCE and United Nations.Nothing new, however,since Germany is unified, her influence became bigger. The recently published Whitepaper analyses the changes in the world and draws some important conclusions for Germany. This is important in order to give people inside Germany and abroad orientation and vision about Germany´s role and responsibility.

This contributes to transparency and predictability which is of utmost importance during these days of „global uncertainty! Obviously the Whitepaper does not immediately change politics or the status of the Bundeswehr or the security institutions, but it gives an impetus for further development. It clearly marks a „status quo“ and describes the „way ahead“.The Whitepaper aims high! For example the foundation of a cyber command is mentioned; comprehensive approach, hybrid warfare and global interdependence are addressed. I think it is a good thing that Germany´s goverment published a new Whitepaper since 10 years. We will watch with huge interest how quickly these great ideas will be implemented.Promising signs are the commitment in the Baltics with a task group, the enduring partnership with Afghanistan, the extended deployment into Mali and Iraq and the overwhelming cooperation with the refugees.

Global Review Will there ever be an European army or is Europe too weak and the different states have too different interests that an European army could ever become something else than a European pillar within NATO?

HLD I belong to a small group of idealists who believe in an European Army. At the same time I´m not naive- I do not see an unified army in the near future. However, we must recognize that the challenges ahead of us cannot be solved by a single nation. There are already signs of integration: For example German-French cooperation at brigade and corps-level (Eurocops); German-Dutch-deep integration from bataillon via brigade/division to corps-level, maritime and air forces do their combined and joint training,etc. Belgium and Netherland form one navy together.To create an EU Army we must also see the current obstacles: availability! Can nations rely on the other national forces-always?If the answer is: Yes, also in cases where we have different national interests? Is the German parliament prepared to a deployment in Africa ,for example, to help our French brothers on order of the French president? Will French forces deploy to Elbe flooding or with Germany to Afghanistan?I believe, this is NOT the case.And as long as we cannot overcome national responsibilities/regulations, we will not have a fully fletched EU Army.The European Army is a matter of political will; it´s not a military question. What we will see in Europe are elements of an EU Army.The question of sovereignity must be addressed first. The current emotional feelings/mood in Europe are sadly more in favour of nationalistic movements than of international/multinational ones. Think of Brexit, the ongoing financial crisis, the refugee question and other challenges. It is not time to push this question. We must solve bigger problems first.Military can and will easily cooperate—even without being unified.We practise this every day in NATO. One day we all will realize that Europe is a wonderful vision. To conclude: Only together we can achieve great things!

Global Review: Turkey under Erdogan is developing to a Muslimbrother-style autotharian dictatorship with neoOttoman dreams. Erdogan had joint maneuvres ” Anatolian Eagle” with the Chinese airforce and wants to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and part of China`s New Silkroad/One Belt-One-Road- Initiative. Erdogan has also renewed his relationship with Russia. Is Turkey still a reliable NATO partner and would it have the option to leave NATO, built up a nuclear deterence and become an independent regional power?

HLD What we currently see in Turkey is of major concern to me. The failed coup d´etat clearly shows that the situation is dense and volatile- and this is NOT positive for us all. What we need is a stable and strong Turkey at the geographical edge of Europe that contributes to peace and stability. All democratic leaders condemned the coup, however how Turkish authorities „clean“is also of concern because it shows more elements of revenge than of justice. I still hope that or Turkish friends and ally will return to „good governance“ and will positively influence politics in that very region. Turkey could serve as bridge between Europe, Asia and Arabia(the Middle East. Syria, Israel, Russia, Iran and Saudiarabia must cooperate in order to achieve stability and peace! Syria is bleeding since 5 years.We cannot accept this tragedy any longer. We must stop ISIS/Daesh as a precondition for a peaceful development.No country can achieve this -that is why we do not believe that Turkey aims at a „unique status“ as you described it.However, I can imagine that Turkey aims to be respected as a regional power. In order to achieve this Turkey, however, has to „play“ democratic games within NATO and the Western world. If she continues to practice „politics with ambiguity“she risks her influence and relevance. On the long run:You cannot serve all- you must know which values you want to defend- and with whom.

Global Review: Putin said in his speech before the German parliament in 2001 that Europe could only play a vital role in worldpolitics if it merged its economic, cultural, political and military resources with Russia. Did this mean that Putin had the illusion that Europe would leave NATO and have a military pact and a freetrade area from Lisbon to Vladivostok with Russia? Did he switch to a plan to desintegrate NATO and the EU from within by supporting leftwinged and rightwinged, nationalistic parties like the Front National and by military pressure?

HLD: Well, during the times of the German revolution we (Germany and the West) offered Russia a „strategic partnership“; amongst others, the „NATO-Russia-Council“was established and a „Russian NATO ambassador“ was created. Military exercises were jointly conducted; exchange programmes contributed to the climate of detente which meant: the Cold war was history. Russia was no longer considered to be a foe, but a friend. Wow, what a change!

However, after almost two decades of harmony and cooperation there was no progress with regard to deepening the partnership. In the end I do believe that we /NATO did not really know how to deal with Russia as a „strategic partner“. In particular the new members-former WP countries-did not accept Russia as a friend.They were simply not convinced that Russia had changed. And Russia noticed that.Finally, all parties were kind of „desillusioned“about strategic partnership. I strongly believe that we have missed a golden opportunity to improve our cooperation with Russia.Whether we like it or not: Russia is a P-5-member, a nuclear power, a global player, a huge country with 140 million people,etc.And we have many cultural ties with our neighbours. I think there is no viable option than to cooperate with Russia in order to contribute globally to peace and stability. Terrorism is the most challenging common threat.

On the other hand Russia must stop to undermine our societies. And Russia must return to the so called Helsinki-process and the agreed principles.Rule of law and human rights, etc. We will maintain cohesion! What we need today is a grand strategy and politicians who trust each other. One of my friend said: „You can surge forces, you can surge capabilities- but you cannot surge trust“. The Russian elections 2018 will prove whether we can reset the button- let´s try!

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