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Five Generals Report on NATO Strategy, January 10, 2008

Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership, by General (ret.) Dr. Klaus Naumann, KBE; General (ret.) John Shalikashvili; Field Marshal The Lord Inge, KG, GCB, PC; Admiral (ret.) Jacques Lanxade; General (ret.) Henk van den Breemen, January 2008.


Global Challenges

Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Proliferation

The ever growing demand for energy will inevitably lead to a significant increase in nuclear power for non-military use. This is desirable for economic and environmental reasons - but it will lead to major security risks. The temptation to enrich uranium beyond civilian use, and to divert the byproduct plutonium, is certain to grow and undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Therefore, a rigid control and verification regime by international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), other voluntary ad hoc cooperation initiatives and enforcement mechanisms (the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Zangger Committee and others) and, above all, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) will remain essential.

Should the world fail to find a solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions, the NPT could be damaged beyond repair and nuclear weapons proliferation could spread. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a major strategic threat - not only to Israel, which it has threatened to destroy, but also to the region as a whole, to Europe and to the United States. Secondly, it could be the beginning of a new multi-polar nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

The nuclear weapons of India and Pakistan have produced some regional stability, but also a new set of risks and uncertainties. The 'private' proliferation network of A. Q. Khan, which played a key role in developing Pakistan's nuclear capability, also sold centrifuge designs to Iran, North Korea and Libya, and had offered them to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In 2003, the dismantling of the A. Q. Khan network and Libya's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes was a major achievement, but several significant risks still remain. Given that many alumni of the A. Q. Khan network remain free, the threat of a very dangerous black market in nuclear weapons technology will remain. In particular, the greatest risk is that, if Pakistan were to become a failing state, it would be a failing state with nuclear weapons.

Although nuclear proliferation is currently in the foreground, the dangers of proliferation in chemical weapons, biological weapons, radiological weapons and missile technology have not abated. At present, 25 countries possess WMD. Of these, 17 possess active offensive chemical weapons capabilities and 12 possess offensive biological weapons. Around 70 countries possess missiles with a range of over 1,500 km, and around 12 nations export such weapons. Counteracting these threats will require the use of all available instruments.

At the moment, this is done through a combination of treaties and ad hoc arrangements. In addition to the Biological Weapons Convention of 1 72 and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1 3, there are ad hoc arrangements, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime. At present, the most important ad hoc arrangement to counter all of these threats is the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which seeks to enforce counter-proliferation by air and naval interdiction, where other control regimes fail or leave gaps. The PSI is hugely important and has had several important successes; but it currently has no formal institutional basis, and nor does it have a clear strategic direction. Proliferation of all kinds of WMD, their related dual-use technologies and the means to deliver them, will remain one of the most acute security challenges in the coming decades. Addressing these threats effectively will require deeper and wider cooperation and a more comprehensive approach...

Principles and Elements


Simultaneously observing proportionality and damage limitation will become extremely difficult in cases where the use of nuclear weapons must be considered. The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, in order to avoid truly existential dangers. At first glance, it may appear disproportionate; but taking account of the damage that it might prevent, it could well be proportionate. Despite the immense power of destruction possessed by nuclear weapons, the principle of damage limitation remains valid and must be kept in mind. Indeed, it was one of the principles that governed NATO's nuclear planning during the Cold War.


One truly indispensable element of any strategy in the 21st century is deterrence. This will no longer be deterrence by punishment, nor the threat of total destruction, which served us so well in preserving peace during the Cold War.

In the Post-Westphalian world, and against non-state actors, such deterrence does not work. What is needed is a new deterrence, which conveys a single, unambiguous message to all enemies: There is not, and never will be, any place where you can feel safe; a relentless effort will be made to pursue you and deny you any options you might develop to inflict damage upon us.

Deterrence in our time thus still avails itself of creating uncertainty in the opponent's mind - no longer reactively but proactively. What is needed is a policy of deterrence by proactive denial, in which pre-emption is a form of reaction when a threat is imminent, and prevention is the attempt to regain the initiative in order to end the conflict.

As deterrence might occasionally either be lost or fail, the ability to restore deterrence through escalation at any time is another element of a proactive strategy.

Escalation is intimately linked to the option of using an instrument first. A strategy that views escalation as an element can, therefore, neither rule out first use nor regard escalation as pre-programmed and inevitable. Escalation and de-escalation must be applied flexibly. Escalation is thus no longer a ladder on which one steps from rung to rung; it is much more a continuum of actions, as though there is a 'trampoline' that permits the action to be propelled up into the sky at one moment and just to stand still the next.

Such a concept of interactive escalation requires escalation dominance, the use of a full bag of both carrots and sticks - and indeed all instruments of soft and hard power, ranging from the diplomatic protest to nuclear weapons. As flexible escalation and de-escalation are the crucial instruments in gaining and maintaining the initiative, fast decision making is of the essence. The traditional forms and methods of governments and international organisations will today (in a world of instantaneous global communications) no longer be capable of meeting this requirement. Thus a thorough review and adaptation is required.

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate instrument of an asymmetric response - and at the same time the ultimate tool of escalation. Yet they are also more than an instrument, since they transform the nature of any conflict and widen its scope from the regional to the global. Regrettably, nuclear weapons - and with them the option of first use - are indispensable, since there is simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world. On the contrary, the risk of further proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible. This development must be prevented. It should therefore be kept in mind that technology could produce options that go beyond the traditional role of nuclear weapons in preventing a nuclear armed opponent from using nuclear weapons. In sum, nuclear weapons remain indispensable, and nuclear escalation continues to remain an element of any modern strategy.

Asymmetry will be used by all conflict parties, which means both that our side must be more prepared for the unexpected than ever before, and that the opponent must never know how, where or when we will act. To act asymmetrically could well be an instrument in regaining the initiative and could require deployment of the full range of options, from diplomacy to military intervention. Nuclear escalation is the ultimate step in responding asymmetrically, and at the same time the most powerful way of inducing uncertainty in an opponent's mind.

It is important, furthermore, to have dominance over the opponent's ability to calculate his risks. It is a very important element of strategy to keep things unpredictable for the opponent, who must never be able to know, or calculate, what action we will take. It is essential to maintain this dimension of psychological warfare by instilling fear in an opponent, to retain an element of surprise and thus deny him the opportunity of calculating the risk.

To that end, the strategy and strategy options need to be flexible, both in terms of a wide spectrum of types of response, and in terms of being able to apply different rungs on the ladder of escalation and violence. The more flexible the use that is made of response options, the greater the uncertainty that can be created in an opponent.

Unpredictability is an important element of any strategy that aims at conflict prevention and termination. Opponents must never know which step could be the next one, and must never have a chance to rule out any of the options in their opponent's arsenal. Thus the employment of military force, although the ultimate resort of politics, is not its last resort. Carl von Clausewitz used the word äußerst, or utmost, to describe the role of military force, but that never meant last resort over time. This ultima ratio of politics might very well be the first option to be used.

The early use of military responses is often linked to pre-emption and prevention - both elements of modern strategy. Both are applicable throughout a crisis or conflict, and neither is necessarily linked to a specific set of instruments, such as the military.

Pre-emption is the reactive response, when an opponent's action is considered imminent; whereas prevention is a proactive step aimed at denial - and thus at conflict termination - in a situation in which the threat is not yet imminent, but in which evidence indisputably points to the unavoidability of conflict.

Pre-emption is widely seen as a legal act of self-defence under customary international law, whereas the question of the legality of a preventive use of force so far remains unanswered.

In a world that is interconnected by real-time global communications, every step must be accompanied by a carefully orchestrated and well coordinated media campaign, in which it will again be vital to win and maintain the initiative. A modern grand strategy must include a media strategy aimed at winning the hearts and minds of people around the world. It must ensure information dominance, and thus guarantee the credibility of the action. It ought to be a 'first strike' media strategy, aimed at hitting the headlines first, though never at the expense of the truth.

Full text is available at: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/events/080110_grand_strategy.pdf

Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.

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