Remarks at the Munich Security Conference

The Euro-Atlantic region is the bedrock of western values of democracy, open markets and individual freedoms. It contains the largest trading zones in the world as well as most of the world’s nuclear weapons.

The world badly needs the leadership that this powerful set of states can provide in meeting today's new threats—from nuclear and bio-terrorism to cyber security and health pandemics.

Rather than drafting new treaties, creating new institutions, or expanding existing alliances, the EASI Commission sought to create new pathways to a more inclusive and effective Euro-Atlantic community in which the use or threat of the use of military force to settle disputes disappears.

We are not stressing a new security architecture but rather a process focused on solving specific problems by actively working together.

Our Commission recommends six areas of cooperation.  Let me deal with two of them.

FIRST, we recommend ways for increasing warning and decision time for leaders.

Why is this important in today’s world?  Let’s flash back for a moment to the fall of 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis.  As a young staff member of the House Armed Services Committee, I happened to be on a NATO trip to Ramstein Air Base here in Germany at the peak of the crisis. I learned from the Commanding General that he had only one or two minutes to launch his nuclear-armed aircraft. Since they would be the first to arrive in the Soviet Union, they would also be the first targets of Soviet attack.

Flash forward to 1974  -- as a newly elected Senator on my first trip to NATO, I learned that we had deployed thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in NATO Europe to try to prevent the massing of Soviet tanks which could have deprived NATO of the crucial warning time needed to provide relief to frontline troops if a war began. I also learned first-hand from a group of sergeants that they were gravely concerned about the safety and security of our forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons because of troop morale, perimeter security and the threats from the terrorist groups of the era.

My point  -- warning and decision time or the lack thereof drove many decisions in the cold war, including the deployment of thousands of tactical nuclear weapons which if used by either or both sides would have obliterated the territory we were sworn to defend.

With the breakdown of the CFE Treaty and the discord over missile defense, are we destined to go back to the future?  The EASI Commission believes that the Euro-Atlantic region must avoid the mistakes and the dangers of the past.

Today there is still a divide on how the nations of this region perceive each other – fed by worst-case assumptions that look at capabilities, doctrines, and history -- not intentions. 

To overcome this divide, we recommend that the Euro-Atlantic community begin a politically-mandated process and dialogue among military leaders, where all sides confront their fears, distrusts and worst-case assumptions.

If no nation fears a short warning conventional attack or feels the need to deter or defend against such an attack with nuclear weapons, the chances of war – including nuclear war – by accident, miscalculation or false warning would be significantly reduced.

We should discuss perceptions, capabilities, doctrines and intentions.  The goal should be to build trust, stability and confidence and create a positive dynamic for discussions on core issues.

For example, nations could discuss measures relating to transparency of force deployments; limits on exercises; constraints on maneuvers in sensitive areas, and understandings on the kinds of armaments that will be deployed forward.

This focus should be on moving from reliance on offensive to defensive systems -- understanding that defensive rather than offensive forces would be forward deployed.

The EASI Commission’s second recommendation concerns cooperative missile defense.

Historically, missile defense has been a source of tension and has often been perceived as destabilizing the strategic balance and threatening strategic stability.

Cooperation on missile defense would build trust and lay the foundation for the Euro-Atlantic states to lead the broader international effort to meet the global threats posed not only by ballistic missile proliferation, but also by nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

With this objective in mind, the EASI Commission created an expert group of former senior policymakers and defense specialists co-chaired by Steve Hadley of the United States, General Trubnikov of Russia and Volker Rühe of Germany. 

The members of the working group devised a concept and an architecture for a cooperative US/NATO–Russia missile defense. They set forth the principles that should underlie it, and they laid out an architecture that gives practical expression to the concept.  It is noteworthy that the architecture was jointly created by General Obering, former director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency, and General Yesin, former Chief-of-Staff of the Strategic Rocket Forces of Russia.

According to the EASI plan, missile defense cooperation would be accomplished through pooling of sensor data and information fed into jointly staffed Cooperation Centers with common situational awareness. Command and control would remain a sovereign responsibility and would not be affected.

In addition, our approach envisions technology cooperation which might expand over time but would be subject to the right of each party to protect sensitive data and information.  In particular, sensitive technologies such as hit-to-kill and advanced radar algorithms would be protected.

The EASI Commission does not pretend that we have solved all the political problems regarding missile defense.  The EASI Commission, however, believes that our working group demonstrates that former leaders and experts from Russia, Europe and the United States can work together and can develop a cooperative missile defense plan that is acceptable to all.

If our leaders can find the political will to cooperate on missile defense and begin a dialogue to increase warning and decision time, it will create a positive dynamic for progress on broader security issues.  This would also be a significant step toward creating a Euro-Atlantic Security Community for the 21st century.   

February 4, 2012

Senator Nunn delivers remarks on the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative at the Munich Security Conference.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI