U.S. Department of Defense

05/19/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/19/2017 11:34

Dunford 'Enthusiastic' About NATO's Ability to Address New Threats

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2017 - NATO 's chiefs of defense discussed the big changes happening to the alliance during the military committee meeting that ended yesterday in Brussels.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday he was pleased with the discussions among the highest-ranking military members in the alliance.

'I am enthusiastic coming out of today because today I felt like I was surrounded not by problem identifiers but by problem solvers,' he said during an interview after the meeting.

'We could disagree about the methodology, but everyone agreed we have some problems and challenges out there,' he said. 'We have to do something to enhance stability, project stability, to mitigate the flow of refugees and drive down the level of violence and capabilities of these extremist groups.'

Historic Alliance

NATO stuck together during the Cold War, providing a bulwark against the threat of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites. When the Soviet Union fell, many of the nations that were part of the Warsaw Pact joined NATO. Russia, for a time, looked as if it would be a partner and worked with NATO in the Balkans and elsewhere.

At one point, it looked as if the need for NATO was going away. Europe looked like it was on the road to a new era of peaceful coexistence.

Today, however, a revanchist Russia appears set on regaining its power and influence on the continent. Russia's actions in Georgia, its illegal annexation of Crimea and its continuing actions in Ukraine demonstrate its desire to operate according to its own agenda.

And there is yet another threat emanating from the south. Terrorist networks -- like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- are driving people from their homes and trying to inculcate their fundamentalist philosophies on the populations of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

NATO adapted to meet these new threats. NATO units are forming in the Baltic Republics and in Poland. Exercises in Romania and in the Black Sea show that NATO is prepared to confront Russian aggression.

And NATO is confronting the new threat of terrorism with new methods, doctrines and capabilities.

'Where we are going is -- we need a network to defeat a network,' Dunford said. 'This is a global-transregional threat and we need a global-transregional network. And I think NATO is an important part of that network, and we are moving in the right direction in a number of important areas to get in place the enduring infrastructure [and] organizational construct to deal with the challenges out there.'

During the Cold War, NATO was focused on deterring the Soviet Union. Now, it needs a variety of capabilities to handle the threats of today.

'We believe you need to be trained, organized and equipped to conduct operations across the spectrum,' Dunford said.

New Types of Conflict

U.S. military officials developing the National Military Strategy spoke about the 21st century's transregional, multi-domain, multifunctional fight. Troops must be prepared for everything from outright war to deterring adversaries short of war.

Adversarial competition is the new term for the situation many parts of the world are in right now. This competition falls below the threshold of armed conflict and can involve information operations, unconventional operations, economic coercion and political influence, Dunford said.

At the military committee meeting, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, supreme allied commander for NATO and commander of U.S. European Command, along with French air force Gen. Denis Mercier, the commander of allied command transformation, led the discussion on the challenges that NATO allies face and the means they are employing and developing to combat those threats.

'The discussion that General Scaparrotti led today was the equivalent of what we've been having in the United States over the last 15 months,' Dunford said. 'The character of war has changed in some profound ways in space, cyber, land, air, sea. It involves all those domains.'

He added, 'Any conflict is likely to have second and third order effects out of the geographic area. Even conflict with a non-state actor is still likely to see them leveraging cyber capabilities, information operations, and in some cases, high-end conventional capabilities.'

Integrating Capabilities, Maintaining Relevance

NATO is involved each day in this type of adversarial competition with state and non-state actors, Dunford said. The pressing question, he added, is: Do alliance nations have in place the organization, training, equipment and leadership to be competitive in confronting these new threats?

The alliance still must be prepared for a conventional conflict and provide nuclear deterrence, Dunford said.

Today's challenges have grown from the Cold War-era scenario of tank-on-tank battle at the Fulda Gap in then-West Germany, to competition in all domains including space, electronic warfare and cyber, the general said.

'When we bring together all of the countries with their collective capabilities we need to make sure we integrate our capabilities in a way that makes us competitive in the context of the character of war and the threat today as opposed to the threat in the 1980s,' he said.

In the 1980s, the AirLand battle doctrine dealt with a conventional threat and a certain understanding of time and space, he said.

'The speed of war has changed, and the competitive space runs across all spectrums,' Dunford said. 'In the 1980s, we thought we were either at peace or at war, and that could be contained geographically. Today, there is conflict short of war, and we no longer think it can be contained.'

Dunford said the conversation at the military committee meeting was about what actions the nations that make up NATO must take in the coming months 'to ensure the capability path we are on makes us relevant and competitive today and tomorrow.'

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)