Interview with NATO Deputy Spokesperson, Mr. Piers Cazalet, conducted by Editor in Chief
Sir, it is a great honor to have you in this interview. Thank you very much indeed for accepting it.
Q 1: With respect to NATO 2030, can you discuss the key elements identified and expounded in the meetings of the Defense Ministers at NATO Headquarters, 17-18 February 2021?
NATO Deputy Spokesperson, Mr. Piers Cazalet: Thank you for this opportunity to speak to U.S Europe World Affairs. The meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in February was the first with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. It represented an important milestone in our preparations for our summit later this year.
As for the NATO 2030 initiative launched by Secretary General Stoltenberg, it is informed by two fundamental premises. First: in the current historical juncture we have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in relations between Europe and North America. Second: the number and scope of global challenges are such that no country and no continent can tackle them alone. Ultimately, the goal of the NATO 2030 initiative is to make NATO fit for the future.
Under the NATO 2030 initiative, Secretary General Stoltenberg has put forward a number of ambitious proposals. They cover key areas.
- Strengthen our commitment to deterrence and defence, by providing incentives to Allies to contribute more capabilities, and ensure fairer burden sharing;
- Raise our level of ambition when it comes to resilience, which is our first line of defence;
- Boost transatlantic cooperation on defence innovation, so that NATO keeps its technological edge;
- Improve our ability to train and build capacity in NATO partner countries, because this is a more sustainable way to contribute to stability in our neighbourhood, and to fight terrorism;
- Enhance political coordination among Allies, so that NATO can consolidate itself as a platform for consultation and coordination, on more issues and in more formats;
- Strengthen our political and practical cooperation with like-minded democracies around the world, so that we can do more to protect the rules-based order, which is undermined by countries that do not share our values, like Russia and China;
- Bolster our efforts to address the security implications of climate change, notably by reducing vulnerabilities in and emissions from the military sector.
- Start work on updating NATO’s Strategic Concept, in order to address existing and emerging challenges, recommit to our values, and reinforce the bond between Europe and North America.
Overall, the recent meetings of NATO Defence Ministers represented a great start to our discussion to build a substantial and forward-looking agenda for the NATO summit and to secure a more peaceful and prosperous future through a strong transatlantic Alliance.
Q 2: Security challenges have been recorded by NATO as counter terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missile defense, cyber defense, improvised explosive devices, energy security, environment, hybrid threats.
Under the NATO alliance setting, could you elaborate on Hybrid threats and Cyber defense, as they seem quite related?
NATO Deputy Spokesperson, Mr. Piers Cazalet: Cyber threats are becoming more frequent, complex and destructive. NATO takes this threat very seriously, and we are constantly stepping up our cyber defences. NATO protects its own IT networks from cyber-attacks 24 hours a day. The Alliance has also created a new Cyberspace Operations Centre. NATO cyber experts actively share information, including through our Malware Information Sharing Platform. Furthermore, NATO has cyber rapid reaction teams on standby to assist Allies; and every year, cyber defenders from across the Alliance test their skills in Cyber Coalition, NATO’s biggest cyber defence exercise. Allies are also bolstering their national cyber defences through NATO’s Cyber Defence Pledge.
We must keep strengthening our cyber defences as we learn from recent attacks. NATO and the EU have been cooperating closely on cyber security for years; and our cyber experts exchange information and warnings in real-time, keeping us all safer.
With respect to hybrid threats, at the Brussels Summit in 2018, NATO Leaders agreed to establish Counter Hybrid Support Teams to assist Allies in preparing for and responding to this kind of threat. If requested by an Ally, a team of experts can be deployed to support national efforts in variety of areas, including cyber defence, energy security, counter-terrorism, civil preparedness or strategic communications.
I would like to highlight two more points. First: having a strong military is fundamental to our security, but strong militaries depend on strong societies. NATO is playing an important role in this respect, including by setting minimum resilience standards for Allies; and looking to the future, we need to do even more. We need a broader, more integrated and better coordinated approach to resilience, with concrete national targets – for communications, including 5G and undersea cables, and energy and water supplies; and a joint assessment of any vulnerabilities.
Countries like China are investing strategically in ports and airports, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, and compromise from the inside. So we must continue to build up our resilience; and we welcome that resilience is an area where we work closely with the EU; NATO staff have shared with their EU counterparts our updated baseline requirements on resilience. This is also an important part of the NATO 2030 agenda, and Allied leaders will address it at our Summit later this year.
Second: The rapid pace of technological change is a challenge. Artificial intelligence, autonomous weapon systems, big data, and biotech can significantly change our lives; but these developments also present risks, and we must remain at the forefront of these changes to understand what they mean for us. We can no longer take our technological edge for granted. For example, China intends on becoming the world’s leading power in artificial intelligence by 2030, less than 10 years away.
So we must research, invest in and adopt emerging technologies. NATO plays a key role. It coordinates defence planning among Allies, ensuring we are developing the best technologies. NATO defence ministers recently agreed an implementation strategy to ensure we stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative technologies. NATO can also serve as a forum for Allies to consider practical, ethical and legal questions that arise from new technologies. Furthermore, emerging technology is an important topic in our dialogue with the EU.
Q 3: In response to Covid-19 pandemic over the past year, NATO has mobilized to provide tremendous assistance to allied and partner countries. Could you please describe future mitigation and strategies in place?
NATO Deputy Spokesperson, Mr. Piers Cazalet: COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways and it has magnified existing security trends and tensions. There has been a severe economic impact. Supply chains have been interrupted and the digital revolution has been accelerated. At the same time, challenges to our collective security have not disappeared. On the contrary. Russia continues its military activities unabated; ISIS and other terrorist groups are emboldened; we have seen an increase in disinformation; and the rise of China is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power.
Against this backdrop, since the start of the pandemic NATO has been addressing two parallel needs. On one hand to stand in solidarity and help each other out. On the other, to prevent this health crisis from turning into a security crisis.
In the first half of 2020, almost half a million troops from NATO militaries have supported civilian efforts, building field hospitals, helping with testing, transporting patients, distributing medical equipment, conducting repatriation, helping with decontamination, making available laboratories and quarantine facilities, establishing triage centres, and supporting border security across the Alliance.
In June 2020, NATO Defence Ministers decided on a new Operations Plan to ensure that the Alliance remains ready to continue helping Allies and partners. We have also established a NATO Pandemic Response Trust Fund to enable us to quickly acquire medical supplies and services. This Fund maintains an established stockpile of medical equipment and supplies to be able to provide immediate relief to Allies or partners in need.
Allied militaries and NATO can also provide help with the rollout of the vaccine, if needed.
Overall, COVID has shown us how unpredictable our world is and why boosting resilience is a key task for NATO. COVID-19 has also shown us that we are stronger and safer when we work together. Europe and North America must continue to stick together. That’s why we need a strong NATO – now, and in the future.
Q 4: In the context of the same subject, I’d like to ask you about the valuable contributions of NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, and its timely operations. Please tell us about the center’s founding and essential objectives, and what constitute its primary operational tasks and scope?
NATO Deputy Spokesperson, Mr. Piers Cazalet: The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) has been playing a crucial role throughout NATO’s response to the Coronavirus crisis. Since the start of the pandemic, it has coordinated requests from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and 18 NATO and partner countries, garnering more than 130 responses in return. Since the beginning of this year, the Centre has coordinated new donations to Allies and partners in need. Most recently, Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro received sets of ventilator supplies to sustain the operation of the ventilators received from NATO’s stockpile earlier in 2020. Additionally, Slokavia donated and delivered four pulmonary ventilators to North Macedonia in response to an urgent request for assistance received in January 2021.
The EADRCC is NATO’s main civil emergency response mechanism. It is active all year round; it operates on a 24/7 basis; and it involves all NATO Allies and partner countries. The Centre functions as a clearing-house system for coordinating both requests and offers of assistance, mainly in case of natural and man-made disasters. Its tasks are carried out in close cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), which retains the primary role in the coordination of international disaster relief operations. Furthermore, its principal function is coordination rather than direction. In the case of a disaster requiring international assistance, it is up to individual NATO Allies and partners to decide whether to provide assistance, based on information received from the EADRCC.
The Centre is located at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. It is staffed by secondees from NATO and partner countries and members of NATO’s International Staff. The Centre liaises closely with UN OCHA, NATO Military Authorities and other relevant international organisations. When a disaster occurs, the EADRCC can temporarily be augmented with additional personnel from NATO and partner delegations to NATO, or NATO’s international civilian and military staff. In addition, the EADRCC has access to national civil experts that can be called upon to provide the Centre with expert advice in specific areas in the event of a major disaster.
In addition to its day-to-day activities and the immediate response to emergencies, the EADRCC conducts large-scale field exercises to improve interaction between NATO and partner countries, as well as between NATO and international organisations. Regular major disaster exercises have been organised in different participating countries to practise procedures, provide training for local and international participants, build up interoperability skills and capabilities and harness the experience and lessons learned for future operations. Since 2000, the EADRCC has conducted on average one large consequence-management field exercise every year and started in 2016 a new set of exercises using virtual reality technology. Virtual reality is a big part of the future and NATO is using it to complement its conventional table-top and field exercises.
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