Robert Pschel: NATO Summit in Brussels – a short meeting with important elements
The former head of the NATO Information Office in Moscow sums up the results of the last summit in an interview &# 171; Voice of America&# 187;
BRUSSELS – The summit of the North Atlantic Alliance held in Brussels this week was the first for Donald Trump as the head of the NATO member state and brought some clarity to the plans of the NATO countries on key issues of the organization.
Terrorism, spending, relations with Russia – all of this was discussed by the 28 heads of the Alliance member states and the prime minister of Montenegro, which joins NATO on 5 June. What are the results of this conversation, which was significantly shorter than the conversation between the leaders of the NATO countries at last year’s summit in Warsaw? To this question in an interview with the Russian Service «Voices of America» in charge of NATO Senior Specialist for Russia and the Western Balkans, Former Director of the NATO Information Office in Russia Robert Pschel.
Danila Galperovich: How was this summit different from the previous ones? What was on it that makes it new?
Robert Pschel: Compared to last year’s summit in Warsaw, there were no official final statements at the summit in Brussels, and it was short. But we discussed many elements that could be called new. The first – this is the grand opening of a new building. Second – new leaders: this is not only President Trump, but also President Macron, for example, and others. Third – although, it must be emphasized, NATO is not going to participate in the fighting elements of the coalition against «Islamic State», but the very decision that NATO joins this coalition – this is a significant and important step. Of course, the question of funding – this is not a new topic, but that the Allies have agreed to draw up national action plans in this area – this is just new. After all, when we talk about the budgets of countries – it is a very delicate thing related to internal procedures and politics. So that – short summit, but many new elements.
D.G .: Russia completed the formation of a powerful military fist in Crimea some time ago – Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated that Crimea is a self-sufficient defense region. Does NATO have a military response to the formation of a new zone in Europe, which is filled with weapons? After all, the three NATO countries – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – are in close proximity to Crimea.
R.P .: I am not a military specialist, and I will not present myself as such. I will divide my answer into two parts. One – these are items associated with a specific region. Yes, it is true that there are, say, special regions, for example, the Kaliningrad region – this is, obviously, one of the most heavily armed places, and very modern, including offensive weapons. In propaganda speeches from Moscow, we hear that NATO is allegedly engaged in the militarization of the Arctic and the North in general. But sorry, it’s just the opposite. – it is Russia that is placing new bases or opening old ones, of which there are many, there is nothing like this on our part. Crimea is now becoming such a place. Of course, we see it, we are – NATO, so it is obvious that this is of interest. But, secondly, we are an absolutely defensive organization. We do not consider the possibility of military action, although we cannot but take all this into account. Our approach, in terms of military threats, is often referred to as «360 degrees» – we cannot choose threats, the members of the Alliance deal with all the specific threats that exist. They can appear in the east, south, or elsewhere. In short, the policies that countries shape – are we talking about exercises, about the presence of the military in some areas, for example, in the Black Sea – associated with the assessment of real threats, which we are constantly engaged in. It is clear that we consider Crimea to be a part of Ukraine. Our view – strategic, which I think is logical for an organization with 29 countries.
D.G .: Do I understand correctly that the military response to Crimea was in the form, for example, of a military presence, a change in the plans for conducting exercises, the possible deployment of weapons other than before??
R.P .: I will not talk about specific plans and defensive details. I can say that, yes, NATO, in terms of defense planning, is making a compromised military composition. Indeed, in the context of what you are asking, it is said about the presence of military elements in the east, and not only about the contingents, but also about the rapid reaction forces. These forces are fully prepared, if there is a decision by the NATO Council, then they can, say, go where they are needed. I’m not talking specifically, it’s just in terms of approach. And in the case of, for example, cyber defense, in general, we are not talking about borders and regions. The most important thing – this task is very clear, obvious and has not changed since 1949 – ensure the security of NATO countries.
D.G .: Since you mentioned cyber defense, I wanted to ask you about Strathcom – a structure with a status that is not very clear to me under NATO, formed to counter cyber threats and information threats. What is this structure, and how serious a cyber threat and information threat from Russia is NATO now experiencing??
R.P .: I’ll explain first, because it’s a little tricky. If we are talking about the structures of NATO, then this is, of course, the headquarters in which we are now talking to you, with all our political and other branches. There is, of course, a military structure with different departments, starting with SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) – D.G.). There are also structures that are not part of NATO institutions, but they can be called part of «NATO family». The Center for Combating Cyber Threats is located in Tallinn, while Strathcom, which is connected with the disinformation problem, is located in Riga. This is done by a group of NATO countries, and from the point of view «NATO family» these are think tanks, think tanks – places where people are doing development, doing intelligence-analytic work, doing teachings, for example. This year, by the way, was perhaps the most difficult and largest cyber defense exercise in the world. We have many such centers – there is a center for terrorism research, there is one on energy security, because in order to fight these problems, you first need to know better – what is this problem, to what extent can there be a potential role for NATO? These places also have an educational role. Not all people are cybersecurity experts. And you need to understand at least at the minimum level different basic principles, to prevent the level of danger from growing.
D.G .: The second part of my question was about the threat from Russia – NATO is often talked about about it. How serious a threat are you??
R.P .: We noticed it and I think everyone noticed – more recently, disinformation has often been linked to a cyber threat. Specific scenario: someone hacked into the system, personal or some organization. They can be just some kind of criminal or terrorist groups, but they can also be states. From the point of view of the defense of such systems, the difference is small – they still need to be protected. But then, unfortunately, it happens that this information, which is obtained in this way, is used for various political purposes. We see examples of attempts to influence democratic processes. All this means that it is both a security issue and a political issue. If a country uses disinformation to influence decisions in another country or its political processes, this is an absolutely fundamental threat. I can’t say NATO has all the answers, or NATO’s mandate means we will deal with every aspect. But we are connecting and we will connect, because this is important for us as an organization, this is what the member countries expect from us. These threats have been discussed over the past 2-3 years in the European Parliament, in other parliaments, and I think that there is already an understanding that this is real, that these are not just words. There is already a full sense of this. Unfortunately, Russia and its propaganda units, the information background from Russia play a very active role in this process..
D.G .: This summit was the first for Donald Trump. Judging by the broadcasts of the meetings, one could say that, in general, there is no obvious rejection between him and the rest of the leaders with whom he talked there, took pictures, and so on. What do you think this summit has become for Trump-NATO relations? Who Trump turned out to be close to NATO?
R.P .: If we talk about what concerns NATO in various statements of the president and his associates and subordinates – secretary of state, secretary of defense, top advisers, vice president, there is no doubt for us that this administration will support the course that began in 1949. The United States is a key member of NATO. Style – this, of course, is different, not for me to assess. Everyone understands that President Trump has such a bright language that you need to get used to. Perhaps the most important – in the last month, thanks to the decisions of this administration, there are concrete steps that confirm that the United States not only says that it supports its allies in Europe, but also acts. The military presence has grown dramatically in the past month, and most recently budget proposals were made by the Trump administration related to the presence of US military elements in Europe. And this summit was also important, because the leaders of NATO countries need to be personally acquainted