1st Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABC/D): Road to Transformation Summit


On 1-2 June 2006, the Baltic Defence College hosted the 1st Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABC/D), organised by the Ministry of Defence of Estonia and the BALTDEFCOL. This event is a joint initiative of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to promote broad debate on conceptual and practical issues of defence reforms and military transformation. The 1st ABC/D focused on the issues pertaining to the forthcoming NATO summit in Riga, hence its subtitle ‘Road to Transformation Summit’. It was attended by more than 80 policymakers and academics from 20 countries as well as international institutions, who discussed the challenges of transforming NATO as well as national armed forces to meet current and future security threats.


Conference background The initiative to have a regular annual defence conference in the Baltics, drawing participants from NATO and the EU countries to discuss fundamental strategic issues, has its roots in the Baltic Security Assistance, or BALTSEA, forum. Designed to allow effective coordination of external assistance to the armed forces of the Baltic countries, the forum has largely outlived its purpose and did not reflect the new imperatives, stemming from their NATO and EU membership. These imperatives – the need to focus more on new expeditionary capabilities, increase their strategic utility and effectiveness in the contemporary security environment, develop new common solutions in order to bolster NATO and EU capacity to project military power, enhance partnership and cooperation with various nations and regions – are as pressing and important to the old NATO and EU members as the new ones. Thus the “assistance provider-recipient” relationship, which underpinned the BALTSEA, has been eclipsed by the challenge of military transformation. The idea of the ABC/D also stems from the effort of the Baltic states – eager and successful reformers themselves - to stimulate and sustain a reformist mindset and innovative approach to the challenges of transformation within the Euro-Atlantic security and defence community. The Baltic states started searching for new ways of engaging this community by providing a platform for exchanging experiences, perspectives and ideas. The ABC/D initiative is designed to serve this ambition in the future. Conference proceedings The 1st ABC/D was opened by Mr Lauri Lindström, Deputy Permanent Undersecretary for Defence Policy of the Estonian Ministry of Defence, who underlined the importance of the ABC/D initiative in continuing and carrying forward the BALTSEA spirit and addressing the challenges of military transformation. Brigadier General Algis Vaičeliūnas, Commandant of the Baltic Defence College, then introduced the hosting institution, putting its role and development into the overall context of changes in the strategic environment and reforms of defence institutions. The first session, moderated by Mr. Gediminas Varvuolis, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Delegation of Lithuania to NATO, was dedicated to the transformation of NATO, which is a challenge of paramount importance in terms of securing the future of the Alliance. Transformation of NATO force generation process and mechanism was examined by Peter Michael Pilgaard, Head of NATO and EU Policy Department of the Ministry of Defence of Denmark. His presentation sought to recommend measures of how to solve problems associated with force generation and arising from the lack of political will, a “free ride” phenomenon and lack of resources. Mr. Pilgaard suggested that enhancing strategic dialogue within the Alliance, expanding common funding in some specific areas, applying usability targets and focusing on output for better burden sharing as well as establishing a better linkage between NATO force planning and force generation would serve well to facilitate force generation for NATO-led operations. His conclusion was that more transformation is necessary to fully exploit the Alliance’s military potential. Mr. Renatas Norkus, Undersecretary for Defence Policy and International Cooperation of the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, demonstrated how his country was using commitment to international operations as a tool of transforming its armed forces. He gave a brief summary of the main drivers for change in the Lithuanian defence system after the accession to NATO and outlined major transformation dilemmas. At the same time, Lithuania’s participation in the international operations, such as the Special Operations Forces’ contribution to the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and  in the projects such as the NATO Response Force (NRF), helped to identify and address the shortfalls in the areas of C4I, equipment, logistics and interoperability. Mr. Norkus went on to focus on Lithuania’s decision to lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan’s province of Ghor as a focal point in obtaining valuable lessons for further development of the armed forces. The PRT, it was suggested, helped to improve national planning and force generation procedures, the deployable command and control systems, deployable logistics capabilities as well as address the shortcomings in such areas as CIMIC, EOD, PSYOPS. Major General (ret.) Kees Homan, Senior Researcher at the “Clingendael” Institute (the Netherlands), spoke about the ways of increasing NATO common funding for common ventures. He provided a comparative perspective of current arrangements for funding international peace support operations under NATO, the EU and the UN. General Homan suggested that NATO’s common funding system had to be revised in the light of its global role and the financial burdens stemming from it. To ensure fair burden-sharing and collective solidarity as well as the Alliance’s ability to launch and sustain non-Article 5 operations, it is necessary to extend the common funding principles to such operations and make financial contributions to such operations mandatory to all members of NATO. The second session, chaired by Mr. Svein Mikser, Chairman of the Defence Commission of the Estonian Parliament and a former Minister of Defence, sought to engage the participants of the conference in a broader discussion on the meaning of transformation, its perils and the challenges of transforming mindset of security and defence communities. Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II, Research Director of the Strategic Studies Institute, the U.S. Army War College, gave a presentation entitled “Transformation Myths: Confronting the paradoxes of change”. As the title indicates, Dr. Echevarria exposed a number of myths underpinning the ongoing military transformation and discussed their implications. He focused on such popular notions that transformation is about changing for the future, that strategic uncertainty is greater today, that imagination and creative thinking are keys to success in transformation, that “mental transformation” is the most difficult challenge organisations face and that the military tend to re-fight the last war rather than preparing for the next. Through a careful, historically well-informed and insightful argumentation, Dr. Echevarria tackled these myths and made well-founded conclusions. Firstly, he suggested that transformation is more about present than the future and that the uncertainty is a given. Also, transformation is an ongoing, evolutionary and natural when in competitive environment, while truly revolutionary transformation requires strategic impetus and timing. It was also concluded that critical rather than creative and imaginative thinking is by far most important ingredient in transformation, while creative thinking and consensus can be in conflict with each other. Finally, it was made clear that re-fighting the last war is not always bad as it allows blending the old and new ways of war and building upon the knowledge of the past. Major General Frank Hye, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Representative in Europe, elaborated upon the role of the Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in the process of transforming thinking in security and defence. He underlined that transformation is as much about changing the organisational culture as about the product of the transformation, the new capabilities. General Hye also highlighted the role which the ACT plays in developing such concepts as Effect Based Operations and Network Enabled Capabilities as the intellectual framework for the effort to transform both armed forces of the individual NATO nations and the Alliance capabilities in general. He furthermore outlined the challenges for further transformation, such as understanding the strategic environment, and demonstrated a full variety of tools that the ACT employs to enact and drive change within the Alliance. Dr Peter Foot, Director of Academics at the Canadian Forces College and a member of the King’s College London War Studies Group, delivered a presentation on education as a vehicle for transformation. His analysis built upon the distinction between the so-called Athenian and Spartan military mindsets, offered by John B. Lovell in 1979. Following this distinction, the Athenian mindset represents learning and high culture, emphasizes creative thinking and liberal arts, especially history, builds upon multi-culturalism and is post-heroic, but also was challenged by 9/11. The Spartan mindset represents personal austerity, glory and discipline, emphasizes science and technology, builds upon patriotism and is heroic; thereby such mindset creates 9/11. Dr. Foot argued persuasively that to enable the military to tackle the Rumsfeldian “unknown unknowns”, the military education institutions have to adopt the Athenian approach, focusing on developing open, flexible minds capable of analysis and conceptualisation. The third session of the 1st ABC/D, chaired by Mr. Jānis Karlsbergs, Deputy State Secretary for Defence Planning of the Latvian Ministry of Defence, was devoted to discussing various national perspectives toward the forthcoming NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. The view from Berlin was presented by Colonel Hans-Werner Wiermann, Deputy Assistant Chief of Armed Forces Staff, Politico-Military Affairs and Arms Control, Federal Ministry of Defense of Germany. It was followed by a view from the nation holding the EU presidency in the second half of 2006, elaborated upon by Mr. Jukka Knuuti, Advisor of the Finnish Ministry of Defence. Finally, the view from Washington was presented by Mr. Gary Robbins, Director for European Security and Political Affairs, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of State Department. The presentations and the follow-up discussions revealed high expectations of the summit, particularly by the U.S., well justifying its ambition to become another major landmark in the road of transformation. Manuscripts of the ABC/D presentations will be published in the early Autumn and made public on the Baltic Defence College website. Next ABC/D will take place in Autumn 2007, on a topic to be agreed by the ministries of defence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania later this year. Tomas Jermalavičius Chairman of ABC/D Dean of the Baltic Defence College


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