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Leangkollen 2012

The Leangkollen security conference 2012 was a success. All in all 134 participants gained valuable insight and took part in a major debate about the future of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

In this article you can find the interventions by ministers Barth Eide and Gahr Støre as well as ambassador Owen's speech. You can also access the power point presentations and read a summary of the speakers' main points.

Opening session in the Nobel Institute

Norwegian Minister of Defence and
UK ambassador Jane Owen answering questions


Chairman Kjell opened the conference entitled "Trans-Alantic values and interests in a mulitipolar world". He introduced Norway's minister of defence, Espen Barth Eide.
The minister focused on ways in which economic unrest and security are linked. He also argued convincingly for continuing - and strengthening - the transatlantic Alliance. The speech by Espen Barth Eide can be found here.

The minister was followed by UK ambassador to Norway, mrs. Jane Owen. She was kind enough to step in for Director Steve McCarthy, as his flight from London was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. She spoke about the consequences of financial instability for our security cooperation. Stating that less money will force us to rethink issues and do things differently, and better, in future.
And you can download Jane Owen's speech here.

Session II: National debates about the future of Trans-Atlanticism

Europe correspondent at the
International Herald Tribune,
Judy Dempsey, adresses the audience
The panel, chaired by Asle Toje, sought to explore how NATO committments are debated both in European countries and in the US. The panel consisted of: prof. John Owen (Univeristy of Virginia), Judy Dempsey (IHT), Abraham Boxhoorn (the Netherlands Atlantic Association) and Jens Ringsmose (Syddansk Universitet).

John Owen maintained that seeing NATO as an organization driven primarily by interest would only tell half the story of the alliance. Equally important is the fact that the alliance is based on common values. It has been a way to ensure a way of life, not only treasure. NATO will therefore persist due to common values leading to common interests.

Judy Dempsey believed that the transatlantic relationship is over. There is a new mindset with leaders on what the current security issues are. The Americans are worried about China’s growing military power, fearing their ability to deny them access to sea routes in the Pacific, for example. This goes on while the Europeans are cutting back on their military spending, relying on pooling and sharing, and growing less interested in projecting hard power in the form of military forces.

Abraham Boxhoorn asserted that the new multipolar international state system will be a mix of law and power. The incidence of rough play in international relations will increase without the presence of a benign hegemon, which is the role the United States has played since the end of the Cold War.

Jens Ringsmose analyzed the role of Denmark within NATO. Denmark has since 2001 intensified its Atlantic relations and international activism through NATO. Denmark has remained an anomaly in the public opinion polls on the war in Afghanistan, where, in contrast to other NATO-members, the support for the war has been slightly rising since figures from 2006.
Access his presentation here.

Session III: Trans-Atlantic Values for future generations

Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Jonas Gahr Støre.

This session was opened by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre. The panel brought the voice of the young generation to the table, through representatives from YATA.

Minister Støre
spoke about the practice of values. He did so by looking at the history of US- European relations, and by assessing the threats we are facing. You can access his speech here.

Sean Lobo
focused on whether younger generations are prepared to cope with the consequences of a changing world, and the need to burst the bubble of idealism in today’s youth. Interests are usually just as important as values in the military operations today. Communicating this in a more effective way will cement the next generation’s confidence in the value of transatlantic cooperation.

João Teixeira de Freitas talked about the impact of new players in international politics and how NATO is affected by the consequent power dispersion. While Asia is on the rise, this could potentially strengthen the transatlantic relationship as both the USA and Europe has common ground in a framework of Western values not shared by other regions.

Stephen Bruce Rakowski emphasized the fact that we are living in times of great change. The United States is in the process of pivoting towards Asia and away from Europe. However, shared values continue to be a strong foundation for cooperation between NATO allies. To keep the alliance relevant future endeavors should therefore be found outside of Europe.

Kristin Durant said that there are significant challenges to the transatlantic relationship. Two examples were given: A lack of American interest in the economic situation in Europe and a loss of legitimacy and relevance for NATO in many European countries. A more positive development could be achieved by refocusing the discussion on security policy in new and broader terms. The practice of atlanticism through ATA and YATA is an important driver in this regard.

Marie Dahle brought up the dimension of cultural identity, and pointed to the fact that the cultural distance between Europe and the United States is relatively minor. A history of mutual understanding is important to the NATO countries. The transatlantic relationship is one based on security. This is in contrast with the United States’ pacific relationship, which is driven by a sense of insecurity.


Session IV: The road to Chicago - transforming NATO

Retired brigadier from Turkey,
Oktay Bingöl, speaking about
NATO's neighbours
The last panel brought up the ongoing process of transformation in NATO, which will be the main topic at NATO's 2012 summit in Chicago. The speakers were Arild Eikeland (MoD), Ole Kværnø (Danish Defence College), Jo Gade (IFS) and Oktay Bingöl formerly with the Turkish Armed Forces.

Arild Eikeland talked about the Norwegian Ministry of Defence’s perspectives on the NATO summit in Chicago. Important background factors for the summit include the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, the strategic concept developed in Lisbon, the financial crisis and the increasing importance of geopolitics. These will influence the summit issue of smart defence and visible assurance, as well as the deterrence and defence posture review. “New” challenges must be addressed, but collective defence remains at the core of NATO.

Jo Gade stated the importance of transforming NATO by giving it new capabilities. Key future issue include furthering the agreements made in Lisbon in 2010, cooperating on the missile defence shield with Russia, defending against cyber-attacks, finding a proper ratio between nuclear and conventional weapons, and sustaining the deployability of NATO forces. These issues will be affected by the backdrop of economic austerity in European countries, where smart defence will play a significant role.                 

Ole Kværnø addressed the topic of Afghanistan after the scheduled NATO withdrawal. It is imperative to work against a possible civil war. Three items were mentioned in this regard: the importance of a durable military transition, the value of learning from the Soviet Union’s exit-experience and the factors leading to the following Afghan civil war, and finally reinvesting the dividend from the transition back into Afghanistan to support the Karzai-regime.

Oktay Bingöl discussed the perception of NATO in the broader Middle East. After the Six-Day War in 1967, as well as the intervention in Afghanistan and the U.S.-dominated invasion of Iraq, NATO has acquired a negative image in this region. This has not changed with the 2011 Libya-mission, as many believe it too was a predominantly interest-based operation for Western powers. More public diplomacy directed toward younger generations might help in changing these negative attitudes toward NATO.