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Myths and Realities


Den 29. marts 1982 talte general Bernard W. Rogers, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, i Det krigsvidenskabelige Selskab ved et møde på Frederiksberg Slot. Generalens tale gengives her i sin helhed.

It is an honor for me to address this society, and particularly to be able to meet with you in this historie hall. I am pleased to have the chance to speak to so important a segment of the Danish defense establishment gathered here and am happy to see so many cadets in attendance. It is from among you cadets that will come the leaders who will direct your nation’s defense into the next century. You face a difficult future, but I am certain you will be able to meet the challenges which lie before you. Chief among your future tasks will be providing for the defense of your homeland. How well you carry out that solemn responsibility is a matter of importance not just to Denmark, but to all the peoples of the North Atlantic Alliance as well, for your nation’s security is vital to the Alliance. Danish security arrangements will be an important part of my remarks tonight, security arrangements which I hope to place in their appropriate context of AUiance-wide security. I will be quite candid this evening. Many observers of Alliance relations have said that we are in the midst of a crisis. I believe the word »crisis« sensationalizes what is more accurately described as a State of transatlantic mutual unhappiness. That imhappiness, in my view, is fueled by a series of dangerous misperceptions or myths which have gained gredence among too many in our nations. I know of no way to address these myths except head-on by exposing theni to the light of reality. If in the process tonight, I tread on some toes - Danish, American or others - then my defense is that I do so only in the hope that we may design our course for future Alliance security in an honest and realistic manner. The myth which we hear most frequently is that NATO exaggerates Soviet military power and fails to take into account the many weaknesses which plague the Warsaw Pact. The facts are these. The Soviet military buildup has been massive and relentless. For the past two decades, the Soviet military has claimed 12-13 % of the Soviet Union’s Gross National Product. Let me put that another way. The contribution to defense, when averaged out for each Soviet citizen, is over twice that for each Dane, even though the Soviet citizen’s per capita income is less than half that of the Danish citizen. Soviet defense expenditures have been growing at a rate of 4-5 % each year in real terms. This massive dedication of resources enabled the Soviet Union to accelerate its production of new weapons systems and expansion of its forces while we in the West were exercising restraint in the atmosphere of Helsinki. Last year the Soviet Union made operational new SS-20 sites at a rate of 6 laimchers per month - its highest rate of deployment ever - thus adding over 200 warheads on launchers. They continued preparations to deploy the SS-21, SS-22, and SS-23, their new generation shorter range nuclear missiles, to replace older versions. NATO has not modemized its nuclear forces since introduction of the short range LANCE missile in the early l970’s. In the conventional area, the Pact fielded about 2,000 T64/72 tanks in 1981 and put the T80 in trial production. Li ACE we fielded about onethird that number of modem tanks. In 1981 the Pact air forces added about 1,000 modem aircraft, most having twice the range and three times the payload of those replaced; ACE added less than half that number of new aircraft. As for naval forces, over the last year the Warsaw Pact launched an additional 8 submarines (5 were nuclear powered); and added 30 surface ships of all types to its operational fleet. Although NATO nations roughly matched the Warsaw Pact in production of major surface combatants and submarines, our modemization programs for maritime forces still lag behind our growing requirements as an ocean-dependent Alliance. The Warsaw Pact continued to improve its significant capability to support and sustain its forces; we made only slight improvement in our very inadequate ability to sustain ours.

I will concede that purely military figures do not reflect the complete balance. We here in the West enjoy healthier economies, democratic political systems, and a more open and equal Alliance. The Warsaw Pact is plagued by repeated agricultural failures, weak economies heavily dependent on Western credit, doubtful loyalty of East Europeans to Moscow’s dictates, and a growing concem over China. But these weaknesses do not translate into reductions in immediately available Warsaw Pact military strength. The Soviets have excelled in creating a military apparatus which pervades life in the Warsaw Pact. Now, they are using that same military power around the world. The invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan is a stark waming to those who wonder if Soviet weaknesses translate into restraint in military adventurism. There is a rather insidious corollary to the myth that Soviet military power is exaggerated. That corollary contends that current American security policy is somehow the real threat to peace. This echoing of a Soviet propaganda line represents a gross distortion of reality. US policy today has been formulated in reaction to the Soviet failure to exercise restraint and is directed towards protecting the common vital interests of allies on a global basis. The United States - and its allies - must now pay huge defense bilis because of Soviet disregard for detente in the 1970’s and because of continued Soviet global adventurism. It was not the US that disrupted the military balance in Europe by a massive military buildup, highlighted by 300 SS-20’s; nor the US that sent over 80,000 soldiers into Afghanistan; nor the US that has actively aided the Vietnamese conquest of Kampuchea, nor the US that pressured the Polish military to seize power and destroy Polish aspirations for human rights. The view that US policy, because it is more assertive in the defense of Western interests, is somehow responsible for global unrest amounts to an imwillingness on the part of those who believe it to face up to the reality of the world in which we live. Soviet intentions vis-a-vis the West remain hostile despite its rhetoric of peace, and Soviet capabilities are being employed to our collective detriment. It is not pleasant to contemplate what 300 SS-20’s with 900 warheads might do to Europe or why the Soviets felt the need to deploy them. It is much easier to imagine, fictitiously, that we can all be safe if there are no nuclear weapons in Western Europe for SS-20’s to attack (as if nuclear weapons were the only targets of other nuclear weapons). It is not pleasant to accept the faet that the only way we can deter the use of such weapons against us - or to prevent being intimidated and coerced through the threat of such use - is to deploy our own INF missiles with which to retaliate on Soviet soil. It is much easier to succumb to the siren songs from Moscow which sing of freezes and moratoriums which are phoney and transparent propaganda designed to keep NATO from implementing the modernization track of the vital December 1979 two-track decision. It is not pleasant to believe that the Soviets have been experimenting on Asians with chemical and toxin weapons. The easier course is just to call the mounting evidence a product of American propaganda. Psychologists understand the phenomenon I have illustrated by these examples. The »syndrome of avoiding the unpleasant and projecting frustration elsewhere« is not only unhealthy for an individual who cannot cope with the demands of reality, it is no less unhealthy for the peoples of an Alliance of free nations. I would like to think that, fortunately for the West, this tendency to avoid recognizing the Soviet threat - and our need to respond to it as an Alliance - is not prevalent among the majority of our peoples. Although it is of concern, I do not mean to overstate its impact lest it feed an equally dangerous myth that too many of my countrymen believe. That is that West Europeans are not really concerned about their own security because, if they were, they would contribute more to the common defense. On my visits to the US, I spend considerable time refuting this belief. I tell Americans that while they were looking inward following Vietnam, Europeans were steadily making contributions to security at a greater rate than the US. Those past investments are bearing fruit today in modern weapons now being deployed in some nations. I point out that if ACE went to war today, 90 % of the land forces and 3/4 of the air and naval forces initially involved in the conflict would be European. Additionally, the European NATO members have more reserve forces than those in the US reserve structure. They also have hidden costs such as providing real estate for about 900 U.S. bases and facilities. Finally, I agree to an extent with the European argument that there are also hidden costs in conscription that are not borne by nations with voluntary service systems. Many Americans also believe that Europeans take for granted the US nuclear umbrella but do not want to share the associated risks. This myth, of course, disregards the geographic proximity of NATO Europe to the Warsaw Pact. Europeans live under the certain knowledge that any war - conventional or nuclear - would involve their territory. It is simply wrong to think that any member of the Alliance is any more or less threatened by the Warsaw Pact than any other. The idea that Europe could avoid destruction in a nuclear exchange between the superpowers is as improbable as the idea that a nuclear war could be limited to Europe. Part of Soviet strategy is to convlnce NATO members that they can be individually more secure by distancing themselves from Alliance policy. The history of your nation disputes that premise. Our answer to this challenge must continue to be Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty - »attack against one is an attack against all«. Perhaps the most troublesome undercurrent in Alliance relations is the growing attitude, especially among the young, that NATO’s concept of deterrence, and, to some, NATO itself, are outmoded in this age of devastating modem weaponry. This attitude manifests itself in many forms. Some argue that defense is just too costly. Others say that pacifism, neutralism or unilateral disarmament is a safer course for security. Some are even ready to resign themselves completely to a future of »inevitable« Soviet hegemony. The reality is that for over 30 years NATO’s deterrent strength has kept the peace in Europe. There is no doubt that defense is costly, and that sacrifices will be required, but surely the freedom and prosperity which we have enjoyed for more than 35 years are worth that cost. The cost is decidedly not so great as the peoples of Eastem Europe have paid since World War II in terms of freedoms and rights not known and prosperity foregone under Soviet subjugation. The cost to us to deter war is not as high as that which is being extracted from the living standards of Warsaw Pact populations today to support the Soviet preoccupation with military power. That cost, to us, whatever it might be, is the Insurance that protects the social services and prosperity we enjoy within our Alliance, with your nation having the highest standard of living and the greatest social programs of any within our Alliance. As for pacifism, the ultimate fate of the true pacifist is »peace at any price«, to include his freedom. Surely our objective must be peace with our freedom intact. As for neutralism, as Danes know from experience, it is no guarantee against aggression. To be neutral, a nation must be prepared to fight to defend its neutrality. Geography also plays a key role in being able to remain neutral. Nor will unilateral disarmament serve as a moral example to a Soviet regime which disavows the validity of moral constraints on its quest for world domination. History, again, supports that statement. The hackneyed slogan, »better red than dead«, once again in vogue among members of the radical fringe, misses the point that the choice between being red or dead is not a choice we have to face. If we do not provide for an adequate deterrence, we do guarantee the future domination of the Warsaw Pact over us. Yet, if we remain strong and united, we need fear neither war nor coercion. Of the radicals I ask: what’s wrong with a different slogan, »better free and at peace than either red or dead«? I would like to take a few more minutes to address the vital role played by Denmark in NATO’s security arrangements. I use the word »vital« sparingly, but here deliberately, in describing your nation’s role, for there are myths that have grown about that role as well. In particular there is a misconception in some of the smaller NATO nations that because they are small, what they do cannot affect either Alliance policy or the military balance between East and West in a significant way. Nothing could be further from reality. On the political level, each nation of this Alliance is an equal partner, participating to the full extent in Alliance deliberations. As equal members, each NATO partner bears responsibility for determining and executing Alliance policy. None can claim exemption from that responsibility by virtue of being too small to have been considéred, for the mechanisms of consultation are there and are exercised regularly, with decisions based on »consensus« which is defined as »unanimity«. In this age of intense and growing interdependence, the policies pursued by each NATO member have an effect on all. NATO is not a loose Alliance, but an integrated one, whose members’ prosperity and security are inextricably linked to each other. No member, large or small, can adopt a »go it alone« attitude with respect to her partners without undermining our cohesion and unity of purpose. This, in tum, impacts unfavorably upon our ability to preserve what we value as well as our being succesful in negotiating balanced and verifiable arms reductions and control measures which will lead to a less hostile, more stable world environment. This need for solidarity is nowhere more than in the area of defense. The old adage about a chain being no stronger than its weakest link holds true with respect to the need for each ally to contribute its share to our defense arrangements. To people living in a small nation, such as Denmark, it may not always be apparent what contributions it makes - and can make - to European security. Danes look East to an ominous Warsaw Pact threat obviously beyond Danish means to counter alone. But that is the whole point of collective security - Danes do not have to face that threat by themselves. The Soviet Union cannot direct Warsaw Pact forces against only Denmark without the latter’s allies responding. What can happen, however, if Denmark is too weak to offer a credible defense, is that Soviet planning can focus on Denmark as both an open door to the Atlantic and the wedge through which to divide NATO and outflank allied forces in the Central Region. Thus, a war in Europe could not pass Denmark by. My point is this: Denmark occupies a position of absolutely vital strategic importance to NATO. The whole concept of forward defense in the Central Region would crumble were Danish defense considered improbable. Soviet prospects for successful aggression would be significantly enhanced. NATO’s ability to deter that aggression would be correspondingly reduced. Let me add just one more point on the subject of the contributions by the smaller members of the Alliance. It is sometimes argued that the few brigades, ships or airplanes that the smaller nations field, cannot affect the balance much when compared with the divisions, fleets and air wings in the forces structures of the larger powers. While this may seem true when adding units on paper, it most certainly is not the case when calculating the balance of deployed, ready forces. An additional brigade in Denmark may seem small compared to 16 US divisions or 12 German divisions, but from a Soviet perspective that Danish brigade is a force that is in place and ready to defend Denmark, not a potential capability that may or may not arrive in time. In faet, presence or absence of that brigade may be the factor which determines whether reinforcement is feasible. Thus, in terms of deterring war in Europe, that Danish brigade, whether in the Standing Force or quickly mobilizeable in the Field Army Reserve, is of much more value than a similar reinforcing unit based in the US or UK. The same is true of air and naval forces; of course it is important that these nationål capabilities be maintained with adequate personnel, modern equipment, training and logistical support. In sum, the efforts of the smaller NATO members do matter a great deal to the fate of our Alliance and they should continue to contribute their full participation and a full share of the defense burden. To do less than that full share is to encourage divisiveness in the Alliance. Other nations have a difficult time justifying sacrifices to their peoples when the burdens of collective defense appear to fall unequally upon them.

With respect to the specific Danish role within ACE, your armed forces have three critical missions: defending Danish territory, land, air and sea; contributing to the defense of Schleswig-Holstein; and denying an aggressor the use of the Baltic Straits. For this overall task Denmark needs external reinforcements, but it is imperative to provide sufficient standing forces to withstand an initial assault and to maintain conditions which will permit the safe and timely arrival of such reinforcements. As this audience knows too well, the resources allocated to the defense sector over the past decade have not been sufficient to implement the Danish Defence Act of 1973. Planned modernization has not taken place on the scale envisioned by that act. NATO Force Goals have not been met. While Denmark’s allies are encouraged by the commitment to real increases in defense spending contained in the new Defence Agreement, we would be less than honest with one another if we were to pretend that those increases of less 1% a year would enable this nation to overcome some of the major deficiencies in the Danish defense posture or prevent a downward spiralling in future force capabilities. Denmark is taking positive steps in some areas - reinforcement planning, retention of a two brigade structure in Zealand, introduction of new frigates, and the deployment of the F-16. Nonetheless, improvements in such areas as all weather air defense, munitions stockage levels, NBC protection, reservist training and numbers of ships, aircraft and surface-to-air missiles are growing extremely urgent. In a period of austere resources for defense - and I have lived through such periods in my own country - the challenges to military professionals are extensive. An increased burden falls on your shoulders. Not only must you manage with fewer capabilities to cope with a growing security menace, but you must also draw on untapped reservoirs of moral courage to provide leadership for the soldiers, sailors and airmen under your command. Your task of leadership is made more difficult by complacency, wishful thinking and a host of public misconceptions about the military in general, about NATO, about its programs and purposes. Yet this can be no excuse for you. You, in uniform, bear a special trust to preserve our collective security to the best of your ability. Your voice must be heard informing your people of the menace to their security, the role of NATO and ACE in Danish security arrangements, and the need for all of us - in every nation - to stand firm and to make sacrifices now if we are to achieve our objective of peace with freedom in a world environment in which we have reduced and balanced levels of all force capabilities. Not only does Denmark depend on your fulfilling that trust, but so do the peoples of 14 other western nations who share your country’s thirst for continued freedom. Thus, my final word to all of you tonight is simply persevere in your duties as professional military personnel both within and outside your services. Because if you do not, who else will carry that burden?