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Stanley Sloan

Foreign and Defense Policy Analyst, Writer, Visiting Scholar at the Middlebury College

Tatyana Kanunnikova

Independent journalist, RIAC expert

Stanley R. Sloan has worked in and out of the U.S. government on transatlantic relations and European security for over five decades. He has served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, an analyst and research manager at the CIA and as an analyst and manager at the Congressional Research Service for 24 years, retiring from his position as Senior Specialist in International Security Policy in 1999. Since then, he has published and lectured widely in the United States, Canada and Europe; taught for 16 years in the Winter Term at Middlebury College in his home state of Vermont; and continued to lecture at the NATO College in Rome, where he first lectured in the late 1980s. His latest book is Defense of the West: Transatlantic security from Truman to Trump (Manchester University Press, 2020).

Stanley R. Sloan has worked in and out of the U.S. government on transatlantic relations and European security for over five decades. He has served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, an analyst and research manager at the CIA and as an analyst and manager at the Congressional Research Service for 24 years, retiring from his position as Senior Specialist in International Security Policy in 1999. Since then, he has published and lectured widely in the United States, Canada and Europe; taught for 16 years in the Winter Term at Middlebury College in his home state of Vermont; and continued to lecture at the NATO College in Rome, where he first lectured in the late 1980s. His latest book is Defense of the West: Transatlantic security from Truman to Trump (Manchester University Press, 2020).

Stanley R. Sloan

The U.S. will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. How will it affect European security?

U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, in response to what the Trump administration viewed as Russia's persistent violations of the treaty, will likely have a marginal impact on European security. The treaty's demise will eliminate what the United States has viewed as Russian use of the overflights "not to support but rather to undermine international peace and security," as Secretary of State Pompeo has charged. The end of mutual overhead surveillance will remove one of the last remaining "confidence building measures" between Russia and the NATO allies at a time when the relationship is on shaky ground in any case.

The most immediate impact of the U.S. decision was to further undermine the transatlantic relationship, as the step came against the preferences of and without coordination with the European NATO members. Of course, one could argue that Russia shares the blame for the treaty's end. Its record of pushing the boundaries of the treaty certainly has not been helpful.

Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, welcomed by Russia, also undermined the treaty’s prospects for continuation, given Trump’s general opposition to arms control treaties and multilateralism. Now, a new administration in the United States will have much work to do in rebuilding European faith in American leadership in this and other areas while establishing a frank but pragmatic dialogue with Russia.

What is the future of the European collective defense? In your assessment, could a European army be created?

There is a long-standing tradition of collective defense in Europe. For members of NATO, it is their commitment to and benefit from the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty. For members of the European Union, the collective defense commitment that was included in the 1948 Brussels Treaty was replaced by the Mutual Defense Provision of the Treaty on European Union in 2010. For EU members who are also members of NATO, the EU commitment is regarded as compatible with their NATO commitments.

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In the current circumstances, in which EU governments still perceive potential threats to their security, it seems likely that they will want to maintain a commitment to collective defense for the indefinite future. Will this continue to be primarily in the transatlantic NATO framework or increasingly in a more Eurocentric structure, perhaps in the form of what some have called a “European army”? The questions raised by the Trump administration in the United States have given rise to new speculation about this prospect. But, in my judgment, prospects for any European military structure that would replace NATO, including its collective defense provision, are dim. While Trumpian tendencies and legitimate complaints about inadequate European defense efforts will persist in the United States, the more immediate future seems likely to bring a different U.S. approach to the transatlantic table than that seen under President Trump.

What role will NATO play in the European security framework?

The answer to the question of what role NATO will play in the European security framework is very dependent on U.S. participation in and commitments to the alliance. In the post-Trump period, it is reasonable to expect a much more collegial and cooperative attitude from Washington toward the European allies. This approach will be combined with continued pressure on the Europeans to take more responsibility for their own defense. Rather than threatening the allies, the next American administration is likely to lead by example, arguing that the commitments and contributions of the Europeans to the alliance should be modeled on the renewed commitments from the United States under the new administration.

If I am correct, NATO will continue to be the institutional touchstone for U.S.-European security cooperation. The current pandemic will obviously force all the allies to reconsider priorities in defense and security expenditures. Neither the United States nor the European allies will likely be able financially to maintain defense expenditures at current levels, given the economic impact of the pandemic. But the NATO framework, combined with an evolving set of cooperative arrangements in the European Union, will continue to be seen by allies on both sides of the Atlantic as preferred to any alternative multilateral or bilateral arrangements.

What is the role of counter-terrorism in NATO's activity? Is there a substantial difference between NATO counter-terrorism strategies and the EU counter-terrorism approach?

NATO's main counter-terrorism activity has been its role in Afghanistan. The Afghan conflict obviously grew out of the U.S. response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The NATO members immediately offered their support for the U.S. response by suggesting invocation, for the first time, of the alliance's collective defense provision – Article 5. The most immediate mission, supported by all the allies, was to assist the United States in denying al Qaeda and other terrorist groups the ability to mount terror attacks from bases on Afghan territory. The alliance subsequently played a major role both in providing forces to help defeat the Taliban, whose government had welcomed al Qaeda to operate from Afghan soil, and to support the establishment of a strong democratic government in Kabul. The initial counterterrorist mission was a success, the subsequent stabilization mission less so.

The main difference between NATO and EU approaches to counter-terrorism derive from the mandates, missions, and capabilities of the two organizations. Even though NATO is a political/military alliance, its operational capabilities are largely military. Over time, the EU has developed military cooperation and capabilities, but it largely remains a civilian power. Moreover, responses to terrorism most often are handled on a national basis, even among the more integrated EU membership. Both organizations recognize that dealing with terrorism requires a mixture of police, paramilitary, military, and intelligence capabilities to respond to and defeat terrorists in addition to policies that address and mitigate the roots of terrorism. But the EU is better positioned, and perhaps its members are more inclined to address the root causes with the political, economic, and financial tools available to it.

In your opinion, how could NATO and Russia improve their cooperation?

After the troubled relations of the past decade, improved cooperation between NATO and Russia would be in the interests of all concerned. Factors that could improve prospects include a variety of expectations from the Western side. Without necessarily putting them in any particular order, I believe they include: President Putin backing away from his desire to reestablish the former Soviet Union in the context of “Mother Russia,” including full recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty; Russian commitment to meaningful, verifiable arms control agreements, including bilateral with the United States and multilateral with all NATO members; and cessation of overt and covert Russian intervention in the democratic processes of the United States and other Western nations.

For their part, the NATO countries already present a relatively non-threatening front to Russia. I believe President Putin knows full-well that NATO forces do not have the capacity to pose offensive threats to Russian territory or forces. NATO policy has consistently promoted the concept that can be traced back to the Harmel Doctrine from the Cold War days in which NATO sought to maintain sufficient defense to deter an attack from the Warsaw Pact while remaining open to détente and dialogue with the East. Today, the formula is much the same.

According to Russian perspectives, it seems the most offensive thing the NATO countries have done in recent history is to open the door to NATO and EU membership for Ukraine and Georgia. NATO nations understand that Russia has concerns about the security of its borders. But Russia’s actions to qualify the sovereignty of the two former Soviet republics, and to seize or occupy their territory, cannot be tolerated if Europe is to remain peaceful. From a Western perspective, relations with Russia cannot improve dramatically until it shows more restraint in building up its offensive nuclear and non-nuclear forces facing West and acknowledges the right of sovereign states to make their own choices concerning their international affiliations.

The bad news, in my view, is that many difficult issues stand in the way of Western democracies being able to trust Russia's official word. This is a tragedy for Russia's relations with the United States, NATO, and for the Russian people as well.

Who would you call the most outstanding diplomat of our time?

This is a great question and much more difficult to answer than I had anticipated. First, there is the problem of definitions: what is "outstanding" and who qualifies as a "diplomat." For me, "outstanding" does not necessarily mean the brightest (many are), longest-serving, or amount of treaties negotiated. I am settling on the measure of how well they served their country, including the impression they left on the rest of the world.

As for the definition of "diplomat," I include not just those who worked their way up through their diplomatic or other government service but also those who represented their country effectively from some other entry point. There are some great examples of women and men around the world who have represented their countries well. My mind goes to the young lady from Sweden who has played a starring role in calling the international community’s attention to the threats to our planet, Greta Thunberg.

However, for this purpose, I am going to stick with American candidates. In this narrower set, Michelle Obama has been an outstanding representative of the United States, both as first lady and then as the former first lady in support of humanitarian causes and representing her country well. Another outstanding representative, in my opinion, is Colin Powell. Powell served two presidents who were not that popular outside the United States and yet he retained great respect in the international community. Henry Kissinger is likely to top the list of many who would answer this question, and he certainly is likely the most brilliant of American diplomats in recent history. However, his roots in a European balance-of-power intellectual world did not always provide him the best or most useful understanding of our own political system and values. Perhaps it will be surprising to some that my choice is Brent Scowcroft, who helped President George H. W. Bush manage America's role at the end of the Cold War. Scowcroft was smart, pragmatic, and operated from a solid base of American values. He was well-respected both in his home country and abroad. Brent Scowcroft is my “most outstanding” choice, even though there are many other candidates that might deservedly be selected by other observers.

Interviewed by Tatyana Kanunnikova.


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