14 August 2019

Mircea Geoana and Romania win the second most important office in NATO

Ştefan Oprea

“I am happy to announce the appointment of Mircea Geoana as the next Deputy Secretary General. He is a staunch advocate of the transatlantic bond and will bring long experience as a statesman and diplomat to this post”. Jens Stoltenberg – NATO Secretary General

Image source: Mediafax

With an impressive history, NATO, in its 70 years of existence, went through a process of continuous adaptation, permanently dealing with the complexity of security challenges. Today, faced with the most unpredictable security environment for a generation, this process is continuing in directions such as the fight against terrorism and the instability in the Middle East and North Africa and counteracting Russia’s aggressive actions, as well as hybrid and cybernetic threats.

In this world of increasing threats and instability, unity within the Alliance, but also its cooperation with the EU, now more than ever, will ensure and create the most efficient solutions to annihilate hostile actions seeking to divide unity within NATO, but also in its relations with the EU. Intelligent investments and cooperation will be one of the solutions to maintain and extend interoperability the European strategic culture, essential for a coherent security environment for NATO.

Despite differences, the allies have always been capable to unite around their main mission to protect us and defend each other. If this made it so our people will continue to live in safety for the 70 years of recent existence, further solutions will be found for this state to continue. Nothing is more precious than peace and liberty.

In this context, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement on the appointment of Romanian diplomat Mircea Geoana as his future deputy – with him becoming the first high-ranked NATO official from an Eastern European country in this office – represents, besides being a milestone for NATO, an event for Romania.

The first impulse determines us to put this nomination on the idea that Romania, one of the seven Eastern European states which joined NATO in 2004, is being recognized as a model ally within the Alliance, by modernizing its capabilities and contributing to regional and global security. This was, indubitably, one of the reasons for the nomination.

A quick analysis of the deputy secretary general’s role shows the fact that he supports the secretary general and takes over for him in his absence. The deputy secretary general is also the president of several highest-level committees, ad-hoc groups and work groups.

Since this position was established (1952), the first two deputies were designated by the Netherlands (1952-1958), and after that, until 2012, with the exception of two terms (1964-1971) for representatives of Canada and Turkey, the other ten terms were ensured by Italy.

Coincidence or not, the last two terms (2012-2019) have been successfully ensured by the US.

Without being subjected to a strict algorithm for the offices of NATO secretary general, SHAPE commander and ACT commander, a deal between the states establishes that these offices are occupied by a European statesman for general secretary, the US for SHAPE and France, since the normalization of the relations with NATO, for ACT.

The other offices, for the immediately lower level and below, will be ensured by individuals, civilian or army, nominated by the member states. From this perspective, there is no secret that the offices are distributed among the nominees so that the political and military leadership team will be able to accomplish the member states’ mission in good conditions.

Coming back to the office of deputy NATO secretary general, without analysing all nominations on the offices in detail, I will try to refer in context to the last two.

Since 2009, there were signals that developing a European security and defence policy, as a unique and essential partner for NATO, was becoming more and more obvious. When discussions on the need to increase military spending budgets amplified, the European enthusiasm faltered. As there were fears, actually justified, that the Alliance has seen a stratification of member states with regards to participation to NATO missions.

In 2011, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates highlighted the fact that the international military effort in Afghanistan has suffered due to a lack of focalizing on the evolutions, resources and concentrating attention on the mission, and warned about the serious deficiencies in regards to NATO’s capabilities and institutional relations in Libya. Not lastly, he categorically highlighted the increasing difficulty for the US to support funding NATO while the American taxpayer continues to support the highest share of the burden among the Alliance. These things expressed the political and military need, felt by the US, to remedy these deficiencies for the future of NATO and the good of those interests and values which we share.

In these circumstances, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow is appointed in 2012 as deputy NATO secretary general, a US career diplomat, former deputy of the Department of Defense, on International Affairs regarding security, and responsible with coordinating US security and defence policies on nations and international organization from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Accustomed to the problems the Alliance was facing, next to Anders Fogh Rasmunssen and, later, Jens Stoltenberg, in a critical period for NATO, he makes it a desiderate to maintain the Alliance’s unity and stays loyal to the idea that, in the relation with non-NATO members, partnerships are a “necessity, not a luxury”. Not by accident, in July 2012, a trip to the Western Balkans has him make work visits to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The concerns and vexations do not last for long, however, because the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the start of a hybrid war in Ukraine in 2014 worsened relations with Moscow and created a new challenge to the Alliance’s unity.

Within the complexity of the security environment facing the Alliance, the US makes a new nomination for the office of deputy NATO secretary general.

In October 2016, Jens Stoltenberg announces the member states’ decision to appoint Mrs. Rose Gottemoeller, the first woman in the Alliance’s history nominated to occupy this office. With a rich experience in the field of arms control and international security, as a former negotiator for the New START treaty with the Russian Federation (enacted in February 2011), Mrs. Gottemoeller, through her diplomatic abilities and incontestable expertise, contributes to the Alliance’s efforts in its continuous path to adapt to this security environment.

Today, facing the most unpredictable security environment in a generation, NATO continues to respond to challenges, ensuring peace and security for approximately one billion people.

The current challenges are interdependent and come from a series of directions: terrorism and instability in the Middle East and North Africa, Russia’s aggressive actions, as well cybernetic and hybrid threats. They require innovating and thorough solutions. Approaching these threats with the help of diplomatic and political instruments, and appealing to military means only as a last solution, continues to be the Alliance’s preferred path.

The transatlantic relations, NATO-EU, NATO-Russia, NATO-Turkey, the INF Treaty (even if it is not part of it) continue to be important subjects for the following period.

From this perspective, Mircea Geoana’s appointment represents, alongside a recognition of Romania’s merits and the activity of Romanian Army Forces within the Alliance, a confirmation of Romanian diplomat’s capability, experience and availability to make any effort towards solving these subjects and, more than that, to make every effort to improve security and common defence.

A prominent international personality, diplomat and politician Mircea Geoana was Romania’s ambassador to the United States, minister of foreign affairs, OSCE acting president, and has proven to be the most experienced diplomat, fit to take over these responsibilities in NATO’s leadership team and to join the common effort to temper tensions within the Alliance and solve its international alliance.

Only to highlight the fierce wish of Eastern European countries and, not only, to occupy this position, I can remind here countries such as Estonia, Poland (Krzysztof Szczerski, a presidential advisor), Slovakia (Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak) and Turkey have actively supported their candidates in this approach.

Through this nomination, Romania finds itself among countries which are seeking for and offering solutions to the problems which disturb our existence, in this moment when geostrategic circumstances are changing, and NATO is not undermining our power to find answers for today’s challengers.

Translated by Ionut Oprea