10 October 2019

The CONFERENCE “The national security policy, from strategic thinking to security and defence institutions” - a challenging and bittersweet debate

Laurenţiu Sfinteş

The Defence and Security Monitor/D.S.M., together with Mediafax, has organized Thursday, on October 3rd, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, in Bucharest, the third international conference on security issues. Three conferences in less than a year. The first one, on October 20th 2018, was about Romania’s defence strategy within the celebration of the Great Union. The second one, April 16th 2019, was about the transatlantic security and Romania’s perspective. This conference, the third one, has debated on the security concept/ if there is such thing, but also the institutions managing the field/ if there actually are tools for it.

Image source: Mediafax

An ambitious project, maybe the only one…

It was D.S.M and Mediafax’s ambition to start and continue this project on a sensitive topic, which is theoretically complicated, difficult, really hard to address it, but which manifests a phenomenon that happens to exist in other areas as well: everybody thinks they are good at it, everybody comes with solutions, the good solutions are, broadly, only belonging to the one who expresses it, all bad decisions were made when someone else had an important position in a security structure, and the good ones when the one in charge had the same positon.

From the very begging, we knew it was going to be difficult to gather experts with different visions, former high officials in the national security and defence field, who will defend their past decisions against current critics, theoreticians wherefore the concepts must be clearly defined, together with practitioners who are stating that improvisation is good, sometimes even desired.

The promoters of the project have done their job, starting with organizing the debate in rare conditions for such events. The guests belonged not only to the defence and security structures. There were also present representatives of the academic environment. There were economists, experts and foreign diplomats. There were politicians also present, so many more invited, however fewer present. And there was also a debate topic which, despite the challenging title, which is not that hot in a tabloid, has suggested that we need an answer to some simple questions: “We have a country to defend. Our generation must do it. It means that we also need to know who our friends are and who the enemies are. But how can we define and plan such effort? Which institutions will be in charge with concepts and who will actually go to war? Do we need models? Who should our models be?”

Therefore, the cup was half challenging and consistently filled.

… and a pretty contradictory Romanian reality on national security and defence

Experts from different fields, associated to defence and security, political leaders, former or current military leaders, have all sat at the same table and in the same panel and have argued their perspectives. They have supported their options and defended their decisions, opinions, and arguments. The event was perfectly organized.

Hereof the bittersweet feeling left by the reality of this field’s three decades wherein there was a vision (because this is how we joined NATO and EU), however also a lack of it (because there are so many conceptual and legislative shortcomings, so many organizational gaps, so many wasted resources in no directions), so that we now have more questions than answers to uncertainties about national security, about country’s defence.

This is a conclusion that came out of these interventions, the answers and retorts given during the conference, the raised issues. And, especially, this is a conclusion that has been presented to the models or realities that foreign experts invited at the event came with.

As there were presented on the Mediafax/ Defence and Security Monitor’s news agencies, broadcasted during the conference:

We succeeded in many fields- we have properties, businesses, liberty and, maybe the most important thing, things we have managed to build by ourselves…But we also gave up many things: 5 million Romanian people, who could not find their place anymore in Romania, maybe they should have, we gave up the capital we could not or maybe we did not knew how to transform it into an economic climate… We gave up thinking to security, we gave up thinking that everything we have built must be defended and by simply talking about a defence policy as we do it here, in Romania, is not the most appropriate thing.” Adrian Sarbu/ Mediafax.

The first thing one must do is solving the issues around him/she. And the biggest problem is not the one related to material vulnerabilities”…” The human resource issue is Romania’s second greatest vulnerability.” Constantin Ionescu, state counsellor.

It does not seem to be an economic failing, nor a social one. Could this be a political failing? Because if we really are in a political failing condition, we can no longer talk about a defence capacity establishment” Constantin Degeratu, former presidential counsellor and former chief of the General Staff.

When talking about the emergent threats, we are referring to cyber-attacks and the hybrid war, where there were taken many collaboration and cooperation measures.  There is a big difference between the states in the Eastern area of Europe and those on the Atlantic coast.” General (r) Gheorghe Savu, former director of the Defence’s Intelligence Directive.

“From a conceptual perspective, we must place interests and values at the same level. In the Western world, there are no differences between interests and values. The most important thing we do not want to understand is that security in the West is both a value and a national interest.” Iulian Fota, former presidential counsellor.

“Given the worrying events from the Black Sea Region, it was felt the need to elaborate strategies for Black Sea area’s security assurance. Our own strategy, Romania’s strategy.” General (r) Teodor Frunzeti, counsellor, former director of National Defence University, former chief of the Defence Stuff.

“The individuals who are registered for mobilization in case of war, will they actually show up? Will they let the armies of Italy, Germany, fight with gun in hand, a gun we have not yet purchased, but we presume we will purchase?”, General (r) Stefan Danila, former chief of General Stuff.

“Security culture can no longer be limited to national defence institutions. It is important one state’s capacity to gather country’s intelligence and acknowledgment from all fields”, Silviu Rogobete, professor at the West University, former consul.

“We must always analyze the security and defence strategies. In this area, we analyze the situations in the Black Sea, Ukraine. Vladimir Putin will use any opportunity. Internal divisions in our countries are tools in Mrs. Putin’s game”. Brigade General (r) Jaroslaw Strozyk/Poland.

“When war starts, one needs the internal legitimacy, you need the public to support you, partially because they will have to fight, because they are reservists, but, more than that, because for such difficult decisions you need more legitimacy, international and internal legitimacy”. Brigade General (r) Itai Brun/Israel.

“I would reconsider Romania’s defence from a business perspective”… “The questions is how funds are spent, and the answer is a political incoherence”… If I were Minister of Defence, I would ask myself how are the money spent if it does not produce any result, which is enemy’s lethality. As political priorities, I would note underfunding’s blockage, and, as for logistics, the necessities must be established by commanders; in fact, the defence system establishes what can be procured, but it all starts from commanders.” Dr. Thomas Durell Young/US.

This is why I have praised the full half, the organization of this event, which allowed a temperamental debate upon a field that is so important. But I also felt the empty half, generated by the questions which could not find an answer. This is why I got the bittersweet feeling of a contradictory reality, with many questions and partial answers to our country’s national security and defence, to the values and interests, solutions and models. With vulnerable institutions and unclear attributions, with few resources or ineffectively managed, with a human resources that is going down due to incoherent laws.