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21 May, 2018

“We are seeing more of a blurring of the borders between soft and hard power”

Director General of the NATO International Military Staff on NATO’s readiness to face hybrid challenges from Russia, expectations for NATO’s upcoming summit in Brussels, and about how Ukraine can contribute to international security

Interviewed by Yuriy Lapayev

Could you share the details of this year’s conference?

I am delighted to have been invited to attend and deliver a keynote speech at this year’s International Kyiv Week. I think this conference is the perfect example of the strong and enduring partnership that exists between NATO and Ukraine. It is jointly organized by the NATO Defense College (NDC) and the Ukrainian National Defence University (UNDU), with support from NATO School Oberammergau (NSO). Each new edition helps further strengthen the ties between the NDC and the UNDU. Both of these institutions are strongly committed to close cooperation in the field of strategic-level education.

The International Kyiv Week is now in its 18th edition. It is the result of NATO's support for senior military education in Ukraine which was initiated on January 28, 2000, when Mr. Kuzmuk, the then Ukrainian Defence Minister, met the then NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, and they agreed to run an international course in Kyiv. The first International Week was held on 12-16 February 2001.

The International Kyiv Week has come a long way since those days. It is now an internationally recognized forum with four distinctive aims. Firstly, it aims to improve the knowledge of NATO, its organization and working methods within Ukraine. Secondly, it is an opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the Alliance and its partners in today’s security environment. Thirdly, it allows participants to address some key issues in the field of international security. And lastly, it demonstrates the importance of a strong partnership between Ukraine and NATO.

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Russia is applying hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Is NATO ready to adapt to the new warfare?

Hybrid warfare is not new. Countries have always used propaganda, deception and sabotage to destabilise other countries. What is new is the speed, scale and intensity of the hybrid tactics we see now. This includes increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns and propaganda, as well as political and economic pressure.

So it is more important than ever to be on our guard against attempts to disrupt our free societies. NATO has developed a hybrid strategy to counter such threats. We have set up an Intelligence Division to help improve our situational awareness and make better decisions more quickly. We have included hybrid elements in our training and exercises. We are also actively countering propaganda -- not with propaganda - but with facts -- online, on air and in print. And as hybrid warfare also affects the economy and cyberspace, we are strengthening our coordination with other organisations, including the European Union. NATO stands ready to defend all Allies against any threat, whether conventional or hybrid.

Is NATO interested in Ukraine's experience in hybrid warfare?

At NATO, we often say that the NATO-Ukraine relationship has been mutually beneficial and Hybrid Warfare is one the best examples to illustrate this. We have seen many tools used in Ukraine from the Hybrid Warfare toolbox and the Ukrainians have provided data and intelligence regarding these tools. This has allowed us to better understand hybrid threats and methods.

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What about Syria? Is NATO ready to a certain confrontation with Russia on Syria, including in the cyber sphere?

NATO is not present in Syria and there are no plans for this to change. In the region, we are currently focusing on training the Iraqi forces. Building the capacity of our partners and training their forces helps them to counter the threat of terrorism.

Individual Allies have been involved in military actions in Syria targeting the regime’s facilities that develop and use chemical weapons. NATO Allies have expressed their support for this action, which degraded the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons. NATO Allies have also called on the Syrian regime and its backers to allow rapid, sustained and unhindered humanitarian access. Chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity or become normalised. They are an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security and those responsible must be held to account.

It is clear that there is no military solution to this conflict and NATO fully supports the efforts led by the United Nations to achieve a lasting political solution. NATO calls on all members of the UN Security Council to uphold their responsibilities.

As for the cyber part of your question, cyber-attacks are a real and present threat for NATO. So we must remain vigilant and continue to adapt. Which is exactly what we are doing. NATO protects its own IT networks 24 hours a day. We have a rapid reaction cyber defence team on standby that can be sent to help Allies under attack. And we share information about cyber threats in real time among Allies and with partners. Cyber defence is a core part of collective defence, and a severe cyber-attack could trigger Article 5. As part of the adapted NATO Command Structure, we will establish a new Cyber Operations Centre. This will strengthen our cyber defences, and help integrate cyber into NATO planning and operations at all levels. We also agreed that we will be able to integrate Allies’ national cyber capabilities into NATO operations.

Speaking about NATO’s adaptation measures, can you comment on the situation with the German component of Very High Readiness Joint Task Force?

I assume you are referring to the recent announcement that Germany will take the lead of the NATO Response Force (NRF) Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in 2019, when it becomes the framework nation for its land component. This is just the latest example of Germany’s commitment to NATO and to international peace and security. We are grateful for Germany’s contributions to NATO operations, missions and activities, from Afghanistan to Kosovo to the Aegean Sea to our very own backyard.

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What are your expectations from the NATO Summit in Brussels? In particular, can you talk more about the new Atlantic Command that NATO aims to create?

At the Brussels Summit in July, we will take the next steps in NATO’s adaptation to the evolving security environment, building on the decisions from our 2016 Warsaw Summit and the 2017 meeting of NATO leaders.

We will work on five key themes for our decisions. First, how to further enhance our deterrence and defence, with stronger reinforcement and better readiness. Second, how to better project stability in our neighbourhood. This is essential in the fight against terrorism and for our own security. Third, stronger cooperation with the European Union on issues such as fighting terrorism, military mobility and capacity building for our partners. Fourth, fairer burden-sharing is the foundation for everything we do. We have made great progress, but there is more to do. And last but not least, modernisation of the Alliance, including the adaptation of the NATO Command Structure.

NATO’s command structure is the backbone of our Alliance. We are working to ensure that it remains robust and flexible, enabling us to take quick and decisive action in response to political decisions.

In November 2017, NATO Defence Ministers agreed on the outline design for an adapted NATO Command Structure. An important part of this new design is a Command for the Atlantic. Its purpose will be to look after the 40 million square miles of the North Atlantic, to ensure that sea lanes between Europe and North America remain free and secure and to safeguard them for potential reinforcements and supplies with personnel and material. This is vital for our transatlantic Alliance.

At the previous Summit, one of the most discussed issues was an increase of defense spending by the Allies to 2% of GDP. Are all Allies increasing their defense spending now?

The foundation for everything NATO does is fair burden-sharing. At the start of the year, Allies presented the first national reports covering three aspects: cash, capabilities and contributions to NATO missions and operations. They show that we are moving in the right direction. Over the last three years, European Allies and Canada spent almost US $46 billion more on defence. And this year, we expect eight Allies to meet the 2% guideline on defense. We have turned a corner, but we still have a long way to go. Allies are also investing in major new capabilities. Since 2014, we have added US $18 billion to spending on major equipment. On contributions, Allies are increasing their participation in operations, missions and activities. At the end of 2017, there were over 23,000 troops serving in NATO deployments, up from just under 18,000 in 2014. This is an increase of around 30%. So we are making progress, but we must do more to keep our Alliance strong in a more unpredictable world.

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As a military, do you believe that we are witnessing the end of soft power era in international relations?

No, I don’t believe at all that we are seeing the end of soft power. Since the end of the Cold War, soft power has played an increasingly important role in international relations. And while hard power has been one of the most prevalent forces in the history of international relations, the emergence of international organizations such as NATO and the EU, combined with globalisation, has made nations more interdependent economically, military and socially. This has in turn made military options less useful when trying to resolve conflicts.

I believe we are seeing more of a blurring of the borders between soft and hard power. Where the distinction between the two used to be easily made, we are now seeing instruments we usually associate with soft power used in hard power ways. Yet, I think, it is far more common for hard instruments of power to be used for soft power purposes than vice versa. For example, the military have clearly become another tool of soft power. We have seen armed forces called to participate in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, assisting in rescue missions and after natural disasters. Civil-military interaction and operating amongst the people have become more common.

Personally, I would advocate the use of smart power, which seeks to integrate hard power and soft power into a coherent strategy.

What role do you see for Ukraine in the global security system?

Ukraine already plays a role in international security. Ukraine is actively supporting NATO’s missions around the world, even while facing major threats at home. Ukraine supports our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. It has joined NATO naval operations in the Mediterranean. And Ukraine helps counter improvised explosive devices with an engineering unit in Kosovo. Ukraine also supports the counter narcotics project with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, training officers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian countries to combat illegal narcotics trafficking. Ukraine also participates in UN and EU missions. This shows Ukraine’s strong and continuing commitment to international security.

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Can you comment on the suggestions of deploying peacekeepers in Ukraine's East?

A UN-mandated mission could make a positive contribution provided it has full access to the Ukrainian-Russian border and a robust mandate. It should effectively contribute to the settlement of the conflict based on the Minsk Agreements, rather than freezing it. It is crucial that any peacekeeping force has full, unimpeded, and secure access throughout the Donbas and in particular the Russian-Ukrainian border. Regardless of this new initiative, Russia must take concrete steps to de-escalate tensions. Including withdrawing its troops, equipment and financial and other support for the militants in eastern Ukraine. NATO will also continue to support Ukraine because an independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine is key to Euro-Atlantic security.


Lieutenant General Jan Broeks, born in 1959 in The Netherlands, studied at the Royal Military Academy in Breda from 1977 to 1981. After completion, he was posted to 103 (NLD) Supply Battalion.  From 1983 to 1994, Jan Broeks served at different positions in military supply and logistics units. In 1994, he studied at the Army Command and Staff College at Camberley.  On return to The Netherlands 1995, he took a seat as lecturer in Strategic Studies at the Netherlands’ Institute for Defense Studies.  This was followed by promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel and postings both with the Directorate of Army Material and Army Command.  From 1998 for 2 years, he commanded 100 (NLD) Supply & Transport Battalion.  It was during this period that he attached to KFOR in the capacity as Deputy CO 1 (NLD) Humanitarian Relief Battalion.  After this, he was posted as the Army Planner at the Defense Staff.  In 2001, he was made Chief International Plans at the Defense Staff. In 2003, he became Head of the Department for General Policies as part of the Army Command Staff.  In 2005, he moved to the position of Head of the Department for Management Support.  In 2007, he took command of 1 (NLD) Logistic Brigade which was amalgamated with the Combat Support Brigade into a new unit, Land Operations Support Command, in 2009.  He was the first Commander of this unit and, from January 2010, he prepared his units for the redeployment-mission in ISAF/Uruzgan and, as of August the same year, he commanded the mission-tailored Redeployment Task Force. In April 2010, Broeks took on his new appointment as Deputy Director for Plans at the Netherlands Defense Staff.  Promoted to Major General, he became responsible for the execution of the transformation and reorganization/budget reduction program of the NLD Armed Forces and the MOD.  In April 2013, he assumed the position of Military Representative of the Netherlands to the Military Committees of NATO and the EU, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. Since July 27, 2016, he has been the new Director General of the International Military Staff of NATO.

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