The International Perspective

Nov. 1, 1998

USAFE: General Jumper

Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is important to the United States and its Allies because it will add more protection against instability in Europe and will help spread the values of political and economic freedom, according to Gen. John P. Jumper, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and commander of Allied Air Forces Central Europe.

Jumper issued his remarks on Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s first international aerospace power symposium, held as part of the 1998 AFA National Convention in Washington, D.C. NATO’s acceptance of new members, never an easy step for the alliance, now is inevitable. Next April, NATO will grow from 16 to 19 members with the addition of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic as members.

According to Jumper, the air forces of the three new members will constitute a real military addition to the alliance. He said the flying units are well-trained and well-practiced in the business of protecting the skies over their respective nations.

“There is no doubt in my mind that, in April 1999, in consonance with the 50th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we will witness the accession of three professional, competent, and ready air forces,” said Jumper.

However, enlargement of the alliance is not without its challenges from the airpower point of view, said NATO’s principal air chief. The first and most obvious challenge is geographical. NATO’s new eastern boundary will not be continuous. Hungary will be an island, not adjacent to other member nations.

A second problem concerns the ability to ascertain threats. In today’s world, adversaries are unspecified and unknown. In many cases, the threats that they pose will not be focused upon NATO borders or territory but on NATO interests.

“It requires a new way to think about how we organize ourselves to deal with those types of threats,” said Jumper.

Third, it will not be easy to integrate the new forces into the alliance structure. Much of the new members’ Soviet–made air equipment was designed for a different era and different time.

“These are technical challenges that can be overcome, but with a great deal of work and effort, and we are doing that,” concluded Jumper.

NATO’s Newest Air Chiefs

The Polish air force gives a good idea of the scope of the task. Poland’s 293 combat aircraft range from MiG-29s to older MiG-23s and MiG-21s and Su-22s. Of these, only the MiG-29s and Su-22s are projected to remain in service beyond 2000.

The modernization needs of the service are considerable, according to Maj. Gen. Kazimierz Dziok, commander of the Air and Air Defense Forces of Poland. They include equipping existing aircraft with Global Positioning System and NATO–compatible Identification Friend or Foe systems; adjusting broadcasting stations to NATO frequencies; and replacing ground elements of air navigation and landing systems.

“For the long term, it is critical for the Polish air forces to replace existing [Soviet–made] aircraft with a new multirole Western aircraft,” Dziok told symposium attendees.

The Czech Republic is planning a multirole aircraft upgrade as well. Tentative plans call for purchase of 18, or perhaps 36, new Western fighters sometime after the turn of the century.

“F-16, F-18, I do not know exactly” what model the country will pick, said Lt. Gen. Ladislav Klima, commander of the Czech Republic’s air forces.

The Czech Republic is a new nation, formed from the breakup in 1993 of what used to be Czechoslovakia. The leaders of the new national air force, in one of their first acts, cut the number of pilots and airplanes left in inventory from Warsaw Pact days.

It now has five air bases, down from 12. The number of pilots has been cut from 800 to 500. Besides the supersonic aircraft from the West that Czech leaders hope to acquire, their force has 72 subsonic, domestically built fighters, attack helicopters, and transport aircraft.

“We are a very small air force when we are compared with your Air Force, … but we are very proud that we can cooperate with NATO,” said Klima.

The chief of staff of the Hungarian air force, Lt. Gen. Attila Kositzky, talked about the unique problems his nation faces due to its sensitive location. Located outside NATO’s eastern “fence,” Hungary sits right on top of the explosive region of the Balkans.

Where Hungary is will determine its future focus for military operations, said Kositzky.

“We are concentrating our efforts in the direction of the southern region of the alliance,” he said.

The Hungarian air force has already established a new staff with NATO–style directorates to facilitate interaction with the alliance. Personnel total 12,898, down from 18,000 in December 1996.

Hungary’s aging MiG-21s are scheduled to leave service by 2001. Therefore, like its fellow new members, the Hungarian air force will soon be shopping for a Western replacement.

“The country’s present financial position requires that we choose a type of aircraft which can be used for as many roles as possible,” said Kositzky.

Senator Lugar

The addition of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland to NATO is one reason the US now finds itself at a high-water mark in international affairs, said Sen. Richard G. Lugar. The Indiana Republican, an influential member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the keynote address.

NATO expansion provides “a very, very strong advance” for democracy, according to Lugar. It will help make sure that these nations, now emerging from the long night of Soviet domination, will be part of the Western world’s democratic, free-market-oriented framework.

Another, perhaps even more important, trend in international affairs is the continuing destruction of nuclear weapons that were once part of the Soviet arsenal. Former Soviet republics Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are all living up to their promise to rid themselves of the atomic warheads once based on their soil.

“This has been one of the miracles of this decade, that three states … literally gave up their nuclear authority and became non-nuclear powers,” said Lugar.

Unfortunately, the tide of promise may be receding. Economic troubles spreading into Eastern Europe from Asia threaten more than just pensioners’ standard of living.

“We are at the threshold of a very difficult moment in all this,” said Lugar, “because 1998 has not been a happy year for the progression of democracy or of free markets.”

Russia is the key problem. Economic and governmental instability has called into question whether the Russian parliament, or Duma, will ever ratify the START II nuclear arms reduction agreement with the US.

It has also had an extremely negative impact on the Russian military. The leadership has no money for the pensions and apartments promised to departing officers. They do not even have the cash to pay troops on time—or at all.

“It is a very desperate predicament,” said Lugar.

High-level contacts in Russia sometimes discuss further mutual reductions in warheads, down to 1,000 or so, said the former mayor of Indianapolis. Reducing nuclear infrastructure could save them money—and make it easier to track and secure remaining nuclear material.

Whether such a small number of warheads would mesh with US security needs remains to be seen. But Lugar said that in general “my prayer is [that] the window of opportunity in the world remains open long enough for us to work with Russians who really want to progressively destroy many more” of their nuclear weapons.

NSC: Robert Bell

The US remains productively engaged with Russia, despite that nation’s political turmoil, insisted Robert G. Bell, who serves as senior director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council.

Much of President Clinton’s September visit to Moscow was taken up with exhorting Boris Yeltsin to fight the good fight for democracy, but progress was made in four areas, said Bell.

The subjects were early warning missile data sharing, plutonium disposal, START ratification, and space control.

“We were able to advance our national security interests in a cooperative way with Russia at the summit in these four areas,” said Bell.

Bell defended the Administration position on space control, saying officials had no intention of negotiating a treaty with the Russians that would limit anti-satellite weapons.

“The requirement for space control capabilities has been clearly established at the highest levels of the US government,” he said.

In itself, the agreement reached at the meeting to share information from early warning satellite and radar detection networks is very significant, claimed the top NSC staffer. It could also be a harbinger for more openness to come.

Such sharing could make the Russians less likely to overreact to a perceived missile launch at a time when their military structure is somewhat scrambled. It might also lead to more direct engagement with the Russians on such space questions as willingness to relax the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

The data to be swapped include information from ground based radar and space based satellites and will involve both strategic and tactical missile systems. Each side will establish its own national center as a point of fusion for the effort.

“We are going to invite all the countries of the world to treat these centers as a clearinghouse in effect, in which they can, in advance of missile launches, file notice of that launch so that the people [who] are working this system have some notice that something is going to happen,” said Bell.

US and Russian officials also agreed at the summit that each side would permanently eliminate 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium from military stockpiles. It marks the first time that the military superpowers have agreed to destroy the basic building element of the atomic age.

On arms pacts, the already-negotiated-and-signed START II, and a prospective START III, were not subjects for discussion at the summit. The US has said it will not begin work on START III until the Russian parliament ratifies START II, which it has so far declined to do.

Addressing the issue of raising defense spending, Bell said that “more is going to be required. We are going to have to do more.”

The presidential advisor gave no specifics about any possible addition to the defense budget. He told AFA delegates, “I would just ask you to stay tuned, watch us carefully, and let’s see where it all comes out.”

Peter Grier, the Washington bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, is a longtime defense correspondent and regular contributor to Air Force Magazine. His most recent article, “The Retention Problem Spreads,” appeared in the October 1998 issue.