Interview with Dr. Ross about global security

Bezpečnostní výzvy dnešních dnů nabývají bezpochyby globálních rozměrů. Vzestup nových mocností jako je Čína a Indie, proliferace zbraní hromadného ničení, protiraketová obrana  a nová ruská asertivita na mezinárodním poli. O tom všem jsme diskutovali s Dr. Johnem Rossem, brigádním generálem americké armády ve výslužbě a uznávaným bezpečnostním expertem a lektorem. Interview je vedeno v anglickém jazyce.

John P. Ross PhD. is highly distinguished lector and former high ranking officer of the US Army. He has been a Director of German-American Partnership Enterprise for U.S. Defense Department and German Ministry of Defense and he has taught courses all over the world and overseen more then 100 conferences worldwide. His past assignments include professorship at US Military Academy at West and is holder of several academic awards.

Good morning, Dr. Ross, it is great pleasure to make interview with you on the issues of international security and defence policy. My question would be more general and I would like to concentrate on the issue of multi-polar world, which is now emerging. It can be described as relative decline of western power vis-a-vis new powerful countries such as China, India may be Russia. I would like to assess, how grave this phenomena is and what does it mean for the West in general and United States in particular.

There is no doubt that we have entered into a global world, globalization is real and it is having tremendous impact. I know that many people consider US to be a superpower, my feeling is that today and over 10-30 years we will see many superpowers. China will be seen as an manufacturing superpower, Japan as an engineering superpower, India as an information-technology superpower, Argentina as agricultural superpower, the EU as an financial superpower, Russia as and natural gas and fossil fuel superpower, but I am suggesting is that our world has fundamentally changed and it is involving as a result of integration of information technologies worldwide, that allow all of this to happen and world to be more integrated together.

You also mentioned China, which I would like to discuss in more detail with you. My first question would be again more general. Do you think that China’s rise as military, political and of course economic power will be “manageable”? Or it will inevitably lead into certain type of conflict with its neighbours and US? Can China as a superpower live peacefully with its neighbours and US?

I do believe that China can, if it chooses to do so, and let’s watch very carefully what are Chinese doing over the course of next five, ten to thirty years and we can better answer that question. I can not answer that question today. I know that there are people who present information that suggest we should be worried about aggressive tendencies of the Chinese and effort, which have been Chinese putting into military hardware and advanced nuclear programmes and things of that nature, that cause great concern. These things happen, but China is one of the largest countries in the world and it is an important country and it can and it should contribute to global security, stability and economic growth. We have a number of economic problems and challenges with the Chinese today. Especially, when it comes to violation of certain economic programmes, when comes to violations of the property rights etc. So, if I could see positive side of our relations with China I am also concerned with the negative sides. It must be said that now we cannot answer the question today. I think we need to reach out to the Chinese and I hope that Chinese will reach back to us and will show us the spirit of partnership and cooperation and not the one of aggression, instability and concern to its neighbours.

I think that we can agree that these developments will be closely connected to the Chinese internal policy and political development there. Consequently, I would like to ask, what you think about Chinese internal problems and challenges. Many people say that China is not as strong as it may seem on the first look. They face very grave challenges such as environmental problems, social imbalance and the gap between inland and coastal regions. How do you assess the gravity these issues?

You are correct, China has these problems, but I would suggest to you that most of the countries around the world have similar problems, perhaps not as great as Chinese do. Once again, let’s look at willingness of Chinese to work internationally to be a cooperative partner to try to address and solve some of these problems. Some of their internal problems are global in nature, when it comes to the global warming, when it comes to deteriorating nature etc. Chinese have got to be a part of global solution of these problems just as my country, United States, must and your country as well. Let’s see what collectively we find out on the way ahead. Chinese, no question about it, have some large, serious challenges in front of them such as pollution, situation of the poor, size and migration and so on. These are all very real, all very serious but we will see how they will try to address them. I wish I could predict the future (smiling), however what I can do is to tell you, that there are the trends, but do not have borders and they are global. Chinese have large problems and much more serious problems than for example Czech Republic has. We know that, but the still the question is what they are going to do to address them. We know that the Chinese have large interest in North Korean nuclear development program. I would like to see Chinese to step in to this problem and help to prevent North Koreans from doing that. They could be also more active in Iran nuclear developments. Chinese could join Russia and US in the effort to decrease the number of nuclear weapons.

Today, there is also a problem of modernization of Chinese military forces. Again many people do not feel quite comfortable with that. Where do you think, as a defence professional and experienced military officer, Chinese has made the biggest step forward in terms of military capabilities and where they have the biggest weakness? Ultimately, could you say if they pose challenge to the US military in some areas?

I am concerned about the Chinese posing a security concern more so in their region now and that is what we are to very carefully watch and monitor. What is it, is what Chinese are going to do to enhance stability, security and economic growth within the region and within the world. And what military capabilities do they see as necessary to accomplish that. What causes to question what Chinese are doing is where the Chinese are putting their money. The nuclear improvement programmes and some other military programmes that just do not seem to make sense for a country which tries to enhance security and stability. Therefore I have to question what they are doing and what they intent. Why their put money into these offensively orientated programmes and focussing their resources into these programme?

Now let’s turn more to the question of proliferation. What do you think is the best way how to deal with countries who seek weapons of mass destruction? Iraq war has shown how tricky can be to rely only on military means. What do you think is the best mix of approaches to this problem?

First of all, we need to do everythink possible to discourage nations from wanting to acquire WMDs. This is not just an American problem; it is a worldwide and global problem. And as the United States take stance, so should NATO nations, so should Central and South America nations and others in Asia-Pacific and Africa. The stance should be as follows: We are not going to accept and we are not going to tolerate that and we are going to take measures, but diplomatic as well as political and economic first before we ever resort to the use of military measures. I think that the is the approach which United States as well as our allies and other countries in world should take, if we are going to be serious about stopping proliferation of WMD. Every country is involved with this process. The components of WMD are easy to transport across the borders from one country to another and they can come from a number of European countries. We have got to ensure that we are collectively sharing the intelligence, we are sharing information and we are working together to stop this. This is an example of problem where no country in the world can say: “I wish not to participate”. We are all in this together. The use of WMD against one country is likely to having far wider impact. Definitely it would have impact on the countries in the region, or even on the whole world.

There is a question of Iran, which is may be the most pressing problem in field of WMD proliferation today. I wish to ask you, do you think, if there were no other options left, that use of military force would be necessary to discourage them from acquiring nuclear weapons?

I do not know, if the military solution is any longer a feasible option. I say so, because Iranians has known for some time, that for western powers this is an option. They have taken measures and means to hide and protect their infrastructure. Therefore, it is not clear to me with the information available, I am not a member of government and I do not have deeper insights because it is not the agenda I would work on every day, but what I read in the newspapers and what I observe and experience over the time, it is clear that the Iranians has done a lot to protect their infrastructure. I would suggest once again, that we must take every diploma tic political and economic measure in trying to persuade Iranians against acquiring nuclear stockpile. What I am more bothered by is, the fact I do not know is if the Chinese and Russians are helping to their program of enhancing their programme them. It may be the area where I am more concerned with Chinese and Russians than with Iranians. Are we all speaking with the same voice, are we all committed to the same actions are we all prepared to work together to persuade Iran against development of nuclear weapons or WMD? I cannot answer that but I am not comfortable with what I am hearing, what I am reading and what I observe.

The question of proliferation is closely connected to the project of missile defence system. This issue has been very important in my country in past years. I would like to ask, how you access the change, which administration of Mr. Obama has done to the project of missile defence? Predominantly, I mean the shift from heavy, land-based project on lighter version based on Aegis missile system. Do you think it is a right approach to this problem, or the USA should have rather continued the way which, Mr. Bush and it administration had followed?

I have spent thirty years in United States army in the missile defence field, so I am somewhat acquainted with these issues. I am delighted to see that United States continues to invest in missile defence. I am delighted to see that program has evolved over the time and more money goes into these programs, but I also do understand that there are many other priorities, which our nation and our nations (emphasis added) must answer. Missile defence is potentional gamechanger and it can provide fundamentally new protection to us and our allies from the proliferation of WMD, not only from Iran and North Korea but from other nations as well. What I like about the Aegis system is that that it can move. You can put it into open seas and you can move it from one location to another. You can have one in Mediterranean one day or elsewhere in other time, depending upon the nature of the threat and depending upon where you want to position this system. There are also land-based systems which that have some significant advantages, there are also land based radar systems that help to protect us and our allies. I understand the rationale behind president Obama’s decision to see the evolving and changing nature of threat in Iran and want to take a different approach. I only hope we will support our friends and allies with missile defence when needed, where needed as required. It is all very critical and important. If the Iranians are putting a lot of money into their missile programs we should be able to neutralize it effectively.

This question inevitably leads into the issue of relations between United States and Russian. Many people in Czech Republic fear about growing Russian assertiveness, which has been here since Mr Putin came to office. Recently, also United States has moved certain elements of its air force and missile defence to Poland. What do you think is the best policy to deal with Russian? How should be Russian address from the US and European point of view?

We have taken a lot of actions to try to persuade the Russians to work with us together. We have included them to NATO; we have allowed them to have their special relationships with the NATO nations, we tried to interact and dialog on them on every possible event and activity. We tried to establish a new partnership and new relationship. We share information on terrorist and terrorism and sometimes we are very pleased with what we see and sometimes we are very very doubtful. That is why I have raised the issue of Iran, because what the Russians are doing to try to sell military components to Iran, which offsets the value of what we are trying to do. It can seriously question what Russians are doing. Russian can be a part of the solution of these problems, or they can be an important obstacle. Certainly if we look on what they did in reference to Georgia, what we have seen in reference to the potentional cyber attack in Estonia (though I know it is still not clear what exactly happened) can cause Central European’s concerns, about what is Russia’s real intention. We certainly want to be a closer partner with them, but it is not certain if they want to be a partner with us. It is very unfortunate.

So do you think that more strict approach in certain areas would be more fruitful in relations with Russian?

We have to be very firm in our relations with Russia. But we have got to be able to see, that there is a sign of support for us, that they try to solve the problems that do exist, whatever these problems are involving proliferation of nuclear weapons, involving sharing information on terrorism, involving any serious problem that exists world. If we start think about the problem of polar ice cap. We know that there are going to be significant changes, but when I hear some of the statements that come out of Russian about putting military forces up in that region, then I start to wonder what it is they are attempting to do why are attempting to do that. That is the concern. Whatever to take a hardliner approach in order to persuade or not is not very clear to me. But at this point I am very very concerned, with what I see taking place.

Thank you very much and my last question would focus of US military. You was in the US Army in critical era of eighties, when it managed to reform itself into a new force able to cope with overwhelming numbers of Warsaw pact forces trough advanced technologies. It made significant contribution to end of Cold War. Today US military has to adapt itself on new circumstances again. What is your opinion about the direction which US military is taking know? Does it response adequately to the challenges of today world?

What I believe we see is the adaption of modern technologies into military platforms, systems and thinking (emphasis added) in order to create advantages and to be a more effective military force. It is not just for the United States but also for our interactions with allies, whatever they from NATO or friends and allies in Africa, Asia whatever. I truly believe that we are being responsive to the geopolitical environment that we are in today. The answer to your question is to look at, where the United States in spending money. Certainly when it comes to the counter insurgency operations, certainly when it comes to addressing challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other parts of the world just as counter-piracy, failed states, counter drug etc. You have to be able to adopt your military platform and military system to these issues. When it comes to the proliferation of WMD look at what we are doing in field of missile defence and we continue to invest there. I think it is a positive step. So I do believe that the United States is maintaining its ability to address realities of geopolitical world today and it tries to develop those capabilities, not just military capabilities, but I am talking also about human side. Look at how do we take young men like yourself who have grown up in information age. How we take advantage of you see things, how you understand information the way you address the information etc. It is very different from my generation which grew up without computers, without the internet. So these changes take place. The world constantly changes and we always have to be looking to what the challenges of future are and if we have the capabilities to address them.

Thank you very much for your insightful responses and very nice interview. I wish you a good luck and success in future.

You are very welcome! And I just would like you to mention in your interview that is has been a great honour for me to be here in Czech Republic and to work with such an outstanding young men and women from your country and from the international countries which has participated here. I believe that we have the strong partnership not just between United States and your country and Central European countries, but I also believe we have strong interest in academic pursuit and in trying to address some of these serious problems. I have great confidence and I am very very impressed with the quality the young men and women I have seen on this university. You should be very proud and I know I am. I hope that I have been able to share a little it about global challenges we are facing and to share a little bit about United States, Americans and how think and how we approach problems. I believe it is only by working together as community of nations, which can help us to solve these problems.

Rozhovor zpracoval: Michal Mádl, student Bezpečnostních a strategických studií, FSS, MU


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