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Building a Pillar of Peace

September 2000
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Multinational strength buttresses efforts to meet evolving world challenges.

As the U.S. armed forces continue to transform their own inner workings and construct the means for cooperating in a joint environment, a similar—though much larger—phenomenon is well underway as countries throughout the world explore their role in international operations. At the heart of the matter are questions about political objectives, legal constraints and the status of technology development—tough issues that require the framers of this new global community to be part architect, part foreman and part bricklayer.

Gen. Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, GEA, knows quite a bit about filling this type of multifaceted role. As the commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) Joint Headquarters Centre, Gen. Reinhardt is watching his organization continuously evolve with new missions and redefined goals. The former commander of the NATO-led peace implementation force in Kosovo (KFOR) experienced firsthand how soldiers from different doctrines, religions, cultures and backgrounds can band together as a unified, formidable force.

“My headquarters was created in former times for two major missions. One was the main defense of Europe, and the other was to prepare the corps for this specific mission [KFOR]. Seeing the strategic situation [in Europe], the priority has shifted. We are still conducting operations … one huge exercise in October where we defend a synthetic Europe with seven corps, including the whole French army and the whole air force in Europe that includes, for the first time, a Polish corps. So, we have to keep up with this traditional capability because nobody knows how history will develop,” the general relates.

The center’s role in preparing troops from several nations to work together has taken form in concrete terms. The Partnership for Peace program is one key element. “We started off a couple of years ago by having individuals firing the weapons of the other guy and exchanging C rations on the lowest level. Today, we are basically training multinational brigade and division staffs. … So, this is a totally new job that basically sets aside a different, new pillar to the main defense as it used to be,” Gen. Reinhardt explains. Harmonizing the efforts of all the NATO nations is the biggest challenge his command faces today, he adds.

“In addition to that, we now have basically two main new features. One is that my headquarters has to function as an out-of-area headquarters as we did in IFOR [Dayton Accords Implementation Force] and SFOR [Stabilization Force], and just recently we came back as KFOR headquarters. We have to be deployable, and we have to be capable of running a coalition in a peace support operation,” he adds.

The center also is responsible for preparing the new NATO nations—Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary—to integrate into the organization in terms of doctrine and training standards. The three countries are much further advanced than many people believe, the general says.

“These new nations are very keen about becoming good NATO countries. They have changed all of their training doctrines, and they’re very open to working with us. They also adapted their military doctrine to our doctrines. … I just see the big impetus of those nations to go forward. Technically, there are big differences, but there are also big differences in the traditional NATO countries,” the general points out.

Gen. Reinhardt has put his finger on another concern raised during recent coalition operations—the disparity in allied forces’ technology. While he admits that a gap exists, he believes countries have recognized the problem and are working toward solutions. “There are some technical areas where some European nations have now overcome the gaps and are maybe taking the lead in some things—if I look in simulation technology, for instance, in the training technology. And another thing is that you find gadgets to bridge the gaps—to interconnect island solutions—so they can speak from one island to the other island,” he says.

“You cannot expect that everyone will develop the same thing. But if you find some gadgets with which you can connect them, so that you can speak from one system to the other, then that’s adequate, and this is possible right now. We made a big step forward in this field,” the general adds.

One example of a commercial product success took place during the Kosovo operation. By employing an automatic data system, the number of personnel required to run communications systems was reduced from 1,500 to approximately 100.

Many experts believe the United States leads in the development of advanced systems. Some have proposed that other nations should follow the United States in this regard. Gen. Reinhardt disagrees with this view or with operating at the lowest common denominator. “You will never get a single overarching [solution]. I think that’s dreaming about a world that is not there because all nations try to develop their own systems and their industry and their money. Wherever money is concerned and involved, nations are much closer to themselves than to anybody else. That applies throughout NATO, I think.

“We have all multinational corps today. Five years ago, we had almost no multinational corps. … The worst thing would be that you say one nation is too fast and the others are not capable of catching up, so let’s turn the momentum toward the slowest bidder, so to speak. This would be totally wrong. I think there’s only one way—we all try to be as modern as fast as possible. See what the others have and buy from them. Buy off the shelf,” he explains.

This type of cooperation and collaboration extends beyond the technical field. Military forces throughout the world also are imitating each other in the way they operate within their services. According to Gen. Reinhardt, European nations are all aiming for lighter, more flexible and smaller armies that rely more heavily on technology. “We are all thinking the same way. We are all basically developing our armed forces the same way, and nobody does it in secret, totally secluded from the others,” he relates.

Teamwork also contributed greatly to the successful Kosovo operation—before, during and after the air strikes. As the leader of KFOR, the general directed the coalition effort to rebuild both the physical infrastructure and the multiethnic society. This job posed two overarching challenges: coordinating a multinational force and ensuring the security of all Kosovars, both Albanian and Serbian.

The first task turned out to be simpler than the general had anticipated. “Having 39 different nations … to get them all on one track, it’s a fascinating thing, and I thought it would be much, much more difficult to do. Actually, it was much easier. … I come back to what I said before. The key is that you find some technical equipment through which you can interconnect different systems,” Gen. Reinhardt relates.

KFOR’s highest priority in the peacekeeping effort was to prevent Serbian forces from returning by force. “There is no evidence whatsoever today that the Yugoslav army is prepared for a forced return into Kosovo, and they know why they don’t do that. It’s because they have to encounter some 50,000 KFOR troops … well equipped, well trained and more dedicated, and we constantly exercise our forces, not in peace support but in main defense,” the general says.

This constant state of preparedness is important to Gen. Reinhardt. He believes that the margin between peace support and real warfighting is small. “Some nations believe that they can somehow take some of the military features away from that peace support operation, which could be very dangerous if it changes into a hostile environment,” he explains.

Strong cooperation between KFOR and local police made Kosovo safer. Soldiers conducted up to 700 patrols per day as a matter of routine and protected more than 550 key sites. In a given day, three out of four soldiers were carrying out security operations. KFOR confiscated approximately 15,000 weapons and 20 million rounds of ammunition.

Despite the strong military presence in the area, Gen. Reinhardt warns that the situation is still precarious and could easily shift for the worse. Demilitarizing and transforming the rebel army into a civilian organization to help prevent this from occurring was another of KFOR’s missions. “We did this because we were afraid that this rebel army could turn against KFOR, and we would not know politically what they wanted us to do. So there was only one way to demilitarize them and that was to give them new jobs and to turn them into a civil, nonpolitical, multiethnic organization,” the general explains. Although it is an ongoing process, the Kosovo Protection Corps is working, he adds.

The success of the peace-enforcing mission in Kosovo is evident in the progress that has been made. “When KFOR arrived on the 12th of June [1999], there was total chaos throughout the province. There was an unbelievably high rate of violence, and the old borders and boundaries made matters worse.

“Within Kosovo, there were no jobs for the people to do, there were no shops to buy food, and there were no cars on the road. Today, the people are enjoying the way of life that is not a million years from the way we enjoy our lives here. That’s because of a joint administration council in which we work in the government side by side with the Kosovars. The crime rates are comparably low, almost similar to the European standards of today. The borders and the boundaries are well protected,” the general explains.

“You can get everything in the shops you need, and there are too many cars on the roads,” the general quips. “In short, people enjoy that life, and they enjoy their cars, and I tell you they don’t know that there are any car signs. They say, ‘Now we have freedom, we drive wherever we want to drive and however we want to drive. This is our kind of freedom,’” he adds, continuing the joke.

Much of the successful rebuilding is the result of KFOR’s work with a multitude of civilian agencies. The groups restored basic necessities such as electrical power, water, heating and communications systems. Reinhardt describes, with a bit of humor, the reconstruction of the transportation infrastructure of the country. “We rebuilt bridges. We reopened the airport, which so dramatically and so effectively had been destroyed by our air forces, and we could see how good they [the air forces] had done that,” he says with a smile.

According to Gen. Reinhardt, the most promising yet most difficult developments in Kosovo have taken place in the political arena. KFOR brought together and met with various government entities for biweekly talks. At first, the Serbs were reluctant to join in the discussions. Eventually, they agreed to collaborate.

However, the general says fundamental differences exist between the two communities. “Most Albanians want a pure, single-ethnic, independent Kosovo. Serb houses are burned—still burned—to prevent Serbs from returning. Resident Serbs are harassed to make them leave the country. The Albanians claim that they have suffered over centuries, especially within the last decade. They believe it’s now their turn to pay back and to take revenge.

“The United Nations Security Council resolution 1244, which was our Bible to give us our left and right boundaries in our mission, allows for increased autonomy for Kosovo, but this is not enough for the Albanians. Every Kosovo Albanian I met, even the simple guys on the street, said they want independence. The Serbs, on the other hand, claim they have lived in the country for centuries, and this is where their cultural background, their cultural roots lie, and their right. I just want you to understand that there is no quick solution to the problem,” Gen. Reinhardt offers.

The general believes NATO is the key organization for the international community in the future. “I hope that nobody will replace NATO with any institution that is not working as well as NATO is right now. The elements of NATO might be smaller [in the next 10 years], but I think they will be as important, as robust and also as solid as they are right now. And I think the key thing in NATO is that we have the Americans in Europe. … As long as you can keep this interconnection, then this is the key that makes NATO tick and makes NATO so valuable for us. I’m pretty sure this will prevail,” he concludes.