What is the former Secretary’s perspective on NATO’s response to coronavirus, Russian disinformation, European defense, and potential future threats?
by Kamila Magiera
Former NATO Deputy Secretary Gottenmoeller speaks at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.
On March 11, Rose Gottemoeller, former Deputy Secretary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from 2016 to 2019, joined the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to discuss her tenure at NATO and its importance in modern global security. Gottemoeller’s work at NATO focused on the fight against terrorism and new security threats across Europe.
Gottemoeller earned a Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University and a Master of Arts from George Washington University. Her career spanned across government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of State, think-tanks such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Council of Foreign Relations, and the White House as the director for Russia on the National Security Council. Most recently, she served as the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security in the U.S. Department of State. Throughout Gottemoeller’s career, most of her work has focused on nonproliferation cooperation, Russia, national security, and international defense.
At the Elliott School of International Affairs, the first question asked related to COVID-19, which has spread across the globe, officially being considered as a pandemic according to the World Health Organization (WHO). When inquired about the response NATO is taking to ensure the safety of military personnel and Europe, Gottemoeller explained that the organization took the right steps in calling off exercises and taking greater measures at the headquarters to make sure that there is a limited internal spread of the virus. However, Gottemoeller believes that the greater threat is the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, which targets audiences to think, to name an example, that the European Union is the cause of the spread of the virus and could not be trusted to safeguard its citizens. The former secretary explains, “Ensuring that NATO countries have some resilience in terms of being able to withstand the demoralizing effect of disinformation flowing into NATO Europe most often these days I have to say from Russia, but that is another aspect of resilience.” Nations in Europe, as well as the United States, are aware of the Kremlin’s efforts to discredit governments and create instability and are taking measures to limit the Kremlin’s propaganda.
Gottemoeller also highlighted a hypothesis that was spreading throughout the world that she deemed to be untrue: the United States was turning its back on NATO. The former secretary believes that this statement is false, citing that when Ukraine was invaded and Crimea was annexed by the Kremlin, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) became a global threat, NATO became stronger to defeat Russia and to build a fight against terrorism. Many analysts and foreign service officers believed that the Obama Administration would pivot to Asia, departing from Europe and taking the U.S. military with them. Yet, Gottemoeller believes “that evidence is from my perspective that the United States is making a hard investment in European security and is very much present in the day-in-day-out leadership of the alliance, but that goes not only for the headquarters itself but for the military.” Furthermore, the Kremlin is beginning to become a bigger threat in Central and Eastern Europe, with unity on defense and stability being more important than ever. Having a united front provides reassurance to the Kremlin that there is a strong defense to deter from attacking: “If Russia were for some reason to decide that it wants to attack one of our allies in the Baltics, it will find itself facing all of the allies because all NATO allies have units deployed.”
Going forward, Gottemoeller believes that the only solution to creating a more stable relationship with the Kremlin is by having a consistent dialogue between Moscow and Washington D.C., rather than annual meetings that are simply symbolic and do not accomplish the full potential. The former deputy secretary highlights the importance of keeping a lid on the arms race and praises President Trump’s inclusion of China in the conversation relating to destructive weapons. With cooperation and talks between the United States and the Kremlin, this “Gives the US the predictability to modernize in a way that would be beneficial because we would not face an upload of Russian warheads,” especially in an era where their strategies are not direct (violent), but rather disinformation and energy systems.
Interested in watching this interview with former NATO Deputy Secretary Rose Gottemoeller? Visit The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs Facebook page.