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Official Statements 2012

DASD Wallander Speaks at the Georgian National Defense Academy (February 22)

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallander Presentation  to the Georgian National Defense Academy February 22, 2012

Deputy Minister Bamovi, Deputy Minister Kharshiladze, students of the National Defense Academy, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. This is my second visit to your National Defense Academy, and I am very pleased to see the progress that you are making not only in the physical structure of the campus but also in the curriculum of the various courses both planned and already underway. I am very pleased to be able to meet with my Georgian friends and colleagues this week following such a busy and productive visit to Washington by President Saakashvili who met with President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the Secretary of the Navy at our U.S. Naval Academy. Secretary Panetta and Minister Akhalaia also met on the sidelines of the NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels.

As President Obama said publicly while meeting with President Saakashvili, "Georgia should be extraordinarily proud of the progress that [it has] made in building a sovereign and democratic country...[and]... we appreciate the model of democracy and transparency that [Georgia has] been setting not just for [your] own country but also for the region as a whole." He continued, "And we think that with continued progress over the next several years that a lot of countries will say tothemselves that if Georgia can perform these transformations, then we can as well."

The progress taking place here at the National Defense Academy is just one example of the progress that Georgia has made along a wide breadth of military reforms - reforms that Admiral Montgomery and I are proud to say have had the support of the Department of Defense and the U.S. European Command. Indeed, working in close partnership we have been able to achieve a considerable degree of success together.

I think we have been able to cooperate so well over the past few years - in all areas - in part because our countries are committed to democracy, and to the standards and norms that it requires.

Over the past three years, as you know, in addition to preparing Georgian forces to participate in combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, our cooperation has focused on defense institution building, including important areas such as the development of your defense doctrine, the organization of the appropriate structures and systems in the defense ministry and in the armed forces, and the establishment of an effective professional military education program.

While your work in these areas is not complete, our own assessments, as well as NATO's,  indicate that your reform efforts have begun to build a military that is not only more interoperable with the United States and NATO, but also one that is beginning to meet Western and Euro-Atlantic standards of conduct. The Georgian military is in the process of adopting the ethos of a modem, professional military, one that plays an apolitical role in support of your democracy. This transition is vitally important.

I know that your Ministry of Defense, as well as our Department of Defense, was very pleased with the announcement our two presidents made to enhance our defense cooperation (which is what I will be discussing this week with your Ministry's  officials). But advancing our relationship into new areas of cooperation does not mean we will cease to cooperate in and focus on the fundamentals of defense institution building that have brought you success thus far. On the contrary, now you must begin to demonstrate mastery of these fundamentals  and practice them until they are ingrained as tradition within your military.

That is why Admiral Montgomery and I asked Minister Bamovi to speak to you today, the future senior leaders of Georgia's  armed forces. We believe that your military's conduct and the role that it is now playing in your democratic society is truly the most important and lasting element in determining Georgia's security future. You and your leadership put a lot of time, effort and resources into demonstrating that Georgia is ready to integrate with Europe - that Georgia is ready to become a member of NATO. There are some out there who question the progress being made here. We want to emphasize to you that from our perspective, the most important and most effective step you could take to convince these skeptics is to unequivocally demonstrate that you clearly understand and are capable of the appropriate conduct and the proper role of a military in a democracy. This is more important than acquiring any weapons or military hardware, gaining any critical combat skills, or becoming interoperable with any coalition forces. To pass the ultimate test of your Euro-Atlantic  integration aspirations, you must demonstrate that the Georgian military understands its role in a fully democratic, European Georgia - the kind of country I know all citizens of Georgia are now working hard to create.

Nothing, I believe, would undermine support for your NATO aspirations or empower those already skeptical of your European integration more than behavior or activities that are inconsistent with a democratic, modem, European country. This year and next year, more than ever, the world is watching Georgia to see if your current reform efforts will support a competitive campaign environment and elections that result in a free and fair democratic transition of power that represents the will of the Georgian people.

They will also be watching the Ministry of Defense to see if it too has matured enough to understand its role in a democracy. As this is the most important lesson - the final examination, if you like - Admiral Montgomery and I wanted to review with you some of the principles of this very important concept.

These are the same principles that we teach our own cadets, soldiers and officers in order to ensure that these principles are not only rules on paper, but that they are embedded in the very ethos and tradition of our military.

• The first principle is that a country's citizens, through its democratic institutions and based on its democratic values, must reach consensus on the role and purpose of its military.

•             The second principle is that the military must not only be well trained and disciplined to carry out that purpose, but it must also accept its own political neutrality and must commit itself to non-partisanship.

• The third principle is that of civilian control and the supremacy of civilian institutions over the military.

• The final principle is the establishment of a legal and constitutional framework that ensures proper direction and control of the armed forces - a framework that provides institutional checks and balances such as:

-  control by the people through their elected representatives (the parliament),

-  transparency - including through the media - that enables the people to make informed judgments about their armed forces,

-  and a hierarchy that makes the armed forces responsible to an organ (the Ministry of Defense) that provides administration of the military and is ultimately responsive to the public will.

I would like to cover these principles  in a little more detail starting  with the role or purpose  of a military  in support of a democracy. The members of the military and the people of the country must be in agreement with what the purpose of its armed forces is. In my country, as in most NATO countries, militaries are charged with doing many things: defending  the country; preserving independence; protecting sovereignty and the national interest as it is defined  by elected national leaders; contributing to the collective defense of the Alliance; providing humanitarian aid; conducting search and rescue operations and providing disaster assistance;  and in some cases to assist the civil authorities in maintaining public order.

But there must always  be something  more fundamental underpinning all these missions - a fixed point to guide how we conduct ourselves as we carry out these assigned tasks. Members of the armed forces acknowledge this deeper purpose when they take an oath as they begin their service. In my country,  that oath, which is taken not only by soldiers  but by everyone  in government service, is to "support and defend the CONSTITUTION... and bear true faith and allegiance to the same." While you and I follow the orders of our leaders, we exist to support and protect our countries' democratic institutions, the institutions on which our people's liberty, rights, and welfare depend.

A soldier violates his oath to defend a democratic constitution if he or she interferes in political affairs, and there is no role for the military in deciding who will hold political authority. This of course leads us to another principle that I listed: the military's acceptance of political neutrality. Not only must a military BE apolitical - it must be SEEN as being apolitical. The alternative is a military that is seen by its people and by others as illegitimate. The apolitical nature of our militaries should, on the contrary, earn the perception of legitimacy by ensuring that the country is stable and secure enough to be able to have free and fair elections. This is a bedrock principle.

I would like to add, however, that political neutrality of the military does not necessarily mean that men and women in uniform must be denied the legal right to vote in an election for the candidate of their choice. In the United States, military members take great pride in their right to cast their ballot in elections at all levels of government. We recognized that our service members are citizens, and we encourage them to exercise their right to vote - and their votes are guaranteed to be private and confidential with no risk that their voting might affect their military career. Our service members understand that while they have this right, they are also not allowed to be involved in any campaigning or political activity on the job.

I also mentioned the principles of civilian control and of the legislature's role as a check and balance on the military. The legislative branch (the Congress in my country) exerts its control over the military through its exclusive power to enact our defense budget. With this authority, it is able to influence the funds for personnel and equipment of the military and even determine the size of the force. Our Congress (similar to many European parliaments) has special committees, consisting of members from all political parties, that are able to provide oversight of the military's activities and plans and to safeguard the rights of military personnel. With regard to civilian control of the military, Richard Kohn, an American author and history professor, once wrote: "The point of civilian control is to make sure security is subordinate to the larger purposes of a nation, rather than the other way around. The purpose of the military is to defend society, not define it."1 These constitutional checks and balances should serve to protect the state from the dangers of politicians with military ambitions and also from a military with political ambitions.2

Georgia already has made significant progress on advancing democracy and building democratic institutions in pursuit ofEuro-Atlantic integration goals. President Obama cited such progress following his meeting with President Saakashvili and expressed his anticipation for free and fair elections in Georgia. My expectation is that your armed forces will impress the world -supporters and critics of Georgia alike- as a model for demonstrating the proper role of a military in a democracy.

That is my expectation. My hope is that what I have discussed with you today was not new to you. I hope that you already grasp the importance of these concepts - concepts that I am certain are becoming the tradition of your military.

I thank you for your service to your country. I thank you for your cooperation and partnership with the United States. And I thank you for your attention.

I would like to turn the floor over to Admiral Montgomery now for a few comments from a uniformed perspective on this civil-military relationship that I have described.

1 Richard H. Kohn, "An Essay on Civilian Control ofthe Military," American Diplo acy, March 1997, http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_3/kohn.html.

2 Major General H. Kujat, German Armed Forces, "The Role of the Military in a Democracy," Address to Officials

from the three ethnic groups of Bosnia- Herzegovina  NATO Information Seminar  Sarajevo, July 3, 1998., http://www.nato.int/docu/speech/1998/s980702h.htm.