Mentoring with Mr. Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann (NATO)

On March 29th, the Hertie School Security Club had the pleasure to welcome Mr. Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann to its first official mentoring session with members of the club. Mr. Meyer-Minnemann is the Executive Coordinator and First Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of NATO and thus part of NATO’s senior management team. After graduating from Kings College in London, Mr. Meyer-Minnemann found his way to NATO through an internship. He remained within the organization and worked his way up to the senior level. Now he advises Secretary General Stoltenberg and is also responsible for the recruitment of key NATO leaders.

In the mentoring session students were given Mr. Meyer-Minnemann’s 10 key career insights, which he considers to be particularly important:

(1) Don’t obsess over career plans. Having a career goal is good, but you shouldn’t be blind to other, spontaneously arising, opportunities. Enjoy the journey!

(2) Everything you do in a professional setting is a job interview. Perform every task as if it was of the utmost importance. Maintain a consistently high working level. Also remember to maintain your networks, not only with people who are currently influential, but also with your colleagues and peers. You never know which positions they might hold in the future.

(3) Keep your ego in check. Search where you can contribute with your abilities rather than disrupt with your ego. Smart and well-lead organizations will identify those who want to make a difference. And big presumptuous egos are never liked.

(4) If your performance is not recognized, it may be due to the organization, but also to you. Always consider both possibilities.

(5) Reflect on yourself! Learning never ends. Be self-reflective and look for friends who can honestly reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.

(6) Respect hierarchy in a hierarchical organization. This does not mean that you always have to agree with your superiors, but be aware of your place and participate in the progress of the organization.

(7) Be humble but not intimidated. Understand that everyone starts small at the beginning and that everyone can grow. If you have made it to your position, there is a reason for that!

(8) Be sure that what you do is what you are interested in. Only those who are really interested in their work do it really well.

(9) Maintain distance between your professional and personal self. You are not your job and your job does not define your self-worth. Power can be given to you, but also be taken away. Create a clear separation between your personal and professional happiness. Everybody gets professionally rejected at some point. This however should not throw your personal life off course.

(10) Be a good person! People with a kind heart and emotional intelligence are not only good for any organization, but also good for our world.

Finally, he reminded us to be critical. These tips have helped him in advancing his career and stem from his personal experience, but do of course not reflect the absolute truth. We never stop learning and anyone can be a good teacher!

We thank Mr. Meyer-Minnemann very much for these personal insights and his advice. We are sure that these key insights have inspired many of the participants.

We also look forward to hosting further mentoring sessions and sharing our experiences with our audience!

At the Körber Foundation Global Leaders Dialogue with Jens Stoltenberg, General Secretary of NATO

On 7 November 2019, we had the pleasure of being invited to the Körber Global Leaders Dialogue by the Körber Foundation. 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and immediately after Emmanuel Macron’s remarkable Economist interview, in which he diagnosed NATO’s brain death, the Körber Foundation had invited NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to share his views on current global security risks and why NATO remains relevant today and is indeed not brain dead. In the birthday speech (NATO celebrated its 70th anniversary) on “NATO at 70: The Bedrock of European and Transatlantic Security”, Stoltenberg repeatedly stated that the alliance is imperative for the European and Transatlantic security architecture. 

In light of many different sovereign states with sometimes contrasting interests, he stressed the long lasting perseverance of the organisation. Although it cannot be denied that there is friction between the Allies, one of its biggest achievements is the discourse and collaboration of its members, the sovereign democracies. Differences do not block NATO, but are part of its essence and broaden the scope of perception. They have always existed and will always exist. 

When asked whether NATO was indeed brain dead, Stoltenberg denied enthusiastically. He stated that NATO was working well, even if it might not seem so to the outside world. With a smile, Stoltenberg related this controversy to his previous position as Prime Minister of Norway. Having witnessed the political world, he confirmed that many politicians were masters of good publicity, lacking any action to follow their spoken words. For NATO quite the opposite is true: Even if the publicity of NATO sometimes cannot completely show that NATO works, it does so and fulfils its core purpose: the protection of its member states’ populations.

Whether this can really be maintained and how NATO will develop in the future remains to be seen. In any case, there is no lack of challenges, in which the alliance must prove itself. 

NATO certainly does not lack smart leadership. At the Körber Foundation, we had the pleasure to meet an outstanding capable chief diplomat, intent on investing all his time and energy in holding the alliance together. To what extent this is feasible after Turkey’s invasion in Syria, verbal attacks of the US president against NATO allies and huge disparities in military spending and threat priority within the alliance will be seen. 

The HSSC would like to thank the Körber Foundation and Jens Stoltenberg’s team for the pleasure of attending such an informative and thought-provoking event on the future of NATO.

NATO Engages London

Representing HSSC and the Centre for International Security at NATO Engages in London

2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the NATO alliance. Heads of states, governments and military leaders came together in December for the annual NATO Leaders’ Meeting to celebrate this milestone and discuss current challenges for the alliance. On the eve of this event, the NATO Engages conference invited leaders from NATO Allies and experts to reflect and debate on the future of the alliance. We had the opportunity to join the guests in Central Westminster Hall and engage in the conversation. So what are our take-aways from the conference?

To the future and beyond. Looking at how to innovate the alliance, the conference discussed hot topics such as Hybrid Warfare, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, Social Media and Disinformation as well as Space Security. The key question was how NATO should handle these manifold challenges in the future. Most interesting to us: platform engineering as a tool to counter online disinformation instead of building strong counter-narratives. Indeed, this perspective opens the debate: should liberal democracies intervene in the business structures of private tech companies?

Carl Miller and Rand Waltzman discuss the implications of disinformation and possible countermeasures

Diversity matters. Canadian PM Trudeau voiced it very clearly: “More diversity makes for better outcomes.” Women and cultural diversity in peace and security was not the topic of any panel, but speakers and moderators actively requested the inputs of women and youth. Is international security policy still the “old white boy’s club”? Hearing how this perspective is increasingly being challenged among experts and leaders was important. However the composition of some panels shows that there is still a long way to go. Conversations with panellists and participants underlined the need to continue pushing for more inclusion and diversity in foreign policy.

Pm Trudeau and PM Rutte commit to diversity in international affairs and international security.

Brain dead? After 70 years, are we today experiencing the brain death of NATO, as suggested by Emmanuel Macron? Or is the alliance a relevant platform to tackle emerging security challenges?  The conference did not merely highlight NATO’s achievements, but also debated the challenges it is facing. Deep ideological heterogeneity within NATO put the question of values and mission back at the centre of the debate. In this context, Turkey’s controversial purchase of the S-400 and the offensive in Syria were subjects of heated debates. Also the question of defence spending was raised, where Trudeau was having a bad sell. Nevertheless, the biggest problem to NATO is cohesion – or to be more precise – the lack thereof.

NATO Engages was a mixture between panels with academia and policy advisors, discussions between politicians, and storytelling elements. The last part connected NATO to people and their experiences: A former US representative to NATO on 9/11, a young Afghan singer hoping for a better life for Afghan women, a son of refugees from the Kosovo war, a 14 year old unfolding the perspective of Gen-Z. Listening to their stories highlighted in another way, how decisions in international security are not abstract but severely impact people’s lives in very diverse ways.

Empowered and Inspired. Attending NATO Engages enabled us to connect with leading experts and practitioners. It reaffirmed the importance for our generation to actively engage in international security policy, to question and debate the status quo, in order to find innovative solutions to the challenges of our times. In this vein, we are now planning the HSSC activities for 2020, with the goal to debate international security issues in an inclusive and interdisciplinary space.