The blue-print of the future NATO strategic concept: future missions and capabilities Răspunde

I continue the presentation and analysis of the experts’ report on the future NATO strategic concept, an endeavor which I have began in May, with the section dedicated to the future missions and military affairs. The final section of the experts’ report deals with NATO’s future missions and the development of future military capabilities required to fulfill them.  Section five of the report provides an analysis of the current needs and capabilities and makes recommendations on what missions and capabilities should be provided in the future strategic concept of the Alliance.

The future missions the alliance is to undertake are:

  • Deter, prevent and defend against any threat of aggression in order to ensure the political independence and territorial integrity of every NATO member in accordance with Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
  • Cooperate with partners and civilian institutions to protect the treaty area against a full range of unconventional security challenges.
  • Deploy and sustain expeditionary capabilities for military operations beyond the treaty area when required to prevent an attack on the treaty area or to protect the legal rights and other vital interests of Alliance members.
  • Help to shape a more stable and peaceful international security environment by enhancing partner interoperability, providing military and police training, coordinating military assistance, and cooperating with the governments of key countries.

In the future NATO should be able to deal with a broad range of threats both symmetric and asymmetric that challenge the alliance within its main area of responsibility and outside it. In order to fulfill such a broad array of missions NATO should create an integrated civilian and military command structure when undertaking missions. Separating the military element from the civilian (political) element of the mission is counter productive and may lead to mission failure – this is actually one of the basic lessons learned in Afghanistan. There is a clear emphasis on creating highly mobile and deployable military forces. Furthermore there is an emphasis on military modernization and increased military spending. The future NATO’s military forces should be made up of truly multinational formations, with unified command and control and supported by interdependent logistics and integrated civilian military components. The report mentions that only 6 out of 26 European allies spend more than 2 percent of their GDP on defense and half out of all NATO members spend more than 20 percent of their national defense budgets on investment.

It is difficult to believe that most European states will increase their defense spending in the near future to support the transformation of NATO. First since the 2008 economic crisis European defense budgets have seen a series of reductions. Second given the current economic trend that emphasizes slashing budget deficits, defense spending will probably be the first to go on the chopping block. Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy have already announced major defense spending cuts or are in the process of making them. In some cases these defense cuts may actually help transform European military forces and make them more mobile and deployable, but don’t expect a revolution in European military affairs.

Given the current state of affairs in European defense spending it is therefore difficult to think that European NATO members will invest in new capabilities especially those that emphasize mobility and power projection in the near future, despite being advised to do so by the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or by NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Moreover investing in power projection capabilities might prove politically unfeasible given the Afghan experience of many European allies as well as the cost of creating such capabilities in a rather calm security environment. Developing expeditionary and power projection capabilities might also be seen as an aggressive move by a part of Europe’s political elites and publics, as well as a reminder of the colonial past of some European nations. Overall one should be extremely cautious on increased expenditure by European allies absent a direct threat to Western Europe.

If Europe seems to be leading the way on defense cuts within the Alliance, the United States is also in a process of rethinking its defense expenditure under the stewardship of Robert Gates. The Defense Secretary hopes to trim at least 1 or 2 percent of the current and future defense budget in order to sustain US military power. However even with some trimming of the budget and the culling of some expensive military projects, such as the F-22 Raptor, the United States will still outspend the rest of the world’s nations in terms of the funds it allocates to its military. Europe not only lacks political will to invest in its defense, it also lacks an economy of scale when it comes to the defense sector that will help make spending more cost effective. In general European defense projects are expensive, suffer delays, they usually end up costing more than it was previously thought and in some cases are even delivered with technical flaws.

Still, despite of these tremendous challenges, some of the recommendations concerning the development of new capabilities can be implemented successfully. The key is cooperation, such as the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability whereby ten NATO member states and two partner nations jointly operate three strategic transport aircraft, specialization and developing key niche capabilities (special forces, intelligence) as well as give up redundant or unnecessary capabilities in order to develop new ones (Denmark has given up on its submarine capability in order to develop power projection capabilities). One of the new capabilities described in the report that has proved quite useful and successful is the NATO Special Operations Headquarters and it recommended that it should be declared a full component command by the North Atlantic Council.

In order to sustain multinational forces that are readily deployable NATO should develop the adequate capabilities to support them such as C4ISR and a common approach to logistics. Developing interoperable C4ISR capabilities is given priority in the report which views it as NATO’s operational glue and future national development of such capabilities at the tactical and operational level should be made so that it will integrate within NATO’s operational framework.  In order to promote inter-operability and commonality allied nations should review the capabilities earmarked for Article 5 mission and non-Article 5 missions and capitalize on the areas of commonality between those missions. To further underscore the need for transformation and the change of outlook the Allied Transformation Command should have its mandate upgraded in order to develop transformational capabilities and new efficiency measures, it should be put in charge of “NATO lessons learned”, doctrine, training and education programs. NATO’s transformation should be supported further by creating the basis for continual learning by military and civilian personnel so that they can be ready to face any challenges posed by the current and future security environment. The NATO Response Force should be prepared to undertake both Article 5 as well as non-Article 5 mission and should form a central part of any Article 5 military exercise.

The recent spite in pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia as well as other maritime threats has not been ignored by the authors of the report which recommend that member states should increase their maritime awareness capabilities. The regions identified as posing particular challenges are the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf as well as the High North, where it seems a new maritime competition is brewing. NATO should concentrate on Article 5 missions: illegal attacks on shipping, WMD proliferation and terrorist activities.

In order to create new military and civilian capabilities that will be able to deal with present and future threats NATO members must be able to allocate the necessary financial resources to support such transformation. This challenge is compounded by the current economic environment which has imposed limitations on defense budgets and a political climate in some states that discourages defense spending. To make mattes worse the cost of developing military equipment is spiraling. For NATO to implement its ambitions agenda solutions that reduce costs must be found. The report recommends that NATO should create along with the EU a common defense capabilities agency, explore the opportunities for multinational procurement programs, new informal pooling arrangements, increased NATO funding for interoperable C4ISR capabilities, the use of common funds for selected deployments which should include an annual exercise of the NRF and a review of NATO command structure for the purpose of reducing costs.

The importance of civilian/military integrated operations for the success of current and future missions is emphasized by the sub-section dedicated to the Comprehensive Approach, the means by which military force is combined with civilian expertise. The report advises that NATO should allow civil military integration at all levels by establishing a small civilian unit within the Alliance to maintain points of contact, share information, and engage in joint planning with partner countries and organizations. Up-to-date memoranda of understanding should be maintained with international organizations such as the UN, OSCE and the EU, with other national and regional international bodies and major NGOs. The defense planning process should identify civilian capabilities irrespective of the fact that they are NATO or non-NATO that can be deployed along with combat troops in stabilization missions. Furthermore the Alliance should ask its member states to identify civilians which can be readily deployed, if qualified personnel from partner nations or institutions cannot be. NATO should find the means to help potential partners develop civilian capabilities that allow them to respond to crises situations. Such attention given to developing civilian capabilities to complement military forces is the crude realization of the fact that military power alone cannot solve certain types of crises or situations. Moreover the absence of civilian personnel can put at risk the political end of a mission, as there is no one to provide the link between the political factor and military factor of the mission. Given the importance of the civilian factor for the success of any future NATO mission it seems that this important transformation will be incorporated in the strategic concept and put into practice.

Nuclear weapons remain a sensitive political issue for NATO since the end of the Cold War. There is a legitimate concern over the deployment of these weapons today given the fact that the Soviet threat has disappeared 20 years ago. However nuclear weapons remain an important deterrence factor against aggression and the current international trend has seen both state actors and non-state actors acquiring or trying to acquire nuclear weapons. There are also positive evolutions with the signing this year of the New START agreement between the United States and Russia. Within NATO a debate of sorts has developed concerning the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe. Germany, supported by Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg, has asked for the removal of US nuclear weapons from Western Europe, capitalizing on the US President’s pledge during his Prague speech to gradually phase away atomic weapons.

The report takes the position that NATO should maintain a secure and reliable nuclear deterrent at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment. It recognizes that the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe reinforces the principle of extended nuclear defense and collective security. Furthermore a complex process of consultations among member states concerning doctrine new arms control initiatives should be initiated and maintained under the form of a Special Consultative Group on Arms Control which will bring together both nuclear and non-nuclear capable members.  NATO should enact a policy of not threatening to use or not using nuclear weapons against states that do not possess a nuclear arsenal and are party to the NPT. A dialogue on nuclear weapons, doctrine, perceptions, concepts and transparency should be initiated with Russia.  It is hoped that a dialogue with Russia on nuclear issues will eventually lead to the elimination of an entire class of sub-strategic nuclear weapons. The overall expectation is that the Alliance still requires in the short term and medium term nuclear weapons, while it may not require them at all in the long run.

Directly connected with the issue of nuclear weapons is ballistic missile defense. The proliferation of theater and medium range ballistic missiles as a means of delivery for conventional and CBRN payloads has emphasized the need for ballistic missile defense to protect both civilians and military forces. A worrying development in this sense is the proliferation of ballistic missiles in the Persian Gulf by Iran. Furthermore the reassessment of the deployment of US ballistic missile defenses in Europe by implementing the Phased Adaptive Approach has increased the possibility of linking and coordinating European and American efforts in this field. The report recommends the expansion of the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence System to provide the core command and control capability of a NATO territorial missile defense system. The development of missile defense systems is seen as a means of deterring aggression and enhancing the principle of indivisible security. One should bare in mind however that missile defense is not without its critics and that the deployment of US ballistic missile defenses in Poland and Romania has not gone well with Moscow, which considers these deployments a threat to its nuclear deterrent.

Two asymmetric threats receive special attention in the report: terrorism and cyber attacks. The report recommends that the current NATO Defence Against Terrorism Programme should be expanded to include collaborative research on investigative techniques, deterrence and social networking.  A cyber attack has the potential to paralyze both civilian and military infrastructure and generate a lot of damage. Cyber attacks on NATO occur on a daily basis however these attacks are usually below the threshold of political concern. It is recommended that the strategic concept should list cyber attacks as a high priority and broad defense measures should be enacted. Increased monitoring, early warning, training and development of cyber defense programs should be undertaken to protect NATO’s networks.

Last but not least the future strategic concept should deal also with energy security and issues pertaining to climate change. Despite the fact that NATO members are more or less dependent on energy supplies from third parties, energy security was not a staple of Alliance interest until the Bucharest Summit of 2008 when it was agreed that a number of steps should be taken on this issue: sharing of intelligence, support for the protection of critical infrastructure, and support for an expanded dialogue with energy supplier countries. The report recommends that the potential for energy supply disruption should figure preeminently in future NATO contingency planning and assessments. It is further recommended that thought should be given in advance to how the Alliance might work with partners in an emergency situation to mitigate harm to its members and to find alternative sources of supply. As for climate change NATO has no role whatsoever in regulating greenhouse gas emissions but there is a possibility that the Alliance may be called to respond to natural disasters caused by climate change.

On the whole it seems that the analysis and recommendations made in this section of the report are informed and based on lessons learned. There is a balance between realist assumptions concerning the future security environment and a certain degree of expectation and aspiration regarding the ability of the Alliance to respond to the challenges posed by this environment. The recommendations made in the report concerning the future missions and military capabilities of NATO will be subject to a serious negotiation process between the member states before drafting the new strategic concept for NATO. Then we will see how many of the recommendations made in this section of the report will find their way into the final draft of the strategic concept.

George VIŞAN

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