Experts group presents report on new Strategic Concept for NATO

On 17 May, the Group of Experts appointed by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to lay the groundwork for a new Strategic Concept for NATO presented its analysis and recommendations to the North Atlantic Council (NAC). The recommendations call for contingency planning and military exercises so all Allies feel safe, and for the Alliance to become more versatile to face new dangers “from sources that are geographically and technologically diverse”.

Excerpts from the report:

NATO needs a new Strategic Concept because the world has changed significantly since 1999, when the current concept was adopted. Most dramatically, the 9/11 and subsequent attacks demonstrated the deadly connection between technology and terror, triggering a response that has drawn NATO troops far from home, illuminated the need for timely intelligence-sharing, and complicated planning for defence.

On strengthening NATO’s role in fighting terrorism:

NATO’s military forces are playing a vital role in the fight against violent extremism in Afghanistan. Within the treaty area, however, counter-terrorism is primarily the responsibility of police and other domestic agencies. Nonetheless, the Alliance can play a supporting part through the protection of vital military facilities, sharing intelligence, and providing assistance, when asked, in consequence management. It is worth recalling, for example, that NATO aircraft flew AWACS patrols over the United States for seven months following the 9/11 attacks. In 2004, the Alliance established a Defence Against Terrorism Programme that was designed to develop new technologies to protect troops and civilians against such dangers as improvised explosive devices, suicide bombs and anti-aircraft rocket strikes.

Recommendation:
1.    NATO’s Defence Against Terrorism Programme should expand from its current focus on ten areas of technology-related work to include, among other subjects, collaborative research on investigative techniques, deterrence, and social networking.

On the need to act pro-actively abroad:

NATO (…) must deal with acts of terrorism.(…) An effective defence against these unconventional security threats must begin well beyond the territory of the Alliance. Alliance. Already, NATO has responded to this new reality by assisting the government of Afghanistan in its fight against violent extremism, combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, contributing to seaborne security in the Mediterranean, training and equipping Iraqi defence forces, and helping to construct more stable societies in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

From a security standpoint, the most salient aspect of our era is that events in one part of the world are far more likely than in the past to have repercussions elsewhere. Anarchy in one country can create an opportunity for terrorists to find a safe haven from which to operate across any border. A nation that evades global norms and gets away with it creates a precedent that others might follow.

On Russia:

NATO should pursue a policy of engagement with Russia while reassuring all Allies that their security and interests will be defended. To this end, the Alliance should demonstrate its commitment to the NRC (and invite Russia to do the same) by focusing on opportunities for pragmatic collaboration in pursuit of such shared interests as nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, counter-terrorism, missile defence, effective crisis management, peace operations, maritime security, and the fight against trafficking in illegal drugs.

The currently ongoing assessment of common threats and challenges is a helpful step. The two sides should also strive to enhance cooperation under the 2008 NRC Action Plan on Terrorism and to coordinate with other regional organisations.

On the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative

The ICI, launched in 2004, aims to contribute to long term global and regional security by offering countries in the broader Middle East bilateral security cooperation with NATO. The initiative is open to all countries in the region who support its goals, including the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Although potentially valuable, the ICI has been held back by a lack of common strategic vision and by rivalries among the partners and some Allies. Nonetheless, like the MD, the ICI is helping to build needed security relationships and to open channels for regular dialogue. Each partnership is also an instrument for changing perceptions, which is helpful because populations in the region are not always fully or fairly informed about either NATO or the West more generally.

On enhancing maritime situational awareness

A new level of secure maritime situational awareness is called for by changing risks around the periphery of NATO and in the High North, Gulf, Indian Ocean and other areas. NATO should harmonize investments in such surveillance platforms as unmanned aerial vehicles, maritime patrol aircraft, land-based radars, surface and subsurface vessels, and robotic systems. NATO should also agree on specific surveillance mission areas that underpin Article 5, such as those related to illegal attacks on shipping, WMD proliferation and terrorist activities.

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