NATO shows its belief in nuclear weapons

(BRUSSELS2) The report delivered by Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State, on the revision of the strategic concept, conceals multiple developments. And it deserves to be read with attention. Far from being only the reaffirmation of an ambition to have new missions, it tries to achieve – ten years after the overhaul of this concept (in 1999) the search for a new balance between territorial defense and new missions (anti-missile shield, cyber defence, etc.), wants to give an increasing role to civil defence.

At the level of the Alliance's capabilities, this report recommends:

  • the definition of new informal mechanisms for pooling resources, in particular for transport;
  • increased NATO common funding and enhanced interoperability for C4ISR;
  • common approaches to logistics;
  • continued evolution and coordination of “niche” capabilities and country specialization;
  • seeking new opportunities for multinational acquisition programs;
  •  the creation of a NATO/EU Defense Capabilities Agency;
  •  common funding of the costs of certain deployments, including an annual NRF exercise;
  •  a new review of the NATO command structure with the aim of reducing costs and increasing the flexibility of forces and their deployability.

NATO must have a comprehensive approach

The NATO's efforts to operate with civilian partners still lack coherence”. This approach requires often that NATO works in partnership with other organisations, either as a lead or in a supporting role”. The Alliance's Comprehensive Political Guidance (CPG) of 2006 describes NATO's approach to conflict as follows: full and coherent use of the various instruments of the Alliance to create the overall effects that will achieve the desired result ". It is also stated in the CPG that NATO has "not need to develop capabilities intended strictly for civilian purposes since it relies in this respect on its partners. Although theoretically valid, this logic has not always held true in practice. Building good military-civilian relations takes a lot of work and energy. Military and civilians do not always have the same planning methods; they set priorities differently, report to different standards, recruit and deploy staff differently, and often speak the same language with difficulty understanding each other. In fact, NATO is not working as well as it could – or indeed should – with civilian organizations. The Strategic Concept should fill this gap, while encouraging each Ally to improve the ability of its military to work with civilian partners.

An effort towards the civilian

NATO makes “recommendations”:

1. Prepare to participate in integrated civil-military missions. Establish a small civilian planning unit within NATO to maintain contacts, share information and undertake joint planning with partner nations and organizations.

2. Memoranda of Understanding up-to-date with key institutions such as the UN, EU and OSCE, with other national and regional bodies, and with major NGOs.

3. Identify, within the framework of the NATO defense planning process, the civilian capabilities – NATO or non-NATO – which could be deployed alongside the first combat forces in the context of stabilization operations immediately after a conflict.

4. Request its Member States to designate a body of civilian experts with experience in complex operations, ready to be deployed quickly for certain missions if qualified personnel from partner countries or institutions are not available. These civilian reservists should have NATO training that would allow them to enter an area in the aftermath of conflict and work with local authorities and combat forces for a limited period to provide security and restore health. other public services.

5. NATO should work systematically to help potential partners improve their ability to contain and respond to crises; the means to achieve this include training, material assistance and strategic assessments for early warning and prevention.

A belief in nuclear politics

« As long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will have to maintain safe and reliable nuclear forces, at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment, by widely sharing the responsibilities for their deployment and operational support. Any change in this policy, including in the geographical location of nuclear deployments in Europe, will have to be decided, as with other matters of major importance, by the Alliance as a whole. »

However, the strategic concept should reaffirm that " NATO fully supports efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons ". It is in this spirit that the Alliance has significantly reduced the number and types of sub-strategic nuclear forces in Europe and should support consultations with Russia to promote greater transparency and further reductions mutuals.

Missile defense: a new mission

The need to respond to the threat of a possible ballistic attack from Iran gave rise to what has become a key military mission for NATO. President Obama's decision to deploy missile defense in a phased adaptive approach makes possible more effective, faster, and more reliable coverage than previous proposals. In addition, this decision places missile defense fully within a NATO context, thus allowing all Allies to participate and be protected. To be truly effective, missile defense must be a joint enterprise; therefore cooperation within the Alliance and between NATO and its partners (especially Russia) is highly desirable.

This report that I have seen often described as a response to certain new threats is much more than that. It defines new missions for the Alliance, particularly around the anti-missile shield, as well as research into capabilities.

Reaffirming NATO's fundamental commitment: collective defense

NATO's fundamental commitment – ​​enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – remains unchanged, but the requirements to fulfill it have changed. To remain credible, this obligation of mutual protection against armed aggression must be able to rely not only on basic military capabilities, but also on crisis plans, targeted exercises, good preparation of forces and solid logistics - as much elements that are necessary to maintain Allied confidence and minimize the risk of miscalculation by a potential adversary.

Make more use of Article 4

Given the changing nature and increasing diversity of security threats, Allies “ should make more regular and creative use of the Article 4 consultation process ". These consultations, which underline that the Alliance is indeed a political community, "can be crucial for the prevention and management of crises, and resorting to them does not have to wait until a threat falling within the 5 is imminent”. These consultations are particularly suited to examining unconventional threats and situations that may require an international emergency response ". Article 4 gives indeed the possibility of sharing information, promoting a convergence of views, avoiding unpleasant surprises, and clearing the ground for successful action, whether diplomatic, preventive, corrective or coercive in nature ».

Less conventional threats

As long as the Alliance remains vigilant, " the likelihood of a direct military attack on its borders is low, at least for the foreseeable future ". Nevertheless, " experience has shown us that in our time, the Alliance can be confronted with less conventional threats, sometimes of distant origin, but which are nevertheless likely to directly compromise its security says the report. This is the case, for example, with weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and attacks on society through cyber attacks or the illicit disruption of critical supply lines. To counter these threats, whether or not they amount to an attack within the meaning of Article 5, the Alliance will update its approach to defending its territory, while strengthening its ability to make a difference in military operations and in wider security missions beyond its borders ».

A better deal with the EU

NATO should seek an understanding with EU leaders to agree on a system for regular joint attendance at meetings, enhanced communications between military staffs, and increased coordination in areas of crisis management, threat assessment and resource sharing.

The guiding principles of Alliance Opex

Despite all the means at its disposal, NATO alone cannot solve all the security problems of the planet ". It is a regional organization, not a global one. " Its authority and resources are limited ". And it does not wish to undertake missions that other institutions or countries are quite capable of carrying out successfully. The new strategic concept should therefore set the guiding principles that will guide the Alliance whenever it has to decide where and when to bring its resources into action beyond its borders ».

 With Russia, a Euro-Atlantic Security Order

« Even though the Alliance does not pose a military threat to Russia, nor does it view Russia as a military threat, doubts persist on both sides about the other's intentions and policies. In line with the NATO-Russia Founding Act, the new strategic concept should " reaffirm NATO's commitment to contribute to the establishment of a cooperative Euro-Atlantic security order, including security collaboration with Russia ". Taking this principle into account, NATO will have to pursue “a policy of engagement with Russia while giving the assurance to all the Allies that their security and their interests will be defended”. The Alliance will have to focus on the possibilities of practical collaboration in the service of common interests, in particular nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, the fight against terrorism, anti-missile defence, effective crisis management, peace operations, maritime security and the fight against drug trafficking ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).