How has the military strategy changed?
NATO's New Strategic Concept: A Parliamentary View
In 1999 there was hardly any talk of terrorism, NATO had never envisaged such an ambitious mission outside the Alliance area as the current one in Afghanistan, and the enlargement process was still in its infancy.
In 2001, NATO declared the alliance case for the first time - in response to the 9/11 attacks. In 2003 she began her most demanding out-of-area assignment in Afghanistan. NATO has taken on ten new members, created new structures, partnerships and initiatives such as the NATO-Russia Council. NATO has an “open door” policy with new members and partners as its relationships with its neighbors and other international institutions evolve.
NATO is an alliance of democratic states and the parliaments of its member states act as the primary communication channels between the citizens of NATO member states and the NATO leadership. Parliamentarians often have to explain to their constituencies why it is so important to use scarce resources to ensure security and to put the lives of soldiers in distant lands at risk.
For these reasons, I believe that the new Strategic Concept should address some of the concerns of NATO members' parliamentarians. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is preparing its comments on the New Strategic Concept, and I have the privilege of working as Special Rapporteur on this project.
The new Strategic Concept will be a foundational document that will serve as a guide for the Alliance. At the same time, however, it must be legible and clearly express the values of the alliance and the existing threats.
It must outline concepts that will make the alliance a more flexible organization that can better cope with emerging problems. My comments and views here do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the congregation, but I believe that many, even most, of my colleagues would share them.
We cannot ask our citizens to support the alliance's missions unless we have a clear understanding of the alliance's purpose. We owe it to the general public, and especially our national armed forces, to understand the challenges and how we intend to mitigate the threats they pose.
If you take a look at the literature on strategic matters, you can see that a plethora of topics fall under the heading of "security". Issues related to environmental protection, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, information security, energy security all fall under this topic.
The new Strategic Concept should confirm the close link between security and development and draw the necessary conclusions for the planning and deployment of the Alliance's armed forces.
There is also broad consensus that the strategic challenges we are facing cannot be resolved by purely military means. We see this in Afghanistan, where military aspects are a necessary but insufficient part of a comprehensive solution.
The new Strategic Concept should confirm the close link between security and development and draw the necessary conclusions for the planning and deployment of the Alliance's armed forces. This link calls for the closest possible cooperation between the political and military authorities in the planning and execution of missions abroad. It also means that closer contacts and interaction with non-governmental organizations should be encouraged.
Ultimately, however, NATO is a political and military alliance. We should carefully consider what role NATO should play in specific challenges. International terrorism, for example, is a major security issue - especially the potential of the combination of extremist organizations and weapons of mass destruction. However, it is not obvious that NATO would be the appropriate organization to counter this threat.
As an alliance of democratic states, however, we should be ready to state openly that we will protect our citizens from those forces who want to fight the principles and values of our societies with armed force. We should use NATO as a forum for exchanging information and coordinating responses in the event of an attack.
It is easy to list all the problems that threaten our common security. However, it is not easy to pinpoint the key areas in which NATO should play an important role.
But this is something that a new Strategic Concept has to do.
If we define everything as a security threat that NATO should address, we run the risk of spreading the Alliance's resources over too many problem areas. There are potentially unlimited security risks, but resources are limited.
One area where there should be no controversy is developing military capabilities for the missions we are participating in as an alliance.
MPs are all too familiar with resource constraints. It is therefore an important part of the new Strategic Concept to focus NATO on what it can do well - planning, training, conducting military operations, and serving in humanitarian and civil emergencies.
We have to realize that NATO cannot be a universal tool for everyone, but rather should be seen as an important pillar.
One area where there should be no controversy is developing military capabilities for the missions in which we participate as an alliance.
Some analysts have seen this as a compromise between territorial defense and the ability to deploy overseas. However, it is not necessarily true that preparing to deter the use of military force in Europe and preparing for security challenges in remote locations are tasks that are in direct competition with one another.
The North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee are separate entities, but merging them could speed up the decision-making process considerably.
Regardless of whether our forces are deployed 100 or 5,000 kilometers from their home base, they always need the most efficient communication, surveillance and other equipment. You need the ability to move quickly and be protected from enemy fire. Perhaps most importantly, they are trained to deal with a variety of potential situations.
We should consider making NATO's decision-making structures more flexible and responsive. The North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee are separate entities, but merging them could speed up the decision-making process considerably.
At the same time, consensus is central to the alliance's decision-making process and should be maintained when making important decisions. But is consensus required at all levels, or could we take advantage of an alternative process on less weighty issues? The larger the alliance and the more we interact with other international actors such as the European Union and the United Nations, the more pressing this issue becomes.
The growth of the alliance also deserves attention. In the near future we will have two new members: Albania and Croatia. At the Bucharest Summit, we jointly declared that Georgia and Ukraine would become members at some point in the future. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly did its best to support the rapid and broad expansion of the Alliance.
The key to NATO's longevity lies in the fact that it is an adaptable organization that does not lose any of its relevance.
Nonetheless, we will soon have to grapple with the fact that the alliance is subject to contractual boundaries. Article 10 clearly states that any European country can join the alliance, but there are fewer and fewer European countries that are not members of the alliance. At some point we will have to decide whether this geographical limit is still applicable - and if not, what impact it will have on the future of the Alliance.
The strategic environment has changed significantly. It is time for a new strategic concept.
The key to NATO's longevity lies in the fact that it is an adaptable organization that does not lose any of its relevance. To keep it that way, a new Strategic Concept must clearly describe the purpose of the alliance and guide the alliance into the decades to come.
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