The NATO summit in Lisbon is over. First and foremost, the member states adopted a new strategic concept for the alliance. In other words, the alliance countries made some important choices for the future – a set of goals and instruments for the years to come. Particularly central was the question of what threatens and challenges security and thus what the alliance should do. The themes were many – including cyber warfare, energy security, missile shields, terrorism, crisis resolution, budget cuts, Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament… How NATO countries should cooperate both with each other and with the outside world was also part of the discussion in Lisbon. The gap is wide between those who want to give NATO a global role and those who want to limit their activities to the NATO area.
- Why does NATO need a new strategic concept (goals and means)?
- What issues are central to the discussion about NATO’s future?
- What does this mean for Norway as a NATO country?
2: Changed backdrop
The world and international security policy have changed significantly since NATO’s previous strategic concept was adopted in 1999. At that time, the Kosovo war was still going on, and NATO had just completed its first enlargement to the east . Since then, a number of events and upheavals have challenged and shaped the international security landscape in which NATO operates.
Speaking examples are September 11, 2001, the Bush administration’s launch of the fight against rogue states and the “axis of evil”, the “war on terror” and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the terror bombs against Madrid and London, the Muhammad cartoons, the war between Russia and Georgia, the international financial crisis, the EU’s gradual emergence as a global security player and an emerging multipolar world order.
Nine new member states and a number of new heads of state have also joined since NATO’s previous strategic concept was launched. Three Secretaries-General of “Old Europe” have also succeeded in succeeding Javier Solana as Secretary-General of NATO – a reflection of the power relations within the Alliance.
The new strategic concept illustrates that NATO has moved into a time when security policy challenges are more vague and unpredictable than during the Cold War. Both the concept and the discussions in advance are also characterized by basic, existential discussions about what kind of role NATO should play in international security policy in the years to come. A set of overarching questions has emerged:
- What tasks should NATO have?
- In what areas should the alliance operate?
- How should NATO countries cooperate internally and with others?
The last point is about how relations are built, about cooperation between NATO countries and about how NATO relates to other important players such as Russia and the EU .
3: New dishes on the NATO menu
So what tasks will NATO have to deal with in the future? The very basis for why NATO was formed in 1949 is set out in Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty . In this, the member states commit themselves to take collective responsibility for each other’s territorial security . An attack on a NATO country should be considered an attack on everyone.
In the sixty years that have passed since 1949, NATO has on several occasions faced new challenges, new tasks and new member states. The wars in the Balkans were central to shaping NATO’s identity and role in the early 1990s. The motto “out of area or out of business” led to the concept adopted in 1999. In the same way, the experience of NATO’s leadership of the ISAF operation in Afghanistan – NATO’s largest ever – will shape the Alliance’s development over the next decade.
There has been a fundamental contradiction in the discussions leading up to the new concept
- those who believe that NATO should focus more on its original mandate – defense of its own territory, neighboring areas and preparation for Article 5 operations – and
- those who want to focus on the alliance continuing and further developing its global role.
Norway has been among the driving forces for the first position and in 2008 took the lead in this with its so-called local area initiative (more below). Norway received support from several Eastern European countries. The United Kingdom and Denmark in particular, on the other hand, defended the development of a stronger global role for NATO. In the present strategic concept, no decision in principle is made on this issue – both areas are emphasized as important parts of NATO’s activities.
Among other things, it is pointed out that international threats and challenges have a global character and that NATO countries can best meet these global challenges by intervening where conflicts arise, before they reach the alliance’s member states. That the concept emphasizes the importance of Article 5 , on the other hand, has been new since 1999. The emphasis can be understood as a certain reorientation towards NATO territory and challenges in the Alliance’s immediate surroundings.
At the same time , the new concept expands the traditional, military security concept that was the basis of the original Atlantic Treaty . Where NATO during the Cold War focused on the territorial, military defense of its member states, the future NATO is increasingly about dealing with an expanded set of challenges . In this multidimensional security picture, ” cyber attacks ” and energy security are given a lot of space in the new concept. It is more unclear what kind of capabilities (instruments) NATO has at its disposal in the fight against this type of broader threat.
A report (Albright) from May 2010, which provided important input to the process of revising the concept, stated that NATO will not necessarily solve all types of tasks. In addition to new security challenges, it points to “hybrid threats” – complex threats, with counter-insurgency in Afghanistan as an example.
The summit also agreed to establish a missile shield that will defend the whole of Europe against missile attacks. Iran and North Korea are not mentioned in the document, but are probably the most relevant threats in this context. The United States’ previous plans for a missile defense will be part of this, and Russia has also been invited to participate in the project. The actual design of the rocket shield will take until next year and is expected to be both costly and technically challenging.
4: Increased fragmentation – new constellations
In theory, NATO can offer to solve all the tasks on the menu. The actual menu choices are nevertheless governed by the specific challenge that exists and whether all or only parts of NATO want to contribute. If the Alliance’s future missions and core tasks are to a greater extent the result of individual countries’ pragmatic assessment of each crisis situation than of collectively established principles, NATO will be able to move towards an organization that operates according to the à la carte principle. This means that the member countries, based on geographical location, their own interests or otherwise, choose which operations they want to participate in and in which way they want to participate. This is another major theme for the future of NATO.
Since 1949, NATO has gone from 12 to 28 member countries , which has naturally created challenges in an alliance where decisions are made according to the consensus principle (everyone must have agreed to a decision). As NATO has become larger and the tasks more complex, informal group formations within have become more common. Some of these groupings are fixed, while others have a more pragmatic starting point and are formed on a case-by-case basis.
A good example of the former is the ” Atlanticists “, which historically means member states that face the Atlantic Ocean and have strong ties to the United States – Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada. In recent years, newer member states, including Poland, have also placed themselves within this group. Other examples of such resilient groupings are “Core Europe” (including France and Germany) and “Club Med” (Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy).
Bilateral (bilateral) relations among NATO countries remain important. The United States and the United Kingdom are one such leading duo within NATO, based on a long-standing and close bilateral defense, security and intelligence cooperation. Several of the other NATO countries, especially within the Atlantic grouping, have also sought to maintain strong bilateral ties with the United States. Norway is among them. Poland leads among the new member states.
Much tension has been associated with France’s re-entry (reintegration) into NATO’s military structures from 2009. The country withdrew in 1966 to build national defense structures and as a protest against US dominance in NATO. France’s participation in the military part of NATO co-operation can help to make the bilateral constellations Germany – France and France – Great Britain (which are well known from the EU context) more relevant within NATO as well.
Germany – France are often referred to as the “engine” of the European integration process. The duo France-Great Britain has somewhat more surprisingly joined forces in the development of the EU’s security and defense policy structures. They have even recently signed an important agreement on closer bilateral defense policy cooperation.
5: Players a little inside, a little outside NATO
Another tension in NATO relates to actors who alternate between being partly within and partly outside NATO’s framework. The EU and the US are both examples of players operating a little inside, a little outside.
21 countries are members of both NATO and the EU, but the two organizations have so far had major cooperation challenges. It is first and foremost the protracted Greco-Turkish conflict over Cyprus that has created challenges for EU-NATO relations. NATO member Turkey does not recognize Cyprus, which is a member of the EU, but not of NATO. Before the summit, there was cautious optimism about a possible solution to this deadlocked conflict. The wording of the new concept shows that there is still some way to go for a solution.
The United States is the most powerful member of NATO. One of the alliance’s original main purposes was to “keep the Americans in”. Western European countries wanted to be protected by the United States, and the United States wanted a decisive word in the team in European security. But the United States’ interest in NATO must be assumed to depend on whether the alliance can be a useful tool for US foreign policy.
As is well known, the United States has greater global ambitions – goals and fields of action – than the other NATO countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently expressed concern about the cuts in European defense budgets , and this again underlines the importance of what in NATO jargon is referred to as a fairer distribution of burdens, cf. funding and force contributions. This is not new, but the United States’ concern that the cuts will reduce the ability of European member states to participate in operations outside the NATO area seems to be increasing. At the same time, it is expected that the United States itself will face similar economic cuts in the time to come.
6: Non-NATO actors
In its day-to-day work, NATO has to deal with a number of countries and organizations outside the Alliance’s inner circle. Of these, Russia is clearly the most important, but China and other emerging powers also seem to be high on NATO’s consciousness. NATO is also increasingly interested in further developing partnerships , both with countries and regions outside the NATO area. Here, the Mediterranean dialogue and Istanbul cooperation are relevant examples.
Russia is in many ways a special case:
- The country is the political and powerful successor to the Soviet Union, which was one of the main reasons why NATO was formed.
- Russia is a former superpower and important European superpower with partly global interests and ambitions. Russia is a country where both elites and large sections of society view NATO with a certain skepticism, as something that should have disappeared with the Soviet Union when the Cold War was over.
- Skepticism in Russia:In Russia, NATO is seen as an instrument of American policy and as an alliance that continues to pose a security policy challenge – at least that is how NATO is described in Russia’s military doctrine of February 2010.
- Skepticism towards Russia:Russia is seen by many, especially among NATO’s new members, as a security policy challenge because the country has a democratic deficit and has also shown both willingness and ability to use military force to solve its problems (two wars in Chechnya and the war with Georgia). In other words, many of the NATO members who were forced into the communist system after World War II have opted for NATO membership to secure themselves against an unstable and unpredictable Russia. This Russia has gone through a difficult transition, but has not managed – or wanted – to build a political system based on liberal Western values. Therefore, the country poses a challenge to an alliance founded on precisely these values.
At the same time, Russia and NATO share many common challenges and interests , which gives hope for cooperation and increased stability in the time to come. Russia played an important role in the process leading to the end of the military phase of the Kosovo conflict in 1999. And some NATO countries, led by France, have helped end the military conflict between Russia and Georgia after five days instead. to be stepped up further.
The focus on common challenges and threats resulted in Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attending the Lisbon Summit. NATO and Russia have prepared a joint threat assessment and have focused on closer cooperation, for example in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. In Lisbon, NATO countries agreed with Russia that the alliance could transport equipment to Afghanistan via Russian territory. Medvedev signaled that the country will participate in the development of a common missile shield with NATO.
It still remains to be seen which technical solution one can and will agree on. Today, the choice is between a common missile shield that will protect the entire area and two parallel systems – a Russian that will protect against any rockets from the east and south, and a western one that will cover the western flank.
The cooperation between NATO and Russia is a good illustration of how demanding it can be to build relations between NATO and the alliance’s partners. There are several factors that affect whether a collaboration is established and how it is arranged:
- A collaboration based on common values and a common understanding of threats and challenges is the simplest. This type of cooperation has until recently characterized the relationship between the alliance and the so-called contact countries – Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
- The fact that Pakistan was recently “occupied” as an informal member of this group shows that practical considerations can be as important as common values as a basis for cooperation. Since NATO’s most important operation takes place in Afghanistan, and Pakistan is a major power in this region, the relationship between the alliance and Pakistan is important. But it also means that the alliance has been drawn into what is happening on the Indian subcontinent and will probably have to build stronger ties with another regional superpower – and perhaps the future superpower – India. This in turn means that neither can China stand and watch what the Western alliance is doing in what Chinese leaders see as the country’s geopolitical backyard.
- The Alliance, with the United States as a member, is an important power factorin the global system. This means that it is seen as an interesting partner – or challenger – by other great powers with global ambitions.
- In addition, NATO is a multinational organization / institution and an important element in the global institutional landscape. The Alliance builds its partnerships not only with individual countries, but also with other international organizations such as the OSCE
and the UN.
7: Significance for Norway
Norway is one of NATO’s founders, and the alliance has been a cornerstone of Norwegian security and defense policy since 1949. The decision to become a NATO member was largely driven by the fact that its historically close relationship with Britain was changing and the desire to forge closer to the United States in security and defense policy.
Norway is a small country in the NATO context. Norway contributes to NATO operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan and to military cooperation. Norway wants to anchor its security and foreign policy in the UN Security Council and has emphasized the importance of using NATO over so-called coalitions of the willing , both in the war on terror and in international operations in general.
The UN mandate has been a main reason for Norway’s participation in Afghanistan. Although the Norwegian commitment has been the subject of heated political debate, with the governing party SV as the most significant opponent, there is broad political agreement on continued Norwegian NATO affiliation, and on continued presence in Afghanistan to NATO considers the mission completed.
According to THENAILMYTHOLOGY, Norway is outside the EU (but with a comprehensive EEA agreement and Schengen membership) and shares a border with an increasingly self-conscious Russia. Both create special challenges and have led to NATO membership being considered particularly important. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Norway-Russia relationship today is characterized by great mutual trust. In Norway’s view of the strategic concept and NATO’s ability to meet the challenges, the aforementioned neighboring area initiative was central.
The goal for Norway was to gain increased awareness about NATO’s core tasks and challenges of NATO’s periphery . These came in the shadow of operations in the Balkans in the 1990s and later Afghanistan. Increased knowledge of and monitoring of developments in the periphery (eg military rearmament in the High North) and more NATO exercises are important tasks here. The new concept shows that Norway has won a hearing for many of its views.
Norway’s most important ally in NATO has been the other countries in the Atlantic group. In the negotiations on the strategic concept, Norway has also gained new allies in the desire for greater focus on the core tasks and Article 5. Eastern and Central Europe fears being exposed to political pressure from Russia. But where the Norwegian authorities were against the US missile shield over Europe, these countries welcomed the new shield as a sign of the US’s stronger commitment.
Today’s goal of a missile defense within the NATO framework is, however, livable for Norway, especially if it also leads to real disarmament of NATO’s nuclear weapons. The new concept signals that NATO is willing to work for a world without nuclear weapons, and with general disarmament high on the agenda as the best path to a safer world.
The discussions before the summit and NATO’s new strategic concept have shown that the struggle for NATO’s future pulls the alliance in slightly different directions . At the same time, NATO has implemented a unique process characterized by openness and in which the Secretary-General has had a prominent place.
The new concept does not provide a clear clarification of what NATO should be, and is then also historically concise. If the implementation of the concept shows that the contradictions persist and intensify, this may point in the direction of a NATO à la carte – where the view of what the alliance should do and where cooperation varies based on the member countries’ national priorities, heart issues and preferences. For small countries like Norway, this could lead to an even greater need for coalition building and diplomatic efforts than today. This could be both politically and financially resource-intensive.