08 July 2019

The new NATO military strategy and the intensification of Alliance’s adaptation efforts to the current security challenges

Gheorghe Tibil

NATO’s member states’ chief of defence, reunited in Brussels on 22th of May 2019, gave a new impulse to Alliance’s adaptation and transformation processes to more and more complex security threats.

Image source: Mediafax

In the press conference, at the end of the meeting, NATO Military Committee’s Chairman (NATO MC), Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach and the two strategic commanders - the new SACEUR, General Tod Wolters and general André Lanata – have presented the main conclusions and decisions made for strengthening NATO's credibility and capacity to protect allied societies and territories against any threat, regardless of the place it may come from. Strengthening the deterrence and defense posture, by adopting NATO’s Military Strategy, the operationalization of SACEUR’s responsibility area and advancing the Increase Initiative of forces’ operational capacity are the key elements on allied military authorities’ agenda.

On 22th of May, at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, it took place the NATO MC session, in member states’ chiefs of defence format. The agenda was particularly busy, addressing the necessary actions to strengthen Alliance's deterrence and defence posture, the military cooperation with European Union, increasing NATO's contribution to the counter-terrorism campaign, by designing stability and creating defence capabilities in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) and allied military cooperation and support for Ukraine.

Allied Defence Chiefs have approved the Alliance's Military Strategy, as part of NATO's whole adaptation process, after a large period of time since the last similar strategic document came into force. The strategy has been adopted through consensus and provides the unitary identification and definition of the main risks and threats against Allies’ security interests, coming from different strategic directions, involving state and non-state actors, military forces, terrorist groups, which can also act in cyber space as hybrid aggressions. The document provides general guidance for using Allies’ military capabilities, including how the Alliance will address the response to various threats and crises, ensuring coherence for future military actions, depending on specific circumstances.

Within NATO MC’s president assessment, "an effective deterrence is convincing the potential aggressor that possible consequences of constraint or armed conflict are outweighing the potential gains. Also, this requires the Alliance to develop and maintain a trustable military capability and strategy, along with with a clear political will to act". To that end, the political will was clearly confirmed, back in July 2018, during the Brussels Summit, when the Heads of State and Government adopted over 100 decisions aimed at strengthening NATO's defense and deterrence posture, which are now in different implementation levels.

Hence, when it comes to ​​strengthening NATO's deterrence and defense posture, it was reiterated the need to advance the implementation of the July 2018 decisions, in concrete fields, such as NATO’s command structure modernization and the operationalization of Allied Operational Capacity Initiatives - "The Forty Thirty Initiative" (30 mechanized battalions, 30 squadrons and 30 warships ready to be deployed in less than 30 days). The ultimate goal is providing the Alliance with strong military capabilities, ready for short-term intervention in case of potential crisis situations.

SACEUR’s operationalization responsibility area was addressed starting from the need and importance of creating the necessary conditions in order to fulfill its mandate in the best way possible, by executing all military measures, given its capacity and authority, to maintain or restore Alliance’s territory security, in case of aggression against a NATO member state. To that end, they focused on the necessary actions to achieve military mobility, as cooperation key area between NATO and EU, important in providing the quick deployment of allied military forces and techniques throughout the European continent, if necessary. As part of the joint approach, both organizations are working to remove the existing obstacles in terms of military mobility in Europe. They have stated that the Union plays an important role in easing the border crossing, as well as in developing infrastructure, in order to allow military forces and hard material’s transport of from Alliance's inventory.

Besides the involved logistical aspects, there are necessary specific actions to identify and implement ​​SACEUR's entire responsibility area in ensuring military authorities’ ability to design and support combat capabilities in achieving strategic and operational goals set by NATO leadership. Hereof, NATO military leaders have insisted that this important objective requires a general approach, involving the entire governmental spectrum and civilian and military actors’ cooperation, at allied capitals’ level, in many fields.

The NATO-EU military co-operation topic was discussed with the President of EU Military Committee, Italian General Claudio Graziano. The main outcomes are related to the need for important initiatives in the Defense Package on Union’s agenda, to be developed coordinately and complementarily with NATO. Directly questioned about the potential negative effects of the recent exchange of letters between Washington and EU on PESCO and EDF over the NATO-EU relations, Air Chief Marshal Peach denied any conflict between the two actors, stating that that those letters’ subject is a matter directly affecting the Union and the United States.

Also, he called on the unprecedented military co-operation between Union’s and Alliance’s structures, through the 74 jointly agreed actions in areas such as combating hybrid threats, cyber security and defence, military capabilities development, defense industry and research, exercises and support efforts to strengthen Eastern and Southern partners’ capacities. At the same time, he admitted that the Alliance is closely following how the Union is implementing current defence initiatives, to identify and track the most effective ways of bilateral co-operation.

Allied Defense Chiefs have received detailed information on Ukraine’s security situation and Black Sea region’s current challenges. To that end, along with the new Ukrainian chief of state, General Ruslan Khomchak, they have discussed methods to increase practical military co-operation and allies' support for Ukraine’s military system’s reform and strengthening. Given this context, the new SACEUR reiterated both the Pentagon's pledge of increased military support to Ukraine and the continuation of the dual approach to Russia, which is strengthening NATO’s defense posture, while maintaining open military dialogue channels with Moscow, through contacts he will have with the head of the Russian Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov.

Given Military Committee’s important role in the North Atlantic Council's specialist counselling, the conclusions and decisions adopted by the Heads of Defence’s summary will be part of a specific recommendation document, to be submitted to NAC, before the discussions and decisions to be taken by the defense ministers, at their next meeting at the Alliance headquarters, to be held on June 26 and 27.