NATO Summit in Lisbon

{gallery}newsletters/13/3{/gallery}NATO changed its strategic concept at the Lisbon summit held on November 19th and 20th in a move representing the organization’s desire to more adequately respond to new security threats. This was NATO’s third summit since the end of the Cold War, and the seventh in the Alliance’s history. The new concept, like its predecessors, is undoubtedly shaped by recent historical developments and modern challenges to collective security.

The Alliance has faced many external and internal challenges over the past decade.  In particular, the divisive opinions of member states concerning the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan influenced prioritization processes in the formation of the new strategic concept. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan operations have produced problems. These include causing disagreements within the Alliance, a large numbers of casualties and a general fatigue and decrease in interest on the part of troop-sending nations.

Directly following 9/11, Washington enjoyed the full support of the Alliance. However, support has waned over time. This process can be seen in the decreasing levels of interest and dedication to the mission on the part of member states. Although the US requested more troops to fight Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan at the recent summit, Canada and the Netherlands decided to withdraw their troops.

The new strategic concept must respond to modern security challenges which include new phenomena such as cyber security. An efficient response to the issue of ballistic missile defense (BMD) is also required. Lisbon’s strategic concept seeks to establish a balance between assuring global security and allowing for the dynamic engagement of NATO in the context of individual missions. (Dynamic engagement: a term coined in early 2010 by an expert group headed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.)

NATO’s new strategic concept is based on the following postulates:

Assured security – this concept has remained intact since the founding of the Alliance, but has been strengthened by the Afghanistan experience.  The principle of collective self-defense must adapt to fit the modern paradigm.  This necessitated an adjustment of the Alliance’s territorial defense principle at the summit.

BMD – through the renewal of its original mission, NATO will attempt the modernization of its collective defense principle.  This will include rocket defense as per US insistence.

Cyber defense – although this represents one modernized version of collective defense, member states’ opinions differ concerning whether it deserves prioritization. Following the Russian attack on Estonia’s official network in 2007 and an attack directed against American military networks in 2008, interest in this security issue has grown significantly. Cyber defense also plays a key role in influencing the UK’s state defense strategy.

A general consensus exists within the Alliance that one successful cyber attack could have catastrophic consequences on a country’s security, but many member countries believe that such an attack is practically impossible. The largest problem in terms of cyber security relates to the legality and operational requirements for active cyber defense. This would necessitate NATO access to all state networks of NATO member states as well as their “adversaries.” Only this level of access could allow for a legal attack carried out for defensive purposes. This type of information sharing remains highly controversial and is viewed as undesirable by most member states.

Dynamic engagement – NATO will not abandon its role in maintaining peace and security  globally. The US was willing to return the role of global power in security maintenance to NATO, but other European members did not share this vision with the same intensity. Such a position for NATO was de facto assured by its role in Afghanistan.  However, the organization’s focus will shift toward an enhanced relationship and increased coordination with civil organizations during stabilization processes in Afghanistan. NATO will also continue the fight against piracy in Somalia and renew its relations with Georgia.

Modernized collective defense will enable the Alliance to regroup and ensure continuous global engagement. Many open questions remain, including those concerning NATO enlargement. How the new strategic concept will influence global security developments remains to be seen.


(Source: Oxford Analytica Press)