John R. Allen, Wolf Landheld, Julian Lindley-French, Giampaolo di Paola, Tomáš Valášek
21. Nov 2016  |  Security and Defence

The GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Project envisages a series of papers to be released over the next several months which will address the nature of NATO adaptation and the challenges it must overcome if it is to remain a viable and credible alliance for the peace and stability in the transatlantic area.

The first paper of the series NATO in a Changing Strategic Environment: The Questions NATO Adaptation Must Address seeks to describe the strategic environment within which NATO will be required to operate in the future. The paper lays out the broad approach for this initiative, and poses a series of questions and problems that will require the attention of NATO and its member states in the immediate term and years ahead. In addition to this paper four supporting policy papers will be published on Political NATO, Military NATO, Comprehensive NATO and Affording and Equipping the Adapted Alliance. The framework of this Initiative also envisions several short Augmenting Papers addressing issues such as (inter alia); artificial intelligence, A2/AD, Mediterranean security, cyber, hybrid warfare, information warfare, space, strategic communications, transnational crime etc.

Fifty years on from the Harmel Report the Alliance must again consider its place and role in a rapidly changing world. Both the internal political environment and the external strategic environment of the Alliance are markedly different from when even the 2010 Strategic Concept was drafted. NATO faces not only a challenge from a revanchist Russia, but the threat of Islamist terrorism driven in turn by a failing Middle East and North Africa. There are also ‘exotic’ technologies emerging enabling ever smaller actors to generate ever greater threats. This Steering Committee Scoping Paper lays out the challenges of the strategic environment with which the Alliance must contend, and establishes the direction of travel for the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Project.

The paper aims to address two essentail questions that relate to the raison d´être of the Alliance: Can NATO Strategic Adaptation be achieved through evolution or is something of a revolution needed to make the Alliance fit for twenty-first century purpose? What does NATO Adaptation mean and what changes must it drive in the roles, missions, capabilities, capacities, and structures of the Alliance?

The Alliance and its member nations face a serious need to properly understand how twenty-first century security and the strategic environment is unfolding, and what policies, strategies and action are needed to preserve a just and equitable peace. Within that situation, the Alliance faces the need to craft its grand strategy and endure in the adaptation process.

The piece also intends to address what type of security and defence will be needed to ‘safeguard’ NATO ‘peoples’ in an age that in some ways is immeasurably more complex than the state-centric, Euro-centric bipolar strategic environment of 1949. Given emerging megatrends, NATO must think and act big enough to succeed. Given the shift in relative power away from the West, the Alliance finds it increasingly harder to generate sufficient power to mount credible deterrence and defence. Another dilemma addressed in this paper relates to the question of sufficient politically robustness – critical to undertake proper threat assessment and make reasoned strategic judgements in the face of more ‘classical’ threats. Moreover, the paper brings attention to the potential implications of a Trump presidency for the Alliance and to the implications of Brexit for the Alliance. Within the mentioned set of implications, a new transatlantic burden-sharing compact must be established so the cohesion of the Alliance is not further undermined.

You can download the full text of the paper NATO in a Changing Strategic Environment: The Questions NATO Adaptation Must Address here.