NATO Summit 2010: Time to Turn Words Into Action

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NATO Summit 2010: Time to Turn Words Into Action

December 10, 2010 30 min read Download Report
Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara

Sally McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs.

Abstract: NATO has adopted its first Strategic Concept of the 21st century. Much has changed since the last concept was adopted in 1999, including the first and only invocation of the alliance’s Article 5 clause the day after 9/11. Topics for consideration in the Strategic Concept included the balancing of territorial defense against expeditionary operations, extending NATO’s core competencies to include missile defense and cyber defense, unequal burden-sharing among the allies, the European Union’s creation of a separate defense force, and the NATO–Russia relationship. NATO’s new organizing document did a decent job of addressing these issues, but so far, declared goals and agreements exist only on paper. Heritage Foundation expert in European affairs and defense issues Sally McNamara lays out guidelines for NATO so that its new Strategic Concept does not end up a paper tiger.

The NATO summit held in Lisbon on November 19 and 20 resulted in a number of important commitments to refashioning the alliance for the 21st century. Although only time will tell whether financial and political muscle will be put behind the pledges agreed to in Portugal, President Barack Obama secured a number of important gains for U.S. interests.

The alliance adopted a new Strategic Concept—the first of the millennium—and the document encapsulates the essence of a modern, forward-looking alliance. Missile defense was made a key competency of the alliance, and other asymmetric threats such as cyber-attacks and terrorism were given greater emphasis. President Obama’s poor handling of relations with Central and Eastern Europe, which has caused some allies to question the credibility of NATO’s Article 5 guarantee, was also addressed with a renewed commitment to contingency planning against conventional threats. The new Strategic Concept also confirms that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.[1]

On Afghanistan, President Obama backed away from his previously stated July 2011 withdrawal date and focused instead on December 2014 as the projected date for the end to all combat operations in Afghanistan. The International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) stated that it would only begin transitioning responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to Afghans in July 2011. Even come 2014, NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will be conditions-based, and a large non-combat presence is likely to be needed well after this date.

However, President Obama failed to meaningfully address perennial questions that have dogged the alliance for years, including inequitable burden-sharing among the allies, NATO’s stalled enlargement agenda for Georgia and Macedonia, and the European Union’s duplicative security efforts. Equally, NATO–Russian relations amounted to little more than diplomatic niceties with yet more tireless declarations that the Cold War is over. Under the surface, disagreements still persist about the direction of Moscow’s foreign policy. The NATO–Russian declaration of further missile defense cooperation remains elusive in practice.

President Obama’s greatest regret, however, is that he was unable to make the U.S.–Russian New START arms control treaty a priority at the summit. Despite pressing the issue at every turn, he walked away with just a single line of support in the Lisbon Summit Declaration. Although NATO leaders were supportive of New START, they recognized that the decision about whether to adopt the treaty is not theirs to make.

The hard work of making the new Strategic Concept operational starts now. In order to implement the vision of the Strategic Concept, the alliance should:

  • Adopt a force posture to undertake both in- and out-of-area missions;
  • Develop an in-depth cyber defense policy by June 2011;
  • Upgrade national missile defense systems and integrate them with existing and future U.S. systems;
  • Restate the primacy of NATO in the European security architecture;
  • Recommit to spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense; and
  • Commit additional trainers to the mission in Afghanistan.

NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept

The adoption of a new Strategic Concept was the dominant issue for the Lisbon summit. In a series of events earlier this year, the Obama Administration outlined its vision for NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept.[2] Five themes dominated the Administration’s position on this issue:

  1. Article 5 must remain the heart and soul of NATO;
  2. NATO must articulate a new threat perception to address asymmetrical threats such as terrorism, cyber-terrorism, ballistic missile attacks, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  3. NATO must confront both in- and out-of-area security challenges in a comprehensive manner;
  4. NATO needs more equitable sharing of risks and responsibilities within the alliance; and
  5. NATO enlargement should continue.

The Administration was largely successful in securing a focus on its first three priorities, although planning commitments to implement the new defensive commitments of the 2010 Strategic Concept will be an open question so long as defense dollars remain in such short supply. Tasking the alliance to develop a Comprehensive Political Guidance (a major policy framework) to improve NATO’s defensive capabilities by March 2011 is at least a start.[3]

But the summit revealed that there is little energy behind NATO’s enlargement agenda, especially for the accession of Macedonia and for Georgia to receive NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP). Also, the Administration furthered the EU’s goal of an autonomous and separate defense identity, which undermines the prospects for fairer burden-sharing between the alliances, as EU members are forced to invest scarce resources in one or the other.

Article 5: In- and Out-of-Area. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in February that NATO’s Article 5, stating that an attack on one member counts as an attack on all, “is the bedrock of the alliance and an obligation that time will not erode.”[4] Yet before the summit, debate raged among NATO members about the alliance’s military commitment to potential conventional Article 5 missions, particularly in newer member states. Central and Eastern European countries wanted the new Strategic Concept to concentrate on preparing for traditional Article 5 operations, particularly defending European territory against conventional forms of attack. Other members, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom (U.K.), have long sought a more expeditionary posture to confront asymmetric threats.[5]

The real issue is one of political solidarity. With a lack of U.S. military personnel in their region, little prepositioned NATO equipment, and few large-scale exercises, Central and Eastern European members of the alliance were worried that NATO could not—or would not—come to their defense in the face of a challenge to their territorial integrity. As Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, “Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later. It is no good when assistance comes to dead people.”[6] Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 starkly framed this debate, and Moscow’s war-gaming, involving a simulated nuclear attack on Poland in 2009, further exacerbated the nervousness felt in Central and Eastern Europe.[7] Furthermore, it had been difficult for Central and Eastern European countries to rationalize increased support for the mission in Afghanistan as long as they felt that their domestic borders were vulnerable.[8]

The 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, demonstrated that security can no longer be assured by merely deterring national armies from crossing NATO’s borders. Also, for the vast majority of NATO members, defending the territorial integrity of another ally would be an expeditionary operation. In terms of the forces, training, and support equipment needed for in- or out-of-area operations, there is little difference between the necessary defense capabilities.[9] As U.S. military expert David Yost states, “the dichotomy between expeditionary and territorial defense capabilities has been overstated. The continued development of expeditionary capabilities is a priority for both collective defense and crisis response contingencies.”[10]

The 2010 Strategic Concept put this false dichotomy to rest and reaffirmed the principle that in- and out-of-area operations are core functions of the alliance. The Strategic Concept acknowledges that the prospect of conventional attack is low but explicitly states that it cannot be ignored. It pledges to “carry out the necessary training, exercises, contingency planning and information exchange for assuring our defence against the full range of conventional and emerging security challenges, and provide appropriate visible assurance and reinforcement for all Allies.”[11] All members of the alliance are entitled to the same levels of protection; in fact, the principle of indivisible security requires it.

Contingency plans recently formed for Poland and the Baltic States must thus be kept current. The size and quality of NATO’s military exercises should also be increased to test these plans. The number of joint exercises carried out between America and its NATO allies has been vastly reduced since the war on terrorism began due to the large numbers of Europe-based U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.[12] However, adequate joint training missions are critical to increasing the political solidarity of the alliance—not to mention greater interoperability between NATO members.

Out-of-Area. The Strategic Concept also pledges to “develop and maintain robust, mobile and deployable conventional forces to carry out both our Article 5 responsibilities and the Alliance’s expeditionary operations, including with the NATO Response Force.”[13] The Strategic Concept is restating the principle agreed to in the 1999 Strategic Concept: The alliance must prepare for both in- and out-of-area missions. There is no choice between the two.

In addition to undermining Central and Eastern European confidence in Article 5, cutting the number of troops available for substantial training exercises has undermined the prospects for future out-of-area multinational engagements. NATO’s expeditionary capacity must be strengthened, because missions outside of Europe are at least as likely as missions inside the Continent in today’s strategic environment.

In 2008, the International Institute for Strategic Studies found that just 2.7 percent of Europe’s two million military personnel were capable of overseas deployment. This contrasts sharply with NATO’s goal that 40 percent of its land forces be deployable.[14] It also stands incongruously with NATO’s Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism, which recognizes that the alliance must now be proactive in deterring attacks that could fall under the rubric of Article 5.[15] Further, there is strong public support for NATO’s acting outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security—77 percent of Americans and 62 percent of Europeans, according to a survey conducted by the German Marshall Fund.[16]

Strengthening the NATO Response Force (NRF) and ensuring that its rotations are fully available is essential to meeting NATO’s new operational requirements under the 2010 Strategic Concept. The NRF, which is designated to undertake both in- and out-of-area operations, is a highly able, rapid-reaction force designed to be a first-in force for the types of missions NATO will have to undertake in the new security environment. As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted in 2005, “The NATO Response Force will over time prove to be the key to maintaining NATO’s relevance in a world where threats emerge in unpredictable ways and unpredictable places.”[17] However, its force-generation problems have been legendary. If NATO is serious about being a major military player, it must remedy its problems with the NRF. Troops must be available to staff members’ rotations, and an annual NRF land exercise, similar to the NRF’s annual maritime exercises, dedicated to threat scenarios as outlined in the Strategic Concept, should be constituted.

Missile Defense and Tactical Nuclear Weapons. The Lisbon Strategic Concept states that “[t]he greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territory and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.”[18] Accordingly, NATO has declared missile defense a core competency of the alliance. The 2010 Strategic Concept states that the alliance will “develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence, which contributes to the indivisible security of the Alliance.”[19]

The development of a transatlantic-wide missile defense architecture will produce an effective defensive strategic posture for the alliance and marks a welcome step forward in terms of addressing the security challenges presented by the post–Cold War world. History will see it as a major milestone in moving the West away from the Cold War policy of maintaining deterrence primarily by the threat of nuclear retaliation for any strategic attack on members of the alliance and toward a policy of establishing defenses to protect its population and territory against such attack.

Taking Programmatic Steps. The Strategic Concept is ultimately just a policy document. NATO must develop, test, and deploy the military capabilities necessary to make its missile defense policy operational.

The alliance already has a number of prominent existing programs that can be drawn on to field effective missile defense capabilities, including NATO’s Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system; the U.S., German, and Italian joint program—the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS); and the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe. Nevertheless, NATO will need to expand these existing programs. Europe’s contribution to a transatlantic-wide missile defense architecture is about more than hosting U.S. sensors and interceptors. As important as the hosting arrangements in locations such as Poland and Romania are to the Administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense, cooperation should extend to other activities, such as the joint development of missile defense systems, establishing command-and-control systems, and preparing operational plans so that NATO’s broader missile defense will be capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in all three stages of flight: the boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase.

The NATO Council has been tasked with designating command-and-control arrangements by March 2011, as well as an action plan to implement alliance-wide missile defense by June.[20] It must stand behind these deadlines and outline how it will implement the plan pushed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to expand transatlantic missile defense to U.S. allies in Europe at a cost of _200 million ($279 million) over 10 years.

Nuclear Weapons. It could have been easy for NATO to fall into the trap of asserting that the defensive strategic posture it now seeks obviates the need for a capable nuclear arsenal. Article 5, however, is best reinforced with a protect-and-defend strategy that includes the continued presence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as well as the erection of a transatlantic missile defense architecture.[21]

Before the summit, the Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept for NATO, led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recommended that, “As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces, with widely shared responsibility for deployment and operational support, at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment.”[22] Fortunately, the Strategic Concept agreed with both of these propositions. It makes a clear commitment to sustaining the nuclear force and asserts that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance for as long as necessary.[23]

NATO has serious work to do regarding the future of the nuclear force. While the Strategic Concept correctly asserts that NATO will field a mix of conventional and nuclear forces, it does not describe how these forces will be integrated to provide the most robust defensive capability possible. NATO planning, therefore, will have to include this matter in the near future. The allies must also fairly share the burden of NATO’s nuclear deterrence by upgrading their air forces’ capabilities to deliver these weapons as well as future modernized U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. As the U.S. undertakes the modernization of its nuclear arsenal, the alliance should pledge to share the nuclear burden.

Cyber Defense. The Strategic Concept acknowledged the need for active cyber defenses to defend against attacks and deter potential cyber-terrorists.[24] The alliance was right not to stipulate the exact point at which cyber attacks will be considered an Article 5 mission. Article 5 has been invoked only once—on September 12, 2001—and such commitments will always be decided by the alliance on a case-by-case basis. Instead, the alliance accepted that cyber defense is a new form of collective security that the allies must address. The Strategic Concept states that NATO will “develop further our ability to prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyber-attacks, including by using the NATO planning process to enhance and coordinate national cyber-defence capabilities, bringing all NATO bodies under centralized cyber protection, and better integrating NATO cyber awareness, warning and response with member nations.”[25] The alliance has pledged to develop an in-depth cyber defense policy by June 2011.[26]

In May 2008, the alliance constituted the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDOE) in Tallinn, Estonia, to conduct research and training in cyber warfare. Expanding and improving this facility so that it can upgrade NATO’s cyber defense, including the detection of and defense against cyber attacks, would be a good starting point for NATO’s forthcoming cyber-defense strategy. The alliance should also consider the creation of rapid-reaction teams that can be fielded in the event of a cyber attack.

Equitable Burden-Sharing. The Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept for NATO stated that “[a] seat at NATO’s table is not an entitlement but an ongoing responsibility that each ally must meet.”[27] NATO members in Continental Europe need to take regional and international security more seriously, both in terms of defense spending and in terms of political will. During his speech in Washington in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that “[t]hese budget limitations relate to a larger cultural and political trend affecting the alliance…. The demilitarization of Europe—where large swathes of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it—has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.”[28]

Secretary Gates’s hard-hitting comments were not well received in Europe. However, just three (France, Greece, and the U.K.) of the EU’s 21 NATO members spend the alliance’s benchmark of 2 percent of GDP on defense, and the need for NATO to adopt a more expeditionary posture and undertake transformational reforms is urgent.[29] If Article 5 is to have value both as a deterrent and as a shared defense commitment, military capacity and preparedness matter. A small number of NATO members cannot continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden if the alliance is to remain unified.[30]

Although the Strategic Concept called for “fair burden-sharing”[31] and “necessary levels of defence spending, so that our armed forces are sufficiently resourced,”[32] it fell short of generating momentum among the allies to match their pledges with solid commitments. For example, there were no pledges to remove the national caveats placed on the deployment of troops and equipment, most notably in Afghanistan where they have effectively created a two-tiered alliance in which some nations’ soldiers fight and die and others’ do not.[33] The EU’s “big four” continental nations of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined have suffered less than half the number of combat deaths suffered by the U.K. alone.[34]

The Strategic Concept did pledge to “develop and operate capabilities jointly.”[35] Cost savings, as well as greater interoperability, can be realized through multinational procurement projects, such as NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability consortium, the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System, and the U.S.–U.K. Joint Strike Fighter program. With hard-pressed defense budgets and the enormous costs associated with modern high-tech weaponry, defense expenditures must take on a more global character.

As the technological revolution rolls on, the interoperability of defense systems will likely become not just desirable, but essential to joint military efforts. Where NATO has its greatest shortfalls—in helicopters, precision-guided munitions, cargo aircraft, refueling tankers, and surveillance and reconnaissance platforms—it can increase its overall effectiveness by pooling resources. Interoperable capabilities, personnel exchanges, and doctrinal commonality are all linchpins of a successful and cost-effective military alliance for the future. It is important that when NATO meets in June 2011, these issues are taken forward in reality rather than merely on paper.

America clearly maintains the mantle of NATO’s unofficial leader and must therefore lead by example. President Obama must ensure that U.S. defense spending remains at a level that matches America’s defense resources to the threats it faces. Current spending is nearing a historic low, which is especially worrisome when America continues to be engaged in large-scale operations in South Asia.[36] As The Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring states, “The Obama Administration has proposed an FY 2011 defense budget that is inconsistent with U.S. security commitments and the Administration’s own Quadrennial Defense Review.” By cutting defense spending to less than 4 percent of GDP by 2015, the U.S. and its allies will be exposed to “an unacceptable level of risk.”[37] At a minimum, the U.S. should seek to minimize the risk to its security and that of its allies by spending 4 percent of its GDP on defense.

Enlargement. Under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, NATO is obliged to enlarge the alliance, and both the Strategic Concept and the summit communiqué made the obligatory encouraging noises about the alliance’s open door policy.[38] However, Macedonia’s failure to accede at the summit— denied unilaterally by Greece because of a purely bilateral matter in contravention of existing NATO custom—does not bode well for future enlargement of the alliance.

Macedonia has been on the road to membership for over a decade and has successfully completed NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP). Even though Macedonia is one of the largest per capita contributors to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and enjoys broad support for its accession across the alliance, Greece was allowed to veto Macedonia’s accession because of its objection to Macedonia’s constitutionally recognized name.[39] Worse still, the communiqué went further than previous statements, declaring that Macedonia would become a member of the alliance only after a “mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached within the framework of the UN”—essentially an endorsement of Greek obstructionism.[40]

In addition, the alliance did little more than repeat its nearly three-year-old mantra that Georgia will one day—in the unspecified future—become a member of the alliance.[41] Prior to the summit, Georgia had stated that it still wishes to pursue a dedicated MAP. Tbilisi was also one of the first countries to respond to President Obama’s request for additional troops in Afghanistan when he announced the U.S. surge in December 2009.[42] However, as with Macedonia, Tbilisi gained no traction in taking forward its membership aspirations.

The Obama Administration did not seek to position itself as a champion of NATO enlargement as previous Administrations have done. Unless President Obama is willing to stand by and see two solid allies serving alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan left out in the cold, he must put America’s diplomatic muscle behind NATO’s enlargement agenda.

NATO Partnerships

The 48-nation ISAF coalition in Afghanistan, encompassing countries from the Middle East to Australia, demonstrates the vibrancy of NATO’s regional and global partnerships. Through the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the NATO–Russia Council, and other arrangements, NATO has built a web of valuable allied relationships. However, two relationships in particular were encoded in the Strategic Concept: the NATO–EU relationship and the NATO–Russia relationship.

The EU–U.S. Summit. President Obama not only missed a valuable opportunity to explicitly declare NATO’s primacy in the transatlantic security architecture, but also included a bizarre endorsement of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in the new Strategic Concept.[43] This stands in contrast to his well-known confusion regarding the Byzantine document, as well as his dislike for the EU’s pointless summitry.

President Obama rightly rejected an invitation to visit Madrid earlier this year for an EU–U.S. summit because of its threadbare agenda—hence Brussels’ desperation in taking its road show to Lisbon. However, the bilateral EU–U.S. summit that Brussels insisted on tacking on to the end of the NATO summit lasted less than two hours. The ensuing joint statement to the media by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and President Obama took just five minutes. Practically flying out of the door, Obama half-jokingly declared, “No more summits!”[44]

The NATO–EU Relationship. As a “military” alliance, the EU is more of a hindrance than a help to NATO, and declining European defense budgets mean that Brussels is a threat to the limited European military resources on which NATO can be expected to draw. Secretary General Rasmussen acknowledged as much when he stated that insufficient European defense investments mean that the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy will be a “paper tiger.”[45] Since European defense budgets are not scheduled to increase in the age of fiscal austerity sweeping Europe, it is correct to assume that an EU defense identity draws resources away from NATO and that further EU integration in this sphere will come at NATO’s expense.

The best way for the EU to complement NATO is to offer the alliance its extensive civilian resources for NATO missions. The EU should supplement, not supplant, the existing civilian security work undertaken by NATO such as the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A). Under the Common Security and Defence Policy, the EU has undertaken far more civilian missions than military ones, though they continue to be extremely limited in size, scope, and success.[46]

By linking up with NATO, the EU can increase its force projection and genuinely add value to transatlantic security. Further, at the heart of the EU’s 2003 Security Strategy is the principle of “effective multilateralism.”[47] By working closely with NATO as the lead partner, the EU can put this principle into action.

Secretary Clinton’s recommendation that NATO formally adopt civilian missions as a task of the alliance, including the establishment of a NATO civilian planning cell, was endorsed at the summit.[48] Therefore, civilian and military tasks will not be divided between the EU and NATO, respectively, but can be better planned together. Certainly, NATO could not afford to concede the role of post-conflict reconstruction to the European Union entirely. On a practical level, the EU has struggled in the missions it has already fielded, such as its early mission to Georgia in 2004 and other missions thereafter, such as in Gaza and Moldova.[49] On a political level, it would have been foolish for NATO to agree to an arrangement whereby it does the fighting and the EU does solely “hearts and minds” work.

The EU should add to NATO’s missions with its own civilian resources, especially in Europe’s main theater of operations—Afghanistan. The EU Police (EUPOL) Training Mission in Afghanistan should be folded into the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan to maximize the resources that the EU is sending to Afghanistan. EUPOL Afghanistan has been described by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly as too small, underfunded, slow to deploy, and inflexible.[50] Rather than standing up a small-scale stand-alone mission that yields few results, the EU can increase its impact by adding to NATO’s resource pool.

The EU certainly has a generous pool of civilian resources at its disposal, having already fulfilled the goals of its 2000 Feira summit for civilian crisis management (5,700 police officers, 630 legal experts, 560 civilian administration experts, and 5,000 civil protection experts).[51] In order to leverage these resources more successfully than in separate missions, such as EUPOL Afghanistan, the EU should integrate its resources with NATO and operate under its command instead of under separate planning and command structures in the EU. This arrangement would, in effect, represent a reverse Berlin-Plus arrangement.

The new French NATO Commander for Allied Command Transformation, General Stéphane Abrial, has suggested common EU–NATO pre-deployment training exercises and a common capability group. Joint planning and exercising of civilian personnel would certainly enhance such an arrangement[52] and would demonstrate the EU’s willingness to be a genuine partner to NATO rather than a competitor.[53]

The NATO–Russia Relationship. The Lisbon summit also played host to the alliance’s first meeting of the NATO–Russia Council since Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 and was attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. While there was some growth in terms of practical cooperation with Moscow on issues of mutual concern, Russia’s relations with NATO were not advanced on anything more than a tactical level—no matter how much NATO leaders insisted they were.[54]

The major areas of progress in the NATO–Russia relationship were Afghanistan and increased cooperation on counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and counterpiracy.[55] The NRC concluded its nearly year-long Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges, which outlined these areas as issues on which the alliance and Russia could work together as equal partners. Extending supply routes to Afghanistan over Russian territory was also a firm deliverable of the summit although over-ground transit routes remain committed to the transportation of non-lethal goods only.[56]

Despite years of building up layers of cooperation with Moscow, Russia continues to see NATO enlargement as a source of danger and remains hostile to the alliance overall.[57] As Paul Belkin, a European affairs analyst for the Congressional Research Service, states, “Russian views toward NATO, particularly since the beginning of the [Vladimir] Putin era, have been marked predominantly by suspicion and skepticism regarding NATO’s intentions.”[58] NATO also categorically rejects Moscow’s “sphere-of-influence” policy and stresses that Russia’s neighbors have a place in the Euro–Atlantic family. These underlying factors will continue to make for a problematic relationship, and it is no good pretending otherwise.

NATO Missile Defense and Russia. The 2010 Strategic Concept stated that “[w]e will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro–Atlantic partners.”[59] It is appropriate for NATO to seek Russian cooperation in this field as part of a broader policy for transitioning the U.S.–Russian strategic relationship away from one based on retaliation toward one that is fundamentally defensive in nature.

NATO and Russia agreed to conduct a joint ballistic missile threat assessment and develop a joint analysis of the future framework for missile defense cooperation, which will be discussed at the June 2011 defense ministers meeting. Beginning with shared assessments of the missile threats is a good starting point, but any future missile defense cooperation plan should include a number of guidelines. Specifically:

  • Shared assessments of the threat must recognize that the two nations will also have independent assessments and that cooperation will focus on addressing the threats shared by both sides;
  • Missile defense cooperation will not depend on an all-or-nothing approach, but on a step-by-step approach; and
  • The best initial step in missile defense cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is one of coordinated deployments.


Regrettably, a chief obstacle to the transition toward more defensive strategic postures by both the U.S. and Russia is the New START arms control treaty. New START relies on a contradictory strategic policy that combines Cold War deterrence concepts of maintaining mutual nuclear threats with the declaratory policy of favoring nuclear disarmament.

This is not the only problem with the proposed treaty, currently before the lame-duck session of the U.S. Congress. The Russians have indicated that the treaty imposes significant limitations on U.S. ballistic missile defenses—and therefore on NATO’s proposed missile defense plans as well. In a unilateral statement, the Russian Federation declares:

The Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed in Prague on April 8, 2010, can operate and be viable only if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile defence capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively.[60]

Although the Administration is refuting this claim, it is refusing to release the negotiating record of the U.S.–Russian deliberations for the Senate to review, thereby making it difficult for Senators to fully assess whether the treaty is in fact in the interest of the United States and its allies.

The Administration is claiming that its NATO allies are pushing for speedy ratification of New START. Speaking to the media after the summit, Secretary of State Clinton told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that many European states, including Germany, Poland, and the Baltic States, had pressed the Administration on ratification of New START.[61] During one of the summit’s many news conferences, President Obama also stated that, “[u]nprompted, I have received overwhelming support from our allies here that START—the New START treaty—is a critical component to U.S. and European security.” [62] However, Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra revealed that it was the other way around: In fact, the Administration had asked its Central and Eastern European allies to lobby for the treaty. “Throughout the summit,” he stated, “there was intense lobbying by the administration to win support for the ratification process.”[63]

Overall, New START was not the highlight of the summit’s events, and President Obama was likely disappointed that it was not more visible on NATO’s agenda. Although NATO leaders and the NRC publicly endorsed the treaty, it did not gain the traction that Obama wanted; the allies simply made a statement on it and moved on to the more important business of the summit.

The Way Forward. Since the U.S. is a member of the NATO alliance, U.S. Senators have an obligation to consider the interests of America’s allies when making decisions on international security. However, they should take the Administration’s new-found enthusiasm for Central and Eastern Europe’s endorsement with a pinch of salt. The Administration’s insistence that the NATO allies are desperate for ratification appears more fanciful than genuine, and the Senate is right to demand access to the records of the negotiations that the U.S. conducted with Moscow in order to judge whether New START is in their interest as well as that of the United States.

When the new Senate convenes in January 2011, there will be plenty of time for the Foreign Relations Committee to reconsider the matter and investigate exactly whether the treaty genuinely does serve U.S. and allied interests. It is worth waiting these few short weeks for the newly elected Senate to execute its constitutionally mandated duty to offer its advice and consent on such an important issue with the full facts before it.

NATO and Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended the Lisbon summit to discuss with NATO leaders their commitment to the alliance’s counterinsurgency strategy, which is currently led by U.S. General David Petraeus. Tensions between the Obama Administration and President Karzai had become public in the run-up to the summit. Alliance members needed to find a way to reassure him that they were not looking for the nearest exit door, as well as to send the message that progress is being made in theater.

Announcing a surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops in December 2009, President Obama had simultaneously pledged to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by July 2011, and this had significantly weakened Karzai’s confidence in the U.S. commitment to the mission.[64] NATO had to counter the perception that it is war-weary and ready to strike a grand bargain with the Taliban. Such perceptions had weakened the U.S. position in the region and dampened prospects for the overall success of the counterinsurgency strategy.[65] Karzai’s attendance at the summit was as much about rebuilding his trust in NATO as it was about achieving unity of purpose in the mission.

In a significant departure from his previous position, President Obama and other NATO leaders announced December 2014 as the projected end of combat operations in Afghanistan, thus taking the focus off July 2011. U.S. officials further indicated that a large U.S. non-combat presence would likely remain long after 2014. Secretary General Rasmussen stated:

NATO is in this for the long-term. We will not transition until our Afghan partners are ready. We will stay, after transition in a supporting role. And as you just saw, president Karzai and I have signed an agreement on a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan that will endure beyond our combat mission.[66]

At a press conference following the summit, Rasmussen added that “if the Taliban or anyone else aims to wait us out they can forget it. We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.”[67]

President Obama has quietly moved away from his untenable policy of prematurely withdrawing large numbers of U.S. combat troops next year. However, in order to transfer responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to its own security forces in the coming years, NATO’s European leaders need to follow Canada’s example and pledge additional trainers to the mission. The alliance’s goal of training 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the end of 2011 is attainable; 260,000 persons have already been trained. However, NATO’s training mission is a work in progress, and additional trainers will be needed to embed and mentor Afghan units as they take greater responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.

There is widespread agreement that the creation of a functional, non-corrupt security apparatus is essential for the counterinsurgency strategy to succeed. Additional Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) are still needed to train and mentor Afghan troops and accompany Afghan National Army (ANA) trainees on missions.

A fully functional police force is also a critical element of the counterinsurgency strategy. Many European NATO members have home guard, paramilitary, and armed police resources that could provide the civil–military and paramilitary police training needed in Afghanistan. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, non-deployed capacity available within NATO member states includes the French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri, the Dutch Paramilitary Royal Military Constabulary, and the Turkish Gendarmerie/ National Guard and Reservists.[68]

What NATO Should Do

To advance transatlantic security and realize an effective implementation of the 2010 Strategic Concept, NATO members should:

  • Adopt a force posture to undertake both in- and out-of-area missions. Collective defense requires that NATO both protect its borders and act beyond its geography to ensure its security. Defenses for conventional NATO Article 5 missions, as well as expeditionary capabilities, must be strengthened.
  • Match the ambitions of the Strategic Concept with military capabilities. Defense ministers should agree on a Political Guidance accord at their summit in March 2011, and a Military Implementing Plan should be prepared by June on the critical defense capabilities that are required to implement the new Strategic Concept.
  • Constitute an annual land exercise of the NATO Response Force.
  • Develop an in-depth cyber-defense policy by June 2011, expanding the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. Rapid reaction teams should be formed that can be fielded in the event of a cyber attack on any member state.
  • Reinforce the alliance’s protect-and-defend strategy by maintaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and upgrading national missile defense systems, and integrating them with existing and future U.S. systems.
  • Restate the primacy of NATO in the European security architecture. Greater NATO–EU cooperation should be pursued in the civilian sphere, led by NATO’s new civilian planning cell.
  • Advance the NATO–Russia relationship though the NATO–Russia Council, concentrating on areas of shared interests, including counterpiracy, counterterrorism, and Afghanistan.
  • Demonstrate NATO’s commitment to further enlargement of the alliance by granting MAP status to Georgia and acceding Macedonia to NATO at the earliest opportunities.
  • Reduce the vast majority of their national caveats from existing and future missions.
  • Recommit to spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.

In addition, European members of the alliance should commit more Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams to train Afghan troops and accompany Afghan National Army trainees on missions, as well as home guard, paramilitary, and armed police resources to train the Afghan National Security Forces.


As Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said of NATO:

Throughout its history, this alliance has shown that it can evolve with the times— that it can be relevant and indeed irreplaceable even as the contours of the strategic landscape have changed in dramatic ways. Our task today is to uphold the strong legacy that has made NATO the most successful military alliance in history.[69]

The Strategic Concept has successfully revised NATO’s core competencies and outlined the future direction of the alliance. So far, however, it has done this only on paper. NATO must now match its level of ambition to concrete proposals and hard deadlines. The allies must increase their financial and political commitment to NATO, both to confront strategic threats such as the proliferation of ballistic missile technology and to win the war in Afghanistan. It must draw up plans for integrating transatlantic missile defenses by June 2011, and be careful not to give Russia a veto over its plans.

NATO’s European members must realize that success in Afghanistan depends on the rapid training of a competent Afghan National Security Force. NATO should also employ the power of the European Union to assist it in training the ANSF. The EU’s separate training mission in Afghanistan has been too small and inflexible to make an impact. Throwing its resources under NATO’s lead is a far more sensible approach to comprehensive security and could provide a pathway for future NATO–EU cooperation.

The 2010 Strategic Concept has provided the alliance with a new security and defense vision for the 21st century. It has opened the door to revitalization of the alliance and provided a strategic direction to confront the vast range of threats confronting it. However, without a commitment to sharing the burden of common defense more equitably, it will end up as nothing more than a paper tiger.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author is grateful to Baker Spring, F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Davis Institute, for his advice and assistance.

[1]NATO, “Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (hereafter referred to as “Strategic Concept 2010”), Item 17, November 19, 2010, p. 4, at (December 2, 2010).

[2]Press release, “NATO Strategic Concept Seminar (Future of NATO): Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, National Defense University, Washington D.C.,” U.S. Department of Defense, February 23, 2010, at (December 1, 2010); and Atlantic Council of the United States, “Hillary Clinton: NATO’s Future,” February 22, 2010, at (December 1, 2010).

[3]NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” November 20, 2010, Item 2, at (December 1, 2010).

[4]Atlantic Council of the United States, “Hillary Clinton: NATO’s Future.”

[5]Beata Gorka-Winter and Marek Madej, eds., “NATO Member States and the New Strategic Concept: An Overview,” Polish Institute of International Relations, May 2010, at (December 1, 2010).

[6]“The New Cold War Hots Up,” The Sunday Times, August 17, 2008, at (December 1, 2010).

[7]Matthew Day, “Russia ‘Simulates’ Nuclear Attack on Poland,” The Daily Telegraph, November 1, 2009, at (December 1, 2010).

[8]David S. Yost, “NATO’s Evolving Purposes and the Next Strategic Concept,” International Affairs, Vol. 86, No. 2 (March 2010), p. 489.

[9]Karl-Heinz Kamp, “The Way to NATO’s New Strategic Concept,” NATO Defense College, Rome, Research Paper No. 46, June 2009, at (December 1, 2010).

[10]Yost, “NATO’s Evolving Purposes and the Next Strategic Concept.”

[11]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 19, p. 5.

[12]Pauline Jelinek, “Army Rethinking Plan to Cut Forces in Europe,” Associated Press, February 17, 2009, at (November 2, 2010).

[13]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 19, p. 5.

[14]Press release, “European Military Capabilities: Building Armed Forces for Modern Operations,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, July 9, 2008, at, (November 2, 2010).

[15]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “International Military Staff: NATO’s Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism,” October 2003, at (November 2, 2010).

[16]“Transatlantic Trends: Key Findings 2010,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, pp. 5–6, at (November 2, 2010).

[17]Press release, “Secretary Rumsfeld News Conference at Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, Brussels, Belgium,” U.S. Department of Defense, June 9, 2005, at (November 2, 2010).

[18]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 16, p. 4.

[19] Ibid., Item 19, p. 5.

[20]NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” Item 37.

[21]For an explanation of the protect-and-defend strategy, see Andrei Shoumikhin and Baker Spring, “Strategic Nuclear Arms Control for the Protect and Defend Strategy,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2266, May 4, 2009, at

[22]Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept for NATO, “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” May 17, 2010, p. 11, at (November 2, 2010).

[23]Strategic Concept 2010, Preface, p. 1.

[24] Ibid., Item 12, p. 4.

[25] Ibid.

[26]NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” Item 40.

[27]Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept, “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” p. 12.

[28]Gates, “NATO Strategic Concept Seminar (Future of NATO).”

[29]Press release, “Financial and Economic Data Relating to NATO Defence,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, June 10, 2010, at (November 3, 2010).

[30]U.K. House of Commons, Select Committee on Defence, Ninth Report, March 20, 2008, at (November 3, 2010).

[31]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 3, p. 2.

[32] Ibid., Item 19, p. 6.

[33]Roger Cohen, “The Long Haul in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, February 28, 2008, at (November 3, 2010).

[34], “Operation Enduring Freedom,” October 10, 2010, at (October 10, 2010).

[35]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 37, p. 11.

[36]Mackenzie Eaglen, “U.S. Defense Spending: The Mismatch Between Plans and Resources,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2418, June 7, 2010, at

[37]Baker Spring, “The 2011 Defense Budget: Inadequate and Full of Inconsistencies,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2375, February 22, 2010, at

[38]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “The North Atlantic Treaty,” Article 10.

[39]Sally McNamara, “It Is Past Time for Macedonia to Join NATO,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2784, January 29, 2010, at

[40]NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” Item 14.

[41] Ibid., Item 21.

[42]Press release, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The White House, December 1, 2009, at (November 3, 2010).

[43]Strategic Concept 2010, Item 32, p. 9.

[44]Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker, “For Obama, a Little Help from His Friends,” The New York Times, November 21, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[45]James G. Neuger, “NATO Says Europe Risks Becoming ‘Paper Tiger’ on Cuts,” Bloomberg Business Week, November 19, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[46]Under the Treaty of Lisbon (2007), the European Security and Defence Policy was renamed the Common Security and Defence Policy.

[47]European Union Institute for Security Studies, “A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy,” December 2003, at (November 3, 2010).

[48]Atlantic Council of the United States, “Hillary Clinton: NATO’s Future.”

[49]Giovanni Grevi, Damien Helly, and Daniel Keohane, eds., European Security and Defence Policy: The First 10 Years (1999–2009), European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2009, at (November 3, 2010).

[50]“NATO Operations: Current Priorities and Lessons Learned,” NATO Parliamentary Assembly 158 DSC 08 E bis, 2008 Annual Session, at (November 3, 2010).

[51]Following the European Council’s summit in Feira, Portugal, in June 2000, the EU outlined its numerical goals for EU-level civilian crisis management, concentrating on four priority areas: policing, rule of law, civilian administration, and civil protection.

[52]General Stéphane Abrial, “Introductory Remarks,” European Institute, Washington, D.C., June 2, 2010.

[53]Michael Codner, “NATO’s Strategic Concept—A View from Mars,” Royal United Services Institute, n.d., at (December 6, 2010).

[54]“NATO–Russia Rapprochement Still Faces Big Hurdles,” Spiegel International, November 22, 2010, at,1518,730427,00.html (December 2, 2010).

[55]NATO, “NATO–Russia Council Joint Statement,” November 20, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[56] Ibid.

[57]Sally McNamara, “Russia’s Proposed New European Security Treaty: A Non-Starter for the U.S. and Europe,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2463, September 16, 2010, at

[58]Jim Nichol, “Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, July 15, 2010, p. 21, at (November 3, 2010).

[59] Ibid.

[60]Russian Presidential Executive Office, “Statement by the Russian Federation on Missile Defence,” April 8, 2010, at (December 6, 2010).

[61]U.S. Department of State, “Interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation,” November 21, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[62]Calmes and Baker, “For Obama, a Little Help from His Friends.”

[63] Ibid.

[64]Press release, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

[65]Sally McNamara and Lisa Curtis, “The Cameron–Obama White House Meeting: The U.S. and U.K. Must Reject a Timetable for the War in Afghanistan,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2963, July 16, 2010, at

[66]NATO, “NATO and Afghanistan Launch Transition and Embark on a Long-Term Partnership,” November 20, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[67]BBC News, “Nato Will Stay in Afghanistan ‘Until Job Is Done,’” November 20, 2010, at (December 2, 2010).

[68]International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2009, at (December 2, 2010).

[69]Gates, “NATO Strategic Concept Seminar (Future of NATO).”


Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara