Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

November 2013

Policy Brief

Summary: Addressing the issue of transatlantic security in times of defense budget cuts, this article provides operational solutions to improve burdensharing and enhance NATO’s strategic relevance in the coming decades. It analyzes how Smart Defense could help transatlantic partners balance their defense effort and military engagement in the world. It also examines the necessary evolutions that will be experienced by NATO in the near future, especially in terms of integration of new global partners.

The Quest for Security in the Age of Austerity: Opportunities and Challenges
by Alexandra Gheciu

German Marshall Fund of the United States-Paris 71 Boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris T: +33 1 47 23 47 18 E:

Introduction Over the past few years, one of the key questions shaping thinking about security on both sides of the Atlantic has been: “How can we continue to do as much as we currently do with fewer resources?” While the worst aspects of the economic crisis seem to be over, we can expect budgetary constraints to persist in the foreseeable future — particularly in the field of defense. Yet, this need not translate into a state of crisis for transatlantic security. The Euro-Atlantic partners can respond effectively to a multitude of security challenges if they agree on a set of security priorities and learn to make more efficient use of their collective resources within the framework of NATO. Several of the Alliance’s recent initiatives — particularly Smart Defense and the growing emphasis on a variety of partners — constitute important steps in this direction. Yet, more needs to be done. Particularly important in the coming years will be the allies’ ability to agree on a definition of NATO’s purpose, and on this basis to collectively identify the type of missions that the Alliance should carry out. To carry out those missions, the allies should seek to turn Smart Defense into a normal

modus vivendi for NATO, to build up a strong network of partnerships with non-NATO states and other international organizations, and to foster new “communities of practice” that bring together NATO and various public and private actors able to tackle security challenges, which are likely to include complicated political and economic dimensions. Burden Sharing via Smart Defense The recent financial crisis can and should incentivize the allies to adopt more rational and cost-effective use of their defense budgets. The Smart Defense (SD) initiative, launched at the Alliance’s 2012 summit in Chicago, can be seen as a potent expression of the allies’ growing commitment to the principle of efficient security provision. Smart defense implies a more effective pooling and sharing of assets and capabilities among member states. SD can help the allies address the twin challenges that are increasingly important within NATO: compensating for severe national defense cuts made by most member states, and urgently finding ways to lessen the European member states’ military dependence on the United States.

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
There are multiple ways in which the allies can reduce defense expenditures by pooling training, spare parts and support services, fuel, and logistics supply chains, etc. The initial package of almost 30 new multinational programs launched at the Chicago Summit is a promising start, and the recent completion of the first multinational project (to develop a multinational logistics partnership on helicopter maintenance in Afghanistan) proves that this type of project can work. In a similar vein are the projects involving the sharing of resources among a small number of allies, such as the 2010 U.K.-France treaties on defense cooperation, or, on a smaller scale, the Bulgarian-Romanian Agreement under NATO’s Air Policing Program. These projects, though far from perfect, constitute important instances of cooperation consistent with the principles of Smart Defense. But if SD is to make a dramatic difference in the longterm, it will need to evolve into a broader, more ambitious process, involving a shift in the way in which the allies think about defense capability development. It should also involve more systematic cooperation between NATO and the EU. Yet, in addition to the difficulties involved in changing defense cultures and bureaucratic routines, there are some potentially significant challenges associated with SD. In particular, if cooperation becomes much deeper, it is not clear what would happen in a situation in which the allies involved in multinational projects disagree over whether and how to use their shared resources. Using specialization and cooperation to make up defense shortfalls introduces new complications into strategic decision-making. It will require even more consensus than is currently necessary within the Alliance, and if highly specialized countries disagree with the larger consensus, it might only take one or two countries to undermine a NATO mission by withholding their equipment and personnel. If SD is to be viable in the long run, member states will need make a greater effort to reach consensus on (a limited number of) missions in which NATO should be involved. They should also establish procedures that limit the ability of one member state to block its partners from using shared capabilities. More broadly, the allies must seek agreement on a set of priorities for the transatlantic alliance. The assumption that should guide their search for consensus is that they are probably going to have to do less with less. Under these circumstances, the question “what is

NATO for?” needs urgent attention, and should receive an answer less ambiguous than the one given in the past. A Growing Role for Regional and Global Partners In order to further reduce its expenditures and still increase efficiency in its security provision practices, the Alliance should also seek to consolidate and potentially expand partnerships. This will be particularly important if NATO is to be the kind of institution that can respond to the multi-faceted, often deterritorialized security challenges of the 21st century — as opposed to reaffirming collective defense as the Alliance’s core mission (as some allies from the former communist bloc would prefer). A narrow focus on Article 5 would limit the relevance of NATO and could have counter-productive effects, particularly by infusing even more tension in the already fragile relationship with Russia. But for most if not all, non-Article 5 missions, NATO will need to cooperate with a multitude of partners. It would be especially useful to consolidate and further expand cooperation with global partners that share the Alliance’s liberal-democratic principles, especially Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Those partners have already demonstrated their value through substantial contributions to NATO’s post-Cold War missions, particularly in Afghanistan. The challenge will now be to turn those mission-specific forms of cooperation into persisting, institutionalized partnerships that are attractive both to the allies and to the global partners, and that can be mobilized in a variety of missions, including those which may not have a military dimension. The pursuit of global partnership should also

It would be especially useful to consolidate and further expand cooperation with global partners that share the Alliance’s liberaldemocratic principles, especially Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
include more efforts to foster cooperation with countries that are not “natural” partners for NATO, but that could provide valuable assistance in out-of-area missions. They include BRIC countries — especially India, as an increasingly important international actor, which shares the allies’ commitment to democratic values. At the same time, cooperation with regional actors should be further reinforced, particularly in regions facing persisting security challenges (especially the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa). Through recent reforms, NATO has developed the type of institutional structure needed to develop a multitude of partnerships, including more flexible formats and a single toolbox of activities in order to provide partners with more cooperation options. The challenge now is to use that structure in ways that are beneficial both to the Alliance and to its various partners. In the 1990s, partnership arrangements within the framework of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) became effective tools for promoting liberal democratic norms and enhancing regional security in the former communist bloc. In the 21st century, the Alliance could and should continue its norm-dissemination activities through its various partnerships with countries emerging from conflict and/ or seeking to shed authoritarian legacies. This is likely to be easier in the Balkans (Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia) than in the Middle East or North Africa, in a situation in which countries from the Balkans seek inclusion into the Alliance and are more inclined to regard NATO as an authoritative “teacher” of democratic norms. But the transatlantic allies also need to think harder about what the Alliance can offer — in terms of trust-building measures, training, or a model for security reform — to those partners that do not seek/are not eligible for NATO membership. For instance, the allies could use institutions such as the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) to facilitate participation in more intensive training, systematic dialogue, and exercises aimed at achieving better coordination with the Alliance at diplomatic and operational levels. As the mission in Libya has demonstrated, such coordination can be valuable in the context of operations in regions that are important to the transatlantic allies, but in which Western actors have limited influence and weak legitimacy. In the longer term, systematic practical cooperation within the MD and the ICI may also facilitate the dissemination of democratic norms (especially in civil-military relations) in that region.

Building New “Communities of Practice” NATO can and should play an important role in promoting transatlantic security by becoming more systematically involved in efforts to address a series of non-conventional yet increasingly prominent security challenges that may not require a military response, including cyber threats, piracy, and organized crime (particularly in connection to illegal trafficking in drugs, weapons, and human beings). Addressing such challenges could make a significant difference in terms of enhancing transatlantic security, and would be far less costly than military operations. Such missions would, however, require the development of different capabilities and skills. Above all, these nonconventional security challenges involve strong civilian components; consequently, the allies should seek to build a new type of partnership between NATO (which continues to have significant material and symbolic assets that could be used in crisis-management) and a range of civilian agencies. These include institutions from the public domain (e.g. national and international agencies involved in policing and intelligence-collection, NGOs involved in efforts to combat illicit transnational flows) and from the corporate world (e.g. companies involved in providing cyber security, private security companies, etc.). Achieving coordination and cooperation among institutions that have different compositions, cultures, assets, and mandates is bound to be difficult. Nevertheless, the allies should strive to build new types of “communities of practice” that bring together various actors, uniting them around a common set of understandings about the nature of new security challenges and shared bodies of practical knowledge, skills, and procedures required for addressing those challenges. Such communities of practice could sustain cooperation between NATO and civilian actors beyond particular missions, making it easier for the allies to address security challenges that transcend conventional categories and divides between public and private, domestic and international, and economic and

The allies should seek to build a new type of partnership between NATO and a range of civilian agencies.

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
military domains. Granted, it may not be easy for NATO to shift from its prominent role in responding to crises in the Balkans, Afghanistan, or Libya to the role of partner involved in the management of less spectacular security challenges. Nevertheless, the effective management of those crises could make a significant difference in the daily lives of populations on both sides of the Atlantic. Furthermore, given the current budgetary constraints and the declining appetite for expensive military missions in Europe as well as in North America, it may be very difficult for NATO to secure the resources and public support that it would need in order to become involved in another Afghanistan.
About the Author
Alexandra Gheciu is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa, and associate director of the Centre for International Policy Studies. Her research interests are in the fields of international security, international institutions, Euro-Atlantic relations, and international relations theory.

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.

Dr. Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer Director, Paris Office German Marshall Fund of the United States Tel: +33 1 47 23 47 18 Email:


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