Alliance Looks to Nonmilitary Solutions

Tuesday, September 08, 2009
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, ITN, chairman of the NATO Military Committee (l), meets with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan chief of Army Staff, in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Atlantic alliance is striving to be more of a global organization that works with other nations and international groups to maintain security and reduce the threat of conflict.

The six-decade organization transforms its direction with its military.

Political as well as military transformations are driving major changes at NATO. The alliance is reshaping itself to serve more as a geopolitical security organization than as a purely military one designed for armed deterrence and operations.

With this approach, the alliance would be a more proactive organization with both nations and organizations throughout the international community. Many of these efforts would be built around NATO’s traditional missions of deterrence and defense, but they also would involve confidence building and tension reduction.

And, above all, these efforts would focus on reducing threats ranging from cyberattacks to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons deployed by organizations or rogue states. For military operations, the alliance would employ expeditionary activities to a greater degree, as opposed to NATO’s traditional area defense approach.

NATO’s military strategy has been shaped by the new global security environment, relates Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, ITN, chairman of the NATO Military Committee. This environment features new challenges such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation and ungoverned states. Many of these challenges are borderless, which requires a multinational approach to meeting them.

In a military context, this mandates a more expeditionary role for the alliance. This includes the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, Adm. Di Paola notes. Describing Afghanistan as NATO’s number-one military challenge, he adds that piracy also is a military concern for the alliance. NATO’s long-term goal is to become fully expeditionary, so that all of its armed forces can move out of area as needed.

This expeditionary nature also is essential for fulfilling NATO’s traditional Article 5 tasks, in which an attack on one alliance member is considered an attack on all. NATO’s enlargement was accompanied by a reduction in fixed military facilities, so responding to an attack on many of its wide-ranging nations will require moving forces a considerable distance. Having a credible expeditionary capability can help prevent misunderstandings among neighboring countries from blowing up into military conflict.

However, NATO is not abandoning its core values as a regional security organization, the admiral explains. Where the alliance used to concentrate on defending against the conventional military threat to its territory, now that threat comes from beyond traditional entities such as nearby countries.

“We are entering a new dimension of threat and challenge; therefore, we have to transform ourselves individually as allies and collectively as an alliance,” Adm. Di Paola states.

The admiral emphasizes that NATO is a member of the international community, not its enforcer. “We are not the world’s policeman,” he says. “But, we can bring our values, together with other organizations, in a global approach that involves working together with other institutions. It involves more than bringing to bear just military power to solve problems.”

He states that these other international institutions include nonmilitary organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. In terms of other countries, potential cooperative efforts may involve more than Partnership for Peace nations. Adm. Di Paola cites Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, India and Pakistan as nations with which NATO can establish a dialogue to help further mutual goals and reduce tensions.

The threat from WMD proliferation cannot be addressed on a purely military basis, and this is where the alliance’s geopolitical efforts with other nations and organizations play a role. The admiral relates that NATO is working with other international groups to reduce the threat.

But this also touches on protecting NATO members against WMD delivery systems, and the alliance is viewing ballistic missile defense as a means of closing off one vulnerability. Adm. Di Paola relates that the alliance is discussing the best approach for its needs. “We have to look at some form of missile defense, but we have not [decided] which is the most suitable option for the entire alliance. That is still very much an open question, and there are options that are being debated,” he emphasizes.

Transforming both military and geopolitical policy requires cultural change. “Fundamentally, it is more of a mental process than one that has to do with hardware,” the admiral offers. “Yes, there is an awareness that there is a new reality. But to translate this awareness—this shared vision of a new environment—we need to move forward with processes that are much faster. We have to build a new capability. There is a need to translate awareness into actual, concrete willingness and ability to cope with the new challenge.

“So, it’s more a matter of translating the vision into political will and government-ministry action than anything else,” he states.

NATO’s new mission set evolved concurrently with its enlargement. Many of NATO’s post-Cold-War additional members found themselves in the midst of a complete transformation that involved doctrine, force structure and materiel. Many countries found their Soviet-era equipment incompatible with that of their new allies, so they faced having to replace nearly all of their gear to ensure a degree of interoperability. And, their communications-electronics technologies were well behind those of longtime NATO members.

Each new NATO member is transforming its military at a different pace and with a different priority. However, this is not to say that the alliance is divided into technological haves and have-nots by length of membership. Adm. Di Paola declares that some new NATO members are more integrated in new information technology areas than older allies. “We are not all equal, but we are moving in the right direction,” he says.

As with purely military transformations, NATO is counting on information technologies to help meet its challenges. NATO’s international role and global obligations require that the alliance have a much greater capability to anticipate events, the admiral notes. This mandates better assessment and understanding of ongoing processes. “Translating this conceptual vision into an operational reality requires better information sharing and exchange of data among all the actors,” he declares. “Information technology certainly is the driver that is allowing the development of the capability necessary for this global approach.”

Information technology is particularly important for critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance disciplines, the admiral continues. This will give leaders the ability to detect, evaluate, fuse and understand information in real time.

The new expeditionary force will require advanced information technologies to remain fully networked, Adm. Di Paola adds. Network-enabled capabilities are necessary for allied operations, but they also bring up the specter of cyberspace attack. As with any military built around network centricity, the threat of cyberspace information operations on NATO forces “will gain increasing relevance in the future,” the admiral warns.

As with any network, NATO’s networks face daily onslaughts from cybermarauders. Adm. Di Paola relates that NATO is hit with hundreds of cyberevents each day, although none has been seriously disruptive. So, the alliance has yet to experience a dramatic cyberattack on the scope of those that struck Estonia and Georgia. However, the potential exists, he adds, and the alliance is concerned about that possibility.

The global economic downturn can affect NATO’s transformation efforts, particularly when it comes to military technology procurement. While warning that NATO could expect a “slowing down” of modernization efforts because of economic constraints, he also offers that facing hard realities may force nations to set stringent priorities for spending on necessities such as national security. “In the end, faced with [nations’] need to make harsh priorities, the process might even be sped up, and not delayed as first impressions might lead people to think,” he suggests.

NATO Military Committee:



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