NATO: Adapting to an ever-changing world
As the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation celebrates its 70th anniversary, Rajnish Singh speaks to Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller about past triumphs and future challenges.
What do you believe has been key to the success of NATO over the past 70 years?
Adaptation is at the heart of NATO’s success. As the world has changed, NATO has adapted to match, tackling new and complex security challenges. For forty years, NATO successfully deterred the Soviet Union from aggression against Western Europe. In the 1990s, we faced a new security environment in Europe and NATO took on a different role, managing conflicts beyond its borders. The Alliance helped bring an end to the war in Bosnia and later stopped potential genocide in Kosovo.
After 9/11, NATO adapted once again, taking a lead role in the international response in Afghanistan, where we continue to train local forces, so they can prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism and create the conditions for peace. Today, faced with the most unpredictable security environment in a generation, NATO continues to rise to the challenge, delivering peace and security for almost one billion people.
What are the current security challenges the alliance faces and do you believe NATO is up to the job given the complexities it faces, particularly from cyber and hybrid warfare?
We are facing the most significant security challenges for a generation. They are complex, inter-related and come from a number of directions: terrorism and instability in the Middle East and North Africa, Russia’s aggressive actions as well as cyber and hybrid threats. NATO is responding to these challenges, implementing the largest reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War. We are increasing the readiness of our forces and modernising our military command structure, strengthening our hybrid and cyber defences and remain at the forefront of technological change. In addition, we have stepped up our role in the fight against terrorism, including a new training mission in Iraq to ensure ISIS can never return. These threats cannot be addressed by military means alone, therefore we are drawing on all the tools in our tool box. We are also working closely with the European Union and other partners.
President Trump’s criticism of the European allies, for not paying their fair share, is well-documented. Can the alliance survive these rifts between Europe and the US?
Investing in our defence is important for the security of our countries at a time of unprecedented security challenges. There is a renewed sense of urgency among allies on fairer burden-sharing; the clear message from the United States is having an impact. All allies are now stepping up. Following years of cutting defence budgets, now we are adding billions. We have seen four consecutive years of increasing investment in defence. European allies and Canada are showing their commitment, adding $41bn dollars to their defence spending since 2016. By the end of next year, this will rise to $100bn. Allies are spending more, investing in new capabilities, improving their readiness and contributing more forces to NATO missions and operations. Despite our differences, allies have always been able to unite around our core mission to protect and defend one another. This has helped keep our people safe for seventy years.
“Today, faced with the most unpredictable security environment in a generation, NATO continues to rise to the challenge, delivering peace and security for almost one billion people”
The EU increasingly sees the need to have a security dimension and closer military cooperation. Do you see this as threat to the prominence of NATO, or complementing the alliance?
Stronger European defence has the potential to provide new capabilities and to improve burden-sharing within the Alliance. At the same time, it is important that we complement, not compete with, each other. As EU efforts on defence develop, three things will be important for NATO. First, that the priorities and outputs of EU and NATO capability development are coherent, because we cannot present conflicting requirements and priorities to our nations. Second, that forces and capabilities brought together for EU initiatives are available to NATO. Third, that non-EU allies are involved as much as possible, as they play an essential role in European security. This would ensure that our efforts are complementary and transparent and that the nations involved can strengthen their contributions to both the EU and NATO.
With the European elections around the corner, why is NATO still relevant to the security of its citizens and how confident are you that it can survive another 70 years?
NATO is an Alliance bound by a shared history, shared values and shared purpose. Together, we work to prevent conflict and preserve peace for nearly one billion people. Faced with a more complex and challenging world, NATO remains as essential today as it was in 1949. Many of the challenges we face - such as terrorism, hybrid and cyber threats - know no borders. These challenges can only be faced together as an Alliance. NATO endures because it is in the national interest of each and every one of its member countries. Together, we represent half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might. When we stand together, we are stronger - economically, politically and militarily. We need this collective strength, because we will face new threats. A strong and agile NATO reduces risks and delivers security.
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