Improving Participation in the NATO Defense Planning Process
Memo 53: The North Atlantic Council needs an advisory voting system and more transparency. Regional interest blocs and enhancing the status of civil-military cooperation would incentivize more active participation in the NATO Defense Planning Process.
The financial crisis in Europe has resulted in a decline in national defense budgets. However, merely increasing defense expenditure may only lead to more shortcomings if the planning is not coordinated. NATO has taken initiatives to harmonize national defense plans and to identify and develop the capabilities needed for the full range of NATO missions. Yet, the NATO Defense Planning Process has not been as effective as it should be: there are concerns of compromising sovereignty, and problems reaching consensus due to differing national interests.
Our project "Shaping our NATO: Young Voices on the Warsaw Summit" asked the next generation of thinkers from across NATO:
How can some NATO member countries be encouraged to participate more actively in the NATO Defense Planning Process? How could NATO Members coordinate better to generate the modern defense capabilities that the Alliance as a whole needs? What are the best practices that could serve as role models in a renewed culture of cooperation?
After an intensive debate with more than 100 comments on eleven submitted proposals from authors in eight different NATO countries, the following Atlantic Memo with the best policy recommendations has been written.
Download a PDF copy.
NATO has adopted initiatives to harmonize national defense plans and to identify and develop the capabilities needed for a full and expanding range of missions. However, the NATO Defense Planning Process (NDPP) has not been as effective as it should be. This Atlantic Memo offers suggestions for how NATO should develop its defense planning efforts to overcome these issues, by focusing on four key policy areas: the internal dynamics of decision-making, creating regional interest blocs, inclusion of Civil-Military Cooperation within the NDPP, and improving specialization. A more transparent decision-making process would result in better informed allies and publics, consequently more invested in NATO, and therefore more willing to meet the 2% spending target.
1. Improve internal dynamics with an advisory system of voting and increased transparency.
The North Atlantic Council (NAC) operates such that all states must unanimously agree upon decisions affecting all members. Yet not all must contribute their fair share. Vote by unanimity is not transparent and can lead to group think and arbitrary decision-making. This needs to be eliminated from NATO's mode of operation in order to garner greater support from its members and the people it is intended to protect. There must be greater pressure from within NATO to push those states that are most definitely capable of getting defense planning on track, to the forefront
The best practice that could serve as a role model in a renewed culture of cooperation is for a level playing field whereby each member state has a vote within the NAC and can influence the decisions made by NATO either at the individual level or at a larger cooperative level. An (initially) advisory system of voting should be instituted whereby each ally is given one vote, with the aim of establishing a system of long-term norms. This would enhance the participation of smaller allies by increasing the transparency of decision-making processes. Voting members are allowed three options; For, Against, or Abstain. The option for a state to abstain from a vote allows for them to still be active in the decision-making process without jeopardizing the will of their country. This system of voting would further increase transparency in two ways.
First, a voting system akin to that of a parliament requires a series of motions, voting, and other hurdles before a topic can be put forth for a final, deciding vote. This is inherently a self-check system of transparency because small numbers of nations will be required to reach consensus amongst one another to gather the support to back motions to be initially heard and subsequently debated and – support prevailing – voted upon. This advisory system of voting would provide more transparency by highlighting individual country's participation and voting records.
Second, as a result of the proposed voting process, a committee is to be established which actively tracks and monitors activity of all NATO member states within and surrounding the Defense Planning Process. This will provide transparency as to how active member states truly are. Through this monitoring and subsequent publishing of regular reports, the goal of creating further transparency and increasing public confidence will be realized. Regardless of the decision to impose an advisory system of voting within the NAC, this committee would still prove crucial in establishing transparency of allies' commitment and increase international pressure on them. The fear should not be that the "enemy" might know what NATO is doing but that our allies and public do not. If our allies and the public are not informed, they are not invested.
2. Empower regional interest blocs within NATO to increase commitment.
Regional interest blocs will encourage members with mutual challenges and interests to meet and address them in settings where common ground for cooperation is already in place. These blocs would refine and enhance the tactics and strategies already in place within these makeshift coalitions. Some allies would feel more integrated and important in NATO, and so would participate more actively in NDPP.
Members facing similar threats are those best equipped to manage them. For example, irregular migration is a threat to all allies, but countries nearer to North Africa and the Middle East deal with it most directly. These are the most capable and can better cooperate to minimize risks, primarily based on their proximity and the opportunity this provides to develop a comparative advantage through regular operational experience.
It is necessary that the Alliance support the strategies formulated by these interest blocs to combat threats. The Alliance faces a variety of challenges on multiple fronts. Encouraging these blocs to develop strategies best suited to their respective regions would increase the security of NATO as a whole. Simultaneously, this would allow for the future exchange of best practices should similar issues be encountered by NATO allies in other regions.
Such a strategy would ensure that all allies would provide resources to threatened members, allowing them to promptly and effectively counter regionalized direct threats, thereby preventing them from spreading and affecting the rest of the Alliance. A much needed specialization given the high intensity of current hazards.
The possible risk is that such groups may eventually pose a challenge to the general cohesion in the Alliance. However, recognizing that the Alliance is currently facing multiple challenges, of which many can be confined to specific regions, the cohesion is to some extent already challenged. For great states, often with multiple spheres of interest, a membership in a "Baltic compartment" does not prevent contributions to, or memberships of, other groups. Contiguous "regional interests" are obviously not only attached to a state's own geographical region but can also be in remote regions – as is the case for many member states fighting the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
3. Include Civil-Military Cooperation in the NATO Defense Planning Process.
Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) capabilities should be included as a specific category in the NDPP during the next biannual Defense Planning Capability Survey. NATO defines CIMIC operations as "co-ordination…between the NATO Commander and civil actors" which aims to "take account of social, political, cultural, religious, economic, environmental and humanitarian factors" at the pre-operational, operational, and transitional stages of missions. CIMIC has been practiced for instance in joint EU-NATO policing operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Central African Republic and in the Baltic States' preparations to counter sabotage, civil unrest, and cyber-attacks from Russia.
Encouraging expenditure on CIMIC resources designed to respond to the migrant crisis would be the most applicable use of CIMIC at this time. Allies such as Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain are struggling to cope with the refugee crisis. These CIMIC operations would also incentivize more European member countries to meet the 2% spending target. These CIMIC capabilities are more relevant to the existing security concerns of many European countries given recent instances of terrorism and mass migration than more traditional military capability development. As such, CIMIC would improve participation by helping to align NATO spending priorities with those of its members. To be counted against the 2% spending target these capabilities would have to outline how they would interact with NATO operations. Consultation on the specific details of this interaction must be discussed at the next biannual Defense Planning Capability Survey.
4. Specialize in "Complete Capabilities".
It is necessary to acknowledge that states want to be able to act and react, including to non-Article 5 commitments. The way to progress military specialization is through encouraging allies to specialize in complete capabilities. Such a specialization allows for the further pooling of resources during the acquisition process.
While it may appear that this kind of specialization does not support cost reductions, savings are made by actual prioritization. It forces politicians to prioritize what their military toolbox should be able to do. Member countries will always prioritize protecting sovereign interests and therefore some assets remain indispensable. Smaller allies will, however, find it useful to minimize several of these "must-have" assets in order to prioritize capability specialization. This again reinforces the importance of the pooling of funds during the acquisition process in order to provide the most state-of-the-art equipment at the best price possible.
NATO can lead the way in demonstrating that a multi-national, multi-continental Alliance can be effective and innovative. This Atlantic Memo has made suggestions for a renewed culture of cooperation within NATO. An advisory system of voting and increased transparency would highlight allies' participating in the NATO Defense Planning Process. This will lead to public pressure to contribute more but eventually also to increased public confidence in NATO. If our allies and the public are not informed, they are not invested.
Creating regional interest blocs within NATO to develop strategies best suited for respective regions would make some allies feel more integrated and valued within NATO, leading to more active participation in the NDPP.
Including Civil-Military Cooperation in the NATO Defense Planning Process would incentivize more European member countries to meet the 2% spending target. CIMIC capabilities are more relevant to the existing security concerns of many European countries given recent instances of terrorism and mass migration than more traditional military capability development. As such, CIMIC would improve participation in the NATO Defense Planning Process (NDPP) by helping to align NATO spending priorities with those of its members.
Steven Bartomioli graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Norwich University and again in June, 2016 with a Master of Business Administration. He works as a Research Analyst with Wikistrat.
Nicolai Bechfeldt is a Danish Army Captain. He holds a master's degree of sociology in international security and law from the University of Southern Denmark.
Tom Field studied at the University of York and University College London. He has previously worked for the Syrian Legal Development Programme and currently works for an international relations think tank based in London.
The authors have written this Memo after qualifying with individual submissions, which provide more detailed information on the aforementioned policy recommendations for those interested:
Steven Bartomioli: How Defense Planning Will Reinvigorate NATO
The articles have been written for category C "Getting Defense Planning on Track" of the "Shaping our NATO" competition and respond to the questions: How can some NATO member countries be encouraged to participate more actively in the NATO Defense Planning Process? How could NATO Members coordinate better to generate the modern defense capabilities that the Alliance as a whole needs? What are the best practices that could serve as role models in a renewed culture of cooperation?
The competition has been made possible by generous contributions from the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.
Atlantic-community.org maintains editorial independence and this Memo reflects the opinions of the authors, not those of the sponsors.
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