NATO Unity Dependent Upon Mediterranean Strategy
The long term health of the Alliance is at risk due to Southern members feeling ignored. The current Strategic Concept is six years old and fails to address many of the threats that NATO members currently face. The new Strategic Concept must hold more combined military exercises in the Mediterranean using Eastern European troops, revitalize the Mediterranean Dialogue, and create a Centre of Excellence for Humanitarian Crises in North Africa.
Disunity in NATO is one of the most serious threats facing Europe. Eastern Europeans are threatened by Russian aggression, whereas Southern NATO members are concerned with instability stemming from North Africa and the Middle East. With all the focus on Russia, Southern NATO members feel that their security concerns are neglected. This is not good for the long term health of the Alliance. Eastern Europeans do not entirely understand the security concerns in the south because of the threats faced closer at home from Russia. In order to improve cohesion and strengthen consensus inside NATO, all members need to have a strong appreciation of the threats the Alliance faces as a whole.
NATO's primary mission is to protect the territorial integrity of its members, and right now the largest threat to that comes from Russia. To many in the Kremlin, Eastern Europe is not viewed as a collection of sovereign countries, but as former vestiges of Russian imperialism that belong under the influence of Moscow. Southern and Western European NATO members must understand that Russia is an existential threat to many in the East.
That being said, southern NATO members have a legitimate concern over their security matters being ignored. NATO's Article 5 means that the Alliance is committed to defend Naples just as much as it is obligated to defend Narva. To help improve cohesion inside NATO a Southern Strategy must be developed.
The main security issues that southern NATO members face are threefold:
- The threat of international terrorism reaching Europe.
- North African instability creating a dangerous region close to home.
- Migrants and refugees fleeing into European countries.
A good framework for implementing a Southern Strategy already exists in NATO: the Mediterranean Dialogue, which should be reinvigorated. After all, stability in North Africa impacts Europe's security. French historian Fernand Braudel summarized that Europe's natural geographical borders extend beyond the Mediterranean Sea into North Africa in his 1949 work The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. He claimed that European boundaries vary depending on economic, religious or cultural definition but that the Sahara Desert is the "Second Face" of the Mediterranean, and is the natural geographic border for the south of Europe. Therefore, revitalizing and empowering the Mediterranean Dialogue can help to secure Europe, and through Europe the rest of NATO.
Five policy proposals can help NATO address southern Europe's security concerns.
- NATO must publish a new Strategic Concept. The last Strategic Concept was published in 2010, before the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the ensuing war in Ukraine. The threat environment to the Alliance has changed, and so must the strategy for addressing that threat.
- NATO must execute combined exercises in the Mediterranean region using Eastern European troops. NATO troops need to train like they fight, and right now that is happening in Eastern Europe, yet not further south. Increased training in the Mediterranean will: underscore the importance of the security issues faced in the region to eastern Europeans; help unify NATO; and improve overall NATO readiness in case of necessary deployments to the region.
- NATO must revitalize and empower the Mediterranean Dialogue. The main security concerns for southern Europe originate from North Africa and the Middle East. NATO needs to prioritize this relationship in order for tangible benefits to become a reality. For example, Operation Active Endeavor, a counterterrorism mission in the Mediterranean which began as an Article 5 deployment, has expanded to include Mediterranean Dialogue partner Morocco. This will allow other North African countries to improve both their own security and stability and the overall mission of NATO operations.
- NATO should increase its efforts to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe. In February 2016 NATO deployed a small maritime mission to provide intelligence and reconnaissance to Greece and Turkey in order to halt the crisis. Here is an opportunity to take a proactive solution towards preventing future displacements.
- NATO should approach one of the Mediterranean Dialogue partners about opening a NATO certified Centre of Excellence on Humanitarian Crises. The Centre of Excellence will provide an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and training in how to address the military component of issues such handling refugees, securing regional stability, and human trafficking.
There is no precedent for a Centre of Excellence being in a non-NATO country; however this deviation can show how special the relationship between Mediterranean countries can become. The benefit of having this in a North African state would show that the Alliance is not only committed to its own security, but also to the security of states that choose to work in tandem with NATO.
The world is safer when the Alliance is united. Getting Eastern NATO members to train in Southern Europe exposes them to the challenges in the region, and enhances their readiness should they ever need to be deployed. A greater partnership with NATO and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries is mutually beneficial for the security and stability of both parties. Working together on both sides of the Mediterranean will address the root causes of their shared security concerns. NATO is not a one-trick-pony. The Alliance must be able to meet the security needs of all its members, whether in the East or South. With the right policies in place not only is this achievable but it is also realistic, and reasonable. NATO must act on this before it is too late.
Brad Chojnacki attends the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. pursuing a Masters Degree in statecraft and national security affairs. He is currently interning at the Heritage Foundation in the Young Leaders Program.
This article has been submitted for category D "Increasing Solidarity in the Face of Divergent Threat Perception" of the "Shaping Our NATO: Young Voices on the NATO Summit" competition. Comments are most appreciated. You can also read the other articles in this category. Category D marks the end of the competition. We would like to thank all participants and members who have submitted op-eds and/or provided comments.
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