By Murielle Delaporte – « The effects of twenty-first century accelerative change can be seen throughout the international system and across a range of threats: nuclear, conventional, and hybrid. It is clear that the international community is at a crossroads where emerging crises test the resilience of security institutions and the post-Cold War architecture of security to unpredictable and ambiguous ways », reads NATO Allied Command Transformation’s briefing paper for the annual NATO Transformation Seminar being held in Washington, D.C. this week.

Indeed as the Alliance implements the Wales Summit recommendations and prepares the upcoming Warsaw Summit in 2016, the threats coming from both the East and the South « will not go away », said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday in the opening panel of the three-day Seminar and his first public address as NATO Secretary General in the United States. Their effects are to be felt for years to come and the Alliance does not « have the luxury to choose between crisis management or collective security, but has to do both. » For Jens Stoltenberg, NATO is indeed undergoing its third major shift since its establishment after WWII : « During the Cold War, the challenge was clear and predictable; then followed a paradigm shift with 25 years of out of area engagements ; we now face a third major shift in the security landscape in which we must in particular adapt to hybrid warfare. »

Very concrete positive steps taken by NATO have been highlighted by both Secretary General Jens Stolteberg and SACT General Palomeros during the first morning panel and subsequent press conference, among which:

  • The doubling of the NATO Response Force with the USA – whose financial commitment to the Alliance still amounts to two-third of the latter’s overall budget – playing a major role by sending more assets in Eastern Europe. Air policing missions and the establishment of NATO Command units in six European countries also reflect the reality of Europe and the United States coming together to deter and resist against a more assertive use of force by Russia;
  • Regional stabilization by supporting key partners, such as Afghanistan (with the extension of the deployment of 10 000 US troops), Jordan (in the fight against the spread of terrorism), or Georgia (where a package, including a training center, is being implemented);
  • The upcoming Trident Juncture 2015 exercise which will « gather by the Fall 30,000 people and take place in Spain, Italy and Portugal », underlined General Palomeros.

« Having 28 nations acting as one takes time, but once the consensus is reached, it sends a powerful signal », the General Secretary concluded, warning however that « we cannot get more with less. » The key is « to be prepared for the unexpected » with better strategic awareness and to « act quickly ».  This can be achieved through political will and technological innovation. Enhancing cyber resilience and training – including for high intensity conflict – are indeed two of the top priorities set in this process of adaptation aiming at « improving resilience and agility beyond 2020 »…

For SACT General Palomeros, the Alliance indeed needs to rid itself of the « peace dividends mindset » which has negatively impacted the modernization, as well as the readiness of some components of NATO forces, such as logistic support. Increasing the pace of transformation is therefore even more important in light of at least three reasons:

  • more states and non-state actors feel unconstrained by international law ;
  • the occurrence of multiple crisis threatens NATO’s decision-making process planning ;
  • more disruptive A2/AD technologies(1) are being developed posing a mid to long term threat.

Indeed, the threat environment has become « more complex and fast-moving, with a cyberattack occurring in seconds, a missile attack in minutes, and green men moving in a matter of hours », summed up Jens Stoltenberg.

« Reaching 2020 is the first milestone, (…) but NATO needs to go beyond, because the future will not work for us », stressed General Palomeros.



(1) See for intance on this issue: