Critics argue that NATO should stick to the North Atlantic region and not involve itself in global issues. However, if the Alliance does not show initiative in adapting to rising globalization, it will be left behind. Not tomorrow, but within the next couple of decades. NATO must continue globalizing as a security provider. Whether one may like it or not, we live in the post-Euro-centric age. Europe and the US, with NATO serving as the transatlantic link, have to follow common global visions, otherwise frictions will weaken both positions.
NATO needs to seek global partnerships in order to realize its political and operational aspirations. This process is already underway, as the fourth NATO-India-Dialogue in January 2010 showed. India may not become a primary partner in the near future, but there are certain other countries that have the potential to do so. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and perhaps South Africa would fit very well into the new era of NATO's global partnerships.
A global partnership does not require full membership. However, the participation of the states named above in NATO's increasingly global activities requires closer consultation mechanisms. A global partnership council should execute closer military cooperation and involvement in operational planning, as well as greater participation on the political level. There are two existing trends that highlight the need for such a global partnership council.
Firstly, the emerging geostrategic importance of the world's oceans will demand further naval activities. The Arctic will be a challenge. Operation Ocean Shield underlines the critical role of transport security and the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, counterterrorism and non-proliferation necessitate naval surveillance and enforcement. Clearly shown by the Gulf of Aden, such missions require the involvement of global partners. Only a closer connection to NATO can guarantee the success of a partner's work. With global navies increasing, further maritime challenges are likely. Missions may or may not carry a NATO flag, but the Alliance and its global partners must find ways to secure their common naval interests. A global partnership council could fulfill this job.
Secondly, today's threats are complex and require a flexible response. NATO's recently established Special Operations Forces (SOF) Headquarters is a response to this reality. SOFs have an emerging future role, as one can see in a lot of countries that are within the US Central Command's area of responsibility. They fit in well with the comprehensive approach that today's needs require: SOFs are mobile, effective, forceful and sustainable. Asymmetric threats can only be defeated by small, specialized units. The need for SOFs is growing, but presently capabilities are rare and are not easy to increase. Thus, cooperation is a must. A global partnership council must include military cooperation and consultation elements on SOF issues.
Suspicious eyes will likely follow all of NATO's activities towards global cooperation. Thus, NATO must communicate a clear line: our aim is not to threaten anybody. Rather, our aim is to counter global challenges. In addition to the two domains mentioned above, NATO should keep itself open to new future partnerships in politics and operations.
Securing a common global vision will be a challenge. Political differences within a 'multi-tiered NATO' will likely result in a strategic concept which satisfies all interests. Hence, it will lack one clear, leading vision. However, such a singular vision is needed if current political leaders want to bestow a Euro-Atlantic area of peace, freedom and prosperity to the next generation. The leaders of tomorrow have to raise their voices and remind the state leaders of today of what they should be working towards.
Felix Seidler is a student of political science, law and history at Wuerzburg University.
- Editorial Team: Join the AC Policy Team for NATO's New Strategic Concept
- Dzintars Kalnins: Term Paper: The Transformation of NATO's Identity after the Cold War
- Jorge Benitez: NATO's Center of Gravity: Political Will
- Olaf Theiler: NATO Tensions No Cause for Alarm