Fiscal solvency dictates everything nation-states can achieve, from the implementation of prized domestic initiatives to vital foreign policies. Genuine national sovereignty cannot exist without it. Despite reservations from NATO members concerning diminished sovereignty, Smart Defense, at its root, is a proactive fiscally-conscious strategy with which to address the protracted global recession's negative consequences and to ensure that they do not disastrously affect NATO's political-military operations. Similar to the European Union's strategy, Smart Defense's pooling of resources, nominally increasing funding by poorer allies, if possible, and eliminating bureaucratic duplication, are means of improving members' stature, fiscal health, and thus their sovereignty, rather than eviscerating it.
For example, less wealthy states that increase their NATO contributions can also increase their decision-making clout. NATO's biggest financial supporter and long-time political behemoth, the United States, best illustrates the fact that states that pay more into the alliance extract the most decision-making privileges and authority within it. Greater funding from less wealthy states can also minimize tensions between wealthier and poorer allies over the inequitable distribution of operating costs. If greater funding is not feasible due to resistance from national electorates or indigence, states can still contribute to NATO in meaningful non-financial ways, as I will argue. Despite the examples I have just provided, merely stating that Smart Defense is a sound strategy is inadequate. Specific mechanisms that can shape the strategy as an efficient, effective, and palatable option for member states must be offered, and I specifically advocate a three-pronged approach that focuses on economic and political considerations.
First, NATO members, individually and with organizations such as the EU or OECD, must collaborate to enact national policies that promote stronger markets rather than weaker ones. If Smart Defense is to be instituted properly, NATO members must first address the following paradox: members will pool their finances and share resources with which to get more for less, while simultaneously enacting problematic national protectionist policies, e.g. the United States' 2010 "Buy American" Act. These policies have the possibility to prevent meaningful trade and perpetuate the volatile global market that makes critical weapons-grade materials, and commodities like fuel, prohibitively expensive. Protectionist policies artificially protect domestic industries at the expense of weakening international markets, thus decreasing foreign policy expenditures for NATO states, including their ability to actively participate in Smart Defense. History has demonstrated that competition encourages innovation, something that NATO requires for endeavors such as better cyberspace security and counter-IED measures. Therefore, states must encourage, rather than stifle, competition.
Second, NATO members should focus on their comparative advantage and create "political goods" they can produce the most efficiently and effectively. Members should focus on political-military and diplomatic specialization. States should lead in ways in which they are not only the most proficient but also, among allies, for which they are the most credible or show the greatest promise. For instance, nuclear non-proliferation talks with Iran may be better served if the United States is more detached from the situation and a less contentious actor like France is more involved. Turkey's desire for full EU membership can be used as leverage to acquire greater assistance for NATO's Afghanistan mission with the proviso that Turkey receives greater EU membership consideration when the issue is tentatively revisited next year. Turkey can specialize in cultural diplomacy with Afghanistan, as a uniquely powerful secular, Sunni-majority nation engaging a fellow Sunni nation. Turkey is an economic powerhouse with a promising future. It is therefore in NATO's best interest to further exploit Turkey's power and regional abilities, as well as it is in Turkey's best interest to further increase its stature within NATO. Engaging a rising Turkey is critical to an effective Smart Defense. Underutilizing or improperly utilizing Turkey's power and talents may signal to Turkey that it may be better off minimizing its role in the alliance and possibly minimizing or abandoning its dubious auxiliary role with the European Union - possibilities that endanger regional security.
Third, NATO should implement a rigorous and comprehensive Domestic Awareness System, on which NATO members are regularly updated regarding individual countries' political environments and how they affect NATO's operations. The system would provide detailed assessments and contingencies for policies and operations in the event that newly-elected national leaders or volatile domestic politics require NATO members to change course or shirk their duties. In the United States, for example, how will NATO be affected if President Obama loses his re-election bid and the opposing candidate wins? How would his worldviews shape American foreign policy and engagement with NATO? These are important questions that could be anticipated and assessed with a Domestic Awareness System.
Ultimately, it is paramount that any Smart Defense recommendations are coupled with NATO members reminding their publics about NATO's importance, and the likely "parade of horribles" should domestic concerns dwarf regional security concerns, and potentially irreparably cripple NATO.
Yasmin J. Mattox has a Master's degree in International Studies. Her research interests revolve around the intersections of intercultural understanding, diplomacy and security dilemmas, particularly, low intensity conflicts.