The threats we face today know no national boundaries. International terrorism exploits the division between states, and uses regional idiosyncrasies to its advantage. The terrorists of today are highly specialized, dynamic, and move seamlessly all over the globe. If we are to counter this threat, NATO cannot continue to remain a static institution in a fluid world. In the age of austerity the idea that a state can be alone and do all things by itself is simply no longer viable. We must transcend the fear and suspicion of those we call our allies, or risk losing all relevance. Further integration is the inevitable forward path, and is already happening in Europe via joint operations such as Europol and FRONTEX. How can we achieve similar integration in NATO? The solution is two-fold.
Firstly, each state must now adopt a unique (and publicly stated) national specialization. The national specialization would be a particular security priority that member states focused on by directing research, funding and manpower into that field. This could either be an operational focus such as counter-terrorism, or a hardware focus such as air power, naval technology, and the like. We have already begun to see the seeds of this trend with Estonia leading the way in cyber defense; while at the same time allowing its air space to be policed by other NATO members. This kind of state-centric specialism and sharing of operational duties is the way forward.
Member states must be honest with themselves and others in frankly assessing what their core military capabilities and priorities are. Some specializations will come naturally, as with the United Kingdom prioritizing its maritime capabilities and operations. Other states will have to look at more nuanced and narrower fields. But a network of interlinked and complementary specializations will give us an undeniable advantage and will cut costs. It is redundant and profligate to have member states funding overlapping competencies. It seems absurd for NATO to continue to subsidize obsolete military hardware for the sole purpose of indulging national vanity by allowing nations to claim to have a full spectrum of jets, tanks, missiles and battle cruisers. By focusing our resources we will ensure we have the best, at the minimal cost - a true Smart Defense.
However, national specializations alone will not be enough. We need a central body to oversee the dismantling of certain defunct capacities within member states and to ensure that they are meeting their obligations to upkeep their national focus. Therefore my second proposal is the creation of an Oversight Committee with a rotating presidency to foster the inter-state allocation of roles, to make sure they are meeting those roles, and to cut unnecessary spending wherever it is occurring within NATO. This Committee will also act as a forum for member states to air any grievances, allowing an impartial mechanism to ensure accountability. States that cannot talk to each other cannot trust each other, and this body will be key in overcoming that challenge.
Some may say this is a simple cost cutting exercise, but they would be wrong. It is true that by focusing our resources and cutting what is no longer relevant or viable, the alliance will save money. But there is a more pressing urgency to these reforms: we are losing the global battle. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are gaining advantage on the alliance by border-running and relocating swiftly. They know that with our internal differences stemming from our unwillingness to share sovereignty and our futile attempts to maintain decaying fleets of obsolete tanks and carriers we will be too slow and bloated to pose as a real threat. With the leadership of the Oversight Committee and the laser focus of national specialism we will spend better, move faster, and punch harder.
Camlo Kalandra is an undergraduate studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster.