On 5thSeptember, Ambassador Alejandro Alvargonzalez, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy inaugurated the NATO’s Strategic Direction South Hub, a centre designed to promote and enhance cooperation amongst the Alliance and partners, in a ceremony at the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. On 2ndOctober, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, together with the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, attended the inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, and on 8thNovember Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre. This shows the intention of the Atlantic Alliance to broaden the spectrum of its mission and its capacity to intensify its commitment at the transcontinental level. Firstly, this article will show NATO’s comprehensive approach by presenting its main missions outside the Alliance boundaries. Secondly, thanks to theoretical contributions, the implications of these missions will be explained, considering NATO as an organisation able to evolve and adapt itself. Finally, considering the inauguration of the centre of Naples and Helsinki, the link between the threat and the need to expand the spectrum of action will be explained.

  1. Outside the Alliance

Nowadays, NATO is engaged in four areas. NATO’s missions are deployed in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Mediterranean (Sea Guardian), and Africa. NATO’s support to Afghanistan is focused on three main areas:

  • NATO-led Resolute Support mission to train the Afghan security forces and institutions,
  • Contribution to the broad international effort of financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces,
  • The NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership.

Resolute Support (RSM) is a NATO-led, non-combat mission. It was launched on 1stJanuary 2015, following the conclusion of the previous NATO-led ISAF mission, and the assumption of full security responsibility by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). The aim is to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to continue defending the country and protecting the population in a sustainable manner. The mission performs supportive functions in several areas, including: operational planning, budgetary development, force generation process, management and development of personnel and civilian oversight to ensure that the Afghan security forces and institutions act in accordance with the rule of law and good governance. On 8thand 9thJuly 2016, during the Summit in Warsaw, NATO Heads of State and Government decided to maintain the Resolute Support Mission beyond 2016 through a flexible, regional model, to continue delivering training.

Regarding the financial support, during the Wales Summit, Allied leaders and their international partners renewed the pledge made earlier at the Chicago Summit to play their part in the financial sustainment of the ANDSF after 2014. Allies and partners have confirmed fund pledges of around US$ 450 million per year to the NATO-Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund until the end of 2017. The Afghan government itself is also expected to provide at least US$500 million per year for the sustainment of the ANDSF.

The Declaration on an Enduring Partnership was signed at the NATO Lisbon Summit in 2010, by NATO and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It provides a framework for long-term political consultations and practical cooperation between NATO and Afghanistan. At the recent Summit in Warsaw in July 2016, NATO leaders committed to strengthen and enhance the Enduring Partnership between NATO and Afghanistan. The enhanced Enduring Partnership recognises the strategic importance of NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan and underscores the commitment to global partnerships outlined in the 2010 NATO Strategic Concept.

Since June 1999, NATO has been leading a peace-support operation in Kosovo (the Kosovo Force – KFOR). KFOR was established after NATO’s 78-day air campaign against Milosevic’s regime, aimed at putting an end to violence in Kosovo. Today, KFOR consists of approximately 4,500 troops provided by 31 countries, and continues to help maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people and communities in Kosovo. NATO’s mandate aimed to deter renewed hostility and threats against Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serb forces, establish a secured environment and ensure public safety and order, demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army, support the international humanitarian effort and coordinate with, and support, the international civil presence. NATO’s presence in Kosovo also covers capacity-building efforts with the security organisations in Kosovo through the newly created NATO Advisory and Liaison Team (NALT) that reached full operational capacities in January 2017. In order to fulfil its mission, the NALT is currently designed along three lines of development: Strategy & Plans, Operations, and Support.

On 11thSeptember 2001, following the terrorist attack in the United States of America, the Atlantic Council approved the deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean of a naval force (Task Force Endeavour) in order to demonstrate NATO’s solidarity and support against international terrorism. In July 2016, following the Warsaw Summit, NATO decided to implement the Active Endeavour mission, redirecting it to a new operation called « Sea Guardian », which is now conducted in synergy with the EU « Sophia operation” and in coordination with Frontex. Sea Guardian is considered a flexible tool capable of carrying out a wide range of tasks including support maritime situational awareness, uphold freedom of navigation,conduct maritime interdiction, fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, protect critical infrastructure, support maritime counter-terrorism and contribute to maritime security capacity-building.

Regarding the support to the African Union (AU), NATO has provided different forms of support in 2005. Since 2007, NATO has accepted to assist the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by providing strategic airlift and sealift support to AU member states willing to deploy in Somalia under AMISOM. NATO has been providing experts and training support to the African Standby Force (ASF) at the AU’s request. The ASF is intended to be deployed in Africa in times of crisis. It is part of the AU’s efforts to develop long-term peacekeeping capabilities. In addition, from June 2005 to 31stDecember 2007, NATO helped the AU expand its peacekeeping mission in Darfur by providing airlift for the transport of additional peacekeepers into the region and by training AU personnel. In June 2005, following further consultations with the AU, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations, NATO formally agreed to provide airlift support as well as training. In 2009, at the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit, NATO reiterates its concern over Darfur and more generally, Sudan. Stressing the principle of African ownership, NATO states that it is ready to consider further requests for support from the AU, including regional capacity-building.

These four current operations show that NATO intends to spread security and stability outside its borders by adapting its measures to international needs. In fact, by deepening its type of mission, it is noteworthy to notice that not only the Alliance adapts itself to new challenges but opens up cooperation with other actors, avoiding any kind of isolationism. This is why NATO intervenes in areas outside its borders.

  1. Why does NATO look abroad?

According to some reports published on the NATO website, over the last 25 years, the Alliance has developed several partnerships based on cooperation in the Mediterranean, in the Persian Gulf and in other parts of the world to mutually reinforce security at the international level. These partnerships have different purposes: to improve the Euro-Atlantic security and stability, to promote cooperation, to identify common challenges, to promote democratic values ​​and to prevent crises. NATO’s concept is based on mutuality: stability and cooperation with neighbours also means security inside the Alliance.

According to these reports, NATO works with its partners (which can be states or organizations) through an inclusive path based primarily on political consultation to develop a common approach in a crisis-hit area. The political consultation is a way to share information in order to develop cooperation in specific areas. Another method is based on the exchange of practices in order to handle an emergency. At the same time, partners contribute to NATO missions by providing both logistical and practical support. In fact, during the missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, some partners (such as Georgia, Australia, Mongolia, Armenia and Ukraine) contributed by providing troops. At the same time, NATO has also worked with its partners on defense reforms through exercises and improving defense capabilities.

According to Claire Craanen, a member of NATO’s Strategic Analysis Capability, the Alliance now faces two challenges: to maintain its vocation (and thus to carry out the values for which it was founded), and to adapt itself to new threats that come from external borders but have an impact inside them. In fact, over recent years, NATO has concentrated its strength in the Baltic region, in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea areas, but at the same time it should increasingly invest in the northern front of the Alliance. The aim of NATO’s approach, in a constantly evolving geopolitical context, is the ability to synthesize what the Alliance was and what it has become. This is the reason why an inclusive approach can be considered the best way to connect the past and the present.

On March 6th2017, Rose Gottemoeller, NATO’s Deputy Secretary-General (SG) during the Conference organized by Chatham House (London), confirmed the Alliance’s ability to adapt to current challenges while trying to maintain its identity. According to her, since the end of the Cold War, NATO based its strategy on « effective multilateralism »: NATO, as the EU and the UN, is an organization founded in the aftermath of World War II. After forty years of bipolar order, international relations became multilateral and this involved sharing challenges and responsibilities, accepting the transformation. This means that currently global problems require global solutions, elaborated by different actors that communicate and cooperate. According the Deputy SG, if NATO continues to exist it is because during the last twenty years it was able to adapt in a world that is changing.

During the first 40 years, NATO focused almost exclusively on collective defense. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it adapted to both circumstances and security challenges. Precisely for this reason, Deputy SG during her analysis underlined on the one hand the Alliance’s ability to expand its capacity to intervene, and on the other its enlargement path: open itself to accept new countries. Enlargement is an important factor contributing to NATO’s evolution and adaptability. In fact, Deputy SG emphasizes that security is not an abstract concept that concerns the stability of the Alliance countries, but is a goal to be achieved by interacting and intervening in unstable neighbourhoods.

The four NATO operations mentioned above are examples of this multilateral approach. It should not only consider the geographical area, but the type of mission, its characteristics and its objectives. Through different approaches and practices, maintaining stability outside the Alliance borders is the priority. NATO develops its approach, and at the same time each mission suits the problem in a particular area that can pose a threat to the Alliance.

  1. The Hub for the South and the hybrid threats

Considering what has been written so far, it is possible to highlight a coherent link between what NATO is committed to do in Kosovo, Afghanistan, in the Mediterranean Sea and in the African Union, and its adaptation process. The change in the international scenario, considered as an external input, and the perception of threats by NATO’s member states, considered as internal input, has been shaping the Alliance’s approach and strategies for the last twenty years. As stated above, NATO (alone or with the help of partners) adopts methods based on consultation, exchange of practices, missions and reform policies to develop a comprehensive and therefore multilateral approach that could facilitate cooperation between different actors in order to cope with contemporary challenges. The creation of the Hub for the South, the inauguration of the Hybrid centre of excellence, and the creation of a new Cyber Operation centre are two recent proofs of the Alliance’s commitment.

On 15thFebruary 2017, during the NATO Ministers of defence’s meeting, the Alliance agreed to create a new regional Hub for the South, based in NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples. The Allied Joint Force Command Naples’s mission is to prepare for, plan and conduct military operations in order to preserve peace, security and territorial integrity of Alliance member states. JFC Naples contributes to the development, conduct and evaluation of exercises to train Allied and Partner HQs and Forces in NATO joint/combined procedures. The NSD-S Hub, under the roof and lead of the southern Italy-based Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is designed to focus on concerns such as destabilization, potential terrorism, radicalization, migration, environmental pollution and natural disasters.

On 5thSeptember, Ambassador Alejandro Alvargonzalez, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and Admiral Michelle Howard, Commander at Allied Joint Force Command inaugurated the NATO Strategic Direction South Hub, a centre designed to promote and enhance cooperation amongst the Alliance and its partners. The Hub will contribute to improving regional situational awareness and understanding of regional threats, challenges and opportunities, managing and sharing the information collected. International terrorism, the trafficking of small arms and light weapons, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, maritime security, the protection of sea lanes of communication and energy supply routes, especially check points are the threats to deal with. The Ambassador highlighted the continued political dialogue that both the Alliance and the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) countries and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) have engaged in. NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue was initiated in 1994 by the North Atlantic Council. NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launched at the Alliance’s Summit in the Turkish city in June 2004, aims at contributing to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the broader Middle East region practical bilateral security cooperation with NATO.

The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE) is an instrument of its participating countries. Currently, the Participants of the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Hybrid CoE are Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Participation in the Centre is open to EU Member States and NATO Allies. The EU and NATO are invited to join the activities of the Centre. The functions of Hybrid CoE include encouraging strategic-level dialogue and consulting between and among Participants, the EU and NATO, to conduct research and analysis about hybrid threats and methods to counter such threats, to develop doctrine, conduct training and arrange exercises aimed at enhancing the Participants’ individual capabilities, as well as interoperability between and among Participants, the EU and NATO for countering hybrid threats, to engage and invite dialogue with governmental and non-governmental experts from a wide range of professional sectors and disciplines and to involve, or cooperate with, communities of interest (COI) focusing on specific activities that may constitute hybrid threats. On 2ndOctober, Jens Stoltenberg, together with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms Federica Mogherini, attended the inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, Finland. During his speech, NATO SG said: “And the first thing is that hybrid threats are many different threats, and we use the phrase hybrid to cover actually many different things: normally a kind of mixture of military and non-military means of aggression; a combination of covert and overt operations and measures, everything from propaganda, from disinformation to actually the use of regular forces, from tweets to tanks; sometimes soldiers in uniform, sometimes soldiers without uniform; and sometimes something that happens in the cyberspace and sometimes things that happens at our borders. And this combination of so many different things at the same time with the aim to disguise and to hide the real intention, that has got the name hybrid threats”.

A few days after, NATO SG, during the North Atlantic Council, announcedthat ministers agreed on the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre as part of the outline design for the adapted NATO Command Structure. This will strengthen our cyber defences, and help integrate cyber into NATO planning and operations at all levels. They also agreed that we will be able to integrate Allies’ national cyber capabilities into NATO missions and operations.

The above-mentioned examples show that NATO is in fact an ever-evolving organization able to shape its approach in relation to the kind of threats. At the same time, within its own measures, it includes the needs of member states in cooperation with partners. The four NATO’s missions, the new measures in the Mediterranean, the cooperation with the EU and the creation of a new specialized cyber security centre show the flexibility of an organization capable of linking the past and the present. International threats are constantly evolving, and this requires a modernization path for all actors who want to maintain security both inside and outside their borders.

Maria Elena Argano

This article has already been published on the Vox Collegii Review (NATO Defense College):

For further information

NATO’s website, NATO Strategic direction South Hub inaugurated (05/09/2017):

NATO’s website, Operations and missions – past and present (21/12/2016):

NATO’s website, ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan (01/09/2015):

NATO’s website, NATO and Afghanistan (10/11/2017):

NATO’s website, NATO-Afghanistan relations (12/2016):

NATO’s website, Partnership – projecting stability through cooperation (09/06/2017):

NATO’s website, NATO’s role in Kosovo (09/03/2017):

NATO’s website, Operations Sea Guardian (26/10/2016):

NATO’s website, Assistance to the African Union (20/06/2016):

Claire Craneen, Putting the North Atlantic back on NATO’s Agenda, Carnegie Europe’s website (21/07/2017):

NATO’s website, Effect multilateralism – how NATO adapts to meet changing security challenges (06/03/2017):

Allied force joint command website, NATO “hub” to address challenges from the south (27/07/2017):

Hybrid Coe’s website (28/11/2017):

NATO’s website, Secretary General participates in Hybrid Centre of Excellence inauguration (02/10/2017):

NATO’s website, Jens Stoltenberg – Press Conference (08/12/2017):

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