NATO Defense Capabilities: A Guide for Action

Strategic Advisors Group (SAG) members Paul Gebhard and Ralph Crosby address the enduring challenge for NATO nations of how best to enhance their individual and, through the Alliance, their collective capabilities and what could be done through the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept.

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In launching the Strategic Advisors Group’s STRATCON 2010 project, General Brent Scowcroft underscored the need of a new Strategic Concept to answer, “What is NATO for?”

As NATO leaders debate this question in the abstract, the world is not sitting by. Instead, the world is adding several layers of complexity to NATO’s considerations: 

  • The immediate, stressing requirements of high-optempo operations in Afghanistan in which the Alliance will soon have 140,000 troops, of which some 40,000 will be from NATO allies in Europe and Canada;
  • The proliferation of evolving threats and challenges, including nuclear-tipped missiles and state-sponsored attacks on national infrastructure through cyber space;
  • The ongoing need to modernize NATO’s military forces and the difficulties of cooperative procurement and development efforts across national borders;
  • A long history among many European allies of under-funding their defense forces, a history compounded by the current economic environment where national budgets are under extreme pressure and defense budgets in many NATO nations are stressed;
  • The highly variable mission scope and rules of  engagement countries require of their of military forces, to include high-intensity expeditionary operations, peacekeeping and nation building, all in the same operation; and
  • A mis-match between a “comprehensive” approach to security challenges, incorporating military and civil instruments, and NATO’s planning process that does not address capabilities required for civil reconstruction and development.

Strategic Advisors Group:

To tackle the tough issues facing NATO and the transatlantic community, the Atlantic Council created the Strategic Advisors Group (SAG). Co-chaired by Atlantic Council Chairman Senator Chuck Hagel and Airbus CEO Tom Enders, the SAG is comprised of North American and European preeminent defense experts. Founded in 2007 by then-Atlantic Council Chairman General James L. Jones, General Brent Scowcroft, and former Norwegian Minister of Defense Kristin Krohn Devold, the SAG provides timely insights and analysis to policymakers and the public on strategic issues in the transatlantic security partnership through issuing policy briefs and reports, hosting strategy sessions for senior civilian and military officials, and providing informal expert advice to decision-makers.

NATO Issue Briefs:

  • NATO Initiatives for an Era of Global Competition
  • NATO’s Nuclear Policy in 2010
  • NATO Reform and Decision-Making
  • Article 5 and Strategic Reassurance
  • The U.S., NATO and the EU: Partnership in the Balance
  • The Challenge: NATO Amidst Geopolitical Realities
  • A New Transatlantic Compact for NATO

The SAG and its activities are generously sponsored by the Scowcroft Group, EADS North America, and Airbus.