Read our provocative essays on the future of NATO


More than two decades after NATO’s inspired decision to invite former adversaries to join its ranks, the Alliance is in need of equally captivating ideas. The serious business of deterring adversaries and fighting this century’s wars has necessarily taken precedence over crafting a forward-looking vision. But developing that vision can’t wait any longer. Rather than getting mired in today’s debates about mundane issues like burden-sharing, NATO must build on its impressive track record of adaptivity, resilience, and achievement.

The essays in this volume are intended to push the Alliance to think boldly and creatively in the service of recapturing the public’s imagination. They are, by design, provocative, occasionally in conflict, and sometimes impractical, at least in the near term. By prescribing ideas that “NATO should” pursue—be it devising new initiatives, course-correcting current policies, or sunsetting troubled endeavors—the volume is an appeal for an Alliance that is more visionary, more capable, and more self-evidently valuable to the security of more people. To achieve that end, we’ve assembled a roster of 38 contributors who reflect a diversity that eludes the NATO community generally. We’ve enlisted nearly as many next-generation viewpoints as established ones, often in combination.

This volume comes on the cusp of the 2020 US presidential election—a natural inflection point that will bear on NATO’s future role and purpose. As the next US administration tackles relentless security challenges ranging from great-power competition to climate change, whether and how NATO contributes to solutions—and how it communicates its effectiveness—will rightly affect its standing with publics in the United States and beyond. By adopting these ideas, NATO can innovate its forms and functions to better accomplish both imperatives. If there is one overarching argument in this volume, it is this: As the complexity and pace of our world intensifies, policymaking and public diplomacy require originality, diversity, and audacity to achieve relevance in the 21st century.

By Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

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The Transatlantic Security Initiative shapes and influences the debate on the greatest security challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance and its key partners.

Acknowledgements1Put Itself Back in the Narrative: Icon made by Pixel perfect from; ‘Game Out’ Decision Making: Icon made by Freepik from; Define a Theory of Success: Icon made by monkik from; Digitalize the Enterprise: Icon made by Eucalyp from; Supersize Cyber: Icon made by Eucalyp from; Christen a Carrier Strike Group: Icon made by Selman Design from; Disband the NATO Response Force: Icon made by Freepik from; Threaten Decisive Nuclear Retaliation: Icon made by Freepik from; Listen to Women: Icon made by Freepik from; Open a Bank: Icon made by Freepik from; Reimagine the Washington Treaty: Icon made by Freepik from; Design a Digital Marshall Plan: Icon made by Pixel perfect from; Build an Atlantic-Pacific Partnership: Icon made by ultimatearm from; End the Russian Veto on Georgian Accession: Icon made by Freepik from; Ramp up on Russia: Icon made by Freepik from; Modernize the Kit and the Message: Icon made by Freepik from; Rethink and Replace 2%: Icon made by Kiranshastry from; Seek Membership for Mexico: Icon made by Freepik from; Set Its Sights on the High North: Icon made by Freepik from; Build Resilience for an Era of Shocks: Icon made by Freepik from