January 30, 2009

We have an open but fleeting moment to forge a more effective Atlantic partnership. We must seize it now. European and North American allies have allowed their relations to become discordant, yet the times demand vigor and unity. Courageous decisions need to be taken to breathe new life and relevance into the Atlantic partnership, which must be recast to tackle a diverse range of serious challenges at home and abroad.

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Reaching consensus on long term strategy should be of high priority. Leaders should go beyond providing direction to the NATO institution and take a higher plane, charting in an Atlantic Compact the future of their partnership in ways that relate the security, prosperity and freedom of their people and their nations to the world as a whole.

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I. A 21st Century Atlantic Partnership

With the Cold War over and new powers rising, some argue that the transatlantic partnership has had its day. We disagree. Our achievements may not always match our aspirations, but the common body of accumulated principles, norms, rules and procedures we have built and accumulated together – in essence, an acquis Atlantique – affirms the basic expectations we have for ourselves and for each other.

For sixty years this foundation has made the transatlantic relationship the world’s transformative partnership. North America’s relationship with Europe enables each of us to achieve goals together that neither can alone – for ourselves and for the world. This still distinguishes our relationship: when we agree, we are usually the core of any effective global coalition. When we disagree, no global coalition is likely to be very effective.

Our partnership remains as vital as in the past, but now we must focus on a new agenda. Today’s strategic environment is complex and unpredictable. North America and Europe still face the menace of terrorism and the potential for conflict between major states. Yet a host of unorthodox challenges demand our urgent attention.

These challenges require us to affirm our mutual defense commitment within a wider spectrum of security; reposition our key institutions and mechanisms, particularly U.S.-EU partnership and NATO; and connect better with other partners.

Five strategic priorities loom large. Together, Europe and North America must

NATO is indispensable yet insufficient to this agenda. A new U.S.-EU framework, anchored by a clause of mutual assistance, and other institutional innovations are needed. In a companion report we will address U.S.-EU partnership in greater detail.

The Strategic Priority of Afghanistan and Pakistan

Visions of a more effective, resilient partnership will be moot if allies fail to quell terrorism and turmoil in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands. Afghanistan has become a crucible for the Alliance. NATO’s credibility is on the line.

We must be clear regarding the threat, our goal, and our strategy:

Relations with Russia: Engagement and Resolve
Western coherence and effectiveness is also hampered by divisions over Russia. The West should advance a dual track strategy with Moscow. The first track should set forth in concrete terms the potential benefits of more productive relations. The second track should make it clear that these relations cannot be based on intimidation or outdated notions of spheres of influence but rather on respect for international law, the UN Charter and the Helsinki principles. NATO should be integral to both tracks.


In essence, a new NATO needs a better balance between missions home and away; will be indispensable but insufficient to current and future security challenges; must therefore stretch its missions and connect better with partners; and, depending on specific contingencies, must be prepared to be the leading actor, play a supporting role, or simply join a broader ensemble.

NATO is busier than ever, but many see an Alliance adrift. A new consensus is needed on the challenges to our security and NATO’s role in meeting them.

If NATO is to be better, not just bigger, we must transform its scope and strategic rationale in ways that are understood and sustained by parliaments and publics. We must change the nature of its capabilities, the way it generates and deploys forces, the way it makes decisions, the way it spends money, and the way it works with others.

NATO needs a new balance between missions home and away. For the past 15 years the Alliance has been driven by the slogan “out of area or out of business.” Today, NATO operates out of area, and it is in business. But it must also operate in area, or it is in trouble.

NATO today faces a related set of missions both home and away.

These missions share five common requirements. All require

NATO remains the preeminent transatlantic institution for deterrence and defense. In all other areas, however, it is likely to take only a selective lead, play a supporting role or work within a larger network of institutions. Knowing where and when NATO can add value is critical to prioritization of resources and effort.

Deterrence and Defense. To strengthen Article 5 preparedness NATO nations should:

Transatlantic Resilience. NATO is likely to be a supporting player in more robust overall efforts at both homeland and societal security in the North Atlantic space, to include:

Europe Whole, Free and at Peace. NATO allies have an interest in consolidating the democratic transformation of Europe by working with others to extend as far as possible across the European continent the space of integrated security where war simply does not happen. Yet the situation today is different, and in many ways more difficult, than at the end of the Cold War. The West must keep its door open to the countries of wider Europe. NATO governments must remain firm on the Bucharest Summit commitments to Georgia and Ukraine and to follow through on subsequent pledges of further assistance to both countries in implementing needed political and defense reforms. NATO and the EU should work with the states in the region, including through invigorated efforts at “forward resilience,” to create conditions by which ever closer relations can be possible and the question of integration, while controversial today, can be posed more positively in the future.

Crisis Prevention and Response. If the Alliance is to continue to play an effective role in this area, NATO needs a deeper pool of forces that are capable, deployable and sustainable. Maintaining the operational effectiveness of the NRF is essential to NATO’s credibility and should not be beyond the means of allied governments. Yet allies are stretched thin, and there is no easy fix. Either defense budgets must be increased for personnel, training and equipment; or spending on existing force structure and unnecessary command structure and bureaucracy must be re-mixed to prioritize deployable forces and force multipliers such as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopters.

Stability and Reconstruction Operations. Although many of these capabilities exist within the EU, NATO and the Partnership for Peace, they are not organized into deployable assets. Consideration should be given to the creation of a NATO Stabilization and Reconstruction Force (SRF), an integrated, multinational security support component that would organize, train and equip to engage in post-conflict operations, compatible with EU efforts.

Connect Better with Others: NATO’s effectiveness depends on solid partnerships. NATO should establish a truly strategic partnership with the EU and meaningful partnerships with the UN, the OSCE and the African Union; and establish an Assistant Secretary General for Partnership to improve current partnerships and operationalize the Comprehensive Approach.

Change the Way NATO Makes Decisions

Change the Way NATO Spends Money

Streamline to create a three-level Command Structure

Generate Appropriate Military Capabilities

Match Missions to Means. NATO cannot expect any growth in resource availability. It must enhance and deliver more capabilities from the same resources and redouble efforts to cut existing spending on questionable static command structure or NATO agency/field activities that no longer can be justified as nations face budget pressures. NATO should

Rethink Functional and Geographic “Areas of Emphasis.” For good reasons the Alliance has resisted ‘divisions of labor’ in the past. Yet, persistent low defense investments create serious gaps that cannot be closed in the near term. Therefore coordination along both functional and geographic lines may be wise, with central organizing principles and procedures.

Alliance Reborn: An Atlantic Compact for the 21st Century was written by The Washington NATO Project, a cooperative effort by four U.S. think tanks: the Atlantic Council of the United States; the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP), National Defense University (NDU); and the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. Lead Author Daniel Hamilton; Co-Authors Charles Barry, Hans Binnendijk, Stephen Flanagan, Julianne Smith, James Townsend. Issued February 2009. The full text of Alliance Reborn is available at each center’s website.