Stumbling Blocks to NATO’s Strategic Adaptation Initiative

July 05, 2016
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer
Martin Michelot
Martin Quencez
2 min read
What is Europe’s responsibility for its own security?

What is Europe’s responsibility for its own security? Moving away from a purely budget-centered approach, this collection looks at the issue of Europe’s political willingness and sustainability, and offers recommendations for the future of the Alliance. Europeans’ reluctance to be strategically ambitious may pose a greater obstacle to transatlantic burden-sharing than financial constraints, and both NATO and the EU can provide a crucial push in the right direction. Meanwhile, a central challenge for the Alliance today comes from domestic politics. Divergence between the establishment and the public as well as differences in threat perceptions among partners have fueled and been fueled by populist rhetoric, and fostered further divisions at the transatlantic level. As NATO aims to engage in a strategic adaptation to address contemporary threats, transatlantic powers need to better define the political role of the Alliance.

The arguments are partly based on a workshop of the Transatlantic Security and the Future of NATO project organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Warsaw on May 19-20, 2016.

This publication also includes three pieces addressing different challenges for the deepening of the transatlantic security partnership.

Rachel Ellehuus argues that faced with a variety of complex threats in the eastern and southern flanks, NATO must find a way to support constructive differentiation and incentivize allies to take more responsibility. Three particular challenges must be more particularly addressed: institutional adaptation, weathering the trends of internal fractiousness on both sides of the Atlantic, and expanding NATO’s tools as neither soft power nor military force alone is sufficient to handle today’s security and defense challenges.

Riccardo Alcaro highlights the opposition between Europe’s geopolitics on the one hand, which are shifting in a way that favors transatlantic strategic convergence, and deeply polarized politics in both Europe and the U.S. on the other hand, which might curb or even reverse these converging geopolitical trends.

Martin Michelot analyzes the current increase in European defense budgets and argues that this effort stems from a variety of national or regional priorities rather than a clear-cut contribution to a collective effort. The summer of 2016, with the adoption of the EUGS and the NATO Summit, could mark the beginning of a Europe that is willing to reconcile itself with its strategic role and to use all the instruments it has at its disposal to carry out its responsibilities.