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A New NATO Social Contract

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A New NATO Social Contract

Interview with Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Klaus Wittmann

by Octavian Manea

Download the Full Article: A New NATO Social Contract

The previous Strategic Concepts of the Alliance were forged in some very different security environments. In that sense some of their elements are outdated. Does the Alliance need a new social contract, a new consensus? On what elements?

A new consensus is indeed required in two regards: Firstly, while in the Cold War era NATO would have fought an existential "war of necessity", with a monolithic threat unifying Allies, in the new and ever-evolving security environment it engages in "wars of choice", "discretionary operations". There consensus is much more difficult to muster, because different threat assessments, historic experiences and national interests come to the fore. Honesty is required about the fact that there are ever more marked regional groupings within the Alliance such as those advocating a global orientation (US, UK, partly Canada); others emphasizing NATO's regional character and advocating cooperative security ("old Europe", but far from being united); several new members who, particularly after the Georgia war, insist on the priority of Article 5 and collective defense; and the Southern members emphasizing the dangers in the Mediterranean region. This makes the need for re-establishing strategic consensus very obvious. Secondly, there is great disunity within the Alliance about several central themes, such as NATO's reach (regional or global), its main emphasis (Article 5 or out-of-area), the approach to Russia, nuclear policy and strategy, and the evaluation of some "novel" security challenges (including terrorism, proliferation, cyber threats, interference with energy security, and obstruction of the freedom of the seas).

My view about how the preparation of NATO's new Strategic Concept has been handled in NATO (with the Group of Experts established by the Secretary General under former Secretary of State Albright's leadership) is the following: Public debate, transparency, inclusiveness are desirable, and the "participatory process" can "loosen the ground" as it were, prepare consensus, fuel public debate and interest in NATO, get the strategic community involved, provide transparency and induce member states to clarify their positions and "show the colour of their cards". But this will not replace the political work governments must do to create or re-establish the consensus on the central contentious issues. That cannot be achieved by informal groups and seminars, and it should not be left to the drafting and negotiation process. Work on a draft cannot create political unity on highly controversial matters, it cannot replace tough decisions. Ideally, the Strategic Concept, to be agreed on at NATO's Lisbon summit, would reflect the consensus established among governments.

Download the Full Article: A New NATO Social Contract

Brigadier general (ret) Klaus Wittmann is former director of academic planning and policy at the NATO Defence College in Rome. In May 2010, he co-authored together with Ronald Asmus, Stefan Czmur, Chris Donnelly, Aivis Ronnis and Tomas Valasek a major policy paper for The Centre for European Reform (CER, London) entitled "NATO, New Allies and Reassurance". In September 2010, Klaus Wittmann also proposed an illustrative draft for the NATO's new strategic concept that can be accessed here.

Octavian Manea is Editor of FP Romania, the Romanian edition of Foreign Policy.

About the Author(s)

Octavian Manea was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (Syracuse University) where he received an MA in International Relations and a Certificate of Advanced  Studies in Security Studies.