NATO: Hybrid of Alliance and Network?

A flagship initiative coming out of the NATO 2014 Wales Summit was the Alliance's Partnership Interoperability Platform. The Platform adds to NATO's longstanding partnership structures which allow the Alliance to cooperate with countries which cannot or will not join the Alliance. NATO seeks to deepen its partnerships by ensuring that troops as far afield as Sweden, New Zealand and Jordan can be deployed together with NATO forces. The Platform is a forum where NATO invites its partners to discuss and deepen interoperability initiatives.

In our events series "Action Points" we gave our members a chance to understand the workings of the Platform and how important it is for NATO to reach beyond the Alliance members. At the beginning of this workshop, members broadened their understanding of an Alliance many perceived in classical terms of territorial defence.

The return to a focus on collective defence in the wake of Ukraine meant that focus since the Wales Summit has mostly been on collective defence and the relationship between allies. Security challenges as diverse as terrorism, irregular migration and civil war in Syria and Iraq have however brought less conventional threats back into focus. The Alliance has rightly acknowledged that restoring stability to the region requires strong local partners, and in practical terms this translates to the Alliance’s work with partners such as Jordan in training efforts such as Exercise Eager Lion 2015. NATO partnerships are however not limited to troop exercises however, and in the case of Iraq, NATO contributes with advice on everything from how to disarm improvised explosive devices to cyber security advice. Our members were impressed by the layered NATO-approach to partnerships and how much can be achieved through initiatives such as the Partnership Interoperability Forum. Highlighting questions of interoperability with local partners, participants were convinced that NATO could make a solid contribution to the fight against Daesh by training local partners such as the Jordanians. These are just some examples our members learnt more about in the context of the workshop, but NATO has a global range of partners stretching to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The current security climate has driven partners to the East and the South closer to NATO. The Wales Summit therefore introduced important new mechanisms such as the Interoperability Platform, which while often unsung, play a central role in promoting long-term partnerships and security sector reform (SSR) in strategic partner countries. 

In 2015 NATO allies will meet in Warsaw to take stock of the initiatives which cumulated from the 2014 Wales Summit. In the context of overall shrinking defence budgets and the American pivot to Asia, partnerships will continue to play an ever more central role. Warsaw will show us what the Alliance has in store as initiatives over the next years, but NATO's hybrid role as part traditional alliance, part security network, is likely to increase.

By Håvard Sandvik, Security & Defence Programming Director, YPFP Brussels


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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