The new Strategic Concept of NATO

March 5, 2010 - nr.67

Conclusions and recommendations

In the introduction to this report the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) advocated the adoption of a concise Strategic Concept with a time horizon of five to ten years. This will require clear choices about NATO’s core tasks in the next decade and about its relationship with other international organisations. The AIV believes that the following points in the consultations on a new Strategic Concept will be crucial both for the Netherlands and for the chances of bringing the negotiations to a successful completion:

  1. reappraisal of article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in a manner that underscores allied solidarity, but at the same time takes account of the changing security situation and new threats; 
  2. the criteria for expeditionary operations outside the Treaty area on the basis of the interests of member states, legitimacy under international law, a coherent civil-military approach and the size and capabilities of the available military units of the member states; 
  3. emphasis on stepping up the political dialogue on security issues;
  4. improving the cooperation between NATO and the EU within a comprehensive approach;
  5. a security dialogue and possible cooperation with Russia;
  6. NATO’s role in arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

These key points are dealt with in the specific answers to the questions put by the government.

Government’s question
What significance do NATO’s original objectives have in the 21st century, in the light of the current security threats and the developments that have taken place since 1999?

Reference was made in the previous chapter to the discussion on the scope of article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. When can there be said to be an armed attack on an ally such that the assistance of other NATO member states can be requested? As article 5 is the cornerstone of collective self-defence and the allies require specific security guarantees, a continued focus on this article is preferable. The danger of a substantial expansion of the functional and geographic scope of the Alliance is that this would not work well in practice owing to its military shortcomings and the complex political situations which NATO could not change by military means alone.  

What should be understood by an armed attack as referred to in article 5? It is not really possible to draw up an exhaustive list of such cases in advance as their nature may rapidly change in the foreseeable future and the Alliance must then be free to judge situations as and when they arise. The North Atlantic Council would be best advised to continue developing the ‘case law’ on aggression against members whenever the occasion arises in practice. It should be noted at the outset that article 5 is about armed attacks, in other words physical aggression of foreign origin against a member state which considers that its security, territory, population, essential state institutions or vital interests are threatened as a result. When serious threats of aggression occur the North Atlantic Council must determine whether article 5 is applicable on a case-to-case basis, usually as a matter of urgency.    

The AIV concludes that articles 5 and 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty should be central to the Strategic Concept. Article 5, which regulates the obligation of collective self-defence in the event of an attack (including a major terrorist attack) on Alliance territory, should remain the cornerstone of the Alliance, even though there is at present no threat of large-scale military aggression against NATO members. It would not seem worthwhile or indeed feasible to change the wording of this article. However, some further considerations could be added in the Strategic Concept.

Interpretation of collective defence of NATO territory 

Nonetheless, reconfirming article 5 in the new Strategic Concept would not in itself be sufficient. A credible interpretation of the concept of collective defence of NATO territory is required in order to emphasise the solidarity among the NATO member states. For the older members of NATO there is a greater need for political consultations and joint action in crisis management operations. For the new members, however, there is a need for the security guarantee to be defined in more concrete terms, for example through a form of contingency planning. If NATO wishes at the same time to promote a constructive relationship with Russia any such contingency planning will have to be generic only, as it could otherwise be interpreted as provocative. This is why any provision that our armed forces should be flexible and mobile in order to meet new threats should be of a generalised nature and apply to article 5 scenarios as well. Such armed forces should therefore be able to provide assistance quickly. This flexibility and mobility can be demonstrated and enhanced in military exercises.

A second question concerns the applicability of article 5 to large-scale terrorist attacks or indications of such attacks, as well as other non-military threats which can dislocate our society. Such a provision could be based on the solidarity clause in the Treaty of Lisbon, which expresses the willingness to grant assistance to the state concerned in the event of terrorist attacks or other disasters. NATO’s role outside the Treaty area has grown as a result of various factors. For example, at certain crucial moments the UN proved unable to end conflicts and lacked the resources to convincingly perform peace-enforcement mandates. In Afghanistan the NATO operations were mandated by the UN Security Council, but article 5 was initially invoked because of the terrorist attacks on US territory. The intervention in Afghanistan against the Taliban was based on the protection which the Taliban government afforded to al Qa’ida and Osama bin Laden.

Criteria for expeditionary operations outside the Treaty area

Differences of opinion regularly emerge between the member states about the objectives and effectiveness of missions during NATO crisis management operations outside the Treaty area, particularly in the case of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.1 This is why the decision-making process on NATO operations out of area should meet stricter criteria. The following criteria could serve as a framework for assessing NATO decisions on out-of-area operations: 

  • the existence of a demonstrable relationship with the security or vital interests of NATO member states (except where NATO military forces are deployed in humanitarian emergencies);
  • legitimacy under international law;
  • a comprehensive civil-military approach under civilian leadership from the UN or the EU;
  • agreement about feasible objectives of military action;
  • scope and quality of the military capabilities offered to be in accordance with the planned duration and nature of the operation.

The AIV recommends that NATO should not be expanded to form a global security organisation. Caution in accepting tasks out of area is required not only on account of the risks of overstretch but also because the NATO label will not always be viewed constructively by the parties to the conflict. Nonetheless, security risks outside the Treaty area may affect the security or vital interests of NATO member states in such a way that NATO deployment is necessary.

Stepping up the political dialogue on security issues (article 4)

Article 4 should be reappraised with a view to achieving greater convergence of positions on security threats and NATO’s role, partly in the interests of being able to maintain European influence. For example, it is important to be able to talk about and decide within the transatlantic framework on security issues which do not come under article 5 but do pose a threat or potential threat to NATO member states, such as large-scale disruption of energy supplies or social dislocation following a cyber attack.

NATO’s importance as a forum for transatlantic dialogue on security issues has declined since the end of the Cold War. The  emphasis of the consultations within NATO has shifted from political to military issues. This shift is to some extent understandable since NATO has carried out a number of crisis management operations in the past 20 years. However, experience with NATO operations, particularly in Kosovo and Afghanistan, shows that a military strategy alone is not sufficient and should always form part of a comprehensive approach that includes diplomatic, political, military, economic, development cooperation and humanitarian instruments.

Under President Obama of the United States there are fresh opportunities for political dialogue on security issues within NATO. This dialogue is also necessary in order to generate public support in the member states for NATO’s activities. Finally, the political dialogue must be a prelude to improving the coordination and cooperation with other international players, in particular the European Union.

New threats such as cyber attacks, piracy, large-scale disruption of energy supplies and fragile states

NATO’s thinking on the significance of new threats such as cyber attacks, piracy and energy supply disruption is still in its infancy. Cyber attacks could, at their most extreme, dislocate societies or the ICT infrastructure of armed forces. The NATO member states and their armed forces must naturally take measures to protect themselves against possible cyber attacks on military targets. If cyber attacks were to dislocate the vital functions of a society to such an extent that national security is jeopardised, NATO consultation under article 4 would be necessary and the members could decide to take immediate measures to assist one another.

The threat of piracy on strategic sea routes is a complex problem, in which security interests (hostage taking and the transport of strategic goods), commercial interests (freedom of navigation), humanitarian interests (protection of food transport) and energy interests (transit of oil) vie for precedence. The existence of all these different interests makes it more difficult to achieve a coherent international approach to the problem of piracy.

The AIV concludes that the threat of piracy falls outside the scope of article 5, but regular consultations on international measures to tackle it are desirable under article 4.  As piracy is in fact a symptom of a fragile state, the solution to the problem must be sought above all in the country concerned. The AIV believes that the EU and the UN are better equipped to tackle the causes of piracy. However, NATO can provide support in combating piracy on the high seas by providing maritime and complementary military capabilities (e.g. reconnaissance aircraft). The AIV would also point out that cooperation with Russia, China and India in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia can also act as a catalyst for broader maritime cooperation in the future. The AIV expects to advise separately on this subject in the foreseeable future.

Uncertainties about energy supplies are an international security risk. First of all, large energy-producing countries can use energy supplies for political leverage. In addition, non-state actors (e.g. terrorists) can disrupt energy supplies carried by land and sea. There is a shared international security interest in protecting vulnerable energy infrastructure and supply routes over land (pipelines) and choke points at sea. Strategic policy on energy supply security is dictated to a large extent by national economic interests. The stockpiling of oil and gas and the creation of different supply lines would reduce susceptibility to sudden disruptions and political blackmail. If the interruption of energy supplies were to result in a crisis situation with implications for national security, political consultation would be necessary both within NATO and with other relevant partners. The NATO member states could then decide to take security measures to deal with the crisis.

Countries presently classified as either fragile states or rogue states will continue to demand the constant attention of the international community in the next ten years. The possible security threats emanating from such states are terrorism, regional conflicts, crossborder crime, piracy and disruption of access to energy and raw materials. There may also be serious and large-scale violations of human rights. In addition, internal conflicts often cause massive flows of refugees. The AIV believes that these security risks may necessitate international intervention and that there is a possible role for NATO in such cases.

Government’s question
What should be the goal and scope of possible future NATO enlargement?

The enlargement of NATO from 16 to 28 member states in the past ten years underlines its success as the guardian of collective security in Europe and North America. The aim of any further NATO enlargement should be twofold:

  • to enable European countries which comply with the conditions drawn up in 1995 to join the Alliance;2
  • to strengthen the collective security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.

Decisions on the enlargement of NATO by the addition of new European states in accordance with article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty are made on a case-by-case basis. Only when there is consensus between the member states on the question of whether a candidate country fulfils the agreed conditions and can actually help to enhance the security of the Alliance, will enlargement take place. Recently, the discussion on the admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO has caused much dissension.3 The Netherlands has an interest in strengthening internal cohesion within the Alliance. The AIV believes that the admission of Ukraine and Georgia would not be desirable at present since these countries do not fulfil the conditions laid down in the 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement and admission would not enhance stability in their region. However, Russian objections to the admission of these countries may not be the decisive factor in any future decision on this subject.

Enlargement of NATO to include countries outside the Euro-Atlantic area would not be desirable since this would involve expanding the scope of article 5 to other regions, which would have consequences for cohesion in the Alliance that cannot be foreseen at present.

Government’s question
How can NATO give more substance to its relations with its partners?

Improvement of cooperation between NATO and the EU within the comprehensive approach

As the number of military operations out of area is increasing and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is being developed at the same time,4 NATO and the EU must improve the coordination of their activities. Issues which are raised (or should be raised) within NATO are often also discussed within the EU as well. A positive development is that since President Sarkozy came to power the complementarity of NATO and the ESDP has been assigned an important role in French security policy and that the United States has at the same time acknowledged the importance of a strong ESDP.

The AIV recommends that the two organisations focus on their comparative advantages. NATO’s main advantage is its integrated command and communication system, with its fully operational headquarters and wealth of expertise in planning, organising and implementing large-scale, complex military operations. The EU differs from NATO by virtue of its civilian capabilities and financial resources for developing state structures and fostering socioeconomic development in war-torn societies. Civilian capabilities are also provided by organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and NGOs. The EU’s civilian capabilities are delivered to a substantial extent by the pools of civilian experts which have been or are being developed by various countries. If the desired cooperation between NATO and the EU does not work, NATO will be obliged to develop some civilian-military planning capability of its own and also to make use of the pools of civilian experts of the countries concerned, for example for the deployment of police trainers.

While the so-called Berlin-Plus Arrangement, under which NATO assets and capabilities are made available to EU-led operations, admittedly proved effective in Bosnia, it has not been applied elsewhere. The arrangement is due for review as it is particularly important that NATO and the EU should act side by side in the context of the comprehensive approach.  Owing to the Cyprus problem an institutional barrier has been put in place by Turkey within NATO and by Cyprus and Greece within the EU. Resolving this problem would be a major step forward for both organisations. The AIV recommends that the Netherlands should press for new diplomatic initiatives in the UN, the EU and NATO in order to resolve the dispute concerning Cyprus and Turkey.

Despite this issue there are opportunities for better cooperation. For example, in Kosovo cooperation between the NATO stabilisation operation (KFOR) and the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is proceeding well, despite institutional barriers. The explanation for this is that both missions have clear mandates, which are complementary. In Afghanistan, however, the effectiveness of the joint operation by NATO and the EU is hindered by the lack of formal arrangements for civil-military cooperation between the two organisations.

The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009 has increased still further the EU’s importance as a security partner for NATO. The two organisations now have no alternative but to cooperate together more closely. New initiatives are needed in order to enhance cooperation in crisis areas and in developing scarce capabilities. The AIV would make the following proposals:

  1. It is important for the Secretary-General of NATO and the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is also the First Vice-President of the European Commission, to develop a new coordination mechanism for planning and implementing combined EU-NATO operations in crisis areas. This coordination mechanism should provide, among other things, for clear agreements on the division of tasks and responsibilities between NATO and the EU in the context of the comprehensive approach. The expertise and financial resources available to the European Commission play a major role in this respect. The combined position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice-President of the European Commission provides an opportunity not only for a more coherent EU policy but also for better coordination between NATO and the European Commission. Taking account of the comparative advantages of the two organisations and the current decision-making procedures, NATO and the EU should in this way be able to cooperate more closely together in crisis areas and thus avoid unnecessary duplication and fragmentation of activities.
  2. The Netherlands, together with the other 20 countries which are members of both NATO and the EU, has an interest in achieving greater consultation and cooperation between the organisations in capability-related matters. The Netherlands should advocate expansion of formal consultations and joint capability projects between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and NATO.
  3. At a time when European defence budgets are strained by the financial and economic crisis, pooling scarce military capabilities is a worthwhile instrument. These capabilities should be at the service of NATO, EU and national operations.
  4. All countries which are members of both NATO and the EU should be encouraged to appoint a single permanent military representative to both organisations. This would improve decision-making and coordination between NATO and the EU, in particular in crisis areas where both organisations are active.
  5. A joint study should be carried out into the concept of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in order to assess the scope for integrating the military and civilian capabilities of NATO and the EU in crisis areas.
  6. A joint EU-NATO pre-deployment training programme, which could grow in time into an EU-NATO school for peacebuilding, should be developed.
  7. Periodic high-level EU-NATO exercises should be held in which the Secretary-General of NATO, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the heads of government of the Troika of the EU Presidency participate.
  8. There should be a joint EU-NATO Conflict Prevention Task Group, with a permanent secretariat, which analyses information about conflict areas and develops strategies for conflict management.5

Relationship with the UN

In practice, NATO is prepared to consider a request from the UN Security Council to take part in an international crisis management operation which is not covered by article 5 of the NATO Treaty. The provisions of the framework for assessing NATO out-of-area operations should be observed when making such decisions. The success of crisis management operations in fragile states depends to a large extent on cooperation with the UN in adopting and implementing a comprehensive approach to security and development. NATO therefore has a special relationship with the UN.6

Relationship with Russia

The AIV recommends that efforts should be made to achieve a constructive security dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), despite concerns about the rule of law, human rights and democracy in Russia. This dialogue could help to restore mutual confidence and, where possible, establish practical cooperation on a variety of security issues ranging from disarmament and non-proliferation to joint action against terrorism and piracy. The AIV believes that the NATO-Russia Council should be a forum for discussion of differences of opinion between the parties and for consultation about joint security problems. Greater unity among the NATO member states is a precondition for fruitful dialogue with Russia.

President Medvedev’s recent proposals for a new binding European security treaty deserve further study, but are notable for their emphasis on ‘hard’ state security whereas the West has always emphasised the connection with ‘soft’ security such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In addition, the Russian proposals for a new European security treaty appear to be directed against NATO as an organisation. The basic premise for the Alliance should continue to be what was agreed in the Charter of Paris of 1990 and the Budapest Code of Conduct, in particular that countries are entitled to determine their own future, including the choice of alliances of which they wish to be a member.

Government’s question
What reforms are needed to enable NATO to function effectively in the new context?  

Government’s question
How can NATO’s armed forces be given a sharper expeditionary profile?

Although there has been much discussion within NATO in recent years about far-reaching changes to the NATO command structure, no results have yet materialised. The national interests of the separate member states are obstructing further rationalisation of the NATO structures. The AIV believes that the outcome of the consultations on the Strategic Concept should have direct consequences for the reform of NATO’s military and civilian organisation. For example, the expeditionary profile of NATO armed forces should receive even greater emphasis, both for deployment for the collective defence of NATO territory and for out-of-area operations.

The proposal for a revised NATO Response Force (NRF), which was approved by the NATO Ministers of Defence in June 2009, should be implemented. Improvement of interoperability calls for special attention. The AIV believes that the new Strategic Concept should contain a coherent vision of the nature of future missions and the NRF’s possible contribution to them.  In the consultations on a new Strategic Concept the Netherlands should press for the NRF to be made available as a strategic reserve for major missions.

The new Strategic Concept should contain clear choices on NATO’s core tasks and the nature of future missions. Afterwards, the question of how these choices are to be militarily translated into specific measures such as adjustment of the expeditionary profile of the armed forces and the further switch to deployable headquarters can be set out in separate documents. At that point it will be time to decide how the expeditionary profile of NATO’s armed forces could be sharpened.

Government’s question
How could burden sharing in the broadest sense of the term be put into practice in the best possible way, notably in expeditionary operations?

The AIV believes that solidarity and proportionality should be included as basic principles of the Strategic Concept. The common funding mechanism is at present applicable only in very limited cases, mainly in respect of infrastructure in the member states themselves. The AIV recommends that this mechanism should be expanded for crisis management operations and the NRF in order to share the burden more evenly. This could make it more attractive for countries to take part in crisis management operations and the NRF. The EU has the Athena  mechanism for funding the common costs of military operations. The AIV believes that the NATO and EU common funding mechanisms should be compared more closely. Besides dividing the financial burden, the willingness to share risks in relation to military deployment is of particular importance.

Government’s question
What role could NATO play in the field of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation?

The AIV believes that the number of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons should be greatly reduced, first of all through bilateral negotiations between the United States and Russia. However, the debate about the role of nuclear weapons and their numbers and about the need for and desirability of their presence in European countries must be conducted on a NATO-wide basis. The aim should be to achieve a further limitation of tactical nuclear weapons throughout Europe (including Russia) and ultimately a Europe that is free of tactical nuclear weapons.

From the perspective of credibility and the related principle of proportionality, the role of the nuclear deterrent can be restricted in the new Strategic Concept to answering a threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, namely biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. The new Strategic Concept could, however, go a step further by limiting NATO’s deterrence strategy to deterring other nuclear-weapon states from using or threatening to use their nuclear weapons against member states of the Alliance. Such a limitation, which could be endorsed by the three NPT nuclear-weapon states within NATO, would strengthen international efforts to curb the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The Netherlands should encourage this process by urging that periodic consultations be held within the Alliance on the broader field of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in relation to both nuclear weapons reductions and strengthening the existing regimes governing chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery and the export control regimes applicable to them. A world free of nuclear weapons is an aim which should be endorsed by the Netherlands but which falls outside the time horizon of the new Strategic Concept and can be achieved only once a reliable worldwide inspection system has been put in place.

Government’s question
What role can the Netherlands play in the development of the new NATO Strategic Concept?

In the past, the Netherlands has always been an advocate within NATO of a constructive transatlantic relationship. The AIV believes that the Netherlands should now view the transatlantic relationship more in conjunction with the growing role of the European Union. More specifically, the Netherlands should work to coordinate the NATO Strategic Concept and the European Security Strategy of 2003, which was amended in December 2008 and now requires further adjustment.

Politically, little can be achieved in the world if the United States and the EU do not work together. This will be easier under President Obama, who is more multilaterally-minded than his predecessor, although Washington will certainly press the Europeans to accept more responsibility and provide more military capacity. Without American support, large-scale military operations will be inconceivable in the next ten years.

Compared with NATO the EU has the advantage of having not only a wide range of political instruments at its disposal but also a common foreign and security policy which allows direct contact with the governments of other countries and with international organisations. Under the Treaty of Lisbon the EU has its own diplomatic service,7 which will act not only on behalf of the European Commission (as in the past) but also on behalf of all EU institutions. This will strengthen the EU’s role as a global player.

It seems likely that the following issues in the negotiations on a new Strategic Concept will be hard to resolve:

  • What can be done to ensure that failings in cooperation between NATO and the EU do not paralyse the ability of both organisations to act effectively in crisis management operations? The Netherlands should work with other allies and partners in both organisations to promote a solution to the Cyprus issue.
  • How can Russia’s neighbours be credibly supported without adversely affecting the relationship with Russia?
  • Would it be possible to compensate for the negative effect of delaying the admission of former Soviet republics by other forms of cooperation with these countries?
  • Would it be possible to define the role of nuclear weapons in the new Strategic Concept as deterring other (nuclear-weapon) states from using their weapons of mass destruction or (taking this a step further) from using or threatening to use their nuclear weapon against member states of the Alliance?
  • Are there ways of establishing coalitions of the willing within NATO in order to circumvent lack of consensus? The same question can be asked with regard to permanent structured cooperation in the EU, which has been possible since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

In view of the size of its armed forces, the Netherlands is reliant on military cooperation with partners in carrying out crisis management operations. The Dutch armed forces have proved well capable of working within larger international structures and even occupying command positions in them. In Afghanistan the comprehensive approach used by the Dutch contingent is held up as an example. Within NATO the Netherlands is in the vanguard of the moves to transform the armed forces into an expeditionary force capable of being deployed for both collective defence tasks and crisis management operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area. The Netherlands should once again stress the importance of the interoperability, flexibility and mobility of the armed forces for their capacity to operate in the various scenarios. This could assuage some of the concerns of Russia’s neighbours within NATO. In addition, the Netherlands should advocate a critical evaluation of the decision-making process within NATO and request that attention be paid in particular to the criteria to be applied to NATO decisions on participation in crisis management operations out of area. Finally, the AIV believes it important for NATO to return to a broad political dialogue on all subjects that directly or indirectly threaten the security interests of the member states. In this respect article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty is just as important as article 5 and even more topical.

Final remarks

There is a desire in the Netherlands, deriving from a combination of ideals and interests, to help improve the international policy of various organisations and structures. The Netherlands wishes to promote the international legal order; indeed, this is actually a constitutional obligation. As the world’s sixteenth largest economy and ninth largest exporter, the Netherlands is an important economic player. For both idealistic and material reasons the Netherlands has a great interest in fostering peace and stability in the world under the international legal order. The Netherlands must aspire to and earn a position of influence in order to be a credible participant in consultations and decision-making in international forums. The Netherlands should therefore be prepared to shoulder its share of risks with its partners in international security policy. The added value of this risk sharing should not be underestimated.

The Netherlands has built up considerable international goodwill through its military contributions to NATO, EU and UN crisis management operations over the past 10 years. Nonetheless, the AIV notes that the general public is currently less inclined to accept the argument that Dutch military contributions to promoting stability and the international legal order also serve Dutch interests. Clear public diplomacy is therefore needed from leading politicians in order to mobilise public support for an active foreign policy.

One of the conditions for successful public diplomacy in relation to Dutch participation in NATO tasks is the existence of a clear Strategic Concept, which has the political support of the member states. A second condition is that in the event of NATO deployment out of area the decision is assessed by the reference to the criteria referred to in this advisory report and the connection with the security or vital interests of the NATO area is clearly demonstrated. If the Netherlands is to participate, it is essential for there to be sufficient support in parliament and among the general public. Widespread public support for the deployment of Dutch armed forces can be counted upon only if it is regarded as necessary and legitimate.8

It would in any event be advisable for the Dutch government and parliament to enter into a dialogue with the general public whenever such a decision has to be made. Although leading politicians should always explain the Netherlands’ responsibilities as a member of NATO, the EU and the UN in relation to specific issues, they should also always be willing to listen to different views and take account of changing public opinion. NATO’s new Strategic Concept therefore needs broad support from parliament, the political parties and public opinion. Finally, the AIV believes that the new Strategic Concept will acquire significance in the future only as a consequence of its actual implementation.


1 Ko Colijn, ‘From “Plenty of nothing” to “I will survive”: On the 60th anniversary of an alliance’, Internationale Spectator No. 3 / 2009.
2 Study on NATO Enlargement (September 1995).
3 See also AIV advisory report no. 61, ‘The Cooperation Between the European Union and Russia: a Matter  Mutual Interest’, The Hague, July 2008, pp. 35-36.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) has been called the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Some of these proposals are derived from a discussion paper by Tomas Valasek & Daniel Korski, ‘Closer NATO-EU Ties: Ideas for the Strategic Concept’, November 2009.
See also AIV advisory report no. 64, ‘Crisis Management Operations in Fragile States: the Need for a  Coherent Approach’, The Hague, March 2009).
The European External Action Service (EEAS).
8 The AIV notes that the criterion that there must be sufficient public support for the deployment of military personnel, as set out in the 1995 assessment framework for decisions on the deployment of Dutch troops, has wrongly been omitted from later versions of the framework.

Advice request

Mr F. Korthals Altes
Chairman of the Advisory Council
on International Affairs
Postbus 20061
2500 EB Den Haag

Date     18 June 2009
Re         Request for advice on the review of the NATO Strategic Concept

Dear Mr Korthals Altes,

We kindly request the advice of the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) on the following subject.

At the summit on 3-4 April 2009 in Strasbourg and Kehl on the occasion of NATO’s 60th anniversary, the decision was taken to review NATO’s Strategic Concept. In the Declaration on Alliance Security adopted at the summit, this decision was formulated as follows:

We are committed to renovating our Alliance to better address today’s threats and to anticipate tomorrow’s risks. United by this common vision of our future, we task the Secretary General to convene and lead a broad-based group of qualified experts, who in close consultation with all Allies will lay the ground for the Secretary General to develop a new Strategic Concept and submit proposals for its implementation for approval at our next summit. The Secretary General will keep the Council in permanent session involved throughout the process.1

The current Strategic Concept dates from 1999. Among other things, it reflects the Alliance’s experience of the Balkan crises that resulted from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, as well as NATO’s first ‘out of area’ operation. Since then, however, the international security environment has continued to change. In addition to the intra-state conflicts that characterised the new security situation in the first post-Cold War years, many other direct and indirect threats to our security have emerged in recent years, ranging from terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to energy supply insecurity and climate change. The question is what this implies for the performance of NATO’s traditional role: the defence of allied territory.

Moreover, not only has the world changed, NATO itself has changed. The Alliance has been enlarged since 1999 to include twelve new members, making a total of 28. These countries’ different histories and geographical situations mean that they do not all see NATO affairs in the same way. In reviewing the Strategic Concept, it is therefore equally important for this now more diverse membership to give a common answer to the question of what NATO’s core business is. A new balance needs to be struck between the collective defence of the member states’ own territory, which some of them stress, and operations far beyond it, which others advocate. The transatlantic ‘acquis’ that has been built up in recent years is an asset worth preserving. The Comprehensive Political Guidance adopted by the NATO summit in Riga in 2006 could be one of the starting points for the new Strategic Concept.

Against this general backdrop, we would like to pose the following specific questions.

  1. What?
  • What significance do NATO’s original objectives have in the 21st century, in the light of the current security threats and the developments that have taken place since 1999, in particular with regard to:
    - the increased size and diversity of the Alliance; 
    - the altered character of the conflicts it faces; 
    - the altered character of military operations;
    - the fact that expeditionary forces now operate in remote regions; 
    - new threats such as cyber attacks, piracy and energy supply insecurity?
  1. With whom?
  • What should be the goal and scope of possible future NATO enlargement?
  • How can NATO give more substance to its relations with its partners (individual countries, formal partnerships and international organisations)? More specifically: 
    - how should its relationships with countries like Australia and Japan develop in the future? 
    - should NATO develop a more substantive relationship with Russia? 
    - how can NATO and the EU improve their relationship, and in which areas should they cooperate and/or complement each other’s work in the framework of the comprehensive approach?
  1. How?
  • What reforms are needed to enable NATO to function effectively in the new context?
  • How can NATO’s armed forces be given a sharper expeditionary profile?
  • How could burden sharing in the broadest sense of the term (a fair division of troop contributions, financial costs and operational risks) be put into practice in the best possible way, notably in expeditionary operations?
  • What role could NATO play in the field of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation?
  1. The Netherlands
  • What role could the Netherlands play in all these areas?

We look forward to receiving your advisory report.

Yours sincerely,


Eimert van Middelkoop
Minister of Defence
Maxime Verhagen
Minister of Foreign Affairs



1 See:
Government reactions

To the President of the
Senate of the States General
Binnenhof 22
The Hague

To the President of the
House of Representatives of the States General
Binnenhof 4
The Hague

Date            31 March 2010
Re               Government’s response to AIV advisory report on NATO Strategic Concept

Dear Mr President, Dear Madam President,

We are pleased to enclose the government’s response to the advisory report ‘NATO’s new Strategic Concept’ by the Advisory Council on International Affairs, which we received on 12 February 2010.

Yours sincerely,

Maxime Verhagen
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Eimert van Middelkoop
Minister of Defence



Letter to the House of Representatives on the NATO Strategic Concept


By letter of 14 October 2009 we informed you about the review process for the 1999 Strategic Concept of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). At that time we promised that in early 2010 the government would set out its position on a new Strategic Concept, on the basis of (1) an advisory report by the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) and (2) ideas raised at the seminars and expert meetings held during the reflection phase of the Group of Experts. In keeping with this pledge, this letter addresses the main points of the government’s position, in order to provide a substantive initial outline of our vision of NATO’s further development over the next decade and of how this should be reflected in the Strategic Concept.

The AIV report was released on 12 February. The government would like to thank the AIV for its clear and succinct recommendations, produced at such short notice. The report was presented on 5 March at a symposium which included the participation of members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Over the past few weeks, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies has hosted a number of roundtable discussions at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Various segments of society were represented, such as young people’s organisations, the business community and non-governmental organisations. The outcomes of these events have been incorporated into this letter, and obviously, the same applies to the advisory reports produced by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

The Group of Experts is expected to submit its own advisory report to the NATO Secretary-General no later than 1 May 2010. The Secretary-General will then draw up a draft text, which will be discussed with the allies in the autumn. The Secretary-General hopes to present the final text to the assembled heads of state and government for their approval at the Lisbon Summit on 19 and 20 November 2010. You will be kept informed as the process moves forward.

Structure and core message

This memorandum begins by describing the broad substantive framework within which the review of the Strategic Concept is taking place (Section I). In the next section the government sets out its views on the further development of NATO over the decade ahead (Section II). The AIV’s recommendations are then discussed (Section III), and the final section addresses the importance of public support for the alliance.

Our central message is that the new global security landscape requires NATO’s political and military reform. The alliance must become a more political organisation, which can operate with flexible military capability in a strengthened network of international partnerships, in order to effectively counter global threats that have a direct impact on us. Cooperation with the EU and Russia are priorities for NATO. The organisation should place a greater emphasis on flexibility, prevention and military power. The Strategic Concept should be a concise document that articulates political principles rather than specific policy. The new security landscape requires an ambitious document that strengthens the transatlantic bond and helps generate public support.

I     Framework

Developments within the alliance: reasons for the Strategic Concept review
Since the formulation of the 1999 Strategic Concept, NATO has changed for the better in a number of ways. The accession of 12 new allies has brought more stability to Europe, and partnerships have reinforced NATO’s international network. Various missions have strengthened NATO’s operational capability, and the military transformation has led to increased expeditionary capability. At the same time, paradoxically, there has been growing uncertainty about NATO’s future role.

The interest in reviewing the Strategic Concept was largely prompted by the changed context in which NATO now operates, as lucidly described by the AIV. The alliance’s security agenda has expanded. Real security threats, which extend from the Persian Gulf (e.g. Iran) via the Arabian Peninsula (e.g. Yemen) to Asia (e.g. Afghanistan), can have a direct impact on the Netherlands. We are also being confronted with new potential threats, such as cyber-attacks and disruptions to energy supply routes. Certain threats, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, have increased. Several of these threats may arise in places far away from Europe but nevertheless have an effect in our immediate vicinity. The seriousness of these potential threats is on the rise, on account of the changing global context since 1999. This is due in part to the emergence of other state actors, such as China. At the same time, we are witnessing the growing capability of terrorist movements, drug cartels and illegal arms dealers, who operate outside state control. Although globalisation has led to greater interdependence in terms of the economy, communication and technology, the end result has not been greater stability and like-mindedness. In some member states, public support for NATO is no longer a given. And finally, there is the financial crisis, which is putting additional strain on the allies’ defence budgets.

Views differ among the allies about how best to respond to these challenges.

Purpose of the review: a new vision and public support
The primary motivation for reviewing the Strategic Concept is to forge political consensus on a vision of NATO’s future: Where does NATO now stand? Where should it be in ten years, and how can it get there? The allies will continue to act on the basis of the same values and principles, but their actions must be informed by a common political and strategic vision, which must also serve to strengthen the ties between the US and Europe. In particular, the Strategic Concept must achieve consensus on the interpretation of article 5, the response to threats outside the NATO area, the stance on Russia and the reform of the organisation. A unified vision will also make clear to the public what it can (and cannot) expect from NATO. This is the review’s second primary objective.

Foreign policy framework: reducing the negative effects of mutual dependence
In the government’s view, this new vision should be grounded in a recognition that the present age is characterised by mutual dependence. Initially, the focus tended to be on the positive effects of globalisation. The internet, global trade and migration have strongly boosted our society’s economic, technological and personal development. Increasingly, though, the dark side of globalisation has been making its presence felt – in the form of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the security risks associated with failing states. From a broader strategic foreign policy perspective, the government would like to magnify the positive effects of this interdependence and reduce the negative ones, in various areas. In the field of security, NATO must contribute significantly to this aim, with other actors. Promoting security makes us stronger in a range of other areas, too. For example, tackling piracy promotes not only security, but also commerce. The future of the NATO alliance must be viewed through this broader prism.

A coherent European security policy
This greater interdependence has led to greater integration across the entire spectrum of Euro-Atlantic security policy. In Afghanistan the international community is pursuing a 3D policy (defence, diplomacy and development), in which close cooperation with other actors has become ever more important, as reflected by NATO’s partnership with the UN and the EU. Owing to their largely overlapping memberships, NATO and the EU face essentially the same risks and threats. More and more issues impinge on the interests of both bodies, be it the relationship with Russia, the modernisation of Eastern Europe or capacity shortages. In operational terms, NATO is working more frequently with the EU, in the Balkans, off the coast of Somalia, and in Afghanistan. Consequently, the review of the Strategic Concept cannot be divorced from the development of EU security policy, as was expressed in the updated European Security Strategy of December 2008. This letter should therefore be seen in conjunction with the government’s letter on European security policy of 7 November 2008.1 The same applies to the letters currently being prepared on Europe 20302 and on the effect of the Treaty of Lisbon on the Common Security and Defence Policy.3

II    General principles governing the Strategic Concept review

Against this background the government will formulate the main points of its position on the Strategic Concept review as follows.

Future: from collective defence to collective security
Given the new context described above, we cannot safeguard our allies’ security by concentrating only on territorial defence, a point also made by the AIV in its advisory report. On the other hand, the government does not regard NATO as a global policeman (though it must be capable of operating globally, for its own security). This requires a transformation, in which NATO not only guarantees collective defence but also takes on a greater role in safeguarding collective security. To this end, the Strategic Concept should distinguish between the alliance’s three main roles. But before it can do that, it is necessary to consolidate the organisation’s foundations.

Basic principle: consolidating the foundations (transatlantic bond and article 5)
First and foremost, the Strategic Concept must reaffirm NATO’s founding principles: an alliance rooted in the notion of collective defence. This process must begin with an examination of the transatlantic bond.

A strong transatlantic relationship remains crucial for Europe and the US in order to defend shared values and interests effectively. In their values, vision and actions, no actors in the world are closer to each other than Europe and the US. The changed global landscape only underscores the necessity of reaffirming and reinforcing the transatlantic partnership. NATO is indispensable to achieving this. In these times of shrinking defence budgets, an important benefit of the transatlantic relationship is that safeguarding collective security is more cost-effective than investing in national security. Of course, this also entails a more equal distribution of the associated costs. The Strategic Concept should emphasise mutual willingness and consensus in the field of security.

The Strategic Concept should therefore also underscore the importance of article 5 of the Treaty. Even though Russia does not currently pose a genuine military threat to the alliance (as the AIV has correctly observed), the concerns voiced by Norway and our allies from Central and Eastern Europe about territorial integrity should be taken seriously. Through the Strategic Concept, NATO must reaffirm the alliance’s dedication to article 5.

NATO’s main roles and the Netherlands’ priorities
Looking ahead to the next ten years, the government sees NATO as a close-knit, political alliance possessing sufficient flexible military capacity for tackling global threats effectively, in the interests of its own security, within the context of international law and with the help of international partners. This vision is explained in greater detail below.

a) A more politically strategic profile
Given the increased complexity of security issues, it is essential that NATO be able to respond flexibly to the rapidly changing security landscape. This will require more intensive political dialogue and cooperation, both within the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and with third parties.

Internal security dialogue: NAC
NATO should capitalise more effectively on the scope afforded by the NAC for politically strategic dialogue. This would make the alliance more capable of anticipating security threats, rather than simply reacting to them. Moreover, it would compel individual member states to think always in terms of a shared political context and vision. The NAC should be a platform for a dialogue with a global perspective: from cyber-attacks in Europe and security developments in Pakistan to the impact of a major disruption of the energy supply. Such a dialogue will ensure that the deployment of military capability and diplomatic resources is always placed within a geopolitically strategic framework. A common vision can also help the allies reach a well-balanced decision in instances when NATO’s best course of action may be to refrain from action. Article 4 of the Treaty offers a solid basis for pursuing this kind of common vision. The government considers it crucial that the new Strategic Concept lead to a fuller observance of article 4.

External role: investing more in strengthening the global security network
The international security architecture has not yet fully adapted itself to the pace of change in the area of security. While not in favour of new institutions, the government would like to see a different approach. On the basis of both a short- and long-term vision, NATO must invest in strengthening the international security network.

Now and in the near future, NATO needs partners to help prevent conflicts and better anticipate threats. Since it is neither willing nor able to mount operations around the entire world, NATO will have to place a greater emphasis on prevention. A more intensive security dialogue with other players is part of this. Secondly, NATO needs partners that can provide capacity for operations. The allies must acknowledge that third parties (like the UN) will increasingly call on NATO to play a leading role in crisis management operations. NATO does not have the capacity to do this without the assistance of other countries and organisations. Thirdly, NATO needs partners to ensure that it is better prepared for its operations. Cooperation is vital for gathering knowledge and intelligence. In the future, it may be advisable for NATO to operate in more unfamiliar regions. Such operations will benefit if relationships can be established with neighbouring countries and specific knowledge and intelligence can be exchanged rapidly.

Over the longer term, it is in NATO’s interest that other powers and organisations assume more responsibility for direct threats in their regions – supported where necessary by third parties like NATO, the UN and the EU. An example of this is the anti-piracy operations around the Horn of Africa, which are being led by NATO and the EU. Eventually, the states in the region should assume that role themselves, with outside assistance. The same applies to conflicts that arise in Asia: India, China and regional organisations will have to take more responsibility for finding solutions.

Taking these short- and long-term perspectives, NATO must be a driving force behind a movement to strengthen the broad-based security network, so the alliance can not only grow stronger itself but also make third parties more involved and responsible.

In that light, the government considers it essential that the Strategic Concept underline the importance of strengthening partnerships. This includes intensifying existing relationships with countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, with which NATO is already engaged in political dialogue and military cooperation. The government is particularly keen that the Strategic Concept should give new impetus to improving relations with Russia, the EU and new partners. NATO and the EU will have to concentrate much more on developing a joint position on security policy that reflects their political weight. On the world stage, in both economic and political terms, the EU is developing into an independent actor, alongside the US. We need to turn this to our advantage. The EU and NATO should talk more about aligning their priorities and tasks. In time, Russia must become a strategic partner, which can work on an equal footing with NATO in political and military matters and which can contribute to the further stabilisation and modernisation of the countries of Eastern Europe that are not NATO members. It is also important that the Strategic Concept offer scope for new partnerships and other forms of cooperation with parties like China, India, Pakistan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The relationship with the UN, the organisation with primary global responsibility for peace and security, will remain crucial, particularly when it comes to crisis management operations.

b) More flexible military role: more focus on prevention, crisis management and military power
As a political actor, NATO is distinguished by its unique military capability. The comparative advantage of this attribute must be further magnified. Within the context of an integrated approach to security issues, NATO should continue to concentrate on the political and military dimension: the alliance’s core strength. The success of NATO’s political influence rests on its command of a modern military apparatus. Particularly in times of cutbacks, the allies should invest collectively in strengthening and maintaining military power. Given the nature and scope of current security threats and the fact that NATO cannot be everywhere at once, the alliance must be better able to anticipate potential conflicts. The more instability it can prevent, the less the alliance will need to deploy its military forces. NATO can strengthen itself militarily in the following ways.

First and foremost, more emphasis should be placed on improving intelligence-sharing and amassing knowledge of new threats. This would foster greater anticipatory capacity. The altered security landscape also demands a greater focus on crisis management, particularly as regards mitigating security risks in failing states. To be able to respond to impending conflicts as effectively as possible, it is paramount that NATO continue to move toward greater expeditionary capability. These efforts should be accelerated. The government believes that NATO can add special value to building defence sector capacity as part of security sector reform programmes in failing states. At the same time, new initiatives can be launched under the banner of crisis management, in order to bolster defence reform processes, as is now occurring in countries belonging to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In crisis management operations there should also be a greater focus on gender (UN Security Council Resolution 1325) and human rights.

This approach (a greater emphasis on prevention, crisis management and expeditionary capability) should enable NATO to respond more flexibly to unpredictable situations and hence warrants inclusion in the Strategic Concept.

c) Global threats: NATO is not a global cop; importance of nuclear disarmament
NATO must be capable of responding to threats all around the world, whenever the security of the alliance is in danger. It must do so within the existing international legal framework, particularly the Charter of the United Nations. Yet this does not mean that NATO should assume sole responsibility for global security matters. The alliance cannot and will not accept the role of ‘global cop’, and this limitation must be acknowledged in the Strategic Concept. Under the umbrella of the Charter and the Security Council, NATO must join others in helping to strengthen the global security architecture. Following on from this principle, it is important that the Strategic Concept clarify NATO’s role in addressing various threats.

In this connection the Netherlands hopes that non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control are given a prominent place in the Strategic Concept. An organisation concerned with collective security, like NATO, should also focus on nuclear and conventional disarmament and arms control, with the ultimate objective being ‘a world without nuclear weapons’. NATO has no formal role in the global forums for non-proliferation and arms control, though the individual allies do, and consequently, the Strategic Concept should help enhance the existing non-proliferation regimes. It is time for a serious debate within the alliance on nuclear weapons policy. Its starting point should be the wording of the current Strategic Concept that NATO’s nuclear weapons capability would be kept to a minimum sufficient level to maintain peace and stability. As you know, the government has taken the lead on this matter, joining with four other countries to urge the NATO Secretary-General to initiate such a debate. (For more on this point, please refer to the letter sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his colleagues to the Secretary-General. A copy was sent to the House on 1 March.) We also believe that the Strategic Concept should characterise missile defence as a means of protection against the threat of ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

NATO is already active in counterterrorism, maritime security (e.g. anti-piracy operations) and countering cyber-attacks, and this involvement should continue in the future. NATO should also expand its knowledge base on the security risks associated with disruptions to energy supplies. NATO could possibly play a greater political role in this area as well; that is, an auxiliary role together with others. At this point the government does not see any role for NATO in regard to the effects of climate change.

Although, from a geopolitical perspective, NATO must be capable of operating on a global scale, the stabilisation and modernisation of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region deserve NATO’s special attention and efforts. The Strategic Concept should not set geographic priorities outside the NATO area and its immediate vicinity. The question of whether and, if so, where NATO should act is a political matter and should be answered on the basis of political consultations, at the time that the actual decisions are to be taken. However, the Strategic Concept must also clearly acknowledge the idea that there is an important strategic link between reaffirming article 5, reappraising the relationship with Russia and devoting greater attention to threats originating from outside the NATO area. The three are inextricably linked.

To operate effectively in the fluid and unpredictable security landscape of today’s world, NATO must be flexible: in its military capability, in its instruments (both political and military) and in its geographic orientation. In the government’s view, NATO must be able to act swiftly and flexibly from a global perspective and in shifting contexts (e.g. a political dialogue with Iran in the NAC, an arms-control partnership with Russia within the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), civil-military cooperation with the EU and anti-piracy operations with China). To realise this ambition, the organisation needs more effective decision-making and financing, streamlined institutional structures and adequate capacity. Separate negotiations are currently taking place on a number of topics. The Strategic Concept must give a further impetus to the necessary reform of the alliance and provide political guidance along the way.

III  Response to the AIV’s recommendations by subject

In the views presented above, the government has already responded to some of the recommendations made by the AIV. In broad terms, the government agrees with the positions the Council has taken. The government will elaborate on its observations on individual subjects below, responding more specifically to the AIV’s core points as listed in Section III of the advisory report.

General: Strategic Concept’s time horizon and NATO’s core tasks
The present period is characterised by increased uncertainty and unpredictability in a variety of areas. That trend is expected to continue over the next decade. The government shares the AIV’s view that the Strategic Concept should have a time horizon of ten years. This view is supported by the unpredictable events that have shaped the past decade and influenced NATO’s course in that period.

Over the next ten years, NATO’s core security tasks as set out in the 1999 Strategic Concept will remain unchanged: security, consultation, deterrence and defence. In the government’s view, preventing aggression and averting the breakdown of peaceful international relations should not rest solely on deterrence using the right mix of nuclear and conventional weapons. Defensive capabilities such as missile defence and diplomacy should also play a greater role. There should be more emphasis on prevention and on NATO’s security policy role as a political player in the global security dialogue. The government shares the AIV’s assessment that the starting point should be a stronger focus on articles 4 and 5 of the Treaty. Article 5 does not need amending. The government also agrees that it is not practicable to make an exhaustive list of every case that could be categorised as an armed attack within the meaning of article 5. Article 5’s wording allows for sufficient flexibility in responding to new developments. The government also believes that where newly emerging threats are concerned, the Strategic Concept should clearly distinguish between NATO’s individual roles. The government’s vision of NATO’s role in relation to various threats, as set out above, is in line with that of the AIV.

More emphasis on prevention and crisis management at global level
Increasingly, threats that originated in far-off regions have an impact on our own security. The government believes that in this period of ‘globalised’ insecurity NATO should focus more explicitly on preventing threats and possibly undertaking ‘non-article-5’ crisis management operations. NATO’s anticipatory capabilities could be strengthened in a range of ways. The government agrees with the points made by the AIV in this connection and would refer the reader to the discussion on this subject in Section II above.

The AIV suggests criteria for NATO decision-making on non-article-5 crisis management operations. These are largely in line with the Netherlands’ assessment framework for decision-making on participation in military operations and are helpful in that respect. In practice, decision-making criteria are debated at length whenever discussions are held at NATO level on the feasibility and desirability of mounting crisis management operations outside the Treaty area. This type of debate should continue in the future. The government would note in this connection that differences of opinion among the allies tend to be less about the substance of these criteria than about the weight accorded to them. Thanks largely to the experience gained in Afghanistan, the integrated approach has gained in significance, though it cannot be applied to every situation, as witness the anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia. The process is ultimately no different to what occurs at national level: in each case, specific areas are examined in order to reach a well-considered political and military position on whether or not to participate in a mission.

Partnerships: an active role for NATO in modernising the global security network
In the government’s opinion, NATO needs partners in order to facilitate effective cooperation and promote a shared sense of responsibility. The government shares the AIV’s position on this point and would encourage the development of new and existing partnerships along the following lines.

The operation in Afghanistan is an especially good example of the importance of the military contributions and capabilities of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea to NATO’s effectiveness. These relationships could be strengthened by involving these countries more substantially in the decision-making process ahead of operations and in political issues such as disarmament and the strategy for dealing with new threats. In addition, the development of NATO’s existing formal partnerships – the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) – could be more closely targeted: greater cooperation may be possible with the MD and ICI countries on anti-piracy missions, for example, and with the EAPC countries on energy. And of course, as mentioned above, the United Nations remains a crucial partner for NATO. In 2008 the respective Secretaries-General concluded an agreement on improved cooperation between the organisations, and this now needs to be taken forward.

NATO should also be developing ties with potential new partners. These include not only countries (e.g. China and India), but also organisations (e.g. the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the League of Arab Nations). Any dialogue or cooperative undertaking should be geared towards security in its broadest terms: tackling new threats, disarmament, counterterrorism and cooperating on operations. Ideally, this will help strengthen NATO’s political relations with particular regions, such as Central Asia, as well as actors that operate within them, e.g. the SCO, the EU and its Central Asia envoy, and the OSCE. The government would like to see NATO take a more integrated approach.

To sum up, the Strategic Concept must emphasise the increased importance of partnerships. It need not identify specific fields of cooperation or propose institutional changes, but it is important that the document reflect the idea of NATO as a powerful and modern player in the global security network.

The EU and NATO
From a global perspective, the EU and NATO form a unique natural partnership. Both organisations’ policy and methods are based on shared democratic principles. Together the two organisations have an extremely extensive and varied range of instruments with which to influence the international security debate. America’s support for the CSDP, France’s decision to rejoin NATO’s Command Structure and the Treaty of Lisbon all provide a sound basis for greater cooperation. As the AIV rightly points out, the benefits of this relationship are not yet being fully exploited. NATO and the EU should do more to combine their knowledge, capacity and political weight. This would encourage a more integrated approach to emerging security threats.

First and foremost, however, more political dialogue between the two organisations is required. NATO’s Secretary-General, the President of the European Council and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy must lead the way in this respect. The dialogue must cover geopolitical priorities, civil-military cooperation in the field, and threats and risks such as cyber attacks and disruptions to energy supplies. The geopolitical dialogue should not seek to establish a fixed geographical sphere of activity but to promote initiatives that reinforce one another. Closer political alignment on security policy issues – cooperation with Russia, for example – will increase our collective influence. The most pressing new threats (e.g. energy-supply disruptions and cyber attacks) cannot be solved by NATO alone. The EU and NATO need to be more strategic in considering the right approach to these threats. NATO has already developed expertise in this area through its Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.

Improvement is also needed in the area of planning and deploying operations and capabilities. Thanks to the new types of threats they face, NATO and the EU will rely on each other more and more at operational level in the future. It is no longer sufficient to deploy only military or only civilian resources. An integrated approach combining military, civilian and diplomatic components is required. Sound practical solutions frequently emerge from the field. The AIV’s proposal for more joint capability projects, training courses and exercises would give that dynamic further impetus.

The government shares the AIV’s view that the Strategic Concept should serve as a major boost to cooperation with the European Union.

The AIV recommends building a constructive relationship with Russia. The government believes that the ultimate goal should be a strategic partnership with Russia. A strategic relationship implies that the allies and Russia should not see each other as threats and that they should view socioeconomic progress and the development of the rule of law in their mutually neighbouring countries as a common interest. This kind of approach can only benefit stability within Europe. Additionally, stability within Europe gives NATO more room to devote political attention and resources to tackling out-of-area threats. A strategic relationship should also encourage NATO and Russia to tackle global threats together. Against this background, the basic principles of NATO’s stance vis-à-vis Russia should remain unchanged: NATO must hold fast to its democratic values and principles, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia, for its part, will need to abandon its zero-sum-game paradigm. Forging a strategic partnership with Russia will take time, and in the years ahead this process will need to be approached from three angles.

The first is NATO’s politico-military cooperation with Russia, which needs strengthening. The designated forum for this purpose is currently the NRC, but institutional changes in the future should not be ruled out. Specific areas of cooperation worthy of mention include non-proliferation, counterterrorism, anti-piracy operations, Afghanistan, disarmament and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The area of missile defence is particularly ripe for cooperation. This could give some allies reassurance where security is concerned, as well as bolster relations with Russia in general. It is also important that the Strategic Concept offer scope in the longer term for NATO assistance in the modernisation of Russia’s defence sector and for joint NATO-Russian training and exercises.

The second angle is the interdependence between NATO’s and the EU’s respective relationships with Russia. Working from a shared perspective, the organisations should do what they can to boost socioeconomic and politico-military cooperation with Russia. Increased political dialogue between NATO and the EU on Russia should facilitate that process. The long-term objective should be to ensure that there is no longer a dividing line across Europe in this area.

The third angle is the stabilisation and modernisation of the Eastern European region. For NATO this is an interest in itself, but especially so in relation to Russia. The development of politically and socioeconomically stable countries that can work constructively with both Russia and the EU could help defuse the debate surrounding spheres of influence. The region’s modernisation could also have a positive effect on reform processes in Russia. To this end, greater involvement in the region is required from NATO and the EU collectively. It should be noted, however, that Russia perceives NATO’s role in the region as different from that of the EU. NATO will need to take this perception into account.

With this triangular approach in mind, the government would urge that the Strategic Concept not only stress the importance of a strategic relationship with Russia but also pave the way to its establishment. In the government’s view, NATO should take an integrated approach on Russia that is rooted in the alliance’s own strengths and principles and also seeks common ground, allowing us to tackle international threats together. The partnership should ultimately be defined in terms of mutual benefit.

NATO enlargement has brought stability to Europe. From the Netherlands’ perspective, the door to enlargement remains open in principle to any European countries that meet the criteria and can contribute to Euro-Atlantic security and stability. Candidate countries should therefore be assessed individually on both of these qualities. Each country should be able to determine which alliance it wants to join. NATO must honour the agreements it makes and at the same time – as the AIV rightly points out – exercise caution with respect to its enlargement strategy. The Strategic Concept must succeed in balancing these requirements. The Declaration on Alliance Security, adopted at the 2009 summit in Strasbourg/Kehl, will assist in achieving this.

Non-proliferation and disarmament
The AIV recommends that the Netherlands push the non-proliferation and disarmament process forward by promoting consultations within the alliance. The government considers such advice to be supportive of its present policy. The government has been pressing for some time to keep non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control on the NATO agenda. Partly at the Netherlands’ urging, the Declaration on Alliance Security reaffirmed the importance of NATO’s role in regard to arms control and promoting nuclear and conventional disarmament.

With this in mind, in the run-up to the review of the Strategic Concept, the Dutch government – together with Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Norway – has already initiated a serious debate within NATO regarding the alliance’s policy on nuclear weapons. A broad discussion of this topic could provide key guidance when the time comes to flesh out the nuclear sections of the document. At the same time, the outcome of this debate could give a positive signal, which in turn could help strengthen the non-proliferation regimes. As the AIV rightly notes, NATO’s nuclear deterrent task is the responsibility of all the allies. There must therefore be a full consultative process before any decisions or policy amendments are made.

As stated earlier, the government believes that the review of the Strategic Concept and the NATO reform process must proceed in parallel. The present development of a new strategy must not interfere with the reforms initiated under former Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, aimed at making the alliance more efficient and effective. On the contrary, the new Strategic Concept should give extra impetus to the ongoing process of NATO reforms. In this respect we share the AIV’s view that further rationalisation of the NATO structures would be a good thing. Moreover, the government fully supports the request made by the NATO Ministers of Defence to the Secretary-General at their Istanbul meeting in February to produce proposals for sweeping structural and organisational reforms to NATO by June of this year, including a substantially leaner Command Structure. Besides the Command Structure adjustments the AIV mentioned, the new Strategic Concept should give a more general boost to current efforts to make the alliance more modern, efficient and financially robust. It should therefore press for more far-reaching integration of civilian and military tasks at NATO headquarters and for a more efficient decision-making process. The new strategy should also be supportive of the steps initiated in 2008 aimed at improving NATO’s financial management and planning.

Military transformation
in recent years the NATO allies have achieved progress in the transformation to a more expeditionary force. In October 2008 the decision was taken to raise the armed forces’ deployability targets from 40 to 50%. In June 2009, the sustainability target was raised from 8 to 10%. To date, not all NATO member states are meeting these targets. The government therefore shares the AIV’s conclusion that the transformation to a more expeditionary force should continue to be vigorously pursued. This is important not only with respect to out-of-area operations, but also, given the increased size of the NATO area, in relation to mutual assistance in the framework of article 5 of the Treaty.

IV  Conclusion: importance of public support

As the allies themselves recognise, it is vital that the Strategic Concept resonate with the public, a sentiment endorsed by the Secretary-General. This will require a concise text that explains NATO’s tasks in clear language. In the government’s view, the core message should be that the alliance must be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area, both politically and militarily, if it is to guarantee security within the area. The Strategic Concept should provide the framework that makes this possible: a political document that points the way forward.


Letter of 7 November 2008; House of Representatives, 2008-2009 session, 21 501-02, no. 859.
Motion by MP Alexander Pechtold of 11 March 2008, no. 23, submitted and adopted during the debate on the report by the Advisory Council on Government Policy (WRR), ‘The Netherlands in Europe’.
Pledge to MP Angelien Eijsink, Proceedings 2009-2010, no. 33, House of Representatives, pp. 3155-3197.
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