NATO gears up to face multiple threats

A future NATO will need to adapt to cope with multiple threats from the East and South, a senior NATO official told a gathering diplomats and defence experts at Chatham House ahead of the Wales Summit.

Dr Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, said the summit would work towards creating a “new, flexible action plan” to modernise the alliance.

He said the conflict in East Ukraine was a reminder of the alliance’s commitment to collective defence of its eastern members, while the growing threat of ISIL demonstrated the need for NATO to build the defence capacity of partners in the Mediterranean.

But while partnerships were vital to tackle emerging threats, Dr Shea said NATO would not re-enter a strategic partnership with Russia under the current circumstances because it had “broken all the rules” in Ukraine.

The Wales summit aims to agree on strategies to maintain and broaden the inter-operability and defence capabilities and that have evolved between NATO and partners after troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

“We can’t afford to allow this network to diminish,” said Dr Shea, adding that in future close cooperation between international institutions such as the UN, EU, OSCE and African Union would become more common.

Important initiatives will also be announced to build defence capacity with key partners in the Middle East to help them combat threats in the region.

However, experts pointed out that as partnership networks extended further and the alliance welcomed new members, “soul-searching” was needed to re-define the extent of Article 5 and what collective defence would mean for current and future members, and what coverage NATO partners could expect.

Maintaining defence spending in a tough economic climate continued to be a challenge, admitted Shea. But building “clusters of capability” was a way to reduce duplication and ensure that defence budgets would be used more efficiently, he said.