Solidarity Under Stress in the Transatlantic Realm

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Series Details March 2016
Publication Date March 2016
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Two years after the Wales NATO Summit in 2014, important steps have been taken to reassure NATO Allies, notably in Central and Eastern Europe. Progress in fulfilling the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) is noticeable and constitutes an encouraging sign toward bolstering the Alliance’s credibility. NATO’s February 2016 defence ministerial and the planned increase of the U.S. commitment to embattled Allies both signal a strong change in the Alliance’s posture toward Russia and the threats of an unstable southern neighborhood.

It however remains to be seen to which extent this will change the dynamics on the ground, both politically and militarily. New strategic surprises will continue to challenge the paradigms on which the transatlantic security partnership has been built, and the Warsaw Summit is expected to be critical in enacting the necessary adaptation of the Alliance, by showing progress in three complementary aspects: solidarity, credibility and flexibility.

The transatlantic security partnership is facing two simultaneous dynamics: the multiplicity of security challenges of various natures and scopes in the European neighborhoods, and the general budget and capability constraints that have affected all transatlantic partners since the onset of the economic crisis. As a result, the United States and its European allies are asked to do more with less, which heightens the tensions about strategic priorities and weakens the credibility of the Alliance. Increasing the flexibility and agility of transatlantic forces appears to be a necessity in order to be able to respond to a unique diversity of security threats with the limited military resources available. NATO in particular is expected to adapt its force structure and reconsider the way it uses its permanent presence in order to address this new strategic environment. In Warsaw in July 2016, the key question will therefore lie in the balance between the need for enhanced flexibility, and the risk of losing power and efficiency.

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ESO: Background information: NATO: Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence, Brussels, 10-11 February 2016: NATO boosts its defence and deterrence posture
ESO: Background information: NATO Secretary General discusses Warsaw Summit with Polish President
ESO: Background information: NATO Summit Wales 2014

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