The crisis in and around Ukraine since 2014 meant a major change for NATO. At the September 2014 Wales Summit, the allies put collective defence back as the primus inter pares among NATO’s three core tasks (the other two being crisis management and cooperative security). Being back in business does not necessarily make life easier for the Alliance. While collective defence is an old task, it can hardly mean “back to the roots,” because NATO needs to perform in an environment that fundamentally differs from the Cold War in security, political, financial and military terms. Both the internal dynamics within the Alliance and the external conditions have changed tremendously. All this requires substantial rethinking. NATO needs to relearn collective defence, yet in a different setting. Moreover, a sole concentration on that task neglects the security challenges faced by the Southern allies in particular. The 2015 Paris attacks are a clear reminder of this. Thus, the Alliance needs to find a balance between collective defence and crisis management, both in updated versions, and also to factor in its third core task, cooperative security.
Revised version of a paper presented at the eigth edition of the Transatlantic Security Symposium “Challenges to European Security: A Transatlantic Perspective” organised in Rome on 26 October 2015 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI).
1. The Ukraine crisis took NATO back to its roots
1.1 The most fundamental adaption since the end of the Cold War
1.2 Relearning collective defence in a modified internal setting
2. A different external environment complicates NATO’s adaptation
2.1 The simultaneity of crises
2.2 NATO cannot do it alone: hybrid warfare
3. Homework for NATO
3.1 Internal challenges: focused on the East, divided on the South, reluctant US leadership
3.2 External challenges