Transforming NATO for Next Generation Challenges


As NATO’s Heads of State and Government prepare to meet in Wales in September of this year, the organization truly finds itself grappling with a number of pressing strategic challenges. Russia’s actions in Ukraine demonstrate that NATO must still be prepared to deter its adversaries and assure its members. Instability to Europe’s south, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, will likely demand continued investment in crisis management capabilities. And all this is in addition to allies’ needs to manage emerging “non-traditional” threats such as cyber security, resource security, and counter-proliferation.

Against this backdrop, publics and parliaments are now increasingly wary of expeditionary crisis management operations, particularly given the lengthy and costly experience in Afghanistan. Further, defense budgets have been declining since the end of the Cold War, prompting many to observe that Europe’s future military capabilities are in serious jeopardy. In short, the demands being placed on NATO and its member states are increasing, while public support, as well as funding, for defense is likely to remain stagnant, if not further decrease.

Earlier this year, Chatham House convened a series of three expert roundtables in order to discuss NATO’s way forward in light of emerging challenges and decreasing resources. To that end, over the course of the study, it became clear that if NATO is to play a role in addressing the national security needs of its members, it must actively devise strategies to become even more flexible and agile to meet future requirements.   Using a simple analytic starting point — that in order to meet these diverse security requirements, NATO must be a platform through which allies and non-members alike can work together to meet common security challenges — the report that emerged from the study explores the threats that NATO members face, what NATO can and cannot do to help address those challenges, and some actions that might be required in order to transform NATO into the agile actor it must be.

The report can be found here.


Kathleen J. McInnis is a PhD candidate at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and a Research Consultant at Chatham House.  She served as a Pentagon strategist from 2006-2009.  She is the editor of the WOTR series, Art of War.


Image credit: Nicolas Raymond