Given the current nationalistic and inward-facing rhetoric in both the United States and Europe, policymakers should give NATO and collective cooperation the utmost priority to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. While NATO has inefficiencies and shortcomings in specific policy areas, Americans and Europeans should not question its value, as it is a cornerstone of global security. To this end, we recommend the following policies: (1) NATO should re-assess the 2% spending target and establish a points system to serve as a comprehensive measure of member-contribution; (2) European intelligence agencies should be free to share intelligence amongst themselves and develop more efficient gathering and processing capabilities independent of NATO; (3) NATO must address weaknesses in systems for electronic warfare, as well as further develop cyber capabilities; and (4) the alliance should continue to support and expand the recent defensive troop deployments to NATO’s eastern borders.
1. Develop a “Burden and Risk Sharing Score”
Burden-sharing has been a recurring and contentious issue among NATO member-states. This contention intensified after President Trump’s criticism of countries that do not meet the 2% GDP contribution target. NATO should re-assess the 2% spending target, as it is unrealistic to expect countries to commit to this level of spending each year. The alliance should not discard the 2% spending target, as it signals that member-states are willing to invest in their security. Instead, it should adopt a 5 year target–member states should spend an average of 2% on defense over 5 years. This will allow for flexibility during economic hardships and political uncertainty. Additionally, NATO should establish a Burden and Risk Sharing Score to serve as a comprehensive measure of member states’ contribution to the alliance. The score might include: meeting the defense spending target, contributing to solving international crisis’, thwarting a terrorist plot, and other security contributions–cooperation that cannot be publicly shared because of its sensitivity. The score should be reviewed every 5 years and hopefully will show that NATO and the broader security alliance is just not an American endeavor.
2. Counterterrorism Intelligence Sharing
In an era of terrorism, the transatlantic exchange of intelligence is an indispensable tool in the preservation of security and stability. Today’s dynamic threats require the United States and NATO to enhance intelligence cooperation, solidifying silent linkages that facilitate a worldwide anti-terror watch and fight. Complicated European privacy laws make cooperation among intelligence entities and key government ministries exceptionally difficult. Recent events have demonstrated the over-reliance of NATO and the European Union intelligence entities on the United States’ intelligence architecture. Moving forward, we propose exploring new, bilateral and multilateral intelligence sharing agreements, as well as strengthening the existing NATO/European Union infrastructure through increased intelligence sharing and bolstering of analytic/technical collection capabilities. Additionally, we recommend assigning tailored intelligence focus areas to individual member states, in order to leverage the collective expertise each brings to the alliance.
3. Enhance Cyber Capabilities To Counter Emerging Threats
The military conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and the hacking and subsequent leaking of emails during the United States Presidential Election have demonstrated the serious threat posed by cyber warfare. The hackings showed that American systems were vulnerable and other NATO members might be targeted next. NATO therefore needs to increase investment in cyber capabilities in order to anticipate and counter existing and future threats. In the short term, the alliance should ensure that member states’ critical infrastructure, especially communications equipment, is well protected against cyber attacks. NATO should increase personnel tasked specifically with protecting and responding to cyber attacks on member states. Furthermore, it should establish a team that only focuses on preventing and countering threats from Russia.
4. Engaging Russia
The transatlantic alliance should continuing leading from a position of strength and being sensitive to Moscow’s security concerns. Russian aggression in Ukraine, and disinformation campaigns make it imperative for NATO to continue its troop placement in the Baltic states and eastern European allies. The alliance should make it clear, however, that these placements are purely defensive and could be rolled back if the Russians reduce troop their placements across the Western flank. NATO should welcome the Trump administration’s commitment to both NATO and pursuing a new relationship with Moscow. This will hopefully show Russian leaders that NATO is not an inherently “anti-Russia” organization. Despite its recent aggression, Russia is in no position to militarily or economically dominate Europe. With this in mind, NATO should continue pursuing an overall strategy of easing tensions with Russia, contingent upon the Russians agreement to respect international law and the sovereignty of its neighbors.
Rachel Hoff is Director of Defense Analysis at the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank; she represented Washington, DC as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention
Mpaza Kapembwa is a 2015 graduate of Williams College and is currently enrolled in Georgia’s Tech’s International Affairs Master’s Program.
Aylin Matlé holds a M.A. in War Studies from King’s College London and a B.A. in Public Management and Governance from Zeppelin Universität (Friedrichshafen) and is currently pursuing a Ph.D on the role of the US in NATO during the Obama presidency.
Caleb Larson is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy with a specialization in Conflict Studies and Management at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt Germany and holds a BA in History from UCLA.
Major Jake Sotiriadis, United States Air Force, holds an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a M.Phil. in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa;
Carolyn Taratko is currently a Fulbright Scholar in Berlin and a PhD candidate in modern European History at Vanderbilt University in the USA, where she focuses on the development of agricultural policy and nutritional science in Germany in the early twentieth century.
Lorenz Zimmermann works in global marketing at Allianz SE; he studied business administration and economics at the universities of Hohenheim, Germany and Connecticut, USA and holds a PhD in quantitative marketing from LMU Munich.