NATO faces a set of security challenges that are unprecedented in their complexity and potentially increasing gravity, argues a new paper written by the IISS ahead of the Alliance’s March Transformation Seminar. Its calls for NATO to adopt a ‘persistent federated approach’ to its commitments and relationships both within the Alliance and among its members, so that it can benefit from the capabilities and expertise of member nations, and deliver on its tasks and ambitions more effectively.

NATO is facing a set of security challenges of unprecedented complexity and of potentially increasing gravity. The current security environment demands a fresh approach, built on policy that encourages NATO nations to connect much more closely and flexibly, among themselves, with the NATO command structure, and with partners.

Although NATO has of course adapted before, it is in danger of losing its edge and, on occasion, being out-innovated by more agile and adaptive adversaries, undermining the security of member states and risking military failure. The scale of the challenge to NATO is greater than it has been for a decade or more.

What is needed is a new policy and attitude to commitments and relationships both within the Alliance and among its members, such that NATO is able to benefit more directly and more urgently from the capabilities and expertise of member nations, and vice versa. A persistent federated approach would enable such connections to be forged and fostered, without impinging in any way on the sovereignty of member nations.

Enabling and empowering the Alliance’s constituent parts, in a persistent federated approach, is the way to tackle complexity, uncertainty, the rapid acceleration of change, the need for a persistent 360-degree perspective on threats, and the requirement for new levels of strategic understanding and awareness as well as innovative approaches to partnerships.

A federated approach allows multiple paths for the flow of information between participants, to facilitate tackling both unpredictable and unpredicted, but also complex and dynamic, evolving challenges. Capability and expertise are distributed amongst NATO member states, within NATO structures, and among partners. Adopting a persistent federated approach implies always looking for ways to unify these different centres of activity and make best use of them, with the goal of creating greater capacity.

Download the full paper: A federated way ahead for NATO in an age of complexity

This Food for Thought Paper was prepared with the support and cooperation of NATO Allied Command Transformation, ahead of the NATO Transformation Seminar 2017 taking place in Budapest, Hungary, on 21–23 March. The IISS is proud to have been selected as a partner for this event to help ensure that it shapes NATO’s transformation initiatives.

Back to content list

Blog Homepage

The Military Balance Blog

Posts from the IISS Defence and Military Analysis programme.

Latest Posts

The Military Balance 2017

The Military Balance is the authoritative assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries.