Tag Archives: NATO

68 years of NATO: 10 things You Might Not Know About the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

What is NATO NATO Global Interdependence



“On April 4, 1949, the United States was joined by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom in signing the agreement.

Since then, NATO members have remained committed to the collective defense principle — Article 5 of the treaty — that regards an attack on one member country as an attack on all member countries.

In recognition of the treaty’s anniversary, here are 10 things you might not know about NATO:

10. From 12 to 28 member countries

Over the 68 years since the original 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty, an additional 16 countries have become members in the international agreement. Turkey and Greece were the first additional countries to join in 1952, followed by then-West Germany in 1955. Albania and Croatia are the most recent two countries to join NATO, becoming members in 2009.

9. Separate, yet derived from the United Nations

While NATO is a separate international organization from the U.N., it derives its authority from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Article 51 of the charter reaffirms the rights of independent states to individually or collectively defend themselves.

8. NATO and the Warsaw Pact

Originally the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance, the Warsaw Pact was created on May 14, 1955, in response to West Germany joining NATO,according to the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian. During the Cold War, nearly all of Europe was divided between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, with East Germany joining the Soviet Union for the pact. All former Warsaw Pact countries except for Russia — Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia — have since become NATO members, with East Germany reuniting with the rest of Germany in 1990.

7. Air policing in Eastern Europe

F-15C theater security package arrives in Europe

Pilots assigned to the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron exit their F-15C Eagles after landing at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, April 1, 2015. The F-15s from the Florida and Oregon Air National Guard are deployed to Europe as the first ever ANG theater security package here. These F-15s will conduct training alongside our NATO allies to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane/Air ForceNATO allies support member countries in Eastern Europe who do not have their own fighter jets by providing year-round 24/7 airspace defense for Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

6. An integrated command

NATO maintains a permanent, integrated command in which both military and civilian personnel from all member countries work collectively. This includes two strategic commands based in Belgium and the U.S., joint force commands in the Netherlands and Italy, air command in Germany, land command in Turkey and maritime command in the U.K.

5. The only invocation of Article 5

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all,” reads Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

If a NATO member or members invoke Article 5, all members will assist the attacked party, which includes the use of armed force. The only time that Article 5 has been invoked was in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City and Washington. In addition to military assistance in Afghanistan, NATO allies assisted with Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavour. Eagle Assist ran from October 2001 to May 2002, consisting of NATO E-3 AWACS assisting with airspace defense and security over the U.S. Active Endeavour involved maritime patrols in the Mediterranean, with the goal of preventing movement of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.

4. New NATO members around the corner?

Four countries want to join NATO: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia all aspire to join the treaty.

“Any European state which can contribute to the security and principles of the Alliance can be invited to join. It is up to the country concerned to decide if it wishes to seek membership,” according to NATO. The allied members assess NATO applicants and require “a wide range of political, economic and security reforms” to be implemented before they can join.

3. International partners

Spanish forces conducting a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

Spanish forces conducting a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.Photo Credit: Hussein Malla/APNATO maintains a relationship with many other nations and international organizations. The U.N., the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe maintain strong relationships with NATO. Since 2005, the African Union has received support from NATO. Other initiatives such as the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the European-Atlantic Partnership Council have fostered relationships with non-members in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, NATO maintains relationships with its Partners Across the Globe. These include Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, New Zealand and Mongolia.

2. Supreme Allied Commanders always American

Dwight  Eisenhower

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied commander, leaves his closed staff car behind because of the mud and boards a jeep in Europe to start on his recent tour of the fighting front in November 1944.Photo Credit: APThe Supreme Allied Commander, or the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is the military head of NATO, serving as the head of Allied Command Europe and the head of Allied Command Operations. This position has always been held by American generals, with the first being future president, then-Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The current commander is Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.

1. So who is paying for NATO?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 17, 2017.Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/APPresident Donald Trump has made headlines both during his campaign and once elected president, asserting his belief that NATO allies need to pay more. While Trump has been criticized for his words regarding the alliance, he is not the first president to highlight the need for NATO allies to pay more.

NATO allies are meant to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense. In 2016, only five of the allies — the U.S., the U.K., Greece, Estonia and Poland — were at or above the minimum spending target. The U.S. spent 3.61 percent of its GDP on defense in 2016. Canada, Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg all spent the least, respectively, with Luxembourg putting 0.44 percent of its GDP toward defense.

President Obama called on NATO allies to contribute their share as well, according to the Washington Post.

“[E]very NATO member should be contributing its full share — 2 percent of GDP — toward our common security, something that doesn’t always happen,” said President Obama during a April 2016 speech in Germany. “And I’ll be honest, sometimes Europe has been complacent about its own defense.”

In addition to President Obama, President Trump’s campaign opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also raised the issue of NATO members spending more on defense.”




NATO Agency Seeking Bids for IT Modernization Program



Photo: NATO officials discuss future cyber initiatives at the NATO Communications and Information Agency. (NATO)


“The program will span at least four contracts and be worth up to $537 million, and is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

NATO’s communication and information technology arm is seeking industry partnerships as it takes on a multi-year modernization effort for its information-technology systems, according to the organization’s acquisition director.

The NATO Communications and Information Agency — which runs the information technology, communications and command and control for the multinational organization — has opportunities for defense and IT companies in various stages of the modernization program, Peter Scaruppe told National Defense in February.

“The IT modernization program is a very important one because it basically replaces all of the IT in all the NATO locations, and for all the NATO forces,” he said.

The program entails: streamlining NATO’s IT service offerings to increase efficiency and effectiveness; using a customer-funded delivery system to increase the flexibility and scalability of IT services; delivering services from a centralized set of locations; and implementing increased cyber security measures, according to the agency.

Next on the priorities list is introducing a cloud-based services enterprise design by this summer, which Scaruppe called a major part of the modernization program.

“Storage is an important issue for all current and future IT programs, because with big data and the availability of big data, it is increasingly important,” he said. “We are anxious to see what companies will provide.”

NCIA Agency also plans to develop new data centers in Mons, Belgium, and Lago Patria, Italy, by early 2018, Scaruppe said. A third site has not yet been publicly revealed, but is being considered as an option “if and when we need it,” he said.

“This is for the IT support and operational support for NATO locations and operations,” he said.

NCI Agency has made concerted efforts in recent years to work more closely with industry to beef up its cyber defense capabilities. The agency contracts out about 80 percent of its work to the defense and security industries of NATO’s 28 current member-nations, Scaruppe said.

This year, the agency will host its annual industry conference in North America for the first time since it kicked off six years ago, rather than in a European country, “to note the transatlantic alliance,” he said.

The theme of the NCIA Agency Industry Conference and AFCEA TechNet International — which will be held in late April in Ottawa, Canada — is “Sharpening NATO’s Technological Edge: Adaptive Partnerships and the Innovative Power of Alliance Industry.” The conference builds upon last year’s theme of why innovation is important to NATO’s technological needs, Scaruppe said.

“Especially in the IT and cyber world, we know that there are a lot of innovators out there … not exactly keen on working with an 800-pound gorilla like NATO,” he said. “Some are not familiar with the process, [so] we need to catch the right innovators.”

One major part of the conference is dedicated to innovation challenges where agency officials and industry will discuss pre-determined areas of study, he said. “We did this last year, very successfully, and we got lots of proposals, many more than we thought we would get.”

Conference attendees will learn of upcoming business opportunities with an overall budget of about $3.2 billion over the next two to three years, Scaruppe said.

Businesses also have the change to speak with agency experts ahead of potentially bidding on a project.

“We do this every year, but we’re dedicating a lot more time to this part than usual [this year],” he said, adding that the agency hopes to attract more U.S. and Canadian industry members as a result.

Attendance rates at previous conferences have been about 70 percent European-based, Scaruppe said.

The agency is also looking to attract more cyber experts through the conference by running a next-generation skills exercise and innovators program, he said.

“We have a lot more work than we have staff for — and the same is true with the private companies — [and] we want to find innovative ways of how to attract these people, how to retain these people and also keep us current in the cyber exercise.”





NATO to Declare Cyberspace a Domain of Warfare




         NATO cyber war exercise


“Cyberspace is likely be declared a domain of warfare at NATO’s Warsaw Summit.

The cyber domain is an integral part of modern wars, conflicts and crises, and therefore also a key part of NATO´s current and future operative security environment.

Since cyber topics should primarily be approached from the perspective of multidisciplinarity and strategy, NATO member states will need to make many commitments. Since the cyber domain is primarily a political domain,  political decisions are especially crucial in Warsaw to strengthen NATO´s cyber readiness.

The need for ambitious decisions in Warsaw and beyond is driven by the accelerating threat. Tensions with an unpredictable and aggressive Russia are high and rising, while extremist groups like Daesh (known to some as ISIL) are creating chaos and instability.

Russia has already integrated offensive cyber capabilities, including denial-of-service, malware, and advanced social engineering skills, into its broader foreign and security policy arsenal. Threat actors linked to Russia regularly conduct operations against NATO countries with the aim of stealing information, undermining trust, and influencing opinion. Unfortunately, the Ukraine grid attack also demonstrates a capability and intent to to attack critical infrastructure.

Russia has declared its investment into capabilities that can be used to attack an adversary’s stock markets, energy providers, and military command-and-control systems. Daesh, on the other hand, has primarily used globally interconnected networks for recruitment, inspiration, information sharing, and coordination. However, it is clear that it is also seeking to acquire more extensive capabilities and would not shy away from causing destruction if possible. There can be no doubt both of these actors must be taken seriously and approached collectively not just in the land, sea, air, and space domains, but also in the cyber domain.

One key issue for the alliance’s credibility is to raise the level of cyber resilience in all member states to a new level. At the moment the landscape of preparedness is quite uneven between member states. Capability targets must be introduced into NATO´s defense planning processes and thus increase the trust levels between member states, particularly in the context of hybrid warfare.

Decisions must be taken in Warsaw to improve the quality and cooperation of network defense in all member states and to enhance rapid responses to cyber attacks. NATO should undertake a program to utilize cyber framework nations to help less-capable nations get the required cyber capabilities in place. The cyber mindset must also be changed from a technology-focused approach to an operational one. This is a key point for the Warsaw Summit. The operative and strategic views about cyber defense must be strengthened.

Developing the most important asset of cyber – human capital – should also be discussed at the Warsaw Summit. Even if there is an ongoing “cyber arms race” in the world, the most frantic part of the race is about talented individuals. In this field NATO countries can support each other and provide new educational possibilities for skills inside the alliance. Processes best developed during training are an important part of cyber defense. A key function is practicing political decision-making processes. To improve cyber defense, NATO must increase the quantity of both technical and strategic cyber security exercises among member states (and partnership countries) and efficiently train its own “cyber soldiers” and “cyber strategists”.

NATO´s current security environment can be defined as “unpredictable instability.” Situations are changing rapidly and cyberspace is being used and attacked in more sophisticated ways. It is crucial for NATO to possess an early warning and trust-based information sharing system. This leads to the need to deepen cooperation with private sector industry, which owns the major part of NATO´s networks including that moving to the cloud. Cooperation is also important from the innovation point of view, since innovations are imperative for the development NATO´s cyber capabilities and for best utilizing emerging technologies such as blockchain.

NATO must take substantive steps forward on capacity-building, training and education, exercises, information sharing and situational awareness at the upcoming Warsaw Summit. However, it should do so as part of a long-term, strategic process of integrating the cyber domain into collective defense. This applies along the entire spectrum of activities, from teaching cyber hygiene to preparing for, and responding to, large-scale and multi-dimensional attacks.

In Wales, NATO agreed that cyber attacks can threaten Euro-Atlantic stability, security and prosperity. They can therefore trigger Article 5 responses on a “case-by-case” basis and in line with international law. If or when that happens, though, Allies must be ready to act quickly and decisively – in minutes and hours rather than days or months. However, serious work remains to be done by member states to individually decide what would constitute a cyber attack that rises to the level of armed attack. Next, disparities must be eliminated beforehand around the NATO table. The current public policy of “strategic ambiguity” is good for frustrating adversary decision-making, but it must be backed up by unity behind closed doors. Furthermore, not only should NATO develop a shared understanding of what constitutes a cyber attack that would elicit a collective defence response, it should also consider the nature of that response. Allies should be prepared to use the entire range of national power, including economic, judicial, law enforcement, and even military responses to respond in proportion to any kind of armed attack against any ally, including a cyber attack.

In the next five years, NATO should develop several key capabilities to adopt a comprehensive and strategic approach to the cyber domain. These include the use of active defence techniques such as honeypots and beacons for adversary identification and attribution, as well as shared offensive capabilities to enable collective cyber defence responses in line with international law.

Furthermore, the alliance should move slowly yet ambitiously toward the creation of a NATO Cyber Command that is analogous to planning and operational units in other domains. These, together with the defensive initiatives mentioned above, are some of the requisite steps to building NATO deterrence for the cyber domain. Cyber operations will only continue to become an ever-more important part of warfare; NATO needs to support diplomatic and political processes but cannot be caught flat-footed when responding to current and future threats to the security of the Alliance as a whole. NATO is threatened by adversaries who employ cyber attacks as political tools; it must find the political will among member states to be prepared for defensive, yet proportional responses.”

Key Cyber Issues For NATO´s Warsaw Summit

The Walls We Build


Bridges Not Walls

“The Cipher Brief” – Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO from 2009-2013

“Much of our failures in the dimension of international relations and global security were the result of our propensity to build walls.

Instead of thinking about how we can build bigger and better walls, we should be thinking about how we can build bridges, which will do more in the long term for our security than any other approach.

Think about the vast strategic “walls” of the 20th century: the Hawley Smoot tariffs that were part of the global creation of tariff barriers in the run up to the Great Depression; the trenches of the First World War, overrun easily by the Schlieffen Plan; the failed Maginot Line of the Second World War; the Iron Curtin and its Asian cousin, the Bamboo Curtin; and most iconic of all, the Berlin Wall.  How did all those walls work out?

They contributed significantly to two massive World Wars, the Great Depression, and lengthy Cold War.  As a general proposition, walls don’t work.  They fail tactically (you can go around them, over them, or through them); they fail operationally (by constraining the thinking and imagination of defenders and instilling a false sense of confidence); and they fail strategically (by limiting the opportunities for dialog, negotiation, settlement of disputes, collaboration, and comparative economic advantage).

Instead of thinking about how we can build bigger and better walls, we should be thinking about how we can build bridges, which will do more in the long term for our security than any other approach.

We should begin internationally with a foreign policy that seeks to connect us with allies (through formal treaties), partners (through personnel exchanges, operational exercises, and dialog), and even with our opponents (to modulate military encounters, maintain transparency about what is really happening, and understanding the motivations of others).  Even with Russia, with whom we have significant disagreements, we have executed agreements to make sure our ships and planes don’t collide in an inadvertent incidents.

Another important level of bridge building is within our own government.  Too often, we encounter gridlock and mistrust, often built on partisan bickering and an inability to put the nation’s interests above individual or party concerns – thus the branches of our government tend to grind to a halt.  Even within the branches of government, there is too little cooperation, collaboration, and bridge-building and too much unwarranted competition and backbiting.  In the domain of international affairs, ensuring seamless cooperation between the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, and other key actors is crucial; yet you can still feel the walls within the executive branch quite plainly in Washington today.

Perhaps the most important set of bridges we need are between the government (which is not always the enemy of innovation and free-market solutions, but certainly creates a fair amount of drag) and the private sector.  Of late, there are encouraging signs of cooperation in a variety of venues, including biotech, cyber security, information sharing, and maritime affairs – but still too little.  The Department of Defense has opened an outpost in Silicon Valley and is reaching out for innovation to the private sector through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX).

All of this must be undergirded by a culture of strategic communication.  The greatest bridge ever constructed is Facebook,which today connects nearly 1.6 billion people around the world.  Along with the other social networks, Facebook represents a kind of crude, nascent post-Westphalian system of individual international organization.  Will social networks overtake nation states?  Probably not anytime soon, but it does present a vibrant opportunity to connect and build bridges between widely disparate populations.  It is no surprise that the nations most interested in talking about segmenting the internet (essentially creating walls in cyber space) are repressive regimes like North Korea and Russia.

A final example: these days we hear a lot of loose talk about building a massive wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  Here’s a news flash: on the left of any wall you build, however high and strong it may be (and expensive, regardless of who is paying) there is a vast Pacific Ocean that stretches for thousands of miles.  On the right of this putative wall are the benign waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You don’t have to be an Admiral to predict that those who want to come badly enough will figure out a way to go around the wall via the sea.  A better approach would be to work with our partners and friends in Mexico to enlist their cooperation in securing the shared border, address the conditions both in Mexico and more importantly in Central America that drive the migration, and develop a better and more coherent overall strategic plan than throwing up a wall.

As Ronald Reagan famously said to the Russians decades ago during a speech in Berlin, “tear down this wall.”  That is pretty good advice generally in this turbulent 21st century.”



Admiral James Stavridis is Dean at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. He was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO from 2009-2013.  Prior to his duties in Europe, he was Commander of US Southern Command and responsible for military interdiction operations in support of counter-narcotic activities in Latin America and the Caribbean.  His most recent book is The Accidental Admiral, a memoir.




How Corruption Undermines NATO Operations





Web IT in Government

Image:  WebIT.com


“In Afghanistan, for example, corruption had a corrosive impact on military operations.

It undermined the legitimacy of the Afghan government, aided insurgent recruitment, and hollowed out the national military and police forces slated to take over from NATO troops.

Members and partners must do better at spotting and stopping corruption in the field.
Western policymakers rarely mention “corruption,” “defense,” and “military operations” in the same sentence. Inclined to view state-level corruption as a distinctly third-world phenomenon, they underestimate the risks that it poses both to their defense institutions and their expeditionary operations. But corruption — abuse of entrusted power for private gain — is real, expensive, and dangerous for NATO partner and member states.

Not only does defense corruption cost, on average, $20 billion annually worldwide; it undermines operational preparedness and performance on the ground, as when armed forces find themselves with sub-standard equipment and personnel hierarchy — distorted by a lack of robust hiring and promotion procedures.

Over the past year and a half, we at the Defence and Security program at Transparency International ranked NATO member and partner states’ vulnerability to corruption on a scale from A (low risk) to F (critical risk). We found surprisingly high vulnerability across the 32 governments’ military operations, which received, on average, a grade of D.

Read more: Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index

Now, a year after the end of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, NATO nations are only marginally better prepared to tackle corruption — and their own contribution to it — during expeditionary operations. Out of the 22 NATO member states, only four – the UK, U.S., Norway, and Greece – address corruption in their military doctrines. France, which currently deploys over 10,000 troops on operations and trains peacekeeping troops in African countries, has no anti-corruption doctrine. The country received an E grade (“very high risk”) for its vulnerabilities in operations, placing it among NATO’s worst-performing members.

Only five countries – Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Germany and the U.S.– systematically deploy monitors to make sure their own troops and officials are (first) not themselves corrupt, and that they are aware of the possibility of local corruption. Most countries do not have specific guidance for operational contracting; the United States is only country to have carried out a comprehensive review. Generic contracting guidelines, which may or may not take into account the ways in which missions can foster corruption when procuring supplies in theatre, are unlikely to meet troops’ needs during actual deployments.

Lack of awareness and preparation for mitigating corruption risks make it likely that mistakes from Afghanistan will be repeated. In order to counteract corruption, armed forces first need to know how to recognise, identify, and report it.

The alliance also faces domestic challenges in accountability and transparency. In line with NATO members’ commitment to democracy and human rights, most member states have instituted strong parliamentary accountability systems. Nine member states have overall low corruption risks (a B grade) in their military and defense agencies; the UK was graded as having very low risks (A grade). Significant gaps in oversight do exist, though. In seven countries, parliamentary oversight is impeded by only aggregated information being made available to parliaments; in only five countries do parliamentarians receive full information on classified spending, including that on intelligence agencies.

However, given NATO members’ commitment to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, perhaps most surprising are gaps in oversight of procurement and protection of whistle-blowers. Such gaps make it harder to attain disciplined, effective spending of defense budgets. While all NATO countries have passed public procurement laws, 17 apparently perform little to no independent oversight of contracts exempted from these procedures under national-security concerns. Only four countries – the U.S., Bulgaria, Greece and Norway – require that companies bidding for significant contracts institute their own anti-corruption compliance programs and no member state has a comprehensive, robust system of whistle-blower protection. Two countries, Greece and Spain, have applied disciplinary sanctions to whistle-blowers. Even in the UK, which has overall very low corruption risks, only 40% of Ministry of Defence staff trust that the system will protect them if they make disclosures.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the world’s most powerful military and political alliance: six of its members were among the top-15 defense spenders last year, and 10 among the top 20 arms exporters. Its collective military power is peerless and its influence on other countries — through an extensive networks of partnerships and though expeditionary operations — is unmatched. But NATO’s credibility and effectiveness depends, in part, on whether its members are prepared to hold themselves to the highest defense accountability standards and to address corruption in the countries where they are engaged.”


Turkey Postured to Defeat ISIL Without NATO Help



“Despite continued threats to its border with Syria, Turkey is capable of handling pressure from the conflict without major NATO support, an Army official said Oct.16.  “They’re postured to defeat it,” Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, said at a round table discussion with reporters.

“They have seen an enormous amount of refugees come over their border,” he added. “This is not something that’s new. They’ve seen this before and they are very good at managing this, understanding the threat, understanding the border.”

Though NATO forces are present in Turkey, Piatt confirmed that this does not indicate heightened involvement from the alliance.

He added: “There are many challenges when you deal with an alliance. We’re dealing with sovereign nations here.”

As such, with the strengthening of the allies in NATO, the U.S. role of acting as a unilateral force in Europe is coming to a close, he said. This comes as part of the continued U.S. drawdown, wherein the Army in Europe will eventually rely heavily on the alliance as an interoperable, multilateral force.

By 2018 or 2019, the U.S. troop count will be drop from 31,000 to 28,000 — an ideal number, according to Piatt. Having more than that is unnecessary.

“The posture we have now is a result of our success. The commitment we had to the nations during the Cold War, it worked,” he said. The Balkans’ borders are open, and Eastern Europe’s economy is moving in the right direction, he noted. Those are examples of NATO’s success.

Though there are still many crises in the region, the force reduction “is what peace looks like,” he said. “It’s natural. We can downsize force and we can increase the alliance to contribute to that force gap.”

Piatt added that the drawdown has been a catalyst, forcing the alliance to reach the heightened capacity needed to maintain security. “We need to be a contributing member to this alliance, and we can create a smart defense, if we do this correctly.”

One area where NATO has made the most significant strides is that of technical communications and intelligence. “Each country has different capabilities,” he said.

The most important aspect of collecting information has been through human intelligence. The strength of intelligence gathering is best when it comes from people who know the environment. Local governments and law enforcement have played a major role in increasing intel-sharing among allies, he said.

In an era of fiscal austerity, NATO should be considered the primary source of troop strength in the region rather than operations that rely solely on U.S. armed forces, he said.

“If your solution is to command more money and more people, then you probably haven’t thought through the problem well enough, because the alliance is right there,” he added.

The facilities and training programs that have been built up to provide support to the alliance in the wake of U.S. personnel reduction will allow for budget consolidation and more streamlined future operations, he said.

The greatest concern moving forward is continuing to sustain joint strategies with NATO allies. After ongoing multinational efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade, the foundation for cooperation is strong and needs to be maintained, he said.”


Photo Credit: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – “The Wire dot com”



Solitude Amid Russia’s Perfect Storm


  Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sits during fishing in southern Siberia's Tuva region                                                                              Image:  Cochita Wurst


“Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 62nd birthday Tuesday in a peculiar fashion: by himself in the Siberian forests.  In the past two days, Russia’s central bank used $1.6 billion of its currency reserves to shore up the Russian ruble. Since the start of 2014, the central bank has injected $51 billion in currency reserves to keep the currency stable. The Russian economy is projecting flat growth for 2014, while foreign investment into Russia has fallen by 50 percent. The Kremlin may have $630 billion in its reserves, but these funds are being used quickly in an attempt to fill the cracks.

For the past few days, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has brushed off journalists’ questions about why the president decided not to celebrate his birthday in Moscow or do other work as he has in previous years. This is just another odd piece to an increasingly complex puzzle surrounding the stability and future of the Russian president and his government.

Current Instabilities

Russia is in the eye of the perfect storm. Though the crisis with Ukraine has been reduced to a simmer, Russia has seen a strategic reversal in its critical borderland. In addition, the crisis moved the West to enact sanctions on Russia and loosen many financial and economic ties to the country.

Concerns over Russia’s financial stability have erupted into public battles between the various Kremlin factions. On Tuesday, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, a key figure in the liberal economic clans, publicly called on Putin to cut Russia’s ambitious defense spending program. Russia is set to start a 10-year, $770 billion defense rearmament program in 2015. Siluanov reportedly rejected the plan during recent budget drafts in September, prompting Putin to move decision-making on defense spending under his office and away from the Cabinet.

While Siluanov’s argument against defense spending is financial, Putin also has to consider the security and political ramifications of such a decision. Russia’s continued struggles in its borderlands will require a robust military. Moreover, Putin is using the defense budget to appease Russia’s various security and defense circles.

The Rise and Fall of Russian Leaders

Though Putin has ruled Russia for 15 years in a centralized and autocratic fashion, like any other leader he must balance various factions within the country. His ability to manipulate the various political clans is what brought him to power. The lack of that ability is what caused the downfall of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, and many leaders before him. Yeltsin was unable to manage the competition between his own loyalists, the more liberal circles of economists and the security and defense circles. Yeltsin wildly shifted policies in order to retain a grip on power, such as his economic shock policies and the restructuring of the Federal Security Services. Such erratic moves contributed to the Russian economic crash, the breakdown of the security services and the erosion of Russia’s military as it fought a savage war in the North Caucasus.

Yeltsin’s stumbling enabled Putin’s rise to power. Putin understood that a Russian leader could rule only as long as he could balance the competing groups. Putin is a former KGB agent, tying him into the security circles, while his knowledge of Russia’s need for Western technologies gives him an understanding of the more liberal economists. In his first years in power, Putin divided Russia’s assets and tools of power between the clans, keeping them in constant competition and positioning himself as the ultimate arbitrator.

The problem now is that the clan system has begun to crumble. The security circles are being blamed for failures in Ukraine, while the liberal economic circles are being blamed for the sour economy. Many personalities and groups are putting their own positions (and financial revenues) before the betterment of the state. Putin continues to try to maintain balance, as seen in the recent weeks of budget debates between the liberals and security circles. But Putin’s 15 years of success at balancing the clans came during times of rebuilding and resurging for Russia. Now, Putin is attempting to find balance from a position of weakness.

Putin’s grasp on power is not easy to gauge from outside the Kremlin. The decision for new leadership is made within the Kremlin walls, not among the people. Previous Russian leaders, from Nikita Khrushchev to Leonid Brezhnev to Yeltsin, were removed or pushed aside by the ones closest to them. Thus, it seems fitting that the current Russian leader chose to celebrate his birthday far from the Kremlin and its clans.”