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Preparing for NATO in Chicago: The World as NATO Sees It

NATO HQ in Brussels (photo: European Parliament, flickr)

NATO HQ in Brussels (photo: European Parliament, flickr)

At the 2009 NATO Summit in Lisbon, the NATO heads of state adopted a “New Strategic Concept”. The statement of “The Security Environment” in that documents provides a view of the way the NATO heads of state see the world. Granted, this is a consensus view that likely depends heavily on US assessments. But it is NATO’s formal statement about the world they think they are dealing with. Granted that it is the usual staff-developed PowerPoint mentality that gets rubber-stamped by the heads of state. The fact remains that the Lisbon Summit still saw arguments over wording of these generic statements.

So, where does NATO’s world and our world diverge?

Defense of the Euro-Atlantic countries proper

Today, the Euro-Atlantic area is at peace and the threat of a conventional attack against NATO territory is low. That is an historic success for the policies of robust defence, Euro-Atlantic integration and active partnership that have guided NATO for more than half a century.

It is easy to take this accomplishment for granted, but the success here only points out that NATO sees itself as an organization that, having accomplished its primary mission, is looking around for a new mission. The growing unease is that distraction from the core mission can come back to undermine that mission. For example, the emigration of displaced persons from countries in which NATO or individual NATO countries have taken military action can create domestic political crises within the Euro-Atlantic countries. So much so that during the Arab Spring many European countries began withdrawing from the Schengen Agreement, partially undoing the free transportation across European countries that enables an effective European defense.

Conventional threat from outside the Euro-Atlantic countries

However, the conventional threat cannot be ignored.Many regions and countries around the world are witnessing the acquisition of substantial, modern military capabilities with consequences for international stability and Euro-Atlantic security that are difficult to predict. This includes the proliferation of ballistic missiles, which poses a real and growing threat to the Euro-Atlantic area.

The US Congressional Research Service prepares and annual report of conventional arms transfers to developing nations. In its report Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2003-2010 (PDF), the supplying countries highlighted for 2010 were: United States $14.9B, Russia $7.6B, Western Europe $4.1B. As for China, there is this statement:

Relatively few developing nations with significant financial resources have purchased Chinese military equipment during the eight-year period of this report. Most Chinese weapons for export are less advanced and sophisticated than weaponry available from Western suppliers or Russia. China, consequently, does not appear likely to be a key supplier of major conventional weapons in the developing world arms market in the immediate future.

But China sold Silkworm missiles to Iran and “credible reports say” North Korea and Pakistan have received missile technology from China. The US Congressional Research Service sees China as potentially presenting an obstacle to non-proliferation of missile technology.

China is also a small arms and light weapons supplier to African countries. According to the report:

The prospects for significant revenue earnings from these arms sales are limited. Thus China likely views such sales as one means of enhancing its status as an international political power, and increasing its ability to obtain access to significant natural resources, especially oil. The control of sales of small arms and light weapons to regions of conflict, especially to some African nations, has been a matter of concern to the United States.

From 2007 to 2010, 82% of the arms transfer agreements with Near East countries and 42% with Asian countries were with the United States and Western Europe.

From 2003 to 2006, there were $156.6B of arms shipments worldwide. A total of $117.7B came from the United States and European countries. A total of $22.4B came from Russia. A total of $4.9B came from China. From 2007 to 2010, there were $148.0B of arms shipments worldwide. A total of $103.4B came from the United States and European countries. A total of $21.4B cae from Russia. A total of $8.0B came from China. Of the $304.6B in worldwide arms sales between 2003 and 2010, the United States and Europe accounted for $221.1B.

NATO, the best way to deal with this is to stop selling weapons to other countries.

Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery

The proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, threatens incalculable consequences for global stability and prosperity. During the next decade, proliferation will be most acute in some of the world’s most volatile regions.

The US Congressional Research Service prepared a report, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles: Status and Trends (PDF) in 2008.

The information in Table 1 of this report shows that the confirmed nuclear weapons states have other capabilities as well.

US                   Nuclear                                  Ended  BW         Known  CW                   ICBM                Cruise missiles-produces variety
UK                  Nuclear                                  Ended    BW        Ended   CW                   SLBM               Cruise missiles-has variety
France            Nuclear                                 Ended    BW        Ended   CW                   SLBM               Cruise missiles-produces variety

Serbia             No nuclear                           No BW                  Ended CW                     No missiles      No cruise missiles

Russia            Nuclear                                 Suspected BW     Known CW                   ICBM                  Cruise missiles-produces variety
Kazakhstan  Ended nuclear                    No BW                  Suspected CW              SRBM                  No cruise missiles

China              Nuclear                                Likely BW            Suspected CW              ICBM                   Cruise missiles-produces anti-ship missiles

North Korea   Stockpile nuclear             Likely BW             Known CW                  IRBM                   Cruise missiles – produces anti-ship missiles
South Korea    Ended nuclear                  No BW                   Suspected CW             SRBM                  Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles

India                 Stockpile nuclear             No BW                   Has had CW               MRBM                 Cruise missiles-produces variety
Pakistan          Stockpile nuclear             No BW                   Likely CW                   MRBM                 Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Indonesia         No nuclear                       No BW                   Sought CW                 No missiles        Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Vietnam            No nuclear                       No BW                   Likely CW                   SRBM                  Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Taiwan             Ended nuclear                 No BW                   Likely CW                   SRBM                  Cruise missiles-produce variety
Myanmar         No nuclear                        No BW                   Suspected CW            No missiles        No cruise missiles

Israel                 Stockpile nuclear            Likely BW R&D   Likely CW                   MRBM                Cruise missiles-produces variety
Saudi Arabia    Nuclear interest?            No BW                   Suspected CW R&D  MRBM                Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Iran                    Nuclear options open   Likely BW              Has had CW               MRBM                Cruise missiles-produces anti-ship missiles
Iraq                     Ended nuclear                Ended BW             Ended CW                   SRBM                 Cruise missiles-produce variety?[sic]
Syria                    No nuclear                      Seeking BW           Known CW                 SRBM                 Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Egypt                   Ended nuclear               Known BW R&D  Likely CW                   SRBM                 Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Sudan                  No nuclear                      No BW                    Suspected CW            No missiles        No cruise missiles
Libya                   Ended nuclear                No BW                    Ended CW                  MRBM                Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles
Algeria                No nuclear                     Suspected BW R&D Suspected CW         SRBM                  Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles

South Africa        Ended nuclear              Ended BW               Suspected CW          Ended missile program    Cruise missiles-Produces anti-ship missiles

Cuba                     No nuclear                      No BW                      No CW                       No missiles                         Cruise missiles-has anti-ship missiles

By changing the arrangement of the data from the CRS alphabetical arrangement, it is clear that the “volatile” areas of concern for NATO are the Middle East, Subcontinent Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Korean peninsula. The Mediterranean end of the Middle east, whose volatility could affect the northern Mediterranean countries, which are NATO members, and Turkey, also a NATO member. The Persian Gulf end of the Middle East could affect NATO member Turkey. There are two conflicts in this area that are driving the volatility: the effect of Israeli policies and defense posture drives one; the religious proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, occupying opposite shores of the Persian Gulf drives the other. In subcontinent Asia, the driver of the conflict is the unresolved boundary dispute between Pakistan and India in Kashmir. (Afghanistan is purely a US intervention-driven conflict that could have driven Iranian policy but apparently isn’t.) In Southeast Asia the conflict is driven by the emerging territorial claims by China over Taiwan and the South China Sea. The conflict in the Korean peninsula is driven by the failure of a 60-year-old armistice to produce an end to the Korean War. All of these issues date back to the way World War II was settled. How might the next decade increase the political pressure for proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction”? And how much of the issues are driven by historical proxy conflicts between NATO, Russia, and China?


Terrorism poses a direct threat to the security of the citizens of NATO countries, and to international stability and prosperity more broadly. Extremist groups continue to spread to, and in, areas of strategic importance to the Alliance, and modern technology increases the threat and potential impact of terrorist attacks, in particular if terrorists were to acquire nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological capabilities.

The United States Congressional Research Service in January 2011 (before the assassination of Osama bin Laden and on the eve of the Arab Awakening) released a report Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S. Policy. Here is the key conclusion of that report:

The Al Qaeda network today also comprises semi-autonomous or self radicalized actors, who often have only peripheral or ephemeral ties to either the core cadre in Pakistan or affiliated groups elsewhere. According to U.S. officials Al Qaeda cells and associates are located in over 70 countries. Sometimes these individuals never leave their home country but are radicalized with the assistance of others who have traveled abroad for training and indoctrination through the use of modern technologies. In many ways, the dispersion of Al Qaeda affiliates fits into the larger strategy of Bin Laden and his associates. They have sought to serve as the vanguard of a religious movement that inspires Muslims and other individuals aspiring to join a jihadi movement to help defend and purify Islam through violent means. The name “Qaeda” means “base” or “foundation,” upon which its members hope to build a robust, geographically diverse network.

This assessment refers to the tone set by FBI Director Mueller in 2010 testimony to Congress:

…the level of cooperation among Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups has changed in the past year suggesting that this collaboration and resulting threat to the homeland will increase. By sharing financial resources, training, tactical and operations expertise, and recruits, these groups have been able to withstand significant counterterrorism pressure from the United States, coalition, and local government forces.

And from there it follows an entirely predictable course. But the key point that worries the US (and thus NATO) is the fact that the al Quaeda “idea” is now supported by a network of autonomous groups in 70 countries (not named in the report) and that the groups in this network share training and other operational infrastructure. From there it does geographical analysis of Pakistan, Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, the Maghreb, the Sahel, East Africa, and Southeast Asia (essentially a region-by-region summary over the predominately Muslim countries).

Nowhere in the assessment is there engagement with the idea itself and the politics around that idea. This failure more than anything else indicates that NATO is on the road to endless war.

Instability outside of the Euro-Atlantic countries

Instability or conflict beyond NATO borders can directly threaten Alliance security, including by fostering extremism, terrorism, and trans-national illegal activities such as trafficking in arms, narcotics and people.

Arms trafficking
Arms trafficking is the illegal trafficking or smuggling of contraband weapons or ammunition. It does not include commercial sales of firearms to military, police, of civilians. Because it involves the black market sales of weapons, estimating the seriousness of the problem is tricky because of differences from nation-to-nation in firearms laws and because evidence only surfaces when smugglers are arrested.

Havocscope estimates the black market value of arms trafficking worldwide at $245 million in 2010, based on data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers has a mapper that show flows of arms trades (primarily commercial). (Unfortunately the site is optimized for Windows and Internet Explorer.)

The UN Secretary General’s Report on Small Arms (2008) (PDF) provides and overview of the problem and the existing international laws and treaties. In addition, there are currently international negotiations underway for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). See the International Action Network on Small Arms web site for updates on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Peter Danssaert and Sergio Finardi, TransArms/IPIS, The Arms Flyers Report reports on the air transport system for smuggling arms. The introduction to their report quotes arms dealer Val Forgett (Navy Arms Corporation) as saying:

Ninety per cent of things that are said about the ‘black market’ in arms are the figment of the writers’ and politicians’ imagination. Everybody knows what you’re doing. If weapons are being ‘smuggled’, some government agency is behind it.

There are international agreements and international law that regulates civilian air transport. At the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1944 adopted as Article 35 the agreement that “no munitions of war may be carried in or above the territory of a State in aircraft engaged in international navigation, except by permission of such State”.

The report concludes that the privatization of military transport (“…the business that stems from the logistics support of military, police, and covert operations, has in effect attracted thousands of civilian transport and logistics companies…when arms are involved the distinction between “questionable” and “respectable” airlines is hard to find.” The author’s cite the European support of the Iraq war of aggression on fabricated evidence as an egregious example of this fuzzing of legal and illicit arms shipments.

Very simply, illicit arms trade goes from countries that have large civilian or military production of arms to countries in which armed conflict is underway. And typically, the term illicit refers to supplying non-state movements or organizations with arms to destabilize existing governments.

How many of the arms are sourced within NATO countries and how many of the destinations involve supplying arms for NATO operations?

Narcotics trafficking
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reports each year on global and regional trends and patterns. The World Drug Report 2011 is the most recent report. The primary production countries, as expected, are Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Peru. Consumption patterns variety by the drug in question, but map on the UN’s Drug Trafficking page shows an unmistakable pattern in the case of heroin and cocaine. Heroin from Afghanistan flows through Iran, the Caucasus, and Turkey into Europe and through Central Asia to Russia. Heroin from Laos flows into China and Southeast Asia, but the quantity is not as large as the shipments from Afghanistan.

Cocaine flows from the Andean Region primarily to the US and Europe, with some shipments to Europe going directly and some through West Africa.

Thirty to forty per cent of the estimated global production of heroin and cocaine is seized, with those seizures occurring near the source of supply of cocaine in the Andean Region and most of the seizures of heroin occurring in Iran and Turkey.

NATO can best deal with narcotics trafficking by dealing with demand in North America and Europe.

Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling

From the UN Office of Drugs and Crime web site on Human Trafficking:

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

In 2009, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime issued Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. This report concludes that most trafficking is national or regional. Most trafficking is carried out by people of the same nationality as their victims. However, long-distance trafficking has produced some notable cases, with Europe being the destination for victims from the widest range of origins. Victims from Asia are trafficked to the widest range of destinations. And prominent in both the origin and destination of victims are the Americas. As of 2008, only 155 of the UN’s some 200 members had legislation against trafficking in persons, and some countries did not cover all forms of trafficking. Missing from this report was data from China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Southern Sahara, Yemen, Syria, Cuba, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay, Madagascar, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Republic of the Congo.

The report concludes that domestic trafficking in person is generally under-reported. Long-distance trafficking originates in East Asia and West Africa. The study detected incidents of East Asian human trafficking to the US, Canada, Venezuela, South Africa, Zambia, Gabon, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Albania, Croatia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden. The study detected human trafficking from West Africa to the US, Canada, Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Long-distance trafficking also occurs from Latin America to North America and Europe (occasionally Middle East), from South Asia to the Middle East (occasionally Europe and South Africa), and from Europe and Central Asia to Western and Central Europe, the Middle East and North America (occasionally from South-East Europe to Australia, Japan, and Central America).

So what does NATO see as its role in combatting human trafficking? A policy statement on Human Trafficking says:

NATO does not see itself as the primary organization to combat trafficking in human beings, but is working to add value wherever it can. The policy was developed in consultation with EAPC countries and non-NATO troop contributors, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The zero-tolerance policy calls for military and civilian personnel and contractors taking part in NATO-led operations to receive appropriate training on standards of their behavior during the operations. The Allies also agreed to review national legislation and report on national efforts in this regard. In theatre, NATO-led forces, operating within the limits of their mandate, support the responsible host-country authorities in their efforts to combat trafficking in human beings.

The focus on personnel and contractors is exactly the one needed in light of NATO’s experience in Kosovo. But this also points out the danger of action unrelated to the core mission of national defense and the increasing use of contractors, especially third country contractors.

Weaponization of cyberspace

Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, more organised and more costly in the damage that they inflict on government administrations, businesses, economies and potentially also transportation and supply networks and other critical infrastructure; they can reach a threshold that threatens national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security and stability. Foreign militaries and intelligence services, organised criminals, terrorist and/or extremist groups can each be the source of such attacks.

According to a 2010 article in the Economist, in 1982, Soviet spies stole a computer control system from a Canadian company. The Soviets installed on a pumping system for a gas pipeline and the pipeline exploded. Later reports said that the CIA had installed a logic bomb in the control system that changed the pump speeds enough to cause the explosion. That likely was the first recorded instance of a cyber-attack.

In 1991 as an April Fool’s joke, Infoworld magazine reported that the National Security Agency had developed a computer virus to disable Iraqi air defense computers by eating windows (the phrase used was “goobling tem at the edges”). The virus “AF/91”, they reported, was smuggled into Iraq through Jordan hidden in a chip in a printer. This is a story that was and still is reported as news and fuels the anxieties about cyberwarfare.

In March 2010, the new White House cybersecurity advisor (“cybersecurity czar”), Howard Schmidt was quoted by Wired as saying, “There is no cyber war…I think that is a terrible metaphor and I think that is a terrible concept. There are no winners and losers in that environment.” Schmidt wanted the US government to focus on efforts to fight online crime and espionage. In spite of this, the US military has created a United States Cyber Command subordinate the the United States Strategic Command to, according to Wikipedia, plan, coordinate, integrate, synchronize, and conduct activitiesto direct the operations and defense of specified DoD information networks and to prepare to, when directed, conduct “full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains [land,sea, air, space, cyberspace], ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.”

The International Committee on the Red Cross has posted the following analysis of the applicability of the international humanitarian law (IHL) to cyber warfare:

Cyber warfare has been defined as any hostile measures against an enemy designed “to discover, alter, destroy, disrupt or transfer data stored in a computer, manipulated by a computer or transmitted through a computer.” Examples of hostile use include computer attacks on air traffic control systems, on oil pipeline flow systems and nuclear plants.

Under IHL such attacks must not be indiscriminate. They must distinguish between military targets and civilians and be proportionate and justified by military gain. In this respect, cyber warfare techniques are little different from other means of warfare.

The fact that a computer network attack during an armed conflict is not kinetic, physical or violent in itself, does not put it beyond the remit of IHL.
As with other means and methods of warfare, computer network attacks against combatants and military objectives are legal as long as they are consistent with humanitarian law. However, computer network attacks open up new questions since they can be used, for example, against the enemy’s production, distribution and banking systems, making the impact more difficult to judge.

The IHL principle that civilians should be protected and their livelihoods and the environment in which they live should not be targeted, provides basic guidance when faced with these new methods of warfare.

In 2011, NATO adopted a policy that said “NATO’s principal focus is therefore on the protection of its own communication and information systems.”

In January 2011, the UN International Telecommunications Union released The Quest for Cyber Peace. A part of this document presented the Erice Declaration on Principles for Cyber Stability and Cyber Peace. These principles, created by the World Federation of Scientists, are:

1. All governments should recognize that international law guarantees individuals the free flow of information and ideas; these guarantees also apply to cyberspace. Restrictions should only be as necessary and accompanied by a process for legal review.

2. All countries should work together to develop a common code of cyber conduct and harmonized global legal framework, including procedural provisions regarding investigative assistance and cooperation that respects privacy and human rights. All governments, service providers, and users should support international law enforcement efforts against cyber criminals.

3. All users, service providers, and governments should work to ensure that cyberspace is not used in any way that would result in the exploitation of users, particularly the young and defenseless, through violence or degradation.

4. Governments, organizations, and the private sector, including individuals, should implement and maintain comprehensive security programs based upon internationally accepted best practices and standards and utilizing privacy and security technologies.

5. Software and hardware developers should strive to develop secure technologies that promote resiliency and resist vulnerabilities.

6. Governments should actively participate in United Nations’ efforts to promote global cyber security and cyber peace and to avoid the use of cyberspace for conflict.

The conclusion of the report was ITU’s assertion that the time for cyber peace is now.

Disruption of global commerce

All countries are increasingly reliant on the vital communication, transport and transit routes on which international trade, energy security and prosperity depend. They require greater international efforts to ensure their resilience against attack or disruption. Some NATO countries will become more dependent on foreign energy suppliers and in some cases, on foreign energy supply and distribution networks for their energy needs. As a larger share of world consumption is transported across the globe, energy supplies are increasingly exposed to disruption.

To the extent that NATO is concerned about international trade of energy supplies occurs. A rapid adoption of a non-fossil-fuel economy is the obvious strategy for dealing with this security concern.

But this isn’t NATO’s primary concern. It is a concern for the safety of maritime shipping, a role that it has been playing with US leadership from NATO’s inception. The concern now is the technological changes that have made oceans more accessible for transnational illegal groups to transport weapons and conduct pirate attacks. Security on the oceans is complicated by the complex system of national flagging of ships and the international hiring of crews.

NATO’s direction is to expand its cooperation with partners in activities protecting global commercial shipping.

Proliferation of NATO-developed technology to non-NATO countries

A number of significant technology-related trends – including the development of laser weapons, electronic warfare and technologies that impede access to space – appear poised to have major global effects that will impact on NATO military planning and operations.

NATO countries, principally the United States, developed laser weapons, electronic warfare, and technologies that impede access to space. The American imagination envisioned these applications of technology and created the means of production. Other countries through espionage and parallel development have duplicated some of these weapons and improved on production, eventually driving down the cost of possessing these technologies. Whatever advantage the US and NATO sought is rapidly degraded. Instead of reaching some sort of stability in defense, NATO seeks to pursue additional technology at very high cost that will soon face the same problems. The world needs for this technological arms race to stop and stop soon.

NATO carries out research in the areas of:

  • Applied vehicle technology
  • Human factors and medicine
  • Information systems technology
  • System analysis and studies
  • Systems concepts and integration
  • Sensors and electronic technology

These are generalized technologies that can be applied in many different ways. And some of this work is shared with partner countries outside NATO.

Environmental and resource constraints

Key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water scarcity and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations.

NATO sees the failure of the world’s leaders to deal with the environmental challenges facing the world and has taken the role of emergency response. This means that it is coordinating international civil emergency planning and response so as to make its logistics and other resources available for first response to major disasters. NATO also is working to mitigate environmental issues as the aging weapons stockpiles of member countries are reduced and aid in removal of unexploded “remnants of war”.

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