Article published on the Atlantic Treaty Association Website https://lc.cx/Qog8
The NATO Alliance has a proud history of strengthening stability and prosperity among member states – from adapting to a post-war world to fostering a shared environment of democracy and freedom, writes The Honourable Hugh Segal, chair of the NATO Association of Canada
The founding of NATO as a post-war defence alliance between democracies that sought security through collaboration and a commitment to mutual defence was primarily focused on the deterrence of inter-state conflict.
At that time, the aggressive posture of Russian post-war foreign policy needed to be firmly and resolutely addressed. The USSR was not a cooperative volunteer association of like-minded states, bound together by common values and mutual respect; it was an authoritarian union, controlled from the Kremlin, and assembled by force and coercion by Russian leadership at the end of the Second World War.
The compelling success of NATO’s purpose, doctrine and concept facilitated the decline of the thermonuclear threat and strengthened the stability and prosperity of a democratic Europe. The expansion of economic and inclusive opportunity, not to mention the liberation from Soviet domination of eastern European countries who wished both freedom and democracy for themselves, are further evidence of how broad NATO’s reach and impact truly was.
This successful past was about partnership on the two freedoms, from want and from fear, enshrined by respective former leaders of the UK and US Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in August 1941 aboard a ship off the coast of Newfoundland, as part of the Atlantic Charter that mapped out a post-war world.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
But alliances with the purpose and premise of NATO are not about the past. To be important and valuable, they must be about the future.
Terrorism, whether financed by state proxies or encouraged by rogue states or non-state actors, is a threat-spectrum issue NATO needs to clearly keep on its agenda; not because it is existential in the nature of its menace, but because it seeks to use fear and violence to threaten the two freedoms – from fear and from want– absolutely vital to democratic and free market success.
Commitments already made and agreed to by NATO partners on intelligence-sharing, cybersecurity and out-of-area operations in Afghanistan and Libya accurately reflect the broad and pervasive temporary disruptions terrorism can cause, and the need to ensure against locations or territories where terrorist initiatives can be planned, financed, exercised and launched with impunity.
Any part of the world from which terrorist attacks on any NATO partner might be launched should be in the crosshairs of a prophylactic NATO threat spectrum scan. This need to apprehend, engage, anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks is one shared both among NATO’s members and with partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Shanghai Cooperation Council and the Gulf Cooperation Council, spanning countries in central Asia and the Middle East. NATO’s leadership and engagement can be even more effective if it also has a collaborative dimension.
Diverse threat typologies require diverse instrumental response options. An identified clear and present danger requires both the will to engage and preemptive options that can span diplomatic, covert, cyber, remotely deployed and kinetic tactics.
Appreciating the link between poverty, fear and the recruiting of deployable and trained terrorists also suggests quite clearly that there are economic investments and inclusive policy instruments that members of NATO need to deploy. History tells us that both NATO’s defensive perimeter and the Marshall Plan – the American initiative to aid Western Europe – facilitated Europe’s renewal and prosperity after the Second World War.
Policies of hope and opportunity, engagement and inclusion, which reflect common values of respect for diversity, tolerance, equality before the law, presumption of innocence and shared respect for community, peace and order are also vital parts of the NATO arsenal against terrorism. They reflect the larger Atlantic Treaty at the foundation of NATO itself.
The infrastructure of democracy and freedom needs to be always strengthened, updated and refined to ensure that threats of asymmetrical and episodic dimension – which broadly define the terrorist spectrum – are never taken for granted.