On 5th December 2018, the “NATO Hub for the South and the Future ofCooperative Security” conference, organized by the Italian AtlanticCommittee, the Atlantic Club of Naples, in collaboration with the NATOStrategic Direction South-Hub and the University of Naples Parthenope, at theVilla Doria d’Angri (Naples). The event hosted Admiral James G. Foggo III,Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. The Hub works both as aninstrument of the Alliance to understand the new challenges coming from theSouth and project stability in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa).It is also useful in order to re-evaluate the Mediterranean as an “open” sea. Througha holistic and collaborative approach, the Hub creates a network that connectsAllied, NATO’s partners, non-military entities, academics and internationalorganizations aiming at contributing to the coordination and synchronization ofNATO’s cooperative security activities towards the South, optimizing resourcesand maximizing their effectiveness.
The conference was opened by Ambassador Gabriele Checchia, former Permanent Representative of Italy to NATO, and now President of the Atlantic Club of Naples and of the Strategic Committee of the Italian Atlantic Committee. He stressed the importance of the Hub to understand and face new threats and to project stability in the South of the Alliance, underlining the strategic role that Italy could have, thanks to its geographical position as well as member of the Atlantic Alliance, which was born as a defense organization.
During the opening ceremony, Professor Francesco Di Donato (Coordinator of the Research Doctorate Dies, Scientific Manager of the Terra & Mare Project of the University of Naples Parthenope) and Dr. Monica Buonanno (Councilor for Work on the Right of Housing and Development – City of Naples) took the floor. They highlighted the importance of the Hub for the comprehensive understanding of the security dynamics that characterize the Mediterranean region. Following an historical path which started with Herodotus’ thought, passing through Niccolò Machiavelli to Ferdinando Galiani, the link between prevention and integration was highlighted. Niccolò Machiavelli, referring to the Roman Empire, believed that wars were inevitable. In his opinion, there were wars of conquest, and wars arising from famines and invasions. However, war must be avoided as much as possible, and if it cannot be avoided then it must be regulated: one must “love peace and know how to make war”. Deterrence and prevention are two ways to avoid war. Moreover, taking into account the treaty Della Moneta (1751), Abbot Galiani wrote that integration could have efficiently avoided war. It would have indeed involved mutual knowledge, avoiding the creation of stereotypes and promoting cooperation. Nowadays, the Mediterranean Sea can be considered as an area of integration and of mutual knowledge which promote cooperation and maintains deterrence to counter new threats.
The Hub for the South, located in Naples, aims at promoting these values from a city that not only has the largest number of young people in Italy, but which has a special and historical connection to the sea. Indeed, the sea is a precious resource: water, life, trade, exchanges which guarantee and support the development of the community. The NATO Strategic Direction South – Hub has a key role in the development of mutual understanding and therefore the awareness of common threats, strengthening relationships with the partners of the South and developing peaceful and friendly relations.
The main issue of the first session was the projection of stability in the South. Dr. Fabio Nicolucci (editor of “Il Mattino” and expert of the Middle East), Minister Plenipotentiary Diego Brasioli (Deputy General Director for Political Affairs/Central Director for Security Affairs – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), the representative of General Ignazio Lax (Director of NATO Strategic Direction South-Hub and former Commander of the bilateral Assistance and Support Mission in Libya from 2017 to 2018), and Professor Matteo Gerlini (diplomatic historian) took the floor. During the session, NATO’s current commitment to promoting peace and security through deterrence was underlined. Historically, Europe has always been the theater of wars between states and it became the main battlefield of the First and Second World Wars. NATO, founded in 1949, constitutes a collective defense system whereby its independent member states are prepared to defend each other in response to an external attack. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989-1991 removed de facto its main opponent and provoked a strategic re-assessment of NATO’s objectives, nature and tasks on the European continent. Nowadays, NATO has 29 members, and in addition to dealing with collective defense it is also committed to projecting stability, strengthening security partnerships (stretching from Tunisia to Iraq, from Jordan to missions in the field of maritime security, from the operation Sea Guardian to cooperation with the European Union). The Hub for the South, strongly wanted by the Italian Ministry of Defense, aims at preventing future non-traditional threats. NATO is called by its member states to face new hybrid threats, which are characterized by the use of means of all kinds, especially propaganda, popular movements, digital resources and cyber attacks.
Looking East, NATO knows its adversary, but it is necessary to overcome the classic East-West opposition and turn the attention to a new strategic role of the Alliance to the South. Italy remains a major player, both for its commitment to the Mediterranean area and for its status within NATO, where it maintains a strategic role in many missions:
- In the Balkans for the assistance to the institutional development of Kosovo and Macedonia, to the Bosnian military authorities and NATO-Serbia cooperation, with 538 soldiers, 204 land vehicles and 1 aircraft;
- In the Operation Sea Guardian for the maintenance of maritime safety in the Mediterranean, with 287 soldiers, 2 naval vessels and 2 aircraft;
- In Afghanistan for training the Afghan defense and security forces and assisting government institutions, with 900 high-ranking military personnel, 145 land vehicles and 8 aircraft;
- In Turkey and Latvia with 335 military personnel to oversee the southern and eastern borders of NATO;
- In Bulgaria and Iceland with 255 soldiers for surveillance and identification of NATO airspace violations;
- In Tunisia with 60 soldiers to support the country in establishing a brigade command (requested by the Tunisian government), and for strengthening inter-force capacities in border control and in the fight against terrorism.
During the first session it was therefore clarified what really is the Hub for the South. On 5 September 2017, Ambassador Alejandro Alvargonzalez, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy inaugurated the NATO Strategic Direction South-Hub in a ceremony at the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. Its mission is to monitor and assess the dynamics of NATO’s operational environment by acting as a forum for engaging and sharing information, as well as informing operational and strategic leaders by enhancing collective understanding and shaping NATO decision-making. The Hub also provides NATO with a strategic-level lens to anticipate, prevent, limit and overcome challenges from the MENA region, thanks to a comprehensive approach based on strengthening confidence with non-military entities. The aim is to establish a long-term stability and prosperity for local populations in the south of NATO.
In the second session of the conference, devoted to co-operative security in the Mediterranean, Professor Maria Paradiso (University of Sannio), Dr. Massimo Deandreis (Director of the Center for Studies and Research for Southern Italy, Intesa Sanpaolo), the Colonel Franco Merlino (Director of NATO Security Force Assistance CoE), Admiral James G. Foggo III (Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command of Naples) and Professor Fabrizio W. Luciolli (President of the Atlantic Treaty Association and of the Italian Atlantic Committee) took the floor. During the session, it emerged that the Mediterranean is taking on an increasingly central role, both strategically and economically. On 16th August 2015, the doubling of a part of the Suez Canal was inaugurated. The project adds a new second navigation lane of 35 km in length to the 164 kilometers of existing canal, allowing the passage of ships in separate and opposite directions. It also includes the expansion and a greater depth of 37 meters of a canal section. Thanks to this expansion, 97 ships can transit daily compared to the previous 49, also reducing transit time, without limitations to the size of the boats. As a consequence, traffic in the Mediterranean region also increased significantly, allowing coastal cities to pursue further development and security.
The role of the NATO Center for Excellence Security Force Assistance (SFA) based in Rome was also discussed. It was inaugurated in 2017 and it now carries out activities that help the host nation to develop and improve local security forces and their institutions. The mission of this Center of Excellence is to improve the effectiveness of NATO in promoting stability and reconstruction efforts for conflict and post-conflict scenarios. Its aim is to establish a close cooperation between NATO and other partners, within the agreed frameworks, and to elaborate a global and joint collaboration approach supporting the Alliance and its partners in the development of local capacities through research aimed at results, studies, experiments, analysis, education and training. One of its main objectives is to coordinate and harmonize military and civilian capabilities to conduct exercises by defining and developing scenarios in states that request support.
NATO presents itself both as an organization able to project stability and defend its members with credibility. This emerged clearly in the closing speech of the Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Admiral James G. Foggo III, who also coordinated the Trident Juncture 18 exercise in Norway. According to the Admiral, NATO has played a key role on the North and East flank. Indeed, NATO is involved in the Operation Sea Guardian, in the mission in Afghanistan and in Kosovo, and with the African Union. However, NATO should pay more attention to the South, in particular to the Libyan crisis. The migration phenomenon that now affects Europe and, therefore, also the Alliance countries, is the consequence of a series of problems that characterize the political, social and economic scenario of Central Africa: lack of stable institutions, poor economic growth, social inequalities, and civil wars. In this sense, NATO aims at understanding and preventing threats through the Hub.
The President of the Italian Atlantic Committee, Fabrizio W. Luciolli, drew the conclusions of the conference, underlining how the Alliance has to face increasingly complex threats coming both from the East and from the South. Thus, NATO is today called to face collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security tasks, which require a 360° approach.
According to the President, on the occasion of the 70thanniversary of the Atlantic Alliance, a further effort to promote a correct andeffective communication strategy on security issues will be needed. This is a taskfor which the Italian Atlantic Committee and its YATA component are engaged.
Maria Elena Argano