A Strategic Reset for NATO

July 10, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Europe Tags: NATOEuropeDonald TrumpRussiaMigrants

A Strategic Reset for NATO

Donald Trump's criticism that the alliance isn't fit for form is valid. NATO needs an overhaul.

We must deliver the hard message that the future of the U.S. commitment under Article 5 is contingent on European performance. Those capabilities provided by the United States should be specifically tailored to reinforce NATO war plans and the security of the front-line states. European states would carry the burden on the southern threat, which affects their states domestically.

This would form the basis of a new global division of labor where America’s European allies assume the primary role for the security of Europe; the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia would assume the primary role for security in the Western Pacific; and collectively, America and its global and regional allies would share roles in providing for security in the Middle East. Thus, working together, America and its allies would be meeting critical security demands in three critical regions.

Elements of the New Construct

To address the Russian threat in northeast Europe, the United States should lead the planning effort in NATO to develop the requirements for forces capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating Russian irregular and conventional aggression, and to deter nuclear use. While the specifications for these forces requires comprehensive military analysis, we can conclude that a small tripwire force is inadequate to the task.

Among the capabilities that European NATO members would need to develop would include the following:

- An integrated air defense and surface-to-surface strike capability that would create an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) belt covering the territory of NATO members and extending into adjacent areas of Russia.

- A counter-A2/AD capability that would defeat Russia battle networks and weapons systems, and Moscow’s ability to threaten NATO forward-deployed forces and reinforcements.

- A special operations forces capability sufficient to counter Russia’s sub-conventional operations involving the so-called “little green men.”

- A ground maneuver force that would combine the kind of light infantry that Hezbollah used against Israel’s offensive forces with heavy armor and artillery units that would consolidate territorial control.

As part of the new NATO security construct, the United States should offer to take the following steps:

- Maintain a small, highly capable ground maneuver force in Europe that would partner with a larger European force.

- Maintain a POMCUS capability in Europe, proximate to the locales where it would likely be needed, that would enable a surge of U.S. capability on a rapid basis if needed. Other major NATO powers, such as France, Germany and the UK should also provide POMCUS-style capability.

- Sell to European allies and partners, or license the right to produce, the high-end weapons systems needed to create the required European A2/AD, counter A2/AD, and maneuver force capabilities. Interoperability is vital and should be programmed into the strategy and plans.

- Agree to back up European arsenals of precision-guided munitions with U.S. stockpiles and production capabilities.

- Provide European NATO members with access to U.S. high-fidelity training capabilities and technologies.

- Provide the C4ISR capabilities that would enable integrated NATO operations in the event of conflict.

- Undertake a new look at what would be needed at every step in the escalation ladder—including tactical and intermediate-range nuclear forces—to ensure that Russia would not gain an advantage though escalating to high levels of conflict. This would be a first step to address any deficiencies in our deterrent.

A similar process should be undertaken regarding the threat from MENA. The flood of migrants from MENA and the infiltration of terrorists into European countries should be treated as a first order security problem for NATO. While these challenges principally affect European security, the United States should work through NATO to help enable European members better to address these challenges. This should include the following steps:

- Assist European NATO members in creating stabilization forces capable of brokering political compacts in fragile states, training local security forces, and building key state institutions.

- Work with European NATO members to develop a political-military plan for the stabilization of Libya and play a supporting role to the main European effort, which will likely require deployment of stabilization forces and establishment of a beachhead to deal with the source of refugees embarking across the Mediterranean Sea.

- Develop a counter-terrorism intelligence fusion and operations center that is part of the NATO command structure, thus coordinating the police, internal security and military responses to terrorism.

- Develop an agreed strategy and political-military plan to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State which is a threat to the member states.

A Trump Doctrine for NATO

In essence, the new construct is analogous to the Nixon Doctrine, only this time for the wealthy countries of Europe. Nixon pledged to come to the defense of allies in the developing would should they be threatened or attacked by major power. However, he insisted under the Nixon Doctrine that these states principally carry the burden for internal defense and lesser contingencies, though assisted with U.S. training and economic and military aid. In Europe today, European NATO members are fully capable of providing for their own defense.