NATO Review – Smart Defence: what does it mean?

September 12, 2019 posted by


Smart Defence: What does it mean? What is Smart Defence? Smart Defence is a new way
of looking at how we can as an Alliance develop better
capabilities at an affordable cost. Multinational cooperation
is at the heart of Smart Defence. These are the main components
of the Smart Defence agenda: multinational cooperation,
specialisation and prioritisation
of our defence spending. What stage are we
at with Smart Defence? It’s learning by doing, Smart Defence, through a range
of very concrete, practical projects that are currently
being discussed by nations. And we have said that we will have
a first batch of about 25 projects that groups of nations
will be ready to lead, starting at the Chicago Summit. So, these projects provide really
the practical, pragmatic foundation of the Smart Defence agenda.
We see the Chicago Summit really the start of Smart Defence,
rather than an end point. Can you give examples
of Smart Defence projects? For instance
there is a project led by Italy to acquire, with a group of nations, new capabilities to clear roads
from roadside bombs and other improvised
explosive devices. That is an important lesson
learnt from Afghanistan. So we want to use state
of the art technology to do just that, with a group of nations. So, that is
one example of a new capability. We also have projects that deal
with logistics and maintenance. Optimising the maintenance
of helicopters, for instance, when they are deployed,
like in Afghanistan, rather than organising this
at national level. How can Smart Defence
help improve existing forces? Each and every nation has its own
tradition, its own military culture, but also its own defence industry,
its own strengths. Some nations are more oriented
towards the maritime domain, others have more focus
on land forces, and so on. But we have a project led
by Germany on pooling and sharing of maritime patrol aircrafts.
This is a shortfall area in the Alliance. Several nations do have those
capabilities on an individual basis, but by putting them together
you have a more interesting batch of capabilities,
or more important capability and more flexibility
in using those capabilities. What is the role of NATO nations? It’s important
to understand that NATO itself does not buy capabilities itself.
There are some exceptions to that, but in general the capabilities
are provided by the nations. So, the initial phase
of our Smart Defence approach was almost completely focused
on getting national buy-in, to better understand what nations
expect from Smart Defence initiative. There is a very strong focus
on building it bottom-up. On the other hand,
we don’t want this to become, and nations
do not want this to become, an exercise
in coalitions of the willing, with small groups of nations
who do different things together without any form of coordination.
What NATO tries to do, is to provide this overall framework. What guarantee is there
that pooled resources will be shared? It will be difficult to have a 100
per cent solution to that, because, at the end of the day,
nations will always have their say on the capabilities that they own. They own either as a national
or as a multinational capability. But what kind of incentives
can we provide the nations to make those capabilities available?
What kind of flexible mechanisms can we put in place to enhance the availability of those
critical, enabling capabilities? What role does industry
play in Smart Defence? We see industry as a key partner
in Smart Defence initiative. The industry is confronted
with a decline in defence budgets throughout Europe
and the market is shrinking. And I think the industry
will also see that through NATO they can approach groups of nations, rather than going
to those nations individually. That is certainly an advantage
that the industry will recognise in the Smart Defence initiative. Why will Smart Defence
work this time? I think because the conditions
are different. There is clearly the economic crisis.
That is… That can be seen as an impetus for
working together more intensively, more than was the case in the past.
National budgets are reduced. All our operations
are multinational in nature. Our soldiers are deployed
in multinational units. It makes no sense really to develop
capabilities at a national level. It’s one thing buying the capabilities,
it’s another thing using them and connecting the capabilities
of the allied forces. So, I think both
from the economic perspective, from the operational
perspective as well, this is no longer a policy option.
It’s a sheer necessity.

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