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  • Five Factors That Could Fracture NATO!

Email address. The group of political and economic factors points to the risks of severe disagreements among the allies, which could lead to the weakening of the transatlantic bond, disintegration tendencies within the European Union, or even withdrawal of a NATO nation from the Alliance.

Imperfect unions : security institutions over time and space

At the level of political elites, the participants identified the crisis of political leadership in NATO nations among the most probable causes of weakening alliance cohesion in the future. This could become an acute problem, especially if national leaders continue to frame security problems exclusively in domestic terms instead of treating them as NATO-wide. In a similar vein, demographic shifts changing the socioeconomic and cultural fabric of nations, such as an aging population and migration, will drive differences in fiscal priorities, which could result in decreasing national defense spending.

Organizational structures and processes. For instance, the participants listed the top-down defense planning process of determining capability requirements as a case where the Alliance and evolving national interests do not align. Furthermore, civil-military frictions on both NATO and national levels could negatively affect readiness of the forces. Long decision-making processes and underdeveloped institutional procedures in national headquarters could prevent the Alliance from developing a legal framework for a common course of action under the NATO flag; for instance, in addressing new adversaries that use unconventional means such as cyber.

Put simply, NATO cannot be faster than the individual countries that make it up. Lastly, size matters; cohesion is more difficult to forge and maintain in an ever-enlarging alliance, especially when increasingly divergent national interests tend to change the modus operandi of the Alliance. Technology advances. Technology will constitute a significant intervening factor in how NATO nations maintain their cohesion in the future for three reasons. First, ever-evolving communication technology can facilitate the spread of risks coming from outside of the Alliance and exacerbate their negative effect.

The examples that resonated the most during focus group sessions are information warfare and targeted propaganda against NATO nations. Internet communications technology creates infinite room for alternative media that distort reality, contribute to the emergence of populist and radical movements, and increase the danger of miscommunication among nations.

Second, NATO risks losing the innovation game to the commercial defense industrial sector. In the future, private companies will continue to stay ahead of NATO in designing specifications and setting standards for platforms.


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This can have a major impact on readiness and interoperability among NATO nations if their innovation efforts e. Third Offset Strategy do not materialize. Third, some nations may become reluctant to share their latest technology acquisitions, especially if they put private gains above the collective endeavor. Core values. The participants acknowledged that shared values and identity mean that allies do not represent a threat to each other.

The findings indicated that the general problem with core values relates to the intangibility of the common good that NATO produces. Further regarding authoritarian regimes, the participants mentioned that the Alliance should think twice before establishing a partnership with yet another country. Additionally, some participants believed that the continuing migration to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa region would change the fabric of the European societies.

European societies might drift apart due to the different paces of change in their identities and values. To conclude, although there was no consensus among the participants on the degree to which common values play a role in NATO and its cohesion, sufficiently aligned interests of NATO nations, together with a shared purpose of NATO, constitute a definite precondition for a cohesive Alliance. The overall quantitative data indicate that in terms of probability, NATO will most likely face weakening of its core values, accompanied by internal political and economic risks to its cohesion.

Figure 2.

On average, in the survey technology advances and organizational structures and processes scored relatively high as well. During this project, it became apparent that each factor that contributed to cohesion could also detract from it if the conditions changed. If NATO nations acknowledge these factors and can implement proactive and dynamic policies to manage them, they can affect cohesion for the better. If they fail to do so, by either ignorance or inaction, cohesion could very well wane, leading ultimately to a fracturing or disintegration of the Alliance.

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An Alliance Divided?

Therefore, the Alliance could take concrete steps to manage each of these five cohesion factors by taking the following measures:. Of course, the Alliance can maintain its cohesion in the future in many ways. This list of ideas is a start point for discussion on what NATO could do to maintain its cohesion.

What the Alliance will do in the future is a question for future leaders as they address the challenges of their time.

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This study indicated that if they can keep an eye on maintaining cohesion and the factors that add or subtract from it, they might increase the chances of future Alliance successes. Although an absence of external threats to the Alliance is very unlikely, the future risks to cohesion may lie in a lack of common understanding of external threats and in disagreements about priorities among NATO nations.

Even though there was no consensus on the degree to which common values play a role in cohesion, sufficiently aligned interests of NATO nations, together with a shared purpose, constitute a definite precondition for a cohesive Alliance. Overall, NATO as a whole is more than just a sum of its parts. Despite many challenges and criticisms levied against it over its history, today the nations that comprise it see its value as an insurance policy for the unexpected, unforeseeable, and unknowable.

Simply put, in the future, cohesion will be the glue that will hold the Alliance together and give it its strength. If the future leaders of NATO understand the nature of cohesion, the factors that contribute to it, and how to maintain it, the Alliance can remain intact to contribute positively to stability and security in an increasingly unstable and Hobbesian world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the authors and do not represent the views of the U. Aaron Bazin, PsyD, is a transitioning U.