Afghanistan will dominate the NATO summit in Chicago later this month, but alliance leaders will deal with other issues as well, a senior NATO commander said May 8.
Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French air force told the Defense Writers Group the nations’ leaders also will deal with partnership capability, “smart defense” and other matters. Abrial is commander of NATO’s transformation command.
“On partnership, there will be a reaffirmation that NATO does not operate in isolation,” the general said. The alliance is keen to work more closely with all kinds of partners from other nations to international institutions to no-governmental organizations, he added.
The NATO-led actions in Libya are an example of the alliance working with non-NATO partners, such as the United Arab Emirates and the Arab League. NATO also works with the European Union to ensure that the two institutions work together smoothly, when needed.
How to work together with these disparate groups is part and parcel of the Allied Command Transformation mission, Abrial said.
On capabilities, the leaders will discuss the progress on decisions made at NATO’s 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, including the smart defense initiative. Smart defense is about how the alliance will continue to develop and maintain the capabilities needed to fulfill its missions despite the new era of austerity.
Another initiative, “connected forces,” ensures that all forces can work well together. “The key word there is interoperability, and the three strands of that are training, exercises and technology,” Abrial said. “When I say capabilities, I don’t mean just a piece of equipment, but all aspects associated with it.”
This includes doctrine, leadership, facilities and much more, he explained, and these will be discussed in Chicago.
With a few exceptions, budgets across NATO are either steady or going down, the general said. “We expect this situation to be with us for quite a while … and therefore, it is very important we make the best possible use of every euro, dollar or pound that we get.”
The United States is reducing its defense budget, but there is no danger as yet that the U.S. military will not be able to operate across the full spectrum of operations, Abrial said. “This is not possible in Europe,” he added. “That is why when we look at smart defense, we look at ways to reduce the consequences of this austerity.”
Part of this is aligning national priorities with NATO needs. In other words, a nation may decide to specialize in detecting biohazards, for example. Since “Nation A” has this capability, “Nation B” does not have to develop it to the same extent. Both nations, therefore, save.
“Specialization does not mean we are going to say to anybody, ‘We must oblige you to do this and stop doing that,’” Abrial said. “We don’t have the mandate, authority or will to do that.