Road to the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit: Collective

“Road to the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit:
Collective Defense and Deterrence along NATO’s Eastern and
Northern Fronts”
Security in Northern Europe
October 14, 2015
Washington, D.C.
Co-hosted by CSIS and the Atlantic Council
Thematic Summary
On October 14, 2015, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) co-hosted a roundtable
discussion with the Atlantic Council under the auspices of the Security in Northern Europe (SNE) project
on the “Road to the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit: Collective Defense and Deterrence along NATO’s
Eastern and Northern Fronts.” The discussion focused on NATO’s evolving strategy to defend its eastern
and northern flanks and featured former and current U.S. government officials, officials from NATO
member countries, and international experts.
Session I: The Presence Question on NATO’s Eastern Flank
The first session opened with consideration of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, its military
modernization program, and the increasing scope and pace of its military activity in Europe, which
participants described in part as an attempt by the Kremlin to assert itself on Europe’s eastern flank and to
develop the capacity to coerce NATO members and undermine alliance unity. Russia’s use of force
against neighbors was not only a means to assert Russian interests abroad but also a tool for President
Putin to consolidate power at home and maintain domestic support. The changed security environment
required continued cohesion within NATO and an adaptation of alliance strategy. Whereas the 2014
Wales Summit resulted in an initial, short-term response that could be thought of as a down payment, the
2016 Warsaw Summit should promote a more robust long-term deterrence strategy reinforced by new
contributions from the United States and its NATO allies.
A unified and realistic NATO strategy was a pre-condition for a successful dialogue with Russia. The
alliance must improve its conventional capabilities, maintain its nuclear readiness, and strengthen its
capacity for reinforcement in a crisis. In addition, NATO needed to focus on how it could help allied
countries to build their resilience against threats such as cyber.
Since the start of 2014, NATO had begun to enhance its conventional capabilities in Eastern Europe,
especially through U.S. leadership and the European Reassurance Initiative. More effort was needed,
however, in light of the increased frequency of Russia’s large-scale “snap” exercises (which were not
notified to other countries in advance) and Russia’s growing capacity to concentrate forces on NATO’s
frontier without significant warning. NATO’s exercises were smaller in comparison and were notified in
accordance with the Vienna Document. To improve NATO’s response time, participants discussed the
possibility of granting the Secretary General and SACEUR additional authority to move designated rapidresponse forces within alliance territory in a crisis.
Expanding NATO’s rapid-response forces and ensuring that the necessary legal and logistical
arrangements were in place so that they could reach a crisis situation quickly was an important component
of NATO’s adaptation. Participants also stressed the important role played by forward forces, whose
active and visible presence contributed in a unique way to NATO’s deterrence. A persistent rotation of
troops on NATO’s eastern front should be multinational, capable, militarily significant, and long-term in
order to be part of an effective response to challenges posed by Russia in the region. Preferably, such
rotations should involve as many allies as possible in order to share the burden and demonstrate solidarity
within the alliance. In the long run, additional attention also was required to the cost-effectiveness of
forward-deployed versus rotational forces. NATO needed to understand better Russia’s anti-access/areadenial (A2/AD) capabilities and draw appropriate conclusions as an alliance about its posture, because the
balance between forward forces and rapid reinforcement would be affected if NATO forces’ access to
alliance territory were contested in a crisis. It would have implications for the requirements for antisubmarine warfare, precision-guided munitions, and other critical capabilities. In addition to
conventional capabilities as part of NATO’s deterrence strategy, allies should not lose sight of the
deterrence role of nuclear forces, a topic some allies were reluctant to discuss publicly.
Participants raised the need for a long-term approach that went beyond the necessary but short-term
solutions that had been devised in the aftermath of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. The United States’
leadership and commitment was essential, but European and allies and Canada needed to play a bigger
Session II: NATO’s Return to the North: Deterrence in the North Atlantic and Arctic
The second session focused on in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. NATO does not have an Arctic
policy and did not even discuss Arctic issues within the alliance because of one ally’s opposition; this
should change in order to ensure that NATO did not fall behind developments in the Arctic that could
directly affect allies’ interests.
NATO should take into account in determining its deterrence strategy that Russia did not view these two
regions separately but exhibited an ambiguous mixture of cooperation and militarization in its Arctic
policy. NATO must appreciate the Arctic’s strategic value to Russia in order to interpret and predict
Russia’s actions and allow the Alliance to develop the proper strategy. Russia relied on the Arctic for
20% of its GDP and 22% of its exports, and the region clearly held great importance for Moscow for
economic development. Russia advocated for cooperation in the Arctic Council. While its continental
shelf claim was expansive, it was submitted in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the
Sea. There was mutual benefit to be gained from joint search and rescue missions and from management
of resources.
However, Russia’s increasing militarization of the region also requires measures of deterrence. Russia is
implementing a substantial military build-up, including establishment of new and expansion of existing
military facilities and intensification of military exercises in the Arctic, most recently a “snap” exercise in
March 2015 that involved 45,000 forces and brought the northern fleet to full combat readiness in the
Arctic. The Kola Peninsula is the home of Russia’s northern fleet and thus a substantial component of
Russia’s strategic deterrent. The Arctic and High North could become increasingly contested domains as
Russia militarily prioritizes the region and its activities grow.
Allies such as Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the United Kingdom provided invaluable knowledge and
operational experience in the High North and the Arctic. Four NATO allies are Arctic coastal states, and
they possess some capabilities in the region, however there was a need for a more encompassing regional
maritime strategy. One challenge to developing such a strategy was a matter of prioritization. Southern
allies did not all see the importance of the Arctic and the High North in the same way the northern allies
did. While unity and solidarity are the Alliance's biggest strength, it can sometimes be a problem when it
comes to strategic priorities. Greater information-sharing and situational awareness among allies was
essential to developing a shared understanding of the necessary deterrence measures across the region.
Participants discussed several potential aspects of a renewed approach in this dynamic and strategic
NATO should break the taboo on discussing Arctic issues within the alliance. This would raise
situational awareness and provide a basis for better policymaking.
There was a greater need for cooperation between the EU and NATO, in particular since Sweden
and Finland were members of the EU and NATO partners. Some progress had been made on
NATO-EU cooperation on the southern flank in response to the migration crisis, and steps in the
north should be considered.
The responsibility for the north within the NATO Command Structure could rest with one
command rather than rotating, which would raise alliance preparedness and deepen expertise.
Allies should consider whether the Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO), the U.S.
Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe, or other fora provided a foundation for bringing
outside countries into dialogue on Arctic issues.
The Alliance should consider how the maritime framework currently in place in the Baltic could
be adapted for the Arctic.
Greater maritime domain awareness and capabilities are needed in the Arctic.
NATO should explore opportunities for greater engagement with Sweden and Finland to address
a deficiency in sea, air, and land assets in the region.