Written by Kathyrn Urban
(Excerpted from the full article originally published on New Atlanticist on April 4, 2019.)
For generations, NATO has defended against conventional enemies, promising its member countries solidarity in the face of adversity. That promise survived its first major test in 2001, but in a globalizing and technologically changing world, NATO risks being left behind as a 20th century institution holding on to an old political reality. To preserve its foundational strength, NATO should transition from an institution hinged solely on the promise of collective defense to a beacon of liberal thought leadership, emphasizing the critical roles for cooperation and diplomacy in preserving international security. Taking a two-pronged approach that emphasizes both high-level dialogue and on-the-ground engagement will best position NATO to take on this new mandate, addressing emerging issues and drawing in partners beyond its traditional Atlantic alliance.
As the world moves further from conventional warfare, the ensuing rush to embrace space-based warfare, drone swarms, and nation-state cyberattacks will generate mismatched expectations and execution, with rival states and watchdog groups leveling criticisms and accusations of illegality as governments struggle to parse out the limits of these new technologies.
As a defense-oriented institution with a legacy of democratic values, NATO is best poised to lead the discussion on new forms of warfare, issuing international guidelines on how to employ new tactics and weapons without compromising human rights or unduly burdening state sovereignty.
Kathryn Urban is a research assistant at C&M International.