Deploying Feminism: The Role of Gender in NATO Military Operations

A Book Discussion with Author Dr. Stéfanie von Hlatky

By Clodagh Quain and Isabelle Roccia

Fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) technology promises to dramatically increase the interconnectedness and efficiency of commercial and civilian communication infrastructures. 5G will also enable other advances. On the civilian side, it will improve existing applications and give rise to others, from telemedicine to connected cars. It also presents an opportunity to enhance NATO’s capabilities, improving logistics, maintenance, and communications. For instance, 5G will speed communication and improve response time in a theater of operation.

These developments also pose challenges. 5G is part of a complex architecture. To leverage its full benefits, millions of sensors and devices will need to be deployed and connected, from smart home appliances and connected toys to fullscale factories and critical infrastructures. The number of connected devices is projected to total 41.6 billion worldwide by 2025.1 By 2030, this estimate ratchets up to 125 billion.2 Of these, mobile devices will grow from 8.8 billion in 2018 to 13.1 billion devices by 2023 – 1.4 billion of which will be 5G capable.3 Because devices are connected to one another or to a network, security risks will multiply. The Alliance faces an increased challenge in ensuring that NATO Allies’ 5G networks and the critical infrastructures that rely on them

can withstand multiple physical and cybersecurity threats. 

NATO’s main concern in this context is the risk associated with foreign ownership or management of critical infrastructure, including by private operators and foreign state actors in supply chains. That such ownership could result in collusion between the supplier and a country’s intelligence or security services is deemed particularly worrisome by many governments, critical infrastructure operators and industry alike.4 For NATO allies, supply-chain risk management is therefore a critical aspect of the strategic and operational challenges posed by 5G. 

At the NATO meeting in London in December 2019, Allies prioritized 5G security as part of its security and resilience agenda. The final declaration stated, “NATO and Allies, within their respective authority, are committed to ensuring the security of our communications, including 5G, recognizing the need to rely on secure and resilient systems.”5 Including 5G in the London Declaration formalized NATO’s work in this emerging field.


5G technology is transformative on several fronts. It will challenge the design and implementation of existing infrastructure and applications. The velocity and pervasiveness of 5G technology will stimulate development of advanced applications, including smart cities and autonomous vehicles.

A diverse set of suppliers form the 5G ecosystem, which encompasses network infrastructures, spectrum, devices and software. While Ericsson (Sweden), Nokia (Finland) and Huawei (China) are the three best-known vendors, they represent only a small number of the stakeholders involved. The telecommunications industry estimates that operators will have

to invest $1.1 trillion by the end of 2025 to build 5G networks.6

In 2016, the European Commission developed a 5G Action Plan for Europe to support launching the rollout of commercial 5G services in all EU member states by the end of 2020.7 Subsequently, there will be a rapid buildup of infrastructure in urban areas and along major transport routes by 2025.8

At the Prague 5G Security Conference in May 2019, 32 EU and NATO members adopted recommendations known as the Prague Proposals.9 They propose principles that governments should apply to 5G deployment, stipulating that communication networks and services should be “designed with resilience and security in mind. They should be built and maintained using international, open, consensus-based standards and risk-informed cybersecurity best practices.” State representatives also called for the adoption of principles of fairness, transparency, risk-based policy and interoperability.

Relevance for NATO

Since 1949, NATO has centered on safeguarding the security and freedom of its members. Its mandate has evolved in political and geographic terms as the world changed. Today, emerging technology, with its many political, military and commercial implications, is driving NATO’s need to adapt.

Given its broad membership overlap with the European Union, deployment of 5G in Europe will undoubtedly affect the Alliance. The implications for NATO allies are strategic and operational in nature and affect defensive and offensive postures. At a minimum, dependence on 5G exposes critical infrastructure to more vulnerabilities, including software vulnerabilities, which NATO allies must address.10 That said, 5G can also improve capabilities such as communication security.11

At the multilateral level, NATO, like the European Union, seeks to balance collective and national interests. At the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg referred to guidelines and basic requirements that both organizations had developed for infrastructure investment—notably in telecommunications and 5G.12

On January 29, 2020, the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Cooperation Group published an EU toolbox, with measures to mitigate risks identified in the EU coordinated risk assessment report of October 9, 2019:

  • strategic measures on regulatory powers for incident reporting, security measures, threats and assets;
  • initiatives to promote a diverse supply and value chain; 
  • technical measures to strengthen the security of networks and equipment; and
  • risk mitigation plans.13

NATO’s leadership also seeks to develop a minimum set of common practices for resilient telecommunications while avoiding encroachment on individual state approaches. At the October 2019 NATO Defense Ministerial meeting, for example, representatives agreed to update the baseline requirements for civilian telecommunications, including 5G.14 This update covered foreign ownership, foreign control and direct investment. While civilian infrastructure remains a “national responsibility,” Article 3 of NATO’s founding treaty states that resilience, intended to prevent the failure of critical infrastructure or hybrid attacks, is part of states’ commitments to the Alliance and to one another. The Secretary General reiterated NATO’s approach the following month at the NATO Industry Forum in Washington, DC, where he linked resilience of supply chains and that of nations and the Alliance.15

NATO members maintain the right to decide national policies for regulating critical infrastructure and 5G vendors. For example, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab addressed the House of Commons on January 28, 2020, outlining the government’s review of national telecommunications and its position on “high risk vendors.” The United Kingdom approved the use of equipment acquired from “high risk vendors” while restricting those vendors’ access to “safety critical networks.”16 The foreign secretary stressed that the review would not hamper his government’s ability to share sensitive data with its partners over highly secure networks. In May 2020, the UK Government decided to review the impact of the decision on national networks with the assistance of the National Cyber Security Centre.

What Is at Stake?

Foreign ownership or management of critical infrastructure is a significant risk for NATO allies. Consequently, more governments may look to adopt procurement rules that limit sourcing to trusted vendors.

Such a position creates another risk, however. Indeed, the operators of critical infrastructure may have only limited capacity to detect, prevent and recover from the cybersecurity risks they face if they cannot choose the technologies and processes they need to match security requirements stemming from their size, complexity and risk profile. These operators must remain in control of how they improve their overall security posture if they are to meet the security and resilience objectives set nationally or at NATO. Innovation with state-of-the-art technology is critical in the interconnected environment in which Allies find themselves, through cross-border infrastructure (for energy supply, for instance) or shared functions (such as airspace control). NATO’s value-added in this context is to facilitate the development and sharing of baseline requirements for supply-chain risk management among Allies. It can also be to share best practices and information on risks and threats. This coordination would ensure that all individual state efforts contribute to more secure, resilient critical infrastructures.


As NATO allies move forward, they should focus on four main issues: leveraging NATO and EU membership, assessing supply-chain management issues, adopting a principled approach and building international consensus.

Leveraging Membership: 5G affects strategic, political, industrial and commercial elements on both sides of the Atlantic. The integrated economies of the European Union and the United States share a common value system, with policies that traditionally align with NATO’s, despite conflicting messages from the current US administration regarding its commitment to the Alliance. Despite the inherent cross-border, integrated nature of critical infrastructure in Europe, EU member states approach supply-chain evaluation differently. As the European Union seeks a coordinated, harmonized process for 5G supply-chain assessment, it is important that NATO and the EU align their policies in this regard. The lack of such alignment might create challenges for NATO, such as overdependence on one supplier.

Supply-Chain Risk Management: NATO allies must consider the global, interconnected nature of supply chains and the threats they face as they weigh effective approaches to 5G supply-chain risk management. Their approaches should ultimately strengthen NATO’s strategic mission, inform procurement guidelines and harmonize risk-management baselines across Allies. Such risk management entails identifying likely threats, vulnerabilities and potential consequences, tailoring mitigation strategies to risks and prioritizing actions based on an assessment of the most relevant, potentially impactful risks.17

A Principled Approach: A similar or harmonized set of principles should underpin effective supply-chain risk management. These principles should do the following:

  • encourage interoperability of systems and the use of stateof-the-art technologies;
  • develop a more secure global cybersecurity ecosystem that recognizes norms for responsible behavior and prioritizes collective defense against malicious threats;
  • collaborate with key nongovernmental stakeholders, including industry, to adapt to an ever-changing environment of new technologies and new threats;
  • invest in research and development of new technological approaches to fostering supply-chain integrity; and
  • avoid prohibiting the acquisition or integration of some technologies simply because they were developed abroad.

Building International Consensus: Several international organizations and groups have begun to assess the 5G environment and its related security risks. The Prague 5G Repository produced a library of tools, frameworks and legislative measures to assist NATO member states. Multilateral organizations, such as the EU, and states have come to similar conclusions. They too underline major risks that have national security implications. Integrity, confidentiality and availability of networks and communications are also key to their security.


5G innovation is not just a technological choice but a strategic one. Even in a collective defense system such as NATO, states remain sovereign, making decisions based on their assessment of the geopolitical environment. A state approach driven primarily by economic opportunity may undermine collective defense and security.

To both build and manage 5G capabilities, NATO’s allies will need to leverage EU and NATO membership; balance national and collective methods for supply-chain risk management; apply a principled approach to supply-chain integrity; and coordinate at the state and international levels.

•    ensure, where possible, transparency of supply-chain risk management policies and their implementation, in part to facilitate best practices;

Former director of Carnegie Europe Tomáš Valášek referred to critical civilian networks as “the path of least resistance” for adversaries in the digital age to divide NATO from within.18 To protect this critical infrastructure, he argues, both the public and private sectors will need to invest in IT expertise. This shared challenge presents an opportunity for NATO and other multilateral organizations to fill gaps for their member states and to adapt to emerging technology beyond their traditional role. It is a novel test for NATO: to broker strategic geopolitical rivalries and national security concerns over critical infrastructure while developing its own modern capabilities and addressing the multiple fractures in global and allied security today.


  1. International Data Corporation (IDC), The Growth in Connected IoT Devices Is Expected to Generate 79.4ZB of Data in 2025, press release (Framingham, MA: IDC, June 18, 2019).
  2. IHS Markit, The Internet of Things: A Movement, Not a Market, presentation (London: IHS Markit, 2017), p. 2.
  3. Cisco, Annual Internet Report (2018–2023), white paper(San Jose: Cisco, 2020), p. 2.
  4. Kadri Kaska, Henrik Beckvard, and Tomáš Minárik, Huawei, 5G, and China as a Security Threat (Tallinn: NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2019).
  5. NATO, London Declaration: Issued by the Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in London 3-4 December 2019, press release (Brussels: NATO, December 4, 2019).
  6. GSMA Intelligence, The Mobile Economy 2020 (London: GSM Association, 2020), p. 5.
  7. European Commission, 5G for Europe: An Action Plan, COM(2016) 588 final (Brussels: European Commission, 2016), p. 4.
  8. European Commission, Future Connectivity Systems, 5G for Europe Action Plan (Brussels: European Commission, December 19, 2019).
  9. Flexera, Vulnerability Review 2018: Global Trends (Itasca, IL: Flexara Software LLC, 2018).
  10. Karl Norrman, Prajwol Kumar Nakarmi, and Eva Fogelström, 5G Security—Enabling a Trustworthy 5G System, Ericsson White Paper (Stockholm: Ericsson, January 8, 2020).

  11. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Transcript of Opening Re-marks, Munich Security Conference, Brussels, February 15, 2020.
  12. European Commission, Cybersecurity of 5G Networks: EU Toolbox of Risk Mitigating Measures (Brussels:European Commission, January 29, 2020).
  13. NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg, Press Conference Follow-ing the Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, Brussels, October 25, 2019.
  14. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Keynote Address at the NATO Industry Forum, Washington DC, November 14, 2019.
  15. United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary’s Statement on Telecommunica-tions, London, UK Foreign Secretary Office, January 28, 2020.
  16. BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA), BSA Principles for Good Governance: Supply Chain Risk Management (Washington, DC: BSA, 2019).
  17. Tomáš Valášek et al., “NATO at 70: What Next? Politico (April 3, 2019).

9. Government of the Czech Republic, Prague 5G Security Conference Announced Series of Recommendations: The Prague Proposals,press release, May 3, 2019.


Clodagh Quain is Policy Analyst at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Dublin, Ireland. The views expressed here are those of the author and not of the IIEA.

Isabelle Roccia is Senior Manager, Policy – EMEA at  BSA | The Software Alliance in Brussels, Belgium.

This publication is the result of a joint WIIS DC, WIIS Brussels, WIIS France, and WIIS UK project focused on new challenges for the NATO alliance and showcasing the expertise of the Next Generation women defense experts. Through a competitive selection process six Next Generation experts were invited to participate in programs on the sidelines of the 2019 December NATO Leaders meeting. We would like to thank our six experts for their thoughtful contributions to this initiative, WIIS Global for publishing their research and the US Mission to NATO for providing the generous grant without which this project would not have been possible. With this support, we were able to turn an idea to promote greater cooperation among our affiliates and cities into a reality. We hope this project encourages more collaboration across borders and helps bolster the overall WIIS mission of supporting women in the international security field.

The NATO Consortium Team: Michelle Shevin-Coetzee, WIIS-DC; Armida van Rij, WIIS

UK; Florence Fernando and Pauline Massart, WIIS Brussels; Ottavia Ampuero and Jessica
Pennetier, WIIS France

By Kulani Abendroth-Dias and Carolin Kiefer

If World War III will be over in seconds, as one side takes control of the other’s systems, we’d better have

Data, the food of all algorithms, lie at the core of cohesive EU and NATO AI strategies. Such strategies must encompass the regulation of data in high- and low-risk technologies with

and Romania have tested and often deployed AI and ML facial recognition tools, many of which were developed in the United States and China, for predictive policing and border control.3 AI and ML systems aid in contact tracing and knowledge sharing to contain the COVID-19 virus.4 However, the civilian and military strategies that drive use of AI and ML for the collection and use of data diverge across the member states of the European Union and the North      a greater understanding of how data feed AI and ML technologies and systems, the results they produce become skewed. For example, a facial analysis and recognition system insufficiently trained to analyze and recognize women or people of color will often misidentify people in these populations, which could lead to inaccurate criminal profiling and arrests.7 Machines don’t make errors, but humans do. Policymakers need to rapidly identify parameters and systems of governance for these technologies that

maximize their efficiency while protecting civilian rights.

Growth in the development of AI-driven technologies has been exponential, but strategies to regulate their implementation have yet to catch up. The European Union and NATO need to develop coordinated, comprehensive, and forward-looking strategies based on data protection protocols to regulate AI use and deployment to counter myriad threats. Such strategies will be critically important if the transatlantic alliance is to adapt a common defense system to evolving threats in the digital age.    Beyond Definitions

AI and ML are changing the security landscape-for example, by the deployment of disinformation to undermine political participation or of unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), which may or may not operate as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). The states that are party to the Group of

Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons

the smarter, faster, more resilient network.       dual uses. They should guide policies governing predictive

or delivery within the European Union, Amazon    policing, border surveillance, facial analysisand countering disinformation.6     and recognition now sells facial recognition cameras for door

locks, webcams, home security systems, and office        To regulate data use effectively, policymakers need to attendance driven by artificial intelligence (AI)        better understand the technical, political, economic and

and machine learning (ML)-powerful tools with civilian 2  social risks and biases in data collection methods. Without and military purposes. Germany, France, Spain, Denmark

Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).5

(LAWS), which aligns its work with the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), have devoted considerable attention to defining autonomous weapons. Unfortunately, the group has not yet paid enough attention to the data. Prolonged focus on what constitutes LAWS rather than the data that drive them impedes the important investigation of how best to regulate the technologies’ rapid development and use for security and defense. Discussion of the types, limits, and biases of data that drive AI and ML is pertinent throughout the myriad sectors in which they find application.8

Recently, the GGE took steps to move the debate from definitions of autonomous systems to why data matter. In 2020, it decided that the 11 guiding principles that frame the development and use of LAWS needed no further expansion.9 The group agreed to give greater attention to how the principles can be unpacked. It decided to distinguish between high- and low-risk AI technologies and gain a better understanding of dual-use technologies.10 Differentiating between uses for civilian and military operations should focus on how data will be mined and drive algorithms at both levels.11 NATO and the European Union should lead in facilitating these discussions and regulations. 

Data Governance

According to the European Commission’s February 2020 white paper on artificial intelligence, “Europe’s current and future sustainable economic growth and societal well-being increasingly draws on value created by data…. AI is one of the most important applications of the data economy.”12 However, the report concludes, for AI to “work for people and be a force for good in society” it must be trustworthy.13 It highlights “trustworthy AI” 27 times in its 26 pages.

Governance of data is key to this trust.14 The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was a step in the right direction, but it needs to be expanded to cover AI and ML data collection and use in national and international security contexts. Close consultation and data coordination between the European Union and NATO is integral in this regard.

An understanding of who drives the development of AIdriven technologies for European security and how they are funded can illuminate the political, technical, and social, and legal bottlenecks confronting EU and NATO data regulation, both in the member states and at a supranational level. While the defense sector has traditionally driven technology innovation, private companies have taken the lead in recent years. 15 According to the OECD, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel have spent more than $50 billion a year on digital innovation.16 This sum dwarfs the €13 billion budgeted by the European Defense Fund (EDF) for 2021-27 Рfor defense spending in general, not solely for AI-driven technologies.17 NATO and the European Union should pay particular attention to these private-sector actors when developing policies for data protection and strategies to encourage US and European technological innovation. NATO and the European Union should work with the CCW GGE to determine clear operational distinctions between the commercial and military uses of data for AIdriven technologies.18 NATO and the European Union need comprehensive, legally enforceable AI strategies to regulate the use of data and the integrity of information networks to better protect their citizens while keeping the Alliance agile.

The Way Forward

In EU and NATO contexts, the development and implementation of dual-use technologies and cyberprotection policies remain fragmented. This fragmentation could undermine the ability to respond to evolving threats to European security and stability. Examples abound: Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Britain’s Leave Campaign, radicalization via social media, the politicized use of data via hybrid-use platforms to influence behavior (from political participation to violent action), and targeted cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns in the Visegrad Four and the Baltic states.19 Therefore, coherent EU and NATO AI strategies require the regulation of the data that drive emerging technologies. Regulation to promote network integrity and protect data access must be key tenets of EU and NATO strategies to deploy AI that can react faster and more effectively in the face of new security threats.

AI and ML systems are valuable, as demonstrated by their use in contact tracing and knowledge sharing in the search for a cure during the Covid-19 pandemic.20 For the transatlantic relationship to thrive, NATO and the EU must work together to develop coordinated AI strategies that address appropriate use and misuse of data. As the EU and NATO develop these strategies, they should focus on five activities:

Govern the use of data in dual-use technologies.

While AI strategies may sound exciting and innovative to policymakers and the general public, responsible data use sounds less so. Yet it is essential. EU and NATO strategies need to distinguish between high- and low-risk technologies, dual- and hybrid-use platforms, and the types, limits, and mediums by which data can be collected and anonymized (or at least kept confidential) for civil and military uses. These limits need to be developed and regulated in discussions with civilian and military actors who are mining data across sectors, from the traditional security and military arena to healthcare, logistics, and entertainment companies. Discussions should include how the rights of citizens and those residing in NATO and EU countries-e.g., lawful migrants, asylum seekers, refugees-will be protected.

Acknowledge bias in datasets.

There should be a comprehensive discussion on how bias in datasets influences the training of algorithms, which in turn influences security targets and undermines the integrity of a system. Policymakers, human rights actors, and technology developers should be in the room for this discussion. An awareness of these biases within security forces can help them better evaluate the outcomes the algorithms produce, interpret targets with caution, avoid errors, and generate more effective responses.

Ensure purpose-limited data collection and sharing.

Personal data collected and tracked for specific purposes (e.g., contact tracing during a pandemic) should generally not be shared and used for other purposes. Where an overlap in data collection is deemed necessary for EU-NATO security purposes, tight regulations for civilian protection should spell out where, with whom, and for how long the data can be stored, with strong legal and operational deterrents for backdoor access to data. Private-sector companies should limit how data are used to influence behavior: Should they be used in political campaigns the same way that they are used to nudge consumer behaviors on what to buy? The European Union’s GDPR sets up important rules in this regard. It can be viewed as the cornerstone of an EU-NATO strategy for the development and regulation of AI for security and defense.

Adapt traditional defense and deterrence strategies to the digital age.

The evolving nature of security threats in the digital age calls into question traditional strategies of defense and deterrence. Collaboration between NATO, the European Commission, the European Defence Agency (EDA), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defense (CARD) and technology developers should focus on efficiency-trimming current weapons systems and technologies used by the European Union on the battlefield and in the cyber realm while using AI and ML to inform strategy. The weaponized use of social media data must be addressed, not solely via counternarratives but by working in concert with social media companies to develop AI and ML techniques to identify and shut down fake news at the source. The integrity of networks set up by actors outside of NATO member states needs to be raised as a security concern as well, including incentives to drive the local business development of such networks.

Build trust via counter-AI agencies to protect citizen rights and detect AI-driven forgeries.

Agencies that currently promote the responsible use of AI need to work in tandem with NATO and EU agencies to develop comprehensive AI strategies. The strategies should promote digital literacy, advance critical thinking through online modules, and publicize the precautions NATO and the European Union are taking to protect citizen data in order to build public trust. Partnerships between EU, NATO, and such agencies need to go beyond traditional NGO-security agency relationships to integrate AI protection mechanisms into security policy itself. Ideally, these organizations would work with NATO partner countries to better identify targets, weaknesses, and priorities to build resilient intelligence architectures.

Map the development and use of AI-driven technologies across EU and NATO member states.

NATO security operations are in place at member state borders. However, most of the AI technologies being developed, test, or adapted are deployed within France and Germany, key EU member states. AI-driven security threats differ across states, especially disinformation. For example, the content, medium, and speaker of disinformation shared in the Czech Republic may differ considerably from disinformation shared in Germany. Adapting traditional deterrence strategies to the digital age requires an understanding of the contextbased nature of these threats. It is therefore integral to include experts across the EU and NATO member states in the development and implementation of AI strategies. A comprehensive mapping of the security threats faced-and development and use of AI-driven technologies to combat such threats across EU and NATO member states-can help better train personnel and develop more targeted solutions and localized data protection policies.


The digital industry is already transforming the Alliance. NATO is essential to setting up a coordinated structure to develop and regulate AI- and ML-driven technologies for NATO members’ security and defense. While sociopolitical and economic priorities in the development and regulation of AI vary across sectors and countries, awareness of the use and misuse of data in driving AI-and ML-driven technologies is a common thread that binds these debates together. The use of data fed into a system run by AI and ML technology can have vast implications for the nature of future security threats and the development of technologies to combat them. Cohesive EU and NATO strategies for AI will determine how strong and agile the Alliance will become.


Pedro Domingos, The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World (New York: Basic Books, 2015).

See Daniel S. Hoadley and Nathan J. Lucas, Artificial Intelligence and National Security (Washington DC.: Congressional Research Service,

2018); Greg Allen and Taniel Chan, Artificial Intelligence and National Security (Cambridge, MA: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2017). Artificial intelligence comprises a vast number of fields, including machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, computer vision, and knowledge representation and reasoning. In this policy brief, the authors largely refer to the use of AI- and ML- driven technologies for EU and NATO security and defense.

Steven Feldstein, The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment, September 2019).

The Cybersecurity Strategy of the Visegrad Group Countries Coronavirus, Artificial Intelligence web page (April 12, 2020).

Raluca Csernatoni, An Ambitious Agenda or Big Words? Developing a

European Approach to AI, Egmont Security Policy Brief No. 117 (Brussels: Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations, November 2019).

Michael Chui et al., Notes from the AI Frontier: Insights from Hundreds of Use Cases (New York: McKinsey Global Institute, 2018).

Philipp Gr√ºll, “Germany’s Plans for Automatic Facial Recognition Meet Fierce Criticism,” EURACTIV (January 10, 2020).

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb, Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2018).

See the UN’s 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

German Federal Foreign Office, Chair’s Summary: Berlin Forum for Supporting the 2020 Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (Berlin: German Federal Foreign Office, April 2020).

United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, The Human Element in Decisions About the Use of Force (Geneva: UNIDIR, March 2020).

European Commission, On Artificial Intelligence: A European

Approach to Excellence and Trust, white paper, COM (2020) 65 final (Brussels: European Commission, February 19, 2020), p. 1. See also European Commission, A European Strategy for Data, COM (2020) 66 final (Brussels: European Commission, February 19, 2020).

EC, On Artificial Intelligence, p. 25.


Dieter Ernst, Competing in Artificial Intelligence Chips: China’s Challenge amid Technology War, Special Report (Center for International Governance Innovation, March 26, 2020).

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Private Equity Investment in Artificial Intelligence (Paris: OECD, December 2018).

European Commission, European Defence Fund (Brussels: European Commission: March 20, 2019). Arguably, Washington would do well not to view the EDF with suspicion and skepticism but rather as a vehicle to stimulate more transatlantic discussion on “home-grown” innovation and development.

Daniele Amoroso et al., “Autonomy in Weapon Systems: The Mili-tary Application of Artificial Intelligence as a Litmus Test for Germany’s New Foreign and Security Policy,” Democracy Vol. 49 (Heinrich B√∂ll Foundation, 2018).

Marek G√≥rka, “The Cybersecurity Strategy of the Visegrad Group

Countries,” Politics in Central Europe Vol .14, No. 2 (2018), pp. 75-98. See also Alistair Knott, “Uses and Abuses of AI in Election Campaigns,” presentation, N.d.

Council of Europe, AI and Control of Covid-19.

By Naďa Kovalčíková and Gabrielle Tarini

The rise of China poses a strategic challenge for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Alliance needs a comprehensive political, economic, and security strategy to deal with China’s growing

global power. The more assertive a role China plays in world affairs, the more it could undercut NATO’s cohesion and military advantages by translating commercial inroads in Europe into political influence, investing in strategically important sectors, and achieving major breakthroughs in advanced digital technologies.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly emphasized the need for NATO allies to assess and better understand the implications of China’s increased presence and activity in the North Atlantic.1 At their London meeting in December 2019, NATO leaders noted that “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.”2 At the 2020 Munich Security Conference in February 2020, China again featured prominently in the discussions. Plenary sessions and many of the side sessions focused on China, with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Stoltenberg all highlighting the role for transatlantic cooperation in addressing China’s rise.3

This policy brief examines the challenge that China presents for NATO and the importance of a common posture toward China. It also considers China’s perception of NATO as a stumbling block to its global ambitions, and it provides recommendations for how the Alliance should approach China moving forward.

China’s Rise and Its Implications for NATO

China has used its growing economic, political and military capabilities to pursue an increasingly assertive foreign policy, and NATO has rightly begun to assess the implications for the Alliance. As the secretary general remarked in December 2019, “This is not about moving NATO into the South China Sea, but it’s about taking into account that China’s coming closer to us, in the Arctic, in Africa, investing heavily in our infrastructure, in Europe, in cyberspace.”4

China’s increased involvement in European allies’ economies poses a challenge to NATO’s political cohesion. China’s annual foreign direct investment (FDI) in Europe has grown exponentially since 2008.5 Europe is also one of the most important destinations for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global development strategy initiated by China in 2013. Last spring, Italy became the first G7 country to join BRI, while Greece joined China’s “17+1 grouping,” an initiative aimed at enhancing ties between China and Central and Eastern Europe.6

Chinese commercial inroads today can lead to wider political influence tomorrow, which well may be China’s objective. An analysis from the Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies, for example, contends that China “incentivizes state-led Chinese banks as well as State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to fill financing or investment gaps in EU member states and accession countries in exchange for political support for Chinese positions, such as on territorial claims in the South China Sea or human rights.”7 Most recently, during the

COVID-19 pandemic, China has attempted to make political inroads in Europe through “mask diplomacy.”8 China is widely publicizing its provision of medical masks and critical health equipment to affected European states and promoted false narratives over Chinese state media Twitter accounts (such as claims that COVID-19 actually began outside of China).9 These actions have helped China deflect criticism of its initial response to the virus and elevate its image in Europe as a global humanitarian player.

NATO allies also face pressure to address Chinese companies’ investments in Europe’s strategic sectors such as telecommunications, energy, transportation and ports. Chinese investments in these sectors have direct security implications for the Alliance, as it depends on national critical infrastructure to execute its activities and missions. For example, national telecommunication networks that are hacked or disrupted by foreign governments could threaten NATO networks such as the Federated Mission Network that are critical to command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) and allied decisionmaking.10 5G equipment made by companies with obscure ownership structures and close ties to the Chinese Communist Party “could use wellconcealed kill switches to cripple Western telecom systems” during conflict, or even during peacetime. 11 Moreover, the protection and integrity of digital information is also critical to secure force mobilization and plans for reinforcement. Civilian roads, ports and rails are an integral part of NATO’s plans for military mobilization. Chinese investments in European ports and rail could complicate NATO’s ability to reinforce and resupply Europe in a warfighting scenario. Currently, Chinese SOEs have invested in 12 ports in seven NATO countries that are key for military mobility planning in the east, south and southeast of NATO.12

Finally, China’s advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) threaten to undermine NATO’s current military and intelligence advantages. China’s “New Generation AI Development Plan” calls for China to “catch up on AI technology and applications by 2020, achieve major breakthroughs by 2025, and become a global leader in AI by 2030.”13 China sees AI as a way to leapfrog—in other words, skip—a generation of military technology.14

NATO relies on individual members to incorporate AI into their national defense capabilities. However, if all do not master and integrate this technology at the same pace, it may erode decades of work to strengthen interoperability. Moreover, European technologies to run AI operations— including robotics and efficient electronic chips such as

Dutch ASML semiconductors—are in high demand in China. If foreign state-backed companies were to acquire this technology, with its dual commercial and military applications, it would cause serious security concerns for the


China’s Perception of NATO

Generally, Beijing views NATO as a stumbling block to its global ambitions. As Adam Liff’s work on China and the U.S. alliance system has shown, Beijing expresses “deepening frustration towards, and even open opposition to” America’s alliances.16 China has not yet publicly expressed its vision of an alternative international system—and indeed scholars vigorously debate China’s long-term strategic objectives—but it is clear that China believes it can exercise greater influence on the world stage if power is more broadly diffused.17

China’s efforts to date seem to have focused largely on driving a wedge in U.S. alliances in the Indo-Pacific, but China would undoubtedly welcome a fractured transatlantic relationship, where US and European threat perceptions and policy priorities increasingly diverge.18 As a recent analysis of China-Europe relations noted, China wants to “weaken Western unity, both within Europe and across the Atlantic.”19 Consequently, it prefers to deal with European states individually rather than through the European Union’s collective leadership. Thus President Xi Jinping was likely displeased when French President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to join his bilateral meeting with China in March 2019.20 China also seeks to fragment EU unity on economic issues and trade, criticizing it for “politicizing” economic and trade issues in its Policy Paper on the European Union.21 China knows that NATO has neither robust tools nor a legacy of regulating political economy issues. China’s use of this narrative contributes to internal tension within the Alliance between those who guard against NATO’s involvement in these areas, especially since 21 EU members are also NATO allies.22

In sum, a united NATO and a cohesive transatlantic relationship thwart China’s desire to increase multipolarity in the international system, while a fractured NATO enables China to play Europe off America and Europe off itself.


Developing a united stance toward China will require NATO to synchronize regional priorities. It will also need to strengthen partnerships with other institutions and countries, given that much of what needs to be done currently falls outside NATO’s core competencies. NATO could strive for greater cohesion toward China in three areas: politics, military and technology.

Political Recommendations

To date, there is little evidence that NATO allies are coming closer to a solid political consensus on how to address China’s rise.23 In order to operationalize allies’ views in the London Declaration on the “opportunities and challenges”24 that China’s growing influence presents and limit its ability to undermine transatlantic cohesion or make further political inroads in Europe, NATO should do the following:

  • Consistently coordinate allied efforts to ensure that Chinese initiatives, such as the BRI or the 17+1 grouping with Central and Eastern European countries, do not allow Beijing to gain political support for Chinese positions, such as on human rights or territorial claims, and drive wedges between allies.
  • Increase cooperation with the EU on screening and assessing Chinese FDI in allied critical infrastructure and advanced technologies, which rely heavily on sensitive data. NATO should contribute to defining key criteria on FDI in domains with dual civilian-military applications.
  • Encourage allies to make full use of their existing screening mechanisms for foreign investment and encourage those that do not have one to set it up.25 NATO’s EU allies should also systematically implement the EU’s foreign investment screening mechanism in order to mitigate the risks of foreign investors acquiring control over critical technologies, infrastructure, or sensitive information with potential security implications to all NATO allies. Increased transparency about Chinese FDI in critical infrastructure across NATO would help to mitigate the potential impact on NATO’s overall political cohesion.
engagement and expertise. Such partnerships could inaugurate a new consultative body, which could pave the way for more coordinated planning and intelligence sharing.27NATO should coordinate its efforts with the European Union in this domain, as AI and other advanced technologies are developed primarily in the private sector and can have both civilian and military applications.  EU-NATO collaboration may be hampered by the fact
  • Enhance NATO’s political partnerships with IndoPacific countries, especially with Australia (within the “Enhanced Opportunities Partner” framework26 or other tailored platforms) and Japan to strengthen interregional Military Recommendations

It would be difficult and inadvisable to reposture the Alliance toward a hypothetical contingency with China: NATO members already have varied preferences over which region should receive priority focus and, with the exception of the United States, do not have the expeditionary capabilities to project power into the Indo-Pacific region. Nevertheless, there are four areas where NATO could improve its posture vis-à-vis China:

  • Increased Chinese naval activity in the Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, and the High North, often in collaboration with Russia, is a direct concern for NATO.28 NATO need not make plans to fight China in the North Atlantic. However, as a noted NATO and maritime affairs expert argues, allies must be prepared to “monitor and interact with another growing naval power operating in waters of key interest to the transatlantic alliance.” 29
  • NATO should step up its existing military partnerships with Indo-Pacific countries, in particular in NATO exercises, the Partnership Interoperability Platform, and other capacity building programs.30
  • Working with the EU, NATO tabletop exercises should focus on enhancing military mobility in Europe to mitigate against the effects of rising, potentially coercive Chinese investments and to secure a more robust, integrated civilian-military infrastructure.
  • NATO allies should continuously assess and avoid investment in Chinese military equipment that would plug into NATO’s command and control system.31

Technological Recommendations

  • NATO allies should coordinate efforts to incorporate  AI-based military technologies into their national capabilities in order to avoid duplication and economize.
  • The roadmap on disruptive technologies adopted by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation in 2018 should guide allies toward increased and better tailored investments in military technology powered by AI, biotechnology and cyber and quantum computing. NATO should also continue to adapt its Defense Planning Process to account for rapid, fundamental technological evolution.32

that not all EU member states or NATO allies have written national AI strategies, and as one analyst notes, “Europe’s political and strategic debate on AI-enabled military technology is underdeveloped.”33 NATO should encourage all allies to develop their respective AI strategies, while the European Union can guide them by collecting and publishing best practices and encouraging countries to limit potentially burdensome regulations on AI before it is applied. The European Union in collaboration with NATO may also consider establishing an AI Center of Excellence.34

  • Cybersecurity in 5G networks is another area where

NATO should coordinate its efforts with the European Union. Because this issue concerns mostly civilian networks, NATO does not have robust tools to tackle this problem alone. Thus the European Union and the European Commission in particular should lead in coordinating and implementing action. In its new “toolbox,” rolled out in January 2020, the European Union recommended measures to mitigate the cybersecurity risks of 5G.35 The plan, which could ban suppliers from core parts of telecoms networks if they are identified as “high-risk” vendors, could allow European countries to limit Chinese tech giant Huawei’s role in Europe in the future. NATO allies should not only consider the EU measures when appropriate but also push for more transparency into foreign companies’ ownership structures and state influence. In general, each NATO member should strengthen oversight of telecom network security by creating mechanisms to review contracts between operators and suppliers and conducting national-level audits of the security practices of  5G companies.

In sum, NATO must strive to maintain transatlantic unity in the face of a rapidly evolving technology and global security landscape. As China seeks to divide allied democracies, it is critical for NATO allies, in coordination with the EU and other partners, to address a widening array of emerging economic, political, societal and technological challenges to the Alliance.


Naďa Kovalčíková is a Program Manager and Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshal Fund of the United States.

Gabrielle Tarini is a Policy Analyst at the non-profit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.


  1. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, opening remarks at the

Munich Security Conference, February 15, 2020, at the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and Sub-Committee on Security and Defence (SEDE), January 21, 2020, and doorstep statement ahead of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and/or Government , December 4, 2019.

  • NATO, London Declaration, Issued by the Heads of State and

Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in London 3-4, December 2019 (Brussels: NATO, December 4, 2019).

  • Daniel W. Drezner, “What I Learned at the Munich Security Conference,” commentary, Washington Post (February 17, 2020).
  • NATO, “Questions and Answers by NATO Secretary General

Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘‘NATO Engages: Innovating the Alliance’ Conference,” transcript (London: NATO, December 3, 2019).

  • Thilo Hanemann, Mikko Huotari and Agatha Kratz, Chinese FDI in Europe: 2018 Trends and Impact of New Screening Policies, MERICS Papers on China (Berlin: Mercator Institute for China Studies, June 3, 2019).
  • Federiga Bindi, Why Did Italy Embrace the Belt and Road Initiative? commentary (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 19, 2020); Jonathan E. Hillman and Masea McCalpin, Will China’s ‘16+1’ Format Divide Europe? (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 11, 2019).
  • Thorsten Benner et al., Authoritarian Advance: Responding to China’s Growing Political Influence in Europe, report (Berlin: Mercator Institute for China Studies, February 2018), p. 106, p. 15.
  • AFP News, “Mask Diplomacy: China Tries to Rewrite Virus Narrative,” France 24 (March 20, 2020).
  • Matt Schrader, Analyzing China’s Propaganda Messaging in Europe

(Alliance for Securing Democracy, March 20, 2020). See also Elizabeth Braw, “Beware of Bad Samaritans,” Foreign Policy (March 30, 2020).

  1. Kadri Kaska, Henrik Beckvard and Tomáš Minárik, Huawei, 5G and China as a Security Threat, report (Brussels: NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2019).
  2. Lindsay Gorman, “5G Is Where China and the West Finally Diverge,” The Atlantic (January 4, 2020).
  3. Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey. See also Ian Anthony, Jiayi Zhou and Fei Su, EU Security Perspectives in an Era of Connectivity: Implications for Relations with China, SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security, No. 2020/3 (Stockholm: SIPRI, February 2020), p.14.
  4. Graham Webster et al., China’s Plan to ‘Lead’ in AI: Purpose,

Prospects, and Problems, blog post (Washington, DC: New America, August 1, 2017); Ryan Hass and Zach Balin, US-China Relations in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, report (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, January 10, 2019).

  1. Gregory Allen, Understanding China’s AI Strategy: Clues to Chinese

Strategic Thinking on Artificial Intelligence and National Security, report (Washington, D.C., The Center for a New American Security,February 6, 2019), p. 8.

  1. Alexandra Alper, Toby Sterling and Stephen Nellis, “Trump Administration Pressed Dutch Hard to Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale: Sources,” Reuters (January 6, 2020).
  2. Adam Liff, “China and the US Alliance System,” The China Quarterly Vol. 233 (March 2018).
  3. Nadège Rolland, China’s Vision for a New World Order, NBR Special Report No. 83 (Washington, D.C.: The National Bureau of Asian Research, January 2020).
  4. Scott Harold, Chinese Views on European Defense Integration, MERICS China Monitor (Berlin: Mercator Institute for China Studies, December 19, 2018).
  5. Thomas Wright and Thorsten Benner, testimony to U.S. China

Economic and Security Review Commission, hearing on “China’s Relations with U.S. Allies and Partners in Europe and the Asia Pacific,” April 5, 2018.

  • Keegan Elmer, “France’s Emmanuel Macron Asks Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker to Join Meeting with Xi Jinping in Paris,” South China Morning Post (March 22, 2019).
  • Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, China’s Policy Paper on the European Union (Brussels: Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, December 2018).
  • Jens Ringsmose and Sten Rynning, “China Brought NATO Closer Together,” War On the Rocks (February 5, 2020).
  • 23 Noah Barkin, “The U.S. and Europe Are Speaking a Different Language on China,” Foreign Policy (February 16, 2020).
  • NATO, “London Declaration, Issued by the Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in London, 3-4 December 2019” (December 4, 2019).
  • European Commission, Guidance to the Member States Concerning Foreign Direct Investment (FDI Screening Regulation)” (Brussels: EC, March 25, 2020).
  • NATO, Partnership Interoperability Initiative (Brussels: NATO, March 24, 2020).
  • Fabrice Pothier, How Should NATO Respond to China’s Growing Power? analysis (London: IISS, September 12, 2019).
  • Mercy A. Kuo, “NATO-China Council: Now Is the Time: Insights from Ian Brzezinski,” The Diplomat (October 15, 2019).
  • Magnus F. Nordenman, “Five Questions NATO Must Answer in the North Atlantic,” Proceedings Vol. 145, no. 3 (Annapolis, Md.: U.S. Naval Institute, March 2019).
  • Ibid.
  • Turkey, for example, was interested in buying China’s HQ-9 missile systems in 2013 but ultimately abandoned their bid after significant pressure from other NATO allies. See Denise Der, “Why Turkey  May Not Buy Chinese Missile Systems After All,” The Diplomat  (May 7, 2014).
  • Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute, NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis, report (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2019).
  • Ulrike Franke and Paola Sartori, Machine Politics: Europe and the AI Revolution, Policy Brief (Berlin: European Council on Foreign Relations, July 11, 2019).
  • Wendy R. Anderson and Jim Townsend, “As AI Begins to Reshape

Defense, Here’s How Europe Can Keep Up,” Defense One (May 18, 2018); Institute for Security Studies, The EU, NATO and Artificial Intelligence: New Possibilities for Cooperation? report (Paris: ISS, 2019).

  • EU Commission, Cybersecurity of 5G Networks – EU Toolbox of Risk Mitigating Measures (Brussels: EU, January 29, 2020).

This publication is the result of a joint WIIS DC, WIIS Brussels, WIIS France, and WIIS UK project focused on new challenges for the NATO alliance and showcasing the expertise of the Next Generation women defense experts. Through a competitive selection process six Next Generation experts were invited to participate in programs on the sidelines of the 2019 December NATO Leaders meeting. We would like to thank our six experts for their thoughtful contributions to this initiative, WIIS Global for publishing their research and the US Mission to NATO for providing the generous grant without which this project would not have been possible. With this support, we were able to turn an idea to promote greater cooperation among our affiliates and cities into a reality.

We hope this project encourages more collaboration across borders and helps bolster the overall WIIS mission of supporting women in the international security field.

The NATO Consortium Team: Michelle Shevin-Coetzee, WIIS-DC; Armida van Rij, WIIS UK; Florence Fernando and Pauline Massart, WIIS Brussels; Ottavia Ampuero

Written by Roxana Allen

It took thirty years, two generations, fifteen prime ministers, and numerous elections to appoint the first woman Prime Minister in Romania.  With the introduction of the Membership Action Plan twenty years ago, NATO requested that Romania implement a 25 percent quota for women in Parliament and public service.  Consequently, there are many women in leadership today.  Prime Minister Viorica Dancila leads in a world confronted with violent extremism, terrorism, cyber security, and hybrid threats.  While strategists have continually resigned NATO to the dustbin of history, with its original rationale of defending Europe from the Soviet Union, NATO’s membership policies have been a symbol of hope but also despair since the 1989 Revolution in Eastern Europe.  NATO’s commitment to inclusion launched an enlargement process that empowered women, changed societies, and expanded peace and stability.  While the “carrot” of NATO membership spurred liberal reforms, it also produced complacency and a nationalist backlash.

After its 1989 Revolution, Romania found itself without the strong cosmopolitan leadership ready to take power or embrace the West that blessed other Eastern European states—cosmopolitanism meaning those who support civil society, tolerance, human rights, rule of law, and democracy.  The Czechs had Václav Havel.  The Poles had Adam Michnik.  The Hungarians had Miklos Haraszti.  The success of these cosmopolitans and their revolutions seemed to prove Francis Fukuyama’s argument that with the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy, civil society, free markets, and the rule of law would eventually prevail in all states.  As a consequence of the Stalinist nature of the Ceausescu regime, Romania did not have any outspoken cosmopolitan leadership.  The West’s seemingly disorganized engagement, which did not embrace the Romanian intellectuals, allowed for the growth of nationalism in Romania á la Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.” In his vision of competing civilizations, “the fundamental source of conflict…in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic…its center-piece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations.”  This interaction was best demonstrated in Romania in 1991 when coal miners smashed their way into Bucharest, attacking students, intellectuals, and Westerners. Raised in the Stalinism of Ceausescu, then fed by nationalism, the lumpenproletariat continually tried to destroy Western norms.

The cosmopolitans of Bucharest, Cluj, and Timisoara needed help to establish Western norms in all of Romania, as Dr. Adrian Nastase stated: “The Balkans zone needs not only financial support, but also an outspoken desire from the part of the developed states to offer the former room for integration in their community…Establishment of democracy in the former communist countries needs an economic support and a political one as well.”   After the creation of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, the Western desire to support democracy and integration was affirmed.  Enforcing the Dayton Agreement and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 1995, NATO became the primary Western means of implementing cosmopolitan intervention.  Cosmopolitans, as Mary Kaldor describes in New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, are buttressed by Western armed forces.  The perceived NATO commitment to Romania’s and the Balkan’s efforts to establish Western norms led to the election of new democratic leadership under President Emil Constantinescu in 1996.

The successful NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina had emboldened NATO’s leadership to redefine the Alliance’s mission and attempt to provide a “carpet of stability” in Europe through enlargement.  This carpet, intended to support those cosmopolitans who led their nations to freedom in 1989 and faced growing domestic intolerance, soon developed holes.  Referring to the enlargement of NATO in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and PolandCharles Gati explains that “the post-communist success stories that most people expected to write themselves after 1989 have turned into tales with rather mixed plot lines.”  As NATO stumbled, so did the establishment of Western norms in Romania. Constantinescu’s corrupt and divisive government was not that different from the previous one.   By 1998, during NATO’s war in Kosovo, Western norms were openly challenged in Romania.  Once again, the dangers to democracy began to reveal themselves in Romania.

The introduction of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the Washington NATO Summit in 1999 provided guidelines for NATO membership and strengthened Western norms in Romania. NATO membership was the main plank of Adrian Nastase’s election bid in 2000.  With the new elections and with MAP as a guide, Prime Minister Nastase instituted the National Action Plan for NATO. Aside from military issues, this plan led to more progress in the reform of laws, regional cooperation, disarmament, protection of the national minorities and human rights, a 25 percent quota of women in Parliament and public service, combating organized crime and international terrorism, and fighting and eradicating corruption.  Although NATO and EU memberships were obvious benchmarks for the Action Plan, the real goals were to reinforce Western norms in Romania – in effect, to change Romanian society.

NATO enlargement as a defender of cosmopolitan values became internalized, changing domestic politics.  As NATO enlargement became more dynamic, so did the entrenchment of democracy in Romania. As enlargement waned, so did freedom in Romania.  NATO became the force maintaining and expanding political stability from the Atlantic to Urals.  NATO membership became more than a destination; it was the only tool the leaders could use to instill Western norms in their country. Their real goals, like those of the early Western European cosmopolitan leaders, were to create and reinforce Western norms in Europe, in effect, to make their countries “normal.” Fifteen years ago in 2004, Romania joined NATO  after the Prague Summit in November 2002.  NATO enlargement converted a totalitarian Romania into a free democracy and made Romania a better place.  Better, however, does not mean perfect or even just.

NATO could use lessons learned to expand peace and stability to other regions beyond Europe, though as the example of states that emerged from totalitarianism show—Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Georgia—the process will be painful.  Paul Wolfowitz stated, “If you think where Romania started from at the end of the Ceausescu era, it has come a terrifically long way.  If you think about some of the problems that remain, then obviously the transition still has some work to do. What I think is impressive is, considering how embedded old totalitarian system was here, Romanians are an inspiring example to people in Iraq and elsewhere in the world in what you can achieve with freedom.”  Under continued Western engagement, Iraq and other countries could be like Romania and most of Eastern Europe today, an imperfect but progressing democracy.

In a paradigm shift, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg and Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller placed women’s empowerment at the center of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda by recognizing the impact conflict has on women and girls:  “Empowering women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do:  it makes countries safer and more stable. NATO is determined to make a difference, including through our training and operations – for example, by deploying gender advisers to local communities in Afghanistan.  We also aim to raise the profile of women at all levels within the Alliance. We still need to do more, but for NATO, peace and security are not just a man’s world.” In January 2018, to support full and equal participation of women at all levels of conflict prevention to post-war reconstruction, and protection of women and girls from sexual violence in conflict, Mr. Stoltenberg appointed a NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative.   Clare Hutchinson is the high-level focal point for the NATO Women, Peace and Security Agenda.  As a provider of peace and security assistance and capacity building, NATO is reforming itself into a human-centric organization by empowering women as agents of change, implementing innovative programs in collective defense, crisis management, and security cooperation to contribute to a modern, ready and responsive NATO in a changing world. Gender becomes the driving force and advances NATO’s cooperation with other international organizations such as the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations (UN) and grass-roots civil society.  Moreover, the newly created NATO’s Civil Society Advisory Panel provides a safe space for all women to engage with NATO on security cooperation and defense. Addressing women’s empowerment from all dimensions, including equal participation of women at all levels of conflict prevention, post-war reconstruction of governments and implementation of the 25 percent quota of women in Parliament and public service will lead to more changes from the inside.  More women in leadership will expand peace and stability beyond Romania and Europe in a rapidly globalized world.


Roxana Allen is the Deputy Vice President at IIA NOVA, SAIS Johns Hopkins Alumna and a WIIS member. Ms. Allen was a Personal Adviser to the Prime Minister of Romania during Romania’s accession to NATO and the Head of Field Office Trebinje with OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina during NATO’s intervention in Kosovo.