Smart Defense and the Future of NATO
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ speech in June 2011 repeated in public what many have privately acknowledged: NATO, the lynchpin of European security and transatlantic relations, faces “the real possibility [of] a dim, if not dismal future.” The experience in Afghanistan—and, to a greater degree, in Libya—has pointed to a) the consequences of chronically underfunding defense establishments; b) the difficulties in getting 28 sovereign states to commit resources equitably and predictably; and c) the speed at which new threats are emerging. The transatlantic alliance must confront—and quickly—a number of fundamental strategic questions about its future.
Just two months prior to the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a two-day international conference on the future of the alliance. The timing and location of the conference served as a force multiplier, attracting some of the best academics, policy practitioners, and experts interested in “setting the scene” for the upcoming summit. The Chicago Council engaged a consortium of eight think tanks from NATO member countries and commissioned a set of papers to serve as the backbone of conference discussions. The papers, as well as a final conference report, were publicly released on May 14, 2012 in advance of the NATO summit.