A Common Future? NATO and the Protection of the Commons

October 25, 2010

By: Michael Horowitz , Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania; Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute

The global commons, areas of the world that fall outside national sovereign control including air, sea, space, and cyberspace, is an area of growing concern for the United States and its NATO allies. This paper argues that NATO has a potentially vibrant role to play in helping ensure open and secure access to the global commons. Investments to counter emerging threats, including cyber threats, would fit the defense budget constraints facing many NATO members while simultaneously serving an important strategic purpose. In particular, new NATO cooperation to face cyber challenges from both state and non-state actors can serve a critical role in protecting NATO members from cyber attacks. However, renewed cooperation in the cyber and space commons will require resolving uncertainty about the relationship between a cyber attack and a kinetic attack, and the conditions for a justifiable cyber retaliation.

The Transatlantic Paper Series is a product of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ project on The Transatlantic Alliance in a Multipolar World. The project was made possible by generous funding from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the McCormick Foundation, and the Adenauer Fund at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Other papers in the series include:
A Common Future? NATO and the Protection of the Commons

About the Author