NATO Countering the Hybrid Threat
National Defense University Fort McNair United States
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO was the most successful collective security arrangement among states in the 20th century. Having deterred and outlasted its primary adversary, the Soviet Union, NATO now faces the challenge of redefining its roles and purposes in the 21st century. Like all pluralist organizations, the Alliance must reflect the common interests of its 28 members, and defining common interests that motivate all members to sacrifice for the good of the whole has been difficult. In the absence of a direct common military threat, disparate interests, commitments, and visions of the transatlantic future have fragmented Alliance coherence. The Strategic Concept adopted by heads of state and government in Lisbon in November 2010 reconfirms the NATO commitment to deter and defend against any threat of aggression, and against emerging security challenges where they threaten the fundamental security of individual Allies or the Alliance as a whole. footnote 1 It offers itself as the strategic map for NATO in the 21st century and touches on extremism, terrorism, and such transnational illegal activities as trafficking in arms, narcotics, and people, as well as cyber attacks and other technological and environmental threats. The Strategic Concept, however, does not refer to hybrid threats or provide insight into the magnitude, likelihood, nature, or nuances of the emerging security challenges. Moreover, it does not address the possibility of having to face some or many of these challenges simultaneously, or the threat posed by the convergence of these many separate elements, which when braided together constitute a threat of a different nature. The new threat confronting the diverse nations of the Alliance is insidious and not easily defined or identified. It flourishes in the seams between states, and in the soft areas of bad or weak governance.
- Military Forces and Organizations