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Smart defence

NATO’s smart defence is, most fundamentally, a concept focused on the pooling and sharing of Allied resources. However, in contrast to the EU/EDA approach of pooling and sharing, smart defence is less focused on use of existing capabilities but on effectuating resources to create or further develop capabilities.

The state of the global economy, combined with the unpredictable nature of recent security threats seen in the Middle East, the Maghreb, and the Sahel, has increased the necessity of redistributing defence spending between the U.S. and Europe. By increasing mutual reliability, NATO growth will be sustainable, and military assets will be readily deployable in a number of critical areas to deal with rapidly evolving operational challenges.

Already NATO’s Lisbon Summit (2010), adopting the Alliance’s New Strategic Concept, emphasized the future role of smart defence: putting the focus of planning will be put on better packaging of various capability components, their technological development and functional maintenance.

NATO’s Chicago Summit (2012) declaration emphasized that at capability level, smart defence contributes to the goal for “NATO forces 2020” adopted at the Lisbon Summit that approved a package of multinational projects, including for better protection of NATO forces, better surveillance and better training in the following capability areas: Ballistic missile defence; intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance; maintenance of readiness; training and force preparation; and effective engagement and force protection.

The three components of smart defence are:

  • Prioritization – Realigning national military development priorities to bring them in line with NATO’s capability goals
  • Cooperation – The pooling of military capabilities to foster economies of scale and operational cooperation
  • Specialization – Decreasing research and capability overlaps between Allies

On the one hand, pooling and sharing as a form of defence cooperation based on existing postures, as typically followed in CSDP, does not replace need for strategic innovation and for investments to procure lacking military capabilities, or to achieve smart defence in NATO. On the other hand, NATO’s Chicago Summit affirmed that smart defence and pooling and sharing are compatible and that in realizing smart defence, NATO should cooperate with EDA.


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