NATO’s Southern flank: the neglected theatre of today’s transatlantic security?

GT 3.4 Seguridad Internacional y Estudios Estratégicos

Michele Testoni (IE Universidad)
Sesión 2
Día: viernes,22 de septiembre de 2017
Hora: 11:00 a 13:00
Lugar: Seminario 0.4.

The essay aims to investigate the reasons why the Mediterranean basin is still struggling to receive adequate strategic relevance in the Atlantic Alliance’s agenda. The outburst of the so-called Arab uprisings triggered a series of crises – the ongoing Libyan and Syrian civil wars, the rise of Daesh and European jihadists, and the refugees’ emergency – of fundamental strategic importance. NATO responded to these occurrences by deploying a new array of instruments, such as the 2011 Maritime Strategy, the 2016 Operation Sea Guardian, and the 2016 Military Concept for Counter-Terrorism.

Simultaneously, however, the “Mediterranean policy” of NATO continues to retain a secondary importance in the Alliance’s agenda due to a number of reasons. First, the top priority assigned to the Eastern flank given the enduring Ukraine crisis and, accordingly, the fear of a further Russian expansionism. Second, the controversial legacy of the 2011 military operation in Libya: not only the campaign revealed a substantial disagreement among the allies over the aims and the management of the intervention, but the killing of Gaddafi unleashed a sectarian conflict whose endurance is also fostered by the involvement of a number of foreign actors. Third, the potential contradictions inherent in the new course of US foreign policy: President Trump’s renewed focus on the alliance’s burden sharing issue, his desire to strengthen American-Russian relations, and his unorthodox diplomatic style have the potential to introduce new and unpredictable frictions in today’s European security theatre. In particular, it is still unclear what implications a “Nixonian” rapprochement between Washington and Moscow could have over the coherence of NATO itself. And last, the lack of any form of political coordination between the Mediterranean countries of the Euro-Atlantic community and, therefore, the persistence of a concrete collective action problem.

The essay will develop in three main parts: after a review of the most important steps – in political, military and intelligence terms – taken by NATO regarding the Mediterranean area, an analysis of the aforementioned issues will follow. The concluding section will deal with the likely risks that NATO members could be compelled to cope with should they continue not to pay the necessary attention to the alliance’s Southern flank.

Palabras clave: NATO, Southern flank, collective action problem