RUSI Co-Hosts Major Conference to feed in to NATO Chicago Summit

NATO faces a critical juncture. To remain relevant, it must continue to evolve and make major changes-to its structure, missions, and temptations. It must do this in the face of significant financial challenges.

RUSI co-hosted a major international conference, 'Smart Defense and the Future of NATO: Can the Alliance Meet the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century?'  in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and eight other research institutions from across the Alliance in advance of the May 20-21 NATO Summit in Chicago.

The conference brought together leading international and national experts-U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Stéphane Abrial, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, German Ambassador to NATO Martin Erdmann, French Ambassador to NATO Philippe Errera, Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, and Carnegie Moscow Center's Dmitri Trenin, to name a few-for a focused examination of the challenges confronting the transatlantic alliance in a time of changing threats and constrained resources. RUSI brought a delegation of government officials, industrial representatives and policy analysts to participate including the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot, Sir Brian Burridge, Professor Michael Clarke, and Dr Jonathan Eyal.

Partner organisations included the Atlantic Council of the United States, Canadian International Council (CIC), the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI), Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS), the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) at Istanbul Kültür University, the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM),, and the Chicago NATO Host Committee.

The conference was organised around the on-going campaign by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to make NATO more efficient and cooperative through "smart defense." Neverthelss, a  wide range of topics covered during seven panel sessions revealed why the 2012 Chicago Summit may become a defining moment in the alliance's history. Conference papers, commissioned in support of the panel sessions, revealed the true challenges facing the alliance today:

  • "NATO's Inward Outlook: Global Burden Sharing," by Dr. Josef Braml: The United States, shouldering three-quarters of the alliance's operating budget, is in deep economic, budgetary, and political trouble that impacts its foreign policy. Hence it will seek ways to share the burden with partners inside and outside NATO.
  • "Focused Engagement: NATO's Political Ambitions in a Changing Strategic Context," by Dr. Henning Riecke: There is a strategic dilemma at the heart of NATO: The feeble consensus among member countries is that the Alliance should focus on a limited set of tasks, but the shifting global strategic landscape demands more openness and adaptability, as evidenced by the hefty agenda and complex issues facing the 2012 Chicago summit. The answer to this dilemma might be that NATO's ambition should be to simply do well what it can in its own neighborhood.
  • "Challenges for the Security Sector in Afghanistan: How to Save Reform," by Beata Górka-Winter: Challenges for the security sector include the possible decomposition of the Afghan National Army, the mounting security threats to the population stemming from armed groups, and the vast amount of time and resources it will take to sustain the Afghan national security forces. Facing and engaging with these challenges, NATO should deliver the message to the Afghan people that it will remain committed to ensuring their security.
  • "NATO and Crisis Management Operations: A Canadian Perspective," Dr. Elinor Sloan: The war in Afghanistan very clearly highlighted the importance to Canada of its bilateral relationship with the United States. When Canada initially took the lead of a multinational brigade in Kandahar Province in 2006, U.S. military support was abundant-and often vital to missions' successes. When NATO took over control, however, such support "died" almost overnight, and as a result, Canada faced military challenges that could have been avoided.
  • "Smart Defense," by Dr. Camille Grand: A multifaceted concept, Smart Defense promotes new ideas and management, facilitates better coordination within NATO, and provides strategic responses to capability shortfalls. It will require significant political will and cooperation among Allied countries, but is essential in combatting the current challenges of the defense sector.
  • "NATO-Russia Relations: Towards a Strategic Partnership?" by Dr. Isabelle Francois: The formal launch of the NATO-Russia relationship in 1997 has resulted in fifteen years of instability, disappointment, and frustration on both sides, raising questions about the effectiveness of the relationship and its precarious future. Because Russia's expectations and goals are often so at odds with NATO's, engagement over issues of European security has been shaky.
  • "NATO, Russia, and the Vision of a Euro-Atlantic Security Community," by Dr. Dmitri Trenin: Mutual distrust between the U.S. and Russia has resulted in the lack of an inclusive security community in the Euro-Atlantic. This absence should not be overlooked in such a strategic area of the world, and efforts should be made toward achieving stronger unity.
  • "Turkey's NATO Agenda: What Role in the Middle East?" by Lieutenant General ªadi Ergüvenç (Ret.): Turkey holds the potential to effectively facilitate intensive dialogue and consultation between countries in the region whose relationships have grown strained, which it is willing to do in order to ensure a stronger regional unity.
  • "NATO and the Middle East: A Positive Agenda for Change," by Dr. Jonathan Eyal: There has been little to show for NATO's efforts in the Middle East, and it is almost certain the alliance will play only a marginal role in Iran. The negatives pale in comparison to the potential positives if NATO engages as an enduring example that "soft" security measures can still help achieve hard security goals.
  • "The Transatlantic Bargain After Gates," co-authored by Barry Pavel and Jeff Lightfoot: As the United States shifts its resources and efforts to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, Europe will need to take larger responsibility for security within its own periphery. President Obama's new defense strategy recognizes that Europe will remain Washington's "principal partner in seeking global security and prosperity," but it will occupy a different place in U.S. defense policy.

The full conference report and individual papers can be downloaded at They are intended to serve as a guide to the key questions to be addressed at the Chicago Summit, as well as questions that will continue to confront the alliance in the years to come.



1. Any enquiries, please contact : Daniel Sherman

2. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.

3. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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