CHICAGO — Speaking at the NATO Summit here May 21, British Prime Minister David Cameron argued for an ambitious future role for NATO, but said that would require the alliance to develop a new mindset for doing business.
Cameron said that he and U.S. President Barack Obama recommended NATO conduct a strategic review, similar to the reviews both politicians undertook in their own countries.
“President Obama and I argued that NATO should consider a process, not dissimilar to the strategic reviews that were recently carried out in Britain and America, taking a rigorous look at the threats we face today, prioritizing the capabilities we need to meet those threats — not the capabilities we needed for the fights of yesterday — and taking the hard decisions to cut some programs in order to invest in others,” the prime minister said during a May 21 press conference.
Cameron’s government initiated the Strategic Defence and Security Review in May 2010, while Obama asked the Pentagon to conduct a strategic review last April. Both reviews aimed to develop new strategies for the future security environment while determining where risk could be taken and budget cuts could be made.
The Pentagon announced its findings in January with the release of new strategic guidance that called for a shift in geographic focus toward the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining influence in the Middle East.
While tough spending decisions may lie ahead, Cameron said NATO should still strive to maintain a global role.
“With defense budgets in decline, some are arguing that NATO needs to retrench, lower its ambitions and look inwards to the core responsibilities of collective defense,” Cameron said. “But I argued, and this summit agreed, that NATO should actually do the opposite. We should look outwards, reassert NATO’s relevance and make sure we’re ready and capable to tackle the threats that may lie outside our territory, but are nonetheless very real threats to us at home.”
Cameron praised NATO operations in Afghanistan and in Libya, saying only NATO could integrate outside partners like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Qatar into its command-and-control structure as it did in Libya.
However, “to maintain this capability in a tough financial climate, NATO needs a new mindset,” Cameron said.
NATO will need to “modernize and prioritize better” if it’s going to address the problems of failed states, regional conflicts, cyber attacks, global terrorism and nuclear proliferation, Cameron said.
The future also will require increased specialization so that not every country tries to have every capability and perform every mission, he said.
The prime minister cited the frequently used example of Baltic air policing, which allows Baltic member states to contribute forces to the NATO mission in Afghanistan while other NATO countries patrol and protect the countries’ airspace back home.