NATO TO ADAPT TO MORE SUBTLE WARFARE TECHNIQUES

Wall Street Journal on February 8, 2016, reported on NATO’s new playbook that will lay out alliance’s help for members if they come under pressure from Russia or another country. Excerpts below:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is developing a new strategy to speed decision-making and improve its response to the kind of unconventional warfare the West says Russia has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

NATO is hoping to complete the strategy in time for a July summit of alliance leaders in Warsaw. In a new effort at cooperation, officials have been working with the European Union, which is putting together its own plans.

Alliance officials believe any sort of overt invasion of Poland or the Baltic states by Russia is highly unlikely, but using more subtle means to weaken an allied government is a real threat.

A new hybrid warfare playbook would attempt to lay out the kind of assistance the alliance would provide should a member state come under outside pressure from Russia or another country. Such support could include sending cyber experts to help respond to computer hacking attacks, communication specialists to counter propaganda or even the deployment of NATO’s rapid reaction spearhead force.

NATO was built to address the confrontations of the Cold War and the threat of overt military invasion by the Soviet Union. The more subtle techniques would be meant to try to avoid provoking the alliance to act under its collective defense provision, in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, NATO officials said.

As a result, the alliance must draft a new approach and improve its ability to make decisions quickly, officials said.

Officials said hybrid threats could take many forms including support for dissident political movements, propaganda broadcasts aimed at ethnic minorities, or moves to curtail energy supplies. In Crimea and Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, the hybrid threat also involved the buildup of a large conventional force conducting military exercises on the border.

As part of the effort to develop the strategy, when alliance defense ministers gather in Belgium on February 10, they will review possible hybrid scenarios the alliance could face. The discussion is designed to hone their ability to make decisions quickly.

NATO’s most powerful deterrent is likely to be the use of its new rapid reaction force. The force isn’t intended to engage in combat, but would show the alliance’s support for a threatened member and hopefully persuade Moscow to lower the pressure.

While the Eastern European allies most worried about hybrid warfare are focused on the threat from Moscow, NATO officials said the new strategy would be applicable both to aggressive nations and to groups like Islamic State, which have demonstrated the ability to combine propaganda, terror attacks and conventional military force to take territory and intimidate populations.

Adam Thomson, the U.K. ambassador to NATO, said since hybrid threats are designed to avoid provoking a response or slowing that response, showing the ability to make swift decisions is key.
“Part of deterrence could be decisions at the very early stage about putting forces on the notice to move. That sends a signal,” Mr. Thomson said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has met with defense ministers from EU members to discuss the continuing work between the two organizations on hybrid threats. Mr. Stoltenberg said he sees “increased interest for cooperation between the European Union and NATO.”

The EU is working on developing a hotline with NATO to exchange information in the wake of a threat, an EU official said.

Some degree of communication is critical because the EU has many diplomatic and economic tools, like providing assistance if energy supplies are cut or imposing sanctions, that NATO lacks, officials said.

“Drawing on the instruments available to the two organizations, the community’s ‘deterrence toolbox’ becomes wider, from sanctions to NATO’s hard military power,” the EU official said. “Deterrence is mainly NATO’s business, but deterrence is not solely putting force on display: it is also about denying the benefits of an attack.”

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