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Military capabilities

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Even in times of financial austerity, maintaining the Alliance’s security and capability to take action remains important.

To meet the current security policy challenges, Allies at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales pledged to increase their defence budgets over the coming decade, i.e., to move towards spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defence (paragraph 14 of the Wales Summit Declaration, September 2014). They also pledged to increase the share of their defence budgets that is spent on investing in major equipment, with the aim of meeting the 20% guideline. At the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, Allies were able to report positive results: This year, overall expenditure by Allies on defence will increase for the first time since 2009.

In recent years, NATO has launched several initiatives designed to ensure that, through better coordination and enhanced cooperation, member countries will maintain operational readiness despite their financial constraints. An even more important factor than the amount of defence expenditure is the question of how resources can be most effectively employed. This can be achieved by more closely coordinating the armed forces of European Allies, and by harnessing synergies. The aim is for European Allies to coordinate who should specialise in providing the respective assets and in performing certain tasks. In this way, countries will no longer need to maintain a full range of capabilities, but will, at the same time, always have the capabilities at their disposal that they need in an emergency.

The so-called Smart Defence initiative, which was launched in 2011 by then Secretary General Rasmussen, aims to determine which military capabilities each Ally should provide nationally, and which capabilities can be made available by one or more partners for use by the entire Alliance. Furthermore, more military equipment should also be procured on a multinational basis, i.e., by groups of countries.

The Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) established in 2012 is designed to enhance the interoperability of NATO armed forces, both among NATO nations and with partner countries. The areas of activity of CFI and Smart Defence are to some extent complementary. Both initiatives aim to prepare the Alliance to meet future challenges.

The Framework Nations Concept

The Framework Nations Concept, which was developed by Germany, is the most recent initiative in this domain.

According to it, design of new projects and development of new capabilities should be brought in line with the targets that are set via the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP). A so-called Framework Nation assumes overall responsibility for liaising with NATO on, and coordinating a group of nations that have agreed to jointly deliver, a specific capability. This puts a wide range of capabilities at NATO’s disposal. In terms of intensity and scope, the Framework Nations Concept goes beyond the previous role of lead nations. The Concept is more goal-oriented, and it provides greater coordination and structure.

Its ultimate aim is to promote transatlantic burden-sharing: By combining military capabilities in a structured way, and by developing new capabilities in Europe, European Allies are making their defence-related efforts more effective. The Concept also has a European dimension: It strives to gradually better integrate European armed forces and to promote the development of European security policy. With 16 nations participating so far, two-thirds of European NATO nations have joined the Framework Nations Concept, and this in turn strengthens the European pillar of NATO. In June 2016, the decision was taken to allow NATO partner countries and organisations to participate in the Framework Nations Concept, as well.