Two laptops and three hands

NATO and nontraditional security challenges

Tools for a New World

July 2019, Number 09.03
“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”
Charles F. Kettering

“This observation by U.S. inventor Charles F. Kettering perfectly captures the logic of seeking to prepare for the future. Security policies are not exempt from this logic. Traditional notions of military security, which are state-centric and focused on the defense of borders and territory against aggression by another state, are increasingly giving way to a complex mix of military and nonmilitary threats that can also affect societies from within. They range from targeted man-made threats, such as cyber attacks or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to broader phenomena, such as climate change or resource scarcity. For NATO, which is based on traditional notions of deterrence and defense against armed attack, and whose founding treaty even defines the specific territory that is eligible for collective protection, the rise of deterritorialized, nonkinetic threats creates a whole series of challenges. How well NATO addresses them will determine its future as an effective security provider for almost 1 billion citizens.

The return of great power competition, notably Russia’s revisionism and China’s more assertive foreign policy, is a stark reminder that the increase of nontraditional threats does not spell the obsolescence of traditional security challenges...”

Excerpt from Michael Rühle, “Tools for a New World,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 9, No. 3, 2019: 26-33.

Michael Rühle is head of the Energy Security Section in the Emerging Security Challenges Division of NATO’s International Staff. Previously, he was the head of speech writing and a senior political advisor in the NATO secretary-general’s Policy Planning Unit. Before joining NATO he was a Volkswagen fellow at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Sankt Augustin, Germany, and a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. He holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Bonn.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.