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– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
NATO Posture Review Takes Shape

Oliver Meier

Discussions among NATO member states and staff on the format and content of a “deterrence and defense posture review” are making slow progress, diplomats and officials involved in the process said last month. It is expected that an informal meeting of defense ministers March 10-11 in Brussels will finalize the terms of reference for that review, which was agreed at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, the sources said. (See ACT, December 2010.)

According to these sources, it seems likely that the mandate of the posture review will be broad, covering the balance between nuclear and conventional forces as well as missile defense elements in NATO’s defense posture. The proposal by some member states, advanced ahead of the adoption of a new Strategic Concept at the Lisbon summit, to conduct a narrow review, focusing on NATO’s nuclear posture only, appears to be off the table. (See ACT, October 2010.)

NATO’s posture review could be conducted in two phases, the sources said. A consultative phase, lasting several months, would provide an opportunity for member states to brainstorm on the alliance’s future deterrence posture. Drafting of a possible report, to be adopted at the spring 2012 NATO summit in the United States, would begin after the June 8-9 NATO ministerial meetings. According to officials, the deterrence review is likely to be conducted by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political body, and might be accompanied by a public diplomacy effort, including seminars that involve nongovernmental experts.

Discussions of the format and purpose of a new arms control committee, whose creation was agreed at the Lisbon summit, have turned out to be even more controversial, the sources said. Some, including France, favor a review that is limited in time and scope and is tied to the posture review. Others, including Germany, prefer a broad, ongoing, stand-alone review. According to the sources, there is also disagreement as to whether an arms control committee would be chaired by a NATO official, a member-state representative, or both. These disagreements might prevent a March agreement on the terms of reference for the arms control committee, the sources said.