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NATO to reveal “southern strategy” for Mediterranean in December

nato04 Nov 15. December for a new “southern strategy” in the Mediterranean as a result of rising instability in the region, according to a report by the Financial Times. The aim behind creating such a strategy is to formally factor in threats stemming out of the Middle East and North Africa region. It would draw on past experiences of operations in Africa, such as the French intervention in Mali.  As per the current agenda, an initial report on the new “southern strategy” will be presented and thoroughly discussed at NATO’s foreign ministers meeting, scheduled for December 1 and 2. If all goes well, it is possible that this “southern strategy” could be concluded at NATO’s July 8 – 9, 2016 summit in Warsaw, Poland.  This articles outlines the main aspects of such a strategy and briefly assesses how this would impact NATO’s distribution of military assets.

What is the Southern Strategy?

If NATO wants to avoid strategic irrelevance, it needs to give increasing attention to the threats from the Middle East and North Africa region and develop a

“southern strategy.” The increasing role of Russia in the region will also be factored in. A driving factor of this strategy is likely to be energy security, including ensuring security of potential future supplies from North Africa and Central Asia.  NATO has said that the role of the southern strategy will not be limited to establishing “hard” defence and military presence but will aim to foster practical co-operation with countries to establish defence priorities and planning.

Referring to comments by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the report says the new strategy “will focus on a range of measures including increased surveillance and reconnaissance activities across the Mediterranean by Nato forces, deployments of Nato troops in advisory roles to crisis-hit countries across north Africa and the Middle East, and reinforced permanent Nato military deployments in the region.” NATO will also be seeking to expand its “defence engagement” relations with neighbouring countries, according to the report.

Recent initiatives that are helping shape the Strategy include the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI). Both of these initiatives have focussed on practical cooperation with non-NATO countries in respective regions in areas such as defence transformation, budgeting, and planning.

Possible implications for distribution of military assets?

It is likely that the Strategy will bring about some changes to how NATO is positioned to respond to new threats. According to commentators, the Mali intervention has taught NATO the importance of being pre-positioned in a region and it remains to be seen as to how military assets will be re-distributed in the coming years. The strategy might create a requirement for light equipment and rapid reaction forces in areas near the conflict zone.

There will also be a need to make investments into increasing surveillance capabilities to detect new threats. Current fiscal realities raise serious questions about how much NATO member countries can invest in the new strategy and its priorities.

NATO is already working on increasing its surveillance capabilities covering the Middle East, North African, and Mediterranean regions. The deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Sicily has been announced, along with plans to intensify cooperation with the countries of the region. The first of five Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAS are due to become operational beginning in late 2017, forming NATO’s nascent Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.

According to reports, the US Navy is already considering bolstering its naval presence in Europe. More warships – including submarines – could be sent to the Mediterranean, according to recent media statements by John Richardson of the US Navy. (Source: MPI – Hawk Information)

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