July 06, 2016

CNAS Press Note: The NATO Summit and the Transatlantic Partnership

Washington, July 6 – As President Obama heads to his final NATO Summit amid myriad transatlantic challenges, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith and CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Research Associate Rachel Rizzo have written a new Press Note, “The NATO Summit and the Transatlantic Partnership.”


The full Press Note is below:

In recent days, the wider Euro-Atlantic community has been paralyzed by the news that the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  As both sides of the Atlantic struggled to come to terms with that fact, Istanbul’s Ataturk airport was terrorized by three suicide bombers, the sixth major attack in Turkey this year.  For those policymakers working transatlantic issues, it is hard to know where to focus one’s attention.  Europe and the United States now face a compounding list of political, economic and security challenges that seem to have grown in scale and scope in recent months.  Fortunately, on July 8–9, NATO will host a summit in Warsaw, Poland.  While NATO cannot address everything that ails the transatlantic partnership today, it is a perfect opportunity to showcase transatlantic unity and resolve while launching a handful of important new initiatives in the areas of deterrence, NATO nuclear policy, resilience, and NATO enlargement.

Deterrence:  NATO’s last summit in Wales focused on reassuring NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  Those efforts were important but left gaps in the area of deterrence.  This summit will fill those gaps.  More specifically, NATO will announce new multinational battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.  Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States are expected to lead three, and Canada recently assumed leadership of the fourth. Those efforts should be applauded.  But it will be important for the Alliance to ensure that those efforts can be sustained and reinforced over the long term. 

NATO Nuclear Policy:  In the months leading up to the summit, a working group has been looking at ways to strengthen NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy with respect to force structure, declaratory policy, and operational policy.  While it is unlikely that any radical changes to NATO’s nuclear policy will be announced in Warsaw, the Alliance will use this summit to remind Russia that NATO nuclear policy remains a key component of its deterrence policy.  

Resilience:  Because so many NATO allies have experienced various attempts to disrupt daily life through cyber attacks and other forms of hybrid warfare, NATO has decided to dedicate part of this summit to the issue of resilience.  The goal is to determine concrete steps to ensure that the alliance as a whole, as well as individual states, can overcome shocks with minimal negative effects.  Expect some news on how the European Union and NATO can work more closely together in this regard.

Enlargement:  Finally, NATO is about to welcome its 29th member, Montenegro.  This is obviously an important moment for Montenegro, which has worked tirelessly to meet NATO criteria prior to joining.  But this particular addition carries special significance in light of the fact that Russia is doing everything it can to fracture NATO unity and halt future rounds of enlargement.  By folding in Montenegro, the Alliance is sending a clear signal to President Putin that NATO’s door remains open, and Russia does not have a veto over NATO policy.


  • Julianne Smith

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Julianne (“Julie”) Smith is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, where she coedits “Shadow Government.” She is also a senior advisor at WestExec Advisors, an adjunct senio...

  • Rachel Rizzo

    Former Adjunct Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Rachel Rizzo is an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Transatlantic Security Program. Her research focuses on European security, N...