ICTS Reports

NATO: Past Lessons and Strategic Mission for the 21st Century


This publication is the second volume in a series focusing on the interdisciplinary aspects of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over the past eight years. The current publication consists largely of excerpts from multiple reports published by the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies in association with the U.S. Department of State (Office of European Security, Political and Military Affairs- EUR/RPM), the International Law Institute, and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Our previous research efforts resulted in the publication of a multi-authored book titled NATO: From Regional to Global Security Provider (Lexington Books, 2015) co-edited by Yonah Alexander and Richard Prosen. The book provided a six-part comprehensive analysis of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept and served as a relevant study of the most pressing issues facing NATO at the time. General (Ret.) Wesley Clark wrote a foreword to the study, and the other contributors included James Henry Bergeron, Derrick Busse, Georgiana Cavendish, Natividad Carpintero-Santamaria, Paul Dodge, R. David Edelman, Raffi Gregorian, Enrico Mueller, Patrick Murphy, Leslie Ordeman, Raphael Perl, Stefano Santamato, Carrie Shirtz, George Sinks, Bruce Weinrod, Richard Weitz, and Michael Ziemke. Recommendations for consideration and further discussion (i.e., the what and the how regarding future policy options for the North Atlantic Alliance) were highlighted.

The first report in the current work is titled “NATO: Confronting Regional and Global Challenges” (January 2016) was published by the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and the International Law Institute. This product highlighted the current challenges and future strategic responses of the Alliance in the aftermath of NATO’s Wales Summit held in the United Kingdom (September 4-5, 2014). In this report, Yonah Alexander and Richard Prosen provided an overview of NATO observing that the Euro-Atlantic defensive and offensive alliance is as relevant today as it was during the Cold War. Other contributors included Raffi Gregorian analysis of a case study on the Balkans, Patrick Murphy focused on NATO and Russia relationships, and General (Ret.) Wesley Clark offered insights on NATO’s future.

The second report “NATO's Strategy: Continuity or Change?” (January 2017) was produced by the Inter-University Center for Terrorism, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, the International Law Institute, the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and with the association of the U.S. Department of State. This publication was released shortly after the inauguration of the Trump Administration. It is based on a seminar on “NATO: Post Warsaw Agenda” which was held at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies on October 31, 2016. This event followed the Alliance’s 28th summit in Warsaw, July 8-9 of that year. Yonah Alexander wrote an introduction and other contributors included Richard Prosen, Kenneth Wainstein, Joseph Manso, Daniel Hamilton, Jeffrey Rathke, and Jorge Benitez. During the event, other colleagues, including Ambassador Kurt Volker (former U.S. Ambassador to NATO; currently, Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership) and General (ret.) Alfred Gray (Twenty-Ninth Commandant of the United States Marine Corps; Senior Fellow and Chairman of the Board of Regents, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies) participated in the program and provided unique insights. Six months after the release on June 5, 2017, Montenegro joined NATO and several years later, North Macedonia joined NATO on March 27, 2020.

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a coordinated full-scale invasion of Ukraine making history as the largest attack on a European country since World War II. This aggressive, unprovoked war created a grave humanitarian crisis and destabilized the geopolitical world order. On February 25, 2022, NATO leaders held a ‘virtual extraordinary summit’ and unanimously condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine – the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades – and reiterated their support for Ukraine. NATO also stated that they would make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense across the Alliance. On March 24, 2022, the NATO Brussels Summit was held. There, NATO leaders agreed to a set of proposals under the NATO 2030 reform agenda to: strengthen the Alliance as a forum for political consultations; reinforce collective defense through increased readiness, modernized capabilities and additional investments; and develop Alliance-wide resilience objectives to make societies less vulnerable to attack and coercion. The leaders also agreed that NATO’s next Strategic Concept would need to be ready before the next Summit in 2022 (Madrid).

The third report “NATO Strategic Lessons From the Russian Invasion of Ukraine” (July 2022) was a product of a Zoom Forum held on April 28, 2022, which focused on NATO members’ responses security challenges. A distinguished panel of U.S. and foreign experts discussed the outlook of NATO’s mission regionally and globally. This virtual discussion began with opening remarks by Professor Don Wallace Jr. (Chairman, International Law Institute) and was moderated by Professor Yonah Alexander (Director of the International Center for Terrorism Studies and Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies). The following distinguished panel of scholars and practitioners gave presentations and subsequent discussions; General (Ret.) Wesley Clark (Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe); Ambassador Robert Hunter (Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO); Major General (Ret.) Dr. Mihail E. Ionescu (Professor, National School of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA) Bucharest, Romania); Professor Herman Matthijs (University Ghent & Free University Brussels); Professor Natividad Carpintero-Santamaria (Professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and General Secretary of the Instituto de Fusión Nuclear “Guillermo Velarde”); Professor Shimon Shetreet (Greenblatt Chair of Public and International Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Former Cabinet Minister and MK, Israel); and Bruce Weinrod (Former Secretary of Defense Representative for Europe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and NATO Policy. Closing remarks were delivered by General (Ret.) Alfred Gray, USMC (29th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps (1987-1991), and Chairman of the Board of Directors and Regents, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies).

At the NATO Madrid Summit on June 29-30, 2022, the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept was released. NATO's guiding document, reflected on the new security reality that emerged since the previous Strategic Concept was agreed in 2010. It identified Russia as the most significant and direct threat to Allied security, addressed China for the first time, and included other challenges like terrorism, cyber, and hybrid. The Strategic Concept also reaffirmed the commitment by Allies to spend at least 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense by 2024. Finally, Finland and Sweden were invited to join the Alliance. Finland formally joined NATO on April 4, 2023.

The NATO Vilnius Summit was held in Lithuania, on July 11–12, 2023. At the Summit, members boosted NATO's deterrence and defense by approving new regional plans to counter the two main threats to the Alliance: Russia and terrorism. Allies renewed their pledge to invest a minimum of 2% of GDP annually on defense. The Summit leaders endorsed a Defense Production Action Plan to accelerate joint procurement, boost interoperability, generate investment, and production capacity. NATO Leaders agreed on a multi-year assistance program for Ukraine, held the inaugural meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, and reaffirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO when Allies agree and conditions are met.


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The Global Energy Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities

A popular English proverb provides an insightful lesson of history, “He that would know what shall be, must consider what hath been. Things present are judged by things past.” Indeed, a realistic assessment of permanent factors of domestic and international life entails consideration of factors such as the struggle of power within and among nations.

It is not surprising, therefore, that throughout recorded history national, regional, and global energy security interests and concerns required a critical focus that is expanding with every passing year. Thus, interdisciplinary published and unpublished literature reveals infinite lists of relevant terms, concepts, trends, consequences, costs, and impacts on societies past, modern, and even, to the minds of some, predictable glimpses of thousands of years hence.

This extensive lexicon brings to mind topics such as artificial intelligence, business, coal, crime, cyber, diplomacy, disasters, economy, environment, gas, leadership, media, military, nuclear, peace, propaganda, science, solar, strategy, terrorism, and war.

By June 2023, these energy-related topics have grown substantially both at home and abroad. For example, in North America frequent storms in the state of Texas, have caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to ask residents to cut power consumption and turn up their thermostats amid rising temperatures. This has been a growing concern in Texas, as its power grid is largely cut off from the rest of the U.S.i

Colombia’s Ecopetrol is sustaining sales to Asia at about 45% of its crude oil production even with the competition from Russian oil forcing it to offer deeper discounts.ii

In Africa, cheap contraband petrol from Nigeria abruptly doubled in price. This caused black market fuel vendors’ and commercial drivers’ businesses to collapse in Cameroon, Benin, and Togo.iii

In Europe, Germany’s energy prices have surged. Some companies are considering leaving the country altogether. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to affect the rising increase of energy prices across Europe.iv

China’s fulfillment of its green energy targets for 2030 looks to be five years ahead of schedule, but coal plants are increasingly being produced as a backup for new wind and solar farms. China’s increasing capacity to generate power from wind and solar could have a significant affect on limiting impacts of rising temperatures.v

Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and France’s TotalEnergies have been awarded Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts for the $11 billion Amiral complex in Saudi Arabia. The award of the EPC contracts marks the start of construction work on the joint petrochemical expansion.vi

Australia’s government made a $66.35 million investment into the Waratah Super battery. The project is aimed at helping ease demands on the grid as the Eraring coal power plant is set to be decommissioned in 2025.vii

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced that global oil demand will rise to 110 million barrels a day in about 20 years, increasing the world’s oil demand by 23%.viii

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission stated that Croatia remains committed to addressing the challenges of managing its radioactive waste shortly after the Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) review team concluded a nine-day mission to Croatia.ix

With the upcoming UN climate talks in November 2023, representatives have argued for a plan to fight climate change by welcoming oil and gas companies to participate more fully in the talks, with energy use derived from fossil fuels accounting for more than two-thirds of global emissions.x

These random media reports and many thousands of previous instances have been continuously considered by contemporary scholars, professionals, and policy-makers.


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Disaster Relief and Diplomacy: Mutually Supportive

Disaster Relief and Diplomacy

As we have repeatedly learned from history, the two key causes of catastrophic disasters are “Mother Nature” and “man-made.” These twin permanent threats to humanity have brought grave security costs on political, social, economic, and strategic levels. Therefore, it is not surprising that every generation from antiquity to modern times has developed “best practices” to cope with selected current challenges as well as a need to avert or survive the next expected and unexpected national, regional, and global dangers.

More specifically, such tragedies include earthquakes, famine, and plagues. Thus, during early 2023, misfortunes have struck China, Turkey, and Sudan. Additionally, the death toll due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic has reached 6,922,654i as of May 1, 2023.

Similarly, technological failures such as leakages of nuclear power plants occurred in the United States, Japan, and Ukraine. Also, state and non-state actors have launched tragic terrorist operations, wars, and flights of refugees, at home and abroad. Will civilization survive ongoing and future human conventional and unconventional calamities?


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Latin American Security Concerns

Latin American Security

Like any other world region, Latin America has faced two security challenges. The first stems from natural disasters, such as earthquakes and infectious diseases. The second consists of “man-made” threats including organized crime, terrorism, insurgency, and war triggered by internal and external adversaries.

Indeed, many factors have contributed to these dual security calamities. Aside from afflictions by Mother Nature, mention should be made of vulnerabilities created by porous borders; established smuggling routes; implementation at various times of Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, Castroism, fascism, and right-wing ideological models promoting dictatorships and military regimes; violating individual and collective human rights; weakening governmental institutions and the rule of law; sustaining corruption practices; and mismanaging scarce economic resources.

Some of the notable security-related concerns in Latin America several years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic include a landslide in Colombia that killed over 300 people; protests surrounding Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruling on the National Assembly’s power; Brazil’s Alcaçuz prison riot; an earthquake in Ecuador that killed over 650 people; and the assassination of a Mexico City mayor.

The security challenges in early 2023 are: Nicaragua’s canceled citizenship for 94 political opponents; an outbreak of dengue in Bolivia which killed 26 people; Ecuador being ranked as the least safe country in Latin America due to escalated gang violence, drug trafficking, and civil unrest; and in Peru, 48 citizens being killed as well as over 1,300 others injured while protesting the removal of President Pedro Castillo.

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Security Situation in the Sahel: Assessing Threats and Responses

One cannot fully understand the impact of rising terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel without looking back to numerous warning signs that exploded during the post-WWII period. Thus, one tragic historical lesson relates to the December 21, 1988, mid-air explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, perpetrated by a Libyan state-sponsored operation. It resulted in the death of 270 passengers, mostly Americans. Although Muammar Gaddafi’s 42 years of dictatorship were replaced by a new Tripoli regime in 2011, Libyan terrorism is alive and well. This brutal reality was graphically illustrated by the killing of four U.S. government personnel, including Ambassador John Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. In fact, several days after this attack, a Libyan preacher during a Friday sermon called on the faithful to “detonate our wrath upon them” and “stab them in their main artery.”1

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies (IUCTS), in cooperation with its academic partners such as the George Washington University, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, the International Law Institute, and other institutions in the U.S., Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have developed interdisciplinary educational programs focusing on security challenges in the Maghreb—Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia—as well as adjacent areas such as Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and their regional and global strategic implications.

More specifically, our latest academic work has included a number of publications. The first on, “Why the Maghreb Matters: Threats, Opportunities & Options for Effective U.S. Engagement in North Africa” was published by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the Conflict Management Program at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies on March 31, 2009. This initial work was guided by a bipartisan panel, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, General (Ret.) Wesley Clark, Ambassador (Ret.) Stuart Eizenstat, Professor William Zartman, and other distinguished former officials and academics. The panel recommended more effective engagement in the region to prevent a brewing security crisis from erupting there.

Another following report is, “Terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel in 2015” that was authored by Yonah Alexander and published in March 2016. This work drew similar conclusions, thereby underscoring the pessimistic reality that the region is engaged in a generational socio-cultural conflict that impacts the global community. Indeed, events continue to point to a growing “arc of instability” across the region, with consequences beyond any country’s borders.

Additionally, in 2017, another study also authored by Yonah Alexander observed that focusing international attention on the region can help enable the seeds of conflict resolution, political accommodation, economic and social development, and national reconciliation to emerge and counter the forces of instability and chaos. The publication therefore recommended that, to be sustainable and effective, these solutions require an integration of global and local resolve as well as resources. Without an effective menu of responses to the challenges of terrorism and instability, these threats to the world community will only continue to grow.

The current March 2023 publication draws from the recent Zoom Forum titled, “The Security Situation in the Sahel: Assessing Threats and Responses” that was held virtually on November 2, 2022. It included the following distinguished invited speakers Professor Jibrin Ibrahim (Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy & Development); Ambassador Zango Abdu (Country Manager, USIP Nigeria; Director, Sahel Institute for Strategic Studies); Professor Yasmine Hasnaoui (University Professor of Humanities & Political Science at the American International University, Kuwait); Ambassador (Ret.) Charles Ray (Former United States Ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe); Professor Rita Colwell (Distinguished University Professor at Maryland and Johns Hopkins); and Dr. Chris Kwaja (Associate Professor of International Affairs at the Center for Peace and Security, Modibbo Adama University, Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria). Deep appreciation is due to their exceptional contributions to the Forum.


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