NATO’s Southern Strategy at a Crossroads

Civis Mundi Digitaal #54

door Sinan Ülgen


The security landscape in NATO’s Southern neighborhood continues to evolve, broadening the alliance’s physical and political challenges at a time when strains on transatlantic relationships are intensifying. If the alliance is to remain effective, these challenges, ranging from Russia’s forward military presence in Syria to Turkey’s more assertive, securitized outlook, need to be countered by a more sustainable and ambitious strategy for the Southern flank. NATO must protect, adapt, and advance its role in the neighborhood. In particular, the alliance must achieve consensus on the scope of its political role and on the division of labor between itself and the EU. Of course, this requires that NATO members place a common response to threats high on their agendas, alongside their national interests. Only then can NATO plan, resource, and monitor appropriate actions to prevent insecurity spillovers and escalation.


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At a micro level, NATO demonstrates a degree of capacity and willingness to adapt, but it faces significant systemic obstacles. First and foremost, the alliance may be coming to a crossroads regarding its broader mandate and ambitions to project peace, security, and stability in the South. An assessment of some of the main structural transformations affecting the security landscape illustrates the urgent need to address the political conditions framing NATO’s possible response, with the aim of setting the alliance on a well-defined path.


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About the Author

Sinan Ülgen is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, where his research focuses on Turkish foreign policy, nuclear policy, cyberpolicy, and transatlantic relations. Follow him on Twitter @sinanulgen1.