NATO defense and foreign ministers met in Brussels on April 18 and 19 to put final touches on the core agendas they will adopt in Chicago, such as furthering missile defense implementation as well as laying the groundwork for a Smart Defense concept. In addition, NATO's 28 members will review the final preparations for handing over the security task of Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the end of 2014.
The Chicago Summit is taking place against the backdrop of the global financial crisis. Hence, the alliance seeks to ensure it can develop and maintain the defense capability it needs even in times of financial austerity.
“If we cannot spend more, we have to explore how to spend better,” says NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The Smart Defense concept came into the equation as a tool to explore ways in which available financial resources can be better spent in the face of financial constraints. The Chicago Summit, therefore, plans to approve a package of measures based on the concept of Smart Defense, in which nations focus on more prioritization, specialization and multinational cooperation in their acquisition of modern equipment. The summit is also expected to move forward with the Connected Forces Initiative, which is a set of policies to make sure that alliance forces are able to operate together through a renewed emphasis on training, exercises and compatible equipment.
Smart Defense is a new culture of cooperation which also stipulates alignment of NATO and national priorities as well as specialization where needed and multinational cooperation as the preferred option, said a senior NATO official during a briefing of journalists I attended earlier this week in Brussels.
“The idea is to look at specific strengths of nations. For example, the Czech Republic specializes in chemical warfare defense. How to best use NATO's Centre of Excellence and Defence Against Terrorism will also be addressed. We have both good and bad examples of the functioning of these [specialized] centers in various NATO countries. Specialization will happen at these centers anyway,” said the same official.
He adds that the Centre of Excellence, which is based in Ankara, should also become efficient in the future by holding joint ally exercises against terrorism.
As the NATO members prepare to adopt the Smart Defense concept during the Chicago Summit late in May, the question is whether Turkey will quickly adapt itself to this new concept, which requires intensive multilateral cooperation including joint logistical support to the alliance where needed. (This is currently each nation's responsibility.)
It was then not a coincidence when Turkish President Abdullah Gül recently set a guideline for the conscript-based Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to begin its long-delayed comprehensive defense reform. This will help Turkey to meet, among other things, NATO's Smart Defense requirements.
Turkish military reforms should focus on increasing the joint operational capability of the three services, cutting spending that does not contribute to the TSK's efficiency, increasing the ratio of combat troops in the military, raising the quality of the army by benefitting from developing opportunities in the economy and the Turkish defense sector, and employing local capabilities as much as possible in procurement policies, Gül said.
In his address on April 6 to young officers at the Istanbul-based War Academies Command, Gül noted that other NATO members had already completed their defense reforms.
NATO does not perceive the Turkish military as weakened due to the ongoing investigations and trials against more than 250 active duty and retired Turkish officers, including generals, over charges of plotting a coup to unseat the government. As a matter of fact NATO stipulates civilian democratic control of the armed forces for all alliance members. Turkey has been an exception in this respect.
As Turkey is in the process of bringing its armed forces under full democratic control, it should, however, begin employing civilian defense experts, primarily at the Ministry of Defense, to bridge its serious gap in this area.
NATO, however, is concerned that Turkey has not yet made the defense reforms needed to meet Chicago Summit goals, including the adoption of the Smart Defense concept.