“NATO faces challenges which are more complex than at any time since the end of the Cold War and the Alliance is responding. Countering threats stemming from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is an essential part of that response.” It was in these terms that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a new centre to address the threats emanating south of the Atlantic Alliance’s traditional strategic axis.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference following a NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting, Stoltenberg announced that agreement had been reached on creating a Hub for the South at the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. “This will be a focal point for increasing our understanding of the challenges stemming from the region and our ability to address them,” he said. He added that “around 100 people will work at the Hub, assessing potential threats and engaging with partner nations and organisations.”
The Hub is only one part of NATO’s Framework for the South.
“We are also improving our advance planning and stepping up training and exercises, so that we can better conduct operations in the region if necessary. Including with the NATO Response Force,” he remarked.
NATO’s five RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance remotely piloted air vehicles based at the Italian air base of Sigonella in Sicily “will also contribute to the bigger picture, helping us make quick and informed decisions,” added Stoltenberg.
If the security approach of this new strategy is indisputable, it should also allow the Alliance to reassure the Trump administration which is being insistent that the costs of the war against terrorism must be shared. The fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, for example, has cost the U.S. taxpayer more than US$10bn since it was launched in August 2014. The U.S. president is hoping to put an end to this financial effort by “inviting” NATO members to speed up efforts to spend the suggested level of 2% of their GDP on defence. Only five of NATO’s 28 members – Estonia, Greece, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States – currently meet this level of defence spending which all are supposed to reach by 2024.