Smart Defence – NATO’s rescue or merely lip-service?


  • Carl Lagerström

Publish date: 2012-05-10

Report number: FOI-R--3436--SE

Pages: 65

Written in: Swedish


  • NATO
  • Smart Defence
  • defence cooperation
  • capabilities
  • defence spending


The current financial crisis has raised a debate within NATO that could have a significant impact on the alliance's future cohesion and capabilities. To meet the new realities in the current economic climate, both European and North American members are planning for significant cuts in their defence spending. These cuts threaten to further increase what is commonly known within NATO as spending gap and capabilities gap. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's response to reverse this trend is a concept that he calls Smart Defence. According to Rasmussen, the concept aims to provide greater security for less money by working together in a more flexible manner. The main purpose of Smart Defence is to improve NATO's collective capabilities despite national cut backs on defence spending. Is Smart Defence NATO's rescue or merely lip-service? In the case of a favourable outcome of the Smart Defence concept, the answer is probably somewhere in between. With political will and a little time, Smart Defence could have power enough to create a better European contribution to the transatlantic defence community and thereby revitalize the transatlantic link. The underlying problem (the capabilities gap and spending gap within NATO) behind the creation of Smart Defence is political and therefore requires political solutions. Without political will, it is likely that the Smart Defence concept is perceived as merely lip-service. It seems that Sweden, and some other partner countries, will have to put up with a limited participation within Smart Defence, at least initially. It is difficult to assess how attitudes towards partners' participation within Smart Defence will develop. One possibility is that once the concept develops and matures, that may provide an opening to find routines that facilitate partner's involvement in various projects.