Since the launch of NATO’s first Article 5 operation - Operation Active Endeavour – in October 2001 and its counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa (October 2008), it has drafted a new Alliance Maritime Strategy to further institutionalise operational flexibility and strengthen the ties between NATO countries and its partners. This strategy was adopted in January 2011, in full consistency with the 2010 Strategic Concept.
The strategy stipulates that NATO maritime forces will enhance the Alliance’s security by contributing to deterrence and collective defence, crisis management, cooperative security and maritime security.
Deterrence and collective defence
NATO has significant maritime capabilities and inherently flexible maritime forces, which are key to deterring aggression. As such, maritime activities contribute to nuclear deterrence as well as to deterrence from conventional attacks. NATO will ensure it has the capabilities to deploy its maritime forces rapidly, to control sea lines of communication, to preserve the freedom of navigation and to conduct effective mine counter-measure activities.
NATO maritime forces can also play an important role in crisis management. These responsibilities can range from enforcing an arms embargo, to conducting maritime interdiction operations, to contributing to the Alliance’s counter-terrorism efforts, and to providing immediate humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The activities of NATO’s maritime forces not only contribute to ensuring Alliance security. The engagement with partners helps to build regional security and stability, contributes to conflict prevention and facilitates dialogue. These efforts also invite contact, positive interaction and cooperation with other relevant actors in international maritime activities, such as the United Nations and the European Union.
The strategy reiterates NATO’s commitment to pursue its maritime security activities, which help to protect vital sea lines of communication and maintain the freedom of navigation. Surveillance, patrolling and the sharing of information, for instance, all contribute to supporting law enforcement, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and countering potential terrorist or illegal activities.
This approach involves working with other international partners and ensuring an ongoing modernisation of NATO’s maritime capabilities. More importantly, it will ensure that the Alliance is prepared to confront all possible, including asymmetrical, threats, and answer the security challenges of the 21st century.