Resilience and Article 3

  • Last updated: 25 Jun. 2018 16:38

Each NATO member country needs to be resilient to resist and recover from a major shock such as a natural disaster, failure of critical infrastructure or an armed attack. Resilience is a society’s ability to resist and recover easily and quickly from such shocks and combines both civil preparedness and military capacity. Robust resilience and civil preparedness in Allied countries are essential to NATO’s collective security and defence.

25-30 September 2000 Exercise Trans-Carpathia 2000 in Ukraine. - elimination of consequences of a transport accident with chemical spill.

The principle of resilience is firmly anchored in Article 3 of the Alliance’s founding treaty: “In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

The individual commitment of each and every Ally to maintain and strengthen its resilience reduces the vulnerability of NATO as a whole. Members can strengthen resilience through the development of home defence and niche skills such as cyber defence or medical support combining civilian, economic, commercial and military factors. When Allies are well prepared, they are less likely to be attacked, making NATO as a whole stronger.

Moreover, military forces, especially those deployed during crises and war, have come to depend on the civilian and commercial sectors for transport, communications and even basic supplies such as food and water to fulfil their missions. Military efforts to defend Alliance territory and populations therefore need to be complemented by robust civil preparedness. However, civil capabilities can be vulnerable to disruption and attack in both peace and war. By reducing these vulnerabilities, NATO reduces the risk of a potential attack. A high level of resilience is therefore an essential aspect of credible deterrence.

Resilience is a national responsibility and each member country needs to be sufficiently robust and adaptable to support the entire spectrum of crises envisaged by the Alliance. In this context, Article 3 complements the collective defence clause set out in Article 5, which stipulates that an attack against one Ally is an attack against all. Allies need to give NATO the means to fulfil its core tasks and, in particular, that of collective defence.

Vulnerabilities in a changing security environment

Today’s security environment is unpredictable. Threats can come from state and non-state actors, including terrorism and other asymmetrical threats, cyber attacks and hybrid warfare, which blur the lines between conventional and unconventional forms of conflict. They can also come from natural disasters such as floods, fires and earthquakes. The challenge of adapting and responding to these hazards is compounded by trends that have radically transformed the security environment.

Firstly, falling defence budgets since the end of the Cold War have gradually increased the overall reliance on civil and commercial assets and capabilities. A few figures illustrate the extent of this: around 90 per cent of military transport for large military operations is chartered or requisitioned from the commercial sector; on average, over 50 per cent of satellite communications used for defence purposes are provided by the commercial sector; and some 75 per cent of host nation support to NATO operations is sourced from local commercial infrastructure and services.

Secondly, civil resources and critical infrastructure are now, in many areas, owned and operated by the private sector. Driven by the objective of maximising efficiency and making profits, the private sector has eliminated most redundancies, which are costly for business. However, these redundancies are critical for governments to maintain and use as an emergency back-up in times of crises. During the Cold War for instance, there were territorial defence mechanisms and capabilities in place ready to support a war effort, but they no longer exist.

In sum, with the reduction in military investment and the privatisation of previously government-owned assets, a heavy reliance on civilian enablers, bound by commercial practices, has developed.

Thirdly, with the widespread use of new technologies, our societies have become interconnected and interdependent, in the economic, financial, information and cyber domains. Such interdependence has been a great strength and of significant benefit to our societies, but it can also be a weakness, making Allies vulnerable to the implications of rapid change in these domains.

The vulnerabilities Allies have to contend with are numerous, complex and multidirectional. NATO’s work to improve resilience is not specific to any single vulnerability. It contributes to protecting citizens from all potential hazards. At the 2016 Summit in Warsaw, Allied leaders committed to continue enhancing NATO’s resilience to the full spectrum of threats and to further developing individual and collective capacity to resist any form of armed attack.  Implementing this commitment is a top priority for Allies. NATO can support Allies in assessing and, upon request, enhancing their resilience.

In Warsaw, Allied leaders also took steps to ensure NATO has the ability to effectively address the complex challenges hybrid warfare poses. Although primary responsibility to respond to hybrid threats or attacks rests with the targeted country, NATO is prepared to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign and to counter hybrid warfare as part of collective defence.

Role of civil preparedness in crisis management

When military forces need to deploy, they rely on the civilian and commercial sectors for support. In concrete terms this means that they need support to deploy rapidly and freely across Alliance territory. Military forces are reliant for instance on civilian transport facilities, satellite communication and power supplies, not to mention food and water supplies, to conduct their operations.

The range of functions and facilities the civilian sector covers is broad, and includes:  continuity of government, of essential services to the population and support to military operations as the three critical civilian functions that a country must be able to uphold under all circumstances.

Exercises are an effective way to conduct stress tests of national arrangements, in particular when it comes to large-scale problems such as an attack with weapons of mass destruction or dealing with hybrid warfare. However, in order to support Allies, NATO has developed guidelines and tools. It has agreed seven baseline requirements for national resilience against which member states can measure their level of preparedness:

  • Assured continuity of government and critical government services: for instance the ability to make decisions, communicate them and enforce them in a crisis;
  • Resilient energy supplies: back-up plans and power grids, internally and across borders;
  • Ability to deal effectively with uncontrolled movement of people, and to de-conflict these movements from NATO’s military deployments;
  • Resilient food and water resources: ensuring these supplies are safe from disruption or sabotage;
  • Ability to deal with mass casualties: ensuring that civilian health systems can cope and that sufficient medical supplies are stocked and secure;
  • Resilient civil communications systems: ensuring that telecommunications and cyber networks function even under crisis conditions, with sufficient back-up capacity; and
  • Resilient transport systems: ensuring that NATO forces can move across Alliance territory rapidly and that civilian services can rely on transportation networks, even in a crisis.

In 2017, an Alliance-wide assessment of national resilience was conducted with the aim of generating an overview of the state of civil preparedness. It identified areas where further efforts are required to enhance resilience and deal with a wide range of threats, including terrorism.  This initiative has increased awareness of the need for Allied countries to focus on building resilience through civil preparedness.

Partnering to strengthen resilience

Enhancing resilience and civil preparedness is also part of NATO’s support to partners and a way to project stability in the Alliance’s neighbourhood. Examples of practical cooperation include the deployment of teams of civil preparedness experts in support of Georgia and Iraq, and the establishment of a three-year defence capacity-building project to assist Jordan in improving its crisis management capabilities and maintaining continuity of government.

NATO also partners with the private sector and other international organisations, in particular the European Union, to further reinforce the efficiency and effectiveness of civil preparedness.