Australian Outlook

In this section

NATO and Australia – Why Common Partnership Matters to Both

31 Jul 2014
Barbora Maronkova
Source: Supplied (NATO)

In today’s interconnected world NATO’s global partnership network seeks to provide an effective response to international security challenges. There are good reasons for Australia and NATO, who share similar values and a high interoperability of forces, to continue to develop their relationship and the NATO Summit in Wales on 4-5 September will provide a  good opportunity to do so.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 in the aftermath of WWII to provide peace and stability in the North Atlantic Area.

Nearly 65 years later, NATO still remains one of the most successful alliances in the world. As the world changed, so did the Alliance, reflecting on the main geostrategic changes in the security area. It has proved its transformative power from a Cold War watchdog to an exporter of security through its crisis management operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Gulf of Aden and others.

With its Headquarters based in Brussels, Belgium, it currently comprises 28 member states (from North America to Europe) and, in addition, has a vibrant partnership network with over 50 countries around the world.

What links NATO and Australia?

For much of the Australian public, the word NATO is a synonym of the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. For more than a decade, Australia has been contributing to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force whoseprimary objective is to enable the Afghan government to provide effective security across the country and develop new Afghan security forces to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. With the operation coming to its end in December 2014, the question posed in Brussels and Canberra is, what will the future of the NATO-Australia relationship be?

Australia’s security and defence is closely linked to the United States and, to a certain extent, the United Kingdom. Why should Australians be interested in developing further relations with an organization that has a geographical connotation in its name – North Atlantic?

The answer is that security threats are global. In today’s interconnected world, security challenges are no longer limited to individual countries.

Building a Global Partnership Network

NATO has clearly understood this and has spent over 20 years developing its partnership networks, first within its neighbourhood (such as the Partnership for Peace or Mediterranean dialogue), thereafter further expanding it to a more global network of partners around the globe. The principle underpinning this extraordinary network of partners which numbers more than 50 is the underlying belief that only cooperation and connectivity can provide an effective response to global threats.

In its key strategy document, NATO’s Strategic Concept adopted in November 2010, NATO outlines its goals for the next decade based on three pillars: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

Basing itself on this document, NATO also rightly reaches out to ‘like-minded’ nations regardless of their geographic distance. A country such as Australia, which has proved to be a valued partner, sharing the same values and high interoperability of its forces with NATO, is considered a perfect candidate for such a partnership.

Prospects for the NATO Summit Wales 2014

The upcoming NATO summit in Wales (United Kingdom), to be held on 4-5 September 2014, will take forward the Alliance’s commitment to its global partners and will define how to stay politically and militarily connected after 13 years of successful cooperation in Afghanistan. Enhanced engagement with the most active partners can have several facets, namely: maintaining political consultations, encouraging military connectivity and interoperability through joint training and exercises or cooperating in the area of science and technology, as the ongoing project on Smart Energy “Improving Energy Efficiency for Military Forces” with Australian experts.

Sometimes common understanding and outlook on key values can easily overcome geographical distances. While awaiting the outcomes of the NATO Wales Summit, both NATO and its partners should be working hard to underline their mutual commitment to a better global security by working together. In a global world, the more partners the more advantageous the outcomes will be for all.


Barbora Maronkova is Programme Officer at the Public Diplomacy Division, NATO.

Views expressed are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the official position of NATO.