Elt Roma is a part of Elettronica Group

On March 14th Domitilla Benigni, Chief Operating Officer of ELETTRONICA, attended to the workshop “Projecting stability on NATO southern neighborhood”, event jointly organized by Istituto Affari Internazionali and NATO Public Diplomacy Division, in partnership with NATO Defense College and ELETTRONICA.

Workshop “Projecting stability on NATO southern neighbourhood”

2nd Panel: The possible NATO role to project stability on the South

Today workshop has underlined that the threats and security challenges coming, directly or indirectly, from the southern neighbourhood of Europe have a deep and negative impact on the security and stability of European societies.

It is suffice to think about international terrorism linked to Islamic extremism, to the crisis and conflicts in North Africa and Middle East that fuel an unprecedented flow of migrants and refugees toward European shores.

It has been also noticed that “projecting stability” implies different lines of actions, including but not limited to:

  1. Surveillance of EU/NATO external borders;
  2. Intelligence activities in North Africa and Middle East, including cyber intelligence as mandatory need;
  3. Defence and security capacity building of partnering Countries in that area;
  4. Crisis management operation, which may range from SAR and Combat SAR to peace-keeping, from air campaigns to maritime missions, to special forces operations;

Military and/or security forces of NATO members and/or partners are likely to contribute to all these tasks in the next future, particularly in the Europe’s southern neighbourhood.

This means for NATO members and partners the mandatory need to invest and maintain adequate capabilities and technologies in the above mentioned domains, envisaging, as well, an high degree of interoperability and resilience.

In 2015-2016 the trend of decreasing defence budgets in Europe has halted, after more than two decades, and an uplift has been registered. There are many reasons for that, from the terrorist threat to the tensions with Russia, up to NATO defence spending pledge to reach 2% of defence spending by 2024 .

Now it has to be seen if the slight increase of European defence budgets will continue and at what pace. As well, it has to be seen how such increase of funds will be spent. Mandatory is to invest in new / more capabilities, increase R&D activities, allow Armed Forces to be extensively trained in such new emerging technologies and capabilities.

Stated the above, in my opinion, it is necessary to back the current NATO level of ambitions with adequate resources, in both qualitative and quantitative terms, in order to put forward an effective strategy towards the NATO Southern neighbourhood and, generally speaking, an effective defence policy.

Nato defence spending is not sufficient per se. Recent years have seen an increase of bilateral outreach by NATO members towards usual or possible partners in North Africa and Middle East.

For sure, bilateralism has always been part of foreign and defence policy.

However, it has significantly increased in relation with the gradual disengagement of the US from that part of the world, while Russia is returning to exert influence in that region and China is increasing its presence.

In this context, several European countries have enhanced their bilateral efforts too.

Today, NATO members have to do more, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Hopefully, they should better coordinate the bilateral and multilateral levels.

In this frame, Italy has an important role to play in this regards at both levels,

given its geographical position and national interests in the Mediterranean region.

Italy should play the role of a hub of cooperation to project stability on NATO southern neighbourhood. A hub of cooperation among both NATO members and partners.

It is a role in terms of political, diplomatic, military and industrial engagement, since all these aspects are strictly linked, when it comes to projecting stability. Diplomatic ties, military-to-military cooperation from training to joint activities, industrial cooperation particularly in the security and defence sector, all of this contribute to greater understanding and convergence, to “integrate”, “to complement” the specific partner to positions closer to ours.

Italy has, therefore, the opportunity to build stronger relations with partner countries in the region, from the higher level to the working one, with a focus on their foreign, defence and defence industrial policy.

In fact, defence and security related capacity building implies education, training, mentoring, exercises, assistance, procurement and maintenance of equipment: in a nutshell, the provision of both “hardware” and “software” for their military and security forces.

It is often said that our security increasingly depends on the security of our partner neighbours. Indeed, their capacity to handle security threats and challenges, to control their territory and borders, to enforce law, all of this contributes to the very same security of NATO members.

As said before, Italy has a crucial role to play in this regards, by increasing its outreach towards partner countries in North Africa and Middle East.

Being more specific, some capability areas are worth to be mentioned, since they are crucial for the actions mentioned before. They should be further developed, with a premium on interoperability, with a view to joint and combined operations.

First, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, including air, maritime and land ones.

They are necessary and would be widely used in a variety of activities and operations, from low intensity to high intensity ones, in both permissive, semi-permissive and non-permissive environments.

Second, intelligence and cyber intelligence capabilities. In recent years intelligence and special forces activities have steadily growth in the NATO southern neighbourhood, and an increased synergy between armed forces and intelligence services is beneficial to reduce symmetric and asymmetric threats.

Third, border control. It is a priority for EU and NATO members, and for Italy it is even more than a priority, given the migration crisis in the Central Mediterranean. It is worthy to remind that almost half million of migrants and refugees has landed in Italy in only 3 years (2014/2016) .

Forth, considering the presence of hostile states and non-states actors in regions surrounding NATO, electronic warfare deserves proper attention. Here the sharing of requirements and the operational support is very important to build military capabilities together – i.e. Italy with partner countries.

In order to do so, and to pursue a broader and stronger partnership aimed to capacity building against common threats, government-to-government agreements should be finalized across the region.

Finally, it should not be underestimated the importance to protect and secure critical infrastructures in NATO members and partner countries. The terrorist threat may turn its attention towards this target, whose protection should be ensured also through soft kill tools and systems.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that a more wide, constant and open dialogue is needed both at national and NATO level among various institutions, armed forces, the private sector, experts and the more interested part of the public opinion.

This is crucial in order to move towards a shared understanding of the regional security environment as well as of the possible roles to be played by various actors in NATO members.

This wider and more constant dialogue is also crucial in order to explain the security challenges and the possible ways to address them, and to build consensus domestically on a number of issues, from military operations to defence investments.

Without such domestic consensus, the continuity of actions by governments and institutions in Europe, including in Italy, risk to be weakened or even undermined by internal opposition and disagreements.

Domitilla Benigni
Chief Operating Officer