We must ensure that the Alliance, collectively, does have the capabilities needed to meet its level of ambition and to fulfill its missions, and this, despite an era of austerity. We know we have budgetary constraints in all our Nations. We know that many of them are cutting their defense budgets. So, we need to make sure that we do the best we can with the budgets we have: we know we will not get more, but we hope to get at least the same amount.
If we want to spend better, we need to do more things together. And this is really the essence of Smart Defense: how can nations adopt a more multi-national approach? Smart Defense has been looking at the experience from the past, the lessons learned. We have not invented the wheel—Nations have been doing things together in the past on many occasions. Some experiences were successful, some were not. Now, we are trying to identify the criteria that enable successful cooperation and to apply them.
First, we are looking at a way for nations to work in smaller groupings. They must choose themselves with whom they are most comfortable working along lines which I call “strategic proximity”. It may be geography, immediate neighbors; it may be culture, language, a history of successful cooperation, or a common strategic vision; there are many possible criteria.
We also ask the nations, what would you want to do? What is in your own interest? Then, we at NATO, we compare their answers to the collective needs of the Alliance and bring coordination and coherence. If a project proposed by a nation does not fit the needs of the Alliance, either we discard the project or we help the nation change the scope. Our objective is to ensure this match between the Alliance’s vision and the individual nation’s interest, which is a powerful driver for the implementation phase.