NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

NATO Partnerships – Supporting Current Relations, and Exploring Future Ones

November 6, 2023

While NATO’s primary mandate is to ensure the collective defence of its member states, the challenges the Alliance faces are global and its security is interconnected with countries and other actors worldwide. In addition to its 31 member nations, NATO also routinely cooperates with 36 partner nations, as well as other international organizations. Through dialogue and practical cooperation, these partnerships aim to enhance the security of the Alliance and of its partners.

To develop better mutual understanding and situational awareness of regional and global developments, NATO pursues engagement at all levels, from senior diplomats to more junior employees.  These connections cover a wide variety of military, political and security-related issues. Based on the principle of mutual benefit and interest, NATO and its partners also engage in practical cooperation activities such as trainings, exercises and operations. Another noteworthy collaboration is in defence planning, as NATO supports its partner nations with building their defence capacity and developing interoperability between partners’ and Allied forces.

With the changing political and security environment, NATO’s partnerships are continuously evolving to better include partners, provide more flexible opportunities, and explore new forms of cooperation and consultation.

As NATO’s Strategic Warfare Development Command, Allied Command Transformation is engaging with partner nations to develop a long-term vision for how NATO and other nations can design their partnerships to be fit for future challenges.

The Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate at Allied Command Transformation is leading this work on a conceptual level. The importance of cooperation with partners is one of the six core functions of the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, which offers a vision to direct further development of NATO’s decisive military advantage. The “Out-Partner” function states “the future Alliance Military Instrument of Power must be able to foster mutually supportive and habitual relationships and partnership opportunities.” This work is supported by different conferences and engagements organized and supported by the Command which provides NATO Allies, its partners and other NATO entities, a platform which enhances opportunities to cooperate on topics such as Warfare Development, Capacity Building and Resilience.

In this context, the yearly Partnerships P360 Symposium, organized jointly with the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of the NATO International Staff, is particularly important. Dedicated solely to fostering these partnerships, it is a unique event where international organizations, both civilian and military members of NATO, and Partner Nations, can strengthen understanding of each other and consider strategic trends, opportunities and challenges.

For practical cooperation opportunities, Allied Command Transformation’s Joint Force Development Directorate aims to improve interoperability and enhance the capabilities of Partner Nations’ forces whilst supporting Allied Command Operations’ Partnership Directorate so that Partners can better work side-by-side with NATO forces. As one function it facilitates partner participation in education, training and exercise programmes and co-chairs the Partnership Training and Education Centres Conference.

Additionally, several Partner National Liaison Representatives have permanent assignments to represent their nation directly at Allied Command Transformation. Colonel Robin Hillinger, from Austria, shared that “Austria attaches great importance to a well-functioning partnership with NATO with the intention of expanded cooperation in terms of Interoperability and Capability Development – very much in the spirit of the idea ‘Out Partner’.” Another Partner National Liaison Representative, Lieutenant Colonel Gregoire Monnet, from Switzerland, emphasized the significance of these enduring relationships by stating that “Partnerships during peacetime lay the foundation for mutual and beneficial cooperation during hardship, hence why it is important.”

The Partner National Liaison Representatives presence in these NATO entities further strengthens coordination between the NATO Strategic Commands, Allied Command Transformation, Allied Command Operations, and NATO partner nations.

As the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept emphasizes, NATO’s partners are central to upholding the rules-based international order and safeguarding global security. This effectively enhances NATO’s partnerships of today while shaping a continued future where Allies are #StrongerTogether.