by Ambassador Gabriele CHECCHIA, President Strategic Committee. Over the last 25 years, NATO has greatly contributed in projecting stability and it is evident for all the countries involved in the many NATO partnership programs. In this regard, NATO has been able to
navigate the new security dimension emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 years ago.
Among the International Security Organization, NATO is the one that better and faster adapted its
complex political-military structure and programs to the changed security environment of the post-Cold War
era. In spite of its decision-making process by consensus (which is by the way a precious asset…), and the
complex military structure, NATO responded quickly and effectively after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
To address this new international situation Organization started a transformation process, actively
pursued an open-door policy ( on the basis of article 10 of the Treaty: last example the accession of
Montenegro on June 5, 2017) and created flexibles, tailored, holistic programs, able to respond to the
new demands of cooperation from the countries of the Central-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region.
The flexibility of these programs gave the opportunity to adapt the programs to the different realities
on the ground. In the meantime, the security concept has changed – and it is still in evolution – since the
end of the Cold War. It has become more comprehensive, moving more and more away from the static
concept of the Cold War toward a “dynamic” concept that incorporate politics, economics, ethics,
religious and immigration problems.
Many partnership programs – like the Partnership for Peace since 1994 – are key examples of
programs that paved the way to the enlargement of NATO and the projection of stability outside the
The Caspian region has benefited from the PfP program, for instance, since 1994. The importance of the
region in strategic terms stems from simple consideration: immediate challenges such as the continuing peaceoperations
in Afghanistan, as well as more long-term strategic considerations make Central Asia and the South
Caucasus crucial area of concern for the Alliance.
In more general terms, the participation in the PfP resulted in an increased stability for the region and
strengthened the security cooperation between the NATO and non-member countries in the Euro-Atlantic
area. The PfP put together a great number of countries and built confidence among NATO member and
partner countries. In particular, the new programs guided the partner countries in the adoption of
STANAGS and NATO values. Since the democratic control of the State was and is one of the most
important criteria to enter a NATO partnership program, this pushed democratic standards forward across the whole Euro-Atlantic region.
As result, the modernization efforts helped the Black Sea/Caspian region to become more attractive to
foreign investment, contributing in the economic development of the area and, consequently, improved its
In this regard, one of the most relevant successes of the last 25 years of partnership, it is in the field of
the Security Sector Reform. Despite SSR is a relatively recent concept, emerged in the ‘90s after the fall
of the Berlin Wall, it has greatly contributed enhancing the cooperation between NATO and partner
countries and to address effectively the changing geopolitical scenario.
Indeed, as you know, the concept is not built on a strict definition of security, but encompasses a large
variety of dimensions: political, economic, social and institutional. For this reason, many sectors and
institutions have been affected by the SSR: governmental institution, armed forces, intelligence,
ministries, judiciary, and political parties.
This wider concept is crucially influenced by a broader idea of “human security”, putting at the first place
the protection of the individuals instead than merely provide military assistance to states, involving also other
international institutions such as the OECD and the EU.
The SSR promoted by NATO has been and is a great tool for cooperation. In the last 25 years it
provided external support for reorganizing the security sector in line with democratic values and the rule
of law, ensuring the security and the development of the populations involved. The stability that
originates from the SSR initiatives it is crucial to create and preserve a secure and stable environment,
vital for a sustainable development.
However, together with good results, the SSR brought on the table many challenges and problems:
1) the holistic approach of the SSR it is hardly conceivable during bipolar moments or when the
competition among the great powers is strong. In these scenarios, indeed, the SSR could be seen as an
ideologically driven realpolitik instrument rather than a mechanism to advance development and
peacebuilding. This approach, therefore, could have not been effectively introduced during the Cold War
and the risk is that, with the growing rivalries among great powers it will become more difficult to
effectively implement the SSR in the near future, especially in the regions that could become contended
by the great powers.
2) In any case, the risk exists that the SSR, if nor properly agreed upon, may be perceived as an
externally imposed concept: in other terms one that does not respond to the real needs of human security
in the partner countries. Therefore, the program should be based on local demands and driven by local
stakeholders, involving also the civil societies to understand local realities and perceptions of security.
This approach, however, is not shared by everyone. Indeed, despite there is a consensus on the role of
SSR, there are two main approaches to the SSR.
a) the “orthodox” school considers the State as the only actor capable of meeting the human
security needs of the population. Thus, SSR should focus on this, reframing the relations between
state and society.
b) the second school believes that the SSR programs should originate by local dynamics,
perceptions and needs of security. This second school, as seen before, could mitigate the risk that
the SSR will be considered as an externally imposed concept. Anyway, the two models are not
irreconcilable and, above all, the SSR needs a compromise between ambition and realism.
This last concept appears even truer, analyzing the impact of the SSR in the short and in the long terms.
The often-essential reforms promoted in the frame of SSR bring stability in the long term, but instability in the short term. This danger has guided NATO and EU moves both in the Eastern Europe and in the MENA
region, often producing partnership programs less ambitious than what would have been appropriate.
Despite SSR is one of the most successful NATO programs, in the last 25 years NATO introduced
many other different partnership programs, aimed at increasing the regional stability, and interoperability
and interconnection between countries. In these programs, each partner determines scope, pace, intensity
of the partnership. There are different formulas, for instance the Individual Partnership and Cooperation
Program – that is a standard document, reviewed every two years and approved by the NAC for all
partners – or the Individual Partnership Action Plan – the same of the (IPCP) plus an enhanced political
dialogue and the SSR (for instance, with Azerbaijan). Relevant are also the Annual National Program, the
Partnership Action Plan and the Partnership Interoperability Initiative.
There are also other programs that are used for the Black Sea/Caspian Region. For instance, the
Defense and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative (Georgia), that is focused on capabilities and
SSR, the Building Integrity Initiative (Armenia, Georgia), focused on fight against corruption and good
governance; the Professional Development Program (Georgia), focused on the formation of the civilian
personnel and on improvements for legislative and executives branches; and the Defense Education
Enhancement Program, a vehicle for reform that provide tailored practical support to individual countries
in developing and reforming their professional military education institutions.
Undoubtedly, the last 25 years of partnerships between NATO and the countries of the Black
Sea/Caspian Region have strongly enhanced their relationship and the security in the region, accelerated
the pace of security sector reforms and speeded the integration of these countries in the NATO
framework. However, the security deficit in the region is still present.
Moreover, in the increasingly complex scenario, the Black Sea/Caspian region is crucial for the
stability of the whole Euro-Atlantic area. In the last years, for instance, the concept of energy security has
become more and more a relevant challenge for NATO. Protection of critical infrastructures, energy
prices, diversification of sources and transit routes, rising energy demands: NATO must cope with these
problems, and the Black Sea/Caspian region is vulnerable on this point of view.
A stronger partnership with the EU could help reach NATO aims: the two Organizations have
common goals in the area but not a common strategy. If NATO and the EU will be able to effectively
work together for the well being of the region, their complementary approaches could reinforce the
commitment of the Euro-Atlantic countries to the stability and the prosperity of the region, creating a new
model for SSR and partnerships able to overcome the problems above outlined.
Clearly, this path should be strongly encouraged also by the countries of the region that, as in the past,
have to show interest in reinforcing the partnership with the West. In the present security environment,
with hybrid threats and the return of the great power game, a strong cooperation between the Black
Sea/Caspian countries and NATO is increasingly crucial to preserve the security of the whole Euro-
Atlantic area. In this regard, strengthening and improving the successful partnerships already created and
possibly introducing new and more ambitious programs is one of the best ways to reach our common
security, economic and political goals.
A final point, which may appear obvious which is worth remembering,
having in mind Russia’s often repeated concerns: NATO’S activities in Central Asia and
the South Caucasus are not directed against anyone being simply aimed at increasing regional security in
this complex area, to benefit of all.
Keynote address delivered on occasion of the International Conference on Changing Security Dynamics of Black Sea and Caspian
Basin Countries in Light of their 25 years of Partnership with NATO, organised under the umbrella of the ATA at Istanbul on October 6-9, 2019.
The Book with the proceedings of the International Conference can be dowloaded HERE