Terrorism, Interconnected Threats and the Future of Cooperative Security


In times of globalization of insecurity, instabilities and crises have an impact beyond their regional contexts with actual and potential consequences on other geopolitical areas. Therefore, no country or international organization would be able to effectively tackle alone the complex and interconnected threats and security challenges, first and foremost terrorism.


Even though terrorism is not a new phenomenon in the security scenario – since Gavrilo Princip’s act started the World War I – the new terrorist threat we are facing today has unprecedented features that need to be taken into account for developing more effective counter-measures.

Emblematic of the new dimensions of the fight against terrorism is the increasing number of “homegrown” and “foreign fighters”. Sometimes, they are confused with “freedom fighters”, while, on the contrary, they are devoted to destroy our freedoms with uncivilized manners, the fundamental freedoms of our civil societies and cultural heritage.

The dismay caused by the latest terrorist attacks in Paris as yesterday at the Twin Towers, are accompanied by tens of thousands of other innocent victims in Europe, in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, and across the entire world.   

Today, terrorism is spread worldwide and is ever more interconnected through the web for radicalization, recruitment, and training.

Now is the time to act, not only to react, with a cooperative security approach and an effective strategic vision, able to address all the aforementioned dimensions of terrorism.

Three are the layers for an effective counter-terrorism strategy:

a) International cooperation through the international organizations.

The unprecedented features of the new terrorism require the international organizations and the member states to update and harmonize their different counter-terrorism strategies to device more effective counter-measures.

The mutual defense clause in the Lisbon Treaty, recently invoked by France (article 42, paragraph 7), goes in this direction and demands a mutual assistance “by all the means in their power”. It appears a far more stringent clause than the one envisaged in the article 5 of the NATO Washington Treaty. While it increases the responsibilities of the EU member states in the fight against terrorism it would be advisable that it would lead to an increased cooperation with NATO in the framework of a true NATO-EU strategic partnership.

The international community seems to be heading toward cooperative security solutions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In order to succeed, the relevant local, regional, and international actors are called to establish a true military cooperation, overcoming the political differences that still prevent them from fighting the same battle on the ground.

However, the stabilization of the Mashrek will not be enough, as ISIS is spread across the Maghreb, with major outposts in Libya and Egypt, the Sahel and elsewhere in Africa. ISIS has claimed terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and South-West Asia as well, thereby cooperative security solutions need to be implemented in the broader region if the international community is to prevail over ISIS and its ramifications.

b) National Governments.

While the international organizations have a relevant role in coordinating, supporting, and enhancing the counter-terrorism action of the member states, it is a primary responsibility of the national Governments to ensure the security, internal and external, of their citizens and country. From border control to intelligence and the protection of critical infrastructures, the National Governments are requested to update and develop new counter-terrorism strategies and assets.

c) Individual citizens.

This also entails the spread of a new and reinvigorated security culture among the population, the development of an adequate civilian preparedness, a better collection of information, as well as to protect the citizens that will denounce potential threats.

In fact, citizens will acquire a more relevant and essential role in the future  counter-terrorism strategies, as they will represent the first and fundamental tile of a new security mosaic. This means to conceive educational and training programs able to develop a new national security culture among the citizens.


In all the aforementioned three levels of action, ATA has a relevant role to play. In the field of counter-terrorism, the Atlantic Treaty Association and its 37 national chapters have been promoting international programs and regional cooperation, best practices and training initiatives for civilian and military officers, supporting national authorities and decision-makers.

Moreover, in close cooperation with the ATA youth dimension (YATA), relevant energies and resources has been devoted in educational programs aimed at developing a new national security culture among the successor generations.

However, not even a smarter action and interaction by international organizations, national governments and citizens would be able to develop more effective counter-terrorism strategies without an enhanced cooperative security approach with our Partners in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and beyond.


In this framework, the Atlantic Treaty Association has been playing a pivotal role by conducting numerous dialogue and cooperation initiatives with likeminded organizations, such as Abhath – Al Thuraya Consultancy and Researches in Abu Dhabi and the Mediterranean-Gulf Forum.

The aim of our joint efforts is to place the fight against terrorism at the core of a common security agenda between the countries of the Euro-Atlantic and Mediterranean-Gulf regions, favoring the adoption of shared counter-terrorism strategies and counter-measures.


Besides terrorism, the rise of hybrid forms of warfare and the resumption of traditional ones, embodied by the development of the fight against ISIS into a conventional conflict and by the violent escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, call NATO countries and Partners to enhance their capabilities and build their capacities.

The exercise “Trident Juncture” that has recently been completed in Italy, Spain, and Portugal reflects the new NATO level of ambition adopted in the 2014 Wales Summit in facing the conventional and non-conventional challenges and threats of the present security scenario.

On the other hand, the annual exercise “Eager Lion”, carried out in Jordan by a conspicuous group of NATO countries and partners, has reached its fifth edition, bolstering defense capabilities in the region and enhancing military-to-military relationships.

Moreover, new NATO programs for partner countries have also been launched, such as the Defense Capacity Building Initiative. In this framework, an agreement between NATO and Iraq has already been forged.

However, such a level of ambition must be backed by adequate military capabilities in order to avoid the imbalance within the Alliance between the resources that member states allocate to the defense sector and NATO ability to guarantee an effective collective defense.

Therefore, looking to the next Warsaw Summit, to make steps forward in addressing the 2% issue is mandatory for all the EU Allied countries.


However, NATO countries and partners are increasingly being confronted by security challenges and threats of non-military nature that cannot be dealt with by military means.

Indeed, “security is today far more than a military matters. The strengthening of political consultation and economic cooperation, the development of resources, progress in education and public understanding, all these can be as important, for the protection of the security of a nation, or an alliance, as the building of a battleship or the equipping of an army”.

Such words mirror exactly the characteristics of the contemporary security scenario. In fact, they are expression of the farsighted vision of the “Report of the Committee of Three on Non-Military Cooperation” issued in 1956 to enlighten us on the importance of a cooperative approach to security also in strategic non-military sectors. Radicalization, unemployment and marginalization, food and water security, climate change are non-military instability factors feeding terrorism and triggering dreadful humanitarian emergencies, such as the refugee one. 

A renewed effort by the international organizations and their member states to enhance cooperative security in non-military fields is necessary to solve the root causes of terrorism and the insecurity of the present times.

In Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, we do need a new vision and a proactive – not only reactive – comprehensive strategy to address the multifaceted challenges and threats to security, which are increasingly coming from Africa and Asia, beyond the border of the Euro-Atlantic and Mediterranean-Gulf area.

ATA is ready and prepared to enhance its partnership relations in the promotion of a cooperative approach to security in non-military fields, such as education, culture, and human development, along the lines of the Report of the Committee of Three.


To this end, the Atlantic Treaty Association is committed to launch in 2016 a significant initiative. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the “Report of the Committee of Three on Non-Military Cooperation”, ATA will promote the drafting of a new Report by a High Level Working Group, including personalities and distinguished experts from NATO member states and partners.

The Report will bring the concepts and the recommendations crafted in 1956 by the three Foreign Ministers, Martino (IT), Lange (NW), and Pearson (CA), into the 21st century. And let me say that, being an Italian such as the Chairman of the Committee of Three, Gaetano Martino, I am proud that an Italian presidency will be guiding the Atlantic Treaty Association through the work of strengthening the “sense of community” that, according to the Report, “must bind the people as well as the institutions of the Atlantic nations”, and today it extends also to our friends in partner countries.

Opening Remarks at the International Conference “Cooperative Security and Interconnected Threats”, Brussels, Palais d’Egmont, 19 November 2016.