NATO ambassador discusses defense cooperation

Member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will be more equipped to handle issues like terrorism if they specialize in what they do best, a NATO ambassador recently said during an address.

Alexander Vershbow, the deputy secretary general ambassador for NATO, made the remarks last week at the NATO comprehensive regional ministerial in Brdo, Slovenia. Vershbow addressed the challenges of global security in an era of declining defense budgets. He said dealing with rising global challenges requires broad cooperation between nations and organizations.

"Fortunately, although the challenges are strong, our collective strength is stronger," Vershbow said. "We can bring this shared strength to bear by pooling our resources to acquire key capabilities; by cooperating through common standards; and by specializing in what our nations do best."

Vershbow said that by engaging in specialization, some member countries strengthened their security without weakening their sovereignty. He mentioned the Czech Republic's specialization in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense and The Netherlands and Belgium's concentration on frigate and mine countermeasure vessel maintenance.

"The fact is that as the economic downturn continues to bite, many allies risk specializing by default as they realize many capabilities are simply too expensive for them to acquire or maintain," Vershbow said. "That risks opening up new gaps in the range of capabilities NATO needs, and damaging allied solidarity as well. We need to make sure that instead of specializing by default, allies are encouraged to specialize by design, so that together, these combined capabilities will allow NATO nations the option of a collective response."

Vershbow closed by saying that connecting nations that specialize in certain capabilities would allow Europe to deal with any crisis or emergency.

"That's our goal, and it's a goal we can achieve," Vershbow said.