Trust (in) NATO: The Future of Intelligence Sharing within the Alliance

Jan Ballast, NATO Defense College (NDC)

On 21 October 2016, NATO appointed its first Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security with the aim of improving intelligence collaboration within the Alliance. So, what will the new Assistant Secretary General need to focus on to succeed in this task? To answer this question, Jan Ballast examines 1) the difficulties involved in sharing secrets within a multinational organization; 2) NATO’s existing intelligence cooperation structure; 3) past proposals to improve this system, and more.

Introduction

On 21 October 2016, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) appointed its first Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security (ASG-I&S), Dr. Arndt Freiherr Freytag von Loringhoven. His appointment was the result of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on 8-9 July 2016 in Warsaw, where the Heads of State and Government stated the requirement to strengthen intelligence within NATO. In doing so, the Alliance underlined that improved cooperation on intelligence would increase early warning, force protection and general resilience.

Freytag von Loringhoven is popularly called the first intelligence chief of NATO. The former German ambassador and Deputy Director of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) is responsible for setting up a new joint intelligence and security division at HQ level. This will merge both military and civilian intelligence pillars, providing intelligence support to the NAC, NATO’s senior political decision-making body, and the Military Committee (MC), the Alliance’s senior military authority. It will also advise the Secretary General (SG) on intelligence and security matters.

At a special meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government on 25 May 2017 in Brussels, where an action plan to do more in the fight against terrorism was agreed on, it was decided to expand the new division with the establishment of a terrorism intelligence cell. According to the SG this, “[is to] improve the sharing of information among Allies, including on the threat of foreign fighters.” With military operations like enhanced Forward Presence on its Eastern Flank and Sea Guardian in its southern waters – confronted with old hybrid adversaries and new asymmetrical wicked problems – bolstering intelligence cooperation within the Alliance clearly answers a genuine concern.

This paper assesses the future of intelligence sharing within NATO following the appointment of the ASG-I&S. It outlines the views of different experts on intelligence cooperation and what sharing of secrets within a multinational organization means. Then it will analyze NATO’s intelligence structure, including previous proposals meant to improve intelligence collaboration. The paper continues by identifying the more challenging aspects of intelligence cooperation facing the ASG-I&S, and his do’s and don’ts concerning structure, sharing and content are discussed. Based on theory, practice and insider knowledge, nine recommendations will be made with the aim of offering Freytag von Loringhoven and his joint division a proposal to enhance intelligence as the first line of defense of the Alliance, with obvious benefits in terms of resilience.

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The complete research paper can be downloaded from the NATO Defense College Website.

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