When NATO adapts : case studies in institutional crisis

Date
2022-06-02
Authors
Frizzelle, Bryan W.
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Abstract

Why does NATO adapt to crisis as it does? This dissertation makes three principal arguments. First, I find that NATO is an adaptive institution during and after a crisis, particularly in comparison to other international institutions. However, alliance adaptation efficacy earns a mixed review, and the scale of change has also frequently underwhelmed. Further, while NATO routinely changes, its ability to adapt is bounded by specific circumstances and thus to finite windows of time. Second, I find that the state-centric approach favored by many historians is not sufficient to understand NATO adaptation during a crisis. State-level actors certainly matter in understanding why NATO adapts as it does. However, the institution itself matters, too. I will leverage a historical institutionalism theoretical framework to demonstrate how NATO's alliance-level norms, processes and personalities are vital in shaping adaptation, for better or worse. There is one more underappreciated group of actors that influences NATO adaptation: Transnational Interpersonal Networks (TINs). The subsequent case studies will demonstrate that former NATO elites leverage their past relationships to help solve alliance problems long after they serve the alliance in any official capacity—a phenomenon which this dissertation will document and refer to as TINs. Cumulatively these groups of non-state actors influence outcomes in ways that simply are not accounted for by state-centric approaches. Instead, I propose new models which moves beyond traditional state-centric scholarship to understand alliance adaptation in new ways. These models leverage elements of alliance, punctuated equilibrium, and critical junctures theories. Third, I argue that fresh ideas are required to position NATO for a successful future in an exponentially changing world—adaptations that will best posture NATO for a successful future and ideally prevent the next crisis before it happens. Chapter Eight of this dissertation will frame the five primary thrusts of these ideas. Underpinning the ability to make these adaptations is intra-alliance unity, the true foundation on which the house of NATO continues to stand. One of these five thrusts is to further strengthen the political dimension of NATO through a series of initiatives. I also recommend that NATO evolves how it holds itself accountable to fairly burden-sharing. Third, I propose ways that NATO can promote national resiliency, from protecting democratic processes to increasing energy independence. Next, I outline how NATO should aggressively build its military training and exercises program to expand to additional domains and with increased interoperability targets. Finally, I argue that NATO should exploit opportunities in emergent and disruptive technologies (EDTs) while protecting its members from rivals’ asymmetric advantages

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