NATO Parliamentary Assembly
HomeDOCUMENTSCommittee Reports2010 Annual Session220 PCNP 10 E rev. 1 - NATO AND CONTACT COUNTRIES


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1.  Partnerships, initiated after the end of the Cold War, are a key element of the transformation of the Alliance.  NATO co-operation with partner countries, especially with countries outside the Euro-Atlantic area, reflects the transition of the Alliance in the last decades.  Although territorial defence of the Euro-Atlantic member countries remains the primary task of NATO, the Alliance is also able to project security and stability beyond its borders.  The Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships has already addressed the formalised relations with non-member countries in the past.  This short paper focuses NATO’s evolving links with Contact Countries or Partners across the Globe.  The report concentrates on four countries, which have so far made the most significant contributions to NATO operations:  Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.


2.  Following the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has developed formalised arrangements with countries that do not aspire membership but want to work with NATO.  The most relevant in this context are the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI).  In addition, the Alliance also co-operates with countries which do not participate in these formal structures.  These Partners across the Globe or Contact Countries have no uniform level of involvement with the Alliance, but share similar strategic interests and values. 

3.  Partnerships are among the greatest success stories of the Alliance and reflect its transition from an organisation founded for the territorial defence of its member countries to a highly flexible security organisation able to project security and stability beyond its borders in order to face the global threats of the 21st century. 

4.  Many of today’s security concerns, such as nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, failed states, cybercrime or maritime piracy are no longer confined to the Euro-Atlantic region but are global in nature.  In response to new security challenges, NATO has significantly been extending both its geographical reach and range of operations.  NATO militaries are deployed in Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, in the Mediterranean, in Iraq, Sudan, Congo and other parts of the world. 

5.  While NATO remains the world’s most successful and most powerful security organisation, it cannot successfully address these threats alone.  NATO forces are already stretched to the limits and the global financial and economic crisis does not allow for an increase of their capabilities.  Moreover, both the NATO PA’s Proposals for a New Strategic Concept and the Analysis and Recommendations of the Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept for NATO, presented this spring, highlighted the notion that building security requires political, economic, and social dimensions in addition to military force.  As primarily a military and political organization, NATO must collaborate with a mix of partners to ensure comprehensive security through economic reconstruction, political reconciliation, improved governance, and the strengthening of civil society.  Security, therefore, can only be achieved through close co-operation with countries that share the same goals, face the same challenges, and possess significant military support capabilities.


6.  The Alliance has gradually developed co-operation with countries that are not formal partner countries since the early 1990s.  Reflecting their willingness to increase co-operation, the Allies established a set of general guidelines on relations with Contact Countries in 1998, though these did not translate into a formal institutionalisation of relations.

7.  Co-operation in Afghanistan has been the key driver for the rapid development of NATO’s relationships with countries outside the Euro-Atlantic region in the last few years.  Contact Countries like Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea (ROK – South Korea ) and Singapore are now troop contributors to the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan. By far the most numerically significant contributions are made by AustraliaNew Zealand, for its part, leads a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan province.  South Korea has contributed medical and engineering support to the PRT of Parwan province.  Japan has been a major donor nation, both in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. 

8.  NATO Summit declarations have included broad recognition of the value of the contributions of non-member countries.  The 2004 Istanbul Summit welcomed continued Partner participation in operations and Allies declared that they would “seek the earliest possible involvement by troop contributing nations in the decision-shaping process”. 

9.  The 2006 Riga Summit devoted special attention on partnerships and advanced NATO’s relations with interested Contact Countries.  On the practical level, the Allies agreed to increase the operational relevance of NATO’s co-operation with both its formal partners and other partners across the globe.  In this context, the Allies decided to open participation in NATO’s activities with PfP, ICI and MD countries to interested Contact Countries.  The Summit also reaffirmed the Alliance ’s intent to “call ad hoc meetings as events arise with those countries who contribute to or support our operations and missions politically, militarily and in other ways and those who are potential contributors, considering their interest in specific regions where NATO is engaged.  This will be done using flexible formats for consultation meetings of Allies with one or more interested partners (...) and/or interested Contact Countries, based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency and self-differentiation”. 

10.  These steps were reinforced by decisions at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, which defined a set of objectives for these relationships and created avenues for enhanced political dialogue. Annual work programmes - Individual Tailored Co-operation Packages of Activities (TCPA) - were further established. These encompass a range of activities such as joint exercises and operations, language training and advice, and information exchange. Co-operation with Contact Countries should be mutually beneficial and reciprocal and individual Contact Country can choose its level of engagement with NATO according to its interests. Generally speaking, the participation of Contact Countries in Alliance operations follows formal approval of the North Atlantic Council (NAC). Once their participation is approved, it is subject to financial and technical agreements, worked out between each troop-contributing country and NATO, after the proposed contributions to such operations have been assessed. The Contact Country remains responsible for the deployment of its contingents and for providing the support needed to enable them to function effectively.  It is often the case that an individual NATO country will offer its support to assist in the deployment. 

11.  The participation of Partners in NATO-led operations is guided by the Political-Military Framework (PMF), which has been developed for NATO-led PfP operations. The PMF allows contributing Partners to participate in the decision-making process as well as in planning and force generation processes which are taking place through the International Coordination Centre at Supreme Allied Headquarters Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium, and, when appropriate, through the temporary liaison arrangements with the strategic commands.


12.  NATO Contact Countries feature a range of countries across the globe, including, for example, Argentina and Chile which have worked alongside NATO Allies in ensuring security in the Balkans.  The report looks more closely at the four nations among the Contact Countries, which are making significant contributions to NATO operations and policies: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.    Each country has a different set of motivations regarding the establishing and developing of its relationship with the AllianceThose countries contributing to NATO-led operations may also want to improve their operational experience for their troops serving alongside Allied forces.  Others, like Japan and the ROK, are interested in using NATO as an additional venue to raise international, particularly European, awareness of the Asian security situation. Contact Countries are also interested in benefiting from NATO’s expertise in areas such as interoperability, standardisation, joint procurement, research and development, multilateral planning and defence planning.  This is especially the case for countries in the Asia-Pacific region, where multilateral security co-operation is largely undeveloped if not totally absent.  Practical co‑operation with NATO through, for example, participation in NATO exercise and seminars, allows Contact Countries to familiarise themselves with multilateral ways of planning and operations. 

13.  However, countries seeking co-operation with NATO also share a number of similarities.  Generally speaking, Contact Countries seek the same goals as NATO, such as stability in the Balkans or in Afghanistan, the fight against internationally active terrorist groups, the prevention of the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery.  Contact Countries consider collaboration with NATO as the best means to contribute to the achievement of those goals.  From the outside world NATO is seen as an influential security actor and Contact Countries like Japan see NATO as an important new political partner. 


14.  Largely through bilateral engagement activities with member states, especially the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, Australia has had contact with NATO for many years.  The Australian Defence Forces have thus been exposed to NATO doctrine and operating procedures, publications and standardisation agreements, and various NATO working groups and technical bodies.  Over the past decade, NATO and Australia have developed meaningful practical co-operation, complemented by political dialogue in a large number of areas.  This co-operation has significantly increased following September 11, 2001.  The strengthened co-operation with NATO has been reflected by numerous official visits and consultations, including also the first visit of a NATO Secretary General to Australia in 2005. 

15.  Increased co-operation was also followed by concrete institutional steps.  NATO and Australia reached an agreement for the sharing of classified information in April 2005, and an Australian Defence Adviser to NATO and the EU was posted in Brussels in September of that year. At the same time, NATO and Australia established a terrorist Threat Intelligence Unit to facilitate the exchange of information and assessments on counter-terrorism.  Australia has been the most vocal Contact Country demanding more information-sharing and more involvement in policy-shaping and eventually decision-making.  Initial difficulties concerning information-sharing are meanwhile overcome, after Australia and NATO agreed on a deal on the exchange of secret military information in March 2008. 

16.  The relationship between NATO and Australia has deepened significantly in the last several years, primarily as a result of co-operation in Afghanistan. Australia is the biggest non-NATO contributor to ISAF and the 9th largest military contributor overall – including Allies. The initial contribution of 240 troops had steadily increased to close around 1,550 Australian Defence Force personnel, including an Australian Federal Police training team (which is deployed in the country). Ministerial (mainly Defence Ministers’) meetings in the ISAF format have become a regular event and working-level meetings among troop contributors, for example within the PCG (Policy Coordination Group) framework,  serve as the venues for more substantial consultation.

17.  The focus of the Australian commitment is in the Oruzgan province, providing assistance in a multinational effort to train an Afghan National Army (ANA) brigade and serving in a volatile area without caveatsAustralia also has deployed Chinook helicopters, a Special Forces Task Group, a Radar Control and Reporting Unit in theatre as well as a number of staff officers attached to the Headquarters in Kabul and Kandahar In June 2010, however, Australia announced that it would complete its core mission in Afghanistan and begin to pull out troops within the next two to four years.  Nevertheless, with its contribution of €150 millionAustralia is the largest contributor to the ANA Trust Fund and has also made a contribution to the UK-France Helicopter Trust Fund, which endeavours to provide means to upgrade otherwise unsuitable helicopters for deployment to Afghanistan.  What is more, since 2001, Australia ’s Foreign Assistance Programme has provided more than 580 million Australian dollars to Afghanistan

18.  In addition to hosting US military bases and deploying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia has joined the American worldwide interceptor missile system and it has significantly contributed to NATO-led stabilisation operations in the former Yugoslavia.

19.  When the Defence and Security Committee visited Australia in September 2009, senior officials from the Ministries of Defence and of Foreign Affairs and Trade emphasised that Australia and NATO share many common concerns, including Afghanistan, international terrorism, the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery, and piracy.  In October 2010, Australian Prime Minister Julia Eileen Gillard visited NATO Headquarters and discussed Afghanistan as well as the future relationship between Australia and the Alliance.  The Prime Minister said that “Australia would be looking towards having the ability to engage with NATO in a flexible way over time, and this is being debated through and discussed in the NATO Strategic Concept.”


20.  Unlike NATO’s relationships with Australia and New Zealand, where operational co-operation has been the main pillar of relations, those between NATO and Japan are primarily driven through political dialogue.  The NATO-Japan relationship has developed progressively since the early 90s and has further strengthened in the aftermath of NATO-Japan Security Conferences.  NATO member countries and Japan regularly hold ministerial and sub-ministerial talks on a wide range of issues of mutual concern.  These increasing political dialogues are also followed by practical co‑operation, which focuses on various areas of common interest, including civil emergency planning, terrorism, non-proliferation and crisis management, as well as military-to-military exchanges.  At the same time, security-related collaboration between individual NATO countries and Japan has become more concrete since 9/11, particularly in the fight against terrorist groups. 

21.  Japan ’s ability to contribute militarily to NATO operations is limited largely due to the Japanese Constitution, which only allows for the defence of its own territory.  Despite the constitutional restrictions, Japanese troops have worked with NATO member countries in various peace-support operations.  For example, during the 90s, Japan made a meaningful contribution to stabilising the Balkans.  Between December 2001 and January 2010, Japanese naval vessels operated in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, providing fuel and water to ships fighting against terrorists.  Moreover, as part of the international coalition effort, Japanese ground troops were stationed in Southern Iraq for humanitarian and reconstruction missions between January 2004 and September 2006.  The Japanese Armed Forces have sent observers to numerous Proliferation Security Initiatives (PSI) exercises organised by NATO member countries.  Moreover, Japan participates in a range of NATO PfP Trust Fund projects, namely in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan.  As Australia, Japan has also contributed to UK-France Helicopter Trust Fund.

22.  Japanese involvement in security-oriented operations in Afghanistan has included work in: the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former Afghan military combatants; in disbanding illegally armed groups; and in supporting a Law and Order Trust Fund.  In addition, the Japanese government has committed two billion yen (approximately 22 million US $) towards humanitarian and reconstruction projects through the NATO system of PRTs.  Moreover, Japan ’s earlier participation in the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean has also greatly facilitated NATO’s role in assisting in the stabilisation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

23.  The contributions of Japanese troops and increasing political dialogue reflect the strengthening of relations with NATO over the last few years.  During the visit to Japan by the Economics and Security’s Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations in June 2007, Japanese officials expressed their interest in forming a deeper security co-operation with NATO and its member governments and a willingness to contribute actively to international peacekeeping operations. Japanese Prime Minister Abe visited NATO HQ in January 2007 and expressed Japan 's interest in building a stronger partnership with NATO, both politically and in practical terms.  The Prime Minister announced that Japan would further strengthen its support in Afghanistan by directly supporting NATO's Provincial Reconstruction Teams, for example in the areas of humanitarian assistance.  Moreover, the changing security environment in Northeast Asia is likely to put improvements of Japan ’s interoperability with international peacekeeping forces higher on the agenda of the evolving dialogue between Japan and NATO.  Recent domestic political upheaval, which began in mid-2009 and continued through 2010, may result in a reassessment of Japan 's security policy vis-à-vis the United States as well as vis-à-vis NATO.  In January 2010 Japan officially ended its naval refuelling mission that supported coalition ships mobilised in the war in Afghanistan since 2001.  Tokyo pledged instead to step up reconstruction aid to the country to five billion dollars over the next five years.  In addition, Japan pledged 11.5 million US dollars to the ANA Trust fund.  However, mutual interests, such as countering North Korean threats and blocking nuclear proliferation, will ensure continued dialogue. As the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships learned during a visit in mid‑October 2010, Japan plans to assist in the training of Afghan National Police. Moreover, senior Japanese officials informed the delegation that Tokyo is interested in exploring additional areas of co-operation between Japan and the Alliance in the future.


24.  NATO and New Zealand (NZ) have had regular interactions since 2001, following the 9/11 attacks in the US. However, the main driver for the developing partnership has been New Zealand ’s contribution to ISAF in Afghanistan. As for Australia, New Zealand ’s troop deployment to Afghanistan was initially conducted within the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in close bilateral co-operation with the US. As a result of the geographical expansion of ISAF in late 2006, the NZ troops stationed in Bamiyan province moved from OEF command to ISAF. 

25.  The country’s commitment is the 71 elite Special Air Service (SAS) troops and about 140 defence force personnel who are currently running a PRT in Bamiyan province. Overall, New Zealand has currently deployed 220 personnel in Afghanistan, though its contribution is expected to gradually wind down, as Prime Minister John Key informed NATO Secretary General in September 2009 that New Zealand troops will be out of Afghanistan in three to five years.  The country contributed to NATO forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the successor EU-led force, EUFOR, until 2007. 

26.  On the political-diplomatic level, dialogue and high-level visits have significantly increased between New Zealand and NATO over the past few years.  Former Prime Minister Helen Clark started visiting NATO Headquarters on a regular basis, and the Foreign Minister Phil Goff met the then-Secretary General Lord Robertson in September 2001, and again in November 2003.  The first official visit by a NATO Secretary General to New Zealand took place in March 2005 and reaffirmed NATO’s willingness to develop closer co-operation given the shared common values of democracy, freedom and basic human rights.

27.  In line with the increasing co-operation, on 3 February 2006, New Zealand and NATO signed an agreement on the protection of classified information.  This agreement permits the exchange of classified operational information on a regular basis and not only on an ad hoc basis.  In addition, other practical co-operation is being pursued through the annual Individual Tailored Co-operation Package (TCP).  New Zealand also participates in a number of technical activities, primarily focused on areas related to peace-support operations, as well as through targeted aid assistance and diplomatic support for international negotiations. 


28.  The relationship being forged between the Republic of Korea (ROK – South Korea ) and NATO is a rather recent development.  Contacts were initially exchanged in 2005, when then South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon addressed the NAC, and have since evolved through regular high-level talks.  As with other Contact Countries, NATO established a TCP annual programme with South Korea.  This provides the basis for practical co-operation, with a primary focus on areas related to peace-support operations.

29.  The Republic of Korea participates in NATO’s operations, and is currently contributing to stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan.  The country led the PRT in Parwan province, where medical and engineering units were dispatched in 2002 but were pulled out completely in 2007, after the Taliban killed two Korean church workers from a group they had taken hostage.  However, though the military forces have been withdrawn, a presence of medical personnel and engineers has been maintained.  In July 2010, a contingent of approximately 320 has again deployed in the Parwan province as part of a ROK PRT.  The group is scheduled to comprise 50-70 civilians, 30-50 police officers, and 200-400 infantry troops. The primary task of the soldiers will be to protect civilian aid workers in the Parwan province. The police officers will help train Afghan police.  This deployment represents a welcome change in the ROK’s policy and a strong signal of its willingness to co-operate with NATO.  Moreover, the ROK is working together with NATO, the Coalition Maritime Force, EU and other individual nations to patrol the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden.

30.  The Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships visited South Korea in October 2008 to discuss issues of common concern.  Senior officials, including Deputy Defence Minister Kim Jeong-cheon, told the delegation that the ROK is very interested in co-operating with NATO in a number of areas.  Kim Jeong-cheon agreed that international co-operation was increasingly necessary to deal with issues like WMD proliferation, terrorism, piracy.  The ROK is particularly interested in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.  This is of particular concern to the country, as South Korea is the 10th largest consumer of energy, the 4th largest oil importer and the 2nd largest natural gas and coal importer in the world.  Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said that the ROK was fully prepared to work with NATO on WMD proliferation.  Though the ROK has, in terms of numbers, the 6th largest military in the world, its contribution to international operations (under UN Command) has been limited.  However, the country is slowly developing an increasingly global strategic perspective which, over time, will lead to a greater and more active international role. 


31.  As NATO is increasingly engaged outside its original area, co-operation with Contact Countries is becoming ever more important.  NATO’s partnership with Contact Countries enlarges the capacities of members and partners to address new security challenges.  Contact Countries’ contributions are increasingly valuable and critical to the success of ongoing NATO operations.  They have an important input into planning, and issues like interoperability and information‑sharing. 

32.  NATO should further develop its relations with Contact Countries.  With regard to ISAF, consultation and co-operation have considerably improved and ISAF meetings now regularly bring together Allies with Contact Countries that contribute to the operations in Afghanistan as well as with the other Non-NATO Troop Contribution Nations (NNTCNs).  On the operational level, maritime anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa appear to offer a good potential for closer co‑operation between NATO and Contact Countries.  Moreover, it would be desirable if NATO and Contact Countries would develop their political dialogue, particularly regarding WMD proliferation and terrorism.

33.  Co-operation with the Alliance differs among Contact Countries with regard to both the manners and the depth of their engagement. Some want to co-operate militarily, while others financially or perhaps diplomatically. Moreover, there is no agreement among the Allies to develop the informal relations with Contact Countries into a more formal concept of a “Global Partnership”. In addition, despite occasional concerns regarding their input in planning operations and information-sharing, Contact Countries appear generally satisfied with their current status, in which they enjoy a flexible, pragmatic relationship with the Alliance based on mutual interests, and do not seek for now a more formal relationship.  A flexible and close co-operation based on a bilateral basis of regular consultations, joint transformation programmes and exercises appear to be the best option to enhance co-operation in the short-term.  The update of the Strategic Concept can provide an impetus for the further deepening of relations between the Alliance and Contact Countries.  Highlighting the importance of partnerships, the report of the Group of Experts recommended “enhancing the scope and management of partnerships” to NATO’s core pillars.  The report also proposed deepening partnerships with countries outside the Euro-Atlantic region by expanding the list of shared activities while preserving the ability of individual partners to form tailored co-operative relationships with the Alliance.

34.  By deepening inter-parliamentary dialogue with Contact Countries’ Parliaments, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly can make a significant contribution to the further development of NATO’s relations with Contact Countries. The Assembly, and particularly the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships, visited a number of Contact Countries in the past. By engaging with Parliaments on a regular basis, the Assembly can help intensify the relationship between these countries and NATO.  The opportunity for parliamentary exchanges during visits as well as during NATO PA annual sessions provide a general framework for a continued dialogue on shared security issues.  Moreover, the activities of the Assembly add to the transparency of the Alliance and strengthen NATO’s public policy efforts.