Rome '08 Workshop

From Shared Values and Mutual Interests to a Common Vision 

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola

NATO Military Committee Chairman

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola


This Workshop presents a great opportunity, not only to meet friends, but also to exchange views on the many challenges to global security and the compelling need for new approaches and strategies to address them. We need to have a serious debate on all of the key issues. Of course, government ministers—who are much more influential than I am—will also debate and discuss these challenges. Nonetheless, I think that each of us has a responsibility to think through all of the key issues and especially the need for a new strategic concept based on a common vision for the transatlantic relationship. 

What is “new” in the world we are now facing? More than anything, it is the speed and span of change. While humans have always dealt with change, the speed and span that we now face are extraordinarily greater than in the past. And since human beings tend to adapt to change rather slowly, the problem is serious. 


Most of the drivers of these changes are familiar to you, although some of them may not seem to be military in nature. Nonetheless, they do have important military implications. 

  • Pressures on the earth’s ecosystem. First of all, the human pressures on the earth’s ecosystem are tremendous. They are driving energy stresses, resource stresses, climate change — if you believe in climate change, and global warming — if you believe in global warming. 
  • Demographic growth. The numbers are impressive: At the rate the earth’s population is growing, we will be adding several billion people within fifty years. 
  • Increasing income inequality.And with all this, there is clearly a growing gap between the haves and the have nots. Among the have nots, increasingly large numbers of people have absolutely nothing. Living in extreme poverty, they present another huge stress on our planet. 
  • Information technology.Information technology is not just a better or faster way to communicate. In fact, the information technology revolution is totally changing the way that we, as humans, develop knowledge. It is truly a revolution. 
  • Loss of sovereignty. Finally, there is what I call “the dilution of sovereignty.” Each of our nations now yields a part of its sovereignty to some form of new order. And this is rather like a two-edged sword. In many cases, the benefits of the new order more than compensate for any reduction in sovereignty. In other cases, however, the consequence may be stressed or failing states. 

These various drivers have profound implications for what we consider to be the traditional security risks and challenges—i.e. terrorism with weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation, or the radicalism of ideologies or religions. In fact, these more traditional risks are emerging as the direct result of the drivers that I have mentioned above. 


Once we have understood these fundamental drivers of change, we are forced to ask, “Where does this revolution lead?” First of all, it brings us to a world where security problems are incredibly more complex than ever before. Accordingly, a new problem-solving approach—which we typically describe with such terms as the comprehensive approach or multilateralism—is needed. In a very broad sense, I agree that this is the right response. Yet, we need to better understand what comprehensive approach means and what multilateralism means: 

The comprehensive approach.What does comprehensive approach mean? According to my perspective from the chair that I have occupied at NATO for just a few weeks, it appears that everyone does seem to understand what comprehensive means. Yet, after some months at NATO of trying to lay out a comprehensive approach policy, we do not yet have complete agreement on exactly what it involves. 

Multilateralism. Similarly, what does multilateralism mean? Of course, it is clear that multilateralism implies the assumption by international organizations of much more responsibility and influence as to decisions and actions. On the other hand, are the principal organizations that we know today—NATO, the European Union, the United Nations—the right response in their present forms? Probably not. Most likely, they need to adapt and to evolve. 

Therefore, what is the next step in achieving greater comprehensiveness and more multilateralism? In the NATO community, we tend to say that we share common values and common interests—although we might sometimes argue as to what is truly common. While I definitely believe in these shared values and interests, we must move well beyond them: We must seek to achieve a common vision. Without it, we cannot achieve the benefits of our shared values and interests nor can we implement policies to defend or protect them 

As to NATO, this means that the Alliance really needs to adapt — which is not the same thing as transforming. While transformation is mentioned every day in Brussels, what is the purpose of transformation? How do we want to transform? In which direction should we transform? These are the kinds of fundamental issues that we need to grapple with. 


For a long time, I have argued that NATO needs a new strategic concept. This is not because I especially enjoy writing exercises or the drafting of documents. In a multilateral organization like NATO, the process of writing and developing a new strategic concept will cause people to think about what we need to do; it will stimulate new ideas; and it will be a tool to renovate our common vision of shared values and interests. 

Moreover, it will help us rejuvenate the covenant between the two sides of the Atlantic, which have both changed a great deal since the founding of the Alliance in 1949. (Next year, we will celebrate the Alliance’s sixtieth birthday.) The U.S. has changed, and Europe has changed—especially because of the European Union. The recognition of these changes should be the starting point from which the new strategic concept will evolve as a kind of exercise involving academics, administrative officials, military, and, above all, our political masters. 

This will be an important exercise that will help us forge together a new vision, which we desperately need. It is the foremost challenge that NATO now faces, and I am looking forward to this debate to begin—the sooner the better. 

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