Capabilities and the "Smart Defence" initiative [fr]

The Smart Defence initiative is aimed at encouraging multinational cooperation among Allies to enable them to maintain and develop, in a time of fiscal austerity, the capabilities needed by the Alliance. Cooperation between NATO and the European Union in this area ensures that there is consistency between Smart Defence projects and projects developed in the framework of the EU’s Pooling and Sharing initiative. Furthermore, at the Chicago Summit NATO acknowledged the necessity of a "strong defence industry in Europe" to "deliver the capabilities needed" by the Alliance.


At the Munich Security Conference held in February 2011, the NATO Secretary General proposed that the Alliance should renew its approach so as to equip itself with the capabilities it needed to meet tomorrow’s challenges in a time of budgetary austerity, and to remedy the shortfalls in European capabilities identified in recent years, particularly during NATO’s intervention in Libya.

This initiative, known as Smart Defence, consists in encouraging and expanding the practice of multinational cooperation in the area of capabilities which had already been adopted by certain states, following the example of the cooperation between France and the United Kingdom provided for in the Lancaster House Treaty of November 2010 and the cooperation between France and Germany.

The Smart Defence initiative is intended to complement the defence planning process in use at NATO since the early days of the Organization. Eventually, the multinational projects developed in the framework of Smart Defence could be integrated into this process so as to reduce the capability shortfalls identified during operations.

At the Chicago Summit of May 2012, the Heads of State and Government of the Allied nations acknowledged the importance of the Smart Defence initiative in a declaration on defence capabilities. The Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (French General Jean-Paul Paloméros) and the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mr Alexander Vershbow, are in charge of promoting this initiative.

France and Smart Defence

France fully supports this initiative, which should lead to a better sharing of the burden between the two sides of the Atlantic and to the Europeans taking more responsibility for their own security, which goes hand in hand with the reinforcement of the European defence industry.

France is one of the main contributors to Smart Defence, and it participates in 14 of the 24 multinational projects identified by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation as the most advanced, and we are leading two projects on fuels and medical support. At the Chicago Summit, Heads of States and governments noted the importance of some large-scale projects illustrative of the Smart Defence initiative, and in particular the joint French-American initiative to reinforce intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

However, France continues to attach great importance to two points:

  • firstly, the NATO member nations must play the decisive role in the development of defence capabilities, as the Alliance cannot act in the nations’ stead. Nations must take responsibility for ensuring their defence, organizing their capability development and deciding on the use of their capabilities;
  • secondly, this initiative must not result in an increase in the scope of NATO common funding, as capabilities developed in a multinational framework are supposed to be financed directly by the Allies concerned.

EU-NATO cooperation on capabilities

At the Chicago Summit, the Allies issued a declaration on capabilities in which they acknowledged that it was up to the Europeans to remedy specifically European capability shortfalls. They stressed that smart defence projects should be in full complementarity with those of the European Union in the framework of its Pooling and Sharing initiative.

A lively dialogue between NATO and EU staffs, particularly the Allied Command Transformation and the European Defence Agency, enables the two organizations to avoid duplication (see “EU-NATO relations”). In this context, at the Chicago Summit of May 2012 the NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed the work underway at European level to reinforce European air-to-air refuelling capabilities.

For the first time in a NATO text, the Heads of State and Government stressed the importance of a strong European defence industry. This is a logical evolution - a redistribution of industrial benefits in favour of the Europeans is the inevitable corollary of improved burden-sharing, as France has long been emphasizing.

For more information:}

- Déclaration sur les capacités de défense adoptée au sommet de Chicago :

- ABRIAL, Stéphane, « L’OTAN doit renforcer sa sécurité face aux nouvelles menaces » in Le Monde, 10 octobre 2012.

- NATO Review issue on Smart Defence :

- GRAND Camille, "La Smart Defence: une opportunité pour la France ?" in TTU, 1er février 2013

Dernière modification : 12/06/2013

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