STUTTGART, Germany – As the NATO alliance looks to the next decade, it must commit to developing new disruptive and emerging technologies while avoiding a “technological divide between allies,” its leader said on Feb.15.
The 30-strong military alliance attaches “great importance” to cutting-edge technology and welcomes members to increase their investment in these areas, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in a virtual press conference before meeting with member states’ defense ministers later this week.
However, these technologies must be interoperable and NATO must develop common standards across the alliance, he added. “We need to make sure that when various allies have increasingly advanced capabilities – planes, main battle tanks, ships, drones, whatever it is – can communicate that we don’t have a new technological gap,” he said.
“Everything to do with interoperability and NATO standards has always been important to NATO,” he continued. As governments around the world seek to add high-tech weapons to their arsenals, it has become even more important for the Alliance to develop common standards “to ensure that our armed forces are interoperable in the face of disruptive and emerging technology. ”
NATO also has the chance to be the standard bearer and to develop guidelines for the ethical use of new systems, said Stoltenberg. “I firmly believe that we should also look into how NATO can be the platform to address ethical aspects of these technologies.”
Some NATO monitors have urged the alliance to develop a strategy that focuses on new and disruptive technology investments. Stoltenberg reiterated the need to focus on these areas, citing in particular artificial intelligence, quantum computers, facial recognition technology and autonomous systems.
“When you combine all of these technologies, it will really have an impact on the nature of warfare and the way we conduct our military operations,” he said.
Twenty-four allies have pledged to spend 20 percent of their defense spending on new equipment and technology, Stoltenberg said. That being said, “We have to make sure we move on [to invest]and that we keep up the pace, ”he added.
For this purpose, Stoltenberg wants to start a NATO initiative for defense innovations within the framework of the upcoming “NATO 2030” concept. Through this initiative, the alliance would “maintain our technological edge” by working more closely with the private sector and startups on both sides of the Atlantic, he said.
The NATO chief plans to propose to Defense Ministers what he wants to see in NATO’s 2030 Strategy this week, ahead of the upcoming summit later this year. He did not announce a date for the event.
Among other things, he calls for an increase in NATO funds for “core deterrent and defense activities” in order to support operations on the eastern flank and in the Alliance’s exercises and to contribute to a “fairer burden-sharing”. He noted that the European allies and Canada have contributed a total of $ 190 billion to the alliance since 2014 and that nine members are now expected to spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense.
Stoltenberg would also like to see “clearer and more measurable” national resilience targets and an annual review of vulnerabilities in the Alliance’s critical infrastructure and technology, including any vulnerabilities resulting from foreign ownership.