Political science — and science — help guide NATO

The polarizing debate about the role of climate change in melting polar ice is the dynamic of America’s domestic politics, not its defense partnerships.

“There is a very respectable body of scientific evidence on climate change, and link that to human activity,” said Brian Wells, chief scientist at NATO. “The Arctic is experiencing climate change at a greater frequency and on a larger scale than the global average.”

Speaking from NATO headquarters in Brussels ahead of a global virtual event in Minnesota on Thursday, Wells said in an interview that climate change “directly affects our military and our operations, and secondly, the types of areas to which NATO can be called upon in the future to provide humanitarian assistance.” .

Wells said that NATO “can expect greater humanitarian impacts from the increase in extreme weather we are already seeing, and we can expect an increase in frequency and range.

“We can already see people migrating because of water shortages and other climatic incidents; all of these affect security. And if they affect security, that matters to NATO.”

So what matters to NATO is that global warming could trigger hot wars in parts of the developing world or reheat the Cold War between Russia and the United States in places like the Arctic, which is the topic of this month’s Great Decisions debate. Accordingly, NATO relies on real science, not unrealistic rhetoric, to assess how climate change will affect threat assessment and military preparedness.

For example, the risk of conflict in the Arctic is growing along with temperatures, which could affect NATO countries that are part of the eight-nation Arctic Council, which describes itself as “the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation in the Arctic.” North”. On Thursday, the council’s rotating presidency went to Russia, which according to an Associated Press report “sought to assert its influence over large areas of the Arctic in competition with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway as the polar ice caps shrink from rising temperatures. The planet offers new opportunities for resources and shipping routes.” China has also shown a growing interest in the area, believed to contain a quarter of the undiscovered oil and gas on Earth.”

This pertains to other council states, as well as native Arctic citizens.

“We have concerns about some of the recent military activities in the Arctic,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Tuesday as he arrived for Secretary-level discussions on the Arctic. “This increases the risk of accidents and miscalculation and undermines the common goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region. So we have to be vigilant about that.”

Apparently in response to such calls for vigilance, Russian President Vladimir Putin was fierce in his comments Thursday. “Everyone wants to bite or bite us, but those who want to should know that we will cut their teeth so that they cannot bite,” Putin said.

Whether this is a toothless threat or a more serious sign of the Arctic conflict is unclear. But Wells said that “many countries whose defense security will be affected by changes in the Arctic; and we see the opening of new sea routes, including Allied corridors – it will be a contested environment.”

“My role here is to provide the best I can do to inform NATO and its allies of changes that are occurring, and how they affect NATO’s military operations so that NATO and its allies are in a good position to make their political decisions.”

These political judgments about security issues are getting more and more complex, just as technology does.

Citing developments in “fast aircraft, next generation submarines, precision-guided munitions,” Wells said 6,000 scientists affiliated with the coalition are currently working on weapons systems or other “emerging and disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence that are also critical.

And sometimes concerns include artificial information – or disinformation – that is disseminated asymmetrically against military and civilian targets, making the application of social sciences as important to NATO as the physical sciences.

“The impact of disinformation on our audiences is something we have been well aware of in defense and security for a long time,” Wells said. “We’ve done a lot of work specifically on disinformation about COVID-19 to help allies, help NATO itself, and refute the kinds of claims that might come in. But that’s just one part of what we would call cognitive warfare, making sure we can defend ourselves Against the kinds of information our audience will receive, which members of the armed forces may receive. To do that we need a good understanding of the latest social media, a good understanding of different sectors of the audience using different types of social media, and also a good understanding of the kinds of technologies used.”

Wells, a former UK defense official, may have spoken with typical British absurdity, saying: “When we look at new technologies, the pace of change is a challenge, but so is the amount of new science available now.”

Including Zoom, which is the interview method. When asked whether a similar conversation had taken place in person at the creation of NATO, or in recent years, Wells said: “If we turn back the seventy years of NATO’s founding, or even 10 years, there are still only three military domains: air, land and sea In the past ten years, NATO has added cyber and space to those areas, and the scope of science has also changed.

“I would add two more things when we were talking about beer 70 years ago that we could have taken for granted: We keep the science up to date, but we need to work and do that extra mile to make sure we do that. The 18 best universities in the world are on the The territory of the NATO allies, so it is in the lead in this matter, but we can not set the pace.”

The pace of change, whether it’s climate patterns or the climate of disinformation, weapon development, and social science trends, will remain rapid.

But Wells concluded reassuringly that he would not change.

“The Secretary-General made it clear when he launched his NATO 2030 initiative that with regard to new technologies, he would like to maintain technological edge, but consistent with Alliance standards and values,” Wells said. “We need to recognize that there is concern in some of the potential directions that science could take us. But it is clear that NATO is under political leadership. And that political leadership is clear that the use of new technologies will reflect the norms and values ​​of their societies.”

John Rush is a writer and columnist for the Star Tribune. The rash report can be heard at 8:10 a.m. Friday on WCCO Radio, 830 a.m. On Twitter: @rashreport. Once a month, the topic for this column is determined by the “Big Decisions” dialogue on foreign policy, conducted in partnership with the nonprofit citizen engagement organization Global Minnesota. Do you want to join the conversation? Go to globalminnesota.org.

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