Building Resilience in Eastern Europe: Intersecting NATO Concept of Projecting Stability

(Українська) Странам Восточной Европы следует сотрудничать на двусторонней и многосторонней основе, в рамках и за пределами партнерства НАТО, для усиления их устойчивости

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Resilience is a comprehensive concept developed within the Euro-Atlantic community to respond to a new array of hybrid threats by combining civilian, economic, commercial and military capabilities. The policy paper proposes to apply the principle of resilience to Moldova and Ukraine. The authors on one hand analyse how it reflects in bilateral and multilateral cooperation and on the other hand explore the opportunities offered by NATO’s policy of projecting stability to increase resilience in Eastern Europe.


Policy paper is prepared by the graduates of the first Eastern European School for foreign policy researchers in the framework of the project by Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” and the Regional Project “Dialogue of Eastern Europe” of Friedrich Ebert Foundation

Danu Marin, expert, Information and Documentation Center on NATO in Moldova

Volodymyr Solovian, coordinator of the foreign policy projects, Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies


Resilience and NATO projecting stability

The concept of resilience was developed in the Euro-Atlantic community after two major crises, which changed the European security paradigm. During the NATO Warsaw Summit, resilience was adopted as the guiding principle being defined as “society’s ability to resist and recover easily and quickly from internal or external shocks, combining civilian, economic, commercial and military factors.

There are five areas outlining NATO’s contribution to resilience:

  1. Cyber defence concerns the multitude of threats in the cyber domain ranging from protection of communication infrastructure to response to cyberattacks.
  2. Hybrid threats involve developing capabilities to defend against a combination of conventional and unconventional threats.
  3. Civil-military readiness involves reviving strategic planning to adjust territorial defence and stepping up civil response measures in case of emergency.
  4. Cooperation with EU reflects on improving the synergy between the two institutions to develop shared situation awareness and coordination of responses.
  5. Cooperation with partner countries which is a two-way benefit: on the one hand NATO draws from the partner’s experience of hybrid warfare, on the other hand NATO deploys its policy of projecting stability to improve partner’s resilience.


Building resilience is especially important for Eastern European countries which face mounting security threats and challenges that undermine regional stability. The Ukrainian conflict highlighted the deeply entrenched and systemic vulnerabilities which persist across all post-soviet countries. Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine need to address these issues by focusing on five security baskets – boosting territorial defence, developing capabilities to counter hybrid threats, improving civil preparedness, enhancing cyber defence, and tackling energy security.


One of the solutions is to benefit from NATO expertise and assistance in these areas, which is provided through the projecting stability policy.


In order to establish how NATO projecting stability concept interacts with resilience building in Eastern Europe it is important to understand three major trends in NATO’s approach to partnerships. First trend shows the overall freezing of NATO enlargement process, especially in regions of high contention like Eastern Europe. Second trend is linked with NATO offering partners more cooperation on hard security issues, the engagement formula relying on developing defence capacity and interoperability. Third trend involves prioritizing bilateral over multilateral cooperation formats by offering more tailored cooperation to the partners.


Building resilience in Moldova


Taking into consideration that projecting stability is based on the demand-driven approach, Moldova-NATO partnership is shaped by the country’s passive security culture and its principle of neutrality. As a result, cooperation with NATO prior to the Ukrainian conflict was more cosmetic rather than practical. Despite having a positive track, the partnership was slow to generate changes in Moldovan security especially in terms of capabilities.


The Ukrainian crisis has served as a wakeup call for the Moldovan policy. Decision-makers started to pursue more comprehensive and active security engagement.


The third Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP, 2014-2016) and Defence Capacity Building Initiative (DCBI, agreed in 2015) have a stronger reform-focused agenda, more practical cooperation through transformation of Moldova’s armed forces, and deeper engagement in the areas of cyber security, defence education, building integrity, ammunition storage and safety. The current efforts are streamlined to complete security sector reform, the first phase of DCB package, and move to the second phase of developing force structure and improving the defence capabilities.

Without presuming a major reshuffling of Moldova-NATO partnership – neither membership plan on one hand, nor scaling back the already achieved progress on the other, there is still room to improve Moldova’s resilience through NATO’s tools of projecting stability.

The cooperation in building resilience therefore is reflected in five baskets.

  • First basket of resilience includes territorial defence and border security. It concerns developing force structure and improving the defence capabilities to obtain efficient and affordable armed forces. This capacity is outlined in the second phase of the DCBI package, which can start only after the first phase is complete. Another important element is to improve the cooperation with regional partners to enhance border surveillance, intelligence sharing and reconnaissance and improve the armed forces interoperability.
  • Second basket concerns tackling hybrid warfare. The current efforts within Moldova-NATO cooperation are streamlined to comprehensive security sector reform, yet there are very few practical programmes to improve situational awareness and responsiveness to hybrid threats. Among the major priorities is devising comprehensive instruments to monitor, analyse and respond to hybrid threats, enhance the interinstitutional cooperation in strategic communication and develop government-civil society partnership to jointly counteract propaganda and disinformation. Ukraine is a very important partner in this regard especially taking into consideration its current experience of hybrid warfare.
  • Third basket includes cyber defence and information security. Cooperation in this area is the most fruitful with NATO supporting the development of three cyber defence and cyber education projects through the Science for Peace programme (SPS). The collaboration can be further expanded to reflect information security and protection of communication networks and infrastructure.
  • Fourth basket of resilience is civil preparedness. As a military-civilian organization, NATO is already providing its expertise in terms of education and training. In order to step up its resilience in this area, Moldova should have more comprehensive approach to managing crises and emergencies through stronger partnership between military and civilian structures. It implies developing early warning and response mechanisms, and improving emergency planning.
  • Fifth basket is energy security. While NATO is not explicitly an energy-based institution, Moldova can learn from NATO experience in developing resilient energy supplies, protection of critical energy infrastructure and enhancing the energy efficiency in the military. A project of particular interest is the trilateral initiative ENTSO-E between Moldova, Romania and Ukraine to develop synchronous interconnection of the power systems.


Building resilience in Ukraine


From the very beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, NATO and Ukraine reconsidered bilateral relations. Ukrainian parliament revoked country’s non-bloc status and intensified dialogue with the alliance. In its turn, NATO took a strong position in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time alliance strengthened conventional deterrence with regard to Russian military activity in Eastern Europe and Baltics. Meanwhile, NATO‘s practical support to Ukraine aims to strengthen its resilience.

Corresponding agenda includes strengthening and enlargement of existing programmes on security sector reform, cyber defence, security-related scientific cooperation, defence education and professional development.


Since 2014, toolkit for strengthening Ukraine’s resistance capabilities consists of six Trust Funds that cover critical areas of Ukrainian Security Sector Reforms.


The main areas of strengthening resistance under this initiative are cyber defence, anti-corruption measures, energy security, humanitarian demining, strategic communications, advanced training of military personnel and joint development of advanced security technologies. However there are many challenges of resilience building in Ukraine that remain on outskirts of interaction with NATO.

In this context, Ukraine can offer following measures to improve its resilience strategy:

  • First basket is driven by the necessity to determine the scope of NATO’s comprehensive assistance package in the field of strengthening Ukrainian territorial defence. The main goal of Ukrainian territorial defence development can be defined as implementation of common conceptual and methodological approaches with NATO member states. Therefore forms of NATO-Ukraine cooperation in this area may include introduction of modern training programs for various units of territorial defence, establishment of training centres and equipping them with educational tools, simulators etc. Moreover, it is worth noting that NATO instructional staff could conduct effective training of local instructors in the system of territorial defence.
  • Second important basket of resilience for Ukraine is civil preparedness. Strengthening resilience in this area should be closely tied with programmes on territorial defence forces training. It is worth noting that interaction between civilian and military security sectors is crucial for effectively respondingto crisis situations.
  • Ukraine-NATO cooperation in the field of strategic communications also acquires special actuality. This is due to necessity of assured continuity of government and critical government services in the context of resilience strengthening. Strategic communications security is directly dependent on reliability of self-government and interdepartmental logistics information systems, as well as training specialists and improving the efficiency of state media. Therefore Ukraine should improve its resilience in close cooperation with The  Committee on Public Diplomacy (CPD). Standards and expertise of NATO countries in the area of strategic communications must be taken into account in Ukraine’s National Strategy on Strategic Communications.
  • Fourth basket concerns cyber defence and information security. The core components within this subject include: public awareness at regional and local level on a Distinctive Partnership between Ukraine and NATO; media coverage of events related to the cooperation of Ukraine with NATO; developing a joint strategy to counteract Russian misinformation and propaganda. Also Ukrainian Centre for the Hybrid Warfare Studies that was announced at the Warsaw NATO Summit should be supplemented with representative offices in Belarus and Moldova.
  • Energy supply also remains the Achilles’ heel of Ukraine’s national security system. Therefore, the agenda of strengthening resilient energy supplies through the territory of Ukraine has to include: providing passports of vulnerability of Ukrainian fuel and energy complex infrastructure; staff training on the protection of critical infrastructure; improvement of energy supply in military units; strengthening organizational and resource resilience to response crisis in energy security.


Conclusions and recommendations for cooperation

Undoubtedly Moldova and Ukraine have different security vectors yet their national resilience hinges on a similar set of threats and vulnerabilities.


Taking into consideration European aspirations of Chisinau and Kyiv on the one hand and security challenges they face on the other, the cooperation between the two countries should come as a natural response.


Both countries should aspire to boost their security resilience by expanding their cooperation on bilateral and multilateral level, both in and out of NATO partnerships framework. To set the priorities for resilience building the partnerships should focus on five security baskets: territorial defence, countering hybrid threats, civil preparedness, cyber defence, and energy security.

For Republic of Moldova bilateral cooperation requires deepening the partnership with NATO. First step is to focus on accomplishing the DCBI package by keeping a constant pace of reforming the security sector and moving to the development of defence capabilities. Second step is to put emphasis on the five security baskets when negotiating the next IPAP and to develop a more practical action plan in these areas. Third step is to seek funding opportunities through NATO trust funds particularly in the projects concerning ammunition storage and safety, logistics and standardization. On a bilateral level cooperation with Ukraine on the issue of territorial defence and border management, exchange of experience in countering hybrid threats and cooperation on energy security and cyber defence are also crucial.

Ukrainian resilience strategy is vastly reflected in a Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine that was agreed at the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Meanwhile, roadmap for resilience should be based on Annual National Programme (ANP) of the NATO – Ukraine Cooperation as well as existing programs and initiatives provided by NATO member states. However, the successful implementation of the necessary criteria of resilience depends on the capacity building of government and military institutions and the potential of democratic control. In turn, Ukraine considers the prospects for deepening cooperation with Moldova in the security sector through the prism of cooperation with the NATO thus achieving common standards, especially among military forces.

On a multilateral level Science for Peace and Security programme (SPS) fits perfectly for cross-regional initiatives. Potential projects may include: counter-terrorism, cyber defence, energy and environmental security, provision of civilian support, border security and cross border communication systems. For Moldova and Ukraine it is worth exploring the opportunities offered by the NATO interoperability platform, a potential future forum for meetings and consultations with 25 non-NATO partners on the issues that affect interoperability, such as command and control systems or logistics.

Pursuing multilateral cooperation Moldova and Ukraine can seek to create non-NATO platforms. One example is NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation) which is an informal security organization on a voluntary basis where participant states can choose which areas they want to collaborate and to what extent. Such platforms even though are not designed to solve short-term problems are an excellent tool to build long-term security relationships which contributes to regional stability.