SAMF researcher helps NATO sharpen its focus on southern neighborhoods

March 21, 2024

At the same time, I also have learnt a lot from being part of this expert group. However, the report is a coherent consensual piece of work that has been produced through thorough discussions in the expert group, with all expert group members contributing to all parts of the report. However, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen believes there are at least two reasons to look south and east at the same time. It also describes opportunities to renew the Alliance's approach to and engagement with partners in NATO's southern neighborhoods. "We are proud of the recognition of Katja's work that comes with her appointment to the expert group.

In October last year, NATO member states agreed that the alliance's engagement towards its southern neighborhoods, especially North Africa and the Middle East but also the Sahel and beyond, needs to be dusted off. The sharpened focus is partly due to the fact that Russia and China have significantly increased their presence in countries south of NATO territory.

"Several NATO allies are concerned about the implications of a situation of worsening instability that challenges the security of southern neighbors as well as the Alliance, now combined with the expanding presence of Russia as representing an additional challenge" says Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Military Studies.

"In addition to longstanding challenges, such as the threat of terrorism or irregular migration, there is increasing attention to the challenge posed by Russia's growing involvement in Africa and the Middle East. These geopolitical dynamics are concerning for various reasons and represent an additional reason for NATO to look in this direction and to find new ways of listening to and engaging with partners in NATOs southern neighborhoods," she continues.

For me, this expert group tasking has been a truly unique and exceptional opportunity to bring my knowledge and expertise to bear on an important NATO process, as the Alliance is revisiting its approach to and engagements in its southern neighborhoods. At the same time, I also have learnt a lot from being part of this expert group.

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, Senior Researcher, Centre for Military Studies

An enlightening collaboration

Along with 10 other experts, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen was appointed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to assess the situation in NATOs southern neighborhoods in plural, with a focus on making recommendations that can help point the way forward for the military alliance as NATO revisits its approach to and engagement with partners in these regions.

In the report, which is only the second of its kind in NATO's 75-year history, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen has contributed expert knowledge on maritime security, Russia's engagements, and several other topics within her field of research, as well as an external expert view on NATO in the south. However, the report is a coherent consensual piece of work that has been produced through thorough discussions in the expert group, with all expert group members contributing to all parts of the report.

"For me, this expert group tasking has been a truly unique and exceptional opportunity to bring my knowledge and expertise to bear on an important NATO process, as the Alliance is revisiting its approach to and engagements in its southern neighborhoods. At the same time, I also have learnt a lot from being part of this expert group," she says and elaborates:

"I didn't know much about NATO when the work started. But now, after five months, where I, together with the rest of the expert group, have participated in the Munich Security Conference and NATO's Partnership Symposium, been briefed on NATO's processes and various security challenges – and not least had the opportunity to listen to partners – I now have much deeper understanding of both the alliance, the many areas that we cover in our report, as well as several perspectives of various partners," she explains.

Threats in the south and east are interconnected

At a time when NATO is ramping up in Eastern Europe to deter Russia, it may seem strange that the alliance is also prioritising its southern border. However, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen believes there are at least two reasons to look south and east at the same time.

"Firstly, the challenges in the east are not completely separate from some of the challenges in the south. I am of course thinking in particular of geopolitical dynamics, but also how they affect the ability of NATO and its allies to respond to challenges of a different nature, such as terrorism. In other words, Russia's growing presence, for example on the African continent is not a presence that can be seen in isolation from Russia's aggression in Ukraine," she says.

"Secondly, not all, now 32, NATO allies consider the war in Ukraine to be the only threat that NATO should keep an eye on and be able to respond to. Many NATO allies also face various security challenges of a different nature, including terrorism and irregular migration. And importantly, partners in NATOs southern neighborhoods also face security challenges that NATO must be better able to listen to and respond to" Katja Lindskov Jacobsen points out.

She also mentions that NATO adopted a 360-degree approach for the alliance's deterrence and defence policy years ago. In short, NATO wants to be able to meet security threats and challenges from a 360-degree angle. Challenges from the South are part of this approach.

Contributing relevant, research-based knowledge to society is CMS' raison d'être. And it doesn't get much more relevant than helping to lay the foundation for NATO's continued development.

Kristian Søby Kristensen, Head of Centre for Military Studies

Returning home humbled, proud and wiser

The report doesn't only address NATO's challenges from the South. It also describes opportunities to renew the Alliance's approach to and engagement with partners in NATO's southern neighborhoods. Now that the report is finalised, first Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and then the individual member states have been briefed. This will be followed by discussions that will likely result in a number of concrete recommendations and initiatives.

For Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, the work in the expert group has already borne fruit.

"As a researcher, I have had the opportunity to contribute to a unique process and at the same time expand my expertise and knowledge in many areas. I am very humbled and at the same time proud to have been appointed by Jens Stoltenberg to be part of this expert group alongside 10 other incredibly talented, distinguished and experienced experts," she emphasises.

At the Department of Political Science, Head of Department Nina Græger is proud and impressed that one of the department's researchers has been handpicked by NATO's Secretary General for this important assignment.

"However, I am not surprised that Katja Lindskov Jacobsen was chosen, as her expertise on maritime security and other challenges in the Middle East and Africa is very solid and also sought after by Danish authorities. In addition, it is a feather in the cap for Katja Lindskov Jacobsen and us that she is one of a total of two Danish researchers – and both are women – who have participated in such an expert group in NATO's history," she says and continues:

"Although NATO's and Denmark's eyes are now largely focused eastwards after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the challenges on NATO's southern agenda have not become less pressing. I look forward to reading the report."

At the Centre for Military Studies, Head of Centre Kristian Søby Kristensen is also pleased with Katja Lindskov Jacobsen's contribution to the report.

"We are proud of the recognition of Katja's work that comes with her appointment to the expert group. Contributing relevant, research-based knowledge to society is CMS' raison d'être. And it doesn't get much more relevant than helping to lay the foundation for NATO's continued development," he says.

The source of this news is from University of Copenhagen

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