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Could NATO Transform itself…

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Dr. George Kiourktsoglou

Dr. George Kiourktsoglou

Could NATO Transform itself into a Learning Organization? Dr. George Kiourkstoglou* writes:

In view of the recent NATO summit that was held in Wales on the 4th and 5th of September 2014, I had been invited by the alliance’s Public Diplomacy Division to a three-day tour. The tour started from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, moved to Cardiff for the ‘NATO after the Wales Summit’ conference, and ended in Northwood, home to the Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM). The team put together by the alliance comprised twelve ‘key opinion formers’ (KOFs), mostly academics with research interests in maritime security (MARSEC). The initiative was launched years ago in the broader context of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. The alliance used to invite groups of KOFs to tours in the war-bereaved country, with the aim to create pockets of knowledge and deeper insights into its mission there. The success of the program in Afghanistan led to its expansion, with MARSEC being the next field of interest to follow suit.

For years ahead of the summit, the alliance went through an extensive period of soul-searching, trying to redefine itself mainly through the discovery of a new raison d’être. Then in the months-long run-up to Cardiff, two major geopolitical developments took place: the Ukraine crisis in Eastern Europe and the outbreak of untold violence and change of national borders waged by the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East.

This new landscape abruptly changed the agenda of the summit and gave birth to some pressing existential challenges to NATO’s world-leaders present in Cardiff: could the alliance act swiftly and effectively, both at present and in the future? If yes, how should a fair burden-sharing look like? But above all, would public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic support its leadership towards the implementation of a more ‘kinetic’ agenda by NATO?

The declaration produced at the end of the summit promptly answered the first question and lightly touched upon the answer to the second one. The third problematic, at least in the case of Islamic extremism, was only partially addressed in the US through a survey produced by the Pew Research Institute in the aftermath of the summit. It showed growing concern about the rise of Islamic extremism at home and abroad.

In a recent article Admiral James G. Stavridis U.S. Navy (Ret.), NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Professor Julian Lindley-French shared their views on ‘a critical new ingredient in NATO’s post-Wales strategic force posture’: knowledge. In fact, in the same article, the authors defined knowledge as the 6th domain of contemporary warfare, with the other five being: air, sea, land, cyber and space. This is an interesting approach that could breathe new life into NATO’s future ambitions. Even more intriguingly, the quest for knowledge could help the alliance transform itself from an outdated intergovernmental military alliance into a learning organization, according to the definition given by Dr. Peter Michael Senge in the early 1990s:

‘…an outfit that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations […], featuring five defining attributes; systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.’


George Kiourktsoglou has a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering (Aristotelian Technical University, Greece, 1992), an M.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering (Cornell University, U.S.A., 1996), a Diploma in Management (ALBA Graduate Business School, Greece, 2006) and an M.B.A. in Shipping (ALBA Graduate Business School, Greece, 2008).

As an intern, he worked for the Israeli Public Corporation of Electricity and from 1996 until 2009 for Royal Dutch Shell.

Currently he does research as a Ph.D. candidate (Maritime Security) and lectures (Strategy and Management) at the University of Greenwich.

George is a member of the American Nuclear Society, the Chartered Management Institute and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science Technology in London.

He speaks Greek, English, German, Japanese and French.

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