Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2014

From the Gulf of Aden to the Gulf of Guinea: A New Maritime Mission for NATO?

Brooke Smith-Windsor, José Francisco Pavia

January 2014

NATO Defense College


Later this year, the mandate of one of the most successful NATO maritime missions in history - counterpiracy operations off East Africa in the Gulf of Aden region - will expire. The question presently facing NATO's 28 members states is whether to subsequently retain a presence in a region where the threat is now considerably reduced, or alternatively, refocus resources to where they are conceivably needed more to secure Allied interests. This paper makes the case for judicious consideration of a potential rebalance to Africa's new maritime hotspot: the Gulf of Guinea to the continent's West where threats to regional, Euro-Atlantic and international security and prosperity are on the rise. While recognizing that any decision to realign strategic priorities is ultimately a political one, this paper explains why the factors to justify greater Alliance capacity building (Cooperative Security) in the Gulf of Guinea region already exist in four vital respects: (1) Allied interests at stake; (2) international legitimacy for action; (3) established strategic guidance for the employment of Allied maritime and other means outside NATO territory; (4) relevant Allied operational competencies and expertise.