Algorithmic power, NATO and Artificial Intelligence
NATO has formally approved its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy as it seeks a leading position in the adoption of AI for defence, but it may face some critical hurdles ahead in implementing the strategy, according to Simona Soare.
NATO defence ministers have formally adopted the Alliance’s first artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. The document lays out six ‘baseline’ principles for ‘responsible’ military use of AI – lawfulness, responsibility and accountability, explainability and traceability, reliability, governability, and bias mitigation. It also provides an insight into key implementation challenges.
The strategy is meant to provide a ‘common policy basis’ to support the adoption of AI systems in order to achieve the Alliance’s three core tasks – collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. The strategy is also designed to challenge established Alliance processes for procurement, technology development and wider engagement with the private sector and academia.
Only a summary of the strategy has been made public. However, it reveals four critical obstacles to implementation that NATO will face: reconciling the objectives of member nations; securing sufficient political and financial support; bridging any disconnect between the Alliance’s policy and operational units; and managing the transnational bureaucracy that will implement the strategy.
As well as being a consensus-building policy document, the strategy attempts to position NATO as the leader of AI adoption in defence. It reiterates the allies’ commitment to transatlantic cooperation on the development and use of AI in security and defence, an important element of which is ensuring inter-operability and standardisation.
There are still hard questions, however, about how NATO will coordinate different national approaches to managing the development and application of AI in defence, combined with restrictions on technology use, access, sharing and transfer. For countries like the United States, it is a priority that allies agree practical guidelines for the operational use of AI-enabled systems and the necessary data-sharing, a challenge that should not be underestimated. Some allies, meanwhile, are not satisfied with the granularity of the six principles of responsible use, while others consider that overemphasising the normative approach risks ceding technological advantage to peer competitors.
Similar tensions are playing out in the European Union. The EU’s proposal for an AI act is more restrictive for high-risk, high-impact applications of AI, though its impact on defence will be indirect, as it do does not apply to the military domain. In the defence realm, the European Defence Agency’s Artificial Intelligence Action Plan for Defence shares more similarities with the NATO strategy. While the plan is not public, it reportedly includes a list of use cases for military applications of AI which member states may consider for collaborative development and principles of responsible development and use.
Another question that remains to be answered is the extent of NATO’s ambition to adopt AI. The strategy is meant to be implemented in a phased approach, partly to build political support for AI military projects. Initial ambitions seem modest, reportedly focusing on mission planning and support; smart maintenance and logistics for NATO capabilities; data fusion and analysis; cyber defence; and optimisation of back-office processes. As political acceptance grows and following periodic reviews of the strategy’s implementation, the goal is to also include more complex operational applications.
Finally, the AI strategy runs parallel to NATO’s Military Strategy, a military-led process launched in 2019, and its Warfighting Capstone Concept, which examines alliance requirements in future operating environments. However, the AI strategy is a stand-alone document. To avoid creating narrow implementation tracks, meaningful early engagement between NATO’s policy and military communities would be beneficial to cut across any disconnect between threat-based assessments of the impact of AI on military capabilities and politically driven processes for the development and use of AI.
The executive summary of NATO’s AI strategy does not reflect any alignment of the roles and resources of the different NATO and national innovation bodies. It is unclear from the summary how the NATO Innovation Unit, Allied Command Transformation, the Science and Technology Organization and the NATO Communications and Information Agency will coordinate to implement the strategy.
The Alliance aims to exploit AI developments in the commercial sector by adopting an open innovation model and deliberately moving away from its present procurement model. However, this will require an effort to map out the relationship between old structures, such as the NATO Industrial Advisory Group, and new engagement channels with the private sector, such as the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic and others created by the AI strategy.
While NATO has adopted the AI strategy, there is no dedicated line of funding for it. Finance will depend on a combination of common budget funding and off-budget mechanisms such as the NATO Innovation Fund. Besides the uncertainty over the availability of funding, some Alliance agencies are concerned that their budgets could be cut and redistributed towards the implementation of the AI strategy. The allies have set a USD1 billion target for the NATO Innovation Fund. However, whether this amount is sustainably generated and distributed over the long term, and by what means, is more important for encouraging innovation than the announced figure.
The promise of AI for military applications has been clear for some time; less obvious is the route to deliver on it. For all the implementation challenges it faces, the Alliance’s AI strategy represents a step in the right direction.
Weaponization of Neuroscience
Hervé Le Guyader
This essay is part of the author’s contribution to the NATO Operations 2040 study by the NATO Innovation Hub.
While it has been said that everything could be weaponized, neurosciences and, more broadly speaking, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Sciences (NBIC) are clearly providing state and non-state actors some true game changers.
The story narrated in this essay begins in 2018 with weak, and not so weak signals, and ends in 2040 with NATO triggering Article 5 because of NBIC attacks on some of its allied Nations. During these 22 years, pivotal decisions are taken at NATO Summits, fundamental choices are made for the design of the successor to the Alliance’s main surveillance and control system, and NATO manages to embark a large number of nations, far beyond its core allied nations, into a pragmatic educational program on global security.
All of this because of the “Weaponization of neurosciences” challenging topic that was to be addressed.
This essay uses fiction and mixes actual facts and events, fairly logical foresights and some fictitious extrapolations drawn from a couple of long term key geostrategic initiatives launched by today’s big players. Of course, the roles played in this story by those big players could be interchanged, albeit with some work.
Using a few dramatization tricks, at the cost of being a bit provocative to try and keep the reader’s interest doesn’t mean not being serious at voicing out one’s deep beliefs.
In this particular case:
- Yes, “Human mind” should be NATO’s next domain of operation,
- Yes, AWAC’s successor must address NBIC,
- Yes, global security is what’s at stake today, and it will take more than professionals of the defense, security and military sectors to address it efficiently.
However difficult it will be.
Brussels, July 17, 2026, NATO Summit: “Human mind”, the 6th domain of operation
Excerpt from the Brussels Declaration, issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels 16-17 July 2026.
Article 11 … To stay secure, we must look to the future together. We are addressing the breadth and scale of new technologies to maintain our technological edge, while preserving our values and norms. We will continue to increase the resilience of our societies, as well as of our critical infrastructure and our energy security. To effectively do so, NATO and Allies, within their respective authority, must constantly take stock of the pace and breadth of scientific research being conducted, in particular outside the Alliance. Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Sciences (NBIC), whose development rate is staggering, have an immense potential to deeply transform our societies, but the dual nature of this potential poses a new set of challenges to our security.
For decades, NATO and Allies, and our competitors too had been used to operate in a three-dimensional environment, where air, land and sea represented familiar, distinct but interoperable operational context.
The 2014 Wales Summit identified that Cyber-attacks presented a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance and could be as harmful to modern societies as a conventional attack. By way of consequence, NATO and Allies agreed that cyber defense was part of NATO’s core task of collective defense.
The 2016 Warsaw Summit then recognized cyberspace as a domain of operations in which “NATO must defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land, and at sea”.
Three years later, the 2019 London Summit declared, in the article #6 of its final declaration, Space as an operational domain for NATO, recognizing its importance in keeping us safe and tackling security challenges, while upholding international law. Of note, the same article also stated “We are increasing our tools to respond to cyber-attacks, and strengthening our ability to prepare for, deter, and defend against hybrid tactics that seek to undermine our security and societies. We are stepping up NATO’s role in human security. We recognize that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.”
Progresses in NBIC make it today possible for our competitors to develop new ways to reach their offensive objective. While propaganda and influencing strategies have always existed, the depth and sophistication of NBIC-fueled hybrid attacks today represent an unprecedented threatening level inasmuch they target the most vital infrastructure we rely on: the human mind.
Norfolk, we have a problem
As it turned out, preparation to the 2026 Summit had not been as exhaustive and sturdy as it should have
been. Years of under-budgeting and under-staffing had taken their toll and Article 11, the “Mind hacking”
article, was one key casualty.
Enthusiastic accolades were shared and raucous applause heard across the world but, soon enough, once
the dust had settled, impartial observers were prompt to identify two main fault lines:
• IC, and notNBIC
While Article 11 had correctly presented NBIC, as a whole, as being the issue to address, only one
and a half (or thereabout) out of its four components had been in reality looked into with the
necessary rigor: Information (technologies) and their own, specific capacity to tamper with human
Cognition. But Nano, Bio technologies, and their own impact on Cognition (hence the 1.5 vs. 2.5
approximation) had, in reality, been put on the backburner.
• Doctrine? Rules of engagement? Training? DOTMLPFI17?
Under public and diplomatic pressure, NATO had managed to reach consensus among nations on
this fairly disruptive concept of Human mind as a domain of operations and to pull off a unanimous
decision but, unlike the five first domains of operation, “NBIC warfare against human mind” was
pretty much terra incognita, most certainly in terms of lessons learned.
People had been fighting for hundreds of years on land, at sea, for a little bit more than a century
in the air, for a few decades in cyberspace and space. Historians, scientists, defense specialists,
military and civilian experts and practitioners had built considerable knowledge regarding wars
waged over land, sea and air. More recent conflicts had added Cyber and even Space warfare data
and analysis to the mix, and dozens of exercises, executed at the coalition (NATO) level had
allowed for all concerned parties to optimize their readiness level.
But human mind as domain of operation??? What’s the equivalent to the “smoking gun”, how
can it be detected, identified, attributed to … something, somebody??? Where is my OODA
loop??? My C4ISR?, What are the ad hoc CCIR18’s???
And then, the real killer issue: What would cause triggering Article 5?
Adversaries and competitors were merciless in overtly mocking NATO’s apparent unpreparedness,
stressing the “existential risks this “marketing rather than strategic” decision was creating for the human
race”. More covertly, troll farms19, fake news factories20 and 50 Cent Army21 worked double, triple,
quadruple shifts to make sure gullible (remember Weapons of Mass Cretinization?) folks would go down
streets and avenues around the world with new, anti-NATO slogans.
Ironically, the same time pressure that had prompted NATO to issue its declaration in 2026, in an
admittedly rushed out fashion, ended up also applying to its competitors who, in turn, made a series of
bad moves that ended up in “incidents”. Epitomizing the NBIC threat and serious enough in their disastrous.
We therefore recognize the human mind and bodey as a domain of operations in which NATO defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land, at sea, in cyberspace and in space.
This is an annex to the main “Weaponization of neurosciences” essay, aimed at providing some
recommendations related to the three main points summarized in its conclusion.
Going too far without interacting first with NATO, based on its reaction to the paper, would probably be
unrealistic and useless, so here are some fairly concrete recommendations for the two first main points
raised by the essay. The third point raises some strategic and geopolitical issues that clearly need to be
better appreciated in order to provide plausible recommendations.
Point # 1: Human mind as NATO’s 6th domain of operation.
Reaching that level may be a long shot but, whether or not that objective is achievable, the reality of the
human mind hacking threat is undeniable and NATO must react in a concrete manner, and do it quickly.
The code name proposed for NATO’s response is: “Human mind hacking: Light, camera, action!”, a
• Light: Because it is a developing and complex subject, Human mind hacking needs light being shed on
it to be made clearer and more decipherable.
This will start with an exhaustive state of the art study addressing the nature, plausibility, development
of that threat, together with an impact assessment of attacks already perpetrated. That particular task
may be coordinated by the Innovation Hub. Evidence gathering, structuration of the study do not raise
any particular issue and can be distributed among several military and non-military int’l partners, but
particular attention must be given to the quality of the deliverables so that they lend themselves well to
the two next steps of NATO response.
This is a 10-month effort, going from April 2020 till February 2021. Updates every six month.
• Camera: Because the relevance and potential impact of the Human mind hacking issue address the full
gamut of stakeholders, from leaders to first responders involved in complex, hybrid crises, from their
awareness and understanding of the situation to decision-making process, cameras (figuratively
speaking, of course) are needed to capture and broadcast in the most efficient manner the takeaways
from the study summarized above, and to do it with messages customized to targeted audiences.
While this effort must start immediately (April 2020) and be sustained for the whole duration of the
project with regular updates to the material that will be generated, a first production of communication
material will have to be out by September 2020.
• Action: Led by ACT, and starting in April 2020, this third pillar to the project has two primary
o As an in itinere work package, from Month 1 and for the three years’ duration of the initial
effort: setting in motion the production of the entire DOTMLPFI and coordinating its
o As an immediate priority: Make sure that each and every exercise, wargame scenario, training
material … includes Human mind hacking material generated by the (“light” and “camera”)
two other components of the project.
Weaponization of neurosciences, HLG, ENSC, February 2020 33
Point # 2: Allied Future Surveillance & Control (AFSC)
This is obviously a major project for NATO in terms of strategic importance and in terms of budget. Even
if the current AWACS has benefited from many updates along its existence, AFSC’s design faces unique
challenges because of the complexity of today’s conflicts (see main report re: hybrid, complex warfare …),
let alone the exponential growth of (NBIC) technologies.
In other words, AFSC, in whatever shape/s or form/s this “system of systems” will take, will epitomize the
depth and sophistication of NATO’s understanding of tomorrow’s conflicts.
I am convinced that addressing all possible threats is a vital necessity.
My recommendation is to extend that mind set to the whole design process.
Point # 3: Security is not merely a military issue. Global security is a society issue.
To develop that point and come out with concrete recommendations capable of providing some added value
and not merely “state the obvious” would necessitate a better understanding of how NATO and chiefs of
government, but also NATO and large international institutions work together and craft common agendas.
One point, though, goes without saying: the communication material put together by the “Human mind
hacking: Light, camera, action!” project needs to be designed with these partners in mind.
Considering the geographical and political breadth of this issue, this is probably the most challenging
point of the “Weaponization of neurosciences” recommendations to address