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Revitalizing NATO’s once robust standardization programme

  • 16 Jul. 2020
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  • Last updated: 01 Aug. 2020 11:51

NDC Policy Brief 14-20


Since the end of the Cold War and after the 9/11 attacks, globalization has not replaced Great Powers’ competition as some predicted but, progressively, it has accelerated it. Such competition has been driven by advanced technology, which potentially preludes the next revolution in military affairs. Competition among nations is nothing new, but in contrast to the industrial era, in the digital age it is not just about the number of tanks, ships, aircraft and brigades. It is also about the control of networks, platforms and software.1 This represents an important transformation: norm-setting in these technical domains will yield significant geopolitical returns. In the realm of technology, standards are tantamount to the rules of the game.

The economic importance of standards in governing global industry, information, logistics and supply chains in an enduring way is well established.2 Nations have long used standards to gain geopolitical traction, and the increasing pace of technological change is making such control even more pressing.3



* (back) Maritime Analyst at the Defence Policy and Planning Division, NATO HQ.

1 (back) For a discussion of change in metrics across time, see M. Beckley, “China’s century? Why America’s edge will endure”, International Security, Vol.36, No.3, Winter 2011/12, pp.41-78.

2 (back) For a similar argument, see M. L. Busch, Trade warriors: states, firms, and strategic-trade policy in high-technology competition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

3 (back) M. Brunnermeier, R. Doshi and H. James, “Beijing’s Bismarckian ghosts: how Great Powers compete economically”, The Washington Quarterly, Vol.41, No.3, Fall 2018, pp.161-176.

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