The primary role of Alliance military forces is to protect peace and to guarantee the territorial integrity, political independence and security of the member states. The Alliance forces must therefore be able to deter and defend effectively. The Alliance operates in an environment of continuing change. The Alliance remains subject to a wide variety of military and non-military risks that are multi-directional and often difficult to predict.
Alliance military forces contribute to promoting stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area by their participation in military-to-military contacts and in other co-operation activities and exercises under the Partnership-for-Peace (PfP) programme, as well as those organised to deepen NATO's relationship with Russia, the Ukraine and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries.
Given the multinational and joint character of Allied operations, coherence and interoperability between those national force contributions have to be enhanced. The Adoption of common doctrines, procedures and standards, as well as the need for Alliance forces to train, exercise and operate together is imperative. Hence the need for multinational exercise programmes.
The term NATO Military Exercise includes all exercises for which NATO is the initiating or the joint initiating authority. Associated with NATO Military Exercises are building blocks, such as: seminars, study periods and workshops.
A NATO Military Exercise is scheduled by a NATO Commander. It aims to establish, enhance and display NATO's Military Capability across the Alliance's full mission spectrum which is based on the three Alliance military missions:
- Article 5 Collective Defence;
- Non-Article 5 Crisis Response; and
- Consultation and Co-operation.
The rationale for planning and executing military exercises is to prepare commands and forces for operations in peace, crisis and conflict. Therefore, the aims and objectives of military exercises must mirror current operational requirements and priorities. It is carried out in order to practise and evaluate collective training of staffs, units and forces to enable them to operate effectively together, to demonstrate Military Capability, or to provide improvements to the capability. In addition, NATO Military Exercises are to integrate and improve the Military Capabilities of non-NATO participants and support the development and implementation of the military aspects of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) within NATO.
The exercises are executed in three forms: a Live Exercise (LIVEX), Command Post Exercise (CPX), or an Exercise Study. A Live Exercise is an exercise in which actual forces participate. A Command Post Exercise is a headquarters exercise involving commanders and their staffs, and communications within and between participating headquarters, in which NATO and friendly forces, as well as opposing forces are simulated. An Exercise Study is an activity which may take the form of a map exercise, a war game, a series of lectures, a discussion group, or an operational analysis.
A NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Exercise is an exercise or related activity scheduled by a NATO Commander and conducted by a NATO Commander, or under certain conditions by a National authority, in which personnel and/or forces from at least one NATO and one Partner nation perform operational and/or related functions for the purpose of combined planning and training in order to strengthen their ability to undertake missions in the fields of Peace Support Operations, Humanitarian Assistance, Search and Rescue and others.
The exercise programme covers a period of six years, with detailed programming for the first two calendar years, and outline programming for the following four calendar years. The aims and objectives of an exercise are developed in an Exercise Specification paper. Analysis and reporting - which encompasses "Lessons Learned" are the final stages of the exercise process. All exercises are reviewed not only to assess the achievement of the aim and objectives, but also to assess whether the aims and objectives are valid in the prevailing environment, and whether the product is worth the expenditure of effort and resources.
NATO issues press releases concerning major NATO and NATO PfP exercises. Other NATO exercises coming under the heading of seminars and study groups etc. do not receive such a high profile. National exercises among the member nations and Partner nations are also conducted, sometimes simultaneously, and sometimes inviting other nations to attend, but they are under the sovereign authority of the host nation.
This text is not a formally agreed NATO document and, therefore, does not necessarily represent the official views of individual member governments on all policy issues discussed.