NATO sets up expert group to find its missing brain

4 April 2020

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg named a panel of 10 experts on 31 March to help show that the alliance is not brain dead—as French President Emmanuel Macron declared in a controversial interview with The Economist last autumn.

Macron's comments came amid the chaos of the United States and Turkey taking unilateral military action in northern Syria. Other NATO allies reacted angrily to Macron's remarks. In an attempt to draw a line under the quarrel and perhaps avoid future divisions, NATO leaders agreed at their December 2019 summit held just outside London that Stoltenberg should head up a "reflection process".

Stoltenberg announced the make-up of the expert group ahead of a virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers on 2 April. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting took place via a secure videoconference for the first time in NATO’s history. 

The group of 10 experts — five men and five women — will be co-chaired by Thomas de Maizière, a member of the Bundestag and former German defence minister and A. Wess Mitchell, a former assistant secretary of state for European affairs in Trump's administration. In a press release NATO said the group "will offer recommendations to reinforce Alliance unity, increase political consultation and coordination between Allies, and strengthen NATO’s political role". The expert group members are:

Greta Bossenmaier (Canada) – a former national security and intelligence advisor to the Canadian Prime Minister

Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen (Denmark) – Director of the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College

Hubert Védrine (France) – a former Foreign Minister (1998-02)

Thomas de Maizière (Germany) – a member of the Bundestag and former German Defence Minister

Marta Dassù (Italy) – former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2011-14)

Herna Verhagen (The Netherlands) – a Dutch businesswoman, the chief executive of PostNL

Anna Fotyga (Poland) – Member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs

Tacan Ildem (Turkey) – a senior Turkish diplomat and current NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy 

John Bew (United Kingdom) – Professor in History and Foreign Policy at King's College London

Wess Mitchell (United States) – foreign policy expert and former diplomat