X0A9681cimicCivil/Military Cooperation (CIMIC) is a joint function comprising a set of capabilities integral to supporting the achievement of mission objectives and enabling NATO commands to participate effectively in a broad spectrum of Civil Military Interaction (CMI) with diverse non-military actors. (1)

The following article was was originally published in The Three Swords Magazine in July 2017.

CMI, on the other hand, is a group of activities, founded on communication, planning and coordination that all NATO military bodies share and conduct with international and local non-military actors, both during NATO operations and in preparation for them, which mutually increa ses the effectiveness and efficiency of their respective actions in response to the crisis.2

In today’s ever evolving security environment where conflict is not restricted to the battlefield, CIMIC functions and CMI activities remain key to NATO mission success. The Warsaw Summit in 2016 gave gui dance in a wide range of areas. One such piece of guidance was the following:

“Our efforts to enhance the Alliance’s role in projecting stability will be guided by enduring principles, including a 360-degree approach, commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, complementarity with international actors, in particular with the UN, EU, and the OSCE and focusing on NATO's added value, local ownership and buy-in, partner involvement, inclusiveness, tailored cooperation, long-term commitment, prioritisation and sustainability, and overall coherence."3

Much of the above relates directly to CIMIC and CMI. There is, therefore, a requirement to exercise CIMIC and CMI in the full range of environments that NATO commanders may find themselves operating in.

For the JWC, this means holding Non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations (NA5CRO) and Article 5 Operations (Collective Defence), which is achieved through the TRIDENT Series of Exercises. There are a range of complex environments that can be used to facilitate these exercises. 

The challenges for CIMIC differ depending on the type of operation, but these challenges still sit within the core functions of CIMIC: Civil Military Liaison, Support the Force and Support Civil Actors and their Environment.4 For NA5CRO operations, CIMIC maybe more focused on Support to Civil Actors and their Environment, while on Article 5 operations this focus may shift to Support the Force activities.

The findings of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence report on “CIMIC in Collective Defence” highlighted that in an Article 5 setting, NATO would be a third responder to any civil issues after the host nation, EU or the OSCE and other state and non-state actors.5


NA5CRO Exercises

These exercises are designed to replicate the complex environment that NATO might encounter when operating outside NATO member countries.

Article 5 Exercises (Collective Defence)

The Warsaw Summit gave very clear strategic directions towards greater emphasis on the core NATO task of Collective Defence. These settings are designed to replicate a sovereign NATO member nation (or nations) as the host nation. This necessitates Training Audiences to understand that CIMIC activities require nation-specific adaptations. The exercises also create friction between NATO and host nation authorities due to the natural tensions between a deployed force and the civil environment.

The replication of the host nations can also challenge the assumption that the resilience of democratic NATO member nations is high. The Trident exercises have to deliver suitable depth in order to fully train and challenge CIMIC. This is achieved by the development of the civil environment.

The Host Nation Structures and Capabilities

No one country in the world conducts its affairs in the same way as any other. Within the exercise environment, a Training Audience may be required to engage with multiple host nations. It is critical that Training Audiences understand these host nation structures and procedures to allow for smoother deployment and sustainment of the NATO force, as well as ensuring NATO force acceptance.

In order to understand the situation in suitable depth and detail, the Training Audiences have the opportunity to engage with all key functions of government; from policing and health to transport and communications. In addition to this, they can engage with national civil society groups on topics such as gender and crisis management.

Impact of Conflict on Civil Environment

Since the end of the Cold War, it is estimated that more than four million people have been killed in violent conflicts. This human cost is not the only price societies pay; conflict also triggers economic, political and social breakdown.6 It is those who are most vulnerable who pay the highest price in conflict. Some reports estimate that of the four million killed since the end of the Cold War, two million were children. It can be tempting to see the savagery of war as a remote concept that does not apply to NATO, or Europe. However, it only takes a cursory look into history to show that Europe has a mastery of barbarism in conflict.

All conflicts bring death, destruction and suffering; this is an inescapable truth and our exercises must reflect it. To achieve this, TRIDENT exercises build in population displacement, civilian casualties, destruction of civil infrastructure, violations of human rights, children and armed conflict, conflict-related gender-based violence, violations of international humanitarian law, cultural property protection, building integrity and many other civil themes. Training Audiences, therefore, must have an appreciation of the effects of their actions on the civil environment and, where appropriate, mitigate these effects. Where mitigation is not possible, a commander must be able to justify any actions that have had a negative impact on the civil environment and population.


International State and Non-State Actors

In coordination with SHAPE and individual Training Audiences, real world international organisations and non-government organisations are invited to take part in JWC exercises. These organisations contribute to the civil environment and bring in-depth knowledge on a range of topics. These topics span security force assistance, international humanitarian law, humanitarian assistance, protection and access, use of the UN cluster system, international policing, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, children and armed conflict, women, peace and security, and protection of civilians. The understanding of who these organisations are and what they do within the operating environment is vital for any Training Audience.

The involvement of these organisations also allows for the relationship-building outside of the exercise environment. It is within these realistic but artificial worlds that Training Audiences get to experience the full range of challenges they might find in a real conflict. The civil environment is just one of these challenges.

As the JWC moves forward with its settings and exercises, so does the civil environment we replicate. The depth and detail that we present to the Training Audiences gets better all the time, as do the interlinkages with other parts of the exercise environment. This improvement is a constant process reliant on the JWC maintaining global situational awareness, as well as a detailed knowledge of NATO policies and doctrine. We must continue to strive to better challenge Training Audiences in the civilian domain, to push commanders out of their comfort zone, and to ensure that our e xercises are truly comprehensive.

1 NATO (2014b). MC 411/2

2 NATO (2014b). MC 411/2

3 Warsaw Summit Communique, July 2016

4 CIMIC Handbook V4.0

5 CIMIC Considerations in Support of Collective Defence, CIMIC Centre of Excellence, 2016