CIMIC Messenger 2017-04

Dear CMI Community,

in this, the last CIMIC Messenger before the summer break, with the next one out in September, I am particularly happy to present a number of key recent developments:

All NATO nations have agreed on the definitions for CIMIC, CMI and Liaison, as developed by the CCOE.

The magazine ‘World Security Report’ published an article on “A Military Perspective on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience” by our former academic coordinator Cpt. Marian Corbe and myself, which is being reproduced here by courtesy of the publisher.

Then you will find included a report on the recent Training & Education Branch mission to Lebanon in support of the Lebanese Armed Forced CIMIC development program.

Finally, ‘in-their-own-words’ you can follow the experiences of Rikki, Francis, Hannah and Kirsten, four three cadets from the US Army Military Academy at West Point, reflecting on their summer internship at the CCOE and in the Netherlands.

Best regards


Wolfgang Paulik

Director CCOE

CCOE successful in getting a NATO agreed status for CIMIC-related terms


On 30 June 2017, key definitions on civil-military interaction, civil-military cooperation and liaison, were endorsed by all NATO nation, through the Military Committee Joint Standardization Board, to receive the NATO-agreed status.

CCOE has made a considerable effort to support the approval process for these terms with their expertise.  Development of these terms was needed for the CIMIC functions to stay relevant in the contemporary operations environment.

The agreed terms and their definitions are:

  • Civil-military interaction (CMI):

A group of activities, founded on communication, planning and coordination, that NATO military bodies share and conduct with international and local non-military actors, both during NATO operations and in preparation for them, thereby mutually increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of their respective actions in response to crises.

  • Civil-military cooperation (CIMIC):

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 with diverse non-military actors.

  • Liaison:

The contact, intercommunication and coordination maintained between elements of the military and/or other non-military actors to ensure mutual understanding and unity of purpose and action.

Picture: power-electricity-line-pylon / Source:

A Military Perspective on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience


The topics of resilience and protection of critical infrastructure are of vital importance for the functioning of our societies on their own, but even more so, if these topics are combined. In fact, the military in democratic states contains key elements of both: It is both an element of critical infrastructure for the external security of any government, and it can only function in this purpose when the soldiers represent the values and norms of their society.

Last year in July, resilience and critical infrastructure have been endorsed by the heads of NATO Member States during the Warsaw Summit, with a specific emphasis on the Baltic Region. From a security perspective, this region is defined by the lifelines of the energy supplies through the North-Stream One and Two pipelines, but as well as through a perception of insecurity among the population.

Critical infrastructure and resilience have always been of the same high importance for our security and societies. However, they did not receive the attention they deserved. 30 years ago, there would have been no place for this topic. During the Cold War security was a topic of a quite simple nature. The art of military strategy was solely focused on military capabilities in a bipolar world between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Military strategy was focusing on major tank battles in the flat basin of Northern Germany and the concept of deterrence, guaranteed by Mutual Assured Nuclear Destruction. This approach completely ignored the impact of the civil environment and societies. It completely ignored the fact that it was not tanks against tanks but system against system.

However, and despite an increased renaissance of NATO’s core task of collective defence since the two recent NATO summits, to expect a scenario similar to the Cold War is simply not realistic. Too much has changed in the overall strategic picture, which has become much more diverse and complex since.

What are the new challenges?

The threat perception has changed from a symmetric scenario to multiple sources of insecurity. Often labelled as hybrid threats, these include, terrorism, espionage, cyberattacks, fake news, disinformation, and propaganda among others. We need to be aware that several of these threats are carried out already. Therefore, instead of preparing our defence against a conventional armed attack, it is necessary to prepare for and defend ourselves against hybrid threats. From our Western perspective, the very nature of hybrid threats, being in a grey zone between war and peace, makes it difficult to develop effective counter measures.

Picture: cyberattack / Source: pixabay

The common factor among these threats is that they are not necessarily of a military nature and not primarily aimed at military targets. They constitute a threat against our soft under belly: the integrity of our societies, our social resilience. Recent events, such as the destabilization of Ukraine, the forced referendum on the Crimean peninsula, large military exercises at the borders of the Baltic States, the ongoing violation of Air Space, or the 2007 Cyber-attack on Estonia, are examples for this sophisticated and fragmented use of covert military, propaganda, separatist, and cyber activities.

In the case of Ukraine, these activities have succeeded in destabilizing a functioning state and society. Moreover, this has been achieved without crossing the red-line of an armed attack as defined in Article 51 of the Charta of the United Nations. This approach limited the traditional possibilities for a response within the international legal framework. In general, a military response is difficult when hybrid activities are carried out by non-state actors, or covert groups, without clear attribution to a specific aggressor.

While this draws an uncomforting and daunting picture on security and defence, there is also a positive side to the change in the perception of conflict. During the Cold War, the battlespace had been defined as an area exclusive to the presence of the opposing Armed Forces. Large urban areas, such as the City of Hamburg, would have been marked as a ‘free zone’, not to be touched by the conflict parties. However, such a clinical distinction between combatants and the civil population has never been realistic in war. There was always a civil theatre and a civil dimension to any conflict. But it has taken a long time until this civil dimension had been fully acknowledged by political and military decision makers and campaign planners.

In fact, this change of thinking was a result of the stability operations in the Balkans since the early 1990s. The Balkan Wars provided new challenges to military planning during the ensuing stabilization-operations on the tactical, operational and strategic levels. These challenges highlighted the lack of a civil-military understanding for mutual interaction during such kind of operations on both the military and the civilian side. Thus, one of the lessons learned for NATO was the idea of a Comprehensive Approach. And consequently CIMIC – Civil-Military Cooperation – was created as an enabler, with commonly agreed doctrines, embedded within military structures and equipped with professionally trained personnel.

During the following 15 years, CIMIC became integral part of all stabilization operations, accepted as trusted agent and interface to the military by a growing number of non-military organizations. The most prominent example for this has been the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the still ongoing operations in Afghanistan. In this context, the Centre of Excellence on Civil-Military Cooperation (CCOE) was founded and accredited in 2007. It serves as the multinational sponsored competence center, which supports the development of Civil-Military Cooperation. Our main areas of expertise are collecting Lessons Learned, education & training, concept development and acting as the custodian of the NATO CIMIC doctrine. In this capacity, our main customers are our Sponsoring Nations and NATO, but we also collaborate with the United Nations, the European Union, non-governmental organizations and academia.

Current situation and critique

Our current focus lies on the interpretation and implementation of the political guidance received from the NATO summits in Wales and Warsaw in 2014 and 2016, to find answers to the current security challenges like hybrid threats and resilience. Our current focus lies on the interpretation and implementation of the political guidance received from the NATO summits in Wales and Warsaw in 2014 and 2016, to find answers to the current security challenges like hybrid threats and resilience. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg prominently described hybrid warfare as “the dark reflection” of NATO’s Comprehensive Approach. While hybrid warfare employs the combination of political, civilian, and military instruments to threaten a society, the Comprehensive Approach calls for the use of the same tools to stabilize targeted countries and societies by strengthening the resilience of NATO members, allies and partners, combining civilian and military capabilities. However, the CCOE is witnessing a variety of challenges in structure and attitude amongst our own militaries and governmental agencies, which often appears to be an uphill battle against own forces for these two reasons:

  • First, adversaries have the structural advantage that they may employ aggressive means, which are either not appropriate from our cultural and normative standpoint, or simply illegal. Examples for these means are propaganda, the use of alternative facts, or fake news, misuse of international law, or offensive cyber capabilities. While it is important to keep our moral high ground in condemning the use of these tools, they nevertheless provide any adversary with the advantage to act to achieve their desired outcome. Therefore, it is even more important to work towards a common mind-set to establish a Comprehensive Approach in order to formulate an effective counter action.

  • Second, nations seem to often hold on to an antiquated separation of available means and competences. Instead of working together, the different ministries remain in competition, leading to a stove-piped struggle for resources and appraisal. While this problem is mainly reflected in national structures, it is nevertheless even harder to align several stove-piped national systems towards a common goal. Therefore, if we continue to fight the wars of tomorrow with the means of yesterday, we will not be able to answer to hybrid threats with a Comprehensive Approach, which follows a balanced investment of resources, tailored to the perceived level of threat.

On the basis of one single set of doctrines, even NATO member countries are applying their very individual interpretations of CIMIC.

  • They often blind out the broad portfolio of core competences and just focus in their area on (quick impact) projects, which never had a sustainable positive impact in winning the hearts and minds of any population in any operation. They very often just serve the good feeling of politicians or commanding officers or support their portrait in the media.
  • They pay little attention to the socio-cultural aspects of the mission area in the military planning process.
    Thus, deployed CIMIC forces are confronted with the tedious liaison work with local actors, which often has to focus on the mitigation of negative incidents, caused by other deployed forces which could have been avoided in the first place by better intercultural competence.
  • With their limited experience of the last 15 years, they connect CIMIC solely with stabilisation-operations and have no perception about the value of CIMIC with regard to collective defence and hybrid warfare.
  • They abandon CIMIC as a joint function and merge CIMIC capabilities with others like Intelligence, or Psychological Operations. These units lose their reputation as the trusted agent to the non-military environment and therefore their value for the military leader.
  • As resources determine priorities in reality, drastic budget cuts and shrinking numbers of CIMIC units with professional personnel, seem to support the stated impression, that the drivers of hybrid warfare do have a better understanding of this dark side the comprehensive approach, than the white side.

Food for thought

Hybrid threats do actually provide opportunities for a cross functional approach between civil and military actors and between the different military capabilities. The first challenge here will be to raise the awareness amongst all actors on the relevance of CIMIC in all operations beyond just stabilization. We have to find answers for the question which can be the role and the mandate of the military in the protection of critical infrastructure and increasing resilience in our domestic societies? If military personnel is deployed on the territory of a sovereign NATO member nation, with a functioning civil infrastructure and government services, a different set of coordination is required than for a stability operation in Afghanistan, Mali, or Kosovo. Allied Forces here need to interact and liaise differently with the host nation military, or government entities. CIMIC can here support the civil environment by facilitating consultations and integration of Allied Forces into the host nation society.


Picture: The importance of CIMIC / Source: CCOE

CIMIC personnel further assumes competencies which can deliver support to counter hybrid threats. This is a valuable asset, which not all the nations owning CIMIC capabilities, are actually aware of. CIMIC experts are assuming competence to assess secondary effects on the civil environment. How would the local populace react to an electricity blackout? Which support would they need? Would there be movement of population, or of refugees, requiring humanitarian aid and attention of government agencies? Such questions need immediate attention and assessments which can be delivered by CIMIC personnel. CIMIC personnel can further facilitate the proper interaction among the providers of humanitarian aid, government agencies and second responders, such as the European Union or the United Nations.

This is a so-called “Comprehensive Appraoch”. To achieve this, NATO and nations need to better evaluate the conceptualization and skillset of their CIMIC personnel. Being used effectively, CIMIC capabilities can support a Comprehensive Approach, which is effective in countering hybrid threats. A comprehensive approach, as the consequent answer to hybrid threats, should lead to a concerted use of the capabilities which facilitate synergies between the different military capabilities and their counterparts in other governmental agencies, as well as the private sector. Besides Civil-Military Cooperation, these comprise of Strategic Communications, Cooperative Cyber Defence, Crisis Management, Disaster Response, and Energy Security.

All of these capabilities have a civil- and a military dimension.

On the military side, competencies are formalized in NATO and national doctrine, from the policy level down to the application by practitioners, through manuals and operating standards. For civil-military cooperation, this development consists of an adaptive process of lessons learned from the stability operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Therefore, I appeal not to re-invent new doctrine for every emerging challenge, but to put greater emphasis on applying existing doctrine more consistently.

On the civilian side, operating procedures and a culture of open communication often differ. As the military is a large bureaucratic structure, it is important for us to identify the proper civilian counterparts to work with. Although many of our procedures involve classified content, CIMIC does not follow the rule “need to know” but rather “dare to share”. It is therefore important to foster a constant dialogue and to enhance the mutual working relations.

Properly put together, the understanding of a comprehensive approach in NATO should see a re-birth, leading to efficient working relations between military and civilian parts. This must apply specifically to governmental organizations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the civil population, and the private sector. Within our capabilities, the Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence is willing and able to take a central role in facilitating effectively between these different stakeholders.

Article written by Colonel Wolfgang Paulik (DIR CCOE) and Captain Marian Corbe.
Article published: World Security Report 11

Picture: Students discussing with each other during syndicate work / Source: CCOE/ Lavalette

Destination Lebanon


During the week from July 3rd through 7th, the CCOE supported the CIMIC Directorate of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) by teaching a CIMIC course and conducting a Training Requirement Analysis onsite. Seventeen students from the LAF CIMIC Directorate and from regular LAF units participated in the CIMIC course, conducted by LTC Rudolf Keizer and Major Etien Lavalette from the Training and Education Branch, focusing on Liaison, Cultural Awareness, Communication and Project Identification.

At the same time CCOE Deputy Commander Colonel Johan Wagner met with the Dutch Embassy in Beirut and held further related international meeting to discuss the way forward in the support of the LAF CIMIC Directorate. Halfway through the trip a key international meeting took place with representatives of the EU, UNIFIL and representatives of the Embassies of Canada, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Japan, The USA, France and The Netherlands in Beirut, on July 5. This meeting gave the LAF CIMIC Directorate the opportunity to inform the participants about the LAF CIMIC context, The LAF CIMIC capability development, LAF CIMIC activities as well as about potential cooperation opportunities.

Picture: Meeting with relevant international steakholders at LAF CIMIC Directorate / Source: CCOE/ Lavalette

During the trip the group from The Hague also visited the Northern LAF CIMIC field office in Tripoli. More such field offices are being planned in the Beqaa Valley and in the Southern part of Lebanon. For this year another training session is planned, which will focus on improving the training skills of selected LAF CIMIC officers, to enable them to plan and execute CIMIC courses in Lebanon by themselves in 2018.

The support from the CCOE for Lebanon has been ongoing since 2014 by initiating a structured approach towards CIMIC capacity and capability development. In this process the Lebanese Armed Forces received assistance for their CIMIC doctrine development, the handbook and their newly created CIMIC structures and procedures. The key achievements of this project include the implementation of an assessment system, a monitoring and evaluation framework and the integration of CIMIC into operational units. Training and education provided to the emerging LAF CIMIC personnel, boosted their competencies in communication, liaison, assessment, planning and staff processes.

Article written by LTC Rudolf Keizer

Picture: US Cadets at CCOE (from left) Hanna Keely, Kirsten Calmus, Francis Williams, Ricky Fearon / Source: CCOE

From West Point Military Academy to the CCOE

 Article is written by Monica de Astis

Work, networking and fun: in their own words cadets from West Point tell their stories after spending three weeks at the CIMIC COE

Unforgettable, intense, formative, experience of a life time;’ those are just a few ways in which the US Cadets described their recent internship at the CCOE. Between 19 June and 9 July 2017, Hannah Keely, Kirsten Calmus, Francis Williams and Rikki Fearon from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point (New York), joined the CCOE as interns, as a part of their Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD). While Hannah, Kirsten and Francis supported the Public Affairs Office (PAO) by editing a book that will be published in conjunction with the CCOE 10th Anniversary event, Rikki supported the Training & Education (T&E) Branch with research related activity. All of them also participated in the CCOE’s IO/NGO Day, with representatives from international and non-governmental organizations located in The Hague and surroundings.

In their own words:

Publication editing supports understanding of NATO CIMIC development

With enthusiasm Hannah explained the main task she and her colleagues had at PAO. As she said: “The cadets and I edited a book that is to be published in September. The book is an explanation of Civil-Military relations and the creation of the CCOE. By working on the book, I was able to grasp a greater knowledge of what civil-military relations are and their importance on the battle field”.

This has also be seconded by Kirsten: “This manuscript allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of why CCOE is important and how past conflicts have resulted in an increased need for CIMIC throughout the world”. In addition, working at the CCOE allowed her “to interact with officers from other countries Military’s, which was enlightening and an educational to gain a better understand of how those forces  function and their differences from the U.S. Army.

Besides, in addition to the work done on the book, I had the opportunity to learn more about Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) through the interactions I have had with members of the German, Dutch, and Polish militaries.” This was also highlighted by Francis, who added that “while we spend time at the Academy discussing topics related to CIMIC, I have never been afforded the opportunity to deal with the subject in much detail. Additionally, the ability to interact with soldiers from other countries is extremely valuable”.

On the other side of the corridor, Rikki was joined in several CIMIC courses. “I learned about their countries and their military alongside the content provided by the instructors,” she explained, and added “I also completed the online course which helped me to expand my knowledge on CIMIC and its value when dealing with conflicts across the globe and within different cultures”.

Picture: Cadets during working hours / Source: CCOE

Discovering and enjoying the Netherlands

Following their daily duty assignments, the cadets enjoyed cycling to Delft and The Hague area. In both the cities there is plenty to do for aspiring students, as illustrated by Hannah: “In Delft, there are many amazing restaurants, a market place, an old church with great views, and more! In The Hague, they have a beautiful beach, great shops, and good restaurants as well”. She really appreciated the politeness of a lady they met during the IO/NGO Day, who, after the event “offered to take us to see a few of the giant windmills in the Netherlands. She also brought us to place were you can see the city of Rotterdam, The Hague, and Delft at the same time”.

Delft was appreciated by Rikki as well, who also really loved to go to the Scheveningen beach and harbor.

In the Netherlands the Cadets could of course mot miss out on Amsterdam. “We went to Amsterdam for the weekend” Kirsten. “We had the chance to rent bikes, visit the Anne Frank House and Van Gough museum, and go on a boat tour through the canals. The Anne Frank house was a very eye opening experience into the life that many had to endure throughout the war and the lengths, which many families had to go to survive. Even though the rest of our adventures did not have the impact that the Anne Frank house did, they were all fun and created memories that I will never forget”.

Francis went South and visited Zeeland. In Zeeland he “gained an appreciation for the Netherlands’ maritime history, saw some beautiful small towns, and got to taste some of the region’s famous seafood”. In his last weekend, he decided to go instead to Geneva, which he really appreciated. “I was able to experience a part of Switzerland I had not been able to visit the last time I was there, he said and added: “I had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Lac Léman, the UN Headquarters, the Red Cross Museum, as well as several other famous, and scenic, parts of the city”.

The Cadets dived into culture and European history by going to Germany as well, where they visited Munich and the former Dachau Concentration Camp.

Picture: Exploring the Netherlands / Source: Hanna Keely

Working and networking at the CCOE

“I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed “Holland”, the CCOE, the people who work there, and the hospitality they showed my fellow cadets and me” Hannah said while looking back at her three weeks at the CCOE. For Kirsten it was “an experience I will never forget. I was given the opportunity to learn about the importance of CIMIC on an international scale as well as explore The Netherlands”. To Rikki, the success of the experience was also due “to the company of amazing co-workers who shared their culture and showed me the best to see and do outside the CCOE”.Francis expressed his gratitude to those who made this internship possible: “I would like to thank Major Joel Radunzel, our professor at West Point for the opportunity to attend this AIAD, as well as the staff at the CCOE for their support throughout my stay in The Hague.”

Picture: Exploring the Netherlands (from left) hanna Keely, Kirsten Calmus, Ricky Fearon, Francis Williams / Source: Hanna Keely

The CCOE CIMIC Messenger is a publication of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence. Ist dedicated aim is to provide a Forum or platform for stimulating and presenting innovative and comprehensive thinking on NATO CIMIC and Civil-Military Interaction (CMI) related issues such as Mission experiences, concepts, doctrine or lessons learned. The views and opinions expressed or implied in the CCOE CIMIC Messenger are those of the authors and should not be constued as carrying the official sanction of NATO, of any national armed Forces or those of CCOE.

“See you in The Hague!”