The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has had profound consequences for global security. It is affecting many dimensions of society across NATO nations (such as human health, economies, education, social protection, employment, diplomacy, personal freedoms). All countries have used their armed forces as part of their government response to the crisis. In addition to the internal impact on sovereign nations, the pandemic has affected relationships between nations at a bilateral and multi-lateral level including within international alliances and organisations. The crisis has originated from an apolitical threat to human health, resulting in the mobilisation of national resources akin to war. The political, economic and social impacts have created tensions around existing stresses and fault lines in the international system. These could exacerbate the consequences of existing conflicts and create new flashpoints. This risk has profound implications for international security institutions such as NATO.
The capability and capacity of countries’ health systems and services have been a critical element of the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Whilst military medical services are designed to care for their beneficiaries in garrisons and to support military operations and training overseas, all states have mobilised their military medical services to support the civilian health response. The aim of this Open Publication for Allied Command Transformation is to examine national responses, both civil and military, to the COVID-19 pandemic and especially the coordination function between them. It will look at the strategic directions that nations have taken, including the NATO partner nations. It will also include the experiences and comparisons of the non-NATO nations of Russia, China, and Brazil as they present a differing strategic approach to NATO and western nations. The paper will support further analysis of current and future capabilities required of military medical services, especially how this pandemic compares to large scale warfighting operations. It will identify areas of similarity and differences within and between nations that could inform future conceptual and novel capability development. This will support future conceptual and capability development of military medical support for NATO.