NATO's New Strategic Concept

Protest at 2010 NATO Summit in Portugal where last Strategic Concept was adopted.

NATO is set to adopt a "New Strategic Concept" at its 2022 Madrid Summit to be held on June 28-30. NATO sets its strategic concept roughly every 10 years "to take account of changes to the global security environment and to make sure the Alliance is prepared for the future," its website informs. It says its strategic concepts are second in importance only to its founding North Atlantic Treaty. "The world has fundamentally changed in the past decade and strategic competition is rising, so the time has come to update the Strategic Concept. The last Strategic Concept was adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2010; the new one will build on elements of the 2010 Concept that are still relevant," NATO says.

"The Strategic Concept sets the Alliance's strategy. It outlines NATO's enduring purpose and nature, its fundamental security tasks, and the challenges and opportunities it faces in a changing security environment. It also specifies the elements of the Alliance's approach to security and provides guidelines for its political and military adaptation," the website says.

The 2010 current strategic concept is called "Active Engagement, Modern Defence." NATO says it "presents NATO's three essential core tasks -- collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security." It claims to also emphasize "Alliance solidarity, the importance of transatlantic consultation and the need to engage in a continuous process of reform."

Describing its challenges and "threats," NATO says its current Strategic Concept "describes the 2010 security environment and identifies the capabilities and policies needed to ensure that NATO's deterrence and defence, as well as crisis management abilities, are equipped to face today's threats. These threats include, for instance, the proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, terrorism, cyber attacks and fundamental environmental problems. The Strategic Concept also affirms how NATO aims to promote international security through cooperation. It will do this by reinforcing arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, emphasizing NATO's open door policy for all European countries, and significantly enhancing its partnerships in the broad sense of the term. Additionally, it affirms that NATO will continue its reform and transformation process."

This self-serving and imperious description belies NATO crimes in its bombing and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1999 and its war on Libya in 2011, carried out in the name of "human security." Regarding promotion of "international security through cooperation," it is precisely NATO's refusal to reach a negotiated resolution to Russia's security concerns and its interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine for purposes of isolating and crushing Russia that has led to the current crisis. As concerns the reinforcement of "arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts," NATO countries, having created an entirely avoidable conflict with Russia, are now pumping more weapons with greater range and destructive power into Ukraine, deepening the security crisis in the region.

NATO states that at the 2021 Brussels Summit, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was charged with developing the next strategic concept. Stoltenberg says he has been conducting internal consultations "on NATO's evolving strategic environment, approach and priorities," as well as "engaging with partners, other international organizations, and with expert communities, youth organizations, civil society and the private sector."

This "consultation phase," is followed by members negotiating and agreeing with the next strategic concept, with heads of state endorsing it at the Madrid Summit.

The NATO website shows that it has held at least 35 events pertaining to the new Strategic Concept since at least September 2021.[1] They include:

- NATO's Next Strategic Concept: What Role for Climate Security? ( Berlin Climate and Security Conference 202, Berlin, Germany, September 28, 2021)

- Needing NATO: Necessary Notes for Concrete Concepts (Halifax International Security Forum, November 20, 2021)

- NATO's new Strategic Concept: View from Sweden (Embassy of United Kingdom to Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden, March 7, 2022)

- Towards NATO's Next Strategic Concept: Challenges and Opportunities for NATO Allies (EDAM, Istanbul, Turkey, March 24, 2022)

- Workshop: Human Security and the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept (RAND Europe, NATO HQ, Brussels, Belgium, April 21, 2022); and

- Roundtable on NATO's Strategic Concept: View from Finland (Embassy of Romania in Finland, Helsinki, May 9, 2022).

These excerpts from a background paper issued at the March 24 meeting in Istanbul, give an idea of the aims of the new Strategic Concept:

"The current Strategic Concept which was adopted in 2010 served NATO Allies well. However, the security environment has dramatically changed since then. Even the last few weeks have shown us how dramatic developments like the Russian invasion of Ukraine in blatant violation of the fundamental principles that have underpinned the European security can happen now in the European continent. [...] It was in the face of these aggressive pattern of behaviour of Russia that NATO declared it as one of the main threats to consider. The same year ISIL/DAESH gained ground with its terrorist attacks in Syria and Iraq that culminated to the control of territories by this terrorist organization. NATO has taken series of decisions since then to bolster its deterrence and defence that resulted with its military adaptation. NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence in a generation. There is no doubt that in the foreseeable future a more aggressive Russia with its revisionist approach to the European security paradigm and terrorism with all its forms and manifestations will remain to be the main threats that Allied nations will continue to confront. [...]

"NATO must adapt to meet the requirements of a more demanding strategic environment marked by the return of systemic rivalry. In this geostrategic competition although China does not pose a direct military threat to NATO, at least at present, it is a rising power which should be addressed from the prism of both challenges and opportunities. NATO should sharpen its assessment capacity on China since it is no longer a far distant country away from NATO area but also because of the implications of a deeper Russia-China alliance as illustrated by the Russia-China joint statement of February 4. It is present in different parts of Europe and in the adjacent geographies. NATO should be able to intensify political consultations with partners in the Asia-Pacific region, but also cooperate and coordinate with the EU. The question regarding how to engage with China should be addressed properly and in a timely manner. In short, NATO will need to become the main transatlantic forum where the Western approach to China will be discussed. This requirement is also set to enhance NATO's political role.

"Emerging and disruptive technologies are becoming a game changer in the security realm with the efforts of our competitors and potential adversaries as States and non-state actors. Therefore, maintaining NATO's technological edge, while elevating cooperation among Allies in military technology to reinforce interoperability, and putting innovation in NATO's activities will be a key priority. New threats and challenges with the use of hybrid concepts, that include cyber-attacks and cyber technologies-enabled disinformation campaigns target our societies and democratic values. These require strengthening of the societal resilience in Allied and partner countries. Protection of critical infrastructure, and security and diversity of our supply chains are of vital importance. NATO will remain as a regional organization in the future as it has been so far. Nevertheless, this does not prevent NATO to adopt a more global approach since many of the threats and challenges we face are of global nature, like terrorism, hybrid and cyber-attacks or climate change. This requires effective cooperation with partners and other international organizations like the EU.

"While NATO will remain strong militarily, it would be important to make it stronger politically. In achieving NATO's 2030 vision the Allies should redouble their commitments to adhere to the common values like democracy, individual liberties and the rule of law, enshrined in the North Atlantic Treaty. Unity, cohesion and solidarity among Allies are important features of a strong politico-military Alliance. To use NATO more as an essential and unique forum of transatlantic consultations will be important more than ever given the complex and trying security environment that we are in.

"On the other hand, NATO should fulfill its facilitating role in ironing out any bilateral difference that may surface between individual Allies. As the report entitled 'NATO 2030: United for a New Era' by the Independent Experts Group states: 'A drift toward NATO disunity, should it occur, must be seen a strategic rather than merely tactical or optical problem. Arriving at a convergence of political and strategic priorities is possible, necessary and in keeping with the traditions of the Alliance.'"

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) held a forum in Washington, DC from November 29 to December 1, 2021 to discuss the upcoming Strategic Concept and how it will be imposed on the parliaments of member states. In its own words, this body brings together parliamentarians from NATO countries "to discuss and influence decisions on Alliance security."

NATO PA's own report on this event stated in part that "a common thread of discussions was the importance of reaffirming NATO's commitment to shared democratic values. The NATO PA has called for the creation of a Democratic Resilience Centre within NATO to serve as a resource of best practices, networking and cross-fertilization on democratic benchmarks, available to NATO members, partners and aspirant countries upon request. [...] Delegates also welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's statement in Riga, where he identified protecting NATO's democratic values as first among five essential elements for the new Strategic Concept. "

The Parliamentary Assembly underscored that the "threat from Russia and challenges from China loomed large throughout the Forum's deliberations. Both are skillfully using a combination of military means and hybrid techniques to undermine the international rules-based order, to sow divisions among the Allies and to bully their neighbours. Russia's renewed military build-up in and around Ukraine was an urgent and serious concern for NATO Allies -- as made clear by NATO Foreign Ministers in Riga. In turn, defining a common strategy on China will be one of the key tasks for the new NATO Strategic Concept."

While the details of NATO's forthcoming Strategic Concept are yet to come to light, the above information and past experience make clear that it will not unite Europe so long as the U.S. keeps imposing its own agenda onto member countries and the peoples of Europe continue to oppose the massive amounts of money their countries are borrowing on the money markets to finance weapons, not food, housing and social programs. The so-called rules-based international order is to impose U.S. hegemony, not uphold the equality of all nations, big and small, or the non-interference into their internal affairs.

The peoples of the world in their striving for peace, freedom and democracy will continue to oppose NATO and demand it be dismantled. No claims of consultations with the youth and civil society will sanitize the history of U.S./NATO crimes. Such attempts by the U.S./NATO cabal to inveigle its warmongering into civilian life will not disabuse the peoples of the fundamentally aggressive nature of NATO and the increasing threat it poses to the peoples' striving to uphold human rights, international peace and the rule of law.

Dismantle NATO! Get Canada Out of NATO!


1. For the full list of events regarding NATO's new strategic concept, click here

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 6 - June 5, 2022

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