Although the greatest threat arises in the east, NATO has also turned its gaze to the south in its redefinition of objectives: the new strategic concept of the Allianceapproved this Wednesday at the Madrid summit, grants a greater weight on the south flank by explicitly mentioning North Africa and the Sahelalong with the Middle East, as priority regions for the allies by posing “security, demographic, economic and political challenges”.
The inclusion of these regions introduces a significant change from the strategy approved in 2010 in Lisbonin which Africa was not mentioned even once, nor was the Sahel, a region that covers the southern edge of the Sahara desert and that in recent years has been characterized by its instability, with a notable presence of Islamist groups.
Now, both are mentioned right after Russia and terrorismwhich the North Atlantic Treaty Organization considers the two main threats it faces, and even before Chinawhich also appears as a challenge for the Alliance.
Specifically, the text to which NATO leaders have given the green light indicates that “conflicts, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East directly affect our safety and the safety of our partners”.
“NATO’s southern flank, particularly the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel regions, pose interconnected security, demographic, economic and political challenges. These are exacerbated by the impact of climate change, fragile institutions , health emergencies and food insecurity”, explains the new strategic concept.
The document concludes that “this situation provides fertile ground for the proliferation of non-state armed groups, including terrorist organizations”, in addition to indicating that “it also allows strategic competitors to carry out actions of destabilization and coercive interference”. In this sense, NATO takes direct aim at Russiasince, at another point in the text, it is ensured that “Moscow seeks to destabilize countries in our east and south.”
A priority for Spain
The inclusion of the southern flank as one of the strategic areas for the Alliance was one of Spain’s priorities at this summitespecially due to the difficulties posed by the management of migratory flows from Africa to Europe, an issue that has sparked criticism against the Executive of Pedro Sánchez after the death in Morocco of at least 23 people who tried to cross the border fence of Melilla .
In this sense, Government sources have told RTVE that the southern flank “acquires visibility and presence” in this new strategic concept of NATO, as Spain had insisted.
The same sources have also highlighted that in the ‘Cooperative Security’ section, the new strategic concept indicates that the Atlantic Alliance “will work with partners to curb common threats to security and challenges in regions of interest, including the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel”.