The geopolitical board forces NATO to renew its strategic concept

The leaders of the NATO member countries meet in Madrid for a summit in which will approve the new strategic concept of the Allianceat a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has increased the challenges for international security.

The strategic concept, a document that establishes the strategy of the military alliance, has not been renewed for 12 years, so the development of a new plan to responding to new threats is essential.

“Strategic concepts have to be adapted to the circumstances. The world has changed quite a bit since 2010”, affirms the professor of International Relations at Nebrija University, Carlos López. “Strategic concepts need updating because the world is changing and NATO is expected to change as well,” he adds.

The new document is expected not to focus solely on the Russian threatbut also in the strategic rise of China, which is not included in the 2010 document. Some member countries, such as Spain, they expect NATO to look to the southern flank, especially North Africa.

“NATO is risking its future by defining this new strategic concept. We have other examples of organizations that have lost their meaning, such as the Warsaw Pact or the OSCE”, indicates the professor of International Relations at the European University, José María Peredo. “NATO has to be aware that it is not enough to have a few acronyms”, he stresses.

Why does NATO need to adopt a new strategic concept?

NATO’s strategic concept establishes the strategy that the alliance will follow, adapting to the changes in security that have taken place in the last decade in the world. The latest strategic concepts have been updated with approximately 10 years difference between one and the other.

“The strategic concept of NATO is an assessment of the world situation, of the great threats and what the role of the Alliance is supposed to be”, explains López. “It also gives the world a picture of what NATO is, what it wants to do, what it’s there for and what its solutions are,” he details.

NATO summit will focus on Ukraine and transatlantic security

The last time NATO countries updated the strategic concept was in 2010, at the summit held in Lisbon. In the years that have passed since then, the world has undergone profound changes, so lhe need to elaborate a new strategic concept is evident.

“The Alliance is developing a new strategic concept because the current one is outdated”, says the director of ESADEgeo, Ángel Saz-Carranza. “Among other things because now there is a clear threat of an attack on a member by mainly Russia and we have two neutral countries that want to join NATO,” he adds.

For her part, the researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute, Carlota García Encina, assures that “the strategic concept offers a diagnosis and identifies the threats, the challenges… and provides solutions”. “It is the guide to face these challenges. She is consistent with the current security environment and also looks to the future. Sometimes it happens that the strategic concept lags behind the international environment, as happened with the attacks of 11-S”, he asserts.

The vision of a cruder, tougher and more competitive world

The war in Ukraine has once again put the focus on need for the Alliance to protect Europe from the Russian threatbut this is not the only reason why NATO’s strategic concept will be renewed.

The secretary general of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, has assured that the new strategic concept will prepare NATO for “an era of strategic competition and increased security threats”.

“Undoubtedly, the new strategic concept is going to put on the table a much cruder, tougher, more competitive world”, affirms Saz-Carranza. “All in line with what the strategic compass of the European Union has already done,” he asserts.

Experts agree that NATO must take into account challenges beyond Europe, such as the strategic rise of China. The new strategic concept is expected to mention the Asian giant, which did not appear in the document established in 2010.

“China does not appear in the current strategic concept and that is going to be something that will surely have to be at the Madrid summit: What is happening with China from NATO’s point of view”, affirms Peredo.

For García Encina, it is “absolutely necessary in order to guide us towards the future” that the new document take into account “the issue of China, hybrid and security threats”, while the director of ESADEgeo hopes that “countries like ours manage to include some reference to North Africa.”

Countries with weight in the definition of the strategic concept

All NATO member countries participate in the procedure to develop the new strategic concept, but much of their influence in the definition of this document It depends on the investment in defense of each country.

The Atlantic Alliance has set the objective that the member countries spend 2% of their GDP on defense, but only eight countries cross the threshold, including the United States, according to a NATO report. However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several countries, such as Germany or Spain, have announced new plans to increase its military spending.

“The United States is the one that most influences the definition of the strategic concept, because is the country that provides the greatest commitment and greatest capacity”, points out Peredo.

In this sense, García Encina emphasizes that “there are a number of countries that have more weight, such as the United States, the United Kingdom or France.” “Everyone is there in the Atlantic Council, but there are some who have more weight than others, even if it is only because of the contribution they make to the Alliance”, he details.

Result of a complicated negotiation

To establish the new strategic concept, it is necessary to consensus of all the countries that belong to NATO And not everyone has the same priorities.

The main concerns of the United States are the threat and the strategic competition that can mean both Russia and China, while the priority of the Baltic and Eastern countries has always focused only on the Russian threat, now even more so with the invasion of Ukraine. Spain has set as one of the objectives that the Atlantic Alliance look to the southern flank and seek responses to threats such as trafficking in people, drugs and weapons.

“NATO, within this integrated vision of the Atlanticwill have to take a look at North Africa, the Sahel”, explains Pedro. “There, some countries are much more concerned about this situation of movement of illegal people, drug trafficking, risk of terrorism… We have to contribute from the NATO structures and from the countries that are the most affected so that this is considered a priority,” he says.

For López, “as far as the design of the strategic concept is concerned, there shouldn’t be any major problems because, after all, it is a document that establishes forecasts”. “There can always be issues where there is disagreement, but not to jeopardize the approval of the new strategic concept”, indicates the professor, who stresses that “as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the transatlantic link and the commitment to that link is greatly strengthened”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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