Nicolás Pascual de la Parte
Ambassador-at-Large for Cybersecurity and Hybrid Threats
he Summit of the leaders of the 30 countries of the Atlantic Alliance will take place in Brussels next Monday, June 14. It will be a threefold meeting: to welcome the new US President Biden, to update his mission, and to prepare for the 2022 Summit, which will have to approve NATO’s new Strategic Concept. Let us see.
Renewing the transatlantic link
It is a tradition in the Atlantic Alliance to convene leaders to welcome a new US President, in this case Democrat Biden. In May 2017, the same was done with the Republican Trump four months after his inauguration. If at that time there was a palpable tension in the humid atmosphere in Brussels caused by candidate Trump’s statements against the usefulness of NATO during his election campaign, in which he scorned it as an “obsolete organization”, the prevailing atmosphere next week will be quite different, as it will seal at the highest level the transatlantic reunion around the shared conviction of the need to revitalize and renew the security and defense link between the two sides of the ocean.
The Biden Administration has recognized the importance of leveraging its greatest comparative advantage, its vast network of allied countries, to compete successfully with China’s rising superpower. Washington is well aware that superpower status can only be aspired to or maintained, especially in the 21st century, if there is civilizational, moral and cultural leadership (“soft power”) accepted by friendly nations, in addition to naked political, economic and military power (“hard power”). An asset which Beijing lacks for the moment and which it is trying so hard to correct through various international initiatives, the best known (but not the only one) being the new “Silk Road”, which seeks to project its influence through the development and financing of critical transport, energy and trade infrastructures.
Modernization of the mission and structures
At the last London Summit in December 2019, leaders mandated NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg of Norway to launch a think tank of international experts to identify the outlines of a necessary upgrade of its mission and structures. Stoltenberg endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of this group and, in February this year, translated them into a proposal called the “NATO 2030 Initiative”, which represented an ambitious agenda for change in the Alliance to make it more political in nature and more global in scope, which, after lengthy negotiations with and among ambassadors, will be submitted for approval by the leaders.
This agenda addresses nine concrete lines of action: reaffirming political engagement and consultation among allies; reinforcing collective deterrence and defense; strengthening the resilience of allies and the Alliance; promoting, together with partner and like-minded countries, a rules-based international order; preserving the technological edge; boosting training and capacity building in NATO’s southern flank partner countries; combating climate change; increasing the Alliance’s common funding; and developing a new strategic concept.
New NATO strategic concept
The current one dates back to the Lisbon Summit of 2010 and has been largely outdated by the emergence of new challenges and threats to collective security, stemming from disruptive technologies, cyber attacks, hybrid threats and massive disinformation campaigns, among others. Likewise, the new concept will have to design the strategy to be followed in the face of a revisionist Russia, which transgresses international borders (Crimea) and questions the security architecture in force in Europe (Ukraine) since the Helsinki Act of 1975; and on the other hand, it will have to outline a common perspective of the allies towards the new assertive and expansionist China.
Furthermore, next Monday the leaders will discuss and agree on the joint response to the cyber attacks coming from Russian soil, the permanent destabilization of Ukraine by Moscow, and the presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops (as of May 1st).
In short, the Summit will tackle a full agenda of crucial issues for the relevance of a more political and global NATO, the most successful defensive alliance in history.
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