Russia at center of new NATO strategic document, China branded as ‘threat’
NATO approved a new strategic concept on Wednesday (June 29) which designates Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to the security and stability of the Allies”reflecting a serious deterioration in Alliance relations with Moscow over the past decade.
The revision of NATO’s new strategic concept has been planned since the Alliance’s London summit in 2019, long before Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, prompting leaders to seek ways to reinvent the Alliance and to focus on more global threats.
Russia is the biggest ‘threat’
In 2010, when NATO leaders signed the previous framework document, which remained applicable until this week, they wanted to establish a long-term partnership with their former Cold War adversary, presenting it as a partner potential.
The then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, was even present at the Lisbon summit during which this document was adopted.
In the new strategic document, Russia is defined as “the most significant and direct threat to the security of the Allies and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area”.
The document rejects the Alliance’s previous analysis, saying that “Given its hostile policies and actions, we cannot consider the Russian Federation as our partner”.
Instead, the document states that Moscow has “broken the peace and seriously altered our security environment”adding that “we cannot rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Allies”.
He cites in particular Russia’s initiatives to modernize its nuclear force, its refusal to comply with international arms control obligations and its attempts to destabilize neighboring countries on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks.
New force model
Due to the new definition of the Russian threat, the document commits NATO to modify its defensive posture in response.
“We will significantly strengthen the deterrence and defense of all Allies, improve our ability to withstand Russian coercion, and assist our partners in countering malicious interference and aggression”indicates the document.
Measures to increase the Alliance’s presence in the East will include expanding and renaming the NATO Response Force, which is 40,000 strong and could be increased sixfold or more.
This would result in a new force model for NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks, called the NATO Response Force (NRF), with thousands more troops based in their home countries but ready to be deployed if necessary.
Each NATO member, with the exception of Iceland, plans to further prepare its own forces to defend a particular area of NATO territory under what are known as “regional plans”.
“We will transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000”NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced earlier this week, although it is not yet clear how Alliance member states plan to reach that figure.
China emerges as a threat
For the first time, NATO’s long-term planning document also mentions China, stating that “Beijing’s declared ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, our security and our values”.
The document criticizes China for its efforts in the political, economic and military fields, noting that it “seeks to control” key technologies and industries while ignoring international rules and regulations.
The “China’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target Allies and undermine Alliance security”can we read in the document.
In addition, the report highlights the growing ties between Russia and China, which many security experts refer to as a bear-dragon relationship.
“Their complementary attempts to undermine the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests”indicates the document.
The doors remain open
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already prompted Finland and Sweden to end their decades-long policy of military neutrality and bid to join the Alliance, which could be end of the year.
Beyond the two Nordic countries, NATO leaders left the door open to other countries, stating that its “Doors remain open to all European democracies that share the values of our Alliance” and, in a rebuke to Russia, added that “membership decisions are made by NATO Allies and no third party has a say in the process”.
“We will continue to develop our partnerships with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine to promote our common interest in Euro-Atlantic peace, stability and security”says the document.
“We reaffirm the decision we took at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 and all subsequent decisions regarding Georgia and Ukraine”he adds.
In 2008, in Bucharest, NATO leaders did not offer Georgia and Ukraine to enter the action plan for NATO membership, a weakness of which Russian President Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to test the weaknesses of the Alliance and of these countries.
The EU is presented as an “essential partner”
The European Union is presented as a “unique and essential partner” of NATO, underlines the document, adding that the two organizations would have “complementary, coherent and mutually reinforcing roles” to support international peace and security.
Since 2020, the EU has been reflecting on the future of its security and defense policy and took a further step earlier this year by presenting the Union’s first-ever military strategy document, the Strategic Compass.
With this document, the Member States have for the first time defined a distribution of tasks between the two organisations, the complementarity of which they underline with NATO.
NATO leaders have recognized the value of a “stronger and more efficient European defence” who would contribute “positively” to transatlantic and global security and which would be “complementary and interoperable” with NATO.
Initiatives to increase defense spending and develop “coherent and mutually reinforcing capabilities”while avoiding unnecessary overlaps, are considered as “essential” to make the Euro-Atlantic area more secure.
However, the expected EU-NATO statement has not yet been approved, although its publication was already scheduled for last December.
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