Russia attacked Ukraine to give vent to its imperial aspirations, to intimidate the Atlantic Alliance and to dissuade possible future aspirants. Four months later, Ukraine is resisting, Sweden and Finland are about to seal their entry into the organization after refusing for seven decades, and NATO, after a phase of profound weakness and doubt, has been resurrected, redefining its priorities for the next decade and making it clear that confronting Moscow is the first and most important priority, for which it is ready for the largest mobilization of troops and rearmament in its history. “Although NATO is a defensive alliance, no one should doubt our strength and determination to defend every inch of Allied territory, preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Allies, and prevail against any aggressor. In an environment of strategic competition, we will to increase our global awareness and scope to deter, defend, challenge and deny in all domains and directions”, says the new Strategic Concept approved this Wednesday in Madrid
The Strategic Concept is the ‘road map’ that sets out the tasks and principles of the Alliance, its values, objectives and the characteristics of a changing security environment. The thesis is that we are in the most sensitive moment since the Second World War, a moment “critical for our security, international peace and stability.” Not on an abstract plane, they point. “The Euro-Atlantic zone is not at peace. The Russian Federation has violated the norms and principles that contributed to a stable and predictable European security order. We cannot rule out the possibility of an attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Allies,” he warns. the text.
The Strategic Concept, just 16 pages with 49 points, has been negotiated and fought for months. He talks about geopolitical risks, systemic rivals, terrorist, hybrid or environmental threats. Of nuclear proliferation, disruptive technologies and instability. “The potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials or weapons against NATO by hostile state and non-state actors remains a threat to our security,” he read.
There is no surprise, since the general lines had been outlined again and again in recent weeks. But there is a firmer tone towards China, little attention to the obsessions of the host country, and a change of emphasis, but not structure, in the overall scheme. If in 2010, in Lisbon, the allies stipulated that collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security were the key elements, now they have repeated it, but it is clear that they are going to focus even more strongly on the first section. There is a lot of Russia, a lot of nuclear weapons but less and less cooperation, at least with authoritarian and hostile regimes. And some of the new concerns, from the climate with emissions reduction targets, to violence against women through the implications of disruptive technologies.
Spain wanted much more specific references to the so-called ‘southern flank’, to the dangers and risks to the security of the country and of the Alliance that come from North Africa due to the instability in the Sahel. And he wanted, as far as possible, stronger guarantees for Ceuta and Melilla, which are not technically under the Alliance’s territorial umbrella. There are obviously no direct mentions in the Concept, nor a change of position with respect to previous summits. There are several references to “territorial integrity” (something that was not in the previous one), both from members and from applicants, but any decision on the Spanish enclaves will always be subject to the specific situation of each moment and the political decision of the Council of the North Atlantic. Moncloa downplays the fact, saying that in any case the protection is more than guaranteed, as is that of Hawaii, which is in a similar case, they indicate.
There is barely one paragraph out of 49 on the subject, compared to 10 on nuclear issues and even more on the eastern flank. “Conflict, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East directly affect our security and the security of our partners. NATO’s southern neighbours, in particular the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel regions, face interconnected security, demographic, economic, and political challenges. These are exacerbated by the impact of climate change, weak institutions, health emergencies, and food insecurity. This situation provides fertile ground for the proliferation of organizations non-state, armed groups, including terrorist organizations. It also allows for destabilizing and coercive interference by strategic competitors”, it limits itself to recapitulating the document, without any kind of commitment, strategy or plan to deal with it effectively.
In 2010, at the Lisbon Summit, the Strategic Concept that was approved described Russia as a “strategic partner”, while now it is spoken of as “the most significant and direct threat”. Then President Medvedev was a guest, while now Putin is the protagonist, unfortunately, of all the conversations. Twelve years ago there was not a single mention of China, and now instead, after siding with Moscow again and again, it is emphasized that it “challenges our interests, security and values” by its “coercive policies”.
Madrid definitively buries the dream of the last 25 years of trying to convert the heirs of the USSR into friends and collaborators. “The Russian Federation is the most important and direct threat to the security of the Allies and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. It seeks to establish direct spheres of influence and control through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation. It uses conventional, cyber and hybrid means against us and our partners. Its coercive military posture, its rhetoric and its demonstrated willingness to use force to pursue its political objectives undermine the rules-based international order,” says the document ratified today. “In light of its hostile policies and actions, we cannot consider the Russian Federation as our partner. However, we remain willing to keep communication channels open with Moscow to manage and mitigate risks, prevent escalation and increase transparency.” “, say the allies.
Regarding China, a country that was mentioned for the first time in the history of the Alliance at the London Summit, in December 2019, the terms are also very harsh, due to North American pressure. The Europeans had more doubts, but the final text is very forceful. “The declared ambitions and coercive policies of the People’s Republic of China challenge our interests, security and values. China employs a wide range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global presence and project its power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military development. The PRC’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational and disinformation rhetoric target the Allies and harm the security of the Alliance,” summarizes the concept. The allies warn and warn that Beijing “seeks to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure and strategic materials and supply chains. It uses its economic influence to create strategic dependencies and increase its influence. It strives to subvert the international order based on rules, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their attempts to reinforce each other to undermine the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” they stress.
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