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Analysis: What has NATO included in its new Strategic Concept?

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Alliance’s strategy for next decade declares Russia ‘most significant, direct threat,’ addresses China for the first time

NATO leaders approved the 2022 Strategic Concept, a blueprint for the alliance for the next decade, in Madrid

It covers the alliance’s priorities and goals for the next 10 years, and sets its joint position on emerging challenges, including Russia, while also addressing China for the first time.

Under the new strategy, NATO members have committed to safeguarding the freedom and security of all allies, reiterating that the transatlantic bond between member nations “is indispensable to our security.”

The alliance has also set out its three core tasks – deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security – and ways to enhance individual and collective resilience and technological prowess.

NATO has reviewed and updated its Strategic Concept approximately every 10 years since the end of the Cold War, with the last one adopted at the 2010 summit in Lisbon.

Russia most significant and direct threat

“The Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace,” the document said.

“The Russian Federation has violated the norms and principles that contributed to a stable and predictable European security order. We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

It warned that authoritarian actors are challenging NATO’s interests, values, and democratic way of life, and declared Russia “the most significant and direct threat.”

“The Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. It seeks to establish spheres of influence and direct control through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation,” it said.

“It uses conventional, cyber and hybrid means against us and our partners. Its coercive military posture, rhetoric and proven willingness to use force to pursue its political goals undermine the rules-based international order.”

NATO has said that Moscow’s military build-up, including in the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean regions, along with its military integration with Belarus, challenges the alliance’s security and interests.

“We will continue to respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a united and responsible way,” the document said.

China’s malicious hybrid, cyber operations harm NATO

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) “ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values,” the document said.

“The PRC’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target Allies and harm Alliance security. The PRC seeks to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains.”

It also voiced concern about the “deepening strategic partnership” between China and Russia and “their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests.”

“We will work together responsibly, as Allies, to address the systemic challenges posed by the PRC to Euro-Atlantic security and ensure NATO’s enduring ability to guarantee the defense and security of Allies,” it said.

The document said Russia’s “violations and selective implementation of its arms control obligations and commitments have contributed to the deterioration of the broader security landscape,” while China is “rapidly” expanding its nuclear arsenal and developing increasingly sophisticated delivery systems.

NATO enlargement

The document underlined that NATO’s enlargement has been a “historic success,” strengthening the alliance and ensuring “the security of millions of European citizens and contributed to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

“We reaffirm our Open Door policy, consistent with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, as an expression of our fundamental values and our strategic interest in Euro-Atlantic peace and stability,” it said.

“Our door remains open to all European democracies that share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose membership contributes to our common security.”

It identified the Western Balkans and the Black Sea region as areas of “strategic importance” for the alliance.

“We will continue to support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of interested countries in these regions,” the document said.

“We will work with partners to tackle shared security threats and challenges in regions of strategic interest to the Alliance, including the Middle East and North Africa and the Sahel regions.”

The Indo-Pacific is also an “important” region for NATO as developments there “can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security,” according to the new strategy.

“We will strengthen dialogue and cooperation with new and existing partners in the Indo-Pacific to tackle cross-regional challenges and shared security interests,” it said.

Climate change

NATO should become “the leading international organization” when it comes to understanding and adapting to the impact of climate change on security, the document said.

“The Alliance will lead efforts to assess the impact of climate change on defense and security and address those challenges,” it said.

“We will contribute to combatting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency, investing in the transition to clean energy sources and leveraging green technologies, while ensuring military effectiveness and a credible deterrence and defense posture.”

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