NATO’s Watershed Meeting

NATO’s Watershed Meeting


It is not an overstatement to note that the recent NATO meeting held in Madrid, Spain was a watershed moment for the alliance.

The alliance noted the increased threat from Russia and the growth of a vast new one from China. The organization stated its determination to live up to its mission, and keep both its current and prospective members safe.

In a document issued following the gathering’s conclusion, it was stated that “NATO is determined to safeguard the freedom and security of Allies. Its key purpose and greatest responsibility is to ensure our collective defence, against all threats, from all directions. We are a defensive Alliance…NATO will continue to fulfil three core tasks: deterrence and defence; crisis prevention and management; and cooperative security. These are complementary to ensure the collective defence and security of all Allies. We will enhance our individual and collective resilience and technological edge. These efforts are critical to fulfil the Alliance’s core tasks.”

The challenges faced are clear, as noted during the meeting. “The Euro-Atlantic area 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 discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Strategic competition, pervasive instability and recurrent shocks define our broader security environment. The threats we face are global and interconnected…Authoritarian actors challenge our interests, values and democratic way of life. They are investing in sophisticated conventional, nuclear and missile capabilities, with little transparency or regard for international norms and commitments. Strategic competitors test our resilience and seek to exploit the openness, interconnectedness and digitalisation of our nations.”

It was clearly stated that 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 was also directly noted that “China’s ambitions and coercive policies challenge NATO’s interests, security and values…The PRC employs a broad range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up. 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 uses its economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence. It strives to subvert the rules-based international order, 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 mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests. “

While pointing out the dangers from Moscow, Beijing, and terrorist groups, the meeting sought to reassure all that the Alliance is defensive, does not seek confrontation, and posed no threat to its adversaries unless attacked.

There has been harsh criticism from the Kremlin about NATO’s enlargement. But the Alliance noted that NATO’s admission of new members “has been a historic success,” which strengthened the Alliance, ensured the security of millions of European citizens and contributed to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. The organization promised it would continue to admit new members who meet the necessary qualifications. 

In a truly historic move, the path to admission for both Sweden and Finland was assured, a step that will significantly improve the strength of the group, and serve as a major rebuke to Putin’s expansionist threats. The Madrid gathering stated they will continue to develop partnerships with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine to advance a common interest in Euro-Atlantic peace, stability and security.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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