NATO’s urgent mission

The leaders of the 30 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have just concluded their summit in Madrid, Spain. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called this meeting a historic event for the alliance, due to the security environment in the new situation posing a series of urgent tasks for NATO.

Banner with NATO logo at the entrance to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 19, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
Banner with NATO logo at the entrance to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 19, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

“Transformation” was perhaps the most frequently mentioned word on the agenda of the three-day NATO summit in Madrid (June 28-30).

In a press conference after the closing ceremony of the summit, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg announced that NATO concluded a historic and transformative summit, with sweeping decisions to strengthen the alliance. Stoltenberg stressed that the decisions taken in Madrid will ensure that NATO, a 73-year-old military alliance, can continue to preserve peace, prevent conflict, and protect its people and values.

One of the most important contents on the agenda is the update of NATO’s strategic concept, which outlines the alliance’s values ​​and goals for the next decade. The most recent strategic concept of NATO, adopted in 2010, has served the alliance very well. However, it has gradually revealed inadequacies that are no longer consistent with the current situation.

NATO members agreed on a fundamental shift to the alliance’s defence and deterrence capabilities, with the strengthening of defence on the eastern border and a boost of its quick response force to more than 300,000. Reaffirming that terrorism continues to be one of the main threats to the alliance’s security, NATO leaders said that in the new context the bloc needs to adjust its approach to a wide range of threats, such as the militarisation of space, cyber security, climate change, challenges to global health, food security, migration, and others.

The issue of alliance expansion attracted significantinternational attention during this NATO summit. In an official statement issued at the conference in Madrid, NATO leaders announced the decision to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. NATO emphasised that this invitation is a reaffirmation of its commitment to the open-door policy related to membership in the bloc.

The protocol of accession to this military alliance of Finland and Sweden will be signed on July 5. NATO officials also met with key partners to promote solutions for today’s regional and global challenges. Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Republic of Korea were invited to participate in this NATO summit.

Leaders of member states also agreed to invest more in NATO and increase joint funding. A NATO innovation fund worth 1 billion USD was unanimously established at the summit. The NATO Secretary General said that nine out of 30 member countries have met or exceeded the target of spending 2% of GDP annually on defence while other members have built clear plans to achieve this goal by 2024.

Determined statements have been made by NATO leaders, but analysts say challenges will increase with each goal set by the alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was not bothered by Finland and Sweden joiningNATO but warned that Moscow would react proportionately to any threat.

The problem of increasing NATO’s budget is also expected to continue to face obstacles. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US spends 3.5% of GDP on defence and the UK spends 2.2%, while Germany, Italy, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands have not yet reached the target of 2%. In the context of escalating prices of energy, food and essential commodities, in addition to a series of economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase in spending quotas for the defence sector may face resistance as there are too many other urgent needs.