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Fit for Deterrence and Defense? The NATO Summit in Madrid and the Future of the Alliance

By Anna Clara Arndt & Göran Swistek

NATO’s security environment has changed dramatically over the past decade. While NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept still envisaged a partnership with Russia, the latter’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy, annexation of Crimea and attack on Ukraine have rendered the idea obsolete. Moreover, increasing global competition with China and the links between military power and issues of energy security, infrastructure security and trade security were not adequately addressed before.

The new Strategic Concept, adopted in June 2022, takes all of this into account. On the military level, the refocusing on deterrence and defense in the Euro-Atlantic area, which was initiated in 2014, will rest to a large extent on the New Force Model (NFM). This represents a considerable quantitative and qualitative increase of deterrence and defense capabilities. At the same time, the anticipated accession of Sweden and Finland will significantly strengthen the Alliance in terms of personnel and materiel, as well as with regional operational knowledge.

After a period of relative political stagnation, the document also now sets out a revised political framework for NATO’s continuing military adaptation, recognizing the threat posed by Russia and the changed security environment. Collective defense is given priority over the other core tasks. In addition, the Strategic Concept covers a whole spectrum of current and future challenges, including cross-cutting issues such as climate change, but also cyber warfare and growing strategic competition with “authoritarian actors”, notably China.

Implementing this ambitious adaptation process will require political will in order to provide the necessary resources, but also to ensure that Allies do not exploit the consensus principle to advance their own interests. Finally, when it comes to the complex issue of NATO-EU cooperation and strengthening the European security architecture, new opportunities are emerging.

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