2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
NATO and the Madrid Summit: Expanding defence frontiers

  Padmashree Anandhan

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45


What happened?

On 29 June 2022, the NATO leaders met on 29 and 30 June 2022 in Madrid, Spain. Leaders of the 30 member countries, crucial NATO partners from Europe, Asia-Pacific partners, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea took part in the meeting. Although the meeting came at a critical point of the Ukraine war, the introduction of the new Strategic Concept helped in refining the core tasks of NATO and its allies, that include “Deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.” According to NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg: “NATO’s new Strategic Concept is the blueprint for the Alliance in a more dangerous and competitive world.”

What is the background? 

First, the significance of the Madrid Summit during the Ukraine war. NATO fast tracked its relation with Ukraine only after Russian annexation in 2014, where NATO set up the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) to improve the capability and capacity in eastern Ukraine and Black Sea region. Simultaneously, NATO held talks with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council, Ukraine proceeded to modify its security strategy to develop partnership with NATO and get membership. Throughout 2022, NATO increased its defence and maritime exercises to strengthen Ukraine through its allies, deployed “multinational battle groups,” submarines and weapon systems in the Baltic and Slavic regions creating a defence frontier in eastern Europe. Since the Russian invasion, the expectations are high on NATO to support Ukraine, tackle Russian aggression, re-looking Euro-Atlantic security and most importantly rework its deterrence and defence. The adoption of the strategic concept in the Madrid Summit reflects a “fundamental shift” to NATO’s deterrence and defence pillars through the plan to keep “high readiness forces” and positioning of equipment ahead to defend for the first time since the Cold War.

Second, transition of NATO’s strategic concept. NATO has adopted eight strategic concepts so far, of which the first four were during the Cold War era focusing on deterrence, collective defence and slowly moving into dialogue and détente. This was aimed at the changing geopolitical and security challenge the alliance faced. The fifth (1991) and the sixth (1999) determined NATO’s operations in projecting itself as a global military power to boost the capabilities of the European countries, diversified into technological military capabilities, and broadened into political, economic, and environmental spheres. The seventh concept adopted in 2010 shifted into focus from central Europe to the periphery and brought in cybersecurity as part of the agenda. Through this, it became the security provider and defence machinery for its vulnerable flanks. The eighth concept adopted in 2022 is, so far, the most nuanced one, with a broader vision, identifying China, AI, Quantum technology, 5G, and impact of climate change on security as a threat. It also combines the previously adopted concepts of “crisis management, cooperative security and a 360-degree vision, to increase the interoperability, understanding and implement a true 360-degree approach.

Third, NATO’s expansion. To look into the cause of the Ukraine war, understanding whether it was Russia’s geopolitical aims or Russia’s fear of NATO expansion could be challenging. For NATO, which follows a complex structure in granting membership, eastern European countries have always been an aversion. Although it has aimed to maintain its troops, military support in Ukraine, Black Sea, and the Balkans, the eastward expansion was something not of interest to the US. In the case of Russia, its primary question since the Cold War has questioned the existence of NATO where the Warsaw pact did not exist. The engagement of NATO with the eastern European countries could be the triggering factor for Russia, but the launch of the Ukraine war has not helped its fear disappear. The Ukraine war has only helped in ramping up NATO’s operations in the Baltic Sea and opening the possibility of it expanding into northern Europe, creating a threat situation for Russia. NATO which circled its military in only developing a collective defence in terms of missiles, anti-submarines, and weapons systems is now seen to be expanding its military capabilities into maritime, cyber, space, and digital transformation along with a special focus on non-military threats such as civil preparedness and civil support to NATO’s forces.

Fourth, the booming transatlantic link. The debate has long existed in Europe on US influence in Europe’s security landscape and developing Europe’s own security force. The strategic concept solidifies the US's position in the war due to its massive military support to Ukraine and has proved to help in strengthening the security of eastern Europe. Since the cold war, the transatlantic link is at peak and the US has moved from the influencing position to becoming the steering machine to navigate NATO.

About the author

Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Associate at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

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