Next Monday, June 24, the summit of the leaders of the 30 countries of the Atlantic Alliance will take place in Brussels. It will be a threefold meeting: to welcome the new US President Biden, to update the Alliance's mission, and to prepare for the 2022 Summit, which will approve NATO's new Strategic Concept. Let's see.
It is a tradition in the Atlantic Alliance to convene leaders to welcome a new US president, in this case Democrat Biden. In May 2017, the same was done with the Republican Trump four months after his inauguration. If there was palpable tension in the damp atmosphere in Brussels at the time, caused by candidate Trump's statements against the usefulness of NATO during his election campaign, in which he dismissed it as an "obsolete organisation", the prevailing atmosphere next week will be quite different, as it will seal at the highest level the transatlantic reunion around the shared conviction of the need to revitalise and renew the security and defence link between the two sides of the ocean.
The Biden Administration has recognised the importance of leveraging its greatest comparative advantage, its vast network of allies, to compete successfully with China's rising superpower. Washington is well aware that one can only aspire to or maintain superpower status, especially in the 21st century, if one has civilisational, moral and cultural leadership ("soft power") accepted by friendly nations, in addition to naked political, economic and military power ("hard power"). An asset that Beijing lacks at the moment and which it is trying so hard to correct through various international initiatives, the best known (but not the only one) being the new "Silk Road", which aims to project its influence through the development and financing of critical transport, energy and trade infrastructures.
At the London Summit in December 2019, leaders mandated NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg of Norway to launch a think tank of international experts to identify the broad outlines of a necessary upgrade of NATO's mission and structures. Stoltenberg endorsed the group's conclusions and recommendations and in February this year translated them into a proposal called the "NATO 2030 Initiative", an ambitious agenda for change to make the Alliance more political in nature and more global in scope, which, after lengthy negotiations with and among Ambassadors, will be submitted for approval by leaders.
This agenda addresses nine specific lines of action: reaffirming political engagement and consultation among Allies; reinforcing collective deterrence and defence; strengthening Allied and Alliance resilience; promoting a rules-based international order with partners and like-minded nations; preserving the technological edge; boosting training and capacity-building in NATO's southern flank partner countries; combating climate change; increasing common Alliance funding; and developing a new strategic concept.
The current one dating from the 2010 Lisbon Summit is largely outdated by the emergence of new challenges and threats to collective security, including disruptive technologies, cyber attacks, hybrid threats and massive disinformation campaigns. Likewise, the new concept will have to design the strategy to be followed in the face of a revisionist Russia, which transgresses international borders (Crimea) and questions the security architecture in force in Europe (Ukraine) since the Helsinki Act of 1975; and on the other hand, it will have to outline a common perspective of the allies towards the new assertive and expansionist China.
In addition, on Monday leaders will discuss and agree on a joint response to cyber attacks from Russian soil, Moscow's continued destabilisation of Ukraine, and the presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops (as of May 1 last year).
In short, the Summit will tackle a full agenda of issues crucial to the relevance of a more political and global NATO, the most successful defence alliance in history.
Nicolás Pascual de la Parte. Ambassador-at-Large for Cybersecurity and Hybrid Threats/The Diplomat.