Q&A: NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept

Orkhan Jalilov Feature 30 June 2022
Q&A: NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept

NATO's Strategic Concept for 2022, was adopted during the Madrid Summit, on June 28-29, at a critical time for European security and for international peace and stability. The blueprint reaffirms that NATO’s key purpose is to ensure our collective defence, and defines the Alliance’s three core tasks: deterrence and defence; crisis prevention and management; and cooperative security.

What is NATO’s Strategic Concept?

The Strategic Concept is a key document for the Alliance. It reaffirms NATO’s values and purpose, and provides a collective assessment of the security environment. It also drives NATO’s strategic adaptation and guides its future political and military development.

The Strategic Concept is reviewed and updated regularly. Since the end of the Cold War, it has been updated approximately every 10 years to take account of changes to the global security environment and to make sure the Alliance is prepared for the future.

The world has fundamentally changed in the past decade and strategic competition is rising, so the time has come to update the Strategic Concept. The last Strategic Concept was adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2010; the new one will build on elements of the 2010 Concept that are still relevant.

How was the concept created?

At the 2021 Brussels Summit, NATO Leaders asked Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to lead the process of developing the next Strategic Concept. The Secretary General initiated a phase of internal consultations and external engagements.

Internal consultations were conducted with Allies on NATO’s evolving strategic environment, approach and priorities. Four seminars were organised in Allied capitals to bring together NATO leadership, officials and expert communities.

NATO also engaged with NATO partner countries, other international organisations, and with expert communities, youth organisations, civil society and the private sector.

After this consultation phase, Allies negotiated and agreed on the next Strategic Concept, which Leaders endorsed at the 2022 Madrid Summit.

What are the main purpose and principles of the document?

According to the concept, NATO is determined to safeguard the freedom and security of Allies, and its key purpose and greatest responsibility are to ensure our collective defence, against all threats, from all directions.

NATO will continue to fulfil three core tasks to ensure the collective defence and security of all Allies: deterrence and defence; crisis prevention and management; and cooperative security.

The concept also emphasises the cross-cutting importance of investing in technological innovation and integrating climate change, human security and the Women, Peace, and Security agenda across all our core tasks.

How NATO will respond to Russia’s threats to the Euro-Atlantic area?

Against the background of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the document considers Moscow to be the most significant and direct threat to the Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Russia’s military build-up, including in the Baltic, Black and the Mediterranean Sea regions, along with its military integration with Belarus, challenge the security and interests of NATO. At the same time, the Russian Federation is modernising its nuclear forces and expanding its novel and disruptive dual-capable delivery systems, while employing coercive nuclear signalling.

The concept says NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Moscow, but it “will continue to respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a united and responsible way,” and “will significantly strengthen deterrence and defence for all Allies”.

The document doesn’t consider the Russian Federation to be NATO’s partner, meanwhile the alliance “remain willing to keep open channels of communication with Moscow to manage and mitigate risks, prevent escalation and increase transparency”.

What challenges does China pose to NATO?

China’s ambitions and coercive policies challenge NATO’s interests, security and values, as it 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 concept says.

According to the document, China’s hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target Allies and harm Alliance security, and “it uses its economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence”.

“The deepening strategic partnership between China and Russia and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” it adds.

NATO will address the systemic challenges posed by China to Euro-Atlantic security and ensure NATO’s enduring ability to guarantee the defence and security of Allies, as the document says.

What are the main risks of disarmament and non-proliferation issues for NATO?

The potential use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear materials or weapons against NATO by hostile state and non-state actors remains a threat to the alliance’s security.

Russia’s violations and selective implementation of its arms control obligations and commitments, the development of nuclear and missile programs by Iran and North Korea, the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal, the use of chemical weapons by Syria, North Korea and Russia have been shown as the main threats to the Euro-Atlantic area at the concept.

The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. Any employment of nuclear weapons against NATO would fundamentally alter the nature of a conflict, the document says.

According to the concept, “the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States, are the supreme guarantee of the security of the Alliance. The independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France have a deterrent role of their own and contribute significantly to the overall security of the Alliance,”.

NATO will continue to invest in its defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, and enhance its policies, plans, training and exercises and assess its capabilities. NATO’s goal is to create a security environment for a world without nuclear weapons, consistent with the goals of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the document says.