World and Nation

NATO unveils its 2022 Strategic Concept in efforts to coordinate the fight against Russia

Concept condemns Russia, cautions about China, targets a more unified and powerful NATO

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg unveils 2022 Strategic Concept at Madrid summit.
Sophia Wang–The Tech

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg unveiled the 2022 Strategic Concept at the NATO Summit in Madrid earlier today. Stoltenberg declared that “We face a radical change to our security environment, and strategic competition is rising around the world.”

The concept identified Russia and China as major geopolitical threats, and nuclear proliferation, cyberwarfare, and climate change as the biggest challenges of the decade.

The NATO Strategic Concept is a key document, playing a central role in informing NATO initiatives. It is updated approximately every ten years; the previous Strategic Concept was established at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon.

The Strategic Concept outlines the values and priorities of NATO so as to coordinate the defense efforts of individual member states. 

Madrid Concept’s stance on Russia

The Madrid Concept condemns Russia’s “brutal and unlawful invasion” of Ukraine, which has led to “repeated violations of international humanitarian law and heinous attacks and atrocities [that] have caused unspeakable suffering and destruction.”

The new Concept states that “the Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security” and says that “its coercive military posture, rhetoric and proven willingness to use force to pursue its political goals undermine the rules-based international order.”

However, the Concept shies away from directly opposing Russia, stating that “NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to the Russian Federation” and that “we remain willing to keep open channels of communication with Moscow to manage and mitigate risks, prevent escalation and increase transparency.” NATO’s refusal to seek confrontation with Russia mirrors the feelings of citizens of NATO member countries.

A poll of citizens of NATO member states conducted by the Pew Research Center found that “there is widespread reluctance to fulfill the collective defense commitment outlined in Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty. When asked if their country should defend a fellow NATO ally against a potential attack from Russia, a median of 50% across 16 NATO member states say their country should not defend an ally, compared with 38% who say their country should defend an ally against a Russian attack.”

Shift from previous Concept

Both the previous Concept and the newly unveiled one emphasize the importance of preventing nuclear proliferation, countering terrorism, and the threat of cyberattacks.

Stoltenberg pointed out, however, that the previous Concept did not “mention China with a single word” and further stated “that Russia is a ‘strategic partner.’” By contrast, the new Concept “makes clear that Russia poses ‘the most significant and direct threat’ to our security” and further that “China’s coercive policies ‘challenge our interests, security and values.’”

The presentation of the new Concept carried with it the announcement of significant military expansion: Stoltenberg announced that “the number of high readiness NATO forces will reach well over 300,000.”