The world changes – and so NATO should too. The inexorable rise of China, disagreements internal to NATO and a variety of other challenges have led to deliberation, discussion and debate within the Alliance. The result, a report entitled NATO 2030: United for a new era, launched on 1 December, puts forward some suggestions for future action.
Indeed, a total of 136 recommendations appear in the 67-page document! Ten experts prepared them, intending to strengthen the alliance politically and boost its cohesion, while aligning NATO’s objectives and internal reforms to the changing situation.
The report is the result of a call made by NATO’s leaders in December 2019, partially in response to Emmanuel Macron’s definition of the alliance as being “brain-dead,” but also reflecting apparent doubts over the 70 year-old Alliance’s value emanating from the current incumbent of the White House.
A stronger focus on China is a key point of the document. Despite the fact that Beijing currently does not represent “a direct military threat to the Euro-Atlantic area” – unlike Russia – it still raises strategic concerns. Those concerns include China’s military modernisation, human rights violations, aggressive and intimidatory diplomacy, the risks it poses in critical sectors - such as telecommunications and space - as well as its many disinformation campaigns and economic intrusions or even invasions.
To confront these issues, and any possible military projection in the Euro-Atlantic area, the report suggests establishing a NATO consultative body to discuss security aspects linked to China’s continued rise. It also recommends strengthening the partnership with Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
Mindful of recent events - such as Turkey's decision on the S-400 air defence system or disputes over the Eastern Mediterranean which are, however, not mentioned – the experts warn against divergence among member states and the blocking of consensus decisions by a single member, which might “endanger collective interests.”
Without rejecting the principle of consensus, the report presents possible solutions, including a mechanism to establish ‘coalitions of the willing’ for NATO operations when not all allies wish to participate in specific missions.
Other measures proposed are an increase in informal meetings and consultations, and raising disputes concerning single countries at the level of ministers, instead of ambassadors.
EU & Other Issues
The report also focuses on the relationship between NATO and the EU. It de facto rules out the possibility of an independent EU defence, or a “strategic autonomy” outside the NATO umbrella. Instead, the report advocates a stronger EU defence capacity “insofar as these strengthen NATO,” contribute to a ‘fair’ burden-sharing, and involve non-EU allies.
The experts also call on NATO to focus on new, non-traditional challenges in the wake of the response to the pandemic. Among them, there is climate change….
Mönch NATO & EU Affairs Correspondent, Caterina Tani, reporting from Brussels