OTAN: Un concepto estratégico que pone el foco en Rusia sin perder de vista a China

NATO: A strategic concept that focuses on Russia without losing sight of China


30 | 06 | 2022


It emphasizes territorial integrity, but leaves to the discretion of each ally the extent of this commitment to Spain: article 6 of the Treaty does not include Ceuta and Melilla.

In the picture

lecture press statement by Jens Stoltenberg, University Secretary of the Alliance, at the end of the summit [NATO].

The summit of NATO heads of state and government that has just concluded in Madrid has aroused a great deal of expectation around the world. Throughout the more than two days it lasted, the meeting has been surrounded by the aura of the extraordinary. Without falling into the exaggeration of affirming -time will tell- that the capital of Spain has been the scene of a historic event, it can be said that, for several reasons, the summit has not been just one more of those held periodically and routinely by the leaders of the Atlantic Alliance.

First of all, because it has come at a difficult time for the security of the Euro-Atlantic space due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has served as a revitalizing force to revitalize NATO and bring it out of the catatonic state it has been in since the Trump presidency, and which had a sad coda in the Kabul episode of summer 2021. After what has been agreed in these two days, no one can claim anymore that the Atlantic Alliance is at status "brain dead".

Also, because the intense diplomatic activity employed during the previous days has crystallized in a happy agreement between Turkey, Sweden and Finland that has cleared Ankara's reluctance to the entry of the two northern European countries, and that leaves the way clear so that, in the not too distant future, both will become members of NATO by right plenary session of the Executive Council .

Finally, because it has concluded with the approval and publication of a new strategic document that will go down in NATO's history as the Madrid 2022 Strategic Concept, which will guide the Atlantic Alliance's actions in the convulsive and complex security environment it will face in the short and medium term deadline.

The new concept does not really contain any surprises, but it does contain a number of interesting and novel aspects, some of them clear, others more open to interpretation. It is a document that captures the difficult balance that the essay of texts of this nature entails in accommodating the sensitivities and security concerns of all the allies, and in achieving the unanimity that gives the way clear to agreement. There is no doubt that the judgment that the Madrid Strategic Concept deserves in the allied capitals will depend on the extent to which it has been able to accommodate their respective concerns.

RUSSIA. Russia occupies, as might be expected, a central place in NATO's new strategic design . The spirit of appeasement that hung over the 2010 concept - "cooperation between NATO and Russia is of strategic importance," it read - gives way to open confrontational language - "we can no longer consider the Russian Federation as our partner" - that defines Russia, unambiguously, as the "most significant and direct threat" to the security of the Euro-Atlantic space because of its attempt to establish spheres of influence on the continent by means of coercion, aggression, and annexation.

The Russian threat appears so direct that it is not surprising that NATO places the emphasis on collective defense, the true raison d'être of the Alliance, over the other two tasks -management crisis and cooperative security - defined in Lisbon in 2010, which now appear somewhat blurred. In this sense, the text is sample emphatic and clear in affirming the allied resolve to defend "every inch" of allied territory.

TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. This emphasis on territorial integrity, a novelty in the history of NATO's strategic concepts, has been read by many observers, at least in Spain, as a guarantee that the Alliance's umbrella will extend its beneficial protection over the territories of Ceuta and Melilla to protect them from potential threats to their security. NATO, it is interpreted, will come to the defense of Ceuta and Melilla from possible attacks or threats to Spain's territorial integrity when requested by Madrid.

This being, as it is, a plausible interpretation, it is convenient to pour a little water on the wine. The references that the strategic concept makes to the territorial integrity of the allies carefully omit any explicit accredited specialization to the two Spanish cities of North Africa, and leave open to the criterion of each allied the question of how far the "territorial integrity" of Spain goes. Not to mention that article 6 of the Washington Treaty, the only instrument that legally binds all the allies, leaves Ceuta and Melilla unequivocally outside the protective umbrella of the collective defense clause of its article 5. If the allied resolution in favor of the territorial integrity of Spain is so firm and shared, it is worth asking why the Madrid summit has not undertaken the modification of the referred article 6, in a similar way to what was done in 1951, when Turkey joined the Alliance.

SOUTHERN FLANCO. The various references that the new NATO strategy makes to the application of the concept of "360° security" and to aspects such as terrorism and the fragility and instability in the Middle East and North Africa must be seen as positive, as well as a veiled recognition of the reality that more attention is being paid to the East than to the South. They undoubtedly reflect the concern of allies closer to the southern shores of the Mediterranean who, while showing solidarity with Eastern European allies with important contributions to deterrence along their borders, are concerned about an imbalance in favor of the clear and present threat posed by Russia, and demand treatment that provides a similar level of security to the South. The reference letter to the comprehensive nature of security in all directions is right and very positive. The test of fire of the concept will be, however, in its implementation internship. It remains to be seen what concrete measures it translates into.

CHINA. The immediacy of the challenge posed by Putin's war does not obscure in the document other threats to the security of the Euro-Atlantic space, among which China emerges as the most important. This is another of the new elements incorporated in the Madrid Strategic Concept. In defining the terms of the challenge posed by China, a balance has been sought between the visions that both sides of the Atlantic have of the Asian giant.

As the Europeans generally want, the strategic concept holds out its hand to China for constructive cooperation wherever possible. In line with the American perspective, however, NATO speaks in no uncertain terms about the People's Republic of China, whose ambition and coercive policy the new text defines as a "challenge to the interests, security and values of the Alliance". It remains unclear how the two visions can be reconciled in the eyes not only of the allies, but also of China itself.

With this new contribution, NATO is opening up to the Indo-Pacific area. The Atlantic Alliance assumes that its security, and not only that of the United States, is also at stake in this broad scenario, in which it must go hand in hand with the democracies of the region, who, not by chance, were present at the Summit, and with whom NATO advocates closer ties of cooperation.

A strategic concept, at final, which introduces a revitalized Atlantic Alliance into a demanding strategic scenario in which threats and risks are multiplying -in addition to all the above, the document contains the usual references to cyberspace, disarmament, proliferation and climate change-, and in which NATO is actively committed to guaranteeing the security of all the allies. An important challenge that will require its members to invest material and financial resources far beyond the levels they have been accustomed to up to now. Will the allies be up to the challenge?