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NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting

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NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting was held in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on 30 November-1 December 2021. At the same time, before the meeting, a high-level conference[1] called   “NATO’s Outlook Towards 2030 and Beyond” was held at the Latvian Institute of International Relations in cooperation with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NATO Public Diplomacy Division.

The conference in question was held in the form of an opening session and sessions in which four different topics were discussed. The opening speech of the conference, where the internationally known TV presenter Ali Aslan was the moderator of the opening session and the first session, was delivered by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs, and then NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg expressed his views on the new strategic concept.

Stating that the security environment and the balance of power have changed after 2010, Stoltenberg explained the five critical issues in the NATO 2030 concept as “protecting values, consolidating military power, strengthening societies, global perspective, and building NATO as an institutional link between Europe and North America” and detailed each of the aforementioned titles. Regarding the new concept, China, which was not included in the previous concept, pointed out that there are expressions on NATO’s adaptation with the hybrid threats, cyber security, and climate change issues. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, EU and Cooperation, José Albarez, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Albania), Olta Xhaçka, and Estonia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Ambassador and Former Minister of Defense/Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Jüri Luik, attended the first session that titled as “The New Strategic Concept. How Will The Transforming Security Environment Affect NATO’s Core Tasks?”.

The Spanish Minister drew attention to the importance of the southern border as well as the eastern borders of the alliance. The Albanian Minister touched upon the emerging new threats and gray zones, as well as non-conventional threats such as hybrid threats, control of armament, climate change, energy crisis, epidemics that should be included in the new strategic concept. Estonia’s Permanent Representative to NATO drew attention to the importance of determining how to interfere with the current crises and similar crises, experienced in Ukraine and Belarus, in the new concept.

When asked by the moderator about NATO’s role in the refugee crisis on the border of Belarus, the Latvian representative responded by stating that the alliance still has nothing clear to do and that the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has chosen to use hybrid warfare tactics against NATO. When asked about the opinion about the USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Spanish Minister replied that the priorities of the countries can change. In this context, Albarez stated that the definition of threat for Europe should be well defined in the EU’s Strategic Compass, which still continues to develop.

The second session, entitled “Addressing Emerging Threats and Challenges. How to Enhance NATO’s 360-degree Approach?” was moderated by Former Minister of Defense of Latvia Imants Liegis, and NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges James Appathurai, Director of Transatlantic Defense and Security at the Center for European Policy Analysis Lauren Speranza, Former Ambassador and Academician Benoit d’Aboville and Chair & Founder of TAG – Geopolitics, Strategy and Innovation; Chairman of The Alphen Group, Julian Lindley-French participated. The participant of Center for European Policy, by talking about NATO’s artificial intelligence, innovation, and the project of Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), which is planned to be completed in 2023, stated that this will increase Transatlantic unity. The representative of Alphen Thinking Institution, regarding the new strategic concept; stated that the 360-degree defense extends from the bottom of the sea to the space and that Europe should take more responsibility in this.    

The third session is titled “NATO and Partners. Is There A Need for A Revised NATO’s Partnership Policy?” was moderated by Director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Regional Office for the Baltic States Reinhard Krumm and participated by Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia Lasha Darsalia, Founder of the European Academy of Diplomacy and Co-Chair of the Warsaw Security Forum Katarzyna Pisarska, Lithuanian Diplomat and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Antanas Linkevičius and Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins Dan Hamilton. Georgian Deputy Minister answered the moderator’s question, about how to draw the framework for being a member and wanting to become a member, stating that NATO membership has been desired since 2006 and contributions have been made to NATO on issues such as Afghanistan and the Black Sea security. The Polish academician stated that at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, the Membership Action Plan of Ukraine and Georgia was interrupted and that Russia’s practices still showed that it did not want Ukraine to join not only NATO; but also the EU. The Lithuanian diplomat, on the other hand, stated that Russia was testing the alliance and that the reactions experienced were few, late and insufficient. The academician at John Hopkins University stated that partnership and membership are different things, that there is currently no consensus in the alliance regarding the membership of these two countries, and that partnership cannot be a guarantee of membership.

The fourth session, “President’s Panel. Where Is NATO Going? (NATO – Quo Vadis?)” was held with the participation of the Former President of the Republic of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and Former President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid. Former presidents were asked by the moderator, “What should be NATO’s reaction about Ukraine?” In response to the question, the Former President of Latvia mentioned that Putin’s obsession with making Russia great again feeds the Russian people and that the Georgian Crisis in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 achieved this. Former President of Estonia made such a claim that “If a clearer stance on Georgia had been taken in 2008, the Ukraine Crisis would not have happened.” Regarding the refugee problem on the border of Belarus, the Former President of Latvia said that there will be provocations that increase the tension on the border and this will be an excuse for the soldiers held at the border, the UN and other international organizations should play a more active role in dealing with these people who are stuck at the border, declared that this event was used as an instrument of increasingly hybrid warfare. Former President of Estonia, on the other hand, stated that the Belarusian authorities should work together with the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to solve the problem, and the EU should take an active role in this issue.  

At the conclusion of the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held after the conference, the details of which are given above, NATO Secretary General held a press conference[2];he said that the security issues in the region, the ongoing aggressive activities of Russia against its neighbors and its military reinforcement around Ukraine were discussed with also the participation of Georgian and Ukrainian officials in the session on the first day of the meeting. Emphasizing that increased Russian aggression will have serious political and economic consequences, Stoltenberg said that the support given to both countries; will continue to increase through training and exercises held together, maritime support and sharing of information.

Stating that, at the same time, the reforms to be carried out, the work to be done to strengthen the rule of law and democracy, the fight against corruption, and the transformation efforts in the fields of security and defense will make the relevant countries stronger, the Secretary General stated that in the second session, it is focused on Afghanistan and the lessons learned from it. He also added that NATO is going through the nation-building phase, which is a more difficult task than the fight against terrorism. Saying that the lessons learned from Afghanistan will shape NATO’s role in crisis management in the future, the Secretary General explained that security and stability in the Western Balkans were discussed in the last session with the participation of Finland and Sweden Representatives and EU High Representative Borrell. After that, they are moved on to the question-answer part.

In the first day sessions of the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu shared his views on the alliance’s new strategic concept and the trials in the Euro-Atlantic geography, in the process leading up to the 2022 Madrid Summit, and held meetings with his counterparts from five countries on various issues.[3]

Considering both the conference held before the Defense Ministers Meeting and the Ministers Meeting, there is an increasing expectation for Georgia and Ukraine’s NATO membership; however, from the speeches made by the Secretary General and the participants of the conference, it is understood that this is not possible at this stage. Considering a long time it will take for the conditions in both countries to become suitable for NATO membership, it would not be surprising that Russia increased the dose of its moves using this gap and intervened in Ukraine. It does not seem very likely that the sanctions, which are said to be on the table, will discourage Russia from its plan.

In addition to this, it is understood that NATO has proceeded a long way in its new strategic concept studies. The concept, which is planned to take its final shape after the 2022 Madrid Summit, can be expected to emphasize the stability to struggle with hybrid warfare tactics, instead of clearly stating the way of intervening in Ukraine Crisis-like issues, as in the expectations expressed by the conference participants. It will also be important to include statements on the threat definition in the EU’s strategic compass and the security perceptions of the European allies, who differ from those of the United States, in NATO’s new strategic concept.

Regarding the immigrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, it should not be expected that NATO would play an active role in the aforementioned crisis. As stated by the participants of the conference regarding the solution of the problem, the EU needs to develop a more effective policy. In addition, the EU’s accusation of Russia over Aeroflot and Poland’s accusation of Turkey through THY with the justification that they brought immigrants to the region does not contribute to the solution of the problem. 

The activities of the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, from the bilateral structure consisting of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska in the Balkans, regarding the destruction of the multi-ethnic structure and going to Russia to ask for Putin’s support come to the fore as another front in terms of the struggle for both NATO and the EU.

Finally, the statement that the mission which started as the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan has evolved into the construction of the nation-building process and the lessons learned from the region will shed light on the possible operations to be carried out in the future,  is interesting.


[1] “NATO’s Outlook Towards 2030 and Beyond”, Latvian Institute of International Affairs, https://www.liia.lv/en/news/event/natos-outlook-towards-2030-and-beyond-946, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2021).

[2] “Closing Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Following the Meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Riga-Latvia”, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions189152.htm, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2021).

[3] “Sayın Bakanımızın Riga’da Gerçekleştirilen NATO Dışişleri Bakanları Toplantılarına Katılmak Üzere Letonya’yı Ziyareti, 30 Kasım-1 Aralık 2021”, T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı, https://www.mfa.gov.tr/sayin-bakanimizin-riga-da-gerceklestirilen-nato-disisleri-bakanlari-toplantilarina-katilmak-katilmak-uzere-letonya-yi-ziyareti–30-kasim-1-aralik-2021.tr.mfa, (Date of Accession: 06.12.2021).

Emekli Deniz Albay Dr. Ferhan ORAL
Emekli Deniz Albay Dr. Ferhan ORAL
He was born in 1972 in Denizli. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1994. During his 24-year career, he served in various submarines and headquarters. Among his headquarters assignments, he served as the Directorate of Civil-Military Cooperation of the EU Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Directorate of Plans and Policy of the Turkish General Staff, the Operations-Intelligence Directorate of the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE), and the Multinational Maritime Security Center of Excellence. He holds a master's degree in Sociology and a PhD in Maritime Safety, Security, and Environmental Management. He has articles published in national peer-reviewed journals. His research and study areas include maritime security, NATO, and EU Defence Policy issues. He speaks English and basic French.