NATO’s New Strategic Concept

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The Madrid Summit, where the new Strategic Concept of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was adopted, which can be described as the guide for the future course of action and adapted to the changing strategic environment, was held between 28-30 June 2022. The new concept, whose preparatory work started with the decision taken at the Brussels Summit in 2021 by the team appointed by the Secretary General from within and outside NATO, has been a subject that has been discussed on different platforms throughout the past year.

A meeting was held with the participation of the Presidents of Turkey and Finland and the Prime Minister of Sweden, hosted by the NATO Secretary General, on the evening before the summit meetings began. As a result of the meeting, a crisis that could be seen as a failure in the international community was averted before the meetings began, with the signing of the trilateral memorandum of understanding, which would pave the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO and address Turkey’s security concerns. In addition, after the message given by the European Union (EU) with the registration of Ukraine’s candidacy for full membership, an alliance image was displayed by NATO, showing that it maintains its solidarity against Russia.

Although the signed memorandum of understanding and the message against Russia are important and heavily featured in the media, it is also considered important to understand the Strategic Concept, which includes the basic principles adopted by NATO for the future, and its difference from the old concept, and to read between the lines.

At the press conference of the Secretary-General on the first day of the Madrid Summit meetings, in the preface of the new Strategic Concept, which was announced to have been accepted by the leaders of the member states, as expected, Russia’s aggressive attitude towards Ukraine has seriously changed the security environment and an independent Ukraine has become Euro-Atlantic. It has been stated that it is of vital importance for the stability of the region. In addition, the collective defense was revised as “deterrence and defense”, which is the first of the three basic tasks in the old concept; While the second (crisis management) was revised as “crisis prevention and management”. It is seen that the third basic task, which is “security through partnerships”, remained unchanged. In the new concept; Although minor changes were made about the words in two of the main tasks, the tasks in terms of content did not change very comprehensively, and “investment in technological innovations, climate change, human security, women, peace and security areas”, which were not included in the old concept, were associated with each basic task.

If it is necessary to open a separate parenthesis on “climate change”, which is one of the fields in question; In the opening speech on “Climate Change and Security” before the summit meetings, the Secretary-General stated that “increasing understanding in this area”, “adapting the alliance” and “reducing our own emissions” are the three key issues on the subject..[1]

The purpose stated in the 2010 Strategic Concept in the section “Purpose and targets” [2]  is “to guarantee the independence and security of all its members in political and military terms”; In the 2022 concept, it has been revised as “providing collective defense against all kinds of threats from all directions (360 degrees)”.

360-degree approach; It is a concept frequently used by NATO officials and used to describe the alliance’s ability to deal with threats from different directions; It was used in 2015 at the same time as the tensions with Russia on the eastern flank of the alliance and the southern flank the increasing threat of terrorism and the migrant crisis originating from the terrorist organization  Daesh al-Iraq al-Sham (DEAS).[3] Considering that the Indo-Pacific, Arctic, and Sahel, which were not included in the old concept, are also included in the struggle areas specified in NATO’s new concept, the importance of the 360-degree approach for NATO for the future can be understood more easily.

The part, which was covered under the title of “security environment” in the old concept and where the conventional threat to NATO’s jurisdiction was specified as low, was considered the “strategic environment” in the new concept and Russia is the most significant and direct threat to the Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, has been defined. In this chapter; deliberate activities and disinformation campaigns in space-cyberspace, where strategic rivals (Russia and China, who are not named) test NATO’s resilience, intervene in its democratic processes and institutions, and target the security of its citizens using hybrid tactics both directly and through proxies, instrumentalizes migration, manipulates energy resources and exerts economic pressure are specified.

Again in this chapter, it is emphasized that Russia is the direct and most important threat to the security of the Allies and the peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, while it is stated that the alliance aims to destabilize the countries in the east and south. In addition, it is stated that Russia’s allied activities in the Arctic and its capabilities to prevent freedom of navigation in the North Atlantic are a strategic area of ​​struggle, and its military integration in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean and Belarus conflicts with the security and interests of the alliance.

It is not surprising that the Arctic, which was not included in the 2010 concept, was defined as a field of struggle in the new concept. Recently, due to the melting of glaciers due to climate change, the northern route, whose frequency of use is increasing day by day, and the energy problem experienced after the Russia-Ukraine War, are added to the high amount of energy resources located at the seabed. In the struggle over the Arctic, when the process is completed, NATO’s hand will be strengthened and competition will continue increasingly in the future, thanks to the membership of Finland and Sweden, and 7 of the 8 members in the Arctic council are NATO member countries.

“Decisiveness to fight terrorism” is another issue that has been emphasized as in the old concept, the fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East have been addressed as an issue affecting the security of alliance members and partners, the Sahel region, which was not included in the previous concept, was added to the areas of security, demographic, economic, and political struggle.

Again in this chapter, as expected, it is stated that China follows an ambitious and compelling policy that conflicts with the interests, security, and values ​​of the alliance, and uses wide-ranging political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and transfer power it is stated that the deepening strategic partnership with Russia conflicts with the values ​​and interests of the alliance. While NATO’s uneasiness about the rising cooperation of Russia and China was described in several places throughout the concept as a “rules-based international order disruptor”, it was also included in the press statement of the Secretary-General.[4] In the remainder of the chapter, other topics such as cyberspace, technologies that restrict mobility in space, new and groundbreaking technologies, arms control, disarmament, and climate change are discussed.

“Deterrence and Defense”, which was a separate section in the old concept, was discussed in the first part of the “NATO’s Core Tasks” section in the new concept; It has been stated that NATO’s stance in this field consists of a combination of nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities, in addition to the space and cyber capabilities added in the new concept. It is stated that this stance will be considerably strengthened to prevent any potential adversary, and to ensure this, a permanent presence on land, sea and in the air, reinforced by integrated air and missile defense, is stated.

Another point that draws attention in this chapter is; It is stated that Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty will be invoked if malicious cyber and space activities target NATO territory or when hybrid attacks against the alliance reach an armed dimension.

Similar to the old concept, in the new concept, it is stated that the strategic nuclear powers of the alliance, especially the United States of America (USA), are the main guarantee of the security of the alliance, and that the independent strategic forces of the United Kingdom and France will also contribute to this, while at the same time, it has been stated NATO’s goal is a nuclear-free world

The section under the title of “Security through Crisis Management” in the old concept was handled as “Crisis Prevention and Management” in the new concept. It was stated that the state of preparedness, military and civilian capabilities, and civil-military coordination will continue to be improved, and this will be ensured through regular exercises.

In the new concept, while, it is stated that the partners make a significant contribution to the NATO-led crisis management and that assistance will be increased in the development of the security and capacity of the partners in the nearby geography; “human security”, which was stated to be at the center of the approach to crisis prevention and management, which was not included in the old concept, took place in the new concept, aimed at “protecting civilians/reducing the harm to be caused”.

In the old concept, “Collaborative Security”, which was discussed under the sub-headings (Arms control, disarmament and prevention of (arms) proliferation, Open Door (policy), Partnerships) under the title of “Supporting International Security through Cooperation”, was handled separately in the new concept. The “Open Door” policy was reaffirmed under the heading. It was stated that the door of NATO is open to all European democracies that share the same values ​​with the members of the alliance, and it has been stated that third parties do not have a say in the process, since the decisions on this issue are taken by the NATO allies. In the same section, it was stated that the partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine will continue to be developed, and it was emphasized that the membership promise given at the 2008 Bucharest Summit for Georgia and Ukraine was stood behind.

In the same section, while emphasizing the importance of EU-NATO relations, attention was drawn to the complementary role of a stronger and more capable Europe, which contributes positively to transatlantic and global security, to NATO. After the “Strategic Compass” approved by the European Council in March and seen as an important step towards ensuring autonomy in the defense/security field, the EU’s complementary role to NATO in Euro-Atlantic security is confirmed in NATO’s new Strategic Concept.However, the statement that it should be interoperable with NATO suggests that a complementarity is envisaged in such a way that it remains compatible with NATO rather than the EU creating its own defense identity.

Another issue under this title, which is not included in the old concept but is mentioned in the new one, is the importance of the “Indo-Pacific” region for NATO and the impact of the developments in the region on Euro-Atlantic security. Emphasis was placed on developing dialogue/cooperation with new and existing partners in the region. Considering the warmer waters in the Pacific, especially in the South China Sea, and the developments regarding Taiwan, and the participation of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand in a NATO summit for the first time in their history, the aforementioned statements are of great importance for NATO’s relations with the region in the future. It can be considered as a hint that it will increase. Considering that the “out-of-area” missions such as combating piracy in Afghanistan and the Gulf of Aden, which have been carried out in the past, depend on the approval of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), this expression in the concept doesn’t mean that NATO will immediately be present in the Indo-Pacific region. It should be kept in mind that this means that it can be done as a result of consensus with all member states.

Under the title of “Ensuring the Continuous Success of the Alliance”, the last part of the concept, emphasis was placed on defense expenditures and it was stated that NATO defense and security risks would be shared equally;  and expressed that for this the all necessary resources, infrastructure, capabilities and forces to implement the basic tasks and decisions taken would be provided. As stated by the Secretary-General at the press conference, the number of countries that reached the lower limit of 2% for the ratio of defense expenditures to the national budget, which is included in the “Defense Expenditure Commitment” of the member countries, is 9, and the number of countries that will reach until 2024 is 19, can be explained by the threat of Russia which increased with the Russia-Ukraine War. . However, when the issue is considered together with the post-pandemic economic environment, the increasing global inflation and the increase in Europe’s energy costs after the Russia-Ukraine War, it can be said that member countries will have difficulties in this.

As a result; It can be said that the new Strategic Concept responds to the recommendations and the general expectations formed. When the process is completed and Finland’s membership is achieved, NATO’s borders with Russia will expand, the military build-up made to the border member countries will increase considerably, and after Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships, the turn of the move will pass to Russia. With the counter moves or moves from Moscova, an atmosphere that will return to the cold war environment will be created.

[1] “Opening Speech”, NATO,, (Date of Accession: 30.06.2022).

[2] “Strategic Concept 2010”, NATO,, (Date of Accession: 01.07.2022).

[3] Wojciech Michnik, “Is NATO’s 360-degreeapproach enough to keep focus on the Eastern flank?”, New Eastern Europe, 4 (XLVII) 2021, s.193

[4] “Press Conference”, NATO,, (Date of Accession: 01.07.2022).

Emekli Deniz Albay Ferhan ORAL
1972 yılında Denizli’de doğdu. 1994 yılında Deniz Harp Okulundan mezun oldu. 24 yıllık meslek hayatı süresince değişik denizaltı gemileri ve karargah görevlerinde çalıştı. Çalıştığı karargah görevleri arasında, Bosna-Hersek AB Gücü Sivil-Asker İşbirliği Başkanlığı, Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Plan Prensipler Başkanlığı, Avrupa Müttefik Kuvvetleri Yüksek Karargahı (SHAPE) Harekat-İstihbarat Başkanlığı ve Çok Uluslu Deniz Güvenliği Mükemmeliyet Merkezi yer almaktadır. Sosyoloji ve Denizcilikte Emniyet, Güvenlik ve Çevre Yönetimi alanlarında yüksek lisans sahibi olup, halen Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi Denizcilik Fakültesinde Denizcilikte Emniyet, Güvenlik ve Çevre Yönetimi alanındaki doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. Ulusal hakemli dergilerde yayınlanmış üç makalesi bulunmaktadır. Deniz güvenliği ve NATO konuları araştırma ve çalışma alanları arasında olup İngilizce ve temel seviyede Fransızca bilmektedir.