On April 29, 2021, Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) hold a high-level online conference with the theme

NATO 2030 – Reflections and Lessons from NATO’s past-visions for NATO’s Future” that had as panelists two former NATO Secretaries-General: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The discussion was chaired by Amb. Baiba Braže, Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy and was hosted by ATA Secretary General Monika Begovic PhD, with conclusion remarks by ATA President Jim Townsend.

The event was organized by ATA, with the support of NATO PDD.

MEPEI is part of ATA Romania that contributed to this discussion.

Ambassador Baiba Braze:

The transatlantic bond is in a process of strengthening now, being in preparation for the big adaptation of NATO. The Secretary-General has three priorities: to maintain the alliance as the strongest defense organization, to make it politically stronger, and to ensure that it takes a more global approach

To keep the alliance militarily strong we need to invest. We need the right forces, with the right equipment and technology. Even though the technology provides challenges, it also draws benefits. To have a strong military, we need a strong society.

When we speak about NATO as a political alliance, this feature represents very much the basis of what the alliance stands for. It is the only place where Europe and America come together every day to work on different fields, it is a unique political approach. They work on different challenges that the world is facing. This is why a new global approach is much needed, to promote the values of democracy, which is a value that stands at the basis of NATO. Our partners at the global level face the same problems as we do and for this we need to work together, to overcome global threats, like nuclear proliferation, arms control issues, and terrorism. The rise of China shows that elements of great power competition could exist and neither America nor Europe can deal with such challenges alone.

America and Europe are working together to adapt for the future while remaining united and embracing a global approach.

Question: How can NATO best use ATA in the current context and how can ATA best serve the next generation?

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

To make this happen NATO has to keep on doing what it is currently doing because it is trying to reach across generations, to explain why NATO is here and why is it important. There is a big number of free raiders on the European side of the Atlantic, that are still not doing what they are committed to, that do not even pay the 2%. ATA should try to reach across generations and national boundaries.

Now there is a world that has two superpowers. The US is no longer the only one and they are in competition with each other in many fields: political, ideological, trade, economic, military, data, AI, technology, etc. NATO is an alliance of values, so we should not forget the ideological components, because China has a completely different set of values.

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

Two issues are of great concern. Firstly, ATA should focus on the young generation, because the generation that has lived through the Cold War understands why NATO is so important. The new generation takes democracy, freedom, security, and peace for granted because they have not lived without such values. The new generation has to be taught why NATO is so important.

Secondly, opinion polls indicate that in some member states there is a majority that does not want their country to intervene if another member is attacked. Two such examples are Germany and France. It is a matter of concern because it shows a lack of solidarity. The core of NATO is the part that provides mutual defense.

Q: Should we see China as a strategic competitor? Should we try to identify more particular types of actions for our new security architecture, for NATO to become more global?

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

The situation as we have seen it since the end of the Second World War, with the United States and Canada in full solidarity with Europe, is historically very special. What is new is that when you look at Biden’s agenda you see that the transatlantic relationship is not the first priority, but the first priority of the Biden administration is China. We should no longer use the expression “rising China”, as China has already risen. China is a superpower. To face China, we need allies in the Asian area and NATO has such partnerships with Australia, New Zeeland, Japan, and others.

There is a very specific security dimension that NATO has to handle. We need to define what China is, to realize which are China’s interests and wishes, as they have different strategies and means: spreading “democracy” in Hong Kong, bullying Australia and other countries from South and East Asia and Oceania, not respecting human rights.

Question: During the mandate of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO faced many challenges. Do current leaders need to update the strategic concept, compared to 2010?

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

Yes, the strategic concept needs to be updated. Because in the current one, it is comprised how NATO aimed at establishing a strategic partnership with Russia. Unfortunately, they did not manage to obtain this. Even after Russia had invaded Georgia they reached to Russia and wanted to develop a partnership, to reset the relationship between the two actors. But in 2014, when the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea took place, NATO realized that its ambitions and values were not shared by Russia.

When it comes to the relationship between NATO and Russia, Europeans have to come to terms with Russia, even though there are more areas in which they are not on the same side. Some countries are willing to accept Russia and some states are more skeptical regarding the cooperation with it. The European approach to Russia has to be a unified one.

We need to reaffirm our open-door policy and to restate that the decision adopted at the 2008 Bucharest Summit still stands, that is: Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO, once they have fulfilled the necessary criteria.

We should further strengthen our territory defense, especially in the East. Although the position of NATO was set up in Poland and the Balkans, it has to follow the same path in the Black Sea region.

While diplomatic efforts regarding Russia are important, they are not enough and words alone are not enough. For example, NATO can show its support for Ukraine, by setting up a battalion-size unit to train Ukrainian soldiers. That would not be in contradiction with the current framework of the cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. It would send an important signal to Russia. After the NATO-Russia Summit in Bucharest, NATO might have sent the wrong signal to President Putin, as the Russian president left the summit thinking that the alliance would not react if he attacks Georgia. NATO has to stand united and keep a firm position in front of Russia and in front of President Putin.

Regarding a new, updated strategic concept should include, first of all, a strengthening of the territorial defense, as this remains the core feature of NATO. Secondly, the alliance should work on the Indo-Pacific region, because, even though NATO is a transatlantic organization, we should not forget that some of the allies are also Pacific states. The question is: if someone attacked the US, should this lead to an invocation of Art. 5? It should. But, to prevent that we should send a very clear message to China, for example on Taiwan. NATO should elaborate a strategic concept that opens the possibility for the NATO allies to help the United States in case something like this happens. That would send a very strong signal to China, not to seek confrontation, but to prevent a war between mainland China and Taiwan. Thirdly, there is a new threat coming from hybrid warfare, new technology, including AI, and its impact on future warfare.

Question: Considering the post-Covid recovery, the climate change priorities, and the budgetary constraints, this would imply that the 2% contribution could not be enough anymore. Should there be other incentives for new military capabilities and other new threats?

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

He does not encourage creativity in the case of the 2% commitment. If NATO starts being creative, it might lose the 2% target. Some nations are not acting accordingly and not paying enough according to their GDP. President Biden stated that he is a strong supporter of the partnership, but asked where is the European contribution for NATO, now that the United States is back. Europeans have been the free raiders in NATO for the past decades. One example is the Netherlands. President Biden would come to the Brussels Summit with this issue, namely what is the European contribution to the alliance.

Another issue is that consensus is missing. There is no consensus regarding China, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, as Berlin and Paris have two different perspectives. Moreover, we should work on the NATO-EU relationship, as it is a key issue. EU should not strive for strategic autonomy, but it only should be in a position to advance its own strategic scenario. One example is the Sahelian zone and the fact that at a certain moment there could be a need for the EU to intervene here. This is an example of taking responsibility and not always running to the United States for help. So, the European Union should take responsibility in the financial domain, but also in the political one.

Question: Looking at the issue of disinformation and the implications of the private sector, we see that it plays an important role on social media platforms, in spreading the news, and in amplifying various stories. How can disinformation be countered and how can NATO make its story heard?

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

NATO should modernize its communication. When Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen tried to use communication channels it was not a practice, as NATO used to be a more secretive and closed organization. This is also based on history, meaning on the realities of the Cold War. But we live in a new era, NATO needs to be more outspoken and it should do much more on the communication part. The alliance should devote more resources to public diplomacy. Communication is the most effective way to counter disinformation.

We should also monitor the whole communication era. A transatlantic commission on elections exists and it aims at monitoring foreign interventions on the democratic processes of states, including disinformation. Raising awareness of disinformation is also a very important action.

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

NATO and its relationship with the private sector are an interesting topic.

In the Netherlands, there is a big disruption between public and private sectors: once public, always public, and once private, always private.

In the world of computers, AI, cyber, of biotechnology, not only in the EU but also in NATO, cooperation with the private sector should be implemented. In return, the private sector can also learn a lot from NATO. A platform common to NATO and the private sector would be of great help.

Question: NATO needs to work at the grass-root level, it needs the NGOs, the academics, the media, and quality sources in every country, that would transmit the facts. The truth and the values are present, is not it right?

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

NATO is not and should not always be the first responder. When it comes to countering disinformation, a close relationship between NATO and the EU is necessary. So, the EU-NATO partnership should be included in the new strategic concept. It is particularly difficult because of the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus. A possibility would be to establish an EU-NATO Council or to hold more summits between the two actors.

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

We should definitely try to solve this gap that exists in Brussels, between NATO and the European Union. The cooperation should go beyond the military domain, as it belongs both to the political and military areas.

Question: Should NATO stay away from the Middle East or should it engage more with the countries in the region? What type of strategic approach should be used?

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

NATO should do more for these countries. Europe has been paying the price for the lack of engagement. There was a discussion on whether NATO should engage in the Syrian conflict, to create a safe space for refugees, so they would not flee to Turkey and eventually end up in Europe. But there was no consensus within NATO regarding Syria, so NATO had to stay away. But not to act is also an action, is doing nothing. In the end, it may be more costly to stay away than to engage.

Many people doubt that it was a wise decision for NATO to intervene in Libya, but what NATO did was to execute a decision taken by the United Nations. They implemented a mandate and when it expired, NATO forces withdrew. Libya is today a failed state not because of NATO, but because the international community failed to bring stability there. It is normal for Europeans to seek NATO engagement in their neighboring regions, which represents a threat for Europe.

Europe has more soldiers than the United States, but it does not have the infrastructure to move them. Europe has to invest in drones, surveillance, and intelligence and it should develop the needed instruments to engage more in its near neighborhood because this is also territorial defense.

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

The European border is in the Sahel and not in the Mediterranean, so this also means political outreach. In Libya, the international community failed to react after the successful NATO intervention.

The European states should definitely reach out and there is also ambition for NATO to do the same, regarding the states in the Persian Gulf and those near the Mediterranean Sea. This also extends to the Asian Pacific area. We should also not forget the Balkans and states like Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are not completely stable and where the Russian, Chinese and Saudi influences can be observed. We should not forget the Western Balkans, in order not to allow the reinforcement of the phantoms of the past. It is also something that the EU should do and not only NATO. The European Union could offer them a perspective for the future, in which they could become EU members. So, the outreach in the Middle East should continue, but also the Balkans should not be forgotten.

Question: Should NATO formulate what it stands for and stick to it, instead of looking at potential adversaries and thinking how it can promote what it is and what it stands for?

Answer of Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

It is important to tell the public what NATO is and what does it stand for. There are three main tasks for NATO: territorial defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. They should remain in the new strategic concept but adapted to the present situation. The territorial defense should expand to the East, including in the Indo-Pacific area. Regarding the crisis management part, NATO should be better equipped to engage in the near neighborhood, in the Middle East for instance. For better cooperative security there should be more focus on the partnership between the European Union and NATO.

Major allies should deploy more resources to NATO. In the past, there has been a continuous problem to finance essential activities. It is a fact that in joint efforts you can achieve much more than on a national basis.

Lastly, the Secretary-General of NATO should have a stronger executive power than it has today. Of course, the principle of unanimity within NATO should be maintained, but the decision-making process has to speed up. The slow decision-making process and the fact that nations can block a decision by preventing consensus are big problems for NATO. The Secretary-General should be able to bring those discussions to the Council. NATO should be updated, not to maintain all of its 72-year-old practices.

Answer of Jaap De Hoop Scheffer:

The essential root of the NATO 2030 building would be to see that NATO grows up politically and for its allies to see that NATO is firstly a political and secondly a military organization. A military organization only would never survive in an era where there is more politics needed than ever before in NATO’s history. If NATO would become more political, reaching a consensus regarding both Russia and China would be easier.

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About the author:

Delia-Maria MOTAN

Delia-Maria MOTAN is Intern research at MEPEI, and her research interest lies in international relations and political science in the Middle East. Currently, she is studying at the Faculty of the Political Science / University of Bucharest.

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