NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previewed the alliance’s summit in Madrid today, saying the meeting of leaders will be “transformative.”
Russia President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is, of course, a driving force in that transformation, but the alliance was already aiming at change well before this.
Support to Ukraine is the near-term goal of the alliance, and the alliance heads of state and government will discuss that. But more far-reaching is a new strategic concept for the alliance that will guide the nations “in an era of strategic competition,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.
“I expect [the summit] will make clear that allies consider Russia as the most significant and direct threat to our security,” he said.
But the new strategic concept will address China for the first time, and “the challenges that Beijing poses to our security, interests and values,” he said.
The concept will also address the alliance’s progress in combatting other threats, such as terrorism, cyber attacks and hybrid warfare, he said.
For U.S. service members, the deliberations at the summit may mean changes in basing, tours of duty and more.
“At the summit, we will strengthen our forward defenses,” Stoltenberg said. “We will enhance our battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels.”
The secretary general also said the alliance will transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of high-readiness forces to over 300,000. The number is currently set at 40,000 high-readiness force personnel.
The leaders will work to boost the ability to reinforce deterrent defenses in crisis and conflict. This will include more pre-positioned equipment and stockpiles of military supplies in Europe. It will also mean more forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense, strengthened command and control, and upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific allies, he said.
“These troops will exercise together with home defense forces, and they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities and our new pre-positioned stocks so that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency,” Stoltenberg said.
“All together, this constitutes the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War,” he said.
The new strategic concept will require investment, and NATO nations are already increasing the money they spend on defense. Stoltenberg said that new figures show that 2022 will be the eighth consecutive year of increases across European allies and Canada. “By the end of the year, they will have invested well over $350 billion dollars extra since we agreed to our defense investment pledge in 2014,” he said.
Nine allies now reach or exceed the goal of 2% of their gross domestic product spent on defense. “Nineteen allies have clear plans to reach it by 2024, and an additional five have concrete commitments to meet it, thereafter,” Stoltenberg said.
He noted that the 2% goal is increasingly being considered a floor and not a ceiling to desired investment. “We will also agree to invest more together in NATO for the benefit of our security,” he said.
Stoltenberg said that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the summit.
NATO leaders will agree on a strengthened comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine that will include substantial deliveries of support, such as secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel. “Over the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era military equipment to modern NATO equipment and further strengthen its defense and security institutions,” Stoltenberg said.
Indo-Pacific partners will participate in the summit for the first time. “I welcome that Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea will join us for the first time at our summit,” he said. “Georgia and the European Union will also take part, and we will adopt new packages of support for our partners Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Moldova, as well as Mauritania and Tunisia.”
The secretary general also hopes to make progress on Finland and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership.