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The future strategic direction of NATO

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A paper by defence leaders suggests that NATO urgently needs a coherent policy on China and to improve its response to disruptive Russian actions.

The paper says NATO needs to develop a coherent policy towards China that includes “conflict avoidance and de-escalation”, particularly in light of the country’s actions in Hong Kong and attempts to expand its influence and power in the west.

The authors also call for NATO to ensure it has the necessary resources to counter Russian aggression in the form of cyber attacks, biological weapons and disinformation campaigns.

The paper says NATO should:

  • Hold a “frank debate” about the underlying principles of freedom, democracy, human rights upon which the alliance was founded, as some NATO governments appear to be moving away from these fundamental values.
  • Maintain the commitment to spend no less than 2 per cent of GDP on defence by 2024, despite the pressure that defence budgets will come under due to Covid-19.
  • Invest in combatting disinformation campaigns about the alliance by setting up a rebuttal unit to address conspiracies and unfounded accusations and invest more in explaining what NATO is and what it does.
  • Encourage allies to share the burden of responsibility on nuclear weapons committed to the alliance, by promoting collective decision-making, the storage of weapons on various nations’ territory, and investing in the right equipment.
  • Establish more partnerships with non-NATO countries, particularly in Africa, to strengthen them and help mitigate potential security threats emanating from such nations.

About the authors

George Robertson was 10th Secretary General of NATO from 1999 to 2004

Michael Fallon was UK Secretary of State for Defence from 2014 to 2017.

Catherine Ashton was High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy from 2009 to 2014, and First Vice President of the European Commission from 2010 to 2014.

Peter Ricketts was Permanent Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 2006 to 2010, and the UK’s National Security Advisor from 2010 to 2012.

Menzies Campbell was leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2006 to 2007 and the party’s former spokesperson for foreign affairs and defence.

Benedict Wilkinson is Director of Research at the Policy Institute, King’s College London.