At the 2021 Brussels Summit, NATO’s Heads of State and Government asked Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to lead the process to develop NATO’s next strategic concept. The concept will guide NATO’s development in the next decade. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and what Secretary General Stoltenberg has described as “a new normal” has enhanced the importance of this topic. To inform the development of this new concept, NUPI and NATO’s Policy Planning Unit, in cooperation with the Centre for Military Studies, Denmark, and Clingendael Institute, the Netherlands, convened an experts’ roundtable on March 7th to discuss key security priorities and challenges, as viewed from the Northern European region of NATO. In addition to participants from the aforementioned organizations, representatives from Danish, Dutch, Icelandic and Norwegian ministries of foreign affairs and defence participated.

The new strategic concept has to address a number of challenges and priorities for the Alliance. These include a more aggressive Russia, assertive China, rising strategic competition and growing challenges to the international rules-based order. The concept will also need to tackle emerging threats such as hybrid, climate change and the impact of new technologies on security and defence.

The roundtable emphasized NATO’s three core tasks – Collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security, of which collective defence could be considered most vital. The current armed conflict in Ukraine affected the discussion, but it was also highlighted that the new concept should be “future-proof” and not too greatly affected by current events. It was suggested that NATO needs to be able to envision a more stable and resolved relationship with Russia in the future.

Other topics that were highlighted included EU-NATO relations, the role of China, the complex array of hybrid-threats facing the Alliance and security-matters in the High North.

With regards to the relationship between the EU and NATO it was commented that a clarification of roles in security matters would be beneficial. The discussion on security in the High North focused on the potential of keeping it insulated from tensions the Alliance faces elsewhere, given “the new normal” in relation to Russia.