NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept – Change, Continuity and Implications

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• In the 2022 Strategic Concept, NATO reaffirms its founding purpose by returning to the pre-2010 tradition of presenting collective defense as the key responsibility of the Alliance. The three core tasks set out for NATO are deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has led to a far stronger focus on conventional military forces on the strategic level. This change is well-harmonized with the significant boost to force posture announced at the Madrid Summit.

• Russia has gone from being described as a potential “strategic partner” in 2010 to being defined as an aggressive adversary. As a clear message to Russia and Ukraine, the Concept underscores that a strong, independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro- Atlantic area. The balancing act of both communicating firm condemnation of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and presenting a vision for a more resolved relationship in the future is a key challenge for NATO.

• The new Concept represents a significant shift in NATO’s official perception of China. The rhetoric on Chinese expansion of power, weaponized interdependence and threats to rules-based international order is firm and direct, but it is combined with an aspiration of constructive engagement.

• The Concept includes resolute affirmation of NATO’s view of the EU as a vital strategic partner. At the same time, key countries in Europe continue to disagree about the division of labor between the two organizations.

• The Concept has positive implications for Norway and Norwegian security interests. The transatlantic connection and the High North are presented as important, and freedom-of-navigation an essential part of NATO priorities. In addition, the Concept presents a balanced approach to nuclear weapons, both recognizing its vital role in deterrence and the noble goals of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.