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The leaders of NATO’s 30 countries met in Brussels on 14 June 2021 at a pivotal moment for our Alliance and for our shared security. We have entered an age of growing global competition, coupled with increasingly complex threats to our security. Russia and China are leading an authoritarian push-back against the rules-based international order. At the same time, we face ever more sophisticated cyber-attacks, the misuse of disruptive technologies, and a deluge of disinformation. We have also seen the rise of brutal terrorist networks, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the security impacts of climate change. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of our societies and broadened our understanding of security.

As we look at the world now and into the future, the foundations of our freedom and prosperity are under greater pressure than ever before. We are not only confronted with conventional military threats and accelerating and interconnected hybrid activities, but more fundamentally we are in the midst of an ideological struggle over our democratic values and way of life. No country or continent can face today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges alone. In NATO, we stand 30 Allies strong. We represent one billion people, and half of the world’s economic and military might. Together, there is no challenge that Europe and North America cannot overcome.

Brussels Summit: A New Chapter in Transatlantic Relations

The NATO Summit was an historic opportunity to open a new chapter in transatlantic relations. NATO leaders demonstrated unity and resolve in the face of complex global challenges, and reiterated their determination to work together in NATO to defend our common, interests, values and security. The Secretary General welcomed US President Joe Biden’s commitment to strengthening alliances, starting with NATO, and to our sacred Article 5 pledge that an attack on one Ally is an attack on us all.

Through NATO 2030 we set a substantive and forward looking agenda to make sure NATO remains fit to face the challenges of today and future-proof to tackle those of tomorrow. We also took important decisions on a range of key issues.

“We, the Heads of State and Government of the 30 NATO Allies, have gathered in Brussels to reaffirm our unity, solidarity, and cohesion, and to open a new chapter in transatlantic relations, at a time when the security environment we face is increasingly complex.”

2021 Brussels Summit Communique[1]

Russia’s aggressive actions continue to constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security. NATO leaders condemned Russia’s destabilising actions, including its repressive domestic policies, its military build-up on our borders, and its cyber and hybrid attacks across NATO territory. We expressed our concern about the situation in Belarus, our unwavering support for Georgia and Ukraine, and our hope for new momentum in international arms control, with the recent US-Russia decision to extend the New START Treaty. We remain ready to talk with Russia, to make our positions clear, avoid misunderstandings and prevent escalation. NATO leaders reaffirmed our dual track approach, therefore, of strong deterrence and defence combined with meaningful dialogue.

We also addressed China and agreed that there are opportunities to engage on issues such as arms control and climate change. However, China does not share our values, and its massive military modernisation, lack of transparency, and coercive policies at home and abroad present challenges to our security. There was agreement that we should meet these challenges together as an Alliance. There has been a considerable convergence in our common understanding of the implications of China’s increasing global influence, since leaders first put this issue on NATO’s agenda in London in 2019. In Brussels, we called on China to uphold its international commitments, and act as a responsible global actor in line with its global ambitions, including in space, cyberspace and the maritime domain.

NATO 2030: A Transatlantic Agenda for the Future

At their meeting in London in 2019, NATO leaders asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to lead a forward-looking reflection to strengthen NATO’s political dimension and make our strong Alliance even stronger. Over the past year, the Secretary General consulted widely with Allies, a group of independent experts he appointed to support his work on NATO 2030, parliamentarians, the private sector, civil society and young people. Based on these consultations, the Secretary General developed concrete proposals to ensure our Alliance remains fit for the future.

“None of our countries can face [global] challenges alone, but the nations of Europe and North America are not alone. We stand together in NATO. This is what NATO 2030 is about, standing strong together.”[2]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Through the NATO 2030 agenda, we will strengthen our unity and cohesion. NATO leaders agreed to use NATO even more as the unique and indispensable transatlantic forum to discuss, decide, and where needed, to act on all matters affecting our shared security, including arms control, climate change and new technologies. For this, we will hold more frequent meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers, consult more with Allied capitals, including with National Security Advisers, and seek coherent positions in other international fora like the UN and G20. We will also consult on security-related economic issues, like export controls and technology transfers.

“We, the Heads of State and Government of the 30 NATO Allies, have gathered in Brussels to reaffirm our unity, solidarity, and cohesion, and to open a new chapter in transatlantic relations, at a time when the security environment we face is increasingly complex.”
2021 Brussels Summit Communique

We will strengthen Allied deterrence and defence against any threat at any time, including through an appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defence capabilities. We will fully and rapidly implement agreed plans to enhance our military posture, continue to modernise our capabilities and increase the readiness of our forces.

Strong militaries are vital to our security, but if the past 18 months have shown us anything it is that we need strong societies too. They are our first line of defence. So through NATO 2030 we will broaden our approach to security to tackle new challenges, from resilient societies, to emerging technologies, and the security impacts of climate change. We will reinforce the resilience of our supply chains and critical infrastructure by developing concrete national goals and implementation plans based on clearer and more measurable NATO-wide resilience objectives.

We will sharpen our technological edge by launching a new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – or DIANA – and a NATO Innovation Fund. This will help us build a truly transatlantic innovation eco-system, and avoid innovation gaps among Allies. We will work with our world-class businesses, start-ups and universities to harness the potential of new technologies and develop innovative solutions to our defence and security needs. I am proud to lead efforts across the Alliance to encourage a culture of innovation, including as Chair of our Innovation Board.

For the first time, we have put climate change at the top of NATO’s agenda. Leaders agreed to set the gold standard when it comes to addressing the security impacts of climate change. We will conduct regular assessments of its impact on international security, and NATO’s assets, installations and activities. We will integrate climate considerations into our planning, procurement and exercises. Leaders also made a clear political commitment to significantly reduce military emissions and set concrete targets to contribute to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Through NATO 2030, we will raise our ambitions when it comes to our invaluable partnerships around the world, another personal priority of mine, so that we can continue to play our part in safeguarding the rules-based international order and the common values on which our shared security depends. We will strengthen our dialogue and practical cooperation with existing partners, including the European Union, aspirant countries and our partners in the Asia Pacific. We will seek new engagements with countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. We will also substantially step up our training and capacity-building support for partners in areas like counterterrorism, crisis management and defence reform, to tackle pervasive instability on our borders.

“Turkey is a valued NATO Ally, making important contributions to our shared security.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

To achieve our NATO 2030 aims, our resources must match our higher level of ambition. To do this, Allies recommitted fully to the defence investment pledge to increase defence spending made at the Wales Summit in 2014. We have already made positive progress. 2021 is the seventh consecutive year of increased defence spending by European Allies and Canada, with over $260 billion of additional spending on defence since 2014. Leaders showed their strong resolve to continue this momentum and work for fairer burden-sharing across the Alliance.

However, to do more together, we also need to invest more together, so as well as increasing national defence spending, Allies also agreed to increase NATO common funding across all three budgets – military, civil and infrastructure. This can support, for example, more joint training and exercises, stronger cyber defences, and more capacity-building for our partners amongst other things. Spending more together in NATO is a more efficient use of our resources, it is a force multiplier, and it sends a strong message of our unity and resolve.

NATO leaders invited the Secretary General to lead the process of developing NATO’s next Strategic Concept in time for our next summit, which will take place in Madrid in 2022. Whilst the 2010 Strategic Concept has served us well, our world has fundamentally changed in the decade since it was agreed. The next Strategic Concept must better reflect the changes in our security environment and chart a common course ahead. This is also an important opportunity to reaffirm NATO’s enduring purpose and recommit to our fundamental values, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are the very foundations of our peace and prosperity, they are what define and unite us as an Alliance.

At the Summit, we also took decisions on the newest operational domains adopted by NATO, to make sure we are able to defend Allies in space and in cyber space as effectively as we do on land, at sea, and in the air. We affirmed that the cumulative impact of significant malicious cyber activities, as well as an attack from space and on space assets, could trigger an Article 5 collective defence response. We also adopted a new cyber defence policy, to ensure we always have the initiative in the digital domain, as well as the political, military and technical capabilities in place to detect, prevent and respond to malicious cyber activities.

Finally, we addressed Afghanistan. After almost 20 years, NATO’s military operations are coming to an end. At the Summit, we paid tribute to all those who have lost their lives, including Turkish troops who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We expressed our appreciation to everyone who has deployed under the NATO flag in Afghanistan, in the largest-ever coalition of NATO Allies and partners to serve together. Withdrawing our troops does not mean that we are ending our relationship with Afghanistan. NATO leaders reaffirmed their commitment to continue to stand with the Afghan people and authorities, with training and financial support for the Afghan security forces and institutions, and funding for the continued functioning of the international airport in Kabul to enable diplomatic and development support. We thank Turkey and the US for their decisions to play a role in securing the airport, under Turkey’s leadership.

Turkey in NATO: a Highly Valued Ally

NATO leaders agreed on a substantive agenda at our Summit in Brussels this year and we face a busy year ahead as we start to implement the NATO 2030 proposals in time for our Summit in Spain next year. We count on Turkey’s continued support as we chart a new strategic direction for NATO and continue to strengthen our Alliance.

“Turkey is a valued NATO Ally, making important contributions to our shared security.”[3]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Turkey has been a highly valued and committed Ally from the moment it joined the Alliance in 1952. Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO. It occupies a strategic location, at the forefront of the instability in the Middle East. No other NATO Ally hosts more refugees than Turkey, or has suffered more terrorist attacks. Turkey is the only NATO Ally that borders Iraq and Syria and it has played a key role in liberating the territories controlled by ISIS there. All NATO Allies including Turkey have played a key role in the fight against terrorism, as members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, including through AWACS surveillance flights out of the Konya airbase.

Turkey also makes significant contributions to NATO operations and missions. It currently leads our very high readiness force, with a mechanised infantry brigade ready to deploy within days. Turkish jets participate in our Baltic Air Policing mission. Turkey played a lead role in Afghanistan with hundreds of troops in our Resolute Support Mission and funding for the Afghan national army and security forces. It participates in our NATO training mission in Iraq, and helps build stability in the Western Balkans through our operation in Kosovo. Turkey was an active contributor to the NATO 2030 process, including through the participation of the former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Ambassador, Tacan Ildem, in the group of independent experts advising Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Just as NATO can count on Turkey, Turkey can count on NATO. NATO has increased its military presence in recent years to help Turkey respond to a more challenging security environment. We have augmented Turkey’s air defence against missile attacks from Syria, and increased our air and naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Black Sea. NATO has a maritime presence in the Aegean helping to implement the EU-Turkey agreement and manage the refugee and migrant crisis with FRONTEX.

NATO is also an important platform to address concerns between Allies as we have seen, for instance, in the Eastern Mediterranean. NATO established a military de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey, to minimise the risks of incidents and accidents, and create the space for dialogue. Even when we disagree, it is essential that we bring difficult issues to the NATO table, so that we can discuss them frankly and openly and work towards common approaches. Through NATO 2030 we seek to do this even more.

NATO: Ready, Strong and United

In a world of growing global competition and increasingly complex security challenges, standing strong together in NATO is more important than ever before. We are an Alliance of independent nations, bound by our commitment to freedom, democracy and rule of law, and by our solemn pledge to protect and defend each other, one for all and all for one.

“NATO is an Alliance that constantly modernises and adapts to new threats and challenges… With our decisions today, we have opened a new chapter in the transatlantic relationship and set the direction for the Alliance’s continued adaptation towards 2030 and beyond.”[4]

2021 Brussels Summit Communique

NATO’s unity and our ability to adapt to an ever-changing world have been the foundations of our success for more than seven decades. Through NATO 2030 and the support of our steadfast Allies like Turkey, NATO stands ready, strong and united to keep our one billion people safe in this new decade and for many more years to come.


[1] NATO, “Brussels Summit Communique,” 14 June 2021, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_185000.htm

[2] NATO, “NATO 2030: a transatlantic agenda for the future,” 4 June 2021, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_184636.htm?selectedLocale=en

[3] NATO, “Remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, 5 October 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_178528.htm?selectedLocale=en

[4] NATO, “Brussels Summit Communique,” 14 June 2021, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_185000.htm

CONTRIBUTOR
Mircea Geoana
Mircea Geoana

Mircea Geoana is the Deputy Secretary General of NATO. Mr Geoana is the first Deputy Secretary General from Romania, and the first from any of the countries that joined the Alliance after the end of the Cold War.

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Foreword  NATO is once again in the spotlight. A NATO summit concluded on Monday 14 June 2021 in Brussels, ending with important decisions charting the Alliance’s path over the next decade and beyond. NATO has served as a pillar of stability and security for more than seven decades, while the world has become more complex, with a host of new players, threats, and challenges. Allied leaders...
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