NATO’s New Strategic Concept

June 29, 2022
Sunset over trees.

The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered peace and gravely altered our security environment.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s new Strategic Concept published Wednesday at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain; the last Strategic Concept was published in 2010.

Why It Matters: In the its new Strategic Concept, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — the world's largest military alliance based on "collective defence" — says that the Russian Federation is "the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security," and announced NATO "will significantly strengthen" its "deterrence and defence posture to deny any potential adversary any possible opportunities for aggression." The 3-day meeting in Madrid set the stage for Finland and Sweden to officially join NATO.

What is NATO's "Strategic Concept?" A document which "reaffirms NATO's values and purpose, and provides a collective assessment of the security environment. It also drives NATO's strategic adaptation and guides its future political and military development." The alliance has updated this document approximately every decade since the end of the Cold War.

  • In the updated document, NATO said it "does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to the Russian Federation," while also noting: "We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies' sovereignty and territorial integrity."
  • NATO also lists "Conflict, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East" among its current strategic concerns, and as The New York Times reports, "For the first time, it [NATO] also labeled China a strategic 'challenge.'"

Big Picture: In the Strategic Concept, NATO emphasizes its vision: "… we want to live in a world where sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and international law are respected and where each country can choose its own path, free from aggression, coercion or subversion."

In related news:

  • NATO plans to increase the size of their rapid reaction force from 40,000 troops to 300,000 troops by next year. The Washington Post shares that this announcement caught some European officials (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) "off guard," leading to some confusion about the planned increase; other leaders praised the announcement. The majority of troops are to be based in their home countries, though able to quickly deploy to countries in the east, "where the alliance plans to build up stocks of equipment and ammunition" (Associated Press).
  • Pres. Biden also announced a significant expansion of the U.S. military presence in Europe.
  • NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, which has previously cited NATO expansion as one of the reasons for its Ukrainian invasion (Ukraine is not a NATO member).

NATO 2022 Strategic Concept (On this page, scroll down and click on "DOWNLOAD THE 2022 STRATEGIC CONCEPT" to view the document in full.)

NATO deems Russia its 'most significant and direct threat' (Associated Press)

Sweden and Finland are on the cusp of joining NATO. Here's why that matters, and what comes next (CNN)

by Jenna Lee,