The major focus of the NATO Summit 2022 was on diversifying and solidifying relationships beyond NATO along with reducing the US dependency
Within the overarching dialogue around the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two major unifying themes seeded dominance at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit 2022. Held from June 28 to June 30 in Madrid, Spain, the inclusion of Asia Pacific countries to the table and increased investment in Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs) was the focal point of this year’s summit. The Alliance adopted the Strategic Concept 2022, a document that reaffirms the values and purpose of NATO. The note has been updated every 10 years since the Cold War to reflect the assessment of the security environment and provide the pathway for military and political development. Amidst the modifications made this year, it is imperative to ascertain how NATO countries act on and invest in their lofty motives of diversifying partnerships and military toolboxes whilst ensuring constructive engagement with China and reducing US dependency.
NATO is a military alliance of 32 countries, 30 are in Europe and two in North America. In a historic moment, NATO leaders were joined by the heads of state of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea this year on the United States’ (US) recommendation. The leaders of the Asia Pacific Four (AP4) committed to the expansion of their cooperation on cyber defence and maritime security. AP4 has been engaging with the Alliance as “partners across the globe” since the early 2010s, yet this is the first time high-level representation from the region was present at the summit.
Amidst the modifications made this year, it is imperative to ascertain how NATO countries act on and invest in their lofty motives of diversifying partnerships and military toolboxes whilst ensuring constructive engagement with China and reducing US dependency.
In addition to consolidating support in the fight for peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, AP4's involvement is also intended to deliver a message to the adversaries of the rules-based international order. NATO recognised Russia as the “most significant and direct threat” and China was identified as a “systematic challenge” for the first time in the strategic document. There is also a shared understanding that Russia cannot be handled in isolation from its ally, China. The country has been extending military support to Russia, creating global supply chain dependencies, and exerting regional dominance by increasing military exercises. Through their participation, AP4 is casting a vast net for partnership with 32 NATO members and securing European cooperation in the Indo-Pacific beyond the minilaterals like strategic AUKUS and Quad.
Of course, this did not bode well with China. Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson remarked NATO’s strategy of “creating imaginary enemies” will undermine peace and security in the Asia Pacific region. Ambassador Zhang Jun, Chinese Envoy to United Nations also rallied against the summit and alleged, “Blind faith in a position of strength, the expansion of military alliances and the pursuit of one's own security at the expense of the security of other countries will inevitably lead to a security dilemma”. Ambassador Jun warned NATO against looking for “imaginary enemies in the Asia-Pacific or contrive disputes and divisions”. Moreover, Russia has also been cautioning Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, yet the accession talks were signed off by countries within the alliance a week after the summit.
Russia has also been cautioning Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, yet the accession talks were signed off by countries within the alliance a week after the summit.
According to a realist critique of NATO, its aggressive posturing and expansion set forth the invasion of Ukraine. The inclusion of Sweden and Finland now, two countries that almost share a border with Russia could further deteriorate Ukraine’s situation. Even if one were to accredit Putin as a rational actor who is acting under an imperialist agenda, it would be credulous to not probe the expansion of NATO as a possible reason for Ukraine's invasion. With China actively rallying against the expansion, NATO needs to demonstrate its inclination for engaging in a constructive dialogue with PRC.
NATO has increased its military troops to more than 40,000 on the Eastern border of the alliance. According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, this boost is part of the “biggest overhaul” of collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War. Moreover, NATO is also attempting to match the pace set by Russia and China in investment and deployment of dual-use technologies by adopting a 360-degree view across air, sea, land, cyber, and space for crisis prevention and management, deterrence and defence, and cooperative security.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom signed the letter of commitment for NATO’s Innovation Fund at the summit. It is a one-of-a-kind, multi-sovereign venture capital fund that will back startups and venture-capital funds developing dual-use emerging technologies for military and civilian purposes with 1 million euros sourced from 22 participating nations. The Fund will complement the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) which assists in facilitating interoperability and technological adoption for every ally in response to critical security and defence challenges. With a 15-year time frame, the aim is to fundamentally transform defence and deterrence mechanisms with technology and innovation to bolster security.
NATO is also attempting to match the pace set by Russia and China in investment and deployment of dual-use technologies by adopting a 360-degree view across air, sea, land, cyber, and space for crisis prevention and management, deterrence and defence, and cooperative security.
Presently, the US has granted access to established innovation sectors through accelerator sites and test centres under DIANA and Innovation Fund. As part of the Defence Investment Pledge in NATO Summit 2019, allies agreed on increasing defence investments to 2 percent of their GDP. Past US presidents have been vocal about their demands for increased outlays from NATO allies. Whilst the non-US defence expenditure has been growing since 2014, it is significantly less with minor exceptions and has been consequential in the US dominating the NATO agenda.
The diversification of partnerships and military tools by NATO has to be accompanied by granular deliberations on ensuring the desired results lest these tall motives become a challenge for countries neighbouring the adversaries. This dialogue becomes especially important as excessive dependency on US funds and ideology has always been a challenge for the alliance and a dominant concern of the adversaries. Unequal burden-sharing by the US has been strategic in the country dominating the NATO agenda and could adversely reflect in defining shared standards for ensuring accountability and responsibility of EDT usage in the war zone amongst other issues like coordinating national objectives and approaches on AI development. As NATO attempts to operationalise principles outlined in its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy for technologies beyond AI such as quantum and biotechnology, reconciliation of the regulatory approach must be facilitated with a focus on the safety and security of people on the ground and not merely military dominance.
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