Written by Philippe Perchoc,
Graphics by: Christian Dietrich,
On 8 and 9 July 2016, the Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) convenes in Warsaw. The NATO Heads of State or Government will discuss policies and future direction for the Alliance. On the menu: the balance of NATO policies and operations on the eastern and southern flanks; defence budgets; and EU-NATO relations. The Wales Summit in 2014 was already marked by tensions in the South, with the rise of ISIL/Da’esh, transnational threats, and war in Syria; but also in the East, with the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the use of hybrid warfare tactics that endanger regional stability.
NATO has already developed a number of operations to the South, especially in the fight against piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean Sea. Some members also ask whether the refugee crisis could be considered as a subject for debate (and subsequent action) within NATO.
In order to cope with new challenges, during the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO members pledged to halt the decline in defence budgets, and to reach an expenditure of 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on their defence budget by 2024, as well as 20% of that amount on procurements and programme-specific research and development. For the first time in many years, 2015 registered a small increase in NATO defence expenditures.
NATO’s expansion is likely to continue in the Balkans: FYR Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are candidate countries, and Montenegro signed its accession protocol with NATO in 2016. Although Russia remains opposed to any NATO enlargement, the Balkans do not represent the main hurdle in the relationship with Moscow. In fact, Ukraine’s relationship with Russia and NATO is key for the Alliance. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 triggered a reaction from Central European members of the Alliance, and their subsequent demand for a rebalancing to the East, including a stronger military presence.
The relationship between NATO and Ukraine remains sensitive, because of its key role in NATO-Russia dialogue. At the same time, NATO demands that Russia play its full role in the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, along the lines of the Minsk agreements, and wants to assist Ukraine in its military reform and quest for security.
In the wake of the recent crises in the East, NATO has decided to develop its strategic communication in support of its operations, but also to combat ISIL/Da’esh and Russian propaganda on the internet and social networks.
All these elements contribute to make the Warsaw Summit an important milestone in the redefinition of a balanced, strong and resilient NATO, ready to face new challenges.