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The Madrid Summit and the future of NATO

On Wednesday, 27th October, the Elcano Royal Institute hosted its first in-person event since the pandemic began. The occasion: the celebration of a roundtable between senior political figures and security analysts to start the debate about Madrid’s future role as host of the next NATO Summit and its implications. Said meeting is scheduled to take place on 29-30 June 2022, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Spain’s accession to the transatlantic organization. Unlike other summits, the one organized in Madrid will have a greater significance as Member States are expected to adopt NATO's new Strategic Concept. This concept will draw on NATO’s 2030 agenda, and seek to prepare the Alliance for an increasingly uncertain and competitive strategic environment.

Elcano Royal Institute, as one of the leading Spanish think tanks, organized this roundtable to discuss the importance the new Strategic Concept and initialize the conversation about the organization’s present and future challenges in a geopolitical environment marked with great-power competition and the rise of China. After an introductory presentation, José Juan Ruiz, Elcano’s Chairman, gave the floor to the guests. The first one to speak was Baiba Braže, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy in NATO. The Latvian Ambassador thanked Spain and its society for supporting NATO since 1982, especially its contributions to the various missions carried out since its accession, e.g. Spain’s contingent in NATO Mission in Iraq or the deployment of Patriot batteries in Turkey to prevent threats from Syria. After briefly introducing the growing competition between superpowers and what it means for global security, Ambassador Braže stressed the importance of credible sources in an environment increasingly dominated by fake news and deceptive intentions. Moreover, it was also highlighted the importance that partnerships have to NATO, being engagement one of the core objectives for the Madrid Summit.

The next speaker was Claudia Major, Head of International Security at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, the Berlin-based think tank. Ms. Major talked about NATO, the European Union (EU) and its relationship. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has been readapting in the military realm in big steps, changing its military posture to protect allies from new threats, especially those coming from Russia. The political guidance, on the other side, has lagged behind. Thus, as Ms. Major stressed, the new document will have to give the Allies a new direction, explaining what has happened in the past years and why NATO has reacted the way it has done so. Furthermore, in a highly complex world, the transatlantic organization has the obligation to state what its priorities are. In general, NATO should boost its dialogue with Russia, build a credible deterrence that supports said dialogue and improve the coordination with the EU, which itself is also undergoing a defense policy restructuration with the development of the Strategic Compass.

The third speaker to take part in the conversation was Luis Simón, Senior Analyst and Director of the Brussels Office of Elcano. Mr. Simón, for his part, focused on the growing challenge posed by China to Euro-Atlantic security. Since around December 2019, China's presence in NATO discussions has only increased. Moreover, the US has begun to conceive its foreign relations, including the transatlantic bond, through the lens of its potential contribution to limiting the Chinese threat. The Old Continent must understand this change, not to fully pledge to the American activities, but as a wake-up call to the new reality. As it is, the future of the Alliance will be linked to strategic dynamics that go beyond the traditional security geographical limits, a change to which Europe is not accustomed as it has traditionally been the technological and military center. This profound change will force NATO to adopt a global approach and to reflect systematically on the Asia-Pacific and Euro-Atlantic theaters.

Last but not least, Federico Torres, Director-General for Foreign and Security Policy in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took the floor. Mr. Torres emphasized the great opportunity the Madrid Summit poses for the broader Spanish political and military recognition. In addition, with this conference, Madrid aims to strengthen political cohesion, further develop technological advantage, boost resilience, and address challenges in the field of security and defense. Apart from the main summit of Member States, Spain will work to ensure the most complete Western and Partner Countries presence possible.

On the whole, in this roundtable it was stressed the pivotal moment for security that is currently taking place and how the NATO Madrid Summit in 2022 should take into account the new trends, both economic and military, that will shape the future of the Alliance in the coming decade to be ready to face them. Spain, for its part, has the opportunity to reinforce its transatlantic link and show its commitment to international security.

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