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Secretary General Launches 'NATO 2030' Effort to Strengthen Alliance

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg launched an initiative to peer into the future to see how the alliance should react in an increasingly competitive world.

The secretary general unveiled his NATO 2030 initiative at a virtual Atlantic Council Front Page event this morning. Stoltenberg spoke from NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The COVID-19 epidemic exemplifies the challenges the world can experience over the next decade, he said, changing life globally in ways few could predict. 

Ships of many nations steam in formation.
Sea Breeze
Ships from various nations participate in Exercise Sea Breeze 2019 in the Black Sea, July 11, 2019. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security and peace within the region.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Steckler
VIRIN: 190711-N-RG482-0100C

But there are some global trends that can be anticipated, Stoltenberg said, and the initiative will look at those and their implications for the western alliance. 

Russia under Vladimir Putin will probably continue or even intensify its intransigence and adventurism, and ISIS and other terror groups will continue their efforts to undermine the values the West holds dear, he said. China will be the largest economic power in the world in the foreseeable future and competition with that rising power will intensify, he added.

"This is an opportunity to reflect on where we see our alliance 10 years from now, and how it will continue to keep us safe in a more uncertain world," Stoltenberg said. 

The effort aims at preserving the democracies' way of life and adapting to new realities, he said. "To do this, we must stay strong militarily, be more united politically and take a broader approach globally," he added. 

Air-to-air F-15 refueling.
Stratotanker Refuel
An Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, over Germany in support of Exercise Baltic Operations, June 12, 2019. Baltic Operations is a U.S. exercise focused on joint interoperability in the Baltic region. The 2019 exercise was planned and executed by the United States and NATO.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Alexandria Lee
VIRIN: 190612-F-XW046-0008

The secretary general engaged each requirement in turn. On the military side, he said,  the alliance must remain strong to protect alliance democracies enabling them to compete in a more competitive world. "As we look to 2030, we must continue to invest in our armed forces and military capabilities," he said. "They have kept us safe for over 70 years as they continue to do today." 

NATO also must do more politically, the secretary general said. "This means bringing all the issues that affect our security to NATO's table, so that we can forge stronger consensus sooner, and more systematically," he said. 

This covers the gamut from the Middle East to global arms control to responding to climate change to how to respond to a pandemic, he said. "Using NATO more politically also means using a broader range of tools, military and nonmilitary, economic and diplomatic," he said. "This is especially important as we work together to strengthen the resilience of our societies and our economies, and to ensure that we do not import vulnerabilities into our critical infrastructure, industries and supply chains." 

A self-propelled howitzer fires.
Howitzer Fire
A 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery howitzer fires during an exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, as part of Exercise Atlantic Resolve, Aug. 6, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Jeremiah Woods
VIRIN: 190806-A-GJ415-0392

NATO may not be the preferred option for action in many cases. It may be the United Nations or European Union or Organization of American States that may be preferred, depending on the situation, Stoltenberg said. "But [NATO] must always be the forum for frank discussion and genuine consultation," he added. "In fact, NATO is the only place that brings Europe and North America together every day: We have the structures and institutions in place. What we need is the political will to use NATO to decide and when necessary to act for our shared security." 

Finally, NATO needs a more global approach, the secretary general said. This does not mean installing NATO bases and forces around the world, he said, but rather is an appreciation of the worldwide interconnection of national interests and concerns. An example of this, he said, is how the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests against racism worldwide.

"NATO brings together 30 allies on both sides of the Atlantic, almost 1 billion people; half of the world's military and economic might, and a network of global partners," the secretary general said. "As we look to 2030, we need to work even more closely with like-minded countries like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, to defend the global rules and institutions that have kept us safe for decades, to set norms and standards, in space and in cyberspace, or new technologies, and global arms control, and ultimately, to stand up for the world built on freedom and democracy, not on bullying and coercion." 

A building with a circle of flags in front of it.
NATO Headquarters
NATO Headquarters, Brussels
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200414-D-XT155-003

The challenges are great and require a unified approach, he said. "The challenges that we face over the next decade are greater than any of us can tackle alone: neither Europe alone, nor America alone," he said. "We must resist the temptation of national solutions, and we must live up to our values: freedom, democracy and the rule of law."

NATO has been a remarkably successful alliance, the secretary general said, and does not want to ruin a good thing with the new initiative. "It is about making our strong alliance even stronger — strong militarily, stronger politically and more global," Stoltenberg said.

The NATO 2030 effort will pursue new ideas and continually assess ways to make the alliance more effective, he said. "I will continue to consult actively with allies, and I will reach out to civil society, the private sector and young leaders," he said. "My recommendations will inform the direction NATO leaders set out when we meet next year."

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