In a press conference this morning, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg made waves in several announcements, with the most significant being a peek into the 10-year Strategic Concept that will be agreed on at the Madrid Summit from 28-30JUN.
The Secretary General told press that China will be mentioned, for the first time as a future challenge, but still leaves the Russian Federation as the “most significant direct threat.” NATO’s willingness to confront China stems from Lithuania’s recent diplomatic dust-up over Taiwan. Lithuania is one of the NATO partners that enjoys warm relations with the Republic of China, so much so that on December 3rd, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) halted the import of Chinese goods to the Baltic state. This incident highlighted to the alliance, the severe leverage and threat that the PRC poses to Europe in the long run. The United Kingdom highlighted this strategic challenge last year, when, for the first time since the Cold War, a British carrier strike group visited the Pacific to train with partners such as India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, and The United States. The Strategic Concept sets the tone for the alliance’s spending and overall goals every 10 years, with the last being in 2010. The NATO 2030 Concept debate had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary General also told press that NATO leaders in Madrid plan to reinforce all NATO Battle Groups on the Eastern Flank to full brigade levels which would provide a force of 300,000 battle ready troops, as the war in Ukraine grinds on with Russian success in Luhansk. Before the Russian invasion on February 24th, 2022, the Eastern Flank was guarded by only 40,000 NATO troops. The current levels of troop concentrations are expected to be maintained for the foreseeable future as Russian rhetoric against the Baltic States continues to ratchet up tensions. As of this morning there are still more than 300 trucks on the border between Lithuania and Kaliningrad as the Baltic nation shut down ground transport through their country between the Russian mainland and the enclave.
The Secretary General also told press that Turkish, Finnish and Swedish leaders have accepted an offer to meet tomorrow in Madrid to discuss President Erdogan’s lingering concerns over accession of the two Scandinavian countries to the alliance.