''Active engagement, modern defence'': Secretary General charts NATO’s future direction

  • 08 Oct. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Oct. 2010 16:27

On 8 October, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen laid out the direction NATO’s new Strategic Concept is taking in a public speech in Brussels, Belgium, hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).

The New Strategic Concept : Active Engagement, Modern Defence - Address by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Due to the changing nature of today and tomorrow’s security threats, “a lot must change in the way NATO does business”, the Secretary General said. While the threat of military attack can never be ruled out, the more likely threats are harder to see – but “just as real and potentially just as deadly.” International terrorism, cyber attacks and energy security are some of the key issues for concern.

Changing how NATO does business

Mr Fogh Rasmussen outlined three areas where NATO needed to change. First, it needs to modernize its defence and deterrence capability, for example in cyberspace and missile defence.

Second it needs to update its crisis management through a comprehensive approach, “where political, civilian and military efforts are coordinated, and work towards common aims. Where (…) the military and civilian actors plan together, operate in complementary ways, and support each other.”

Third, NATO needs to “develop deeper, wider political and practical partnerships with countries around the globe” to build cooperative security.

Funding new capabilities

The new Strategic Concept will be “the blueprint for an Alliance even more actively engaged in building international security and upgraded for modern defence,” the Secretary General said. But to pay for these changes, especially in tough financial times, the Alliance needs to reform.

Because of the financial crisis, Allied nations have been forced to cut into defence budgets. He cautioned, however, against cuts that go too far. “We have to avoid cutting so deep that we won’t, in future, be able to defend the security on which our economic prosperity rests.

Preserving NATO’s backbone

Before presenting the newer elements shaping the document, Mr Fogh Rasmussen outlined those that wouldn’t change because they remain vital to the security of Allied countries.

The most fundamental element, collective defence, would remain a binding commitment, he said. Military capability and political consultations would also continue as pillars of the Alliance.

There is no place but NATO where Europe and North America sit together every day to assess the security issues that affect us, and figure out how to tackle them together,” he said. “The NATO Allies are a community of countries that share fundamental values.”

The Secretary General recently presented his first draft of the new Strategic Concept for discussion among Allied nations. The final draft will be adopted and made public at the upcoming NATO Summit in Lisbon on 19 and 20 November.