Relations with partners across the globe
NATO has nine “partners across the globe” or “global partners”, which the Alliance cooperates with on an individual basis. NATO’s global partners include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. NATO’s engagement with global partners is taking on increasing importance in a complex security environment, where many of the challenges the Alliance faces are global and no longer bound by geography.
- The third pillar of the Secretary General’s vision for NATO 2030 seeks to strengthen NATO’s global cooperation with like-minded partners, especially with its global partners, to defend the rules-based international order and institutions, and to set international norms and standards in space and in cyber space, and on new technologies and global arms control.
- Since 2016, NATO has increasingly engaged politically with its four Asia-Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand – notably through meetings of the North Atlantic Council, including a first meeting at the level of foreign ministers in December 2020, to discuss the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China.
- Global partners have access to the full range of activities NATO offers to all partners guided by an Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme. They work with NATO on a range of common cross-cutting security challenges such as cyber defence, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and resilience.
- Some partners also participate in NATO’s military operations, while many have also benefited from NATO’s expertise in areas such as building defence capacity, and defence training and education.
- NATO also consults with other non-member countries, which have no bilateral programme of cooperation (for example, China, Brazil, Ghana, India, Singapore) in particular on regional security dynamics.
More background information
In today’s complex security environment, NATO’s relations with partners across the globe offers many advantages to Allies and partners alike. NATO’s practical cooperation with its global partners includes cross-cutting global challenges such as cyber defence, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, non-proliferation, defence science and technology, and Women, Peace and Security. Some partners participate in NATO’s military operations, while many have also benefited from NATO’s expertise in areas such as building defence capacity, and defence training and education.
Political consultation and intelligence-sharing is fundamental to the way NATO works with its global partners, just as it is among the 30 Allies. Political dialogue is a key tool for fostering regional understanding and exchanging expertise between Allies and their global partners. This enriches NATO’s situational awareness in areas beyond its direct neighbourhood, and it ensures that global partners understand NATO’s positions and are able to contribute to policy discussions on common security challenges. This is increasing in importance as many of today’s new security challenges are no longer bound by geography, such as in cyber space, space and climate change. Political dialogue also assists in establishing and developing practical cooperation with these partners.
Political dialogue with NATO’s global partners take place in many different formats, including at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Just as Allied consultations take place in a broad range of committees and at different levels, so too do several global partners participate in these committees on a regular basis, from the level of ministers to technical working groups. For example, NATO’s four Asia-Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand – participate on a regular basis in discussions in the Political Committee and in the North Atlantic Council.
At the most senior level, the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, the Chairman of the Military Committee and NATO’s Strategic Commanders meet with global partners’ Heads of State and Government, foreign ministers, defence ministers, as well as other high-level officials.
The support provided by global partners and other countries to NATO-led operations has made a significant contribution to international peace and security.
In Afghanistan, a number of global partners such as Australia, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, made important contributions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from 2003 to 2014. Many continue to work alongside Allies in the follow-on mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces (Resolute Support). Other countries, such as Japan, have supported stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan without being involved in combat, by funding a large number of development projects and dispatching liaison officers. In 2020, the Republic of Korea served as the co-chair of the Afghan National Army Trust Fund Board.
Pakistan’s support for the efforts of NATO and the international community in Afghanistan remains crucial to the success of the Alliance’s mission. NATO remains committed to engaging with Pakistan in an effort to enlist support to stabilise Afghanistan.
NATO has maintained a dialogue with countries that are not part of its partnership frameworks, on an ad-hoc basis, since the 1990s. However, NATO’s involvement in areas outside of its immediate region – including Afghanistan and Libya – has increased the need and opportunities for enhanced global interaction. Clearly, the emergence of global threats requires the cooperation of a wider range of countries to successfully tackle challenges such as terrorism, proliferation, piracy or cyber attacks. Dialogue with these countries can also help NATO avert crises and, when needed, manage an operation throughout all phases.
Since 1998, NATO has invited countries across the globe to participate in its activities, workshops, exercises and conferences. This decision marked a policy shift for the Alliance, allowing these countries to have access, through the case-by-case approval of the North Atlantic Council, to activities offered under NATO’s structured partnerships. These countries were known as “Contact Countries”.
Significant steps were taken at the 2006 Riga Summit to increase the operational relevance of NATO’s cooperation with countries that are part of its structured partnership frameworks as well as other countries around the world. These steps, reinforced by decisions at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, defined a set of objectives for these relationships and created avenues for enhanced political dialogue, including meetings of the North Atlantic Council with ministers of the countries concerned, high-level talks, and meetings with ambassadors. In addition, annual work programmes (then referred to as Individual Tailored Cooperation Packages of Activities) were further developed.
At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, Allies agreed to develop a more efficient and flexible partnership policy, in time for the meeting of Allied foreign ministers in Berlin in April 2011. To this end, they decided to:
- streamline NATO’s partnership tools in order to open all cooperative activities and exercises to partners and to harmonise partnership programmes;
- better engage with partners across the globe who contribute significantly to security and reach out to relevant partners to build trust, increase transparency and develop practical cooperation;
- develop flexible formats to discuss security challenges with partners and enhance existing fora for political dialogue; and
- build on improvements in NATO’s training mechanisms and consider methods to enhance individual partners’ ability to build capacity.
Following the 2010 Lisbon Summit and NATO’s subsequent revision of its partnership policy in April 2011, the global context has changed significantly. As NATO became increasingly confronted with new defence and security challenges such as cyber attacks, disinformation, disruptive technologies and the erosion of arms control regimes, NATO recognised the importance of adapting to these new security challenges, including working closer together with NATO’s partners.
This increasing engagement with NATO’s like-minded partners, regardless of geographic location, on the basis of the shared values of democratic freedoms, rule of law and human rights, allows Allies to discuss relevant developments in the regions with partners, and increase their situational awareness and understanding of strategic issues on relevant global developments.
In June 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg launched his outline for NATO 2030. In order for NATO to keep its Allies safe in a more uncertain world, the Secretary General stated that NATO must “stay strong militarily, be more united politically, and take a broader approach globally.” Making NATO a more global Alliance means working even more closely with like-minded partners to develop coherent, strong, unified and collective responses to defend our values in a world of increased global competition.
The global pillar of NATO 2030 is particularly relevant to NATO’s engagement with its four Asia-Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand. As the challenges confronting the Euro-Atlantic area and the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly converging, it is vital for NATO and its four close partners in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance cooperation and dialogue to support security in both regions, but also to work together to strengthen the international rules-based order. In December 2020, for the first time, the four Asia-Pacific partners participated in a NATO Foreign Ministerial Meeting, where NATO Allies discussed the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China with the Asia-Pacific partners, as well as with Finland, Sweden and the European Union High Representative/ Vice President of the European Commission.