home > A Roadmap for the New Strategic Concept

At the NATO Summit in Strasbourg/Kehl on 4 April 2009, Heads of State and Government (HoSG) tasked the Secretary General to develop a new NATO Strategic Concept. This exercise should be completed by the time of NATO’s next Summit which is expected to take place in Lisbon in late 2010. The Summit also tasked the Secretary General to convene and lead a broad based group of qualified experts who will lay the ground for the new Strategic Concept. This will be done with the active involvement of the North Atlantic Council (NAC).

Guiding principles

NATO’s current strategic concept dates back to 1999.  A sound transatlantic consensus on a new NATO strategy is an indispensable element of the Alliance’s strategic adaptation. The Strategic Concept is a central piece of NATO’s acquis. Politically, it occupies a place second only to the Washington Treaty.

This process called for an inclusive and participatory approach from the biggest to the smallest Ally. Moreover, the process needed to engage Partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative as well as partners across the globe. Furthermore, the process needed to be transparent and engage other key international actors such as the EU and UN as well as other types of NATO interlocutors, like NGOs. Finally, an interactive dialogue with the broader public was encouraged. To this end, this website was established.

The Group of Experts

In order to facilitate the working process, the Secretary General appointed a broad-based Group of Experts. The 12 group members were appointed in their personal capacities. The Group of Experts included a broad spectrum of large and small NATO members and offered a balanced combination of insiders and outsiders, including from the private sector, think tanks and the academic community. Dr. Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, chaired the Group of Experts with Mr. Jeroen van der Veer, former CEO in Royal Dutch Shell, as vice-chair. To ensure close coordination between the Group of Experts and NATO Headquarters, the Secretary General designated a small NATO team lead by Dr. Jamie Shea, head of Policy Planning Unit, to function as a secretariat and staff support.

A three-phased approach

The process leading to a new Strategic Concept had three distinct phases: a reflection phase through a series of seminars; a consultation phase phase with allied capitals; and a drafting and final negotiation phase.

Reflection phase:

A series of seminars hosted by individual allies took place in order to enhance the strategic debate. The seminars engaged all stakeholders and relevant players – Permanent Representatives, Military Representatives, NATO Strategic Commands, the Military Committee, officials from capitals, strategic thinkers and partners as appropriate. Each seminar covered a specific aspect of the Strategic Concept.

One seminar looked at NATO’s core tasks and functions: the meaning of collective defence and deterrence in today’s environment; how to confront a broader spectrum of threats to our populations; and NATO’s role in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.

Another seminar looked at NATO as a part of a network of security actors in contributing to global civil and military crisis management and NATO’s likely tasks with a view to enhancing cooperation with international organisations and NGOs.

A third seminar looked at NATO and the Euro-Atlantic security environment: NATO’s role in building security in the Euro-Atlantic area, enlargement and NATO’s partnerships including relations with Russia.  

A fourth seminar looked at forces and capabilities, including defence planning and transformation. It also looked at procurement at a time of increased financial constraints, a task that requires flexibility and prioritisation.   

The Group of Experts also explored other relevant topics, as appropriate.

The Group of Experts started its work on 4 September when the Secretary General convened an informal meeting with NAC for an initial exchange of views. The Group of Experts met periodically with the Secretary General and submitted a progress report for the Foreign Ministers meeting in December 2009.

Consultation phase:

Following the seminars, experts visited Allied capitals to discuss their findings and proposals with governments and, where possible, parliamentary committees. Public outreach events were organized on these occasions by the capitals concerned.

On 17 May 2010, the Group of Experts presented their analysis and recommendations to the Secretary General.

Based on the experts’ analysis and recommendations and Allies’ initial reactions, the Secretary General produced his own report on elements in a new Strategic Concept. It was submitted to governments and the Secretary General collected political guidance on the drafting of the new Strategic Concept. 

Drafting and final negotiation phase:

After the summer of 2010, the Secretary General prepared his draft of the concept, and he met with Permanent Representatives to discuss the evolving drafts. Finally, the Secretary General presented his Strategic Concept text to Allied leaders at NATO's Lisbon Summit in November 2010. After approval by Heads of State and Government, the text became NATO’s new Strategic Concept.