home > New Strategic Concept FAQs

1) NATO adopted a new ‘Strategic Concept’ during its November 2010 Lisbon Summit. What is this new Strategic Concept, exactly?

The Strategic Concept is an official document that outlines NATO’s enduring purpose and nature and the fundamental security tasks of the Alliance. It also identifies the central features of the new security environment, specifies the elements of the Alliance’s approach to security and provides guidelines for the further adaptation of its military forces.

2) How is this new Concept being developed?

The NATO Secretary General used the analysis and recommendations of the Group of Experts to compose his own first draft of the new Strategic Concept. He has presented this draft to the Allies for their consideration.

3) Who is involved in its composition?

The process leading to the new Strategic Concept is an inclusive one. In addition to the Group of Experts, all Allies are actively involved. Moreover, the process engages partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, as well as partners across the globe. The process also engages other key international actors such as the European Union and the United Nations as well as NGOs and those in the strategic community who believe they can offer useful expertise. Finally, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division has encouraged an interactive dialogue with the broader public through a special web module, making this the most transparent development process of a Strategic Concept to date.

4) When will the new Concept be adopted?

Once the text has been approved by Heads of State and Government at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, the document will henceforth become NATO’s new Strategic Concept.

5) Why is this new Concept being issued now?

Radical changes in the security environment have occurred since 1999, when the current Strategic Concept was issued. Partly in reaction to these events, NATO leaders endorsed the “Declaration on Alliance Security” at the 2008 Strasbourg-Kehl Summit. Among other things, this declaration called for a new Strategic Concept that would take into account changes in the security environment.

6) How often does NATO issue new Strategic Concepts?

Since its inception, NATO has regularly reviewed its tasks and objectives in view of the evolution of the strategic environment. In the course of more than half a century, both the Alliance and the wider world have developed in ways that NATO's founders could not have envisaged, and such changes have been incorporated into every strategic document that NATO has produced. The new Strategic Concept will be the seventh such Concept adopted by the Alliance since its creation in 1949.

7) What role will the Strategic Concept play in NATO’s decision-making process?

The Strategic Concept is fundamentally a statement of purpose that is crafted to fit the security needs of a changing world. A sound transatlantic consensus on NATO’s role and strategy in dealing with security challenges is essential if NATO is to function optimally. The Strategic Concept reflects this transatlantic consensus.

The new Strategic Concept will serve as guide for NATO decision-makers on how to further transform the Alliance as well as their own national defence structures and capabilities. The Concept must also give the public in Alliance countries and beyond a clear sense of NATO’s core tasks, future roles, capabilities and deepening partnerships.

8) What has changed since 1999 that would warrant a new Strategic Concept?

Terrorist attacks in New York, London, Madrid and elsewhere demonstrated the deadly connection between technology and extremism that illuminated the need for a reevaluation of the Alliance’s mission. Over thirty countries have or are acquiring ballistic missile technology and some of those missiles can already reach Europe. In addition, the global nuclear non-proliferation regime is under increasing stress; powerful cyber attacks can damage a country’s essential infrastructure, thereby threatening the fundamental security interests of Allies; incidents of instability along Europe’s periphery have revived historic tensions; the security implications of piracy, energy supply risks and environmental neglect have become more evident; and a worldwide economic crisis has spawned widespread budgetary concerns. Meanwhile, the Alliance has grown to twenty-eight members, enlarging both NATO’s capabilities and its commitments.

9) What was the Group of Experts’ report?

At their Summit in Strasbourg/Kehl in April 2009, Alliance leaders directed Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to convene a broadly-based group of qualified experts to prepare the ground for a new NATO Strategic Concept. The Group of Experts, led by its chair Madeleine K. Albright (United States) and vice-chair Jeroen van der Veer (The Netherlands), began work in September 2009. In line with its mandate to encourage an open discussion of NATO’s organisation and purpose, the Group engaged in an extensive series of seminars and consultations with scholars and officials, civilian and military alike, from within and outside the Alliance. The Group presented its final report on 17 May 2010, and the report’s recommendations will play an important role in the composition of the new Strategic Concept.

Download a copy of the Group of Experts' Report: Eng / Fr / Ru / Ukr / Ar

10) What did the Group of Experts’ report conclude?

In the broadest terms, the report sought to balance the need for “assured security” and “dynamic engagement”. It concluded that NATO must reaffirm its core commitment to collective defence; protect against unconventional attacks from terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, cyber assaults, and the like; establish guidelines for operations outside Alliance borders; and create conditions for peace in Afghanistan through, among other things, a comprehensive civilian and military approach. The report also found that the Alliance should emphasize consultations to prevent or manage crises; deepen relations with key partners while expanding the range of partnership activities; develop a comprehensive approach to complex problems through, among other activities, cooperating with non-governmental organisations; and build Euro-Atlantic stability through security cooperation with Russia. The report also urged that NATO maintain the Open Door policy for new members; undertake military transformation and reform; continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces; and cooperate towards establishing an effective missile defence. Finally, the experts stated that NATO must respond to the danger of cyber attacks, implement institutional and administrative reforms, and find a way to tell more effectively ‘NATO’s story’ to publics inside and outside the Alliance.