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NATO must adapt to global threats, not just Russia: Report

Al Jazeera logo Al Jazeera 1/12/2020 Al Jazeera English
a sign on the side of a building: NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation, says the report [File: Yves Herman/Reuters] © NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation, says the report [File: Yve... NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation, says the report [File: Yves Herman/Reuters]

NATO must significantly broaden its scope to help deal with climate change, future pandemics and “terrorism” while focusing on new security threats from China, a new high-level report commissioned by the military alliance said on Tuesday.

Seen by some as a Cold War relic until Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization found new purpose in its military modernisation but now needs to “play a larger part in an international order”, said the 67-page report presented to NATO foreign ministers.

“NATO must adapt to meet the needs of a more demanding strategic environment marked by the return of systemic rivalry, persistently aggressive Russia, the rise of China,” it said.

Commissioned amid doubts about the purpose and relevance of an alliance branded “braindead” last year by French President Emmanuel Macron, the report also cited the need for NATO to help against asymmetric attacks, develop a strategy for its southern flank, and be more prepared for technological changes.

‘Two systemic rivals’

“Where NATO faced one big threat in the Cold War … today it faces two systemic rivals – the enduring threat of “terrorism”, [and] instability along NATO’s southern periphery,” the report by a group of experts said, referring to China and Russia.

Those reforms could be done, in part, by updating NATO’s master strategy document, its “Strategic Concept”, which dates from 2010 and sought to consider Russia as a partner.

The report, which will be presented to NATO leaders at a planned summit next year, also addressed strains between allies who have held up decision-making – such as Turkey and Hungary – although it does not mention them by name.

Other allies, such as France and the United States, say Turkey has undermined NATO priorities in Libya and Syria, while Ankara’s purchase of Russian weapons is a divisive issue.

“Political divergences within NATO are dangerous,” the report said.

‘Military adaptation’

The report, with recommendations that are not binding, said NATO must also find a way to stop individual countries from vetoing policy decisions.

Other recommendations include a “consultative body” to coordinate broader, Western policy towards China.

NATO leaders could also hold summits with European Union leaders, give the secretary-general more power over personnel and budgets, and have more regular meetings, possibly involving interior or finance portfolios.

“NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation,” the report said.

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