On 25 November 2020 the Analysis and Recommendations of the Reflection Group Appointed by the NATO Secretary General “NATO 2030: United for a New Era” [1] were presented. This document is the final report that outlines the Group’s vision for NATO in 2030, and provides a condensed version of the Group’s main findings; assesses the main trends that will shape NATO’s environment between now and 2030; provides a more detailed discussion of the recommendations, organized thematically.

Reflection Group pointed that world appear to be the competing great powers, in which assertive authoritarian states with revisionist foreign policy agendas seek to expand their power and influence, and in which NATO Allies will once again face a systemic challenge cutting across the domains of security and economics. Ukrainian issue, including challenge of Crimea, is mentioned in the Analisys repeatedly.

As the document points, following the illegitimate and illegal invasion and [attempt] of annexation of Crimea by the Russia in 2014, NATO undertook sustained improvements to its defense and deterrence posture, including through enhanced Forward Presence, the Readiness Action Plan, and NATO Readiness Initiative, and embarked on a far-reaching upgrade to defense spending and capabilities across the Alliance.

As a result, NATO now possesses a wider range of tools, not only for countering the Russian military threat but also for understanding, anticipating, and defending against terrorism and threats in the hybrid and cyber realms. And, as in the past, these defensive enhancements have been accompanied by political measures that supported the new approach, including expanded forums for internal consultation, the development of new tools in cyber, hybrid, and strategic communications, increased engagement with eastern partners Ukraine and Georgia, and dialogue to accompany NATO’s enhanced deterrence.

Also Analysis points that the political divergences within NATO are dangerous because they enable external actors, and in particular Russia, to exploit intra-Alliance differences and take advantage of individual Allies in ways that endanger their collective interests and security. And neither Europe nor North America, for all their strength, are powerful enough to manage these threats alone, while also dealing with the growing array of non-traditional threats and risks that affect all the societies. So Reflection Group stresses that NATO must adapt to meet the needs of a more demanding strategic environment marked by the return of systemic rivalry, persistently aggressive Russia.

Analysis reminds that the Alliance must respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a politically united, determined, and coherent way, without a return to ‘business as usual’, and demanding alterations in Russia’s aggressive behavior and its return to full compliance with international law. Its authors point that NATO should evolve the content of its dual-track strategy to ensure its continued effectiveness by raising the costs for Russian aggression and develop a more comprehensive response to hybrid forms of Russian aggression, while at the same time supporting increased political outreach to negotiate arms control and risk reduction measures.

So, as the Analisys asserts, NATO must maintain political focus on building up military preparedness and response for the southern/Mediterranean flank, in particular by revising and delivering its Advance Plans and strengthening  the Hub for the South at JFC Naples. NATO should outline a global blueprint for better utilising its partnerships to advance NATO strategic interests. It should shift from the current demand-driven approach to an interest-driven approach and consider providing more stable and predictable resource streams for partnership activities. NATO’s Open Door Policy should be upheld and reinvigorated and Alliance should expand and strengthen partnerships with Ukraine and Georgia.

Reflection Group reminds in this document that in 2014, Russia illegally and illegitimately annexed Crimea and invaded and occupied parts of eastern Ukraine; that the Russian government seeks hegemony over its former Soviet possessions and undermines their sovereignty and territorial integrity, seeking to block the path of nations that want to move toward NATO. So, Analisys states that Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia continues, assertive Russian behavior has intensified in the High North and North Atlantic, with air and naval build ups in and around key maritime chokepoints in the Barents, Baltic, and Black seas, and the Mediterranean.

More, as it is pointed in research, Russia has also been trying to establish a foothold in the Mediterranean basin and in Africa, including by using proxies and Russian private military companies. In addition to its conventional military threat, Russia is deploying a broader hybrid toolkit including offensive cyber, state-sanctioned assassinations, and poisonings – using chemical weapons, political coercion, and other methods to violate the sovereignty of Allies. Reflection Group declares directly that Russia is a direct military threat to the Euro-Atlantic area.

Reflection Group concludes that, as seen in the response to 9/11, the 2014 illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and the adaption to hybrid and cyber threats, NATO has a strong record of strategic adaption, and this tradition needs to be summoned again in the early 2020s. But, as Analisys stressed, Russia’s aggression against Georgia and Ukraine, followed by its ongoing military build-ups and assertive activity in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, in the Eastern Mediterranean, Baltic, and in the High North, have led to a sharp deterioration in the relationship and negatively impacted the security of the Euro-Atlantic area.

So the document points that Russia routinely engages in intimidatory military operations in the immediate vicinity of NATO and has enhanced its reach and capabilities for threatening airspace and freedom of navigation in the Atlantic. More, it has violated a number of major international commitments and developed an array of conventional and non-conventional capabilities that threaten both the security of individual NATO Allies and the stability and cohesion of the Alliance as a whole. Analisys stressed that Russia has amply demonstrated its ability and willingness to use military force, and continues to attempt to exploit fissures between Allies, and inside NATO societies. It has also employed chemical weapons on Allied soil, costing civilian lives.

Authors of this action plan remind that following the illegitimate and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Alliance has maintained a united front to Russian aggression, both militarily, in improvements to NATO’s deterrence posture along the eastern flank, and politically, in the solidarity that Allies have shown in response to Russia’s orchestration of the Salisbury nerve agent attack, breach of the INF Treaty, and other aggressive actions. However, Analysis points, Russia’s ongoing assertive policies and aggressive actions, including a hybrid campaign to undermine faith in democratic institutions in the Alliance, have proven persistent obstacles to meaningful dialogue.

So the “NATO 2030” research summarizes that looking out to 2030, Russia will most likely remain the main military threat to the Alliance; it confronts NATO with the risk of a fait accompli or with sustained and paralysing pressure in a crisis situation.

Authors propose to NATO make some crucial steps on this issue, including considering ways to evolve the content of its dual-track strategy to ensure its continued effectiveness. They point that the Alliance should consider a dynamic template under which it takes steps to raise the costs for Russian aggression (e.g., coordinating to tighten rather than merely renew sanctions, according to Russian behavior, exposing the facts of Russian covert activities in Ukraine, etc.) while at the same time supporting increased political outreach to negotiate arms control and risk reduction measures. Evolving the strategy in this way would preserve cohesion within NATO while providing a prospect for breaking the stalemate with Russia on NATO’s terms.

So the “NATO 2030: United for a New Era” report should be understood as the NATO middle-term policy devoted to Russian aggression, including the Black and Azov Seas region and Crimea.

Professor Borys Babin

 1. https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/2020/12/pdf/201201-Reflection-Group-Final-Report-Uni.pdf