NATO’s Strategic Concept

Speaking of neuteredineffective concepts in international relations… this, from the NATO website:

NATO will formally launch the process leading to the new Strategic Concept of the Alliance at a major security conference in Brussels. The Conference – taking place under the authority of the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer – will also mark the beginning of a dialogue with the wider public. The event, to be held at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels on the 7th July 2009, will be attended by the NATO Secretary General designate, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and will bring together a broad range of representatives from Allied and Partner governments, NATO structures, international organizations, civil society, including parliaments, the corporate sector, NGOs, think tanks, academia and the media.

The Secretary General will give the introductory address. Other speakers include the former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; the IAEA Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei; Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General James Mattis; former EU Commissioner António Vitorino; the Chairman of the EU Military Committee, General Henri Bentégeat; the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran; the Chief Executive Officer of ENI, Paolo Scaroni; and the Chairman of Lloyd’s of London, Lord Levene of Portsoken.

The aim of this Secretary General’s conference on July 7th is to formally launch the process leading to the new Strategic Concept and begin a dialogue between NATO and a wide range of experts from the strategic community as well as the broader public. The conference will examine how the Alliance relates to the rest of the world, as part of a wider network of security actors. It will also look at NATO’s role in addressing new threats and challenges.

At the Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl on 4 April 2009, NATO Heads of State and Government tasked the Secretary General to develop a new NATO Strategic Concept. The current Strategic Concept was approved at the Washington Summit in 1999. 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 Alliance Strategic Concept. This will be done with the active involvement of the North Atlantic Council.

The Strategic Concept is the authoritative statement of the Alliance’s objectives and provides the highest level of guidance on the political and military means to be used in achieving them. It also describes NATO’s fundamental security tasks and is the basis for the implementation of Alliance policy as a whole. It is therefore, one of the key policy documents of the Alliance. The process leading to the new NATO Strategic Concept will engage all Allies in a major intellectual exercise and will examine all aspects of NATO in the run-up to the next summit.

A detailed programme of the conference can be viewed here. The entire event will be filmed by NATO and streamed live on the NATO Website .

TV networks can obtain the live feed from the conference via EBU bookings in Geneva, and copies of it can be obtained subsequently via the NATO TV/Radio unit in Brussels (Point of Contact : Mr. Jean-Marc Lorgnier, +32.2.707.5006). The key interventions of the conference will be available the next day on the NATO Internet television.

High-definition photographs of the event will be available throughout the day via the NATO Website. No media opportunities are foreseen beyond the arrangements detailed above.

The Strategic Concept is a big deal, but it’s only as good as its ultimate interpretation and implementation. That means the “intellectual exercise” needs be sufficiently grounded, robust and comprehensive to enable Allied Command Operations (ACO) – the military pragmatists who actually run NATO operations – to get on with their jobs. As with the previous two iterations, I don’t expect that this round of wanking discussion will result in any great changes. That said, there have been a few small changes in geopolitics in the intervening years: Russia’s chokehold on European energy issues, for one, and its willingness to flex strategic into its near abroad, for another. Oh, and that pesky little question of state sanctioned (if not operated) parahackers… and, errrr, that little counterinsurgency thing in, ahem, Afghanistan. Baseline: I hope that the policymakers note that state and non-state threats ebb and flow, and that the overall character of the Strategic Concept isn’t just shaped by flavor of the month security threats.

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