NATO seeks more resilient member states but continues to ignore the fundamentals of strong societies: openness and transparency

A review of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting,

Brussels, 22-23 October 2020

By Dr. Ian Davis, NATO Watch

Key activities and decisions taken:

  • Ministers agreed to create a NATO Space Centre at Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.
  • In reaction to Russia’s “growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles”, ministers reviewed progress towards a “comprehensive response package of political and military measures” agreed previously in June 2020. 
  • NATO’s “nuclear deterrent” is being kept “safe, secure and effective”, including through an “annual nuclear deterrence exercise”.
  • Ministers received a “comprehensive report” on the status of critical infrastructure within the alliance, including ports and airports, supplies of fuel, food and medical equipment and telecommunications. The report was not made public, but identifies vulnerabilities, e.g. those arising from foreign ownership and the threat to undersea cables.
  • It was agreed to strengthen the alliance’s resilience pledge when NATO leaders meet in 2021. That NATO Summit will also consider the outcome of the 2030 reflection process and the NATO Secretary General’s proposals for a new Strategic Concept.
  • 2020 will be the sixth consecutive year of increased military spending by European NATO members and Canada (with an annual increase of 4.3% in real terms). Despite the pandemic ministers expect this upward trend to continue.
  • There was a “productive exchange of views” on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Turkey agreed to cancel rival military exercises, but conflicting media reports later suggested that some Turkish naval exercises would continue.
  • Intra-NATO divisions also persist re the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and Turkey’s Russian missile system.
  • Ministers reiterated their strong commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security and support for the peace process.
  • Ministers agreed to expand NATO’s training mission in Iraq, to help the Iraqi government fight international terrorism.
  • Four NATO states (Germany, Greece, Hungary and the UK) launched a multilateral initiative on rockets, artillery and mortar threats; Ten NATO states (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the UK) launched a multinational initiative to develop ground-based air defence capabilities.
  • A NATO Policy on Battlefield Evidence from operational theatres was agreed to aid efforts against terrorism.

The NATO Defence Ministers held a virtual two-day meeting to discuss four main issues: strengthening deterrence and defence in all domains, including the response to Russia’s new nuclear-capable missiles and the rise of China; boosting resilience in member states; progress on fairer burden-sharing; and NATO missions and operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read the attached pdf briefing to find out more.