NATO seeks a new political path but continues to march to old military tunes

A review of the NATO Foreign Ministers teleconference, 1-2 December 2020

By Dr. Ian Davis, NATO Watch

Key activities and decisions taken:

  • Ministers discussed the NATO 2030 initiative including a report by an expert group appointed by the Secretary General. Further consultations will take place to prepare recommendations for NATO leaders in 2021.
  • In response to Russia’s “continued military build-up”, ministers expressed support for preserving limitations on nuclear weapons and for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime, but without outlining any new thinking or proposals towards these ends. 
  • With Asia-Pacific partners Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as well as Finland, Sweden and the EU High Representative, the ministers discussed the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China. Separately, NATO agreed a classified report on China.
  • Ministers discussed security in the Black Sea region with the foreign ministers of Georgia and Ukraine. NATO’s practical support for both countries’ reform programmes is being ‘stepped up’. Ministers also discussed developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and Belarus.
  • Ministers discussed the continuing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the NATO-brokered de-confliction mechanism agreed previously between Greece and Turkey. Media reports suggest that there were some sharp exchanges between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
  • Ministers reiterated their commitment to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan and discussed the impact of the US decision to reduce its troop numbers to 2,500. NATO will continue to assess the situation and will have to decide whether to stay or leave in February 2021, when NATO defence ministers meet.
  • NATO plans to hold a summit with President-elect Biden in 2021 (the exact date is not yet decided).

The NATO Foreign Ministers held a virtual two-day meeting to discuss four main issues: (a) the NATO 2030 initiative and the continued adaptation of the alliance; (b) the Russian military threat, including the security situation in the Black Sea region and NATO’s partnerships with Georgia and Ukraine; (c) the rise of China, a discussion that included NATO’s four Asia-Pacific partners (Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea), as well as Finland, Sweden and the EU Union High Representative; and (d) NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.

Read the attached pdf briefing to find out more.