NATO seeks to sharpen its technological advantage and adopts a Janus-inspired strategy: one face towards Russia and the other towards China

An analysis of the NATO Defence Ministers Meeting, Brussels, 21-22 October 2021

By Dr. Ian Davis, NATO Watch

1 November 2021

Key activities and decisions taken:

  • Ministers endorsed a confidential new overarching military plan and a new set of capability targets (also secret) designed to counter simultaneous threats ranging from ground forces to cyber-attacks across the Euro-Atlantic area.
  • Ministers reviewed progress in implementing a package of political and military measures introduced in June 2020 in response to a perceived growing threat from Russia's missile systems (see NATO Watch Briefing no. 78).
  • Ministers discussed the lessons learned process in Afghanistan and some of the first reports from that process (none of which have been made public). They also agreed to monitor any attempts by international terrorist groups to regroup in Afghanistan.
  • A NATO Innovation Fund was launched with 17 member states (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK) in the lead, which is intended to invest 1 billion Euros in cutting-edge “emerging and disruptive” technologies. NATO is also creating a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), which will provide a network of technology test centres and accelerator sites to harness civilian innovation for security purposes.
  • Ministers agreed NATO’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, which it was claimed includes standards of responsible use of Al, in accordance with international law. It also outlines how NATO will accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence, protect this technology and address the threats posed by the use of AI by adversaries.
  • The Nuclear Planning Group discussed NATO’s nuclear posture and the nuclear ban treaty, but no details were disclosed.
  • Ministers endorsed NATO’s 2021-2025 Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
  • Ministers from 11 member states (Albania, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, the UK and USA) launched three multinational projects to provide CBRN protection equipment, develop and procure CBRN detection and identification systems, as well as potentially establish a network of CBRN defence facilities.
  • Ministers from 15 member states (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK and USA) reaffirmed their commitment to collaboratively procure Ground Based Air Defence capabilities,

The NATO Defence Ministers Meeting took place on the 21-22 October 2021 at the NATO HQ in Brussels. The meeting took forward some of the key decisions taken at the June 2021 summit meeting (see NATO Watch briefing No.85), with a focus on three main issues: NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, especially in relation to Russia; the situation in Afghanistan; and NATO-EU cooperation.

Read the attached pdf briefing to find out more.


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briefing_87_nato_defence_ministers.pdf 455.88 KB