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Commentary | 27 June 2022

Network reflections: What should we expect from the NATO Summit?

Image of Tacan Ildem

Tacan Ildem |NATO former Assistant Secretary General and former Permanent Representative of Turkey to NATO and the OSCE

Image of Katarina Kertysova

Katarina Kertysova |Research Associate, Climate Change and (In)Security Project (CCIP) & Wilson Center Global Fellow

Image of Giampaolo Di Paola

Giampaolo Di Paola |Former Minister of Defence of Italy; Former Chairman of NATO Military Committee

Image of Mira Milosevich-Juaristi

Mira Milosevich-Juaristi |Senior Analyst for Russia and Eurasia at the Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies and Associate Professor at the IE University, School of Global and Public Affairs (Madrid, Spain)

Image of Henrik Larsen

Henrik Larsen |Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD)

Network Reflections NATO Russia-West Relations Security Contact Group ELN YGLN

Ahead of the NATO Summit being held in Madrid, 28 – 30 June 2022, we ask five members of the European Leadership Network what should we expect from the Summit, and the extent to which the war in Ukraine has shifted NATO priorities?


The current strategic environment is different from the one reflected in the 2010 Strategic Concept. Indeed Euro-Atlantic area is no longer in peace. In the future, when circumstances permit, Russia will be part of the new European security architecture. But Russia’s behaviour will be the main determinant of this. There should be no room for renegotiating the fundamental principles underpinning European security.

NATO should ensure the effectiveness of its policy vis-a-vis Russia by strengthening its deterrence and defence and raising the costs of Russian aggression. It should develop a more comprehensive response in all operational domains without neglecting Russia’s hybrid tactics. The current security environment necessitates NATO to prioritise boosting collective defence and societal resilience, but these efforts should not be at the expense of its 360-degree approach.

Terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, still poses one of the most immediate, asymmetric threats to Allied nations and citizens. NATO should, therefore, more explicitly integrate the fight against terrorism into its three core tasks. NATO Allies should impersonalise the scourge of terrorism and elevate cooperation and solidarity among its members. In this spirit, while trying to ensure accession of NATO’s valued partners Finland and Sweden as members, Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, especially those related to fighting terrorism, should be satisfactorily addressed.

The new Strategic Concept should give a stronger sense of using NATO as a unique and essential forum for Transatlantic consultations.

Tacan Ildem, NATO former Assistant Secretary General and former Permanent Representative to NATO and the OSCE, Turkey (Senior Network)


This will be NATO’s most important Summit since at least 9/11, and it will be heavily shaped and dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition to the release of the new Strategic Concept, a radical change in NATO’s posture is expected to be ratified. While it Is too early to say with certainty, there is hope that the Summit might result in a breakthrough in negotiations with Turkey regarding Swedish and Finnish applications to join NATO. This would enable members of the Alliance to initiate their domestic ratification processes.

The war in Ukraine has not diminished the urgency of climate change and the security challenges it creates; this will be an important theme in Madrid. NATO is set to deliver its first Climate Change and Security Progress Report, as well as present key findings of its Climate Impact Assessment. Perhaps we might even see the release of the military emissions mapping methodology, which has been under development. As part of the NATO Public Forum, the first High-Level Dialogue on Climate and Security will take place, bringing together stakeholders from many walks of life to discuss ways in which NATO can better understand, adapt, and mitigate climate-related security risks.

Katarina Kertysova, Policy Fellow, European Leadership Network; NATO 2030 Young Leader, Slovakia (YGLN)


The incoming NATO Summit will not be like others of the past. It will take place, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, whilst a real inter-state war is waged in Europe. Only in 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, have we witnessed anything similar.

It was well understood prior to the 24th of February that we were living in a shift in the international geopolitical and security landscape. Yet Russia’s aggression has been a thunderous wake-up call for Europe and NATO. The historical decision by Finland and Sweden to apply for membership after decades of military neutrality demonstrates, more than any words, real security concerns against Russia’s current posture and policies.

In Madrid, NATO will approve a new Strategic Concept, and the Ukrainian war and Russian threat will inevitably shape its centre of gravity. Consequently, we will see a greater emphasis on a substantially reinforced and advanced military posture for the Eastern flank by augmenting readiness and forward stationed forces with in-place logistics and heavy weapons. But the concept is intended to be a long-term vision for the Alliance. It would be a mistake for a single ongoing event, however crucial and dramatic for European security, to overshadow other key security factors shaping the security environment. Primarily the rise of China and increased tensions and competition in the Indo-Pacific. China is a primary concern for NATO, and we are seeing an even closer partnership between China and Russia. But there is also dramatic instability and insecurity due to climate change in the Global  South, exploitation of Chinese and Russian interests and presence in the African continent, and challenges in the emergence of a European defence identity, responsibility and capacity.

The West and its democratic institutions, the EU, and NATO are living in a pivotal moment. There is a real challenge and threat to our present and future security and the international order; I only hope they are up to the challenge.

Giampaolo Di Paola, former Minister of Defence, and former Chairman of NATO Military Committee, Italy (Senior Network)


The NATO Summit 2022 is of historic importance because it will define a new strategic concept. NATO’s new strategic concept must strike a balance to bring the Alliance’s core functions (collective defence, crisis management, cooperative security) in line with an international context of persistent transnational destabilising factors such as terrorism, climate change, and new inter-state threats arising from the rivalry between major nuclear powers.

The economic rise of China is translating into (geo)political revisionism and the expulsion of the USA from a region in which it has been a key security provider since the end of the Second World War. Moreover, an expansionist revanchism of Russia, which already manifested itself in 2008 with the invasion of Georgia and which today directly threatens, through the invasion of Ukraine, the entire European security structure created after the end of the Cold War, has given rise to an unusual and worrying environment that challenges international security.

The war in Ukraine has brought NATO back to its origin and raison d’être. It also forces the Alliance to strengthen its eastern flank. However, the war in Ukraine does not change the fact that the epicentre of world strategy and politics is today in the Indo-Pacific region. NATO’s priorities are to ensure the security of Euro-Atlantic countries and strengthen its ties with Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in order to contain China’s revisionism.

Mira Milosevich, Senior Analyst for Russia, Eurasia and the Balkans at Elcano Royal Institute, Spain (Contact Group on Russia-West Relations)


Strengthening NATO’s conventional deterrence hinges on clarity about the Alliance’s resolve and ability to deny Russian land grabs. NATO will likely increase its force presence in Poland and the Baltic States significantly beyond its current ‘tripwire’ deployments. It will likely increase the size and readiness of the NATO Response Force to deter Russian military build-ups like the one around Ukraine prior to its invasion.

NATO’s priorities in formulating a new Strategic Concept sought to strengthen its political role in view of the rise of China and other illiberal contenders interested in nourishing Western disunity; Russia’s aggression pivots NATO back to collective defence in Europe.

That said, China remains a crucial variable in NATO’s burden-sharing. As the United States concentrates its military resources on Asia, it falls to the European states to assume a growing role in their defence by channelling rising defence budgets into deployable ground and tactical air forces. Moreover, the Summit may recognise China as a direct concern regarding emerging and disruptive technology, including the military application of AI, where NATO plays a role in defining norms for its responsible use.

Henrik Larsen, Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich, Denmark (YGLN)


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or all of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.