NATO needs to become politically stronger in order to face the challenges of the next decade, the head of the alliance said on Monday, highlighting that the rise of China is “fundamentally shifting the global balance of power”.
Speaking from Brussels via videoconference, Jens Stoltenberg, director-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), called on leaders to make the alliance “even stronger by making sure we are as effective politically as we are military”.
He flagged that “Russia continues its military activities unabated”, that extremist armed groups including the so-called Islamic State “are emboldened”, and that “the rise of China is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power” and “increasing the competition of our values and our way of life”.
To tackle these challenges as well as an increasing number of non-military threats such as pandemics, cyber attacks, and misinformation and propaganda campaigns, Stoltenberg argued that the alliance must not only strengthen its military cooperation but also become more political.
He called on leaders to work more closely together to reach “consensus sooner and more systematically”.
“Using NATO more politically also means using a broader range of tools,” he added, including economic and diplomatic means.
“What we need is the political will to use NATO, to decide and, when necessary, to act for our shared security,” he said.
Stoltenberg also urged the alliance to take a more global approach to tackle the threat it faces.
“We need to work even more closely with like-minded counties” including Australia, Japan, and South Korea, Stoltenberg said, to “set norms and standards in space and in cyberspace, on new technologies and global arms control and ultimately to stand up for a world built on freedom and democracy, not on bullying”.
He also argued that allies “must resist the temptations of national solutions”.
Stoltenberg’s address outlining his vision for NATO 2030 comes as it emerged that the US plans to cut the number of its troops stationed in Germany by about a quarter by September.
American soldiers in Europe are considered a deterrent to Russia and the planned cut will have likely raised alarm bells in some European capitals.
US President Donald Trump has been highly critical of NATO since his election in 2016 and has particularly lambasted European countries, which he accuses of not pulling their weight.
Stoltenberg said on Monday that NATO’s strategy towards Russia involves a “dual-track approach” based on “credible deterrence and defence” and dialogue.
He said that Moscow that should have no doubt “about NATO’s readiness to protect all allies” and that the alliance will continue to engage with Russia to work on arms control.