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NATO’s Strategic Concept is the official statement of NATO’s values, purpose and roles. It has been described by the NATO Secretary General as the “most important to document next to the founding treaty”.

The Strategic Concept provides an assessment of the international security environment, and the Alliance’s approach to addressing the issues and challenges it faces, including any guidance for the adaptation of military forces. It is the document which sets out NATO’s role as a nuclear alliance.

The Concept is reviewed approximately every ten years to take account of changes to the global security environment and to adapt NATO accordingly.

In June 2021 NATO leaders agreed to develop a new Strategic Concept that will make the Alliance “fit for purpose” over the next decade. That Concept is expected to be adopted at the Madrid Summit at the end of June 2022.

What is expected to say?

Thinking on the new Strategic Concept has undoubtedly evolved following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and NATO’s response to that crisis, which many have described as giving the Alliance a new sense of purpose.

Collective defence and security of the Euro-Atlantic area is therefore expected to become the priority as Russia’s assertiveness and growing strategic ambition poses longer term challenges to the Alliance.

However, analysts have also pointed to the need to look beyond the current crisis and “take stock of the broader shift in global power from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific” and specifically the strategic rise of China. There is also concern that a shift in NATO’s centre of gravity toward eastern Europe and the north, with the accession of Sweden and Finland, could leave ongoing issues of instability on NATO’s southern borders unaddressed. Transnational threats emanating from emerging and disruptive technologies such as cyber and space and the impact of climate change on international security must also feature in NATO’s thinking.

The new Strategic Concept is also expected to underline the importance of democracy and the rule of law, partnerships and a commitment to NATO’s open-door policy. 

Out of the new Strategic Concept are likely adjustments to NATO’s longer-term deterrence and defence posture.

Documents to download

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