NATO holds its next summit in Madrid on 28-30 June 2022. Heads of State and Government from all 30 members will meet. Partner countries are also invited, including aspiring members Finland and Sweden. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is expected to address the summit.

On the agenda will be the adoption of NATO’s new Strategic Concept; the war in Ukraine and NATO’s response to Russian aggression; Finland and Sweden’s application to join the Alliance; and defence spending. The links provided below are to new or updated Commons Library papers.

The two main days of the summit are Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 June 2022. 

Adopting a new Strategic Concept

NATO leaders are expected to adopt a new Strategic Concept at the summit, its first since 2010. The 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”.

It assesses 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.

Thinking on the new Strategic Concept has undoubtedly evolved following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and NATO’s response, which many have described as giving the Alliance a new sense of purpose. And while collective defence and the security of the Euro-Atlantic area is therefore expected to become a priority, analysts have 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,”  specifically the strategic rise of China.

Read more: NATO’s Strategic Concept

Response to Russia and expansion of presence on eastern flank

NATO has moved to shore up the defence of eastern Europe by deploying additional ships, fighter aircraft and troops to the region. Leaders are likely to formally agree further plans to develop NATO’s force posture. The Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, says this will mean a “new force model, with more forces at higher readiness, and specific forces pre-assigned to the defence of specific Allies, to enable much faster reinforcement.”

Military assistance is also being provided to Ukraine, although NATO troops will not be deployed on the ground as Ukraine is a partner country of the Alliance and not party to NATO’s Article V mutual defence clause. 

The UK is leading one of four (soon to be eight) NATO multinational battlegroups deployed in countries along NATO’s eastern flank. In the last few months, allies agreed to establish new battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, to add to the existing four in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The UK leads the battlegroup in Estonia, to which it has recently doubled its presence, and deployed an aviation taskforce to Lithuania. The UK is also supporting air policing over Romania and Bulgaria, and deployed troops on a bilateral basis to Poland. The Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans updated the Commons with the latest deployments on 20 June 2022.

Read more: Ukraine crisis (this page collates all Commons Library publications on Ukraine, including background on reinforcing its eastern flank). 

Sweden and Finland’s application to join the Alliance

Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO, ending decades of neutrality and non-alignment. Both countries say Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and domestic re-appraisals of their security environment, has prompted them to seek to formally join the Euro-Atlantic security alliance.

However, Turkey, a NATO member, has indicated its opposition to their membership, citing Sweden and Finland’s support for Kurdish separatist groups. It is unclear if the two Nordic states will formally be invited at the summit to begin the accession process.

Read more: NATO enlargement: Sweden and Finland

Defence spending

In 2006, NATO allies set a target to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Over the years, this has come to be seen as one indicator of a country’s commitment to defence. It also set a target of devoting 20% of defence expenditure to the research, development and acquisition of major defence equipment.

The latest NATO estimates on defence expenditure of member countries indicates that only eight members, including the UK, met the 2% target in 2021 – up from five members in 2015, but two fewer than the previous year.

At an extraordinary summit in Brussels in March 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Allies agreed to “accelerate our efforts to fulfil our commitment to the Defence Investment Pledge in its entirety”.

Since then, many members have affirmed their intention to spend more on defence. However, not all have given full details of the timeframe and spending commitments. Allies will likely discuss defence spending at the summit.

Read more: UK defence expenditure (this includes information on NATO’s 2% target)

What is NATO?

NATO is a military and political alliance of 30 countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. It dates back to 1949, when the US, Canada and ten European states, including the UK, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington.

It was formed to ensure their collective security and preservation and intended to counter the perceived threat from the then Soviet Union. The main tenet of the Alliance is Article 5 of the treaty, which states that an armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against all.

All decisions are taken on the basis of consensus among all Allies. NATO is headquartered in Brussels and is led by a Secretary General.

NATO holds regular summits of Heads of State and Government (usually annually, but more often when needed). Defence and Foreign Ministers meet regularly, while each country has a permanent representative who sits on the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s main political body.

A current list of NATO Heads of State and Government, Foreign and Defence Ministers, and Permanent Representatives (as of June 2022) is available on the NATO summit website: Biographies.

Read more: What is NATO?

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