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Reawakening NATO

No single summit can resolve NATO’s deficiencies and meet its lofty goals, from reaffirming shared values to enhancing resilience, especially with a conventional conflict raging on its eastern doorstep. But the Madrid summit can – and must – lay the foundations for a more united, robust, and revitalized alliance.

MADRID – Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly hailed NATO as the “most successful Alliance in history.” But, at their upcoming summit in Madrid, NATO heads of state and government will face serious challenges, from America’s weariness with Europe’s tendency to “trade away” geopolitical differences to tensions over Turkey’s efforts to block Finland and Sweden’s membership bids. Will transactional politics taint this summit – and NATO’s future?

To say that Russia’s war on Ukraine has upended European security and shaken NATO from its stupor is to state the obvious. The relative certainty that defined the world order over the last few decades has given way to great-power conflict and the specter of nuclear annihilation. Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership represent not only a break from their own traditions of neutrality, but also the end of the post-Cold War era.

NATO’s priorities for the next decade, to be embodied in its next Strategic Concept – set to be adopted at this month’s gathering – are supposed to reflect this new reality. For example, it is expected to mention China for the first time. In another first, all of NATO’s Pacific partners (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea) will attend the summit, as will Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This is in line with calls – made, for example, by the United Kingdom – to create a more “global NATO” that boosts security in the Indo-Pacific region.