The missions of the Alliance: NATO’s Strategic Concept [fr]
NATO’s Strategic Concept, adopted by Heads of State and Government at the Lisbon Summit in 2010, defines the nature, objectives and missions of the Atlantic Alliance, as well as the capabilities it needs to perform its tasks. It defines three fundamental tasks for NATO: collective defence and deterrence, crisis management, and cooperative security.
The Allies define NATO’s missions and objectives in a document approved by the Council at the level of Heads of State and Government - the strategic concept, which describes the security environment of the Alliance, the threats it has to confront and the tasks entrusted to it, and sets out guidelines on adapting the Allies’ military tools to these missions.
NATO has had several strategic concepts in the course of its existence (the current one is the ninth). These concepts were classified during the Cold War but have been public documents since 1991.
At the 2009 Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, 10 years after the approval of the previous strategic concept (Washington Summit, 1999), the Heads of State and Government decided that a new concept was needed to take into account the Alliance’s changing strategic environment. In this context, a group of experts chaired by Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State, was asked to produce an overview of the issues facing the Alliance in the coming years and to make recommendations for a new strategic concept.
On the basis of this report (NATO 2020 : Assured Security, Dynamic Engagement), the Allies adopted a new strategic concept at the Lisbon Summit of November 2010, entitled "Active Engagement, Modern Defence" and identifying three fundamental tasks for the Alliance: collective defence and deterrence, crisis management and cooperative security.
1) Collective defence and deterrence
Collective defence remains the primary responsibility of the Alliance. The members of the Alliance will always come to each other’s assistance in the event of an attack, in accordance with Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. NATO will take steps to deter and defend against any threat of aggression and any emerging security challenge which could compromise the security of one or more Allies. The new Concept also lists the capabilities which the Alliance will maintain and develop in order to combat existing and emerging threats, in particular the proliferation of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, as well as terrorism and cyber attacks.
Finally, the Concept reiterates that "deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element" of NATO’s collective defence.
2) Crisis management
NATO may, "where possible and when necessary", act to prevent or manage crises, or contribute to stability in post-conflict situations, sometimes in coordination with other parties. In particular, the Concept provides for NATO and the EU to improve their "practical cooperation in operations throughout the crisis spectrum, from coordinated planning to mutual support in the field."
3) Cooperative security
The Concept emphasizes that dialogue and cooperation with third countries and other organizations, and primarily the European Union (lien EU-NATO relations), are essential elements of NATO’s security (lien NATO’s partnerships). The Strategic Concept provides for NATO to develop more inclusive, flexible and open relations with its partners and stresses that NATO should reinforce its cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union. The Concept also sets the goal of establishing "a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia" (lien NATO-Russia relations).
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