Nato countries have been alerted to the danger of an attack on the alliance's territorial integrity after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a new Strategic Concept that redefines the group's security interests for a changed era.
“We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty,” the Concept warns as it sets out the challenges it faces from adversaries and competitors not just in Europe but beyond.
Holding the document in his hands during the press conference on its publication in Madrid on Wednesday, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato's secretary general, declared that as a current priority the conflict in eastern Europe would see the group's members back Kyiv.
“Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” he said, adding that Nato allies would continue to provide significant military and financial help, including anti-drone systems, medicine, fuel and protection against biological and chemical warfare.
The document — agreed by all 30 member nations — roundly condemned President Vladimir Putin’s actions.
“The Russian Federation has violated the norms and principles that contributed to a stable and predictable European security order,” it stated. “We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
It condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, stating that it had “shattered peace and gravely altered our security environment”.
It added that Russia was “the most significant and direct threat to allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area” but that Nato did “not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia”.
Mr Stoltenberg promised that more advanced western equipment would be sent to Ukraine to help it “transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern Nato equipment.”
With Turkey removing its objections to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance late on Tuesday, Mr Stoltenberg declared that their admission would be the “fastest accession ever”. After talking with heads of government, Mr Stoltenberg said “the message in the room was strong that they will work with parliaments to ratify it as soon as possible”.
Bringing the two Nordic countries into the alliance will strengthen Nato, particularly with Finland’s formidable military.
They will also join at a time when the Strategic Concept stated that the “potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons against Nato by hostile state and non-state actors remains a threat to our security”.
It also highlighted growing threats from terrorist groups as well as concerns over the “coercive policies” of China. The framework condemned both Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programmes and the use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria.
The risk of terrorist attack still remained high with groups developing new forms of attack, it cautioned. “Terrorist organisations seek to attack or inspire attacks against allies. They have expanded their networks, enhanced their capabilities and invested in new technologies to improve their reach and lethality.”
It also raised concerns over the “fragility and instability” in parts of Africa and the Middle East aggravated by climate change, health emergencies and food insecurity. “This situation provides fertile ground for the proliferation of non-state armed groups, including terrorist organisations,” the paper said.
For the first time, Nato singled out China as a foe whose “coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values”
“China’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target allies and harm alliance security.”
During a Nato Forum discussion, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss cautioned that China could make a major strategic error after developing a capable military.
“There is a real risk that they draw the wrong idea, which results in a catastrophic miscalculation, such as invading Taiwan,” she said.
The Strategic Concept also described climate change as a “defining challenge of our time”
“It is a crisis and threat multiplier,” the paper said. “It can exacerbate conflict, fragility and geopolitical competition.
“We have decided on a goal to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions by the Nato political and military structures and facilities, while maintaining operational, military and cost effectiveness. We will integrate climate change considerations across all of Nato’s core tasks.”