“We want a real strategic partnership between NATO and Russia” – this sentence was part of NATO’s strategic concept until this Wednesday. That’s history now.

At their summit in Madrid, the heads of state and government of the 30 NATO countries decided on a new strategic concept for the military alliance. This was confirmed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday after the first working session.

In the basic document for political and military planning, Russia is described as the “greatest and most immediate threat to the security of the allies and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area”, China as a challenge.

The new strategic concept replaces the previous version from 2010. At that time, the Allies had still hoped that the time of great tensions with Russia was over and had opted for a “real strategic partnership” with the country.

Russia no longer a partner

The new concept now says: “In view of their hostile policies and actions, we cannot consider the Russian Federation as our partner.” Relations could only change again if Russia ceases its aggressive behavior and fully complies with international law. However, one remains ready to keep the communication channels open with Moscow in order to reduce risks, prevent escalations and create more transparency.

The foreword reads: “The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered the peace and severely altered our security environment.” Underline the need to significantly strengthen deterrence and defence.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been described as brutal and illegal. Repeated violations of international humanitarian law and heinous attacks and atrocities have caused untold suffering and appalling devastation.

The concept describes, among other things, Russia’s attempts to create spheres of influence through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation as a threat to the NATO states. The country’s demonstrated willingness to use force to pursue political ends undermines the rules-based international order.

deterrence should be strengthened

According to the concept, as a result of this policy, NATO will “significantly strengthen deterrence and defense for all allies” and also support partners in “fending off malicious interference and aggression”. At the same time, it is stated that NATO is not looking for confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia.

Mainly due to pressure from the USA, the new strategic concept also addresses China. It is described there as a country trying to gain control of strategically important technology and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure and supply chains. The increasing strategic coordination between China and Russia is also mentioned as a danger.

In response to the “systemic challenges” posed by China, the NATO countries now want to improve their joint situational awareness and increase resilience and preparedness. This is also intended to protect against attempts by China to split the alliance. An opaque military build-up, malicious cyber attacks and disinformation are mentioned as concrete threats. As with Russia, however, it is stated that NATO remains open to constructive talks to protect the security interests of the alliance.

In the foreword to the concept, NATO describes itself as “a bulwark” of the rules-based international order. “We remain firmly committed to protecting our one billion citizens, defending our territory and securing our freedom and democracy,” it said.