Meeting in Riga on November 30th and December 1st, 2021, NATO Foreign Ministers discussed NATO’s support for Ukraine’s and Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the lessons learned from the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan over almost two decades, developments in the Western Balkans and the new NATO Strategic Concept.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow to be transparent, de-escalate and reduce tensions, following Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine. The Secretary General said ministers also addressed Belarus’ hybrid campaign against Allies, as well as NATO’s leading role in arms control.
Ministers also discussed what lessons to draw from the Alliance’s almost two-decade-long mission in Afghanistan: following the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and forces in August, a comprehensive political and military assessment was conducted over the autumn, with the active involvement of Allies and experts.
The assessment found that NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan demonstrated immense capacity and military capabilities, and that in an increasingly complex security environment, crisis management should remain a core task for NATO. It also concluded that the international community’s level of ambition in Afghanistan extended far beyond degrading terrorist safe havens, and that in future, Allies should continuously assess strategic interests, set achievable goals, and remain aware of the dangers of mission expansion. The assessment makes a number of other recommendations, including on maintaining interoperability with operational partners; considering the political and cultural norms of host nations, as well as their ability to absorb capacity-building and training; and ensuring timely reporting and meaningful consultations. It also suggests that NATO should consider how to strengthen its capabilities to conduct short-notice, large-scale evacuation operations in the future.
The assessment’s key conclusions and recommendations are intended to inform NATO’s political and military leaders as they consider and direct future crisis management operations.
Developments in the Western Balkans were also on the agenda, with Finland, Sweden, and the EU High Representative joining the discussion.
Allies also discussed the next Strategic Concept which, next to the Washington Treaty, is NATO’s most important guiding document; the last one dates back to 2010 and since then the world’s security has changed significantly. The next Strategic Concept is an opportunity to set out how NATO will deal with this new reality.
In the words of the Secretary General, “Five elements are critical: Protecting our values; Reinforcing our military power; Strengthening our societies; Taking a global outlook; Building NATO as the institutional link between Europe and North America.”