A TURNING POINT: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 20 (WU WEI)
The recent NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, was one of the most crucial since the organization's establishment 61 years ago, analysts said. The new Strategic Concept approved during the summit charts the future of this military bloc against the backdrop of major changes to the international security situation.
In addition to the new Strategic Concept, NATO members used the summit, which was held November 19-20, to make progress on the establishment of a European missile defense system, and to address NATO's involvement in Afghanistan and relations with Russia.
"The biggest highlight of this summit was the new Strategic Concept," said Xing Hua, a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies. "It redefined NATO's core objectives and tasks, reformed its concept and brought forward its political, military, and external and internal relations policies in new circumstances."
On the evening of November 19, leaders of NATO's 28 member nations approved the new Strategic Concept as a guide for NATO's development over the next 10 years. It was the organization's third strategic document since the Cold War, and was regarded as a strategic adjustment based on the current global security situation.
In the decade since NATO formulated its last strategic plan, both the organization and the world have experienced big changes. Currently, members agree that traditional military attacks are highly unlikely. In the coming decade, NATO will mostly face non-traditional threats, including terrorism, ballistic missile attacks and cyber attacks.
The new Strategic Concept will launch a "more effective, more engaged, and more efficient" alliance, said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The new Strategic Concept outlines NATO's purpose as safeguarding the security of its members through political and military means. It will continue to fulfill the three core tasks of collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.
The new strategy stressed NATO's need to adopt modern defense means against new threats. In the meantime, it reiterated the need to carry out actions beyond NATO borders and to develop partnerships across the world.
A core element of the fresh Strategic Concept is developing the capability of defending against ballistic missile attacks. NATO also agreed on the establishment of a European anti-missile system, planning to expand NATO's current theater missile defense system to a territorial anti-missile system and expand the objects of protection from troops to the populations and territories of member states.
Rasmussen said the new Strategic Concept was not a simple document, but NATO's "action plan," and that NATO would take practical actions based on it.
Xing said this summit, unlike previous ones, adopted a more transparent approach. Before the summit, an expert group consisting of 12 top NATO diplomats was formed, with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as the chair. They submitted a report on NATO's development in the coming decade before the opening of the summit.
"This proves NATO is dealing with challenges in a more objective way in the pressure of the current international situation," said Xing.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's presence was another highlight of this summit. Despite being a military organization born in the Cold War era, NATO is now discussing cooperation with Russia. This should promote a breakthrough in relations and reflects NATO's effort to reposition, analysts said.
"NATO has been trying to cast off its role as a Cold War tool," said Xing. "It is making efforts across the board to establish a real strategic partnership with Russia."
An identity crisis exists in NATO. Since NATO's rival—a group of East European nations led by the Soviet Union and bonded by the Warsaw Pact—disappeared after the Cold War, future development has been a problem. It was in this context that NATO planned reforms.
NATO wanted to prove that, although the Cold War was over, the organization was still valuable to the world, said Xing.
In fact, it is still the world's biggest military and political bloc, and it plays an extremely important role in security, especially in Europe. It has been trying to meet the international community's requirements on safeguarding global security.
Russia and Europe are facing the same security problems, said Zhao Junjie, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Cooperation is the only effective solution to their problems.