Alliance Must Adapt Fast to Meet New Security Challenges from All Directions

21 May 2023

NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly responded Sunday to an array of threats posed by authoritarian actors as they challenge democratic values and the rules-based international order. Lawmakers urged Alliance governments to maintain a 360-degree response to a fast-changing security landscape.

While focusing on the need to support Ukraine and stand up to the threat from Russia, the Assembly proposed specific measures for NATO on issues ranging from systemic challenges posed by China to disinformation campaigns seeking to undermine democracy, Iran’s disruptive activities and enhanced risks from global food insecurity.

“Russia’s criminal war against Ukraine has fuelled an alarming and rapid worsening of the already dire global food insecurity situation,” warned Julie Dzerowicz, a member of Canada’s House of Commons, in a draft report presented at the NATO PA’s Spring Session.

“This tsunami of hunger could sweep away global stability and, in turn, test the resilience of Allied countries,” Dzerowicz added. “Addressing the food insecurity crisis is therefore both a moral duty and a security imperative for the Alliance.”  

Dzerowicz’s report was one of several presented at the four-day meeting in Luxembourg, where legislators representing citizens of the 31 NATO nations urged Alliance leaders to take resolute action to bolster support for Ukraine, step up its response to Russia’s threat and tackle wider security challenges when they meet for a summit in July. 

The Assembly’s President, French Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, focused on the threat posed by Russian disinformation activities. 

"These disinformation operations have multiple objectives. First among them is to weaken democratic societies and erode societal cohesion. Russia's disinformation operators are attempting to identify and exacerbate existing fault lines within and between our countries", she told the Assembly's Committee on Democracy and Security. "Their second purpose is to undermine Allied citizens' faith in democracy, including by targeting electoral institutions and processes." 

Garriaud-Maylam outlined a range of possible measures that NATO governments could employ to respond to such threats, including more resources for monitoring and counter measures, sanctions against key players in the Kremlin’s disinformation ecosystem and the establishment of a Centre for Democratic Resilience at Alliance headquarters.  

Media literacy and education campaigns should help citizens detect fake news, and Allies should fund public service media in NATO countries that provide factual and objective alternatives to Russia’s disinformation, particularly in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, Garriaud-Maylam concluded. 

While focused on the immediate task of helping Ukraine prevail in its resistance to Russia’s illegal war and bolstering NATO’s response to Russia’s threat, Allies must not lose sight of the systemic, long-term challenge that China poses to Allies’ “interests, security and values,” cautioned Romanian deputy Ana-Maria Catauta

“The Euro-Atlantic community has little choice but to brace for an extended rivalry with authoritarian China,” Catauta noted in a draft report for the Assembly’s Political Committee. 

As NATO remains focused on its direct area of responsibility in the Euro-Atlantic region, she said member governments should “demonstrate solidarity” with the United States and other Allies as they need to dedicate resources to the rivalry with China. Allies should work more closely with “like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific” region and seek to create space for de-escalation and understanding with China on “pressing global challenges” such as climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. 

Challenges posed by Iran, were also highlighted at the Luxembourg meeting, particularly its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine.  

“Allied countries need to sustain pressure on the regime in Tehran and clearly send the message that violence and oppression against civilians will not work and that support for Russian aggression and terrorism on the European continent is unacceptable and will have long-term adverse consequences for the regime,” stated Belgian lawmaker Theo Francken

A key element of NATO’s adaptation is the maintenance of an open-door policy for democratic nations that seek membership of the defensive Alliance, regardless of the pressure on them from outside powers, said Lithuanian member Audronius Azubalis

In his draft report, Azubalis welcomed Finland’s entry into NATO in April and called on Allies to swiftly confirm Sweden’s membership. “Their accession would send a powerful message to Putin and his terrorist regime that their full-scale invasion of Ukraine failed completely in its stated goal to prevent and roll back NATO enlargement,” he said. 

Ukraine should also be given a clear path to NATO membership when Allied leaders meet for their summit in Vilnius in July, Azubalis added.  

“Ukraine is demonstrating on the battlefield that it belongs to the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies, paying the ultimate price to protect it,” he told the Political Committee. “For the future European security framework to be robust and sustainable, Ukraine must become a member of NATO.” 

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