Interview with Matej Tonin, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia

30 June 2021

Following the NATO Summit 2021 in Brussels, the NATO PA caught up with ministers who were closely involved in the meeting to share their insights on the Summit's outcomes. As former members of the NATO PA, they also address how parliamentarians and the NATO PA can best support implementation of NATO's ambitious agenda going forward.

Four questions with Matej Tonin, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, and NATO PA alumnus:

Matej Tonin was an active member of the NATO PA from 2012 to 2020. He served as rapporteur and Chairperson of the Assembly's Sub-Committee on Technology Trends and Security and as Deputy Head of the Slovenian delegation to the NATO PA.

1- Expectations were high for this Summit, particularly in light of the ongoing major shifts in the international security environment. How do you rate the overall outcome? 

In light of security challenges the Allies are facing, the meeting of NATO leaders was very important and its results a major milestone for NATO's future. I consider the decisions taken as a step in the right direction in adjusting to the new geopolitical and security reality. The Alliance continuously adapts and transforms with evolving security challenges. We confirmed once again that our flexibility to adapt to the evolving security environment is our strength. NATO has a global perspective and is prepared to engage with like-minded partners around the globe. On this basis, we will be able to strengthen security in the Euro-Atlantic area, in line with our common values and principles. 
 
With all the decisions taken, the leaders sent a strong message of transatlantic unity and reaffirmed NATO's role as the key forum for transatlantic security consultations. The Summit further upgraded NATO’s foundations to uphold the rules-based international order and counter malicious strategic rivals that undermine our democratic principles and security. 

However, increased ambitions in the Alliance’s agenda will require us to do more and invest more together. This must be accompanied by appropriate strategic messaging. 

2- What were Slovenia's key priorities, and how do you assess the decisions made on these?  

Let me focus on the importance of combining military with non-military instruments of power, enhanced partnerships and in this context on NATO-EU cooperation.
 
I consider the decisions taken regarding our military and political adjustment as evolutionary. Their implementation, although challenging on the national level in terms of funds and personnel, will help maintain NATO’s military superiority. NATO's military power is at the heart of the Alliance, but its political power is no less important due to the nature of the modern security environment. For this reason, we welcome the decision to strengthen the Alliance’s political dimension and its non-military instruments of power, including through enhancing partnerships with countries and organisations. 
 
There is definitely a need to further strengthen partnership with the EU. NATO-EU cooperation is essential to effectively address current security challenges. We welcome broad support amongst Allies for ambitious tasking in NATO 2030 towards enhancing NATO-EU cooperation. EU’s soft power naturally complements NATO’s hard power, and we need to continue to explore and find synergies between each respective organisation’s unique set of tools. We need to exploit the potential of this relationship to the fullest by deepening cooperation on common security issues like military mobility, resilience, cyber defence, climate change and other evolving concerns, such as Russia and China. The security and prosperity of our societies depend on it. The importance of this partnership is reflected in Slovenia’s priorities for EU Council Presidency in the field of defence. 
 
Reaffirmation of the Open Door Policy at the Summit is also very important for us, as we see its results as a success story, especially in the case of Western Balkans. 

3- As rapporteur of the NATO PA’s Science and Technology Committee, you put a strong focus on emerging and disruptive technologies, their opportunities and challenges. The Summit took important steps to preserve NATO's technological edge and interoperability. Are you satisfied with the decisions, and how do you see Slovenia plug into these new efforts?  

With the ever-accelerating technological development, technological dominance has become a key element of NATO's superiority and continuous adaptation to the evolving security environment. New technological solutions will help make our lives easier, but as I also stressed in my reports, they can bring many challenges. We must be aware and prepared for future scenarios by understanding challenges linked with research, development, and adaptation of emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT). Only in this way will we be able to reduce potential vulnerabilities and ensure resilience and adequate functionality of EDT in accordance with our needs and purposes.  
 
In today's security environment, when EDT are becoming more accessible, many actors, including those who do not share our values and interests, challenge NATO’s technological advantage. I believe Summit decisions will contribute to the development and use of modern technologies in line with our values and ethical standards. Alliance efforts in this field will also help promote standards of ethical development around the globe and thus reduce potential malicious use of EDT. 
 
Slovenia welcomes the decisions to establish the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic through which Allies will have a direct impact on the development of future technologies in all stages of development. In these Alliance initiatives, we see opportunities in particular for our small and medium enterprises, which offer niche technological solutions. Joining forces with private sector and research institutes will also contribute to enhancing civil-military cooperation. 

4- Based on your experience as a member of the NATO PA, how can parliamentarians and the NATO PA best support implementation of the ambitious agenda agreed at the Summit? 

The NATO PA is an important forum for in-depth and comprehensive discussions on Euro-Atlantic security issues. Only by openly addressing key security issues and evolving threats, in the Euro-Atlantic area as well as in its neighbourhood, can we raise awareness of the modern security environment. This strengthens public understanding and support for the policies and actions we need take to address complex security challenges. From this point of view, NATO PA contributes to the Alliance’s unity and thus effectiveness in responding to the security environment.
 
NATO PA members bring this awareness and understanding into discussions in Allies’ national parliaments and thus influence the adoption of appropriate policies and actions that support our common ambitions. Awareness and discussions of the reasons why we need to continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence posture, increase common funding and implement other ambitious decisions, are welcome and necessary at the national level to inform policy makers. In this way, we can opt for more informed solutions to common security questions, make Allied national policies more coherent and ensure appropriate national oversight of key developments within NATO.  


Matej Tonin reports:
2019-REPORT ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE : IMPLICATIONS FOR NATO'S ARMED FORCES
2018-DARK DEALINGS: HOW TERRORISTS USE ENCRYPTED MESSAGING, THE DARK WEB AND CRYPTOCURRENCIES
2017-THE INTERNET OF THINGS

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