NATO PA recommends strengthening of eastern flank defences, welcomes membership applications of Sweden, Finland

30 May 2022

NATO must confront the new strategic reality created by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly declared Monday. 

The NATO PA urged Allied leaders to strengthen deterrence and defences when they meet to update NATO’s Strategic Concept next month and welcomed the application of Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance. 

“Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is an act of aggression on a scale not seen since World War II,” said NATO PA President Gerald E. Connolly

“Its ultimate goal is to undermine democracies, to upend the European security order and to destroy the international rules-based order”, added US Congressman Connolly. “The war has created a new strategic reality we need to contend with in the long term.”

Connolly presented a declaration adopted by the NATO PA that called on Alliance leaders to “clearly identify Russia’s malign revisionism and aggressive actions as the most immediate and principal threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” when they meet at a summit next month in Madrid to revise the Strategic Concept.

The Assembly said NATO has to “significantly strengthen” its deterrence and defences and to “swiftly move to a ‘forward defence’ posture”, especially through the permanent deployment of troops and equipment on the eastern flank, to defend “every inch” of Alliance territory. 

That point was emphasised by Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda, who argued that the current policy of maintaining relatively small “tripwire” forces in the Baltic states was no longer viable in the light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“We must do everything it takes to make sure Putin never ever dares to test our boundaries and NATO’s resolve,” he told the Assembly. “We must take the necessary decisions at the Madrid Summit. It is time for the Alliance to define and set the necessary goals aimed at boosting our defences. It is crucial to ensure there is no weak spot left.”

He advocated the deployment of a brigade-sized NATO force. “Staying with the current posture would neither be understood by our societies nor send the right signal to Russia,” Nausėda said. “We need to have the right forces in the right places.”

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana expressed confidence the Madrid summit would answer Allies’ concerns. 

“Our leaders will take important decisions to enhance our force posture on the entire eastern flank,” he said. “This is deterrence, removing any shadow of a doubt and leaving no room for misunderstanding or miscalculation in Moscow, not to provoke conflict but to prevent conflict and preserve peace.”

The speakers of the Finnish and Swedish parliaments also addressed the Assembly. They underscored how their countries will contribute to boosting security for the whole Alliance.

“With Sweden and Finland as an integral part of NATO’s defence planning, it would be much easier to defend the entire Baltic region in the case of an armed conflict,” said Swedish Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlén. “That would not only benefit Sweden and Finland, but also the entire Alliance.”

“We are confident that Finland’s membership would increase stability in the Baltic Sea region and strengthen the security of all of Europe,” added Matti Vanhanen, Speaker of the Parliament of Finland. “Finland and NATO share the same values and are committed to defending the rules-based international order and the principles of European security.”

The NATO PA made clear that, although Russia’s threat looms large, NATO cannot afford to ignore other challenges to Euro-Atlantic security. The Strategic Concept must also tackle terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, instability to the south and the security risks brought about by climate change. 

NATO must agree on a transatlantic China policy based on “engagement, competition, and the defence of Allies’ security interests,” President Connolly said. 

It also has to recommit to the defence of democratic values. “We propose a Democratic Resilience Center at NATO Headquarters,” Congressman Connolly said and noted that the proposal had already garnered wide support among Allies.

“The new Strategic Concept must be rooted in the enduring commitment to its foundational, immutable shared democratic values,” he asserted. “It is time NATO establishes concrete architecture dedicated to the hard work of democracy.”

Other high-level speakers during the plenary assembly included Viktorija Cmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, and Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada.