The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s (NATO PA) Standing Committee – its governing body – met online on 1 February to demonstrate that Allied parliaments too are united and resolute in response to Russia’s military escalation and threats. The Standing Committee also drew early lessons from this ongoing and grave crisis as it considered the first draft of its recommendations for NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept.
“Today, the foundational framework of European and global security is being put to the test,” NATO PA President Gerald E. Connolly (United States) said, highlighting the seriousness of the current situation. “We must rise to the challenge, demonstrate our unity and resolve, and stand with our Ukrainian friends in firmly countering Russia’s attempt to coerce nations into submission through the threat of aggression.”
Maintaining pressure on Russia to deescalate was central, the President underlined: “Faced with the real threat of renewed military aggression, our nations must keep up the strong pressure we have been building up over the past months to deter Russia from further invasion.”
Nevertheless, actively pursuing a diplomatic resolution was important as well. President Connolly argued that “NATO has offered to Russia a positive path forward for dialogue, and we need to continue to use all available diplomatic means to seek resolution through dialogue.” He cautioned that “it is now to Russia to demonstrate its willingness to step back from the precipice of irrevocable military escalation and the grave consequences that will follow.”
The Standing Committee welcomed the additional deployments by many Allies in support of NATO’s reassurance and deterrence presence in the East and in the Black Sea region, as well as steps taken to increase the NATO Response Force’s preparedness and readiness. It also saluted other tangible demonstrations of solidarity among Allies, including efforts to secure alternative energy sources in the event Russia cuts off gas flowing to Europe.
Allied legislators also reiterated their unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and affirmed their determination to support unprecedented sanctions in the event of renewed aggression. The Assembly’s Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council convened in Brussels last week to take stock of the latest developments and consult with Ukraine’s parliamentarians.
President Connolly highlighted the high stakes and wide-reaching consequences at play in the current crisis. “This crisis is not about Ukraine. It is about the core principles of the rules-based order our nations have put in place since World War II – precisely to avoid the type of naked aggression which we suspect Russia is now contemplating in Ukraine,” he said. “All democratic nations must unite in defence of those core principles and values.”
Assembly members concurred that NATO’s next Strategic Concept must incorporate the early lessons from the current crisis.
The Standing Committee considered the first draft of the recommendations, which the Assembly will submit to NATO and Allied governments. Introducing the text, President Connolly stressed that “NATO’s Strategic Concept must, at a minimum, do two things: first, it must reaffirm the Alliance’s shared values and principles – the glue that binds NATO together and indeed the raison d’être for NATO itself; second, it must adapt NATO to today’s reality of renewed geopolitical rivalry and multifaceted, complex challenges.”
Beyond the obvious lessons in terms of relations with Russia and NATO’s deterrence and defence, President Connolly also highlighted how current tensions with Russia over Ukraine demonstrated the struggle between democracies and autocracies.
“This crisis demonstrates the relevance and timeliness of our recommendation – the NATO Parliamentary Assembly – to place shared democratic values at the heart of NATO’s Strategic Concept and establish, within NATO Headquarters a Center for Democratic Resilience to serve as a resource for NATO members, partners and aspirants alike”, he commented.
The Standing Committee is due to adopt the Assembly’s contribution to NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept in Brussels on 22 February on the heels of its annual joint meeting with the North Atlantic Council. The recommendations will cover the gamut of NATO’s mandate to strengthen and future proof the Alliance against old challenges as well as emerging risks and threats.