In Washington, US and European legislators discuss transatlantic relations, priorities for NATO’s new Strategic Concept

03 December 2021

Returning to Washington, DC, after a two-year hiatus, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) gathered at the National Defense University (NDU) from 29 November to 1 December for the 21st edition of the annual Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum. More than 80 legislators from 22 Allied countries and NATO partner Finland exchanged views on key topics on the transatlantic security agenda with high-level US officials and experts.

Held under the Chatham House Rule to ensure frank discussions, this year’s Forum, which coincided with the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Riga, provided an excellent platform for discussions of the United States’ priorities for NATO and other key global challenges as well as initial discussions on the NATO PA’s contribution to NATO’s next Strategic Concept. 

As President Biden prepares to convene the first Summit for Democracy, a common thread of discussions was the importance of reaffirming NATO’s commitment to shared democratic values. The NATO PA has called for the creation of a Democratic Resilience Centre within NATO to serve as a resource of best practices, networking and cross-fertilization on democratic benchmarks, available to NATO members, partners and aspirant countries upon request. NATO PA President Gerald E. Connolly and former Assembly President Michael R. Turner are preparing a bipartisan Congressional resolution in support of this initiative. Delegates also welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement in Riga, where he identified protecting NATO’s democratic values as first among five essential elements for the new Strategic Concept. 

The threat from Russia and challenges from China loomed large throughout the Forum’s deliberations. Both are skilfully using a combination of military means and hybrid techniques to undermine the international rules-based order, to sow divisions among the Allies and to bully their neighbours. Russia’s renewed military build-up in and around Ukraine was an urgent and serious concern for NATO Allies – as made clear by NATO Foreign Ministers in Riga. In turn, defining a common strategy on China will be one of the key tasks for the new NATO Strategic Concept. 

Lessons learned from the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan was another main topic, along with the potential consequences of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, new regional dynamics and the need to remain vigilant to the evolving terrorist threat. 

The meeting also reviewed prospects for strengthened NATO-EU cooperation at a time when the European Union considers its Strategic Compass and NATO its next Strategic Concept, and both organisations are due to sign a new Joint Declaration later this month.

The participants of the Forum discussed a range of other acute issues, including developments in the Middle East and the Western Balkans as well as threats and opportunities posed by emerging and disruptive technologies. 

The Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum is held annually in Washington, DC, in cooperation with NDU and the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Photos of this visit are public and can be found on the NATO PA Flickr account.

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