Document Type : Research Paper
Associate Professor, Department of Regional Studies, Faculty of Law and Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran.
Assistant Professor, Research Institute for Strategic Studies, Tehran, Iran.
Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, and the outbreak of the ensuing crisis, have had important security consequences for the international system and particularly for the security environment of the European Union. Since the end of World War II, it is the first time that the European countries feel the shadow of war in this continent. In fact, this crisis has intensified Europeans' efforts to strengthen their defense capabilities. For instance, Germany has promised for the first time to fulfill its NATO commitment to allocate 2% of its GDP to the defense of the military alliance members. Moreover, the drafting of two key documents, (i.e., Strategic Compass of the European Union, and New Strategic Concept of NATO) shows significant determination to strengthen the capabilities of European countries. The publication of NATO's new strategic concept document of June 2022—which is considered the eighth strategic document of this organization since its establishment in 1949— indicates fundamental changes in the European security environment and a change in the threat perception in NATO, which is showing a tendency to return to the long-standing tradition of deterrence and defense.
Notable changes resulting in a range of policies include the following: First, in the previous strategic concept of NATO at the Lisbon Summit of 2010, it was announced that the Euro-Atlantic region is peaceful and the threat of a conventional attack on NATO territories is low, but in the new strategic concept, it is said that the Euro-Atlantic is no longer in peace and the possibility of endangering the territorial integrity and sovereignty of NATO members should not be ignored. Second, the Lisbon summit sought to establish a strategic partnership with Russia, while in the latest document Russia is considered the most serious threat to the security, stability, and peace of the Euro-Atlantic. Third, China was not mentioned in the Lisbon strategic concept in 2010, however in the new document, Beijing is described as a systematic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. In addition, the deepening of the Moscow-Beijing strategic partnership can be a threat to this organization. Finally, it is stated in the new document that the hybrid operations against this organization can reach the level of an armed attack, thus activating the NATO’s Article 5, which specifies that “[t]he Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”. In sum, regardless of the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia will continue to be a long-term threat to European security.
While Russia's invasion of Ukraine has strengthened NATO in the short term, its long-term political cohesion is still an important concern for the political leadership in the mamber-states. Russia's action also reduced tensions between France, the United States, and the United Kingdom which had erupted after the formation of the AUKUS trilateral security pact for the Indo-Pacific region. After the initial phase of the unity of the European countries to confront the threat of Russia, the member states have shown little signs of agreeing on the future strategies. Apparently, they have moved back toward the old way of putting their national security above the collective security. As this conflict continues, the unity of the European Union will be tested. For instance, the Eastern member states of the Union tend to demand more military support for Ukraine and the tightening of sanctions against Russia. Conversely, the Western members of the Union are less willing to strengthen sanctions, are against sending more weapons to Ukraine, are worried about the increase in tension between NATO and Russia and are unwilling to bear the economic costs of reducing access to the Russian energy sector. Most of the leaders of Western EU countries are thinking beyond deterrence and sanctions and are preoccupied with how to manage relations with Russia in the post-crisis era. The main challenge for European security in the coming years is to strengthen deterrence against Russia and at the same time deal with other security threats.
The focus of this research is to answer the following question: What will be the impact of the formulation of NATO's new strategic concept on the future of NATO-EU cooperation and European security? In the research hypothesis, it is argued that the changes in the EU perception of the Russian threat led to the formulation of the new EU strategic compass, and the emphasis on the role of NATO in European security which would strengthen NATO-EU relations at least in the short term and medium term. To test the hypothesis, the authors rely on the expert analysis offered by the analysts and researchers who have explained the consequences of the transformation of the EU and NATO's strategy for European security. Furthermore, the qualitative conceptual content analysis method is used to analyze the most important official documents of NATO and the European Union as well as the relevant policy statements made by the key government officials of the EU and NATO member-states. As expected, the findings of the research show that changes in the threat perception of the EU leadership which led to the formulation of the new NATO strategic concept have had a positive impact on the strengthening of NATO's role in European security