NATO in a New Era: Global Shifts, Global Challenges

February 11, 2022
3 min read
Photo credit: railway fx /
Today, NATO is confronted by several defining challenges.

From Russia’s efforts to undermine and threaten the alliance and its partners to China’s increased global role, the threat posed by climate change, and crises in Europe’s neighborhood, the allies are again forced to adapt to make NATO fit for purpose. Central to this effort will be the new strategic concept put forward at the Madrid NATO summit in June.

To help inform the summit, the drafting of the strategic concept, and pressing conversations around key challenges facing NATO, the German Marshall Fund is launching a new publication series—NATO in a New Era: Global Shifts, Global Challenges.

The series consists of seven briefs addressing NATO’s policy toward China and Russia, its engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, cyber policy, climate change, and societal resilience.

NATO Core Tasks in a Contested Global Landscape

Given developments in and around the Euro-Atlantic area over the past decade and more, elevating and reigniting the role of defense and deterrence should be at the center of NATO deliberations. This will require members to reassess core assumptions about their own defense, including understanding pressures on US foreign policy and European contributions to the alliance. To help understand and respond to these internal trends, this brief unpacks these key themes that will be critical in NATO’s ability to shore up its collective defense and assert deterrence for a Euro-Atlantic area more insecure and under threat.

NATO’s Sub-strategic Role in the Middle East and North Africa

NATO’s role in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is politically and operationally complex. That a security and defense organization would play an important role in a contiguous region from which numerous security threats emanate makes intuitive sense. As NATO seeks to adapt to the evolving security environment while revisiting its Strategic Concept, its ambition and role in the MENA need to be factored in.

NATO and Digital Cooperation with the Indo-Pacific

While NATO considers how to address the China challenge at home through greater coordination in areas of technological development, it should also seek to leverage the strengths of its like-minded partners, and bring partner countries that are important actors in EDTs, such as Australia and Japan, into NATO’s programing in this field.

NATO and Climate Change: Better Late Than Never

It has taken some time for the security implications of climate change to find their way on to the NATO agenda. The planet is sending repeated warnings that climate change has reached a tipping point and poses a constant threat to the functionality of economies and societies.

NATO and Russia after the Invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the culmination of its increasingly militarized foreign policy centered around a small cast of decision-makers primarily in the military and security services close to the president. Its approach is aggressive, risk-tolerant, and deeply revisionist, spanning domains and leaning heavily on brutal tactics to achieve victory.

NATO’s Role in Global Cyber Security

Malicious cyber activity has increased substantially over the past years, ranging from ransomware and espionage to politically motivated cyberattacks and sophisticated malware used in the war in Ukraine. NATO allies must remain on high alert.

NATO and Societal Resilience: All Hands on Deck in an Age of War

The ability of societies to withstand and adapt in crises and emergencies is an essential element of national security and defense. As illustrated most sharply by Ukraine’s reaction to Russia’s invasion, the preparedness of a society, its readiness to sustain sacrifices and hardship, and its will to fight are of paramount importance for national survival and liberty.

This publication series is a part of a project supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.