Analysing international policy processes and Lithuania’s role in them
Bulletin Apr 01, 2022

NATO Madrid Summit 2022: A Spanish Overview

The Kingdom of Spain will host the next NATO Summit in June 2022. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda was the first head of state among the allies who announced that, after informing about Lithuania’s aim to organise the next NATO Summit foreseen for year 2023.

In the preceding NATO Summit held in Brussels, on June 2021, the allied countries endorsed the document “NATO 2030”, a programme designed to develop more political and military strength, as well as a more global organisation in order to face the multiple threats and challenges of the new strategic context. The “NATO 2030” document was firmly supported by Spain since the outset. This instrument encloses 9 priorities: increasing political consultation and coordination among allied countries; strengthening deterrence and defence capabilities; improving resilience (especially at the social and institutional levels); preserving the technological edge; improving cooperation with partners in training and capacity building; combating climate change; renewing the NATO Strategic Concept (since it was introduced in year 2010, and approved in the NATO Summit held in Lisbon); and allocating appropriate resources to handle all these complex issues. Another outcome from the Summit was a Joint Declaration stressing NATO’s defensive role as an essential forum for security consultations and decisions among the allies, and pledging to continue striving for peace, security and stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

The Spanish overview of the2022 NATO Summit has been emphasised by the Spanish president, highlighting the importance of the “NATO 2030” document, aiming for more multilateralism, a politically and militarily stronger, more comprehensive Alliance, which would be better able to meet the new challenges facing the allied societies, and to be the base for finalizing the new NATO Strategic Concept, which should be approved in 2022.

NATO has to upgrade its Strategic Concept in order to adjust its political and military guidelines according to the new strategic global framework. 12 years after the previous Strategic Concept was released, numerous changes and modulations have happened as NATO enlargement (incorporating new allies -Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020- and  partners- Colombia in 2018), including geopolitical events (such as Libyan campaign, Russian invasion in Crimea, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the British parting with the EU or so-called “Brexit”). Just few months before the NATO Summit, Russian massive attack against Ukraine brings a deep worry for the whole World.

Strengthening the transatlantic link involves internal discussions among allies, pointing to several important issues:

  • Regarding geopolitics, NATO concerns about Russia, China and Afghanistan stay as principal matters of interest.
  • Support to Ukraine and retaliation versus Russian aggression in Ukrainian territory.
  • Deterrence measures facing new Russian menaces threatening particularly the sovereign territories of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Some discrepancies between Americans and Europeans regarding strategic autonomy and the impact of Brexit.
  • Defining NATO`s role concerning the relationship between China and the USA.
  • Functional issues such as the NATO catalogue of missions and list of priorities, reviewing criteria for the distribution of tasks.
  • Implementation and management of disruptive technologies.
  • Crisis management related to pandemics and global supplies and logistics stress and failures.

In the preceding year of the NATO Summit in Madrid, at the population level, unfortunately initially Spaniards seemed not to be deeply concerned about these issues due to exhaustion and social stress stemming from the COVID-19 health and socio-economic standing crisis. Nevertheless, Russian attack in Ukraine has changed Spanish people perception, and it has made Spanish Government to highlight the firm Spanish commitment with NATO membership, also contributing on military assistance for Ukraine. Furthermore, Spain’s leading think-tanks and experts do greatly focus on the Spanish contribution to these matters and their outcomes.

Spanish media has currently not taken the opportunity of linking strategic problems de-stabilizing the Spanish border with Morocco to NATO membership and its potential contribution for valuable solutions; therefore, more attention should be paid to the event for the sake of the Spanish population’s awareness of the benefits of the transatlantic link.

Spain faces next the NATO Summit after having released its National Security Strategy (ESN2021) at the very end of 2021. Spanish expectations currently point to the following issues:

  • The Spanish contribution to the new NATO Strategic Concept.
  • Expanding the Transatlantic Link towards new Spanish-American countries, after Colombia joined NATO partnership in 2018.
  • The context of hybrid threats and attacks as being launched by Morocco at the border with the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
  • Strengthening energy security strengthening and Article 5 involvement, including the protection of international critical energy infrastructures as the Medgaz pipeline linking Spain and Algeria, and stabilizing energy transit areas such as the Spanish-African energy gas corridor in Morocco.
  • Cognitive warfare launched by Russia and other hostile actors, boosting misinformation and fake news campaigns, impacting truth decay and lead to a loss of institutional trust (in 2021, the Spanish Armed Forces approved their STRATCOM doctrine). Despite the initial low Spanish awareness of risks related to the neighbourhood with Belarus and Russia in the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia, Russian cognitive interferences encouraging separatist processes in the Spanish region of Catalonia are clear. After war events caused by Russia in Ukraine, all these matters remain clear for Spain.
  • Spanish military force contributions in areas of interest for NATO such as the Baltic region – Lithuania air police mission, the rapid response unit in Latvia, the Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Estonia. After Russian attack in Ukraine, Spain has sent new troops to Latvia, military aircrafts close to Ukraine and also combat ships to the Black Sea.
  • It seems problematic to really implement the economic commitment of2% of GDP for the military budget. Spain has -by percentage- one of the lowest defence budgets among NATO countries (far from the Baltics), although it is seriously engaged in several NATO military missions. Public-private cooperation upgrading the legal framework for facilitating military industry and civil corporate involvement in military projects.
  • Using new NRBQ resources to counter future pandemics, using modern-tested vectors (as based in mRNA technologies) such as being used in the fight in COVID-19 crisis.
  • Facing new threats linked to future technologic frontiers, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and -in the medium-long term- the Internet of Bodies (IoB), also next generation warfare, particularly in the cognitive domain.

What implications do the above-mentioned matters bear for the Baltic region?:

  • Spain will maintain its support and NATO`s role to secure the Baltic area to face Russian threats.
  • Spain is interested in diplomatic and deterrence measures to face Belarusian hybrid actions at the Lithuanian and Polish borders, as this shows the same problem generated by Morocco against Spain (although there is a lack of Spanish understanding about real Soviet history).
  • Support to Ukraine protection and freedom, and launching sanctions as far as other retaliation and new deterrence measures against Russia.
  • Incorporating lessons learned by the Baltic countries into the NATO Strategic Concept, boosting functional networking and advanced research for military and civil-military applied knowledge from Baltic NATO Centres of Excellence (for Energy Security, Strategic Communication and Cyberdefence issues).

In conclusion, it is expected that the NATO Summit due to be held in Madrid in June 2022 will be a decade milestone for the organisation, with a relevant strategic impact in its modern history. The future will depend on how efficiently the allies will manage the implementation of the expected important outcomes.

Rafael José de Espona is Correspondant Member – Section of Military Law of the Royal Academy of Law of Spain (RAJYL). He defended his doctorate at Law in 2008 (UDC – Spain). He belonged to the Board of Trustees of at the Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science (TSPMI – VU) since 2008 till 2021. Between 2012 and 2015, he was Lecturer of the Universitary Course on Energy Security – Institute General Gutiérrez Mellado (IUGM – UNED) Spanish Ministry of Defence.

He joined in 2013 the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Security and Sustainability Issues (The General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania – Ministry of National Defence). Between 2018 and 2020, he was member of the STRATCOM Doctrine Study Group at the Spanish General Staff Commander`s Technical Cabinet (GABTECJEMAD). Since year 2004, Dr. De Espona is Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania to the Kingdom of Spain (region of Galicia).