Alliance flags in foreground of NATO HQ exterior Brussels (Picture: NATO TV).

NATO: What is the future of the alliance?

Alliance flags in foreground of NATO HQ exterior Brussels (Picture: NATO TV).

NATO has set up a think tank to anticipate future threats and enable it to remain a force to be reckoned with in 2030.

The transatlantic alliance is currently made up of 30 countries.

Some of NATO's most pressing concerns focus on a resurgent Russia and a terrorist threat on NATO’s southern border from war-torn countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

There is also the continuing rise of Asia’s superpower – China.

How might NATO look in 2030? By then, it might have strengthened ties with Asia-Pacific nations and developed into a global alliance.

Future partners could potentially be Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and India, according to the think tank, whose findings were published in December. By 2030, it predicts China will present a major security challenge.

Speaking in November, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “China is investing massively in new weapons. It is coming closer to us, from the Arctic to Africa and by investing in our infrastructure.

"China does not share our values, it does not respect fundamental human rights, and tries to intimidate other countries.”

Defence and security analyst Professor Michael Clarke said of China: “They’re creating real military bases out of coral atolls in order to claim all of the territory, more or less, of the South China Sea.

“They’ve been found in breach of international law because of this but they just ignore it and they use their own gunboats to intimidate fishing fleets from other countries, so we see some very old-fashioned, rather crude, muscular behaviour.

The transatlantic alliance is currently made up of 30 countries (Picture: NATO TV).
The transatlantic alliance is currently made up of 30 countries (Picture: NATO TV).

“The western democracies have got to actually stand together more obviously.”

NATO’s 2030 think tank also views China’s deep involvement in European economies as a potential threat.

However, the alliance may have to broaden its focus beyond conventional means of defence and deterrence.

Cyber attacks launched by rising authoritarian powers against western democracies are certain to become more sophisticated.

There will be one threat that NATO alone cannot defeat – climate change.

Defence correspondent Robert Fox said: “I think NATO is about to be ambushed very severely by the social impact of climate change.

“By the end of this century, and this is a fairly conservative estimate, that out of all our population of potentially around 11 billion, at least three-and-a-half billion will be on the move or will be driven or compelled by climate change.

“I think the change of temperature is now about to go critical in a way that we haven’t seen before.”

The NATO 2030 group of experts says the alliance must be swift and efficient in times of adversity and crisis. It must remain united, it says, against a backdrop of tensions between allies.

Greece and Turkey are in dispute over gas drilling rights in the Mediterranean.

Ankara’s purchase of Russian weapons systems is also causing friction.

Keeping the alliance in one piece may be only one of several major challenges in the decade ahead.

Cover image: NATO TV.

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