North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
Belgium is a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance, which was established at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on 4 April 1949. Belgium's membership reflects the political decision to guarantee the security and defence of our country in a multilateral framework: following the Second World War, Belgium has consistently placed its foreign security policy in a multilateral framework, in which NATO is the cornerstone of defence of its territory. This policy has proven its merit in the past 70 years.
In the current European security architecture, there is no alternative which can guarantee the objective of defending our country. Belgium attaches great importance to the collective and defensive character of the Alliance, as enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Today, the Alliance is the guarantee of the defence of the shared values and principles on which our society is built. The Allies have "faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and [desire] to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security."
NATO plays a central role in our security and defence policy, both in terms of deterrence and defending NATO territory, and conducting peace and security efforts elsewhere in the world. Trans-Atlantic cooperation and consultation related to security and defence with European Allies, the United States and Canada are essential within NATO. Belgium positions itself as a reliable and credible partner within NATO and also advocates for the Alliance to continue to respond appropriately to new challenges and threats. It is important for Belgium to ensure cohesion and solidarity within the Alliance.
In the current security environment, Russian actions are detrimental to stability in the east, starting with the Russian interference in Georgia and Moldavia and more recently with the annexation of Crimea (1914) and interference in the Donbass. With such actions Russia has violated the Helsinki Final Act (1975) and the Paris Charter (1990). Hybrid Russian actions such as cyberattacks, actions of the intelligence services or interference in national elections are another issue. Russian investments in military capacity ‑and more specifically the increased military presence around the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea– are not conducive to a stable European security environment. The repeated and large-scale unannounced exercises, the aggressive nuclear rhetoric and the lowered nuclear threshold continue to be a cause for concern. The fact that Russia no longer complies with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by installing missiles that exceed the maximum allowed range is also worrying. The attack in Salisbury in March 2018, including the use of toxic chemical agents as a weapon, has been condemned by the EU and by NATO and Russia's involvement in this attack is regarded as very probable.
In the South conflicts and the widespread instability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are making many victims. This volatile and violent security situation is a breeding ground for terrorist organisations, some of which have perpetrated attacks against EU and NATO states. The difficult situation in the MENA zone has led to waves of migration to Europe with a destabilising effect. Terrorism by Islamic State (Daesh) continues to pose a serious threat for populations in the Middle East (including Syria and Iraq among others) and Africa (including the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa). At the same time, it now also threatens the citizens of Western countries.
According to the Strategic Concept (Lisbon, 2010), the Alliance has 3 core tasks; see: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_68580.htm):
- deterrence and collective defence;
- crisis management;
- cooperative security.
Each of the Alliance's core tasks are important. More information regarding the structure, operation, etc. of NATO can be found on their website https://www.nato.int.
1. Deterrence and collective defence
The European security environment has become more negative in recent years. Important challenges and threats in the east and in the south are cause for concern, and highlight how relevant our membership of the defence organisation is for our security. NATO remains focused on current threats (including cyber threats and terrorism) and challenges, for which the Alliance maintains a 360° azimuth and simultaneously and effectively responds to the challenges in the north, east and south.
The first core task is illustrated by an enhanced Forward Presence, enhanced Air Policing in the airspace of the Baltic States, cyber defence... commitments about defence spending (Wales, 2014) and national resilience (Warsaw, 2016),… As part of their commitment at the Wales Summit, the Member States shall increase their defence spending to 2% by 2024 and meet the collective need for more investments in capability. The individual Allies must increase their national resilience to be capable of resisting hybrid threats (for the most part). To a certain extent, this also includes operations in Iraq as part of the fight against Daesh.
The cooperation between NATO and the EU in 74 specific activities provides a coherent, synergistic response to existential threats including hybrid threats/warfare. The 'military mobility' case is a good example of this cooperation, which supports the European security architecture.
2. Crisis Management
The increase in the number of operations and missions outside its territory is part of the second core task of crisis management. These operations and missions generally fall under a mandate of the United Nations Security Council, which has the backing of our country. The Alliance can either act as the primary or most important actor, or contribute to the efforts of the international community, if it is present and active.
The second core task is illustrated by operations such as Libya (2011), the Western Balkan and Afghanistan. The Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan aims to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorism again, from which attacks could be launched on Allies. Heads of state and government leaders of the Alliance and of the operational partner countries have reiterated this at every high-level summit.
The Counter Hybrid Support Teams, which the heads of state and government leaders established (2018) must be able to assist Allies ad hoc in case of a hybrid crisis. The individual sovereign States continue to have primary responsibility in hybrid situations however.
In recent years, our country has argued in favour of improving information sharing between the intelligence services of the various allies. This also applies to initiatives within the Alliance regarding information sharing to combat terrorism and the exchange of biometric data and best practices.
3. Cooperative security
NATO cooperates in various ways with more than 40 partner countries: the Euro-Atlantic Partnership, the NATO Russia Council, the NATO Ukraine Commission, the NATO Georgia Commission, the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI). The Alliance also cooperates with partners in other parts of the world who share our values. The intention is to strengthen local security and defence through dialogue and cooperation as well as to generate more transparency, increased mutual understanding and greater security. This ties in with NATO's Projecting Stability initiative, whereby the Alliance wishes to create internal stability and security in a context of instability and terrorism. Ukraine and Georgia are important partners for the Alliance.
As far as the relationship with Russia is concerned, Belgium (in the spirit of the Harmel Doctrine, 1967) continues to underwrite the dual approach, i.e. a credible military deterrent in combination with a political dialogue that may be conducive to a détente. Belgium calls on Russia to engage in a constructive dialogue.
With the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) initiative, NATO intends to increase the capacity and resilience of specific partners by aligning the cooperation more effectively with their specific needs. The Alliance emphasises the fight against terrorism in this projection of stability to the partner countries, which is why Belgium actively supports Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia. Belgium also collaborates with Georgia in the framework of the DCB.
The EU is a strategic partner of NATO. Seamless, transparent, and mutually reinforcing cooperation between NATO and the EU is vital, and is a priority for Belgium. As such, our country's action is focused both on NATO and the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU. With respect to NATO, the EU is a complementary actor in the spheres of security and defence, for which the EU even has the ambition of taking more responsibility in resolving certain crises, especially in Europe. Currently the EU and NATO collaborate closely in the framework of 74 proposals in 7 strategic domains: 1) hybrid threats; 2) cooperation at sea and against migration; 3) cyber security and defence; 4) defence capability; 5) defence industry and research; 6) exercises and 7) support for the capability building of eastern and southern partners. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs have added counter-terrorism, military mobility and women/peace/security (UNSCR 1325) to this.
In addition, the Allies pursue an 'open door' policy, meaning that countries who wish to join and who meet certain criteria, can become members. This policy was initiated in 1952 with the accession of Greece and Turkey; the most recent accession at the present time is Montenegro (2017).
Disarmament and non-proliferation are also significant causes for concern. Belgium strongly supports all credible and targeted efforts with the aim of effective and balanced disarmament around the world, both for nuclear and conventional weapons. NATO's Strategic Concept confirms the Belgian vision, and is unequivocal in this respect: the Alliance is determined to bring about a safer world for all and create the circumstances in which a world without nuclear weapons is possible, whilst also reiterating that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Belgium has actively supported the Alliance's meaningful nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.
Children and Armed Conflict (UNSCR 1612). Since 2011, our country has presided over an informal group of countries, which has increased awareness of the problem of Children and Armed Conflict in NATO's structures and procedures. In 2015, NATO approved a policy, at Belgium's urging, which focuses on support for the UN's mandate to provide the necessary training for troops which are confronted in the field with serious children's rights violations.
Women Peace & Security (WPS) (UNSCR 1325). Another important Belgian spearhead consists of promoting women/peace/security within NATO. These initiatives also receive Belgian political and effective support, a fact that our Allies appreciate. WPS is crucial for transposing NATO's fundamental values, i.e., individual freedom, democracy, human rights and our obligations according to the United Nations Charter. These shared values and international obligations mean women can only fully participate in society if their rights are respected. The emphasis is on three pillars: integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
Belgium takes the role of being the host country for the (civil-military) headquarters of NATO in Brussels (Haren/Evere) and the SHAPE military command in Mons seriously, and provides jointly-agreed support in a loyal manner.
The most recent state of affairs in the various NATO issues can be consulted in the Communiqué of the last NATO summit meeting of heads of state and government leaders. Follow this link for the Brussels Summit (2018).