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A fresh start to transatlantic relations, and the NATO 2030 strategy process: Foreign Minister Maas at the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers

NATO Headquarters just prior to the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers

NATO Headquarters just prior to the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, © Xander Heinl/photothek.de

23.03.2021 - Article

Other topics on the agenda of their first face-to-face meeting since 2019 are the situation in Afghanistan, as well as Russia.

Today and tomorrow, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of NATO member countries will be convening in Brussels for a special meeting. This is because, thanks to a revival of transatlantic cooperation, the North Atlantic Alliance can now devote itself fully to one of its most important tasks: preparing NATO to meet the challenges of tomorrow and making it, as it were, “fit for the future”. What is helpful in this regard is that all Foreign Ministers will once again be meeting in person, for the first time in nearly two years. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also be travelling to Europe for the meeting, and this will be his first NATO Foreign Ministerial.

The NATO 2030 strategy process

At their last in-person meeting, member countries agreed, at the initiative of Foreign Minister Maas, to conduct something of a “rejuvenation exercise” in order to make the North Atlantic Alliance politically even more able to tackle future challenges. The tasks NATO faces are rapidly changing, and political decision-making needs to keep pace. Minister Maas therefore proposed that the Alliance initiate a reflection process that is now a key topic at this meeting, under the heading “the NATO 2030 strategy process”. In February, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presented strategic recommendations on NATO’s further development that have since then been discussed in the North Atlantic Council.

On Afghanistan, a decision is expected soon

German troops have now been deployed to Afghanistan for two decades. The German Government shares the desire of its NATO partners to end this operation soon. However, we believe that the withdrawal from Afghanistan must be carried out in a way that everything that has been achieved for the women and men of Afghanistan during the many years of the NATO-led mission is not immediately eradicated when foreign troops leave the country. This includes, for example, a stable security situation and advances in the rights of women and girls. The decisive factor here is whether or not progress can be made in the intra-Afghan peace process. Dialogue between the various sides is proving to be difficult, and the talks have been drawn out. But what is important is that the parties to the conflict are even negotiating with each other and thereby preparing a path to sustainable peace.

On Russia, unity is key

For NATO and many of its partners, relations with the Russian Federation are proving difficult. Foreign Minister Maas firmly believes that only a unified approach with a common position will send a clear signal to Russia, namely that Russia’s repeated violations of international law will not be accepted, neither in the EU nor at NATO. However, he has also emphasised time and again that we must maintain dialogue with Russia and seek to improve our relationship with the country. For this, signs of détente are needed on the part of Moscow, and it must also budge on pragmatic issues. In the sphere of arms control, for example, there needs to be greater trust and cooperation between the two sides. This, too, will be on the agenda during the spring meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers.

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