The leaders’ meeting was held in times when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will not support the Alliance’s plan for the Baltic region and tensions due to the Turkish offensive in Syria. While French President Emanuel Macron claimed that NATO was brain dead, US President Donald Trump criticized Macron for making such a statement, as well as other members for failing to allocate enough resources for defense.

In parallel with the summit, a high-level NATO Engages Conference was held, bringing together presidents, prime ministers, and other key decision-makers, university and think tank representatives to mark the Alliance’s 70th anniversary, but also to discuss the future of the Alliance.

The focus was on the future of NATO, the analysis on how it addresses current geopolitical uncertainty, natural changes, threats and new opportunities. Discussions included: hybrid warfare, disinformation, cyber security, the development of new technologies, situation in the geopolitical scene, and others.

The Alliance is agile, active and delivering

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in one panel that the Alliance is proving every day to be agile, active and delivering. NATO is doing much more now than it has done in previous years. Commenting on Macron’s statement, he noted that NATO has been the most successful alliance in history because we were able to change over and over again as the world changed.

Ben Wallace, the British Secretary of State for Defence, said that NATO had doubled in numbers over the course of history, making friends from previous enemies. He said that member states must stand united because their enemies are hoping for division among them. Traditional warfare has changed. Our enemies are now lurking out of the shadows, he said, stating that hybrid warfare is a new reality

On the threats of the modern age

The event also discussed the threats of the modern age, that is, disinformation. The panel, entitled The Battle for Your Mind: Societal Resilience and the (Dis) Information Era was opened by Katarina Klingova, GLOBSEC, and Jakub Kalensky, DFRLab, to illustrate the nature of disinformation.

Carl Miller from the Center for the Analysis of Social Media and Rand Waltzman from RAND Corporation (US think tank) spoke about using fake news and disinformation as a tool of politics. The aim, they say, is to highlight narratives that divide society and undermine trust in public institutions.

Particular attention was paid to artificial intelligence as well as the implications it may have for the future of warfare. Eminent experts spoke of changes in the battlefield as a consequence of the rapid development of technology.

Panel participants concluded that hybrid and cyber threats are becoming more frequent, more complex, more destructive and coercive. The key message is that more concrete multilateral cooperation and support between Member States is needed.

London Declaration

On the second day of the summit, the leaders adopted a nine-item Declaration. The cornerstone principles of the Alliance remain solidarity, unity, and cohesion. From the point of view of the Digital Forensic Center, item six is the most important one, focusing on, among other things, the hybrid threats.

We will continue to increase the resilience of our societies, as well as of our critical infrastructure and our energy security. NATO and Allies, within their respective authority, are committed to ensuring the security of our communications, including 5G, recognizing the need to rely on secure and resilient systems. We have declared space an operational domain for NATO, recognizing its importance in keeping us safe and tackling security challenges, while upholding international law. We are increasing our tools to respond to cyber-attacks, and strengthening our ability to prepare for, deter, and defend against hybrid tactics that seek to undermine our security and societies. We recognize that China’s growing influence presents both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance. The Declaration states that they remain open for dialogue, and to a constructive relationship with Russia.

Article 3 of the Declaration

We, as an Alliance, are facing distinct threats and challenges emanating from all strategic directions. Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all. State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order. Instability beyond our borders is also contributing to irregular migration. We face cyber and hybrid threats, is stated in item 3 of the London Declaration.

Bearing in mind comments of the officials, as well as a global development of the situation, it seems that leaders’ summit and the conference at the highest level have never been of greater importance.