With eyes on the Arctic, NATO prepares to confront Russia-Ukraine, climate threats to global security at annual summit
World leaders will convene in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 11-12 for the annual NATO Summit. This year, leaders of the 31 member states will focus on the Russian-Ukraine war and emerging threats, with particular concern for the profound impact of climate change, USC experts say.
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Arctic allies are key to combating climate change
“Sweden’s stalled membership is sure to be a central topic of discussion at the NATO summit. Should Sweden join NATO — on the heels of Finland’s membership, confirmed earlier this year — seven of the eight Arctic countries would be NATO members,” said Allison Agsten, inaugural director of USC Annenberg’s Center for Climate Journalism and Communication.
“Aside from security concerns triggered by the war in Ukraine, the formalization of allyship in the region is crucial as climate change is causing rapid warming in the Arctic, creating new sea routes, and keeping existing routes open for longer, further exposing member countries to vulnerability. As never before, climate stories are inextricably connected to foreign policy stories,” she said.
To strengthen its Arctic presence, NATO shifts focus on Turkey
“The Arctic is poised to become a stronghold of NATO presence. We can expect discussions to revolve around the significance of the Arctic in global affairs as world leaders prepare for more military exercises in the North Atlantic, Barents Sea, and greater Arctic region,” said Steven Lamy, professor emeritus of political science and international relations and spatial sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“These strategic exercises aim to reinforce the alliance’s presence and counter the Russian Bastion strategy, rally support for Ukraine, deter potential aggression, and ensure stability amid emerging security threats,” he said.
In addition to addressing the Arctic’s importance, there will be a concerted effort to secure Turkish support for Swedish membership in NATO, Lamy said. Recognizing the strategic value of Swedish inclusion and the need for a unified stance, the United States is expected to contribute its jets, bolstering NATO’s capabilities and potentially rallying support from Turkey.
Vilnia: A strategic choice for addressing conflict and cohesion
“While expanding membership in NATO might seem like a good thing, the organization already is unwieldy, and we have seen how that is playing out in the EU. The troubled U.S. faces the usual challenge of preserving cohesion in an alliance that many members consider essential to their safety but not worthy of any significant financial contribution,” said Patrick James, dean’s professor of international relations and director of the Center for International Studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
James explained that the Summit’s location in Lithuania, which borders with Russia, will naturally increase the visibility of what happens as the war in Ukraine reaches a turning point.
Despite outward unity among NATO members, internal discord looms over Ukraine
“The US is preparing to send internationally banned cluster munitions to help Ukraine, something that other NATO members strongly oppose. As for admitting Ukraine, East and West European allies remain deeply divided on the timeline for this,” said Robert English, an associate professor of international relations, Slavic languages and literature and environmental studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“All NATO members are straining to provide the missiles and artillery shells that Ukraine is consuming at record rates, and there is frustration at seeing so many Wester-supplied tanks and other armored vehicles destroyed by Russia within the first month of Ukraine’s stumbling counteroffensive,” he said.
Can NATO help move the needle on climate change?
“The summit provides an opportunity make progress on NATO’s pledges to contribute to solutions to the climate change issue through, for example, increased energy efficiency in its military operations. It also provides an opportunity to further enhance its assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation and adaptation,” said Adam Rose, a research professor in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, and director emeritus, senior research fellow of USC’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Threats and Emergencies (CREATE).
Public diplomacy is key in countering disinformation, navigating shifting global dynamics
“Although the NATO summit will focus principally on the war in Ukraine, members of the alliance should also upgrade NATO’s public diplomacy efforts, in the short term to further counter Russia’s disinformation campaign about the war, and in the longer term to more fully address expansion of China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” said Philip Seib, professor emeritus of journalism and public diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Jeffrey Fields is an expert in American foreign policy, diplomacy, and international security, particularly nonproliferation. He is a professor of the practice of political science and international relations, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Contact: email@example.com
Gregory Treverton is an expert in national intelligence and security, technopolitics, and foreign affairs. He serves as professor of the practice of international relations and spatial sciences at USC Dornsife. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)