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NATO tries to reinvent itself at Lisbon summit

NATO leaders are expected to approve a new blueprint for the next 10 years when they gather at a summit in Lisbon on Friday. The 'strategic concept' is long overdue, but will it suffer from defense budget cuts among alliance members?

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It’s being called NATO version 3.0.

After more than a decade without a blueprint for the transatlantic alliance, NATO’s 28 member states are expected to unite behind a “strategic concept” at a summit in Lisbon this week.

The update is long overdue. Threats to NATO have changed dramatically since the end of the cold war, when the 40-year-old first version of NATO suddenly seemed to lose relevance.Without the Soviet menace, what was the purpose of static armies positioned in a defensive posture toward the East? In a post-cold-war version 2.0, NATO rediscovered its purpose as it consolidated peace in newly democratic Eastern Europe, managed crises in the Balkans, and entered a long war far afield in Afghanistan.

Now it is reinventing itself again.The primary mission of the Canadian, American, and European allies will still be mutual defense: An attack on one is an attack on all.

But the “new” NATO is expected to commit itself to modernizing in order to face modern threats: not just international terrorism, but also attacks on cybersecurity and energy.

Remarkably, its members appear to be on board with a missile-defense shield to protect from potential ballistic missiles. More than 30 nations are acquiring such technology. That includes troublesome Iran, which flexed its muscles on the eve of the Lisbon summit by testing a new air-defense system and describing NATO decisionmakers as “politically backward.”

The war in Afghanistan, meanwhile, has taught the alliance that threats to home can be centered in far-off places. NATO is set to formally acknowledge that it needs to be able to rapidly deploy to those places, train local troops there, lash up with civilian tools, and partner with other countries – especially Russia.


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