Face-to-face dialogue "NATO's strategic approach to Russia".

Javier Colomina, Félix Sanz Roldán and Mira Milosevich

The Rafael del Pino Foundation organised, on 28 March 2022, face-to-face dialoguein the Rafael del Pino auditorium, "NATO and Russia's strategic approach". in which the following participated Javier Colomina, Félix Sanz Roldán and Mira Milosevich.

Félix Sanz RoldánGeneral Sanz Roldán, General of the Spanish Army served as Director of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) from July 2009 to July 2019 and as Chief of Defence Staff (JEMAD) during the first government of President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004-2008). General Sanz Roldán has served in the Spanish Armed Forces since 1962 when he joined the General Military Academy. He was assigned to the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C. as Military Attaché. Within the Ministry of Defence, Félix Sanz Roldán has been Deputy Director General of Plans and International Relations and Director General of Defence Policy, before becoming JEMAD in 2004. He retired from active service in 2019, after 57 years of service.

Javier Colomina is Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and Special Representative of the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for the Caucasus and Central Asia. A member of the diplomatic service since 2001, he has held a number of important posts in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the Spanish Mission to the United Nations, the Spanish Embassies in Syria, Argentina and Japan, and the Spanish Delegation to NATO.

Mira Milosevich-Juaristi is a Senior Research Fellow at the Real Instituto Elcano and Associate Professor of Russia's Foreign Policy at the Instituto de Empresa (IE University). She holds a PhD in European Studies from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Diploma of Advanced Studies in the area of International Public Law and International Relations from the same university. She holds a degree in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Belgrade. She has taught postgraduate courses in Political Science and International Relations in the Doctoral Programmes of the Instituto Universitario de Investigación José Ortega y Gasset.


On 28 March 2022, a dialogue entitled "NATO and Russia's Strategic Approach" took place at the Foundation, with the participation of Félix Sanz Roldán, General of the Spanish Army and former Director of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), and Javier Colomina, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and Special Representative of the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Félix San Roldán: No reason justifies Putin's behaviour, the barbarism he has unleashed in Ukraine that we have all seen. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we fell into the paradigm that relations with Russia consisted of Russia saying it was great and the rest of us believing it. While we lived in that paradigm, NATO's eastward enlargements took place, which were good for the alliance's open-door policy. Although the Russians expressed concerns about enlargement to include the Baltic republics, enlargement took place. Then, from 2007 onwards, Putin said that Russia was already big and no longer cared if others believed it, so decisions on Europe had to be consulted with him. Last August, to all intents and purposes, we lost the war in Afghanistan and came out of it in a situation that could not have been worse. At that time we also knew that the United States said it was going to the Pacific and what happened happened happened. The EU was in domestic discussions. Putin perceived our weakness and acted accordingly. Crisis management between Russia and the others raised the rhetorical tone of the discussion a lot, which then makes it harder to back down because it ends up looking like someone has lost. Shortly before the invasion of Ukraine there is a geopolitical situation that has changed radically, a situation of weakness and a situation that makes crisis management difficult. This situation is where what we have today comes in. Russia wants to exploit our weakness, exploit its strength and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. At the Madrid summit in 1997, one of the documents that was approved was the act for a special NATO-Ukraine relationship. The Ukrainian JEMAD sat where he belonged in alphabetical order. Then came the Partnership for Peace and they were there too. The discussion was at the Bucharest summit in May 2008, where there was no agreement on Ukrainian and Georgian membership. Then the US president said that if Ukraine doesn't join now, we don't know where the situation will lead, and Ukraine didn't join. That's how we got to today's situation. Ever since Cicero it has been said that you have to know how to manage victory, and here there are some doubts about whether it could have been managed better.

Javier: NATO enlargement is based on articles in NATO's founding treaty. The open-door policy has been very successful and is based on the fact that we are asked to join NATO and the Allies decide whether the country is ready and willing to join. What the current war shows is that we should not take peace for granted. Peace is built and one of the reasons for building peace and stability in Europe has been the successive enlargements of the EU and NATO. The debate now is if enlargement to Georgia and Ukraine had taken place, Putin would not have invaded Ukraine, even though Russia might have some security concerns, although they are not legitimate because no one is entitled to spheres of influence under the UN charter. The only mistake that was made, in the light of what happened, is that something was promised that could not be delivered quickly, that Ukraine and Georgia would take many years to accede to NATO because they do not meet the conditions for NATO membership. It is also difficult in the short term for NATO to agree because these countries have territories occupied by Russia. Perhaps two countries much weaker than Russia were put at risk without actually joining NATO. It is a policy that depends on elements of pure national geopolitics. The mistake was to allow ourselves to be driven at the time by a desire for national priorities in some countries when Georgia or Ukraine were not ready to join NATO.

Felix: NATO's '99 strategic concept was developed through extensive consultation among the Allies. All Allies were involved in its elaboration, not simply its approval. It was a time of great evolution, citing out-of-area missions for the first time. While it was being discussed, Serbia was being attacked. It was clear that we were in a different NATO and that its military forces had to have different characteristics. In 2009, we were much less involved. The discussions that everyone was involved in gave cohesion to the alliance, trying to avoid one ally's interest being outside Europe and all the allies having to go there. Now, at this moment, when we are going to proceed with the drafting of a new strategic concept, there are elements on which we can base ourselves. On the one hand, the Alliance's Agenda 2030 was adopted. The Alliance generates its own doctrine over time. There is one element, which is the communiqué of the summit of 22 March, in which we find all the fundamental elements of what the strategic concept should contain. It contains what were called force generation guidelines. NATO must have such military forces, such societies and such financing. This communiqué does not fall into the shortcomings of other strategic concepts in which it forgets what military forces should be like, that they will be useful insofar as they serve the societies they are in and that societies have to be resilient, and there is also the question of funding. This is being done through a task force created for this purpose, which will take into account the mandate of the summit on the 22nd.

Javier: The impact of what is happening on the next strategic concept is going to be enormous because until now we have been talking about a Euro-Atlantic area at peace and for the first time we are going to have to define it as being at war. There are three fundamental tasks that NATO performs: collective defence, cooperative security and crisis management. These will remain, but the impact of what happens is going to be enormous on these tasks because we are going to need more and better prepared forces, we are going to need more resources. Also on the relationship with our partners, because they may be at risk, in particular Georgia, Ukraine and Bosnia, and other countries like Moldova, and we have to consider what NATO's future relationship with them will be. It will have an impact on the strategic concept in defining the risks and threats for the coming years, because of the presence of China and because of the presence of Russia, which is not an adversary but a threat, an enemy. This threat has an effect on the decisions that are taken. These elements will have an effect on the strategic concept. In any case, many elements can be found in the 2030 agenda. The ultimate goal is for NATO to be stronger militarily, stronger politically, more global and better resourced. Also more resilient societies, which are better able to resist not only an armed attack, but also in cyberspace, where China represents a major challenge. More global because the challenges we face can only be met collectively and NATO is, after the United Nations, the most global organisation in the world, with partners ranging from Colombia to New Zealand. To do all this we need to be politically stronger and more cohesive because the essence of NATO is unity. You need resources and military resources provide more peace because they reinforce the idea of deterrence. All European societies are going to have to make an effort to get those resources there.

Felix: Russia, for some time now, has been playing with instability in Europe. China, on the other hand, has been the master of soft power and does not want to change that too much, although there is still one point of contention, and that is Taiwan. China has realised the value of trade and someone who has realised this cannot go out into the world tomorrow to sell and invest hand in hand with Putin. So China has no intention of going anywhere hand in hand with Putin. It is bad again for us to raise the rhetoric against China because China has done nothing, it does not help Russia. Let it be so because the intention of China's political class today is not to escalate what it is doing.

Javier: It is important not to blur the differences between Russia and China. The first is an adversary and the other is a competitor with whom we have to look for common ground and cooperation. Even NATO has some areas in which it seeks cooperation with China, for example in arms control, where China and NATO have a lot to say. It is very important that we don't push China into a corner because we will create a real problem for ourselves. With Russia, for better or worse, we can manage it because it is not capable of keeping a pulse with the West. China is something else and we will have to live with it as a global power. Although with China there are security risks, not defence risks, which are different. They are very active in the cyber domains and European society has already experienced many cyber-attacks originating in China. Since 2019 there has been talk of it in NATO, as a challenge and as a possibility to engage China so that it does not move away from us. We must make an effort to increase the possibilities of engaging China in global affairs and reduce the anxieties it may have to generate security challenges. China is not a power that aspires to globalism; it is a power that aspires to its region. So we may have a real problem with the Taiwan issue. But China is not interested in being a global power; it is interested in becoming richer. For the West, therefore, it would be a mistake to enter into this dynamic and a balance must be sought.

NATO has to deal with threats from anywhere. The south of the alliance is one of them and a great deal of progress has been made there. Much is being done today in the area of cooperative defence to make partners safer and to make us safer so that fewer threats come to us from that region.

Felix: The Mediterranean Dialogue was established in Madrid in 1997. Because the South matters, programmes were set up to develop the armed forces of the countries of the South. Partners were helped to develop their armed forces along the lines of those of NATO. Much has been done to ensure that threats from the south are analysed from a southern perspective.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.