Budapest Forum 2022: Defending Democracies: The Aftermath of the Madrid NATO Summit and the New Strategic Concept



Keynote speech: Mircea Geoana, Deputy Secretary General, NATO

  • Géza Jeszenszky, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hungary
  • Klára Siposné Kecskeméthy, Professor, Ludovika University of Public Service
  • Andrea Michalcova, Deputy Director, European Values Center for Security Policy

Moderator: Péter Krekó, Director, Political Capital Institute


Main Takeaways

  • NATO defined Russia in the summer of 2022 as the most immediate threat to the security of the Euro-Atlantic region. NATO also judged Russia in the context of the Russian autocratic political system. As one participant said: “we never thought that gulags would come back, especially in the 21st century.”
  • Despite the nuclear rhetoric of Russian leaders in the current war between Russia and Ukraine, western intelligence does not see any shift in Russian nuclear stance and their level of alertness. Their posture, so far, is only part of a strategic communication aimed at weakening the resolve of Ukrainians and the West against the Kremlin.
  • Nevertheless, Putin deserves the award for the “best salesman of NATO”. The NATO accession of Sweden and Finland due to the war will be a net added value to the Alliance. Not only in terms of defence and security but democracy, societal resilience, and technological innovativeness too. The accession clearly constitutes a very important change in the strategic balance in the Baltic region.
  • NATO continues to be an open community, and it is committed to its Open Door Policy. Therefore, with a unanimous decision, NATO can invite any European country contributing to its own and the region’s security. Three countries currently have a Membership Action Plan: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine; they are aspiring for accession to the Alliance and are close partners.
  • Russia is using alternative media to spur societal anger and protests in Central Europe against local governments and the Euro-Atlantic Community, especially in the Czech Republic. These outlets are pushing anti-NATO, anti-EU and pro-Russian messages. These narratives are also spread by several politicians and parties, such as Fidesz, particularly in the V4 countries.
  • Some members of the Alliance that are at odds with the democratic system or the rule of law at home are trying to undermine the resolve of the community by, for example, arguing against sanctions and support for Ukraine.
  • Since the start of the current war, NATO has been experiencing cyber-attacks daily, not having been encountered since the Yugoslav Wars. The level of the threshold for these cyber-attacks, when an incident can invoke the Article 5 collective defence clause, is intentionally vague so NATO can respond flexibly to such an onslaught. An adequate response does not necessarily constitute an armed military response. However, it can be addressed through diplomatic means or economic sanctions as well.

Policy Recommendations

  • Hungary should unequivocally support the independence of a neighbour experiencing military aggression and vote to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Other V4 countries should pressure Hungary to do so.
  • The support for sanctions and support for Ukraine in the NATO countries may decline as high energy prices hit the Europe market, but governments need to keep up the support provided for Ukraine. Support could mean using strategic communication on the side of NATO countries. In this regard, Central-European countries are lagging behind the United Kingdom’s approach to communication.

This event was co-sponsored by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division




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