The Spanish government will try to take advantage of the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June to include the so-called “southern flank” of the allies in their security strategies. According to knowledgeable sources, the aim is that the Madrid Strategic Concept, the document that will emerge from the partners’ agreement, includes plans to address threats such as terrorism or the migrant mafia located in North Africa (Morocco or Algeria). Sahel (parts of Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad or Sudan, among others). And all this despite the fact that much of the summit’s natural efforts were geared towards preparing the organization to face the threat posed by Russia to Europe.
These are Moncloa’s plans. However, experts in the military consider any significant change in strategy at this time to be complex. “It’s completely out of context, in my opinion, because the conceptual core of NATO is to protect Europe from Russia, now more than ever,” he says of EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, a newspaper owned by the same editorial group as this media. Nick Whitney, Senior Researcher at ECFR London.
points to the same idea Intissar Fakir, researcher at the MEI North Africa Institute and the Sahel in Washington. “I don’t think the proposal will be very successful because the area is not part of the protected area in the North Atlantic treaty, an organization created primarily to protect Western Europe from the Russians,” he says. in a similar line felix arteagaA researcher from the Royal Institute of Elcano: “I don’t think anything concrete will come of it”.
There is a crack that Spain might try to sell its offer. A bloody group of mercenaries of the paramilitary Wagner group who, with Russian support, fights for one of the parties to the conflict in exchange for cash or raw material payments in countries such as Libya or Mali. “If NATO does not have a presence there, the Russians will fill the gap.”, explains Witney, a diplomat who manages policy towards NATO in the security department of the British Ministry of Defense. He understands that the involvement of the organization is necessary for either Spain or Greece due to the migrant crisis, but does not believe that in the current context it will be easy to persuade the rest of the Alliance countries.
The problems in the region are important: civil wars, jihadist terrorism, coups, forced migrations… American analyst Fakir admits: NATO should consider a global strategy for the region, but she doubts she has the resources to deal with it. Yes, military action is needed, but there is also a need for political, economic and social action. And this is far from the Atlantic Alliance, a defense organization, missiles, intelligence, satellites, soldiers…
The Wagner group is a paramilitary wealth troopers unit coordinated with the Kremlin. He acted extremely violently in the 2014 Donbas war in Ukraine, but also in the conflict in Sudan, the second Central African civil war, the Syrian civil war. Libyan civil war or in Maliwhere they supported the coup government against the jihadists.
The key point here is that many countries regulate and somewhat limit these military security companies (PMC). Russia no. The extreme violence they use in wars shows this.. “It is a paramilitary group under Russian command, acting at the request of the parties, without any restrictions and controls. In Mali, they perform security duties on the coup board and are paid for this by mining contracts,” explains Arteaga. “They live on the ground. They don’t respect international law or human rights, and they don’t aim to win the public’s trust.”
Europe tried this for the first time in Mali. Started the quest for TakubaA military group placed under French command to advise, assist and accompany the Malian Armed Forces in their wars. It aimed to protect Liptako (the hot zone on the borders of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali).
Last February, France announced the departure of its troops and troops from its European allies. After two coups, the government was no longer an ally. The self-proclaimed ones do not have the conditions to continue their operations against terrorism. Islamic State in the Great Sahara, linked to al-Qaeda and Support Group for Islam and Muslims.
“The Wagners evacuated us. The European countries, which gained the trust of the military junta, had to gradually close the operations. The EU seemed like the solution, but it didn’t work out well,” says the expert from the Royal Institute of Elcano. “And NATO will not go in. They will continue to intervene, for example, by launching counter-terrorism drone strikes from Niger, France and the United States.”
Wagners in Libya Supporting General Khalifa Haftar militarilyControlling the east of the country, which Moscow is trying to increase its influence on. They have good operational capacity for this type of operation and have everything Russia can lend them.
In this sense, NATO may not care too much about North Africa or the Sahel. But if Russia tries to gain influence there, then it starts to matter. What happened in Eastern Europe has its reflections in Southern Europe as well.
a historical claim
“The Atlantic Council acknowledged that the deterioration of security in the Sahel in June 2021 affected NATO’s security and was recommended to strengthen its relations with regional actors,” explains Luis Simón and Félix Arteaga in an article at the Royal Institute of Elcano. However, besides making progress in cooperative security, Spain is interested in defining how NATO can contribute to regional stability, and also in addressing the role Russia and China can play in the region.”
Spain’s insistence on including NATO on its “southern flank” has its origins in the then Defense Minister’s 2014 summit in Wales. Pedro Morenés and president Mariano Rajoy demanded that the difficulties of the region be taken into account for the security of the member states. The organization then made a “preparatory action plan” as an initial response.
Since then, subsequent ministers have continued the strategy of repression. “It’s a war in which Portugal clashes and we periodically fight it alone with Italy. But never with France, the biggest obstacle in front of NATO. They have a relevant role in North Africa because they don’t want it to enter ‘their’ space”, concludes Arteaga.
At other peaks, for example Warsaw Framework programs and packages were approved in Brussels in 2019 or 2018 to project stability in the south through partnerships and capacity building with countries. There are some collaborations with countries such as Mauritania anyone Tunisia, occasional joint exercises, and contingency plans in case they are one day activated. NATO set up an intelligence center in Naples to find out what was happening in the Sahel.
Immigration as a political weapon
In the war in Ukraine, NATO sees a clear risk. This tanks and bombings. In the Sahel, however, the problem is more subtle: terrorism, insurgency, but also immigration mafias or the use of immigration as a political weapon.
“You can threaten the security of a country. 15,000 soldiers at the borders, along with 15,000 immigrants “It’s disorganized, as we’ve seen in Belarus and Poland,” Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said on April 22. “NATO must be prepared for all this.”
The problem is not only willpower, but also capacity. NATO has extremely military measures in its inventory, which greatly limits its mobility.
But also not welcome in the area. countries like Algeriaa regional power and an ally of RussiaHe does not forget how the West intervened in Libya, a country now divided in two, following the overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi.
There are regional actors and organizations that fill the gap. Sahel G5 (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) to the African Union with peacekeeping missions.
expression Strategic Concept It is currently underway eight weeks before the Madrid summit, diplomatic sources reported. Time will tell whether the contacts that have taken place will be successful in persuading NATO to take its place on the “southern flank” of Europe.