NATO’s Futures: the Atlantic Alliance between Power and Purpose

Sten Rynning

NATO recently turned 70 years old but cannot rest on its laurels. The Alliance is constrained by geopolitical challenges at home and abroad—by home-grown populist revolts that tear at longstanding commitments to NATO cohesion and solidarity, and by the crisis of the liberal order on the global stage. In this new report, CWS professor Sten Rynning takes stock of NATO challenges, painting a fairly grim future of NATO stalemate and ultimately failure if NATO leaders allow the Alliance to continue to drift, but also offering hope for renewal. NATO’s future, Rynning suggests, must build on China’s rise and a carefully crafted strategy to bring NATO into the global politics of managing the meeting between China and the West. Such a strategy would ensure both continued US interest in NATO and Europe’s relevance to key global issues. Rynning details how this shift would involve greater European responsibility for Europe’s own defense, an enhanced diplomatic profile for NATO, and a renewed transatlantic dialogue on global security issues.


The report was published by the NATO Defence College in Rome, Italy, and is freely available at the NDC website. It can also be downloaded here. Sten Rynning is available for speaking engagements on the topic of NATO and transatlantic security relations.