11.06.2020 – Webinar “NATO in a Post-COVID World”

1:00 e.l. - 2:00 e.l.

Webinar “NATO in a Post-COVID World” took place online that was broadcasted via Zoom, Facebook Live and Youtube Live. As the headline of the webinar was forward-looking, the aim of the webinar was to cover how has NATO´s role changed during the pandemic of COVID-19 and after.


The webinar was led by Mr Martin Hurt who is a Research Fellow at the International Center for Defence and Security, included Ms. Burcu San, Director for Operations, Operations Division, NATO Ambassador Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, Estonian Permanent Representative to NATO Mr. Sven Sakkov, EATA Member and Director of International Center for Defence and Security. The panelists firstly had time to share he points and thoughts, which was then followed by a round of Q&A.


Ms. Burcu San mentioned that COVID has been a systemic shock, but highlighted that NATO has been adapted well. She added that COVID-19 confirmed and affirmed the NATO´s value and NATO´s tools, the solidarity between Allies in collective defence as the Allies have helped each other and partners.



Secondly, the pandemic has showed the value of armed forces. The Armed forces have not stood idle, but they have been used in logistics transporting equipment for hospitals and in many different ways by many different nations.


In addition, information space has become a key battleground as we have seen a lot of disinformation, manipulation and propaganda about the origin of the virus and fake news about our battle groups. She emphasised that it is important to expose that and to come out with the truth. 


Fourthly, the former rivalries have not gone away. There is a risk of our potential adversaries to take advantage to take advantage of the distractions that the COVID-19 has imposed on us. Both state and non-state actors might try to take advantage of this, but we have to remain vigilant. We have to focus on NATO´s core tasks – focusing on deterrence and defence.  We continue our operations in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and Iraq and continue to reach our partners and think more globally with partners such as Australia, New Zealand, Australia, South-Korea and many others across the world. 


We have relearned that resilience is key. The alliance is as strong as its weakest link. It is important to have civil preparedness to all harads and support the military. The next crisis will not be the same, so we need to be prepared. 


Ambassador Kyllike Sillaste-Elling stated that in the beginning of the crises it hit all of us unexpectedly, but NATO started responding quickly. She mentioned that it is important to have a forward looking view, although are not in a post-COVID situation yet as it is also arriving in certain regions.


Security is the most important task. The goal was to make sure that that this health economic crisis, civilian crisis does not become a security crises. Referencing to the previous speaker, she said that there are no changes to the NATO´s mission nor in operation, activities have been going on despite the pandemic. 


NATO was playing a supportive role proving logics support, transport, but also providing very vital medical supplies. Estonia also provided some much needed masks to our very good allies, to Italy and to Spain. The pandemic hit allies in different times and on different levels. All allies that could help, did help, there was a strengthening of feeling of solidarity. 


NATO has been adapting to different threats from different directions. We are capable of doing many things at once. NATO has been adapting to different threats from different directions. Disinformation is one key areas. Throughout the pandemic we have seen some stark examples how disinformation, propaganda, false narratives are being used how some of our adversaries have tried to split us in the alliance.


Sven Sakkov stated that without the US there is no NATO. He wished to highlight some facts we need to look at.


Firstly, we see very clearly that the intention of the US has turned to far-east from Europe. Secondly, the US has become self-sufficient in oil and gas. Third factor, the peculiar presidency of Donald Trump and what is means for the alliance. 


According to Mr Sven Sakkov, taking about the US, if we try to simplify the challenge ahead, the US has to maintain simultaneously the decline of Russia and the rise of China. The rise of China is it is way more prominent in the American thinking. 


Mr Sven Sakkov highlighted that we live in a world where Europe needs the United States to contain Russia´s military as Europe cannot do that alone.


Europe needs US in order to contain Russia militarily and at the same time United States needs Europe to contain China politically and militarily. In here there is a new possibility of this Transatlantic deal or a compact or a charter.


The biggest problem is that there are quite influential people, from who would instead of supporting our biggest important ally on who we also depend, to make profit out of it. 


The systemic problem is that if US will determine in the future that Europe is not relevant, one might ask, what could NATO do to assist the US. Mrs Sven Sakkov suggests the following points:


First, to keep moving towards the 2% goal.

Second, to serve as a consultation forum between North America and Europe.

Thirdly, ensure that Europe own backyard is safe and secure.

Fourth, to develop a comprehensive DIME-strategy (diplomacy, information, military and economy) for the rising China. 

Fifth, to NATO allies to restrict collectively the transfer of technology.

Sixth, develop partnership with democracies in Indo-Pacific area.

Seventh, NATO as an organization to assist freedom of navigation in the Far East.


About defence investments – referencing to the previous speaker, we need to make sure that economic crises should not become a security crises. Defence investment is crucial. 

This event was co-organized with The Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association (EATA) and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (PDD). 

Summary written by: Vanessa Vorteil (volunteer)