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The Evolving Role of NATO in Latin America

Main Stage


  • As highlighted by General David Petraeus, NATO has partnered with countries and regions throughout the world since 1994. Mircea Geoană spoke to NATO’s network of partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, as well as partnerships with the European Union, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and nations in the Gulf and the Middle East. NATO has recently been approached by Ghana, which will hopefully become the first Sub-Saharan partner in the near future.
  • Since 1994, there has only been one partner in Latin America and the Caribbean, however, and that is Colombia. Colombia approached NATO in 2013 for initial engagement and, in 2017, upgraded to an individual partnership and cooperation program. Geoană pointed out that Colombia’s approach has been that of learning from NATO—not only from its national security expertise, but also from its ideas about principles and democratic values. Today, NATO is partnering with Colombia around intelligence sharing, cyber cooperation, maritime cooperation, the fight against terrorism, the fight against corruption, building integrity, and demining. With the world increasingly facing complex challenges, Geoană welcomed further partnerships between NATO and like-minded nations, including Latin America. These partnerships are mutually beneficial and improve stability and security all over the world. 

“When we approach Latin America, we do so with a spirit of engagement,” Mircea Geoană

  • In terms of what NATO brings, Geoană cited funding for the fight against terrorism and its exquisite military competence. NATO can also share its outlook on building resiliency, fighting corruption, building integrity, addressing climate change, and dealing with the rise of China and Iran. These are challenges that affect all countries, so uniting efforts is key. While a full partnership approach is encouraged, countries can choose how to interact with NATO—whether that’s sending young officers to the NATO Defense College or creating ad-hoc training programs. What’s important is that countries understand how NATO’s doctrines are evolving and that there’s a mechanism for the exchange of information between professionals, politicians, and young people.
  • In his closing comments, Geoană referenced President-elect Biden’s remarks about reviving alliances; enhancing dialogue with NATO is an opportunity for countries to do just this.

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • NATO is interested in building relations with countries all over the world. Ambassadors can approach NATO in Brussels to commence a dialogue.
  • For countries, engaging with NATO does not necessarily mean a fully-fledged formal partnership, as engagement can vary in scope and intensity to suit the interests of both parties.
  • NATO is not just a military organization but an alliance of democracies.


Session Speakers