WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2014 —
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will begin his 16th international trip Sept. 3, a six-day visit to three countries and participation at the Sept. 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here today.
Hagel also will make stops in Georgia and Turkey, his first as defense secretary.
On his way to the summit, Kirby said, the secretary will stop in Newport, Rhode Island, to deliver a keynote speech at the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance's Defense Innovation Days Conference.
Stop at Newport conference
At the conference, Kirby added, he expects Hagel to address challenges facing the U.S. military’s technological edge and how the Defense Department must meet such challenges.
“He touched on these issues before in his budget testimony and in his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs this spring,” the admiral said, “but this will be an opportunity to talk in greater detail about the need for innovation and how we develop and procure new capabilities.”
In Newport, the secretary also will visit the Naval War College.
NATO summit’s focus, topics
At the NATO Summit in Wales, Hagel will join President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and their counterparts from NATO and its partner nations for important discussions, Kirby said.
Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Lt. Col. Vanessa M. Hillman said the summit’s focus will be Afghanistan, Ukraine and the Middle East, and how to bolster future NATO efforts.
“We view the summit as an important opportunity to address the ongoing crises in the world, but also set the direction for NATO in the coming years,” Hillman said, adding that other topics to be discussed at the summit include:
-- An update to DoD contributions to the European Reassurance Initiative and 2015 reassurance measures;
-- NATO’s post-Afghanistan mission and role;
-- Russia’s continued provocations and the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, as a serious terrorist threat, and other emerging security challenges;
-- Defense capacity building; and
-- Ways that NATO can improve coordination among its members during capacity-building efforts with key partners.
An important opportunity
Kirby said Hagel has participated in four NATO defense ministerials leading up to the Wales summit. He said the secretary views the upcoming summit “as an important opportunity to address the ongoing crises in the world but also to set the direction for NATO in the coming years. An important part of that strategy will be NATO's partnerships.”
The summit also will pay tribute to the sacrifices and achievements of NATO and partner forces during a decade of unprecedented operations in Afghanistan, according to NATO officials, and will look ahead to the alliance’s planned new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014.
The previous NATO summit was held in Chicago in 2012.
Stop in Georgia
Hagel will next travel to Georgia, one of the United States' and NATO's most important and capable partners, Kirby said.
“This will be his first visit to Georgia as secretary, but he's met with his Georgian counterpart before and also met with the Georgian prime minister earlier this year while in Munich,” the admiral said.
“The Georgian military has been a valued partner of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added, “and the secretary looks forward to thanking the Georgian people for their contributions and sacrifices over the last decade.”
Georgia shares U.S. concerns about Russia's actions in Ukraine, Kirby said, and that will top Hagel’s agenda during the visit.
On to Turkey
Afterward, Hagel will travel to Turkey, making his first official visit to the key NATO ally.
“Given its border with Syria and Iraq, [Turkey] shares our deep concerns with the regional threat posed by ISIL,” Kirby said.
Hagel has longstanding relationships with Turkey's leaders, including the newly inaugurated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Kirby said the secretary views the upcoming visit as an important opportunity to advance the critical U.S.-Turkey relationship.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)