NATO Summit to Focus on Afghanistan, Capabilities, Partnerships
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 Priority issues on the agenda at the 25th NATO summit in Chicago this month will include Afghanistan and NATO capabilities and partnerships, senior U.S. officials said here today.
Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the upcoming meeting.
The May 20-21 summit will be the first NATO summit on American soil in 13 years and the first held outside Washington. It also will be the biggest NATO summit in history, with more than 60 countries and organizations represented.
“Our hosting of the summit in Chicago is a tangible symbol of the importance of NATO to the United States,” Gordon said. “It is also an opportunity to underscore to the American people the continued value of this alliance the security challenge that we face today.”
On Afghanistan, Gordon said, the United States anticipates three results from the summit:
-- An agreement on an interim milestone in 2013 when the International Security Assistance Force’s mission will shift from combat to support for the Afghan national security forces;
-- An agreement on the size, cost and sustainment of the Afghan forces beyond 2014; and
-- A roadmap for NATO’s post-2014 role in Afghanistan.
“Regarding capabilities,” the assistant secretary of state said, “NATO’s ability to deploy an effective fighting force in the field makes the alliance unique,” but its forces must remain able, effective, interoperable and modern, even in an era of fiscal austerity.
“The United States continues to strongly urge [European] allies to meet the 2 percent [of gross domestic product] benchmark for defense spending, and to contribute politically, financially and operationally to the strength of the alliance,” Gordon said.
In Chicago, he added, the United States anticipates that NATO leaders will endorse a capabilities package that includes missile defense, the Alliance Ground Surveillance Program and Baltic air policing.
Allies also are expected to endorse the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review.
“The DDPR will identify the appropriate mix of nuclear conventional and missile defense capabilities that NATO needs to meet 21st century security challenges,” Gordon said, and to reaffirm its commitment to making consensus decisions of alliance posture issues.
The summit will highlight NATO’s success is working with a growing number of partners around the world.
“Effective partnerships allow the alliance to extend its reach, act with greater legitimacy, share burdens and benefit from the capabilities of others,” Gordon added.
From a defense point of view, Townsend said, NATO heads of state and government come together at a summit every few years to discuss alliance business and to renew at the highest level the commitment allies have made to one another in the North Atlantic Treaty.
“This commitment to come to one another’s defense as expressed in Article 5 of the treaty is a solemn one that has only been invoked once, after the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001,” he added.
The Article 5 commitment is the core of the alliance, Townsend said. “NATO serves as the organizing framework to ensure that we have allies willing and able to fight alongside us in conflict, and provides an integrated military structure that puts the military teeth behind alliance political decision to take action,” he added.
The alliance also serves as a hub and an integrator of a network of global security partners, Townsend said.
The deputy assistant secretary of defense said the United States has three summit objectives:
-- Charting a clear path for completing the transition and reaffirming NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security;
-- Maintaining NATO’s core defense capabilities and building a force ready for future challenges; and
-- Deepening the engagement of NATO’s partner nations and alliance operations and activities.
Today, he said, NATO forces are in Afghanistan and the Balkans, are countering pirates in the waters off of Somalia, and recently concluded operations in Libya.
“Keeping NATO strong, both politically and militarily, is critical to ensure NATO is ready when it is needed,” Townsend said. “This has been true for the past 20 years, when the turbulence of the international system has demanded that NATO respond nearly continuously to crises throughout the globe.”