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NATO Prepares for Historic Anniversary, Summit

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2009 – NATO leaders are slated to focus on a broad range of issues at the summit in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, this week against the backdrop of the alliance’s 60th anniversary.

President Barack Obama will lead the U.S. delegation during meetings in which the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is expected to take center stage. The United States worked closely among NATO allies on an Afghan-Pakistan strategy review the Obama administration unveiled last week.

“We believe that we are going to be able to ensure that the NATO members who've made so many sacrifices and have been working so hard already are reinvigorated, and that the coordination that's going to be taking place will make it even more effective for us as we complete a successful NATO mission,” Obama said after meeting at the White House last week with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Ahead of the summit’s formal start tomorrow, the alliance today officially added two new members -- Albania and Croatia -- raising to 28 the number of allies that will celebrate six decades since a dozen nations endorsed the North Atlantic Treaty at an April 4, 1949, ceremony here.

De Hoop Scheffer noted that the anniversary would be a time not only to reflect on past successes, but also to look ahead.

“The summit must be more than a celebration,” he said in a statement on the NATO Web site. “It must also deliver results in order for our alliance to be able to meet current and future challenges.”

The summit’s agenda comprises issues beyond the scope of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as Obama noted after his meeting with the NATO secretary general.

“We have a set of challenges that require NATO to shift from the 20th century to the 21st century; issues of terrorism, failed states, nuclear proliferation, a whole host of new challenges as well as the traditional role that NATO has played in preserving the territorial integrity of NATO members,” he said.

Topics of interest include NATO’s stabilization operation in Kosovo, NATO-Russia relations, arms control and future expansion.

Today’s enlargement of the alliance marks only the sixth time in NATO history that the collective security organization has expanded its borders. Accession by the two Balkan nations follows the addition of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania in 2004; Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999; Spain in 1982; West Germany in 1955; and Greece and Turkey in 1952.

The founding NATO members were the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

De Hoop Scheffer welcomed the alliance’s newest members in a statement from the NATO headquarters in Brussels today.

“In becoming NATO members, Albania and Croatia share the benefits and responsibilities of collective security,” he said.

For more information on NATO's 60th anniversary summit, go to the American Forces Press Service special report at: http://www.defenselink.mil/home/features/2009/0409_nato60th

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Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Related Sites:
Special Report: NATO’s 60th Anniversary and Summit

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