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NATO Remains as Necessary as Ever, Secretary General Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2009 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now more than ever, must hold together to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, NATO’s secretary general said on the eve of the alliance’s 60th anniversary and summit.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the leaders of the 28 NATO nations have much on their plates during the summit, which begins today.

In a commentary in today's Wall Street Journal, de Hoop Scheffer made the case that NATO is as relevant today as it was when founded 60 years ago.

The secretary general noted that many of the leaders who attended the G-20 economics meeting in London yesterday also are attending the NATO summit today and tomorrow in France and Germany. In London, they concentrated on economic progress in the face of a global financial meltdown. At the summit, the leaders will stress security.

“This is not a total change of subject,” de Hoop Scheffer wrote. “Imagine what would happen to the international financial system if there were another major terrorist attack. What would happen to investment and growth if the free flow of energy were seriously threatened? Could struggling economies keep the wheels turning if they came under the same kind of cyber attacks that Estonia suffered two years ago?”

Security is not discretionary; it is something that enables all other aspects of life and progress, de Hoop Scheffer said. Like an economy, security can be built only through multinational cooperation, he added. That cooperation is illustrated, he noted, in France and Germany jointly hosting NATO’s summit.

The leaders meeting this week will have to chart a common way forward on Afghanistan, the secretary general said. While there has been progress in the north and west of the country, he noted, al-Qaida and the Taliban remain a threat.

The insurgency continues in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and corruption and narcotics are endemic, de Hoop Scheffer said. International aid to the country is far too fragmented, he added. “We must do better, before the endurance of the international community and the patience of the Afghan people begin to wane,” he said.

President Barack Obama consulted extensively with allies as part of the U.S. Afghan strategy review, and the allies will consult extensively on the recommendations during the summit, the secretary general said. This would include more support for Pakistan, and more coordinated efforts to strengthen Afghanistan’s police and army.

NATO leaders also will discuss building a true partnership with Russia, de Hoop Scheffer said. NATO can work constructively with Russia on Afghanistan, missile defense and terrorism, he said.

“It is no secret that when it comes to Russia, there are a wide range of views within NATO, from the very cautious to the forward-leaning,” he acknowledged. “Until we narrow that range, it will be difficult to engage Russia effectively.”

For its part, Russia must decide whether it wants to recognize NATO’s desire for partnership, “or whether it will continue to look at NATO through the prism of a Cold War that is long behind us,” the secretary general said.

NATO leaders will adopt a declaration on alliance security that not only will reaffirm NATO’s core business, but also will map what it should do in future, de Hoop Scheffer said.

“I hope that the alliance also will launch a fundamental review of NATO’s strategic concept — one of the alliance’s most important guiding documents — to get agreement among allies on what NATO should be doing in the 21st century, including on cyber defense and energy security, areas where I believe NATO should do more to add its unique value,” he said.

The summit participants also will mark 60 years of the alliance. When the Soviet Union broke up, signaling the end of the Cold War, many forecast that the alliance would die.

“But NATO is alive and kicking, because it still has a unique job to do: to be the place where Europe and North America stand together, consult together and act together to ensure their common security,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “That role will be reaffirmed and strengthened at this weekend’s summit.”

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Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Related Sites:
Special Report: 60 Years of NATO

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