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NATO Must Adapt to Shifting Security Challenges, Clinton Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Oct. 14, 2010 – To remain relevant and effective, NATO must be able to anticipate and protect against a variety of shifting security challenges, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said here today.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at NATO headquarters during a day of meetings for the alliance’s foreign and defense ministers, Clinton said terrorism, ballistic missiles, cyber attacks and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are among the challenges NATO must be capable of meeting.

“Relying on the strategies of past decades simply will not suffice,” she said. “NATO began as a regional alliance, but the threats it now faces are global, and its perspective must be global as well.”

While en route here yesterday, Gates told reporters traveling with him that today’s meetings would be geared toward reaching agreement on NATO’s new strategic concept – the first update of its security strategy in more than a decade -- and on the capabilities necessary to carry it forward. The meetings here today were a prelude to NATO’s upcoming summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Clinton thanked NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen for leading the effort to develop the draft of the new strategic concept that the ministers discussed. “Today’s meeting brings us closer to a final product,” she said, “and the member states will continue to discuss and revise as we prepare for our summit next month in Lisbon.” She invoked the words of her fellow Cabinet officer in emphasizing the need for NATO to have the capabilities it needs to meet the challenges it faces.

“As Bob Gates often says, the new strategic concept won’t be worth the paper it is printed on unless it is backed up by the capabilities needed to carry it out,” she said.

In a statement today during a joint meeting of foreign and defense ministers, Gates said he’s pleased that the alliance agreed to fund critical capabilities as a matter of priority, and he zeroed in on the emerging threats of ballistic missiles and cyber attacks identified in the draft strategic concept as being key issues that will require action at the Lisbon summit.

“It is vitally important that we not only talk about these new threats in Lisbon, but act to counter them by agreeing to acquire the capabilities necessary to collectively defend against them,” he said.

On cybersecurity, Gates said NATO is far behind where it needs to be, and that while the draft strategic concept recognizes that, he’d like to see the alliance address the issue more specifically and agree to fund it properly after the summit.

“Our vulnerabilities are well-known, but our existing programs to remedy these weaknesses are inadequate,” he said. “The new draft highlights this underappreciated new threat, though the language could be sharpened further.”

At this morning’s meetings with his fellow defense ministers, Gates said, he urged that they review NATO’s cyber policy after Lisbon as a matter of priority. “We need to identify what more must be done to protect our vital information systems,” he said. “And then we need to agree to fund the capabilities that are necessary to protect these systems.”

On the missile defense issue, Gates urged his NATO defense colleagues and the alliance’s foreign ministers to take action.

“We can protect ourselves from ballistic missiles affordably, and over time increase protection over all parts of NATO Europe, consistent with the principle of the indivisibility of security,” he said. “It is time for a decision.”

During his flight to Brussels yesterday, Gates said he believes broad support exists in NATO for the phased, adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe that calls for increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors and a range of sensors to defend against the ballistic missile threat from Iran.

“The linkage with national missile defense, so that both territories and populations are covered, is really more a matter of software – of connecting the command and control of the different national capabilities,” he said. That would require only a modest financial outlay beyond what already has been approved, he added.

During her news conference with Gates, Clinton reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the alliance.

“The United States is absolutely committed to NATO, which has safeguarded our freedom for 60 years,” she said. “We will continue to offer whatever support we can to help finalize the strategic concept, and to implement it, to ensure that NATO will always stand as an effective and forceful alliance for its members’ security.


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Hillary Rodham Clinton
Robert M. Gates

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