NATO — Afghanistan, Missile Defense Top NATO Agenda

BRUSSELS, Bel­gium, June 10, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and his NATO coun­ter­parts are meet­ing here today and tomor­row, with the train­ing effort in Afghanistan and mis­sile defense among the issues high­light­ing the talks.

In his open­ing remarks, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen said NATO’s aim for the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force it leads in Afghanistan is to help that nation stand on its feet as a sov­er­eign coun­try able to defend itself against ter­ror­ism.

This is an impor­tant endeav­or “because a sta­ble Afghanistan means a safer world,” Ras­mussen said.

“Tomor­row, with all the ISAF con­trib­u­tors,” he con­tin­ued, “we will see how to step up our train­ing effort even fur­ther, to set a strong foun­da­tion for tran­si­tion to Afghan lead.” The alliance’s defense min­is­ters also will dis­cuss mis­sile defense, Ras­mussen said.

“Our nation­al arma­ments direc­tors have con­firmed that it is tech­ni­cal­ly fea­si­ble to expand the sys­tem NATO is already devel­op­ing to pro­tect our troops so that it also pro­tects our pop­u­la­tions and ter­ri­to­ry,” he said. “And we know the extra costs are man­age­able: less than 200 mil­lion euros over 10 years — spread among the 28 allies.”

Today’s mis­sile defense dis­cus­sions will lead to a deci­sion at NATO’s Novem­ber sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, as to whether to press for­ward.

“Of course, in this finan­cial cli­mate, any invest­ment has to be looked at care­ful­ly, and that includes defense,” the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. “We must ensure that tax­pay­ers get val­ue for the mon­ey that is spent on defense, but our job is to guar­an­tee that our cit­i­zens are defend­ed, which means spend­ing enough on defense, and spend­ing smart.”

Today’s meet­ings, Ras­mussen said, will include dis­cus­sions on pri­or­i­ties, ways to econ­o­mize by “cut­ting back on con­crete and on bureau­cra­cy,” and pool­ing mon­ey where it makes sense to get need­ed capa­bil­i­ties that oth­er­wise would be unaf­ford­able.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)