NATO Summit to Focus on Afghanistan, Capabilities, Partnerships

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.”

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