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NATO summit

Security must be assured in future too

How can we master the security-policy challenges facing us today and tomorrow? This was discussed at length at the NATO summit attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The spotlight was on NATO’s military capacities and the situation in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama and David Cameron shake hands with the Chancellor; second from left is French President François Hollande. Participants meet for the traditional family photo Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

"We went into Afghanistan together and we will be pulling out together," declared the Chancellor in Chicago. Germany is supporting NATO’s plans in this.

The Chancellor was accompanied by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Federal Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière.

As well as NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan, the summit looked at the alliance’s military capacities and partnerships. "For me, one crucial signal sent by the summit meeting in Chicago is the reaffirmation of commitment to the transatlantic links between Europe and North America," said the Chancellor in a government statement on 10 May 2012. These links are based on shared values and mutual interests – at a time when we face entirely new threats, she added.

Twenty-eight heads of state and government of NATO member states met in Chicago, the home city of President Barack Obama. It was the 25th summit meeting of this sort. Since the alliance was founded in 1949 it has now been held three times in the USA. With a total of about 60 countries and organisations involved, it was NATO’s largest ever summit.

Confirmation that the Lisbon Strategy is right for Afghanistan

By the end of 2014, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is to be pulled out of Afghanistan, as agreed at the last summit in Lisbon. This strategy was confirmed in Chicago.

"We will be taking stock of the engagement to date of ISAF and deciding on further important steps in order to ensure that Afghanistan is both stable and secure," said the Chancellor in the run-up to the summit. "We have had to cope with setbacks along the way, time and time again. There can be no doubt about that. But equally, there can be no doubt that important goals have already been achieved in Afghanistan," said Angela Merkel. The country is no longer a safe haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists. The Taliban have been weakened and the number of attacks has been declining steadily for months.

We will not abandon Afghanistan post-2014

The Afghan security forces are increasingly able to ensure security in their own country. This year their ranks will swell to 352,000 as planned. The international troops in Afghanistan will gradually see their responsibility shift away from the operational level to the provision of training and support. Responsibility for security throughout the country will be handed over to the Afghan government by 2014.

But the international community will continue its engagement in Afghanistan even after this date. The country needs economic and civil society perspectives for the future. Speaking in Chicago, Chancellor Angela Merkel once again made it quite clear that Afghanistan will not be abandoned and left to its own devices after 2014. "The German government has also stipulated the sum that we will be providing after 2014 as assistance – a total of 150 million euros a year," she declared.

Long-term support was pledged at the Afghanistan conference held in Bonn in 2011. A follow-up conference is to be held in Tokyo in July 2012.

Tapping synergies through closer cooperation

The joint development, procurement and utilisation of major military capacities was another important point on the agenda of the NATO summit in Chicago. The security-policy challenges have changed. In member states military spending is under constant critical observation. The Chancellor explained that when funding is scarce it is all the more important to harness synergies and make the most of common ground by cooperating even more closely.

This also applies to the planned NATO missile defence system. The initial capability is in place. For the further extension of the missile defence shield, Germany has offered to contribute its mobile Patriot air defence systems NATO still aims to cooperate with Russia on the missile defence plans. In Chicago Chancellor Angela Merkel once again stressed that it is important to continue talks with Russia on the missile defence project. Germany will be devoting much energy to this, she said in a statement to the press.

Important partners among non-NATO-member states

The NATO summit was attended by a total of 60 states and organisations, including the European Union. This is a clear sign of the importance of strategic partnerships with non-member states. More progress was made on this in Chicago.

The importance of these partners is also clear within the framework of individual operations. In Afghanistan, for instance, NATO allies work with more than 20 other partner states which have provided troops for  ISAF. Partner states also play a substantial role in other NATO-led operations.

"One example, - an important one for us – is Austria," said Angela Merkel during the NATO summit. We are working side by side with Austria in Kosovo, she explained. The joint German-Austrian battalion of the Operational Reserve Force (ORF) is deployed there as part of the KFOR mission.

The North Atlantic Council met at the start of the NATO summit. Twenty-eight heads of state and government discussed how to ensure security in future in the face of dwindling funding.
The second day of the summit began with a meeting of the nations providing troops for Afghanistan. It was attended by a total of 57 nations, as well as the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank.

 

May 20, 2012