NATO cooperation with Australia

  • Last updated: 16 Feb. 2015 12:55

Over recent years, NATO has developed relations with a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. Australia is counted among these countries, which are referred to as “partners across the globe”. Building on dialogue and cooperation that has been developed since 2005, NATO and Australia signalled their commitment to strengthen cooperation in a joint political declaration in June 2012. This was followed up with the signature of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme in February 2013. Australia was one of the top non-NATO troop contributors to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Photo By: Corporal (CPL) Ricky Fuller  Caption: Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team Leader, Lieutenant Jacob Kleinman discusses the patrol route with Brigadier John Caligari, during a brief halt in a joint Australian and Afghan patrol in Afghanistan.  Mid Caption: Deputy Commander joins his troops on the ground in southern Afghanistan.  There is an old military adage that time spent in reconnaissance is time not wasted and during his recent visit to the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF – 1), Deputy Commander of Australian Forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier John Caligari, took the opportunity to gain a first hand experience of the world in which his soldiers operate.  Having joined the Battle Group on a mission “outside the wire” to participate in the opening of the Australian built Sorkh Morgab Basic Health Centre, the Brigadier joined MRTF – 1 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel and the soldiers from one of his Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams on a foot patrol of the surrounding region. The area has seen serious engagements with the Taliban during the eight month deployment of the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force.  The Brigadier experienced first hand the complex urban and rural environments in which his soldiers have had to operate and the oppressive heat of the Afghan summer. Brigadier Caligari also got to meet the local people who are benefiting from both Australian lines of operation, the mentoring of Afghan soldiers and the reconstruction of much needed infrastructure in the rural province.

The Strategic Concept adopted at the 2010 Lisbon Summit paved the way for a more flexible partnership policy offering all partners the same basis of cooperation and dialogue. The establishment of a single Partnership Cooperation Menu open to all NATO partners enabled Australia to access a wide range of cooperation activities with the Alliance and to formalise its relations with NATO through the development of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme tailored to the country’s interests.

NATO and Australia have underlined their shared interest in forging a closer strategic partnership. Beyond cooperation on global challenges, the two sides also agree to work closely on crisis and conflict management, post-conflict situations, reconstruction and facilitating humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

  • Practical cooperation

    Over almost a decade, Australia made a valuable and significant contribution to the NATO-led ISAF mission to stabilise Afghanistan, which was completed in December 2014. With some 1100 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed, Australia was one of the largest non-NATO contributors of troops to ISAF. As part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, Australian personnel provided security and delivered reconstruction and community-based projects. Additionally, Australia’s Special Operations Task Group operated in direct support of ISAF elements in Uruzgan Province. Since January 2015, Australia contributes to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in support of the continued development of the Afghan security forces and institutions. Australia is also a leading contributor to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, having pledged USD280 million to the fund.

    In addition to its contribution to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan, Australia and NATO have also worked together on several projects. In 2010, Australia contributed to a NATO Trust Fund project designed to clear unexploded ordinances in Saloglu, Azerbaijan.

    The Australian navy is also currently cooperating with NATO’s Counter-Piracy Task Force to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia as part of Operation Ocean Shield.

  • Dialogue and consultation

    To support cooperation, Australia designated its Ambassador in Brussels as its representative to NATO.  It also appointed a defence attaché in Brussels and a military representative to NATO. NATO and Australia have also concluded an agreement on the protection of classified information.

    Cooperation is also underpinned by regular high-level political dialogue. In 2005, the then NATO Secretary General visited Australia. Then Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer addressed the North Atlantic Council in 2005 and 2006. Former Foreign Minister Stephen Smith met the NATO Secretary General several times and also subsequently in his capacity as Defence Minister.  He addressed the North Atlantic Council in December 2008.

    Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also participated in the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest in April 2008. As foreign minister, he visited NATO on several occasions, and addressed the North Atlantic Council in January 2012.  Both former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith participated in the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, and in the Chicago Summit in May 2012.

    NATO’s Secretary General visited Australia in June 2012 to thank the country for its operational support and to discuss how to strengthen further the security partnership. Both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston attended the meeting of ISAF troop contributors at the Wales Summit in September 2014.