The Chicago Summit
Address by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Spring Session
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by sending you the best regards of Secretary General Rasmussen. As you know, he always very much enjoys coming to your meetings, or hosting you in Brussels. A prior commitment has prevented the Secretary General from travelling to Tallinn. But I am very happy to replace him, and wish to thank the Estonian Government and Parliament, and the NPA, for having me. As Karl Lamers mentioned, I’ve spoken to you previously when representing the U.S. government, but this is my first opportunity to address the NPA as a Euro-Atlantic civil servant.
You may have to make do with me rather than the Secretary General -- but apart from that, the timing of your Spring Session is excellent. Less than a week has passed since we concluded our NATO Summit in Chicago. And I have no doubt that the Chicago decisions will have been the subject of thorough debate in your various committee meetings these past few days.
I want to take a brief look with you this morning at the three main Summit themes – Afghanistan, capabilities; and partnerships; to discuss our success in implementing what we agreed on those same issues at our previous Summit, in Lisbon 18 months ago; and to highlight a few post-Chicago challenges that we should all keep our eyes on in the weeks and months ahead – including in your parliamentary work back home.
So first, Afghanistan. All 28 NATO Allies stand shoulder-to-shoulder with 22 Partner nations from all over the globe in our ISAF mission. Our long-standing, shared goal is a stable Afghanistan that is capable of looking after its own security, and that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our nations.
Back in Lisbon, we launched the gradual transition of our security responsibilities, with the aim of Afghan forces being in charge country-wide by the end of 2014 – a date proposed by President Karzai. At Chicago, NATO leaders agreed that we are on track in implementing the Lisbon strategy. Today, three quarters of the Afghan population are already living in areas where their own security forces are in the lead for security. And we gave a strong signal at Chicago that we want to keep up that momentum in the transition process.
But we also made it clear that we will continue to support Afghanistan after ISAF’s combat mission ends in December 2014. From 2015, we expect to maintain a NATO-led presence to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. And together with our partners in ISAF, we will pay our fair share to help sustain the army and police that Afghanistan needs for the future, so as to ensure that the Taliban cannot make a comeback, nor believe they can wait us out.
We had 60 nations and organisations represented around the table for our discussion on Afghanistan, including the country’s Central Asian neighbours and the Russian Federation. That was also a strong signal – a signal of our collective commitment to a stable and secure Afghanistan, together with our Afghan partners and the international community as a whole.
It is important now that we maintain our solidarity as NATO Allies, and with our partners in ISAF. And there is a crucial role for our parliamentarians in bolstering that solidarity.
But other nations, too, should take a hard look at how they can contribute to Afghanistan’s future. And of course, the Afghan Government itself must remain committed to building a democratic society, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, extending the rule of law, and fighting corruption,.
Our second main theme in Chicago was capabilities. Just like our engagement in Afghanistan, making sure that NATO has the necessary tools to do its job was also a major theme in Lisbon 18 months ago. But the economic crisis has made it exceedingly difficult to meet the capability commitments that we made in Lisbon. And so a fresh approach was clearly needed.
In Chicago we have agreed to implement a renewed culture of cooperation – nations working together to deliver capabilities that would be too expensive for any of them to deliver alone. This is what we call Smart Defence.
To give substance to Smart Defence, the Chicago Summit approved a concrete package of more than 20 multinational projects, as well as an extension of Baltic Air Policing. These projects show that we are learning the lessons from our operations – regarding better surveillance, better protection, and better maintenance. They will allow Allies who are sharing the burden of security, to also share the benefits of cooperation.
We have also agreed in Chicago to step up our exercises, training, and education, including with our partner nations. We want to maintain and strengthen the interoperability and expertise that our forces have developed during our operations in Libya, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and to continue to build on their success. NATO leaders also reaffirmed the need to continue to strengthen NATO’s defences against new threats, such as cyber attacks – an area in which Estonia is playing a leading role. Leaders confirmed that NATO’s Computer Incident Response Capability will be fully operational later this year.
All together, these decisions will ensure that our Alliance remains fit for the future – no matter what the future brings. Our goal is “NATO Forces 2020” – Forces with the equipment they need, and the training they need, to provide us all with the security we need. And it is clear that to achieve that goal, as well, parliamentary support will be vital.
Let me quickly highlight one more, important issue under this overall heading of capabilities, and that is missile defence. In Lisbon 18 months ago, we agreed to develop a NATO system to defend ourselves against the grave and growing threat from the proliferation of ballistic missile technology.
Since that time, several Allies have announced contributions to the system. And at Chicago, we were able to declare an interim capability that brings these contributions together under NATO command and control.
This is a first, but meaningful, step towards full coverage for NATO’s European populations, territory and forces. And it is an excellent example of the Smart Defence approach that will become a hallmark of our Alliance.
Our third main Summit theme was partnerships. I already mentioned the unprecedented number of partner nations from around the world that came to Chicago. Many of NATO’s partners are also represented here at your meeting. It shows our common desire to find common solutions to common problems.
At Lisbon 18 months ago, the NATO Allies agreed to further enhance the effectiveness of our partnerships. A few months later, in line with that decision, we approved a more efficient and flexible partnership policy. But it is fair to say that the implementation of that new policy remains a work in progress.
Our Summit last week should bring fresh momentum. NATO Heads of State and Government held an unprecedented meeting with the leaders of 13 countries – from Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region – that have made exceptional contributions to the Alliance’s agenda in the last few years. This meeting signified how NATO’s partners are becoming increasingly central to NATO’s work and its military operations. The meeting was an opportunity to hear from the most active partners what they are looking for to deepen their ties with NATO.
There was a strong affirmation at Chicago of the need to enhance our political dialogue and practical cooperation, to cooperate in new areas, such as cyber defence and energy security, and to boost joint training and exercises, so we preserve our ability to undertake operations when needed.
I had the privilege to chair an additional meeting with partners – a gathering of NATO’s Foreign Ministers with those of the four countries that aspire to NATO membership: the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Georgia. The meeting was not only a symbolic demonstration of the fact that NATO remains committed to the Open Door policy, but an opportunity for Ministers to discuss what needs to be done so that additional democracies can walk through that door in the future.
In the wake of the Arab Spring and NATO’s Libya operation last year, the Chicago Summit sent a particularly strong signal to the countries of North Africa and the Middle East – to make clear that we support the aspirations of the people of the region for democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and that we stand ready to assist them in areas such as security sector reform and civil-military relations.
Finally, let me say a few words on a NATO partner that is particularly close to my heart: Russia. NATO and Russia are key players in the security of this continent, and indeed global security. But in contrast with Lisbon 18 months ago, we did not have a separate NATO-Russia Summit meeting in Chicago last week.
There has been some good progress in our practical cooperation with Russia in areas such as counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. And despite its own difficult history with Afghanistan, Russia also clearly understands the merits of working with NATO to help that country stand on its own feet.
But there remains a lot of nervousness in the NATO-Russia relationship. There is a general lack of trust and transparency in defence matters. We also differ on some specific issues, such as Georgia. And there are still serious misperceptions in Russian political and military circles about NATO’s developing missile defence capability, and our invitation to Russia to work with us on missile defence.
The reality is that Russia has nothing to fear from NATO, nor from our missile defence. Our system is not aimed against any country. It is purely defensive. It is not intended to undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent. And it is not even technically capable of doing so, if one looks at the geography and the physics.
NATO-Russia cooperation on missile defence can be a “win-win” situation for us both. It would be a tangible demonstration that NATO and Russia can build security together, rather than against each other. And it would benefit the security and stability of the entire Euro-Atlantic area. Participation in a combined MD system is the best way for the Russians to see, from the inside, that NATO’s system is not directed at them, and to ensure that missile defences enhance NATO and Russian security in equal measure. That is the very clear message we delivered from Chicago last week. And we will continue to repeat it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we prepared for our NATO Summit in Chicago, we knew it would be hard to repeat the success of Lisbon 18 months ago. At Lisbon we agreed a new Strategic Concept, and we just don’t do that every other year. And given the current state of our relationship with Russia, there was simply not enough scope for another productive NATO-Russia Summit.
But I believe that we have every reason to look back at Chicago with a great deal of satisfaction. We have focused on the future of Afghanistan. We have decided to invest smartly in our defence even in times of austerity. We have engaged with our partners around the world to find common solutions to common problems. And we reaffirmed that NATO’s door remains open to those who aspire to become members.
Now, of course, comes the hard part – as President Lamers said, to implement what we have decided. That will require political will, courage and imagination – on the part of the NATO leaders who met in Chicago last week, but also on your part, back home in your parliaments and constituencies. I am confident that we can continue to count on your strong engagement for our Alliance: in providing the political support – and the resources – that NATO will need to remain as effective in the future as it is today; and in explaining to your publics – and especially the younger generation – why NATO is still the best investment when it comes to security both in Europe and beyond. So let me finish by thanking you most sincerely for that engagement.