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Anticipating Istanbul

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer outlines areas of special focus for the Alliance's Istanbul Summit and considers the way forward for NATO.

Facing the future: Istanbul provides a perfect setting for NATO to demonstrate its unflinching commitment to a better future for Afghans and Afghanistan (© SKA/IMZ)

0n 28 and 29 June, NATO leaders will meet in Istanbul for the Alliance's 17th Summit. During NATO's first four decades, we had only ten Summits. In the 14 years that followed we will have had seven. So the frequency of Summits has doubled. These numbers alone are a strong indication of how the pace of change has accelerated and Summits had to be called to give specific top level guidance, often in response to a rapidly evolving strategic environment.

London 1990 declared the Cold War over and offered a hand of friendship to the East. Rome 1991 defined the contours of a new NATO, including a new Strategic Concept. Brussels 1994 gave this new NATO a more concrete agenda, including potential enlargement and new mechanisms for security cooperation throughout the entire Euro-Atlantic-area. At Madrid in 1997, we issued invitations to three new members, after having put the NATO-Russia relationship on a firmer footing. Washington 1999 codified much of our crisis-management experience from the Balkans, and it looked to the future with a new, much broader Strategic Concept, which added crisis management and partnership to NATO's principal task of collective defence. Finally, the 2002 Prague Summit invited seven additional countries to join the Alliance and transformed the organisation even more substantially in order to cope with the new 21st century threats.

All these Summits had one thing in common. They were short on rhetoric, but long on substance. Moreover, they moved NATO forward from a static Alliance to a dynamic agent of change. The Istanbul Summit will maintain this tradition. The first Summit to take place with our seven new members, Istanbul will both build on established mechanisms for shaping security and unveil new policies and instruments to make our Alliance even more responsive to the new security environment.

Istanbul will demonstrate that the new, transformed Alliance is already up and running. Today's NATO is reinforcing our common security by reaching out, through our partnerships and our operations, to promote stability and tackle the threats and challenges of the 21st century wherever required.

Enhancing capabilities

Military capability is the crucial underpinning of our safety and security. It directly translates into political credibility. But in order to meet the full spectrum of modern security challenges, especially those originating outside Europe, we need capabilities that are different from those we needed in the past. We need forces that we can deploy more quickly, that can reach further and can stay in the field longer. At the 2002 Prague Summit, NATO leaders agreed a number of far-reaching initiatives to equip the Alliance with these capabilities. Since then, we have created a new Command Structure and a NATO Response Force. We have also made significant progress in acquiring key capabilities for modern operations, including strategic air- and sea-lift, air-to-air refuelling and precision-guided munitions. But for NATO to meet the challenges ahead still more needs to be done to enable Alliance forces to carry out the tasks Allies have agreed. That is why the Istanbul Summit will move beyond taking stock of the progress made so far, and introduce significant improvements in NATO's defence-planning and force-generation processes. These changes will further strengthen our ability to deploy the right forces at the right time.

Combating terrorism

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 put terrorism high on our agenda as a threat to Allied security and the world at large. NATO has acted quickly to counter this threat. At the Prague Summit, the Allies agreed to improve intelligence sharing. They also agreed to develop specific capabilities to deter terrorist activities and potential attacks, and to counter them if they should occur. They agreed a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism, in order to involve NATO's Partner countries more closely in this struggle. And they agreed a new military concept for the defence against terrorism. The concept states that the forces of the Allies must be able to "deter, disrupt and defend" against terrorists, and to do so wherever the interests of the Allies demand it. At Istanbul, we will carry this work another major step forward. An enhanced package of measures against terrorism will further improve NATO's potential for addressing new, unconventional threats.

Protecting against weapons of mass destruction

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has been a grave and gathering threat, and a key area of Alliance attention, for many years. A more recent concern is the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on these kinds of lethal weapons. Against this background, at Prague, the Allies took a number of steps to increase their defence posture against possible attack with nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological weapons. These measures include enhanced detection capabilities, better protective gear for NATO forces, and support for civilian authorities in case of an emergency. The Allies also agreed to begin a new NATO Missile Defence feasibility study to examine options for protecting Alliance territory, forces and population centres against the full range of missile threats. At Istanbul, we will complete various Prague initiatives, including a missile threat assessment, and mark the full operational capability of our new Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Battalion.

Building stability in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a top priority for NATO. If we want to win the war on terrorism, we must first win the peace in Afghanistan. That is why, last summer, the Alliance took charge of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). And it is why NATO is determined to see this mission through, and to make it a success. The security provided by ISAF has already helped achieve progress in a number of areas. Legitimate political institutions are developing. Fighters are gradually being disarmed and their weapons placed in secure sites. Reconstruction projects and other initiatives are improving the daily lives of many citizens. At the same time, however, serious challenges remain. The Istanbul Summit provides the perfect setting for NATO to demonstrate its unflinching commitment to a better future for Afghans and Afghanistan. The Alliance will expand the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) deployed outside Kabul. It will work with the Afghan authorities to spread security and stability. It will establish closer relations with Afghanistan's neighbours. And we will make it possible for other international organisations and non-governmental organisations to make their unique contributions to Afghanistan's future.

Bringing the Balkans back to Europe

The Istanbul Summit will also emphasise our continued stabilising role in the Balkans. A decade ago, we committed ourselves to a better future for the Balkans. Patience and persistence are paying off. Istanbul will be a time when we can legitimately point to our achievements. After all, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has improved to the point that we can gradually reduce our troop presence there, and hand over important responsibilities to the European Union. However, our job is not yet over. In Kosovo, NATO's continued presence remains essential. And in Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO will remain engaged after the Stabilisation Force it has been leading since December 1996 comes to an end to assist with defence reform, the search for indicted war criminals, and the fight against terrorism. We want Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome the remaining hurdles for joining the Partnership for Peace programme. And we want Serbia and Montenegro to do the same.

A new era of partnership

Istanbul will also be the place where we will raise relations with our Partner countries to a new level. The success of NATO's partnership policy has been remarkable. It has created military and human interoperability across Europe and well into Central Asia. And last March seven Partners turned into Allies — a step that changed the configuration of the remaining group of Partner countries. Our Partner countries are now more diverse, both geographically and in terms of their security interests and cooperation needs. This means that our partnership policy will have to enter a new phase — a phase characterised by more individualised cooperation with Partners, a much stronger focus on cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia, and a greater emphasis on defence reform to meet the new threats, such as terrorism. Such a new partnership will ensure that the unique strategic value of these mechanisms remains high — for Allies and Partners alike. Today's global challenges require global answers. NATO and its Partners are an important part of the response.

Relations with Russia

NATO-Russia relations are a permanent fixture of European security. Sound NATO-Russia relations mean a boost in our ability to cope with the new challenges of today and tomorrow – as already evidenced by the now regular ambassadorial and ministerial exchanges. The creation of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in May 2002 has taken our cooperation to a qualitatively new level. By focusing on the most critical issues facing both NATO and Russia – terrorism, proliferation, crisis management, civil emergencies, and defence reform the NRC has established itself as a serious forum. We also discuss matters of disagreement, such as issues related to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. Moreover, we will note progress on various projects on preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including missile defence and a global proliferation assessment that will help further work in this area.

Relations with Ukraine

NATO's relationship with Ukraine is no less important, and we want to give that relationship new momentum in Istanbul as well. One look at the map makes it clear that the entire Euro-Atlantic community has a powerful interest in assisting Ukraine's reform process. That is why, since 1997, NATO and Ukraine have engaged in a Distinctive Partnership which addresses key areas in which the Alliance and Ukraine can work together. In the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Allies and Ukraine hold regular discussions on topical security issues, and discuss how NATO can assist Ukraine's reforms, with a particular focus on the military and democratic reform processes. This includes supporting Ukraine's implementation of its Annual Target Plan, in which the country sets standards it will strive to meet.

Relations with the European Union

The establishment of a strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union is a fundamental institutional development. It holds the promise of giving us a far greater range of complementary instruments to meet current and future security challenges. And it is, at the same time, a major element in crafting a more mature, more equitable transatlantic relationship. The transfer of important military responsibilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina from NATO to the European Union - details of which will be unveiled in Istanbul – will reinforce the strategic partnership. Closer EU-NATO cooperation in the Balkans would also help in broadening EU-NATO cooperation to other areas, such as combating terrorism, coping with proliferation, and improving military capabilities in a mutually reinforcing way.

Mediterranean Dialogue and outreach to the wider region

Istanbul could also be the opportunity to launch a broader and more ambitious framework for NATO's outreach to countries from the Mediterranean and the wider region of the Middle East. Through a stronger focus on military interoperability, defence reform and the fight against terrorism, we should elevate the existing Mediterranean Dialogue to the level of genuine partnership. Istanbul could go even further, by launching a cooperative initiative for the wider region. Clearly, advancing security and political and economic progress will require strong engagement by the countries in the region since ownership is of the essence. It will also require a sound understanding on our part of their ambitions and concerns. And it will require a new degree of cooperation between our international institutions. At Istanbul, we should be able to underline NATO's contribution to such an effort.

By making progress in all these different areas, the Istanbul Summit will reaffirm NATO as the principal forum where Europe and North America address the key military and political issues of the day. Europe and North America have a unique strategic responsibility to uphold global stability. To continue to meet that responsibility, they must be prepared to project stability, in new ways and in new places, and to do so together. The Istanbul Summit will underline NATO's indispensable role in that crucial effort.

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