WASHINGTON: Agreements reached at the Nov. 19-20 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, represent a blueprint the alliance must follow with “long-term construction projects,” a top Defense Department policy official said today.
In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, summarized the summit’s key agreements and the work the alliance faces to implement them.
“While the Lisbon summit was certainly a major milestone for the alliance with a number of achievements, the … hard work of implementation still lies ahead of us,” Flournoy said, “whether you’re talking about NATO’s work in Afghanistan, about rebalancing to meet the new challenges, or about our relationship with Russia.”
Afghanistan is the most immediate and consequential issue facing the alliance, she said, and summit agreements on a NATO-Afghanistan strategic partnership and a framework for security transition demonstrate long-term commitment on the part of participating nations.
“Trainers are the ticket to transition” in Afghanistan, Flournoy said, noting that NATO must continue to assist Afghanistan’s development of “credible and effective” security forces if that nation is to meet the goal of assuming full responsibility for its own security in 2014.
The Afghan army and police are successfully building numbers, quality and retention in their ranks, and they need the support of NATO trainers to sustain that trend, she said.
“I especially want to tip my hat here to our Canadian friends, who announced just before the summit that they would be providing 750 trainers and 200 support troops,” she said. “We expect many others to come forward with additional such commitments in the force-generation conference that began today.”
“There’s a long way to go in Afghanistan, … but we have seen before what happens when we abandon it,” she added. “In Lisbon, we saw a real commitment on the part of the NATO allies to ensure that we do not make that mistake again.”
The second key summit topic was rebalancing NATO forces to meet current and future challenges, Flournoy said.
“The centerpiece of this effort was, of course, the new strategic concept, essentially the new mission statement for NATO,” she said, noting this is the first such document for the alliance since 1999. The document lays out a balanced concept for NATO’s future that reaffirms the centrality of the alliance’s mutual security guarantee, she said.
“Crucially, this strategic concept also includes missile defense as a new mission for the alliance,” she said, calling that provision, “a great example of a theme that runs throughout the strategic concept – the need for this great alliance to adapt to address new threats.”
The strategic concept “clearly articulates the real threats” to NATO’s collective security, she said: terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare, destruction of the global commons, environmental and resource constraints, and “the chronic instability that can foster extremism and erode the rule of law.”
The cyber threat defies established security concepts such as escalation control and military notions of offense and defense, she said.
“Unfortunately, NATO’s ability to defend its own cyber networks is not what it needs to be,” Flournoy said. “This is why we agreed to undertake a cyber policy review … [that] should result in a plan of action to improve the protection of our systems.”
While NATO works to address current and emerging threats, Flournoy said, the global economic downturn requires that member nations find creative ways to redirect spending and pool resources.
“In Lisbon, the allies took meaningful steps … to strip out some of the bureaucratic layers in order to make more funds available for vital operations and capability investments,” she said. “Specifically, the allies agreed to … the elimination of some seven headquarters and the reduction of headquarters personnel by about 4,000 people.”
A notable example of pooling defense resources, she added, can be found in the recent treaty signed by France and the United Kingdom allowing for cooperation in nuclear testing.
“The U.S. fully supports this cooperation between two of our staunchest and most capable military allies, and we call upon other members of the alliance to see similar opportunities where appropriate,” she said.
Flournoy then touched on what she termed the third key summit outcome, a NATO “reset” with Russia.
First, she said, NATO and Russia signed a joint review focused on common security challenges including counter-terrorism, combating weapons of mass destruction, disaster preparedness, piracy and Afghanistan.
“This document charts the way ahead for concrete cooperation between NATO and Russia,” Flournoy said.
Second, Russia agreed to “even greater cooperation” on Afghanistan, she said, in areas including enhanced shipment of coalition supplies through Russian territory, expansion of joint counternarcotics training, and a new initiative to help Afghanistan maintain its helicopter fleet.
Finally, Russia and NATO also agreed to restart their theater missile defense cooperation program, stalled since 2008, and to “develop a comprehensive framework for future missile defense cooperation in time for the June ministerial [conference],” Flournoy said.
In the NATO-Russia reset, as with other areas of progress coming out of Lisbon, Flournoy emphasized, true success will only come with follow-through.
“We have to back up our words and our agreements with real action,” she said.