NATO Defence Ministers had to deal with a full plate of hot issues

Posted in NATO | 20-Jun-07 | Author: Benedicte Borel

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer delivers a speech at the start of a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels June 14, 2007.

On 14-15 June, NATO Defence Ministers met at NATO HQ to discuss key issues of the current Euro-Atlantic Agenda. In line with the last NATO Summit in Riga, this meeting provided a formal political dialogue on defence issues as they were informally raised at Seville. Decided through a political consensus among the 26 NATO Allies, the final communiqué paves the way to future tasking and recalls core principles of the Alliance regarding the current operations and missions, its partnerships and its defence transformation as well as concerning missiles defence issues.

According to the importance given to this subject in the Communiqué and also at different meetings organised alongside these ministerial meetings, Afghanistan remains the top priority of NATO member countries and their Partners. Indeed, six paragraphs are dedicated to the operation in Afghanistan. Furthermore, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with non-ISAF contributors, held after the main meeting, as well as a working dinner which followed were both devoted to discussion on the operation. These meetings gave the opportunity to all nations concerned, including Afghanistan, represented by Defence Minister Wardak, to consider in depth how NATO, the Afghan authorities and their Partners can enhance their cooperation and work on the ground to strengthen and promote security and stability.

Likewise, Kosovo remains on the Agenda as a crucial priority. Through pursuing Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia - for which it was the first Ministerial Defence - the recalling of the eventual integration at the upcoming Summit of Bucharest of Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the crucial partnership with Russia and the European Union within a future PESD in the Serbian province, the Alliance pursue its mission of consolidating peace, security and stability in the UN Administrated Province of Kosovo.

Among other topics which were raised on the Agenda, discussions on missile defence were given high importance. At the request of the Russian Federation and after a series of discussions within the Alliance following U.S. proposals to base interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic, NATO Allies agreed to pursue the TMD approach, to assess the full implications of the US system vis-à-vis the Alliance and to maintain cooperation and discussions with Moscow on defence missile-related issues. NATO Allies and their Partners, especially in the framework of ongoing and extraordinary discussions at Vienna on CFE Treaty at which no agreement has been reached, awaited this opportunity to discuss these issues. At this stage, Minister Grytsenko, Ukrainian Minister of Defence took the opportunity to give his point of view on American, Russian and Ukrainian concerns on this programme.

NATO transformation, partnerships such as Georgian, Russian, and Ukrainian cooperation and achievements, were also raised as well as other operations and missions such Darfur, Iraq and Active Endeavour were under the Agenda. Regarding all these issues, the next step forward will be addressed at the forthcoming summit which will take place in Romania next year.

Bénédicte Borel is WSN Editor NATO and EU