NATO's 25th summit heads to Chicago on May 20-21. The Summit will deliver on decisions that were taken at last year’s summit in Lisbon, as well as set the course for future engagement in Afghanistan and look to adopt a new culture of cooperation among NATO member and partner countries. The following article provides a round-up of commentary and current news stories related to the upcoming event.
Partner Countries are Key
The upcoming summit will be the largest gathering held by NATO since its inception with about 60 countries and international organizations represented.
Israel will not attend the summit, despite being a partner to NATO. News reports claim that Turkey vetoed Israel’s participation. The relations between the two turned sour after eight Turks were killed in a raid by Israeli commandos on ships heading to Gaza in 2010. Turkey has also objected to the European Union’s participation, claiming that the EU can only participate if the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation is allowed to attend.
In a monthly press conference in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen stated:
[W]e have actually invited a number of countries from the region; neighbours of Afghanistan, Central Asian countries, Russia, because they provide important transit arrangements to the benefit of our operation.
Pakistan is among these countries and has recently received an invitation after it became apparent that an agreement to reopen NATO transit routes through Pakistan will be reached.
Operations in Afghanistan will also require cooperation with Moscow in the form of logistic support on Russian territory. So far, NATO and Russia appear to be moving towards disagreement over the US-led missile defense system in Europe. At an International Missile Defense Conference held in Moscow earlier this month, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, called for close cooperation between both sides on this issue:
NATO’s objective is to find a way forward that includes strong cooperation with Russia on missile defense [...] We want NATO and Russia to be full partners in missile defense. Cooperation between our respective missile defense systems would strengthen strategic stability and build confidence that we are pursuing common objectives.
Russian Defense Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, presented a proposal for "sectoral" missile defenses in Europe; Russia would protect half of the continent, including parts of Poland, most of Norway and the Baltic States, while the other half will fall under NATO’s sector of responsibility.
Rasmussen Making the Rounds
In the run-up to the Summit, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has begun pre-summit consultations with the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Romania, illustrating NATO’s rigorous preparation for the summit.
Security Concerns Remain High in Windy City
Meanwhile, Chicago continues to beef up security and has acquired 500 troopers from the Illinois State Police and 600 Illinois National Guard troops to assist the Chicago Police Department for the summit and protests. A Temporary Flight Restriction will also be imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of NATO’s security measures. There will most likely be concrete barricades and “anti-scale” chain linked fences erected around the McCormick Place intended to protect summit participants from protestors and terrorist truck bombs.
Gordon Outlines Priorities
Philip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, in a statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 10, asserted:
As we look to Chicago, these three summit priorities – defining the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan, outlining a vision for addressing 21st century challenges in a period of austerity, and expanding our partnerships – show just how much NATO has evolved since its founding six decades ago. The reasons for the Alliance’s continued success are clear: NATO has, over the last 63 years, proven to be an adaptable, durable, and cost-effective provider of security.
There's More to Chicago Than Meets the Eye
Not everybody shares his optimism, however. Jan Techau, the director of Carnegie Europe, the European centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes:
NATO is in crisis because the European security market now runs a very real risk of losing its most important purveyor of military power: the United States. Americans have decided for financial and geopolitical reasons, and also out of ignorance, that their strategic interests in Europe are now secondary to those in Asia. As a result, America is to reduce its military footprint in Europe, even though it’s the footprint that anchored global affairs in security and stability for the past six decades; no other region of the world is as wealthy, free, democratic, innovative and responsible as the North Atlantic.
Ramin Daniel Rezai is an editor of atlantic-community.org.