The 25th NATO summit, which will be taking place in Chicago on 20 and 21 May 2012, will be “the biggest in the Alliance’s history”, commented NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The Secretary General underscored that during the maxi-summit, which around 60 countries and organisations will be attending, a further 20-30 multi-national projects will be launched. Key goals include: the short- to medium-term programme in Afghanistan; security questions in a period of economic crisis; and the strengthening of existing partnerships worldwide.
Afghanistan: Long-term partnership post-2014
Rasmussen confirmed that NATO will complete its mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 but will “remain committed to our long-term partnership with the Afghan people”.
“We have made significant progress towards our goal. We are on track to complete transition to Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014” said Rasmussen, adding that “Afghan troops and police are in the lead for the security of half the population. And I expect that they will take charge of more areas soon, because every day, they are growing more capable and more confident”.
Italy, for its part, will progressively reduce its military contingent in Afghanistan from now until 2014, in line with our Allies, while at the same time continuing to provide help and support for the Afghan security forces. After 2014, in the post-ISAF context, “we intend to play a part, with the initiatives decided by the international community, in maintaining the Afghans’ capability through a training and assistance presence that also includes a financial dimension”. These were the comments made by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi and Defence Minister Giampaolo di Paola in their recent addresses to the joint Chamber of Deputies.
Security in times of austerity
At a recent meeting with the Italian Premier, Mario Monti, Secretary General Rasmussen said that the NATO Summit would be discussing how to provide security in times of austerity. The economy and security are, he said, closely connected because a weak economy provides fewer resources for security. The stronger the economy, the more we can invest in security, because strong economic policies are, in effect, policies for security.
In Lisbon, noted Rasmussen, “we agreed to build a missile defence system to protect NATO’s European populations, territory and forces against a grave and growing threat. In Chicago, we will declare an interim capability. This is only a first step, but it is significant”. In Chicago, he added, “we will launch between 20 and 30 other multinational projects, including for better protection, better surveillance, and better maintenance”.
“Our goal is NATO Forces 2020 – an Alliance that is fit for the next decade and beyond. And the way to get there is Smart Defence – a renewed culture of cooperation that allows all Allies to provide more security for our citizens even in an age of austerity”, the Secretary General continued.
Italian Defence Minister Di Paola said that Italy would work in cooperation with its NATO partners with a view to optimising the use of each country’s resources. Our country will step up the “air policing” mission it already performs and will soon play a part in the air defence of the Baltic countries.
The anti-missile shield and relations with Russia
NATO remains confident that agreement will be reached with Russia on the missile defence programme, in spite of Moscow’s opposition to European plans for a “shield”. In Prime Minister Monti’s view, the anti-missile shield currently under study in Europe must not have negative consequences for the NATO-Russia relationship. Rather, it should pave the way for a strategic improvement in relations between Moscow and the Alliance, he added, speaking at a joint press conference with the NATO Secretary General in Rome a few days ago.
Cooperation between NATO and Russia is “strategic”, underscored Minister Terzi. “The NATO-Russian relationship is one we care strongly about and our goal is to keep the subject firmly on the NATO radar but also on that of the Russian leadership”. The Minister added that “Although it was not possible to obtain a session of the NATO-Russia Council in Chicago, for Italy it is significant that at the recent NATO Ministerial in Brussels Foreign Minister Lavrov underscored the need to keep the Pratica di Mare spirit alive”.
“We will strengthen our network of partnerships across the globe”, underscored the NATO Secretary General. Italy’s line fully reflects this goal. Speaking in Parliament, Defence Minister Di Paolo reiterated the need for collaboration with our partners to increase still further. He noted that in Chicago “we will begin a discussion on which forms of cooperation we can establish with the new emerging powers, such as China, Brazil, India, South Africa and others”.