With only six days remaining until President Obama and other world leaders gather in Wales, final preparations are in full gear for the NATO Summit. In this two-day event, President Obama and other world leaders will focus on a diverse range of challenges: the Ukraine crisis and the impact of Russia’s actions on transatlantic security; NATO’s evolving mission in Afghanistan; the readiness of Alliance capabilities; and the deepening and broadening of NATO’s partnerships.
The Wales Summit is a strategic inflection point for NATO -- 65 years after NATO was created by the Washington Treaty, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and following two decades of continuous operations in the Balkans and then Afghanistan, NATO now faces new challenges to the east, the southeast and the south. In this context, our leaders at Wales will reaffirm their commitment to a strong Alliance that safeguards our citizens, defends our values, and projects stability in an unstable world.
At the Summit, we’ll focus on four main themes.
First, Afghanistan. After 12 years, NATO can be proud of its legacy in Afghanistan. Our objectives have been clear: disrupting threats posed by al Qaeda; supporting Afghan security forces; and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own. Together with the Afghan people and international partners, NATO helped build an army and police and created secure space for improvements in health, education, women’s rights, media freedom and governmental institutions -- all building blocks for a secure and democratic future. And NATO’s commitment doesn’t end when ISAF’s combat mission ends at the end of 2014. NATO will remain a partner for Afghanistan as we transition to a new mission focused on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces. We will provide the tools and the training, and the Afghans will provide the courage and the will to succeed. Much remains to be done but Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of Afghans, while NATO stands ready to support.
Second, challenges on NATO’s periphery. NATO leaders will meet with Ukrainian President Poroshenko to discuss the crisis caused by Russia’s illegal aggression, the most severe challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War. All 28 Allies today contribute to reassurance measures in the air, on the land and at sea among the eastern Allies, signaling NATO’s unity and resolve. At the Summit, we’ll address additional reassurance measures and further adaptations to NATO’s posture in response to this challenge. Leaders will also discuss the rapidly evolving situations in Syria and Iraq, as well as persistent instability in North Africa, especially Libya.
Third, capabilities. NATO’s mutual security guarantee rests on the ability of each Ally to come to the defense of the others. Leaders will consider a Readiness Action Plan that adapts the Alliance to new challenges. Our nations must ensure that NATO has the capabilities required -- experienced troops, modern equipment, world-class training, regular operational exercises, and ongoing education. Military capability is the core of the Alliance, and this requires defense investments. Allies all benefit from NATO’s security guarantee and all must contribute proportionately, especially now that we are beginning to recover from the worst recession in Alliance history. Together we must reverse the decline in defense spending, move towards the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP and 20 percent of military spending allocated to investment, and improve in meeting NATO’s agreed performance metrics. Each Ally must commit to doing its part to keep our Alliance strong, ready and able to meet current and emerging threats. Shared benefits mean shared responsibility.
Finally, partnerships. With over 40 partners around the world, NATO has a valuable network that exports stability well beyond the borders of the Alliance -- from Mauritania east to Japan, from Sweden south to the Persian Gulf. Our partners enhance Alliance operations, add critical capabilities, and provide political and geographic diversity. We believe NATO’s partners benefit, too, gaining access to world-class training, exercises and education; building capacity in their own security institutions; opening political dialogue on shared interests; and pooling resources to gain efficiencies. NATO partnerships are a two-way street and, as we meet in Wales, our leaders will consider how this Alliance will continue to invest in NATO partnerships beyond 2014.
Overall, the Summit provides Alliance leaders the opportunity to renew NATO’s core mission: our binding obligation to Article 5, the mutual defense commitment in the Washington Treaty. As President Obama joins our Allies and partners in Wales, the world will focus again on NATO. Since 1949, NATO has been the world’s strongest, most durable, and most effective military alliance. It is a family of nations from both sides of the Atlantic who are committed to peace and freedom and determined to defend these common values. In Wales, we will reaffirm that commitment and determination, and make sure that NATO has what it takes to keep our nations secure and our citizens safe.