Behind the Scenes: NATO's 60th Anniversary Summit

Posted by Kurt Volker
April 7, 2009
NATO Summit at Congress Center in Strasbourg, France

About the Author: Kurt Volker serves as U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.

President Obama scored a huge success at his first NATO Summit -- a strong sense of transatlantic unity, a common strategy and some significant new contributions on Afghanistan, two new NATO Members, France reintegrating into NATO military structures for the first time since the 1960's, and the decision to write a new NATO strategic concept to focus NATO on the security threats of the future. NATO even picked a new Secretary General -- pretty big stuff.

Getting these kinds of results is the culmination of months of diplomatic efforts -- building trust and consensus with Allies, identifying key challenges (such as training Afghan security forces), pinpointing political obstacles and figuring out how to remove them, working with military and colleagues in NATO's military headquarters and in Afghanistan, and building public support around Europe.

We had teams of people:

• A three-embassy logistics team to put together a massive Summit meeting held by NATO, taking place in both Germany and France.

• A strong interagency team of Washington officials from the State Department, Pentagon, and National Security Council.

• A team of military, DoD civilian, and Foreign Service officers, all with experience in Afghanistan, working out of the U.S. Mission and putting the diplomatic, military, and policy pieces together.

• A team of public diplomacy experts identifying our key messages and using a variety of means -- from videos to blogs to TV, radio, and print interviews to even getting the original NATO Treaty out of the National Archives and across the Atlantic -- to reach out to a wide public audience.

In the days prior to the Summit, we worked country-by-country to nail down contributions of military training teams for the Afghan National Army. And on the day of the Summit itself, there was tremendous anticipation as leaders reached consensus on the selection of NATO's next Secretary General.

Senior officials were called into a side room to strike an agreement on missile defense, while elsewhere diplomats hammered out the final points that sealed the deal on French reintegration.

The public image of a summit often masks an enormous amount of work and productivity that lead to the kind of results we saw in Strasbourg and Kehl.

Read Ambassador Volker's previous entry about the NATO Ministerial in Brussels.



New Mexico, USA
April 7, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ambassador Volker, In reference to my previous post of Sat Apr 04, on


Since 9/11, the US military has been rotating troops in and out of combat zones to the point that today perhaps 90% of all U.S. military personel have either served in combat directly, in direct support of combat ops, or in-theater logistics.

Which means that not only do we have the best trained, best equipped military on Earth, but the most combat experienced force in the world today.

Can you please tell me what percentage of forces overall from all other NATO members combined have direct combat experience?

Obviously the level of experience directly correlates to the level of effective common defense NATO can deliver to its citizens under its influence as a military structure.

Why it is that the 25 other nations involved can't bring themselves to come up with 17,000 combat troops to match this one member's commitment to the common defense and common cause in Afghanistan is beyond all logical comprehention, and if you would take a stab at explaining this quandry to me, I would certainly appreciate that as well sir.

I regard this as a sole and separate issue from training and support personel involved in any civilian effort and commitments made.



United Kingdom
April 9, 2009

Henry O. in the United Kingdom writes:

I honored to write the U.S. Presidency, my congrats to the new President on the job! His recent visit to London for the G20 meeting fills everyone -- EVEN NON-AMERICANS with so much zeal and exitement. He is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! Well the reason why I am writing is because of the current Somali situation where pirates go about hijacking vessels. May I suggest that the press should be advised against giving undue attention to those crooks because that is what they crave, no negotiations or ransom instead massive pressure should be mounted on Somali govt. and the African Union, surely they can stand aside and let this cankerworm develope over the years into a tragedy and also various international countries whose trade zones cuts accross that route must step up immediately as this is not a U.S. problem alone. The last time it was a Saudi Vessel but definitely things can't and should never be allowed to go on like this. I am shocked the press is busy going on about this being a test of Mr President at a time when they ought to be call on African leaders to safeguard their foreign trade/investments by stepping up joint security measures to monitor, pursue and bring those hoodlums to justice.


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