Key Messages on the NATO Summit in Chicago ― May 20/21, 2012
The next meeting of the NATO heads of state and government will take place in Chicago on May 20/21. NATO summits are special, today virtually global, events. They generally take place only every two years and, in addition to the heads of state and government of the member countries, bring together also leaders of the nations with which NATO has entered into a tight network of partnerships since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. So it will be a bustling May in Chicago.
The persistent question about the Alliance’s mission
Enlarge image US President Barack Obama (© picture-alliance/ dpa) In light of the rise of Asia, above all China, much is currently being said, often passionately, on both sides of the Atlantic about whether and how decisively the United States is now shifting its strategic direction toward Asia and thereby gradually losing sight of its old, reliable alliances with the countries of Europe.
It has been 13 years since a NATO summit last took place in the United States (1999 in Washington on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of NATO). The invitation by the U.S. Administration is thus at the same time an unequivocal response to that question. The U.S. Administration is sending a message: Yes, the world has changed. We are all looking at the opportunities and challenges emerging from the rise of China in Asia. But we also want in future to take up the challenge of the 21st century in close partnership with the friends and allies with whom we share the same values and views, with whom we have enjoyed close, durable relations over decades and longer. The world will be a better place if Europeans and North Americans stand together. For both Europeans and Americans, NATO remains the “indispensable alliance.”
Enlarge image Chancellor Merkel and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (© picture alliance / dpa) For the Federal Republic, the transatlantic security partnership is vital. Germany is a committed ally of the U.S. and within NATO. European integration and North-Atlantic cooperation are not mutually exclusive. They both are and will remain the most important reference points of German foreign and security policy.
Since 1989, the face of NATO, its strategic mandate, and its composition have entirely changed. The NATO summits have always served as milestones in this development. And in Chicago, important decisions will also taken, above all on Afghanistan, but also on future NATO military cooperation and its partnerships.
Afghanistan: Responsible transition
Ten years after the start of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where so far more than 110,000 German soldiers have been deployed since 2001, the time has come to gradually handover responsibility for the country’s security and stability to the Afghans themselves. Chicago will further determine how exactly this will happen in the coming years. One thing, however, is clear, as German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière also stressed during his recent visit here in Washington. It will be a responsible transition. And the allies who jointly responded to the 9/11 attack on the United States and invoked the NATO mutual defense clause will jointly handover responsibility for the country to their Afghan partners. “In together, out together” – as former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell once described the guiding principle for NATO. And also after 2014, NATO and its partners in the NATO-led ISAF operation will not abandon the Afghans, but will remain committed to the country in a spirit of partnership. An attack similar to 9/11, either on New York or anywhere else, must never again emanate from Afghanistan.
Defense capabilities in times of austerity
Enlarge image The reform of the German Armed Forces marks a milestone in the Federal Republic’s efforts to enhance security. (© picture alliance / dpa) Like the U.S., European nations are experiencing scarce resources and cuts in their national budgets, and cost-intensive defense budgets will not be spared. NATO allies therefore have to set priorities and carefully consider what will be needed in the future and what will not. But, above all, they will also have to decide which national plans to keep, which defense systems to acquire, and where and how they can cooperate intelligently in the future to save money. “Smart defense” will be the catchphrase at the NATO Summit in Chicago. The Federal Republic of Germany welcomes this approach. NATO must make a virtue of necessity. Smart defense will serve as an incentive for NATO partners to more closely coordinate their defense planning and procurement, to cooperate even more heavily than in the past to ensure our collective defense.
In this vein: The reform of the German Armed Forces marks a milestone in the Federal Republic’s efforts to enhance security. At the end of the reform, the German Armed Forces will be leaner, more efficient, and thus better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century.
In Chicago, NATO members will also take up a mandate of the previous NATO summit, which took place in Lisbon. NATO will review its defense and deterrence posture (conventional, nuclear, and missile defense) and consider what role the Alliance will in future play in disarmament and arms control. These issues are also an important concern of the German Government.
Partnerships – the modern NATO is more than 28 member states
Since 1989, the number of NATO member states has grown from 17 to 28. Adversaries have become allies. And a host of successor states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, and Western Balkan states, who are not formal allies, are moving ever closer to NATO.
The link between Russia and NATO today stands on a solid foundation. We are united in the recognition that the NATO states and Russia are faced with the same opportunities and challenges in the globalized world. Germany was and is a proponent of good relations with Moscow which are based on a spirit of partnership.
The Alliance has also established partnerships with the North African states bordering the coast of the Mediterranean and the states of the Arabian Peninsula. The “Arab Spring” has brought home the importance of partnerships with these countries. It is not about the Alliance playing a military role but, perhaps over the midterm, about those countries benefiting from the experiences which the Alliance gained when it created an enlarged European space of security out of the region of the former Soviet Union. Exporting stability in this way to the southern periphery would be an important security gain for Europeans and North Americans alike. NATO will endeavor in Chicago to make some progress to towards this aim.