October 16, 2018

NATO moves towards the implementation of the July summit declaration

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On October 2nd, 2018, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, briefed the press ahead of the NATO Defense Ministerial of October 3rd and 4th. The Ambassador outlined some of the forthcoming key points of discussion and highlighted the role of the U.S. as a leader in the Alliance.

 

Less than three months after the last NATO Summit of July 2018, NATO Defense Ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels on October 3rd and 4th, in order to discuss the implementation of the July Summit Declaration. Ahead of this meeting, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, outlined in a press briefing the main points that will be on the table during the upcoming Ministerial. Starting from the July declaration, which focuses especially on deterring Russia and countering terrorism, the Ministerial is now set to kick off the implementation phase.

One of the focus of the meeting will be on NATO capabilities. Currently – Ms. Hutchison explained – NATO has adopted that goal of the “Four 30s,” that is, 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 ships available for deployment in maximum 30 days. Moreover, the Ambassador welcomed the reform of NATO command structure, the establishment of two new headquarters in the U.S. and Germany, as well as the Alliance’s commitments in terms of hybrid threats and cyber operations.

In the upcoming meeting, the Ministers will also discuss the much debated target of 2% of national GDP in defense investment. Ambassador Hutchison welcomed the progress made by many countries, stressing that although the target is still not reached, the overall trends are positive. She stressed that although effectiveness of spending is hard to measure, NATO capabilities in terms of military equipment and interoperability show that defense investments yield their results.

Moreover, the Ambassador added that the Ministers will discuss NATO nuclear deterrence capabilities, as well as the cooperation between NATO and Georgia, a country that enjoys the full support of the Alliance.

The last main focus of the Ministerial will be the fight against terrorism. Ambassador Hutchison praised the work of the Alliance in support of the local security forces in Afghanistan, where the alliance is committed until 2024. Moreover, she also gave an update on the upcoming mission in Iraq, which will be led by Canada and will be tasked with training and advising Iraqi security forces. This mission, which will be deployed in close coordination with the Iraqi government, is set to stabilize the areas reconquered from ISIS and prevent a potential future fallout.

Questions from the press focused on a wide range of issues. Many focused on the situation of Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine. Ambassador Hutchison repeatedly stressed that NATO is well aware of the threats arising from the Russian presence in the region, and noted that both NATO and the U.S. are fully committed to support NATO members and partners vis-à-vis Russia.

Concerning the case of Turkey, the Ambassador stressed that while there are bilateral differences between the U.S. and Turkey, the latter remains a very valuable partner to NATO, and military high-level ties are still strong. As for the assessment of the relationship between the U.S. and its European partners, Ms. Hutchison stressed that the overall status of the bond is good, and especially so in the security field. Even on Iran, while the two parties disagree on the issue of the Iran Nuclear Deal, they still have a shared view on Iran’s malign activities in the region at large – the Ambassador explained.

Finally, Ms. Hutchison welcomed the result of the referendum held in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, expressing her hopes that the government and the parliament will be able to move ahead with the political follow-ups and accompany the country in its accession to NATO.

In her concluding remarks, Ambassador Hutchison stressed the leading role of the U.S. in NATO, as well as the country’s present and future commitment to transatlantic ties. As the world changes and new challenges emerge, she stressed that NATO wants to remain successful in securing “peace throughout the Alliance territory,” while “adapting to the changes that are necessary to secure our future.”

 

 

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