April 20, 2019

NATO discussions on North Macedonia, INF Treaty and Afghanistan

NATO Defense Ministerial to be held in Brussels on 13-14 February

On the picture H.E. Kay bailey Hutchison, Ambassador, United States Mission to NATO.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On the eve of the NATO Defense Ministerial set to be held in Brussels on 13-14 February 2019, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, Permanent Representative of the United States to NATO, outlined the meeting’s agenda. The discussions will focus on a broad range of topic, including North Macedonia’s accession protocol, the INF Treaty, defense investment and capabilities, as well as the situation in Afghanistan.

A busy global political agenda is set to characterize the European continent in this week. While Warsaw will host the Ministerial for Peace and Security in the Middle East, Brussels will welcome the Defense Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On the eve of this latter meeting, the US Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, outlined to the press the main points on the agenda.

The discussions will start with the welcoming of the accession protocol for North Macedonia, which is set to become the 30th member of NATO. Ambassador Hutchison reiterated the full US support to the country’s accession, and expressed confidence that the ratification process will be smooth. Although no timeline is set – she noted – within the end of the year the due procedures might be completed.

Another important point on the agenda will be the INF Treaty. The US recently suspended its obligations under the treaty on account of alleged violations be the Russian side. As a consequence – the Ambassador explained – the US is going forward with due countermeasures as provided by the treaty protocols. As for the way forward, Ambassador Hutchinson clarified that the US “would welcome a new treaty that includes all the countries that have the ballistic missiles that would be a violation of the treaty.”

Defense Ministers will also tackle the issue of defense investment, on which NATO allies have already made “great strides” – Ambassador Hutchison noted. The discussions will focus on the so called “three C’s”: Cash (moving towards two percent of national GDP for military expenditure), Capability (spending twenty percent of this amount to meet capability targets), and Contributions (increasing contributions to NATO missions).

While noting that the established targets are still not met, Ambassador Hutchison welcomed the significant progress made by NATO allies since 2016, and voiced her hope that further progress will be achieved over the next years.

Moreover, deterrence and defense will be on the Ministers’ agenda. Specifically, the focus will be on the so called “four 30s”: 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, 30 ships in 30 days, wherever needed. NATO allies will also discuss issues such as military mobility and telecommunication security, key aspects of NATO deterrence and defense efforts.

Finally, the last major part of the Ministerial will focus on the current situation in Afghanistan, and notably on the latest developments in the peace process. US Special Envoy Ambassador Khalilzad is “breaking new ground” – Ambassador Hutchison stressed – and while concrete results have not yet been reached, the developments seem to be going in the right direction.

Questioned by the press on potential internal fractures inside NATO, Ambassador Hutchison reassured that the Alliance’s unity on its core function is not at stake. While some divergences among allies do exist, for instance on the domestic political situation of certain member states, such differences are addressed by the US at the bilateral level, and do not poison the tight security cooperation among NATO members. Nevertheless, the Ambassador defined as “very troubling” the plans by Turkey to purchase Russian missile defense systems, and urged the country not to go forward with such decision.

The NATO Defense Ministerial will be held at NATO headquarters on February 13th and 14th. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will chair the meeting, which will be the first one for US Acting Secretary of Defense Mr. Patrick Shanahan.

Comments are closed.