April 19, 2019

NATO allies prepare for the 70th anniversary celebrations

Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, Permanent Representative of the United States to NATO.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is getting ready for the celebration of its 70th anniversary. Foreign Ministers and diplomats from all allied countries will gather in Washington, D.C. on April 3rd-4th, with the double aim of celebrating the organization’s anniversary and discussing issues such as burden sharing, counterterrorism, and emerging threats.

It was on April 4th, 1949, in the wake of World War II, that twelve European and North American states officially signed the North Atlantic Treaty, thus establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. Today, seventy years later, the organization is getting ready to celebrate its anniversary in the Mellon Auditorium, Washington D.C., the very same place where the treaty was signed seventy years ago. Underlining the importance of such event, Foreign Ministers and high-level diplomats from the now twenty-nine NATO allies will gather in Washington for the occasion, which will be also used for discussing the current and future challenges of the organization in a rapidly changing global scenario.

On the eve of the Ministerial, the Permanent Representative of the United States to NATO, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, briefed the press on the upcoming event. She praised the organization for being “the longest standing military alliance in the history of the world” and stressed that “together we are able to do so much more than any of us could do alone”. Moreover, she also welcomed the invitation extended by the U.S. Congress to NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, to speak in front of its joint session, stressing the unprecedented character of such event and the U.S. Congress’ strong commitment to NATO.

Ambassador Hutchison also outlined the major topics that will be tackled in the Ministerial of April 3rd-4th. She announced that discussions on burden sharing among NATO allies, in terms of both capabilities and expenditure, will feature in the agenda. Moreover, Foreign Ministers will discuss counterterrorism, a very sensitive topic on account of the terrorist attacks that have happened in several NATO countries. Finally, the Ministerial will also be focused on emerging threats, in order to ensure that the alliance takes “the necessary steps to be strong and allied against any risk in the future”. 

While keeping an eye on the future, NATO Foreign Ministers will also focus on the challenges faced by NATO in the present. Ambassador Hutchison underlined the threat posed by “a more aggressive Russia” and its involvement in Ukraine. In this regard, she welcomed the recent imposition of sanctions by some NATO members, and announced the plan to shore up the Ukrainian defenses and increase surveillance in the Black Sea.

Questioned about potential sources of disunity within NATO, Ambassador Hutchison stressed that, in spite of some natural internal disagreements, NATO allies remain a very united military front against any external threats. She welcomed the cooperation with several NATO allies, stressing the importance of their cooperation with the organization, and welcomed the progress achieved by countries such as Ukraine and Georgia in making steps forward towards joining NATO. In the meanwhile – she noted – the ratification procedure for the accession of North Macedonia is proceeding, with the U.S. Senate expected to hold a vote on the issue in Fall 2019.

As the Foreign Ministerial and the 70th anniversary celebrations will wind down, the organization will start its preparation for the following major meeting, the Leaders’ Summit to be held in London towards the end of the year. This occasion – Ambassador Hutchison noted – will be another occasion to celebrate the role of NATO, and to strengthen even more the partnership between NATO allies. Beyond its 70th anniversary, NATO continues to be a big actor on the global stage.

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