On 15 September, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined NATO's priorities ahead of the November summit of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon. Addressing the media at NATO Headquarters, Mr Fogh Rasmussen stated that securing an agreement at Lisbon on a new Strategic Concept for NATO was a key priority.
Allies will have the chance to discuss the draft concept at a joint meeting of NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers on 14 October. Discussions will revolve around how best to respond to modern threats to NATO populations, including identifying the most effective measures for cyber and missile defence; on how NATO can learn from operational experiences such as Afghanistan; and the future breadth of NATO’s partnership programmes. The Secretary General also expects that the strategic concept will mandate a process of continual reform to ensure that NATO taxpayers get the best value for money through, for example, commonly funded programmes and joint procurement.
The second main item on the Summit’s agenda is Afghanistan. The Secretary General challenged recent skeptical views on progress in Afghanistan, explaining that the Taliban are under pressure all across the country, and that although the NATO strategy is neither quick nor easy, it is making steady progress to enable the Afghans to take care of their own security. He highlighted that the Afghan Government and NATO now have clear political and security criteria to allow the start of transition to Afghan lead in the first half of 2011: “At the Kabul Conference in late July, the whole International Community agreed that transition to Afghan lead will begin next year, with an aim to complete it throughout the country by 2014,” said Mr Fogh Rasmussen.
The Secretary General expects the Lisbon summit to endorse the way forward and launch the process of transition. Furthermore, the summit is expected to agree a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan that will endure beyond the completion of NATO's combat mission. “It is very important that Afghans, but also all the countries of the region, understand that NATO’s support for Afghanistan is for the long run,” he said.
According to the Secretary General, the third key priority will be to “put new energy into our practical cooperation with Russia.” There are areas of common interest where NATO and Russia can work together: Afghanistan and the fight against drugs, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, proliferation and missile defence protection for our troops. Mr Fogh Rasmussen went on to explain his hope that NATO can cooperate with Russia on missile defence for Europe. He will deliver a speech on NATO-Russia relations in Rome on Friday, 17 September.
Finally, the Secretary General was encouraged that the European Union Council meeting on 16 September will address how to improve relations with NATO, explaining that there are some fresh ideas now tabled for discussion which would enable NATO-EU relations to move to a new level. It is hoped that progress can be made ahead of Lisbon when both NATO and the EU will have summit meetings.