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NATO adopts new Strategic Concept

With the adoption of a new Strategic Concept at the summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November, NATO set its course for the next decade. The NATO states intend to construct a missile defence system together with Russia. As regards the mission in Afghanistan, the alliance launched the process of handing over responsibility for security to the Afghan people.

The summit focused on the new NATO Strategic Concept, which replaces the concept adopted in 1999 and readies the alliance for the new challenges of a globalized world.

Alongside NATO’s traditional task of ensuring the collective defence of the alliance, the Concept addresses new threats such as international terrorism and attacks on computer systems, as well as energy security issues. It also places particular emphasis on the significance of disarmament and arms control. The new Concept reflects the experiences of NATO operations in places such as Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the NATO summit

Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the NATO summit
© NATO

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Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the NATO summit

Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the NATO summit

Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the NATO summit


Greater security through disarmament

The Strategic Concept endorses the principle of nuclear deterrence for as long as nuclear weapons continue to exist in the world. At the same time, however, it emphasizes how important disarmament is for security. For the first time, NATO has agreed on the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Foreign Minister Westerwelle and the German Government as a whole had campaigned for this goal during the run-up to the summit.

Summing up, Westerwelle said “This is the most disarmament NATO has ever had.” He added that NATO’s advancement of disarmament and arms control would bring “an increase in security”.

More information on disarmament and arms control

Including Russia

The new Concept also envisages the establishment of a missile defence system. NATO has offered to cooperate with Russia on this project. Russian President Medvedev, who personally travelled to Lisbon for the summit, appeared open to the proposal. Foreign Minister Westerwelle called this a watershed event.

In its current threat analysis NATO names the danger of a ballistic missile attack as one of the key threats to the alliance. This danger is faced equally by NATO member states and Russia.

Cyber attacks: a new form of conflict

The ever-increasing dependence of modern industrialized societies on computer systems means that cyber attacks have the potential to paralyze entire countries. NATO intends to rise to this challenge too. It has set the goal of improving its capabilities for the protection of critical communications and information systems.

This is to be achieved primarily through the consultations and close cooperation referred to in Article 4 of the NATO Treaty.

President Karzai and NATO Secretary General sign a declaration of partnership

President Karzai and NATO Secretary General sign a declaration of partnership
© NATO

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President Karzai and NATO Secretary General sign a declaration of partnership

President Karzai and NATO Secretary General sign a declaration of partnership

President Karzai and NATO Secretary General sign a declaration of partnership


Handing over security responsibility in Afghanistan

At the summit in Lisbon NATO also resolved to hand over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan Government step by step, beginning next year. During this transition, NATO will increasingly shift the focus of its engagement from military support to training. The Afghan Government aims to assume full responsibility for security in 2014.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle said that Germany supported this goal. He added that the handover would begin in 2011 in some regions. If security developments allowed, the number of Bundeswehr soldiers serving in Afghanistan would also be reduced from 2012, according to the Foreign Minister. He stressed, however, that a “responsible handover of responsibility” was essential.

Even after 2014, he added, we would not “leave Afghanistan alone economically or in terms of infrastructure, education or security”. Years of engagement in Afghanistan hadn’t been undertaken, Westerwelle said, “for the sake of then watching terrorists ... return to power”.


Afghanistan conference in Germany

At the suggestion of Afghan President Karzai, the next steps in stabilizing Afghanistan are to be agreed at an international conference in Bonn in November 2011. The German Government welcomed Karzai’s suggestion and declared its willingness to organize the conference.

Ten years after the First Bonn Conference, held under the auspices of the United Nations in December 2001, important decisions about the future of Afghanistan and further support by the international community are once again to be made on German soil.

New strategic start in Afghanistan

The new Strategic Concept
The eleven-page document is titled “Active Engagement – Modern Defence”. The new concept names the following core tasks:
- collective defence as guaranteed by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty remains the central function of the alliance;
- crisis management with close cooperation between military and civilian instruments, grounded in the knowledge that in today’s world no crisis can be managed by through military means alone;
- cooperative security: NATO intends to be part of a global security network and create added value for security through close interaction with other actors. Within the United Nations, NATO wants to act in cooperation with the EU. The alliance also seeks partnership with Russia and other actors.
NATO further intends to streamline its command structure and reduce the number of its personnel and agencies.


Last updated 20.11.2010

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