The NATO partners met in Warsaw over the weekend (8 and 9 July) in order to discuss the future strategy of the Alliance. Items on the agenda included Ukraine and Afghanistan, as well as counter-terrorism measures.
The last NATO Summit – which was held in Wales in September 2014 – was entirely devoted to the Alliance’s response to the Ukraine crisis. Russia had annexed Crimea only a few months prior to the Summit, an action that has transformed the security policy environment in Europe until this day. Relations with Russia also dominated the discussions of the foreign and defence ministers at this year’s Summit, as well as the meetings of the heads of state and government. The 28 member countries made it clear that they intended to proceed with their strategy and, alongside a greater NATO presence in the Baltic region and Poland, continue to focus on dialogue with Russia.
Reassurance and dialogue
“Yes, we are taking the concerns of our eastern Alliance partners seriously, but our measures threaten no one. Yes, we are strengthening our readiness to defend ourselves, but we do not want a Cold War. And yes, we are seeking a serious dialogue with Russia and will translate this into action right from the beginning of next week”, said Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the fringes of the Summit.
A return to a peaceful order was possible, Steinmeier continued, “if we take both pillars of our strategy – reassurance and dialogue – seriously, and if Russia is prepared to respond to this in a constructive manner”.
Further engagement in Afghanistan
At their two-day meeting, the 28 partners discussed further current security policy issues. Afghanistan, where NATO has been active since 2003, was therefore also on the agenda. The Alliance partners agreed to continue to provide funding for the Afghan security forces until 2020. On Wednesday, US President Obama declared that American troops would continue to take part in the mission with a contingent of 8400 soldiers.
In the face of numerous crises and the threat posed by the terrorist militia IS, the strategy in the southern region of the Alliance was a particular focus at the Summit. Operation Active Endeavor is to be transformed into Operation Sea Guardian, which will no longer be based on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. In doing so, NATO was opening a new chapter “that will enable closer cooperation with the EU in the fight against people and weapons smuggling”, said Steinmeier.
Close cooperation between the EU and NATO
The partnership between the EU and NATO was an important overall topic of the discussions. Commenting on this, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said: “Two neighbours in Brussels are to become genuine partners. NATO and the EU are finally coming together and have agreed to enter into a strategic partnership. We are becoming more efficient and better able to act and we are able to dovetail military and civilian operations much more effectively.”
NATO would also continue to support the fight against IS, Foreign Minister Steinmeier added. Alliance partners will be assisting training measures in Jordan and Iraq to this end. “And we can imagine NATO involvement in air reconnaissance over Syria, although NATO is not intent on taking a primary role”, said Steinmeier.
The Foreign Minister said that he was pleased with the outcome of the two-day talks: “We have set important parameters for the right approach to risks and threats for Europe. We are taking decisions with a sense of proportion, focusing on cooperation and dialogue, and do not want to fuel conflicts any further.”
Steinmeier said that the Summit was sending the right signals “both within and outside NATO, to the west and to the east”.