Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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Diplomatie & Défense
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     Défense, armement & sécurité
  M. / Mr Jaap De Hoop Scheffer

NATO after the Istanbul summit

By Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General 

On 28 and 29 June of this year, Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Alliance’s 26 member countries gathered in Istanbul for NATO’s 17th Summit. The Istanbul Summit came after a period in which not just NATO, but several other venerable international institutions as well, faced divisions over Iraq.  Not surprisingly, therefore, the Istanbul meeting was seen as a test of the strength of the transatlantic relationship, and that of NATO as the glue holding it together.  I believe that we not only passed that test, but that we passed it convincingly.
At Istanbul, the NATO Allies not only reaffirmed the vital importance of the transatlantic link to their common security link – they also underlined the Alliance’s preparedness to project stability and defend security in new ways and in new places – and they built new bridges of cooperation to the Caucasus and Central Asia, and to the Mediterranean and broader Middle East regions.  In so doing, the Allies demonstrated a new momentum in transatlantic security cooperation, and a strong reappraisal of NATO as a critical instrument for that cooperation.
What were the main achievements of our Istanbul Summit?
First, Iraq. At Istanbul, the Allies responded favourably to a request for assistance by Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Allawi, and offered to help train Iraqi security forces.  In addition to our continued support for Poland in its leadership of the multinational division in Iraq, the Allies agreed that NATO should play a distinct role in helping Iraq to find its feet. The fact that this decision was taken in conjunction with the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi Government only added to its significance. In Istanbul, the Allies not only affirmed unambiguously that a stable Iraq is in their common interest; they also made NATO part of the answer.  They did so by offering help in an area that is critical to Iraq’s stability, and where NATO has valuable experience and expertise to share.  And I consider that to be a real breakthrough.
Second, Afghanistan. At Istanbul, the Alliance agreed to expand its stabilising presence in Afghanistan.  We decided to increase the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams under NATO’s command, in order to help extend the authority of the central government and to promote security, reconstruction and development. And we agreed to provide enhanced support for the preparation and conduct of the upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections, which will be equally crucial to ensuring long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, and making sure that the country will never again be a safe haven for terrorists. In this instance, as well, the Alliance will demonstrate that if it makes a commitment, it will also meet it.
Third, the Balkans. The much improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina allowed the NATO Allies in Istanbul to decide to conclude their SFOR mission in that country by the end of this year.  The European Union will then follow with a distinct mission of its own, and we will support the EU in this endeavour.  NATO will retain a presence in Sarajevo, in particular to help Bosnia and Herzegovina with defence reform.  Because we want to welcome this country – as well as, for that matter, Serbia and Montenegro – into our Partnership for Peace programme as soon as it meets the relevant conditions, which include full cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  The success of NATO’s SFOR mission is testimony to the Alliance patience and persistence, and we will continue to show that strong commitment with regard to Kosovo.
Fourth, military transformation.  At the Summit, the Allies decided to accelerate their efforts to equip NATO with the forces and technologies it needs to perform 21st century missions.  We are making good progress on strategic airlift and other enabling capabilities.  The NATO Response Force, in which France plays a major role, is coming together on schedule. Our new Multinational Defence Battalion to deal with Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threats is already fully operational.  NATO leaders approved a package of advanced technologies to help defend against terrorism, including measures to protect civilian airliners from shoulder-fired missiles, and to protect ports and ships from underwater attack.  And we agreed at Istanbul on several measures to strengthen the link between political agreement to commence operations and the provision of the necessary forces, including through usability targets and changes to NATO’s planning processes.
Fifth, NATO Enlargement and Partnership. At Istanbul, the seven new member countries that joined our Alliance earlier this year were represented at the main Summit conference table for the first time.  That made it very important to give a strong signal that NATO’s door remains open, and to encourage those who want to join our Alliance to continue to pursue the necessary reforms.  At Istanbul, we did just that.  Moreover, we also launched a new phase in our relations with Partner countries – with opportunities for more individualised cooperation, a greater emphasis on defence reform, and a stronger focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.  NATO liaison officers will work in these two regions, and a higher level Special Representative will cover both.  This will help us to devote more political attention to the regions, to provide more focused assistance to them, and to help promote regional solutions to regional problems.
Sixth, Russia and Ukraine.  In Istanbul, we welcomed the interest shown by Russia and Ukraine in contributing to “Operation Active Endeavour”, the Alliance’s anti-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean, as another sign of the growing strategic value of our Partnership with these countries.  NATO Allies want to make full use of the NATO-Russia Council to promote further political consultation and practical cooperation with Russia on the most critical issues before us – terrorism, proliferation, crisis management, civil emergencies and defence reform.  We want to work more closely with Ukraine too, to promote the reform process in that country, and to help it realise its ambition of further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.  Our Istanbul summit gave a strong political signal to that effect as well.
Finally, the Mediterranean and the broader Middle East.  At Istanbul, NATO decided to reach out to new regions of strategic importance, in particular across the Mediterranean. For years to come, no other region’s development will affect our security more strongly. A coherent transatlantic effort to engage this region is needed. And NATO will be part of that effort.  We agreed in Istanbul to strengthen our Mediterranean Dialogue with seven countries in North Africa and the Middle East, in particular through closer military cooperation. And we launched the “Istanbul Cooperation Initiative”, to offer practical security-related cooperation to countries in the broader Middle East region.
Several members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have already expressed an interest in working together more closely with the Alliance, so we are off to a good start.
NATO’s Istanbul Summit was a strong demonstration of Atlanticism at work. No longer the nostalgic Atlanticism of yesterday, but a forward-looking Atlanticism that looks to the challenges of today and tomorrow. No longer an Atlanticism that focuses solely on Europe, but one which reflects a preparedness to tackle security challenges where they emerge.  And an Atlanticism that does not shy away from occasional controversy, but that embraces frank debate as a precondition for progress.As it happened, we had precisely such a frank debate just a few weeks after our Summit, over the practical implementation of the political decision by NATO’s 26 leaders to lend assistance to Iraq.  Several observers immediately noted that debate showed that the Istanbul Summit had been nothing more than window-dressing and that there were lingering, deep-seated policy differences within the Alliance.
I beg to disagree with that sceptical assessment.  NATO is unlike any other international organisation.  It is a security alliance of 26 sovereign, democratic nations, who face unprecedented new risks and threats. Debate on these risks and threats, and how best to meet them, is entirely normal, and indeed desirable to arrive at a strong and effective NATO response. It is part and parcel of the new, enlightened Atlanticism.
A transforming NATO is the place where this new Atlanticism is translated into common action.  That is why Istanbul was so important. The Summit gave NATO more political and military means to project stability where it matters. And it brought home that the transatlantic community of democratic nations and shared values remains the most powerful force for shaping the future.

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