January - June 2009

EU, NATO increase troops after Kosovo explosions
05 January 2009 - EUobserver.com - Leigh Phillips
EU and NATO forces have renewed cooperative efforts in an attempt to encourage stability in Kosovo. This resurgent response comes in the wake of an escalation in ethnically motivated hostilities witnessed in the recently independent Kosovar state. "The EU's EULEX mission to Kosovo and NATO's KFOR responded to the increased violence by boosting troop numbers...in Mitrovica, the ethnically-split town" located to the north of the state.
(Read More)

Energy security tops Czech Presidency agenda
7 January 2009 - Euractiv.com
As Russia restricts gas supplies into the rest of Europe , the Czech Presidency of the EU has pushed up one of its "three e's" - energy security. The presidency will focus on identifying "priority infrastructure projects and by initiating an improved legal basis, both internally and with third countries and regions." Upcoming plans include a "Southern Corridor Summit" with high-level representatives from the Caspian region as well as developing a coherent approach to Russia . Additionally, the Czech presidency expressed its intention to work closely with the incoming Obama administration on a variety of issues including multilateral, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan/Pakistan, relations with Russia and joint efforts to deal with the financial crisis.
(Read More)

Analysis: NATO's 60th calls for change
8 January 2009 - James Jay Carafano, Washington Times
With the 60th anniversary of NATO approaching, the time has come to overhaul the organization. The US , argues Carafano, is the only country equipped to lead the reform of the Alliance . Member states need to come to agreement on how to address emerging threats such as terrorism, cyberwar, and ballistic-missile attacks. NATO should open membership to all countries that share it core values regardless of Russian opposition or location outside the traditional European sphere - Israel , for example. Carafano argues for revision to the consensus system of decision-making and calls for a division between the duties of NATO and those of the EU. The benchmark for defense spending - at least 2 percent of GDP - should be a condition for continued membership and accession to prevent members from becoming a defense liability.
(Read More)

Canada gives green light to Albanian, Croatian NATO entry
14 January 2009 - AFP
On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign minister Lawrence Cannon endorsed the NATO accession protocols of Albania and Croatia . Canada joins a growing number of countries, including the US , who support extending NATO membership to the two Balkan countries. "Cannon and his defense colleague Peter MacKay ‘expressed Canada 's support of NATO's Open Door Policy, which demonstrates the alliance's readiness to accept new members from among European democracies.'"
(Read More)

Hutton blasts NATO allies over Afghan troop offers
15 January 2009 - AFP
British Defense Secretary John Hutton called on fellow NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan . Criticizing the commitments made by other European countries to the ISAF in Afghanistan , Hutton said that "a bit of soft power, a bit of nice warm words" will not beat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. After the US , the UK is the biggest contributor of troops to the ISAF with nearly 9,000 personnel in Afghanistan . Germany follows at a distance with 3,000 troops, and the numbers only decrease from there. Hutton characterized the current situation between the US and other NATO members as not "an alliance" but rather "one-way traffic." Later in the day he was expected to use the word "freeloading" in describing other European countries and their commitments in Afghanistan.
(Read More)

Obama prescribes a renewed commitment to NATO
23 January 2009 - AFP
In a letter released Thursday, President Obama urged NATO allies to "renew [the] Alliance, respect every nation's contribution, and strengthen our capacity to meet the challenges of our young century." Obama cited a shared set of common democratic values as heart of the Atlantic Alliance, insisting that member nations bond together in order to "face down the perils of this moment of history."
(Read More)

Russia says 'ice broken' in chilly NATO relations
25 January 2009 - AFP
After resisting nearly all diplomatic communication with Russia since the conflict with Georgia in August, NATO has agreed to take part in an informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels today. A spokesman from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization confirmed that the meeting was scheduled "but said it was not a full NATO-Russia Council ‘just an informal meeting of ambassadors.'" NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer is also expected to take part in what many hope will be the first step toward normalcy in a historically capricious relationship.
(Read More)

"NATO urges European support for Obama on Iran"
26 January 2009 - IranVNC
In a speech in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged member states to aid the US in dealing with global problems, including the nuclear proliferation threats emanating from North Korea and Iran. Scheffer went on to express his opinion that greater transatlantic cooperation is required to tackle issues such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and failing states. On the issue of nuclear proliferation, an Iranian official said that US actions in an upcoming meeting among six major powers on Iran's nuclear program would demonstrate if the US had changed its policy toward Iran. Scheffer also called on Western nations to support American and NATO efforts in Afghanistan, encouraging Europeans "to step up - with more forces and when that is not forthcoming, more on the civilian side."
(Read More)

NATO chief hopes for better relations with Russia soon
29 January 2009 - RIA Novosti
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary General of NATO, expressed his hope to renormalize relations between the Alliance and Russia in the near future. Cooperation between Russia and NATO has been frozen since the war in Georgia in August. Informal talks resumed on January 26, and it is believed that the first official meeting of the NATO-Russia Council could take place in the next month. Scheffer explained that meetings of the Council could be used to include Russia in wider cooperation and as a venue for "building mutual confidence." Russia 's envoy to the Brussels-based organization said that his country would make the reasons for its position on Georgia clear before developing "intensive military cooperation" with the Alliance.
(Read More)

NATO Members hold Conference on Security Cooperation
30 January 2009 - Xinhua
High-level officials, politicians, academics, media figures of NATO member states and representatives from the Atlantic Treaty Association and Russia were present at the 17th International Conference on Security and Cooperation held in Turkey over the weekend. During the conference, entitled, "Changing Security Environment and a Renewed Transatlantic Vision for the 21st century," NATO members reportedly discussed, "the security situation and the future of the transatlantic alliance." Keynote speakers, including Jean-Francois Bureau, assistant secretary-general of NATO for public diplomacy, emphasized the need for creating international partnerships both within and outside the Organization in order to address a multiplicity of international security issues.
(Read More)

A return to NATO: Can Obama help Sarkozy?
26 January 2009 - John Vinocur, IHT
While the planned return of France to NATO's integrated military command this coming April has been planned for more than a year, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has not made the final decision to set it in motion. Sarkozy faces pressures at home and needs more cover before offering a conclusive yes. Vinocur believes that the cover could come in an assurance that France will share in making strategic decisions for the Alliance and that there will finally be room for a specific, politically empowered European component. Adding to the confusion surrounding France's position is a statement made by the French minister for Europe in which he stated three things: Europe must have its "own doctrine on Iran"; NATO must be redefined in April "so that [France knows] what organization we're entering"; and that there must be agreement "in principle" on a Europeans-only military operational headquarters in Brussels. As France has cut its military allocations, it has done little to prove that it could steer Europe toward more defense spending. Additionally, France 's moves in the wake of the war in Georgia and the recent natural gas crisis have not endeared it to the Eastern European members of the bloc. US President Obama could lend a helping hand to Sarkozy in a way that avoids letting Sarkozy present himself as the anointed leader of Europe.
(Read More)

U.S. Is Open to East European, Canadian for NATO Post
2 February 2009 - James G Neuger, Bloomberg
The American ambassador to NATO said that the US is open an Eastern European of a Canadian as the next head of NATO. For the past fifty years Western Europeans have held the post of Secretary General of the Alliance, but expansion into the former Warsaw Pact countries has changed the composition of the organization. Leading candidates from Eastern Europe include Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. From Canada, Defense Minister Peter MacKay and former Foreign Minister John Manley have been mentioned as possible replacements for Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Some analysts still believe that the next leader is likely to come from Western Europe - the names Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and former British U.K. defense secretary Des Browne have been circulating - but there is a feeling that an Eastern European would provide an additional insurance policy against Russia.
(Read More)

France , Germany seek close security ties with US
4 February 2009 - Reuters
In a joint column published by the French news source Le Monde on Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged closer cooperation between the EU and US. In addition to an increase in collaboration, the European leaders stated the need for the Atlantic Alliance "to broaden the scope of security cooperation" while taking into account "international financial situation, energy supplies and migration issues." The NATO summit in April marks an event where these strategic desires may be solidified into diplomatic agreements. Although Sarkozy and Merkel expressed regret that the US-EU alliance was unable to meet its full potential under the previous US Administration, both leaders conceded: ‘No country today is capable of resolving all the problems of the world ... In light of the current challenges, Europe needs the United States and the United States need a strong European partner."
(Read More)

Ukraine hosts security conference
04 February 2009 - Middle East Times
Defense experts convened at the Kharkiv University in Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss "security concerns in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic region." Academics from the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies were joined by security authorities from NATO, the EU, and The US in order to address mutual concerns regarding Euro-Atlantic and European safety. Although not a reported topic of discussion, the potential Ukraine - NATO membership debate almost certainly played a significant role in talks concerning security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Letter from Europe : Obama team also offers EU a chance for change
4 February 2009 - International Herald Tribune, Judy Dempsey
As the Munich Security Conference is fast approaching, excitement is building in Europe about the Obama administration's plans. Headed by Vice President Joe Biden, who will be accompanied by National Security Advisor James Jones and CENTCOM commander David Petraeus, the American delegation is one of the highest-ranking ever sent to Munich. Conference director Wolfgang Ischinger expects the Americans to "present a comprehensive overview of the entire spectrum of their security and defense policy." Even if such a plan is not yet ready for world consumption, Obama's decision to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is "exceptionally important" to "re-establishing the fundamentals of the trans-Atlantic alliance." Europe 's total response to the closing of Guantánamo and the new administration's further defense and security plans remains to be seen.
(Read More)

Italy sends more troops to Afghanistan posts
06 February 2009 - guardian.co.uk, Julian Borger
Italy continues to distance itself from the ambivalent core of the EU by asserting its position as a key international participant. Italy appears to own the title of 'first to answer' President Obama's call for greater European contribution to coalition forces in Afghanistan. On Friday the Italian government announced a commitment of 800 additional troops to the NATO military campaign. The announcement was accompanied by rumors that the "Italian government may also drop restrictions on the deployment of its soldiers," which would increase the functional capabilities of Italian troops currently deployed. Italy ascended to the G8 presidency just over a month ago and plans to take advantage its leadership role to explore monetary coordination between G8 members and regional powers as a means to assuage the chaotic situation in Afghanistan.
(Read More)

US, France reach draft deal on NATO posts
06 February 2009 - Reuters, David Brunnstrom
Reportedly, the US officials have agreed with France 's ambition to procure control of "NATO's regional command headquarters in Lisbon , Portugal , as well as its Allied Command Transformation (ACT) headquarters in Norfolk , Virginia ." Approval for this proposition comes before France has officially rejoined NATO's Integrated Command Structure, which it opted out of in 1966 under de Gaulle. Although the 1966 move forfeited France 's right to actively participate in NATO's military operational planning process, French troops are currently taking part in a number of NATO operations. If events proceed as expected, the increase in French involvement will serve to strengthen multinational aspects of NATO, which has long fielded criticism for appearing US-dominated.
(Read More)

NATO Secretary General scolds EU lack of commitment
07 February 2009 - Chinaview.cn
During his address at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged European Union countries to contribute more troops to the coalition force in Afghanistan . In a staunch rebuke, Secretary General Scheffer called for a re-balance of ties between the United States and Europe , "If Europe wants a greater voice, it needs to do more."
(Read More)

Angela Merkel advocates a new strategy for NATO
07 February 2009 - German Press and Information Office
During an address at the Munich Security Conference held over the weekend, German Chancellor Merkel urged for the creation of a modernized NATO strategy "based on the concept of networked security." Merkel went on to explain that today, "Crisis prevention is every bit as important a part of security policy as crisis transformation." The Chancellor went on to advocate for institutionalized cooperation between the EU and NATO that goes beyond the current strategic partnership that the two organizations share. Merkel also argued, "a regional approach" must be part of the new NATO strategy, as "no conflict is unique to any one country."
(Read More)

The Czech Presidency Calls for Collective Security
07 February 2009 - Czech Presidency of the European Union
In an address at the Munich Security Conference, Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs of the Czech Republic, called for a greater multilateral commitment. Speaking for the Czech EU-Presidency, Vondra pronounced, "No single country can fix all those problems on its own. Although the current world is different from the Cold War, the transatlantic bond is as important as ever before." In order to advance the Atlantic partnership, the Czech spokesman asserted the "the EU itself needs to speak with one voice." Arguing that "shared protection" is the "core principle of the transatlantic relationship," Vondra called for a more balanced EU-US distribution of security-responsibility, as well as greater, functional coordination between NATO and the EU.
(Read More)

"NATO head promises Paris key posts for closer ties"
12 February 2009 - Angela Charlton, AP
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer promised France key positions within the Alliance if the country returns to the integrated command structure. The offer was an attempt to reassure French opponents to France 's proposed reintegration. Other European officials have said that France could take command of a post in Virginia that has never before held by a foreign country. Arguing that emerging threats make it in France 's interest to move toward greater international cooperation, French President Nicholas Sarkozy is seeking to reenter the NATO command structure on the Alliance 's 60 th anniversary in April. Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from the integrated command structure in 1966 in an effort to reassert France 's independence.

Luxembourg Ratifies Protocol For Albania Accession To NATO
12 February 2009 - bsanna-news
On Wednesday, Luxembourg became the 22th country to ratify the protocol for Albanian Accession into NATO. Luxembourg 's decision to endorse Albanian membership leaves only four NATO member-countries left before the process can be certified. The remaining four countries are expected to ratify the protocol in time for the NATO Summit, which is due in Strasbourg-Kiehl at the beginning of April.
(Read More)

MEPs to debate EU-NATO relations for first time Wednesday
17 February 2009 - The European Parliament Press Service
On Wednesday, members of the European Parliament will debate a report, recently adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which calls for the development of a closer relationship between NATO and the EU. In addition to greater functional cooperation between the two international organizations, the report also urges the EU to "develop its own security and defence capabilities." Finnish-born MEP Ari Vatanen, who championed the report through parliament commented, "Not only is NATO the backbone of European security but 94% of the EU's population live in States that are members of the alliance." Joining Vatanen, other MEPs claim that enhanced rapport with NATO is essential to the development of the EU as a stabilizing force in Europe.
(Read More)

Poland , U.S. sign MOU on Special Forces co-op
19 February 2009 - China View
Defense Ministers from the US and Poland "signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday, aiming to boost cooperation between the two countries." According to the arrangement, the US will provide assistance "in the areas of education, training, unit partnerships and officer exchanges." The accord was agreed to at the two-day NATO Defense Ministers' Meeting in Krakow , Poland . Both ministers reiterated the strong bilateral relationship that exists between the US and Poland, recently ossified through a shared commitment to military operations in Afghanistan. Reportedly, the NATO Ministerial meeting is expected to focus on the development of new strategies for improving the "deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and NATO's military transformation."
(Read More)

NATO leader: alliance needs new strategic concept
19 February 2009 - AP, Vanessa Gera
Speaking during a media conference at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Krakow, Southern Poland on Thursday, NATO Secretary General, Jaap de De Hoop Scheffer asserted the need for a new NATO strategy concept. "De Hoop Scheffer said the alliance remains guided by a Europe-centric concept that 'does not take into account many of the key political and security events of the early 21st century.'" Of these new security issues, the Secretary General offered particular attention to the potential, future implications of "terrorism, cyber attacks and the effects of climate change." The most recent revisions to the NATO Strategy Concept were drafted during the 1999 NATO Summit, making it representative of an institution that was comprised of just 19 members as apposed to the anticipated 28 members who will attend this year's summit.
(Read More)

NATO anti-piracy flotilla to sail in March
20 February 2009 - IHT
Increased instances of piracy off the coast of Somalia this fall have demanded wide-spread cooperation from the international community and international institutions. Next month, NATO will undertake its first naval mission, joining" the EU task force, code-named Operation Atalanta, which is the first naval action undertaken by the bloc." Germany is expected to contribute "a frigate and a tanker to the six-vessel naval squadron;" while "the Netherlands , Spain , Portugal , Canada , Norway , Denmark and the U.S. have also offered their warships to the anti-piracy force." NATO and EU forces, along with a number of other regional participants, are acting in coordination with UN Security Council authorization, allowing security-contributing nations to enter Somalia 's territorial waters in order to combat piracy.
(Read More)

Europeans start race for NATO leadership
4 March 2009 - EU Observer, Valentina Pop
With the mandate of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer set to expire on 31 July of this year, capitals across Europe are buzzing with names of potential replacements. Historically, a European has served in the top civilian post in the Alliance , while an American has held the post of supreme military commander. Some of NATO's newest members are floating their own candidates for the post, including Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski and former Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passy. The prospect of NATO's first female secretary general has arisen from the possible nomination of Michele Alliot Marie, the French interior minister and a former defense minister. Despite possible problems in the Arab world, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is seen as having no problems on either side of the Atlantic, and Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store is in the running after a recent briefing to NATO ambassadors on the Nordic security dimension.
(Read More)

France will receive top NATO posts: foreign minister
9 March 2009 - Reuters
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner asserted that France will win top NATO posts and boost Europe's position with the military alliance when it returns to the organization's command structure. In the face of resistance from opposition politicians and members of his own party, President Nicholas Sarkozy could announce later this week that France will rejoin the integrated command structure, from which then-President Charles de Gaulle withdrew in the 1960s. Diplomatic sources have indicated that the US has agreed to let France take command of the Allied Command Transformation project in Virginia as well as the regional headquarters in Lisbon if the European country returns to the heart of NATO. With less than a month before the NATO Summit to be co-hosted by France and Germany begins, Kouchner also said, "We are in favor of making NATO more European."
(Read More)

France takes strength from US ties
9 March 2009 - Financial Times, Ben Hall
While some French politicians, including Gaullist figures in the governing UMP party, have argued that France's detachment from the integrated command structure of NATO gives it additional diplomatic leverage, Defense Minister Hervé Morin asserted that the opposite is in fact true. According to Morin, the friendship between France and the United States allows France to sometimes articulate "a position that contradicts or opposes that of the US administration." The defense minister went on to explain that France's return to the integrated command structure of the Alliance is designed to convince EU members to support a stronger EU defense policy.
(Read More)

Could MacKay be next NATO head?
9 March 2009 - thestar.com
Since the creation of NATO, a European has always held the post of Secretary General, the Alliance 's top political position. Geographic traditions, however, should not be cast in stone according to Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, who hopes to replace Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as Secretary General when his mandate expires later this month. Media reports indicate that US Vice President will promote MacKay's candidacy during a trip to Brussels this week in exchange for giving France key posts within NATO. American support, combined with no consensus candidate in Europe , could boost MacKay's chances.
(Read More)

NATO must remain basis of European defence
12 March 2009 - ceskenoviny
12 March 2009 - The Washington Post, Edward Cody

Ahead of the organization's 60 year anniversary summit in April, NATO has been recently enjoying a number of optimistic signals from the international community, reiterating global importance and commitment to the institution. France 's announcement on Wednesday that it will return to the NATO military command structure has been seen by many as the most organizationally unifying event since the NATO expansion of 2004. France , a country that boasts the largest armed forces in Europe and currently contributes over $175 million dollars annually to the institution, has been a major contributor to recent NATO missions and yet has been outside the institution's strategic military command structure since de Gaulle pulled French participation in 1966. Despite formal exclusion from the military decision-making process, for the last two decades France has gradually resumed a more active role in this aspect of NATO. In a recent interview with Le Figaro newspaper, former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur "recalled that he had began negotiations on a return to the integrated command" during his time in office. Additionally, official NATO-Russian ties are also expected to resume this April as a result of a recent agreement to thaw the cold relationship between the two after the brief Russia-Georgia conflict last year. Finally, in a commentary published today by Hospodarske Noviny, the Czech president referred to NATO as "one of the pillars of the free world and must remain the basis of the European defence architecture. "Klaus went on to posit that NATO is representitve of more than just a military alliance, as it continues to be "the only way to preserve the firm Transatlantic bond. " During the upcoming summit in April, NATO leaders are expected to draft a new institutional Strategic Concept in order to address changing global security challenges. If recent events and comments from world leaders are any indications, the necessity of preserving and improving the capabilities of this international organization will remain priorities of all Western nations.
(Read More) (Read More)

US and Germany : New level of security cooperation
16 March 2009 - Deutsche Well
In an effort to strengthen transatlantic cooperation, the United States and Germany will begin cooperating on research into anti-terrorism technologies with an eye towards protecting civil liberties at the same time. US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with German Research Minister Annette Schavan in Berlin to sign a treaty laying out the details of the agreement. Until now, the US has kept secret the development of new security technologies. The shift to a policy of cooperation was represented in Napolitano's statement in Berlin : "Homeland security is not about walling ourselves off from other countries, it is about cooperating with out allies." The new program is slated to cost between 10 million and 20 million euros over the next four years, and focus on for key areas, including the protection of critical infrastructure and damage control in serious incidents.
(Read More)

Sarkozy: NATO-linked No Confidence Vote
17 March 2009 - CNN.com
Yesterday the French National Assembly effectively backed President Sarkozy's decision to rejoin the NATO military command structure in a vote of 329 to 238. Sarkozy's initiative did not technically require parliamentary approval; however, the French president supported the opposition's desire to voice their opinion on this historically contentious subject. In this case, the NATO issue was linked to a no-confidence motion proposed two weeks ago by Conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon who vocally apposed French reintegration. Proponents of Sarkozy's move argue that France's expanded role will offer greater weight to the European stance in organizational decision-making.
(Read More)

U.S. backs Dane for top post at NATO
23 March 2009 - IHT, Steven Erlanger
Adhering to the tradition of European civilian leadership of the Alliance , the United States has thrown its support behind Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his bid to become the next Secretary General of NATO. It was believed that the Obama administration was quietly supporting Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay for the post, but MacKay seemed to call off his pursuit of the positing in a recent comment to reporters. The publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers has created the impression among Muslims, including those in NATO member Turkey , that Rasmussen and his country are insensitive to Islam. With NATO taking on increased responsibilities in the largely Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan , Turkish officials have expressed their opinion that the choice of Rasmussen is "not the right approach to the Muslim world." Should the members fail to rally consensus behind Rasmussen, Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store seems the most likely candidate.
(Read More)

Top Commander Says NATO Needs Changes for Next Operation
24 March 2009 - VOA, Al Pessin
In testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee, NATO military commander General John Craddock said that the alliance needs reform in the way it conducts operations. General Craddock, who will end his tenure as NATO's chief military commander later this year, explained that changes were necessary so that the next mission does not suffer the same problems as the current operation in Afghanistan . Member states have fallen short on providing both the troops and funding that they have promised, hampering efforts to train Afghan security forces. Warning against the development of a two-tier system within NATO, the general urged nations not to restrict the use of their troops within NATO operations through caveats. Additionally, General Craddock encouraged NATO nations to strengthen their ability to defend the alliance's home territory in an effort to ease concerns among the newer Eastern European members. He also welcomed the resumption of the NATO-Russia dialogue.
(Read More)

Albania , Croatia join NATO
1 April 2009 - AFP
The world's largest military alliance expanded to 28 members on Wednesday. With the accession of Albania and Croatia, NATO continued its expansion in Eastern Europe. The newest members of the alliance already have troops deployed to Afghanistan in concert with NATO action. Only weeks ago, Slovenia provided the final endorsement of the two countries' accession to the alliance. For its part, Croatia expressed its hopes that its membership in NATO will move it one step closer to joining the European Union.
(Read More)

NATO picks next Secretary General and reaffirms its values principles and purposes
04 April 2009 - The New York Times, Steven Erlanger and Helene Cooper
04 April 2009 - NATO Press Release
03 April 2009 - CNN.com
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization expanded its membership to 28 at the 60th Anniversary Summit over the weekend. "In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, leaders welcomed Albania and Croatia into the Alliance ." Held jointly in the French and German border towns of Strousbourg and Kehl, the NATO Summit marked a number of organizationally significant events. The dual-locations were not the only sign of European unity at the assembly; France took the final steps in formalizing a return to fully institutional participation in NATO military command structures. "NATO leaders adopted a Declaration on Alliance Security reaffirming the basic values, principles and purposes of the NATO Alliance. They also launched the process to develop a new Strategic Concept, a document that will define NATO's longer-term role in the new security environment of the 21st century." The NATO Summit also made preparations for a major leadership transition scheduled for 01, August 2009. On this date current Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's five and a half year tenure as the NATO Secretary General will come to a close. As agreed by all members on Saturday, the institutional leadership will be left in the capable hands of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. At his inaugural NATO Summit, US President Barack Obama's stressed the importance of maintaining a strong transatlantic partnership in order to promote security throughout the Euro-Atlantic region. Many present at the NATO summit described an atmosphere in stark contracts to US-EU diplomatic conferences under the previous administration. From the outset of the US President's first European tour since taking office, Obama reiterated his intention to come "to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies, but where our friends and allies bear their share of the burden. Together, we must forge common solutions to our common problems." The US president appeared to be achieving his goal, as he was awarded comments like this one from French President Nicolas Sarkozy: "'It is damn good news to have a US president who knows that the world does not end at the borders of his country." NATO leaders agreed with the US assertion, the "UN-mandated ISAF mission in Afghanistan [remains] NATO's key priority." Obama plans to raise the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 68,000 by the end of the year; while European allies agreed to provide "5,000 new troops for Afghanistan , the White House said Saturday." In addition to the troops and military trainers, NATO countries pledged $100 million to a fund additional Afghan army training missions.
(Read More) (Read More) (Read More)

President Obama pledges to work towards a nuclear weapons-free world
05 April 2009 - BBC
Underscored by North Korea 's provocative rocket launch earlier that day, and just hours before he was scheduled to meet with European heads of state in Prague , President Obama outlined his vision for a nuclear-free world in a speech to thousands of supporters in the Czech capital. Throughout his address, Mr. Obama emphasized the continued danger associated with the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons by calling for an international conference dedicated to eradicating the creation of fissile materials used in the deployment of nuclear warheads. Just days after several major international conferences - including a G20 meeting in London and a NATO summit in Strasbourg - and prior to a meeting with EU leaders in which security would be a dominant theme, Mr. Obama emphasized the international community's responsibility to eradicate "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War" and coupled this call with concrete commitments. These include pledges that the United States will ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, that America and Russia will negotiate a new arms control treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (currently scheduled to expire in December), as well as assurances that the United States will both engage Iran directly and consider suspending its controversial Missile Defense Shield in an effort to create a broad international consensus towards ending Iran's nuclear energy program in particular, and nuclear weapons proliferation in general.
(Read More)

Ukraine considers NATO as the only effective security system - Yushchenko
6 April 2009 - UNIAN
In a meeting with President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly John Tanner, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko reaffirmed his belief that NATO is the only effective security system for the transatlantic area. He took time to praise the accession of Albania and Croatia to the alliance, noting the importance of the NATO open door policy to his country. The meeting came as Ukraine continues to focus on the preparation and implementation of the Annual National Program. Officials in Kyiv have worked to ensure that this program is in line with their country's MAP and demonstrates the readiness of Ukraine to make the necessary reforms for NATO membership. Ukraine is the only non-member state which participates in all operations undertaken by the alliance, and expectations are high that a deal will soon be reached to transport cargo through Ukrainian territory for NATO operations in Afghanistan.
(Read More)

U.S. and E.U. pledge closer cooperation in engaging Iran
8 April 2009 - The Washington Times
Coming on the heels of unprecedented pledges by U.S. and E.U. leaders to increase transatlantic cooperation on an array of political, economic and security-related policies, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood announced on Wednesday that Washington would join European Union-led negotiations and work closely with France, the United Kingdom, and Germany as part of the "P5+1" group (the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council together with Germany) that aims to engage Iran and negotiate a diplomatic solution to ending Teheran's nuclear energy program. This announcement reverses previous United States policy on refraining from talks with Iran until Teheran's uranium enrichment has been halted, and in doing so it signifies closer American and European cooperation on a growing number of international issues. Washington and Brussels have expressed a common concern that Teheran's enrichment of uranium could be used in constructing a nuclear weapon, and Mr. Wood expressed the United States' intention to work with European allies "in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about [Iran's] nuclear program."
(Read More)

Medvedev has "High Hopes" for Topic of Nuclear Disarmament
20 April 2009 - Reuters, Brett Young and Denis Dyomkin
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a speech at Helsinki University , spoke about the continuation of nuclear disarmament agreements in the future. Moscow and Washington have an opportunity to "press the reset button" and work on improving relations that had weakened under the Bush Administration. An example of this is the agreement between Medvedev and Obama in London to begin on working on a successor agreement to the START I treaty, which expires in December. The first talks along this route are scheduled to begin in Rome later this month.
(Read More)

U.S.-E.U. Interests Furthered by Military Cooperation on International Security Matters
20 April 2009 - National Interest Online, Christopher S. Chivvis
In an article written for the National Interest Online, RAND Corporation associate Christopher Chivvis analyzed the historical successes and current challenges facing transatlantic military cooperation and asserted that an independent E.U. security policy could complement U.S. military operations and "...further common U.S. and European security interests." Mr. Chivvis admitted that progress in U.S.-E.U. military cooperation "will require care" in approaching sensitive topics where transatlantic interests diverge, but that ultimately both Washington and Brussels should make a concerted effort to forge a better working relationship between the U.S. and E.U. through NATO, and that this should entail stronger European support for the Organization and better understanding in Washington of Europe's separate interests. Doing so, he argues, will further the "basic interest in building a world where free societies can flourish." To this end, Mr. Chivvis confirms his belief that " The EU and NATO are both, and must remain, cornerstones of any such world."
(Read More)

NATO resumes formal contacts with Russia
29 April 2009 - AP, Slobodan Lekic
Russia and NATO have formally resumed contact that had been suspended due to last year's war with Georgia . "The meeting opened with a shared view that ... the time has come to take the next step," alliance spokesman James Appathurai said. "There was a shared desire to focus on areas which can be productive." The meeting highlighted areas such as piracy and Afghanistan where the two sides can cooperate. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer added that, "the NATO-Russia Council is not a fair-weather body ... it doesn't mean we always agree on everything". Though the sides do not see eye to eye on every issue they cannot afford to simply ignore the divisions. Despite the recent difficulties " Russia has allowed NATO nations to use its road and rail networks to transport military supplies to the international force in Afghanistan , after the main route through Pakistan came under repeated attack by pro-Taliban guerrillas".
(Read More)

NATO Secretary General Rasmussen appoints former ambassador to Turkey as Chief of Staff
4 May 2009 - Hurriyet Daily News
During a speech in Copenhagen last Thursday, Anders Fogh Rasmussen - the former Danish Prime Minister recently elected as the next Secretary General of NATO - officially named as his Chief of Staff the former Danish envoy to Turkey, Jesper Vahr. With this appointment, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's leadership structure has come into focus and sets the tone for a policy agenda that will encompass an array of international issues requiring close transatlantic cooperation. Following Mr. Rasmussen's approval as the next NATO Secretary General, the former Prime Minister outlined his intention to dedicate his mandate towards renewing and reforming the organization to better serve the interests of the Alliance's Member States. This will include bridging the transatlantic divide on key international issues to ensure a stronger consensus on defense and foreign policy, among other policy areas. Mr. Rasmussen and Mr. Vahr will begin their terms on August 1.
(Read More)

Nuclear talks get first breakthrough in 10 years
6 May 2009 - Reuters, Louis Charbonneau
The delegates to a United Nations meeting about the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty were able to come to an agreement on the agenda for a major conference next year. This is the first time in a decade that the delegates have been able to take such a step. This modest agreement is considered a significant step because of the ten year gap since the sides have been able to agree on what they should be talking about. The agenda includes a review of disarmament commitments made by the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia in 1995 and 2000. There will be a discussion concerning "nuclear-weapons-free-zones" that will likely focus on Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal. "Huge obstacles remain, but the clear change of tone coming from the Obama administration has changed the equation," said a diplomat at the meetings, "The U.S. is now willing to engage on disarmament. It's willing to engage with Iran . It mentions Israel. That's all new and it's helping."
(Read More)

Russia says it's ready to move forward on NATO ties
8 May 2009 - Reuters, Oleg Shchedrov
Russian NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin says that Moscow is prepared to continue restoring ties to the alliance despite the recent diplomatic expulsions and controversial military exercises in Georgia. "It is time to put a full stop in this story and restore relations as soon as possible," Rogozin said from Brussels. The disagreements have delayed a plan to hold the first ministerial meeting between NATO and Moscow this month. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Washington for meetings with President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, said that "artificial obstacles" in the work of Russia and NATO should be removed and business resume as soon as possible.
(Read More)

De Hoop Scheffer says NATO ready to welcome Western Balkan countries
10 May 2009 - AP
Outgoing NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that the alliance will keep its doors open to Western Balkan countries. Speaking from Skopje , Macedonia , de Hoop Scheffer reiterated that membership in NATO is the best way to achieve lasting peace and security in the region. De Hoop Scheffer also attended a meeting of foreign ministers of the Adriatic Charter member states -- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro where talks centered on integration, development and regional security. The Adriatic Charter is an organization that aims to coordinate these countries preparations for joining NATO.
(Read More)

FBI Appoints First Cybercrime Expert Outside US
12 May, 2009 - TG Daily, Emma Woollacott
The threat of cybercrime and its potential for terrorism is an increasing concern for the United States. The FBI has plans to base a computer crime expert in Estonia after President Barack Obama announced plans for a cybersecurity review, citing cybercrime as a threat comparable to nuclear or biological attacks. There are several reasons for the FBI's choice of location. First of all, NATO established a cyberdefense center in Estonia just last year and now it seems that this organization and the FBI will collaborate on certain issues. Also, Estonia has proven itself capable of handling cybercrime after a series of attacks on private and public computer systems in 2007. The country also has a well-developed IT infrastructure, expertise in information technology, and it is the most technologically developed country in Eastern Europe.
(Read More)

US Admiral Appointed New NATO Commander
12 May, 2009 - The Associated Press, Slobodan Lekic
US Adm. James G. Stavridis, who currently heads the US Southern Command, will replace Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock as NATO's top military commander. As a US Navy officer, Stavridis advocates a combination of military and diplomatic power to achieve strategic goals, a policy also known as "smart power." His appointment has been viewed as inevitable following President Obama's nomination of Stavridis in March to become NATO's chief and head of US European Command. Stavridis, the first Navy officer to hold this post, will take control on July 2. Challenges for the new commander include shaping future NATO policy following the 60-year anniversary of the Alliance. He must also address the strained relations between the Alliance and Russia as well as oversee operations in Afghanistan. Currently, NATO has about 58,000 soldiers on active duty in Afghanistan and under the new administration, NATO forces will also help train Afghan forces, which are expected to rise to 400,000.
(Read More)

A New NATO for a New World
13 May, 2009 - The Boston Globe, Jeanne Shaheen
2009 marks the 60th anniversary of NATO and it has a lot of successes to show for it, including its help in ending the Cold War without firing a single shot. However, this anniversary also gives NATO leaders something to consider: the future of the Alliance and how it should adapt its policies to better address today's challenges. In the near future, NATO will begin re-writing its Strategic Concept document, which outlines its goals and overall strategic direction. Due to significant changes in the international arena over the past decade, the current copy of the Strategic Concept is substantively out of date. Existing challenges include international terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber warfare and other nontraditional threats. The question NATO needs to address now is "how does NATO find consensus on the scope of its responsibilities, missions and relationships?" Since 1991, Alliance members have been focused on expansion and NATO's "open door policy," but these priorities did not address the need for long-term goals and strategies. As the Alliance rewrites the Strategic Concept, they must keep in mind that NATO cannot take the lead on every challenge facing its members. In their redefined strategy, they need to identify the circumstances under which NATO should lead, when it should collaborate with other institutions, and when it should "take a back seat."
(Read More)

The Nuclear Realists
13 May, 2009 - The Wall Street Journal
Last week, the bipartisan Congressional commission on US nuclear strategy released a report, which concluded that the current conditions which make possible the elimination of nuclear weapons "are not present today and their creation would require a fundamental transformation of the world political order." Until these conditions improve, the US must have a strong and credible nuclear deterrent. This nuclear deterrent would require the US to make "difficult investment choices" and modernize its stockpile of weapons as well as its nuclear laboratories. Therefore, on the one hand, other countries would have confidence in the reliability of US nuclear weapons and would hopefully not seek to build their own. On the other hand, the US needs to reassure other nations that it is not willing to use nuclear weapons. To do this, there needs to be a strengthening of the international treaty system, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as well as nontreaty endeavors like the Proliferation Security Initiative. The commission report also endorses a strong missile defense against more "complex" threats.
(Read More)

Gorbachev: Europe misunderstands Russia
13 May 2009 - AP, Steve Gutterman
The former President of the Soviet Union believes that, almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe still misunderstands Russia. " Russia as an aggressor, Russia as an imperialist - this is all nonsense," Gorbachev was quoted as saying. " Russia is a self-sufficient state that has everything it needs to conduct its long-term policy. Russia does not want to fight anyone." Gorbachev noted that the Russian leadership has made mistakes in the past by "reacting too sharply" and this has fed Western unease about Russian intentions. There is much hope for increased cooperation with Europe and the United States. Gorbachev says there is still work to be done domestically in Russia but the leaders are trying. Gorbachev himself is attempting to facilitate change by supporting the creation of a new political party. When asked about current Russian President Medvedev, Gorbachev was quoted as saying "I think this person is trying, and it seems he has many desires and that they are focused on continuing democratic and reform processes."
(Read More)

Russia offers to revive European arms-control deal
14 May 2009 - AP, Vladimir Isachenkov
On Thursday the Kremlin issued a statement stating Russia would be willing to honor a new version of an arms-control treaty it suspended over a year ago, so long as the U.S. and NATO accept the changes. The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (1990) "limits the number of tanks, aircraft and other heavy non-nuclear weapons that could be deployed west of the Ural Mountains - the edge of European Russia". The treaty was revised in 1999 but never ratified by NATO countries and Russia suspended its participation in 2007. Russia sees the treaty as obsolete now that many of the former Soviet states have become members of NATO. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko believes, "A U.S.-Russian draft package solution, if substantially improved, could serve as a basis for breaking the deadlock. The main task is to make it really well-balanced."
(Read More)

Interview-Poland expects Patriot in 09, US ‘yes' to shield
18 May, 2009 - Reuters, Gareth Jones
NATO member Poland expects to have a US Patriot battery deployed on its soil this year. In 2008, it agreed to host 10 interceptors as part of the planned US missile defense shield. In return for its cooperation, the US has promised to update Poland's air defense with a Patriot battery. This promise will be fulfilled regardless of President Obama's final action (or inaction) with regards to the missile defense system. " Poland sees the Patriot battery as an important symbol of the US commitment to its defense," especially during a time when Russia is regaining assertiveness in its foreign and security policy. Although Poland would like to see more NATO/US presence in Europe for the sake of its own security, the projected missile defense system and increased US military support of Eastern European countries has caused increased tension with Russia. The US claims that the defense shield is aimed at Iran, not at Russia. After Obama's review of the shield, Poland expects "a clear ‘yes' from the American side."
(Read More)

EU ministers launch new helicopter project
18 May, 2009 - MIA
The European defense agency has just been approved to start working on a heavy-lift helicopter, which may be developed in cooperation with the United States. Alexander Weiss, the agency's chief executive, noted that such contacts with the US military "show good prospects for trans-Atlantic cooperation on the project." The project's aim is to help increase the capabilities of the EU's transport helicopter fleets for military support missions in "trouble spots" like Afghanistan. This project would also upgrade the Soviet-built helicopters still in use in Eastern European countries as well as modernizing hundreds of Western-built choppers.
(Read More)

Russia, US hold talks on cutting nuclear weapons
19 May, 2009 - Reuters, Denis Sinyakov
Today, US and Russian representatives met in Moscow for talks aimed at cutting their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Last month, both Obama and Medvedev met and decided to pursue a deal on reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons, an agreement which would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). According to one Russian official, the goal of this meeting is to achieve "a constructive dialogue" with the hope that "the optimism that is being expressed by both sides will feed through into practical results." Russian officials expect the US delegation to present a draft text of a new deal before the next scheduled July 6-8 meeting between Medvedev and Obama in Moscow . They have both said that this deal should include cuts in their stockpiles below those in the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). Both leaders also hope that if they can agree on a successor to START, that perhaps this outcome will strengthen collective support for an updated Non-Proliferation Treaty.
(Read More)

Kazakhstan to maintain OSCE unity during its chairmanship at organization
21 May, 2009 - Turkish Weekly
As the upcoming chair of the OSCE in 2010, Kazakh Secretary of State Kanat Saudabayev stressed during an international conference on "Modern Kazakhstan and Path to Europe" the country's commitment to preserving the unity of the organization. Saudabayev also said that Kazakh chairmanship would provide "a good opportunity to synthesize a vision of international security in the West and east of Vienna and develop new mechanisms of interaction and confrontation through modern challenges." As chair, Kazakhstan is eager to incorporate some of its ideas and experiences into the organization; the country would also like to use its position to draw attention to the need to strengthen security in Central Asia , which is of importance to European security as well. Finally, Saudabayev would like to address the ecological damage in the region and draw on the "invaluable experience" of Europe to help these Central Asian nations overcome the ecological deterioration of the Soviet era.
(Read More)

Previous page: January - June 2007
Next page: July - December 2009