January - June 2010

NATO-Georgia Commission Meet At Defense Ministers Level
11 June 2010 - Civil Georgia

The NATO-Georgia Commission met on a sideline of NATO Defense Ministers’ meeting in Brussels on June 11. NATO’s decision to open the door to Georgia still stands but they believe a lot of reform must be done. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Alliance will continue to support and guide reforms, particularly in democratic civilian oversight of defense and security force. Rasmussen also thanked Georgia for
its significant contribution to the Afghan operations, and gave a strong message of support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. The Secretary General highlighted his desire for Georgia to enter NATO and to reform as efficiently as possible.
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Ukraine Remains Reliable NATO Partner
10 June 2010 - NATO
On June 10
th Allied defense ministers met with their Ukrainian counterpart, Minister Mykhailo Yezhel at a session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. In his opening remarks Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed that, “NATO is fully committed to maintaining and strengthening our dialogue and cooperation with Ukraine.” Rasmussen added that although the new Ukrainian government does not wish to join NATO, he welcomes Ukraine’s participation in fulfilling existing agreements and partnership programs. Allies praised Ukraine’s substantial contribution to NATO-led operations as well a its plans to become the first Partner nation participating in the NATO Response Force.
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NATO Secretary General Discusses Reform, Missile Defense
7 June 2010-NATO
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen held his monthly press conference ahead of the meeting of NATO Defense Ministers on 10 and 11 June. He discussed the Peace Jirga that took place last week in Afghanistan, where participants agreed on a package of incentives to support reconciliation, reintegration, and increased training of Afghan soldiers. The Secretary General also discussed general NATO spending and reform, indicating a review of member nation’s military budgets, measures to set clear spending priorities, and a major reduction in the number of committees in NATO. The Secretary General also indicated that missile defense will be discussed at the meeting of Defense Ministers.
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Ukrainian Lawmakers Abandon NATO Membership Target
3 June 2010 - Bloomberg Businessweek - Kateryna Choursina
Ukraine’s parliament voted to drop NATO membership from the country’s foreign policy goals, supporting an initiative by President Viktor Yanukovych. Since Yanukovych took office, Ukraine’s foreign policy has turned sharply towards closer relations with Russia, who is against further eastward expansion of NATO. In April, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an accord with Ukraine that will cut natural gas prices by 30 percent. In return, Ukraine will allow Russia to keep its Black Sea naval fleet in the country through 2042. The decision to abandon NATO membership is in line with the 60 percent of Ukraine’s population that is opposed to accession.
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Ukraine's New President Ditches NATO, Pleasing Russia
2 June – Reuters – Richard Balmforth
Ukraine’s new president, Viktor Yanukovich, outlined a foreign policy bill that would commit Ukraine to “a non-bloc policy which means not participating in military-political alliances,” a clear effort to show he is trying to steer between East and West. Yanukovich is anxious to assert Ukraine’s non-aligned status after several agreements with Russia left him open to criticism by political opponents that he was dancing to Moscow’s tune. Yanukovich told a meeting of security officials that Russia and Ukraine would continue their “strategic partnership.” Russia will be pleased by his decision to abandon pursuit of membership in NATO although the bill outlined cooperation with the bloc would continue, meaning Ukraine's forces would still take part in NATO exercises. Additionally, the bill also outlines Ukraine’s commitment to pursuit a similar relations with the United States, stressing the relationship to be “an important direction” of Ukrainian foreign policy.
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NATO Launches Baltic Military Games to Demonstrate Presence
31 May 2010 - Daily News and Economic Review
NATO launched a string of military exercises in the European Union’s three Baltic members Monday to reassure the region of its presence. The three Baltic nations joined NATO in 2004 over opposition from Russia. Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in August 2008, and France’s decision to sell four amphibious assault ships to Russia this year added to the region’s concerns. NATO sees a need to assert its power in the Baltic states not because of an increased threat by Russia, but as a means to secure continued Baltic support to its campaign in Afghanistan.
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Obama's National Security Strategy Underlines US-European Partnership in World Security
27 May 2010 - The White House
The White House released President Obama’s first National Security Strategy outlining the direction the President will take in the coming years. The document argues for greater reliance on international institutions and affirms the President’s commitment to broadening the circle of responsible actors. It emphasizes the relationship with European allies as the cornerstone for U.S. engagement with the world. The document underlines the importance of NATO as a means to strengthen collective world security, and states that NATO’s new Strategic Concept will provide an opportunity to revitalize and reform the Alliance. The report also states that the U.S. is committed to partnering with a stronger European Union that will advance the stability and prosperity in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Caucasus, and in Turkey. (Read More)

NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement
17 May 2010
NATO leaders commissioned a report to be written by a panel of experts, led by Chairperson Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State under President Clinton. NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement lays out a path to ensure the group’s relevance in an age of terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber attacks throughout the next decade. The report addresses the need to create stable conditions in Afghanistan, encourages engagement with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council, and affirms that NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces. It encourages reforms to streamline the decision making process among the twenty-eight states, and advocates the undertaking of administrative reforms to reduce operating costs, and allow the Secretary General to have added authority to implement his reform agenda.
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NATO to invite Russia to join in building defense 'roof' for Europe
19 April 2010 - Telegraph - Duncan Gardham
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will put a proposal before the alliance's leaders to invite Russia to participate in building a missile defense system covering all of Europe. A NATO spokesman told reporters in London last week that the United States has been in direct talks with Russia over the idea. Rasmussen, believing there is a "confluence of interests" between the former Cold War adversaries, will present the proposal at a summit in Estonia later this week. The first joint defense project between NATO and Russia would help Moscow "feel part of the same security family, inside rather than outside looking in," said Rasmussen. The US wants an anti-ballistic missile shield to cover all of Europe by 2018, but Russia has opposed US plans to build installations in former Eastern bloc states, seeing this as NATO encroachment close to its territory.
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NATO aims to fight Afghan crooks--without naming them
15 April 2010 - Washington Post - Deepa Babington
NATO officials in Afghanistan often stress the importance of rooting out "malign actors"-- corrupt officials and others who have cost the Afghan government much public support. But NATO has been reluctant to name these actors and challenge them publicly, leading to fears that a planned offensive in Kandahar will leave the crooks in place. Afghans might see Western troops as supporting hated local bosses. NATO hopes to loosen the grip of corrupt power brokers by working with tribal leaders, urging rivals to share influence within government. But Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the Afghan Analysis Network think tank, says NATO's governance strategy will not be enough unless they do more to root out corrupt officials. It is often noted that the biggest obstacle to stability in Kandahar is the presence of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president. He is suspected of links to the opium trade and other criminal dealings, but NATO acknowledges he is not likely to be going anywhere.
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Russia closes last weapons-grade plutonium plant
15 April 2010 - BBC News
Russia has shut down its last weapons-grade plutonium reactor, after a pledge by President Dmitry Medvedev at a summit this week. The reactor has operated since 1964 in the city of Zheleznogorsk, some 2,500 miles east of Moscow. Two other reactors there were closed in 1992. The plutonium had not been used for military purposes since 1995, and the plant had been mainly used to heat the city. The closure was part of an agreement between Medvedev and US President Barack Obama at the nuclear security summit in Washington. In the landmark arms reduction treaty signed recently, the US and Russia pledged to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. Obama hailed the move as demonstrating "Russia's leadership on nuclear security issues, and will add momentum to our shared global effort."
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Ukraine to remove uranium stockpile
12 April 2010 - CNN

Ukraine will eliminate its stockpile of highly enriched uranium within the next two years, the president announced on Monday. President Viktor Yanukovych met with President Obama in Washington prior to the start of a 47-nation nuclear security summit. He said most of the weapons-grade uranium will be gone by the end of 2010. A White House statement praised the decision, calling it "historic step and a reaffirmation of Ukraine's leadership in nuclear security and nonproliferation." The uranium, enough to build several nuclear weapons, could be transferred to Russia, although the White House said the destination had not been determined. Ukraine was left with 5,000 nuclear munitions, missiles, and silos on its territory after the breakup of the Soviet Union. They were dismantled in the mid-1990s.
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Obama soothes Eastern Europe's fears over arms pact

9 April 2010 - EurActiv
President Obama sought to reassure Eastern European leaders that the signing of a new nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia will not pose any risk to their countries' security. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty yesterday in Prague. The US also announced a shift in its nuclear doctrine, stating that American nuclear weapons would never be used against a non-nuclear state in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. On Thursday evening, Obama hosted a dinner with 11 heads of state from Central and Eastern Europe, a move aimed at reassuring them that warming relations with Moscow would not diminish US cooperation with them. Last year, Obama scrapped plans for missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move welcomed by Russia. Recently revamped plans call for different installations in Romania and Bulgaria.
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NATO under fire over civilian casualties, Karzai criticism
5 April 2010 - Christian Science Monitor - Iason Athanasiadis
NATO admitted that five civilians were killed in a February operation, amid an embarrassing row with President Hamid Karzai, who has made comments undermining the Western efforts in the country. The civilians, including three women were killed during a February 12 raid. The Times of London reported that soldiers tried to cover up their deaths by removing bullets from the bodies. Meanwhile, Karzai has cast doubt on plans for a NATO offensive in Kandahar this summer, and lashed out at foreign critics of his government. He blamed outsiders for alleged fraud in last year's presidential election, which he controversially won. Karzai cancelled a visit to a NATO base Monday, which a US official said would hurt morale among local government workers and residents.

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Afghan president says NATO offensive may not go ahead
4 April 2010 - Montreal Gazette - Ethan Baron
Afghan President Hamid Karzai cast doubt on plans for a NATO offensive against the Taliban around the city of Kandahar, telling local leaders, "There will be no operation unless you are happy." Karzai addressed a "jirga" meeting of about 2,000 tribal elders and citizens from Kandahar and surrounding provinces. He pledged further consultation before deciding on the operation. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces, also attended the meeting. Despite Karzai's comments, NATO countries are under pressure to make sure the offensive goes ahead, according to Walilullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.
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The Promise of Euro-Atlantic Missile Defense
30 March 2010 - Project Syndicate - Anders Fogh Rasmussen
In Prague next week, President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev will sign the new START treaty reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles. While this is an important milestone in global disarmament, nuclear proliferation is still a dangerous, and worsening, reality for the US and Europe. In this article, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen makes the case for a Europe-wide missile defense system, one that would include Russia. More than 30 countries have or are developing missile capabilities, and some could threaten Europe. Iran, particularly, already has missiles that could reach parts of Europe and is developing longer-range ones. "Proliferators must know that the NATO allies are unwavering in their commitment to collective defense," Rasmussen says, and missile defense can be "an opportunity for Europeans to demonstrate again to the US their willingness to invest in self-defense capabilities." The new START treaty will give impetus to further cooperation with Russia. Including Russia in a European missile defense system would show that "Russia is fully part of the Euro-Atlantic family, sharing the costs and benefits."
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Military looks toward long offensive in Kandahar
30 March 2010 - AP - Anne Flaherty
US and NATO forces in Afghanistan is preparing for a lengthy offensive in the city of Kandahar this summer, which could ultimately define the outcome of the war. The two month campaign is expected to begin in June. Kandahar, the Taliban's power base, has long been considered crucial to winning the war. "This is really a strategic moment in the history of our involvement," National Security Advisor James Jones told reporters. Officials hope driving the Taliban from Kandahar would be a fatal blow to the insurgency and increase the Afghan public's support for the government in Kabul.
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EU-US summits to take place 'only when necessary'
27 March 2010 - EU Observer - Valentina Pop
EU-US summits will no longer be held automatically every year, but only when there are particular issues to be decided, according to foreign policy officials from both sides. Ties between the two were strong enough, they said that the EU should not feel the need to 'attract' the US to summits. "The EU is our equal partner and we have an ongoing working relationship," said US State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter. "I simply reject the idea that we need summits to get things done, as it may be the case with other countries." Speaking to the Brussels Forum conference held by the German Marshall Fund think tank, Slaughter said she had been baffled by attempts earlier this year to "put something on the agenda" of a planned summit in May. President Obama eventually announced he would not attend, and the summit was cancelled. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed that the summits would no longer be automatic, saying, "We will have a summit when we both feel the need for one. Meanwhile, the relationship goes on.
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NATO urges missile defense pact, cites Iran threat

26 March 2010 - Reuters - David Brunnstrom
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that member states should agree to make missile defense an alliance mission. He cited the threat from Iran and the proliferation of weapons and delivery systems, urging a decision at the next NATO summit in November. He also said that "we will explore every opportunity to cooperate with Russia." Rasmussen said this would require a decision by Moscow "to see missile defense as an opportunity, rather than a threat." Russia reacted positively to Rasmussen's overtures last September for cooperation in missile defense, but is suspicious of the US system that any pan-NATO system would be linked with.
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Ashton secures deal on new diplomatic service
25 March 2010 - EU Observer - Honor Mahony

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has finalized her plan for the structure of Europe's new diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service. She reached a deal on Wednesday with the European Commission which will give her key powers over the annual development budget. Ashton will be in charge of regional and country strategy in the development field, and strategic priorities for the EU's neighborhood policy. The Commission had been resisting the transfer of some of its powers to the EEAS, especially in the development area, but sources said the deal represented a "workable compromise." Ashton's draft, expected to be circulated today, must be agreed by member states and the European Parliament.
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NATO must change radically, Canadian groups warn

24 March 2010 - Globe and Mail - Paul Koring

o Canadian military institutes have offered recommendations for an overhaul of NATO, and warned that Canadian support for the organization will wane unless it changes radically. The Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute prepared the study to advance a Canadian perspective to NATO in advance of the new strategic concept. "This is not the time to settle for modest adjustments," their study says. They call for making the financial burden of the alliance more ewquitable, and easing the requirement for consensus decision making. While consensus should be retained for major decisions, countries that do not participate in an operation should not have a veto over operational decisions. Canada has borne a disproportionate burden in NATO operations in Afghanistan, and the government plans to withdraw troops in 2011.
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Ashton makes concessions to parliament on diplomatic service

24 March 2010 - EU Observer - Honor Mahony
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has offered concessions to the European Parliament to win their support for detail of the new EU diplomatic corps. Speaking to the foreign affairs committee, Ashton said the parliament would have full budgetary oversight, and the power to sign off on its annual budget. She also appeared to suggest that parliament would get budgetary oversight for separate EU missions. Currently, it simply approves a lump sum for foreign policy expenditure without knowing how it is divided up. "There is no longer a 'gentleman's agreement' to limit parliamentary insight and control," the baroness said, referring to the longstanding practice of parliament and the Council not to look at each other's internal spending.

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Palestinian state possible in two years, says Ashton
23 March 2010 - Irish Times - Arthur Beesley
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said that new peace talks should lead to an independent Palestinian state "within two years." The US and EU are trying to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations, beginning with indirect engagement, what Ashton called "proximity" talks. These should lead to meaningful direct talks. The meeting of EU foreign ministers where Ashton made her remarks also heard from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is special envoy for the Middle East 'Quartet' of the US, EU, UN and Russia. Blair said that the Israeli government would be prepared to enter direct negotiations with the Palestinians, once confidence was built that the talks would be constructive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington today to meet with President Obama at the White House.
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EU capitals defend Ashton's powers in diplomatic corps
22 March 2010 - EU Observer - Andrew Rettman
EU governments are calling for increased funding and clear powers for foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to run the new diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service. A paper drafted by the Spanish presidency takes a firm line against perceived European Commission interference with the new organization. The EEAS, the member states believe, should make the major decisions on how to spend the development budget. EU officials and diplomats should be involved in reviewing candidates for EEAS posts, but Ashton would remain the "sole appointing authority." The plan concedes that current staff from the commission will fill most EEAS positions during its start-up phase. Governments hope to have one third of the posts held by their own diplomats once the corps "has reached its full capacity."
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Ukraine to stay out of military alliances
18 March 2010 - Euractiv
Ukraine's new president, Viktor Yanukovych, is urging parliament to pass a new law barring the country from joining any military alliance. "This is the law which we need the most," reports quoted him as saying. The ruling coalition formed by Yanukovych since he took office has formed a foreign policy based on keeping the country "out-of-blocks," while his predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, had enshrined NATO membership as an official goal. While Yanukovych opposes joining NATO, he has signaled that existing cooperation with it, as well as European integration, will still be pursued. The decision met with some criticism, with one diplomat saying that it would "reverse Ukraine's civilization orientation." Many commentators, however, said that NATO membership had never been realistic and the new decision better suited the country's interests.
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EU foreign chief Baroness Ashton arrives in Gaza Strip
18 March 2010 - BBC News
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has arrived in Gaza, one of the highest level Western officials to visit there since Hamas took power. The Quartet of Middle East negotiators--the US, EU , UN and Russia--are pushing to restart peace talks, and will hold a meeting in Moscow later. Ashton's arrival coincided with the death of a foreign agriculture worker when militants fired a rocket into southern Israel. It was the first fatality from a rocket attack since the Israeli offensive in Gaza in January 2009. Ashton responded, "I condemn any kind of violence. We have got to find a peaceful solution to the issues and problems... we need to move forward." She also told the BBC there was "a need to get aid through" to Gaza.
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NATO to Command US Troops in Afghanistan
16 March 2010 - VOA News
US forces in Afghanistan are undergoing a restructuring that will bring most of them under NATO command. The top US military spokesman, Vice Admiral Greg Smith, said that troops in eastern Afghanistan will soon be merged into the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The reorganization was ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week. General Stanley McChrystal, who serves as commander of both US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has also brought US Special Operations forces under his direct command. Afghan officials had blamed Special Ops troops for many civilian casualties during nighttime raids, and had pressed McChrystal to restrict them.
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EU's Ashton visits Mid-East amid Jerusalem tension
15 March 2010 - BBC News
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton began a visit to the Middle East on Monday, and condemned Israel's recent move to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. She told Arab League members in Cairo that the move endangered peace talks, which the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia is trying to restart. "The EU position on settlements is clear. Settlements are illegal, constitute an obstacle to peace, and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," Ashton said. After meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Ashton will continue to Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. She said she was "hopeful" on being able to visit Gaza.
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US cautious on removing nuclear arms from Europe
14 March 2010 - Washington Post - Robert Burns
The US is taking a go-slow approach on a touchy and little-discussed security issue: removing the last Cold War-era nuclear weapons stationed in Europe. Five European countries, led by Germany, have advocated for removal, based on the goal set by President Obama last year of a nuclear-free world. The US is holding off on a decision, however, preferring to consult with all NATO members beginning at a foreign ministers' meeting in April. The administration is currently conducting an internal review, which is expected to call for reducing the role of nuclear weapons in American national security strategy. Negotiations are also ongoing between the US and Russia on a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which should see substantial reductions in both countries' arsenals. The removal of the weapons in Europe could face resistance from some of NATO's newer members in eastern Europe and the Baltic, who see the "nuclear umbrella" as a symbol of NATO's guarantee of their security.
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EU foreign ministers may become envoys
14 March 2010 - European Voice - Simon Taylor
A group of foreign ministers of EU member states have floated the idea that they should occasionally act as envoys for the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who hosted several of his counterparts this weekend, said the ministers faced an "existential crisis" under the new system set up by the Lisbon Treaty, which reduces their roles. They no longer participate in European Councils, the regular meetings of EU leaders, and meetings of foreign ministers will be chaired by Ashton, instead of the minister from the country which holds the rotating presidency. Stubb said that they were ready to accept this reduction, but might seek the new role of special envoy when Ashton is unable to travel.
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Kandahar attacks are a warning to NATO, says Afghanistan Taliban
14 March 2010 - Christian Science Monitor - Julius Cavendish
Five suicide bombs exploded in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar Saturday, killing over 35 people and wounding 50. The attacks targeted the police headquarters and jail in the city, in an attempt to break prisoners out. Blast barriers prevented the jail from being breached. A Taliban spokesman said the bombings were a warning to NATO forces, which is preparing to focus on Kandahar and its environs in the next phase of the counterinsurgency effort. This effort follows the recent operation which captured the Taliban-held town of Marjah in nearby Helmand province. Afghan President Hamid Karzai predicted that the Taliban would launch more attacks within the city limits of Kandahar, as more US troops begin to arrive in the province. "They organize this kind of attack in the city to show they are still around," Karzai said.
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Turkey calls for more active EU foreign policy
13 March 2010 - EU Observer - Honor Mahony
Turkey is urging the European Union to be "much more active than it is today" on foreign policy, and particularly to seek more influence in Turkey's neighborhood. "We want the EU to be much more active in all international affairs and also much more visionary," said Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, "because the EU itself is a good example of how countries who had serious difficulties, the worst tensions in the past, came together based on the principle of values as well as economic interests." This example is important for countries in the South Caucasus and the Middle East to learn from. While EU membership remains Turkey's highest priority, it has recently been playing a more active role in regional diplomacy. It has acted as a mediator between Syria and Israel, taken a stand against more sanctions on Iran, and moved toward rapprochement with Armenia.
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New EU states make bid for more diplomatic clout
10 March 2010 - EU Observer - Andrew Rettman
The European Union's smaller members are pushing for an open process in appointments to the new diplomatic corps, hoping to ensure that they are adequately represented. The so-called Visegrad states warn that they could lose interest and disengage from EU foreign policy if they did not a fair share of power. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia made the case for "geographic balance" in an informal paper circulated in Brussels last month. A number of other small EU members support the position. Only a small number of the European Commission's current foreign relations officials, which will be transferred to the new European External Action Service, come from the countries that most recently joined the EU. One solution proposed by Malta, the smallest member state, would have all EEAS posts from head-of-unit level up open to competition among EU diplomats and officials, with foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton having the final word. The structure of the EEAS was supposed to be determined by April, but EU leaders are now looking at July as more realistic.
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Ashton sets out vision for EU foreign policy
10 March 2010 - EU Observer - Honor Mahony
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, seeking to draw a line under her stormy first 100 days in office, has outlined her vision for European foreign policy in a wide-ranging speech to the European Parliament. She emphasized that Europe had a choice, to pull together on foreign policy or be overtaken in world affairs by other powers like China and India. "If we pull together we can safeguard our interests. If not, others will make decisions for us," she said. Ashton acknowledged the difficulty of setting up the new diplomatic corps set up under the Lisbon Treaty, which has been the subject of turf battles between the European Commission and the member states. "Any time you create something new, there will be resistance. Some prefer to minimise perceived losses rather than maximise collective gains. I see it differently," Ashton declared, urging her audience to remember "why European leaders negotiated the Treaty in the first place."
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What Should NATO's Strategic Concept Say About Russia?
9 March 2010 - Atlantic Council - Tomas Valasek
Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, relations with Russia remain sour, with Moscow still viewing NATO as a threat to its security, and former Eastern Bloc states that have since joined NATO worried by Russia's actions, especially the war in Georgia. These countries are pushing for NATO to develop defensive plans for the possibility, however remote, of conflict with Russia. Tomas Valasek recounts a recent seminar held by the Center for European Reform, where speakers discussed how the alliance's new Strategic Concept, being drafted this year, should approach Russia. Many advocated a dual-track approach; first, reassure NATO's Central European members that the alliance's commitment to mutual defense is as strong as ever, but at the same time, reach out to Russia in hopes of forging a more cooperative relationship. This could include telling Moscow that NATO would be open to Russia joining the alliance, if it so chooses and meets the criteria. This could help strengthen the hands of those in Russia arguing for economic and political modernization and cooperation with the West.
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EU's Foreign Policy Chief Seeks to Spell Out Agenda
8 March 2010 - New York Times
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, will set out her foreign policy agenda in detail in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday. After some stumbles and facing heavy criticism in her first four months on the job, Ashton has begun pushing back against her critics, with the policy announcement and a trip to the Middle East. "The next month is going to be a big test of her substance," said one EU diplomat. The Middle East, Iran, Ukraine, and the Balkans are expected to figure prominently in the speech, as is Europe's new diplomatic service. Ashton laid out the framework for the External Action Service at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Spain over the weekend, and received broad support. The service will be overseen by Ashton and have as many as 3,000 diplomats around the world.
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EU's Ashton Seeks Gaza Visit During Middle East Tour
6 March 2010 - New York Times
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will seek to visit Gaza during a trip to the Middle East this month. Aiming to engage the EU in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ashton is scheduled to visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. She hopes to add Gaza to the trip to assess the humanitarian situation. "I have asked to go to Gaza," Ashton told reporters in Spain. "We are providing a huge amount of aid into Gaza and I'm very interested to make sure that we are seeing the benefits of that aid going in." Controlled by Hamas and blockaded by Israel, Gaza is generally off limits to foreign dignitaries. However, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin was able to visit last week. The US is hoping to restart peace talks within days, and the EU, which is part of the "Quartet" of negotiators along with the US, Russia, and UN, is hoping to boost its role in the process and increase its international clout.
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Lady Ashton launches fightback against critics ahead of key talks on EU foreign policy
4 March 2010 - The Guardian - Ian Traynor
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will push back against her critics at a meeting of foreign ministers in Spain, where the shape of a new diplomatic corps will be discussed. Ashton has faced heavy criticism of her job performance in the months since she took up the position. She claims the criticism is premature, as she has not yet been given all the tools she needs. Prior to the meeting in Cordoba, she will meet with French officials, who have been among the harshest critics, to mend fences. Ashton is likely to support the position of France and other large EU states that the new European External Action Service to be a strong agency with autonomy from the European Commission and other institutions. They also want national governments to have the main say in appointing EU ambassadors. The Commission has been trying to keep as much power and funding under its control as possible. Ashton must decide on the structure and scope of the EEAS by the end of April. Her message to the foreign ministers will be to "take collective responsibility for what they created."
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NATO air forces to train over Baltic countries
2 March 2010 - Associated Press
NATO air forces will conduct an exercise this month over the Baltic states, possibly offering some reassurance to member states nervous about the alliance's reengagement with Russia. The mission, which will involve French, Polish, and American planes, aims to "demonstrate solidarity with NATO's Baltic members." The alliance has kept a detachment of fighter jets in the Baltics for policing duties since Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia joined in 2004. Relations between NATO and Russia have improved under the Obama administration, from a low point in 2008 after the war in Georgia. This has made the Baltic states nervous, and they were especially alarmed at the recent sale of French Mistral warships to Russia. A NATO spokesman denied the exercise was related to this deal, however.
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Who controls foreign affairs?
25 February 2010 - European Voice - Toby Vogel
The European Union's members and institutions are engaged in a turf war over who will control the bloc's new diplomatic corps, European External Action Service, which is supposed to begin operations this year. The EEAS will be managed by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton. It is supposed to become a free-standing body, independent of the Commission, the Council of Ministers, and national governments' diplomatic corps. However, all of those institutions are attempting to get their own people into the EEAS and steer it toward their own vision. The Commission's appointment last week of one of its top civil servants as envoy to the US was a tacit acknowlegement that it would not get one of its own named as head of the EEAS. But it may only be a tactical retreat, and some governments still suspect the Commission will try to get its people to run the new EU embassies.
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A vision in line with EU member states
25 February 2010 - European Voice - Toby Vogel
EU foreign policy chief will present a paper to member states next week laying out her vision for the bloc's new diplomatic corps, the External Action Service. The drafting of this vision has been complicated by disagreements between the member states and the European Commission, which, wants to retain some the EAS's likely functions for itself. Ashton appears to have come down on the side of the member states, stating in the paper that the EAS should use "the many levels of influence the EU has...in support of a single political strategy." She describes these levels of influence as “economic and political instruments, development and humanitarian aid, plus civil and military crisis management tools." The Commission wants to retain control of country desks dealing with developing nations in Africa, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. The member states support the Commission managing development aid to these countries, but want the country desks to form part of the EAS.
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EU to step up operation against pirates
25 February 2010 - Sofia Echo - Clive Leviev-Sawyer
European Union defense minister agreed to expand the naval mission against piracy off the coast of Somalia, Operation Atalanta, which may include increasing personnel and resources. The mission will take on two additional objectives: control of Somali ports where pirates are based, and "neutralizing" mother ships that have enabled pirates to operate more than 1000 km from the coast. These functions will be launched after the end of the winter monsoon season in March. They also agreed to improve the application of agreements with Kenya and the Seychelles to prosecute pirates who are captured at sea, and to pufsue similar agreements with other countries in the region, such as South Africa, Tanzania, and Mauritius. "The credibility of the mission depends on our ability to arrest these pirates and bring them to justice," said Spanish foreign minister Carme Chacon, who chaired the meeting.
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Gates: NATO, in crisis, must change its ways
23 February 2010 - Washington Post - Robert Burns
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for sweeping changes in NATO's operations Tuesday, saying that the alliance is in "crisis." Speaking to military officers from many NATO member states at the National Defense University, Gates said that Afghanistan had exposed shortcomings that could undermine the viability of the alliance. While he praised NATO allies who had recently increased their troop commitments in Afghanistan, Gates criticized the failure of European countries to modernize their own militaries and contribute more to alliance funding. "The demilitarization of Europe - where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it - has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he said. European analysts said that Gates' comments indicated that the Obama administration was losing patience with Europe's defense policies. Europeans would fight when they believed it was in their self-interest, according to Kees Homan, a former director of the Dutch military college, but no such consensus existed on Afghanistan.
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Dutch pullout will give NATO headaches, but won't lead to domino effect
23 February 2010 - Deutsche Welle - Michael Knigge
The collapse of the Dutch government and the likely withdrawal of the country's troops from Afghanistan has led to worries of a domino effect, leading other countries to reconsider their commitments. But the analysts interviewed by Deutsche Welle do not believe that is likely. While the war is deeply unpopular in many European countries, each country has a different dynamic, so there will not be an automatic discussion of troop withdrawals, according to Eva Gross of Institute for European Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In Germany, parliament is set to vote on the expansion of their mission in Afghanistan. Most Germans are opposed to the war, but pollster Klaus-Peter Schoeppner says most can accept the exit scenario already envisaged by the government. While a domino effect is not likely for now, events on the ground could have a further negative impact on public opinion. European governments will have to explain the reasons for the Afghan mission to the public much better, says Gross.
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Fall of Dutch Government Expected to Lead to Withdrawal of Troops in Afghanistan
22 February 2010 - Wall Street Journal - John W. Miller
The Netherlands is likely to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after its government collapsed on Saturday. Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party, withdrew from the ruling coalition, refusing to back Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan through August 2011. NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had requested the extension, and Balkenende was willing, but Bos opposed the troops' staying beyond the end of 2010. The loss of the Dutch force would be a blow to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Dutch troops have been praised for their work in the province of Uruzgan, and is viewed as one of the most fierce and efficient countries in the alliance. Misgivings among other key nations--Canada says it will withdraw by the end of 2011 and France and Germany have made only small new troop commitments--will make it difficult to fill the gap.
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Five NATO states to urge removal of US nuclear arms in Europe
22 February 2010 - The Guardian - Julian Borger
Five European members of NATO plan to call for the removal of US nuclear weapons on European soil, a move aimed at spurring global disarmament. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Luxembourg will release their joint declaration in the next few weeks, hoping to influence debate about the utility of nuclear weapons for the alliance. There are thought to be between 150 and 240 short range weapons based in Europe, mostly at US bases in Italy and Turkey. NATO officials are meeting in Washington and Rome in the next week to discuss nuclear weapons' role in the alliance's new strategic concept.
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NATO commander says recruitment of Afghans gaining
18 February 2010 - AP - Matt Moore
NATO's top military officer says that Afghan military and security forces are on track to meet their goal of recruiting 300,000 troops by the end of 2011. However, it may be difficult to retain those troops, as there has been a high desertion rate among Afghan forces. Admiral James Stavridis, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, said recruitment was boosted by a recent pay raise, and Afghan troops are taking on a bigger role in fighting insurgents. In the current offensive in the town of Marjah, there is a "roughly one-to-one ratio" of Afghan troops to Americans. "I think the performance of the Afghan security forces is improving rapidly," Stavridis said.
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EU promises "appropriate response" to Tripoli's visa move
16 February 2010 - Europolitics - Nathalie Vandystadt
The EU is considering an "appropriate reaction" to Libya's decision to stop granting visas to EU citizens from the Schengen borderless area. The move came as a result of Libya's dispute with Switzerland, where a son of Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi was detained and questioned by authorities in July 2008. Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is a party to the Schengen agreement, which removes border controls, subsequently barred top Libyan officials from entering its territory. The EU's Internal Security Commissioner, Cecelia Malmstrom, sharply criticized Libya, but expressed hope that the diplomatic row could be resolved without an "obligation for reciprocity."
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