WASHINGTON --- NATO's secretary-general says he expects the alliance’s ongoing operations, its military capabilities, and major political issues to be the focus of the November NATO summit in Riga, Latvia.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer spoke to the Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue in Madrid, Spain, July 10. He said he expected that operational issues -- the security situation in Afghanistan, ways to further the Kosovo final status talks, and how to respond to any additional requests for assistance in the Darfur crisis -- will figure prominently in talks among the alliance’s leaders.
De Hoop Scheffer said that to expand stability, the alliance needs to discuss the development of a quick-reaction force that can be deployed at a great distance on short notice, and then sustained for an extended period of time. Further, NATO wants dual-use forces that can perform both high-intensity combat and post-conflict peacekeeping and reconstruction duties, he said.
Political issues on the agenda at Riga, he said, will include the possibility of expanding membership, the progress of NATO partnerships and the establishment of a training initiative.
He also said NATO continues to work closely with Russia even apart from the summit.
NATO’s transformation to meet the threats of the 21st century is embodied in its new security approach of expanding the zone of stability beyond its traditional borders, de Hoop Scheffer said. He pointed out that NATO is both a military and political alliance, which requires not just stronger partnerships but also partnerships with key nations. He said NATO has no desire to become a global entity but rather an organization "with global partners that share our values."
De Hoop Scheffer gave four current operational examples of the alliance’s approach to projecting stability:
-- Afghanistan: NATO's top priority, he said, is to support the Afghan government by helping it provide the security that allows reconstruction and development to take place. "We have to prevent Afghanistan from once again exporting terrorism," he said.
-- Kosovo: In Southeast Europe, de Hoop Scheffer said, NATO troops continue in a peacekeeping role and provide the safety necessary for U.N.-sponsored status talks to proceed. "NATO will remain committed to Kosovo as long as needed," said de Hoop Scheffer.
-- Iraq: NATO is training Iraqi security forces to take responsibility for their own security.
-- Sudan: NATO is supplying aircraft to airlift African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces into Sudan's Darfur region and providing training to AU troops, he said.
"These operational commitments I've just described, across three continents, show in the clearest possible way how much NATO has changed," de Hoop Scheffer said.