NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said in Prague that “our security cannot be taken for granted” and that the North Atlantic Alliance “is as important as it has ever been.”
In a keynote speech at the Jagello 2000 Conference on Friday (27 May 2016) Ambassador Vershbow thanked the Czech Republic for its long involvement in Alliance operations in Afghanistan, its support for the NATO Response Force and its contributions of highly-skilled pilots and aircrews to NATO’s assurance measures. He also commended the Czech Republic for its leading role in the Alliance’s ability to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. “Together these are helping to make our Alliance stronger and more effective”, he said.
Ambassador Vershbow said that NATO is strengthening its deterrence and defence posture in response to actions of a more assertive and aggressive Russia. He said that NATO is implementing the Readiness Action Plan, a series of comprehensive measures agreed by NATO leaders at the Summit in Wales in 2014. He added that decisions on the scale, scope and composition of an enhanced forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance will be taken at the Warsaw Summit in July.
Ambassador Vershbow also highlighted the importance of political dialogue with Russia. “The path NATO has chosen is one of strong deterrence combined with meaningful dialogue”, he said. He stressed that “there cannot be any return to business as usual until Russia comes back into compliance with international law.” He noted that the first step toward that end should be the full implementation of the Minsk agreements – ending the Russian-backed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, implementing a real ceasefire, withdrawing Russian forces and heavy weapons, and creating conditions for free and fair elections under Ukrainian and OSCE supervision aimed at re-integrating the occupied portions of Donbas into Ukraine.
The Deputy Secretary General said that the Warsaw Summit will also see NATO leaders taking decisions in response to the situation along NATO’s southern borders. He said that that NATO’s response to the security challenges to the south is “comprehensive and multi-faceted” and that NATO’s main contribution “is likely to be in bolstering the defence capacity of partners in the Middle East and Northern Africa”.
Ambassador Vershbow also underlined the need for stronger NATO cooperation with the European Union. “There is much to be gained from NATO and the EU working together on issues such as the hybrid warfare, cyber defence and civil preparedness”, he said.
During his visit to the Czech Republic, Ambassador Vershbow met with the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Lubomír Zaorálek and the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Mr. Jan Hamáček.