NATO unveils draft of new mission statement

Founded in 1948 to counter the threat of a Soviet invasion, the 28-member alliance is in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

May 17, 2010 15:55
2 minute read.
US Air Force explodes suspected bomb in southern A

southern Afghanistan bomb 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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NATO must win the war in Afghanistan, expand ties with Russia, counter the threat posed by Iran's missiles, and assure the security of its 28 members, according to its new mission statement for the next decade.

The draft document, released Monday, seeks to bridge a growing rift between the US, which favors a greater international role for NATO, and European nations that want it to retain its traditional defensive focus.

"NATO must be versatile and efficient enough to operate far from home," said former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, head of the team of experts who wrote the document. "In order to sustain the political will for operations outside its area, NATO must see that all its members are reassured about the security of their home territories."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will use the draft as a basis for a new strategic concept that will be submitted for approval at the alliance's next summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November.

Founded in 1948 to counter the threat of a Soviet invasion, the 28-member alliance is in the midst of a mid-life crisis as it searches for relevance almost 20 years after the collapse of its communist rival.

The previous strategic concept focused mainly on NATO's peacekeeping role in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. It was adopted in 1999, soon after the end of the Cold War and before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States forced the alliance to take on missions such as counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan.

The war is the largest mission ever attempted by the alliance. More than 100,000 NATO troops, about two-thirds of them Americans, are currently deployed there. Nearly 1,800 NATO soldiers have been killed in the escalating conflict.

"The alliance is committed to the creation of an Afghanistan that is stable and that does not serve as a platform for international terrorist activity," the document said.

It said the alliance should focus on improving ties with Moscow, which has helped NATO in Afghanistan by opening an overland supply route from Europe to that landlocked country.

NATO and Russia should work more closely together on other fields of mutual interest such as missile defense, counterterrorism, counternarcotics and maritime security, the document said.

The new mission statement emphasized the threat posed by Iran's nascent ballistic missile capability.

"Missile defense is most effective when it is a joint enterprise and cooperation ... between the alliance and its partners — especially Russia — is highly desirable," the blueprint said.

It favors US battlefield nuclear weapons remaining in Europe, another legacy of the Cold War. Several European governments have requested that they be withdrawn, saying the outdated bombs no longer serve any military purpose.

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces ... at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment," the document said.

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