NATO's post-Istanbul Agenda

18 July 2004

To read the Secretary General’s speech in full, please click here.

The NATO Summit in Istanbul had been an “opportunity to measure the health of the transatlantic relationship post-Iraq,” the Secretary General said. It had demonstrated that the allies were ready to look ahead, instead of in the “rear view mirror.” Afghanistan was NATO’s “number one priority.” The achievements of the Summit included the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, an increase in the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) to support the authority of the central government and enhanced security support during the upcoming elections. The aim was to establish more PRTs in the Western part of Afghanistan, expanding ISAF’s mission. During the elections each ISAF-led PRT would receive military reinforcements and a quick reaction force would be deployable, in the case of security breaches. Overall, “at Istanbul we delivered on our commitment to Afghanistan.”

With respect to Iraq, allies had agreed that NATO had a role to play in bringing about stability in the country. The alliance had affirmed that training of Iraqi security forces would be in the common interest as was support to the development of the Iraqi Security Institutions, as requested by the country’s Prime Minister. NATO military authorities would draft concrete recommendations on the way ahead, based on findings of a recent visit to Iraq.

The Balkans

The Summit had finalised the conclusion of the SFOR, first-ever NATO peacekeeping operation, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He welcomed the intention of the EU to establish a new mission in the country and said that NATO would help to make it a success. The alliance would not simply depart from the Balkans after the conclusion of the mission, however. It would retain a Headquarters in Sarajevo to help with defence reform and in other areas. “It is clear that NATO looks forward to welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro into the Partnership for Peace, once they have met the well-known conditions, including full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” he said. Kosovo, however, was a “job still unfinished.” NATO would not allow itself to be put under artificial time pressure, he noted. “We will stay for as long as it takes. Our commitment remains unflinching.”

Military transformation and wider cooperation

While he acknowledged that he had “come down pretty hard on the foot-dragging it came to providing sufficient forces to our Afghanistan mission” ahead of the Istanbul Summit, these talks had “come up with what we needed.” If NATO wanted to continue to meet its commitments, its military means had to match the alliance’s political ambitions. This transformation had to go beyond force planning and extend to the entire spectrum of military modernization. The Summit had resulted in the approval of ‘usability targets,’ which committed Member States to be able to deploy and sustain larger portions of their forces on alliance operations. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) had been charged with continued transformation of procedures and military capabilities.

Individualised cooperation and a greater emphasis on defence reform had also underpinned the decisions taken in Turkey with respect to partnerships. Cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia were of particular importance to the alliance. Liaison officers and Special Representatives would soon be sent to these regions and NATO was also finalising the modalities of Russia and Ukraine’s contributions to ‘Operation Active Endeavour,’ the maritime surveillance and escort operation in the Mediterranean. Deepening the Mediterranean Dialogue with seven countries in North Africa and the Middle East had also been an issue on the Istanbul agenda with a view to transforming these contacts into genuine partnerships. The newly created “Istanbul Cooperation Initiative” (ICI) would offer practical cooperation to interested countries in the broader region, all under a spirit of joint-ownership.

NATO and the EU

NATO and the EU had common interests beyond crisis management and had to work together in a complementary and reinforcing manner across the entire spectrum of security management, peace-building and post-conflict resolution as well as in the fight against terrorism. Highlighting the facts of EU-NATO cooperation he underlined “the EU can take on more responsibility in security matters” as key to a healthy transatlantic relationship in the 21st century. Strong, trusting NATO-EU relations were “a strategic necessity.” Competitive notions between the two organizations needed to be abandoned. “We must practice what we preach,” the Secretary General said. Relations needed to move forward beyond the Balkans and get the full range of benefits – including a “stronger, more equitable transatlantic relationship.”

The following open discussion with the audience raised questions with respect to military challenges in the EU-NATO relationship, NATO's influence on countries to the East such as Belarus and Moldova and NATO's overall global strategy and the mission and values underpinning it.