NATO Defence and Foreign Ministers Prepare Chicago Summit

BELGIUM–(ENEWSPF)–18 April 2012.  The defence and foreign ministers of NATO’s 28 member states gathered at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on 18 April, 2012 for two days of talks to prepare the forthcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.

 The Chicago Summit, on May 20-21, will take key decisions on the future of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, and on NATO’s future capabilities and needs.

“We are just one month away from our Chicago summit. So this is the time to make sure our preparations are on track as we enter the final stretch,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the start of the series of ministerial meetings.

Defence ministers will discuss today the best way to ensure the Alliance can acquire and maintain the capabilities it needs, even in times of financial austerity. The Chicago Summit is expected to approve a package of measures based on the concept of Smart Defence, by which nations focus on greater prioritisation, specialisation and multinational cooperation in their acquisition of modern equipment. The summit is also expected to move forward with the Connected Forces Initiative, which are a set of policies to make sure that Alliance forces are able to operate together through a renewed emphasis on training, exercises and compatible equipment.

“We will ensure that our Alliance has the modern, deployable and connected forces that we need for the next decade and beyond”, said the Secretary General.

Together, defence and foreign ministers will discuss the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, ISAF. On 19 April, the foreign ministers of the 22 non-NATO countries which contribute to ISAF, will join the meeting to discuss how to make sure that the transition to full Afghan security responsibility succeeds, and how to offer continued support to the Afghans once it is completed.

“We will continue to support the Afghan security forces, also beyond 2014,” the Secretary General said, adding the Alliance would also continue to support Afghanistan financially as part of the broader international effort.

“We must make sure we maintain the gains made with so much investment in lives and resources and even in tough times. Supporting the Afghan forces is a good deal in financial and political terms.”

Also on 19 April, the 28 NATO foreign ministers will be joined by Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia for a session of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). This year marks the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the NRC, making the meeting a good chance to take stock of the progress which has been made on practical cooperation.

The talks will focus on areas where NATO and Russia can strengthen cooperation such as counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, fighting piracy , maritime search and rescue and counter-narcotics.