NATO backs new 10-year strategy, missile shield


Lisbon : NATO leaders at a summit Friday in Lisbon approved a 10-year strategy aimed at allowing the alliance to operate far beyond Europe, and agreed that NATO needs the equipment to counter new weapons, especially ballistic-missile attacks.

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NATO’s last “strategic concept” dates back to 1999. Since then, the alliance has spent almost eight years fighting in Afghanistan and has had to deal with new threats such as terrorism, cyberwar and piracy, none of which featured strongly in the 1999 document.

“Here you have NATO’s road map for the next 10 years: our new strategic concept has just been adopted by the heads of state and government,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told journalists as he waved a copy of the 11-page document.

The concept is meant to guide NATO’s 28 member states as they reform their armed forces and plan joint operations over the next decade.

“This summit will go down in NATO history. The strategic concept is clear and open, and it shows that we are all working on the same foundation,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Shortly afterwards, US President Barack Obama told journalists during a break in the summit, “I’m pleased to announce that – for the first time – we’ve agreed to develop missile defence capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States.”

The US is already developing a long-range system of anti-missile rockets and is planning to bring parts of that system to Europe, starting with Aegis-class ships in the Mediterranean (2011) and later bringing land-based rockets to Romania (2015) and Poland (2018).

The NATO decision mandates the alliance to create a computer programme which would allow a NATO commander to use the US and short-range European systems as a single unit to shoot down attacks.

“It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles,” Obama said.

NATO leaders are expected to invite Russia to start talks on linking its early-warning system to the NATO one. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is due to join the summit Saturday and is widely tipped to agree to such talks.

“Tomorrow, we look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well, recognising that we share many of the same threats,” Obama said.

The strategic concept, meanwhile, repeats the alliance’s core commitment for each member state to defend all the others, but calls on it to improve its defences against threats such as cyber attacks.

Members will “develop further our ability to prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyberattacks,” it reads.

It also calls on members to improve their cooperation with “any nations and relevant organisations across the globe that share our interest in peaceful international relations.”

The concept does not name those countries, but in previous speeches Rasmussen has specified Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as well as the UN, World Bank and European Union.

Relations between NATO and the EU are particularly fraught because Turkey, a NATO member, and Cyprus, an EU member, have long vetoed systematic cooperation.

The concept stresses that the EU is a “unique and essential partner for NATO” but only commits the alliance to making “our contribution to create more favourable circumstances” for cooperation.

The concept for the first time calls on NATO to set up a permanent force designed to train security forces in third countries, and to create an “appropriate but modest civilian crisis management capability” to liaise with civilian groups such as the EU and UN.

On Saturday, the summit is scheduled to discuss Afghanistan, in addition to the Russia meeting.