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NATO Summit

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

I attended the Summit meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in Strasbourg and Kehl from 3 to 4 April 2009, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary.

The Summit marked the 60th anniversary of the Alliance. Leaders welcomed President Sarkozy’s decision to bring France back into NATO’s military structures and welcomed Croatia and Albania as new members of the Alliance. We unanimously appointed former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next Secretary-General.

Sixty years on from the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty, the defining security issue of our time for NATO, and the biggest endeavour in which NATO is engaged, is Afghanistan. Leaders paid tribute to the courage, dedication and professionalism of our forces, serving on behalf of their country and the Alliance in difficult and dangerous conditions. We reaffirmed their commitment to establishing security in Afghanistan—vital to the stability of the region as well as to our national security of NATO members—and to working with the Afghan Government to build a stable, democratic Afghanistan for the future. With presidential elections due in the next few months, Allies committed to strengthen our efforts on security in this crucial period. I reaffirmed the UK’s continued commitment to Afghanistan where we will remain the second largest troop contributor. I made clear that we are prepared to send additional troops to Afghanistan as part of the wider NATO effort to strengthen security over the elections as well as to ensure that our forces are properly protected from the growing threat from roadside bombs. Many other nations agreed to provide additional support: Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, Turkey and Croatia all committed to increase their contributions, demonstrating that burden-sharing over the critical electoral period will be a reality.

Allies also committed to a series of new initiatives to continue the gradual shift of focus of our military effort towards training and mentoring the Afghan security forces, including a new NATO training mission in Afghanistan and deployment of additional trainers and mentors for the Afghan police. Leaders welcomed President Obama’s decision to deploy an extra 4,000 troops to Afghanistan dedicated to training. The UK will also contribute to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund and make a further contribution to the UK-France helicopter initiative which is set to increase the numbers of NATO helicopters in Afghanistan over the next two years.

As the UK has made clear previously and as was emphasised in the bold new vision for Afghanistan and Pakistan set out by President Obama at the Summit, success cannot be delivered by military force alone. We must also strengthen our civilian efforts, working with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance at national, provincial, and district level, and to provide the support necessary for economic development. We look to President Karzai’s Government to continue and enhance its work to tackle corruption and the drugs trade.

Leaders also discussed the future of the Alliance and set out a radical plan to transform NATO to reflect the security challenges of the 21st Century. The Declaration on Alliance Security agreed at the Summit will initiate work to revise NATO’s strategic concept. This will be a crucial opportunity to drive forward the reform and modernisation of NATO and its capabilities, building on the progress achieved at the London Ministerial on reform hosted by the UK last year. I also set out a British proposal to establish a new Alliance Solidarity Force, which will be a multinational force approximately 1,500 strong, drawn from the existing NATO response forces, capable of being deployed more rapidly than current response forces on operations involving territorial defence and overseas crisis management.

The new Secretary-General will have a critical role in driving forward this agenda for change. The UK will work closely with him, and with all our Allies between now and the next Summit, which will be held in Portugal, to ensure that NATO continues to deliver security at home and operational success overseas.