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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Rasmussen After the First Session of the North Atlantic Council in Heads of State and Government Format

May 20, 2012


Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the first session of the North Atlantic Council in Heads of State and Government format

Good afternoon.

NATO’s primary responsibility is to keep our people safe and our nations secure. We have done this for over 60 years by learning the lessons that need to be learned and getting ready to face the next challenge together.

At our last Summit in Lisbon 18 months ago, we set out an ambitious agenda. And here in Chicago, we are delivering.

In Lisbon, we agreed to create a NATO missile defence system. Today, in Chicago, we have declared that a reality.

We call this an Interim Capability. It is the first step towards our long-term goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces. Our system will link together missile defence assets from different Allies – satellites, ships, radars and interceptors – under NATO command and control. It will allow us to defend against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

This is true trans-Atlantic teamwork: the United States and European Allies investing in our common security. And it is an excellent example of the renewed culture of cooperation which we call Smart Defence: countries working together to develop capabilities which they could not develop alone.

We already have some good examples. In the Baltic States, NATO Allies take it in turns to patrol the airspace. This means our Baltic allies can focus their resources in other critical areas, such as deployable forces for Afghanistan. This is why we have agreed that NATO will provide continuous air policing for the Baltic States.

We have also agreed to acquire an Alliance Ground Surveillance capability. During our operation to protect the people of Libya, we learned how important it is to have the best possible intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. So we realised that we need more of this capability. We are now filling that gap. Today, a contract is signed to acquire five unarmed drones which will let our commanders identify threats, identify targets and see what is happening over the horizon, at any time.

So Smart Defence is a vital principle. And we have agreed to make it the new way NATO does business. And we are putting it into practice. Today, we approved a robust package of more than 20 multinational projects, to provide the capabilities we need, at a price we can afford.

For instance, in Afghanistan, we have learned how important it is to protect our forces against roadside bombs. So a number of Allies will jointly acquire remote-controlled robots which can clear such bombs – protecting our forces and civilians alike.

And we know from our operations over Libya and off the Horn of Africa how vital it is to keep watch on the sea. So a group of Allies agreed to pool their maritime patrol aircraft – providing more awareness, with more efficiency.

Smart Defence means spending smartly on what we need. And it also means not duplicating. That is why we welcome the efforts in the framework of the EU to address the European shortfall in air to air refueling.

Within NATO, we have also agreed that our forces will step up exercises, training, and education, including with our partners. So they can preserve the skills they’ve mastered in operations.

These decisions show that despite the economic challenges, Allies are committed to acquire, develop and maintain the capabilities and the skill we need to ensure that our Alliance remains fit for purpose and fit for the future.

Our goal is NATO Forces 2020 – an Alliance that deals with the economic challenges of today, and is prepared for the security challenges of the future.

Tomorrow, more than 60 world leaders will focus on the future of Afghanistan. That meeting will send a strong signal of commitment to the Afghan people.

We have taken important steps on the road to a stable and secure Afghanistan. As we agreed with President Karzai in Lisbon, our shared goal is for the Afghan forces to be fully responsible for their country’s security by the end of 2014. And we are on track.

The Afghan forces are already in the lead for providing security for half the population. Soon, that will rise to over 75%.

By the middle of 2013, we expect the Afghan forces to be taking the lead for security right across the country. As they step forward, our focus will shift from combat to support - but we will remain combat-ready.

Once the Afghans have full responsibility by the end of 2014, our combat mission will come to an end. But we will not walk away. Once transition is completed, NATO will lead a new mission, to train, advise and support the Afghan security forces.

Tomorrow I look forward to a thorough discussion with ISAF and other partners to chart the way ahead. With that, I am ready to take your questions.