Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The NATO summit in Lisbon is starting

Ralitsa Kovacheva, November 19, 2010

The two-day NATO summit is starting in Lisbon. The three key decisions expected from the forum are related to NATO's new Strategic Concept, the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan and a new start of relations with Russia.

"The Summit will put in place an Alliance that is more effective, more engaged and more efficient. More effective because NATO will invest in key capabilities like missile defence, cyber defence and strategic and tactical airlift. More engaged because NATO will reach out to connect with our partners around the globe, countries and other organizations. And more efficient because we are cutting fat, even as we invest in muscle", NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said days before the Summit.

Missile defense system and Alliance’s structures reform are the main topics in the new NATO Strategic Concept. It has been developed by an expert team, headed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. During his visit to Bulgaria in May, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “I believe that the time has come for us to move ahead and make missile defence a genuine Alliance mission. This is my target for the next NATO Summit in Lisbon.”

The new concept sets out some non-traditional security challenges to which NATO has yet to pay attention - like cyber attacks and threats to the energy security. In Sofia, the Secretary General of the Alliance drew special attention to this issue: "And I know that is a particular concern here in Bulgaria. Your country has experienced the impact of an energy cut-off several times. You know that it can severely disrupt a country’s economic and social fabric. Clearly, this is not just a political and economic challenge, it is also a security challenge – and this makes energy security a legitimate subject for NATO.”

It is expected the new NATO's Strategic Concept for the next 10 years to be approved by the member states' leaders in the first day of the summit.

Afghanistan will be the main topic of the forum on Saturday morning, with the participation of country's president Hamid Karzai. He and Rasmussen will sign a joint declaration. A new stage in NATO operations in Afghanistan is starting, Rasmussen commented earlier. The transitional period will begin early next year and if conditions permit, will be completed by 2014. The goal is the Afghan Government to assume primary responsibility for managing security across the country. But Rasmussen said that NATO will remain in Afghanistan for as long as necessary to fulfill its mission.

The third major item on the agenda of the Lisbon forum are the relations with Russia. NATO-Russia Council will meet on Saturday afternoon, with the participation of President Dmitry Medvedev. This is the first time after a prolonged cooling of relations between Moscow and NATO over the conflict in Georgia in the summer of 2008. Rasmussen expressed hope that Russia and NATO would decide to explore cooperation on missile defence. During his visit to Sofia, he said: "Once Russia starts to feel the effects of proliferation on her, I am sure she will begin to see missile defence as an opportunity rather than a threat."

Bulgaria will be represented at the forum by President Georgi Parvanov, accompanied by foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov and Defence Minister Anyu Angelov. The President will outline Bulgaria's position on the new NATO's Strategic Concept. Two members of Albright's expert team visited Sofia this spring and held meetings and discussions with politicians, NGOs and media. As a result, Bulgaria's priorities in the new strategic NATO concept have been identified. Those are: finding a strategic balance between operations under Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty and those that are not covered by it; active political role of NATO on energy security, continuing the course of open doors of the Alliance; perception of the Black Sea region as an integral component of the Euro-Atlantic community, continuing commitment of NATO in the Balkans.

euinside will cover the forum and will inform you about the decisions on major issues today and in coming days.