NATO to outline new strategies for new realities

By Karen DeYoung and Edward Cody
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 8:37 PM

As NATO struggles to define itself in a post-Cold War world of new threats and tight budgets, the alliance this week will lay out a vision for itself that is meant to better reflect the realities of the 21st century.

The so-called Strategic Concept, NATO's first mission statement in more than a decade, will be unveiled at a gathering in Lisbon that alliance Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called "one of the most important summits in the history of our alliance."

The statement will embrace deployment of a land-based alliance missile-defense system and approve cost-cutting plans to reduce overlapping weapons systems and streamline NATO's command structure. It will echo President Obama's ideal of "a world without nuclear weapons," but it will make clear that NATO will retain its nuclear deterrent as long as others have such weapons.

It also will commit NATO to developing new capabilities for cyber defense and counterterrorism, as well as enhanced air defense and ground surveillance systems.

Obama leaves Thursday night for the two-day meeting, a fast turn-around just days after he returned from a 10-day tour of Asia to face resurgent Republicans after their mid-term election victory.

Remaining in Lisbon little more than 24 hours, Obama will participate in the Strategic Concept discussions Friday and a Saturday morning session on Afghanistan to be addressed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition military commander in Afghanistan.

Non-NATO members of the 48-nation coalition also will be represented in Lisbon, to approve a plan to begin a four-year transition to Afghan security control in the spring. NATO also anticipates announcing that it has met its goal for up to 1,000 new coalition trainers for Afghan forces, following Canada's agreement this week to provide nearly all of them.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the summit plans Tuesday, as well as other U.S. and European officials who discussed the ongoing negotiations, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will attend the first summit-level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which was suspended after Russia's 2006 intervention in Georgia. While bilateral U.S.-Russia relations "have improved significantly over the past year," a senior administration official said, "relations with NATO have lagged. We see this as an opportunity to move to a new stage . . . from focusing on differences . . . to practical cooperation on a host of issues," including piracy, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

"The big decision," Rasmussen said in an interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, "will be to invite Russia to cooperate in nuclear defense," a concept that Moscow has displayed little enthusiasm for in the past.

Rasmussen, who met with Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow earlier this month, said they agreed the response to the invitation will be a six-month joint analysis of what Russian cooperation would mean.

"That's a major shift," Rasmussen said. "There are a lot of questions that must be answered on the degree to which they can cooperate with us."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company