NATO defence ministerial meeting begins
BRUSSELS (Pajhwok): NATO defence ministers on Tuesday began their two-day meeting, the first since the Ukraine crisis, in this capital city of Belgium and the gathering is supposed to help set the stage for the US-led alliance's summit meeting in Wales this September.
Top of the agenda is how to react long-term to Russia's new military capabilities and its willingness to use them. NATO has already taken some immediate steps to react to Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
Alliance officials said the ministers will consider longer-term responses, including an action readiness plan, a stepped-up schedule for military exercises and the possibility of additional deployments.
The ministers will discuss other topics, including the future of Afghanistan and defense spending.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his door step statement said they were less than a hundred days from the Wales Summit.
“At the summit, we will strengthen our collective defence; improve our ability to manage crises, deepen our partnerships and demonstrate the strength of the bond between North America and Europe.”
Rasmussen said their preparations were well under way. “But we are facing a new security landscape because of Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine.”
He said they had already taken immediate steps. “In a strong show of solidarity, every single ally, from both sides of the Atlantic, contributes to bolstering our collective defence, including deployment of ships, aircraft and troops. It really is all for one and one for all.”
“We will review these steps, and consider what more we need to do. The crisis has shown that the range of security threats we face is increasing, and becoming more unpredictable.”
Rasmussen said they had still to tackle threats such as terrorism, piracy and cyber crime, but they also had to consider the challenge posed by Russia’s attempt to redraw borders by force.
He said NATO’s collective defence was solid and their commitment to their partners was strong and their message to Russia was clear.
Afghanistan will be exclusively discussed on the day two of the summit on Wednesday, when Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who has arrived in Brussels, will attend the meeting.
After Rasmussen’s opening remarks, journalists were asked to leave their chamber and the meeting continued behind closed doors.
From Afghanistan besides Mohammadi, US and NATO forces top commander Gen. Joseph Dunford and UN’s senior civilian representative Jan Kubis are attending the summit.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said the Afghan defence minister would talk about the problems and challenges being faced by Afghan security forces.
Mohammadi would seek NATO cooperation to address the problems facing the Afghan Air Force, he said.
Azimi said the NATO summit was important because it came after US president Barack Obama’s decision to keep 9800 troops in Afghanistan beyond this year.
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