NATO moves to greater cooperation with Russia

Updated: 2010-11-17 08:06

By Fu Jing and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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BRUSSELS/BEIJING - NATO, the military alliance of Western powers, is expected to undergo a role change in the coming decade against the backdrop of a further evolving global economic and geopolitical landscape, and an emerging cooperation with Russia.

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NATO heads of state and governments are scheduled to meet this Friday and Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal to discuss and endorse this strategic concept and structural reform agenda for the coming decade.

Meanwhile, the US and EU are to hold a summit in Lisbon on Saturday.

Chinese experts predicted that the new proposals offered by NATO members will reflect their new priority of fighting terrorism - one requiring structural reform of expensive and often inefficient military machines.

On Monday afternoon, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at its headquarters in Brussels that Lisbon will represent one of the most important Summits in NATO history.

The decisions the allies are expected to make by the end of this week will ensure that NATO becomes more effective, engaged and efficient than ever before, said Rasmussen.

"More effective, because NATO will invest in key capabilities like missile defense, cyber defense and long-range transport. More engaged because NATO will reach out to connect with our partners around the globe, countries and other organizations," said Rasmussen.

And "more efficient, because we are cutting fat, even as we invest in muscle - for example, by slimming down our Command Structure by about 4,000 personnel".

Rasmussen noted that all the goals will be enshrined in the new Strategic Concept, and it will guide the Alliance for the next decade.

The Secretary-General announced that NATO will deepen cooperation with Russia on Afghanistan and will work with Russia on a joint review of the security challenges that NATO and Russia are facing.

He added that the Summit will also mark a fundamentally new phase in NATO's operations in Afghanistan, as allies will launch in Lisbon the process by which the Afghan government will take the lead for security throughout the country.

The Summit will also mark a fresh start for NATO's relationship with Russia. "My strong sense is that Russia shares our view that the time has finally come to stop worrying about each other," he added.

"The time has come to work together," he said, adding: "I hope we will also explore missile defense cooperation."

Zhang Jianxiong, a researcher on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said NATO's slimming down efforts also go in line with a brand-new role - one addressing an urgent demand for a more efficient command structure.

NATO, he noted, has in decades been host to very large and expensive militaries targeted at the Communist countries led by the Soviets. But the equation changed completely in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union.

After a long time, NATO turned its focus to regional conflicts and terrorism - especially after the Sept 11 attacks of 2001, Zhang said.

But currently, Zhang said, the military alliance remains confused on how to treat Russia - whether as the inheritor of the Soviet Union or a partner in anti-terror moves.

"Now the new Strategic Concept has said explicitly it has stopped worrying about Russia, a victim of terrorism," Zhang said. "That means NATO has worked it out what it is going to do in the next decade."

China Daily

(China Daily 11/17/2010 page23)

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