President Obama praised the U.S.-European relationship for its deep cooperation and close ties as he arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, for the 2010 NATO Summit and U.S.–European Union Summit.
“With no other region does the United States have such a close alignment of values, interests, capabilities and goals,” – Obama wrote in an editorial for the International Herald Tribune.
He added that these summits offer “an opportunity to deepen our cooperation even further and to ensure that NATO — the most successful alliance in human history — remains as relevant in this century as it was in the last.”
The November 19–20 meetings are set to cover a host of issues. At the top of the NATO agenda is a plan to begin the gradual phase out of U.S. forces and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan.
“In Lisbon, we will align our approach so that we can begin a transition to Afghan responsibility early next year, and adopt President Hamid Karzai’s goal of Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by the end of 2014,” Obama said.
He said the transfer is possible due to the arrival of additional coalition forces during the past two years.
“We finally have the strategy and resources to break the Taliban’s momentum, deprive insurgents of their strongholds, train more Afghan security forces and assist the Afghan people,” the president said.
Obama said the transition will begin in July 2011. He added an assurance that lasting partnerships with the United States and NATO make it clear that “as Afghans stand up and take the lead, they will not stand alone.”
Another key issue of the summit will be the adoption of a new, 21st-century NATO Strategic Concept. The last Strategic Concept was adopted at the 1999 NATO Summit in Washington. Normally, the Strategic Concept is updated about every 10 years.
Obama said the document must strengthen the ability of partner countries to protect themselves and each other. NATO is expected to reaffirm a commitment that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.
“We need to reform alliance command structures to make them more effective and efficient, invest in the technologies that allow allied forces to deploy and operate together effectively, and develop new defenses against threats such as cyber attacks,” he said.
Obama said a key part of alliance security is in missile defense of NATO territory to address the “real and growing threat” from long-range ballistic missiles that could be fired from rogue states.
The summit will also include a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council — the first to be attended by both Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
At the conclusion of the NATO Summit, Obama will join European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy for the 2010 U.S.-EU Summit. The leaders are expected to focus attention on the still-recovering world economy, security cooperation, and global issues such as Iran, the Middle East peace process and Afghanistan.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)