NATO remains an essential transatlantic link and force multiplier for the United States, our Allies, and partners. The Chicago Summit provides us a new opportunity to reaffirm and refine the vision that binds Allies together and sets us on a course to maintain and develop the capabilities NATO needs to remain an essential source of global stability.
At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO leaders adopted a Strategic Concept that committed NATO to meeting the security challenges of the 21st century, from terrorism to ballistic missile and cyber attacks to nuclear proliferation. At the NATO 2012 Summit, NATO’s leadership outlined a clear vision of how NATO will maintain the capabilities we need, utilizing all available defense resources and ensuring the Alliance is greater than the sum of its parts. This vision, enshrined in a new document titled “NATO Forces 2020,” helps set NATO’s priorities for investing in capabilities the Alliance needs to move forward over the next decade. This framework calls for realistic efforts to maintain and develop multinational capabilities despite defense budget cuts in the United States and Europe. It also institutionalizes lessons learned from recent and current operations, ensures we can maintain interoperability among Allies and with partners, and identifies critical capabilities gaps.
At the Lisbon Summit, Heads of State and Government directed a review of the Alliance’s deterrence and defense posture to ensure the Alliance maintains the appropriate mix of conventional, nuclear and missile defense capabilities needed to meet the security challenges we face. That review, called the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), was concluded and endorsed in Chicago. The nuclear element of the review reaffirms NATO’s commitment to work to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, while remaining a nuclear Alliance for as long as nuclear weapons exist. It commits the Alliance to ensuring NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective. The DDPR also makes clear that the Alliance is prepared to consider, in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia, further reductions in non-strategic nuclear weapons assigned to the Alliance. Finally, the DDPR outlines the priorities NATO needs to address to ensure we can fulfill the three core missions identified in the new strategic concept, namely: collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.
"To put it simply, our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's Allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies."
– President Obama, September 17, 2009
In September 2009, the President directed the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for missile defense to be implemented in a NATO context. At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, NATO made the historic decision to endorse a missile defense capability whose aim is to provide full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory, and forces against ballistic missile attack. EPAA was welcomed as the U.S. national contribution to NATO missile defense. NATO also agreed in Lisbon to expand its current missile defense command, control, and communications capabilities to be able to effectively integrate additional voluntary contributions from other Allies. Since then, Phase 1 of the EPAA, including deployment of A radar in Turkey and an Aegis ship in the eastern Mediterranean, has been successfully achieved.
In Chicago, NATO declared the achievement of an Interim Capability for NATO ballistic missile defense, an important step towards fulfilling the commitment made at Lisbon. This means that NATO has initiated a capability that, although limited in its initial phase, can provide real protection against ballistic missile attack. With initial NATO command and control procedures in place, the President has directed the Secretary of Defense to transfer operational control of the U.S. radar in Turkey to NATO. The radar’s information, combined with the NATO command and control system, gives NATO missile defense commanders a comprehensive and real-time operational picture, enabling them to employ the available missile defense assets effectively.
What does Interim Capability mean?
The Libya operation highlighted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance shortfalls within the Alliance. In Chicago, NATO signed a contract to move forward with the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, which uses unarmed drones to provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information to our military commanders so that they may monitor developing situations and identify potential threats. This is a capability that would not otherwise be available to many Allies without NATO’s facilitation. By pooling our resources and sharing the burden, we can provide better security for every Ally at a lower cost.
In Chicago, Allied leaders reached agreement to extend the operation of Baltic Air Policing, a mission that demonstrates the Alliance’s commitment to collective defense. Because Baltic skies are policed by Allies who already possess supersonic fighters, the Baltic states can forego acquisition of expensive fighter aircraft and focus their security resources on other high-priority NATO capabilities and operations. This program allows economies of scale through the pooling and sharing of existing or future air assets, particularly important for Allies faced with the replacement of aging aircraft in the coming decade.
Despite tough economic times, the milestones NATO has achieved on missile defense and the Alliance Ground Surveillance system and other important initiatives have shown the Alliance’s ability to work effectively together to procure new capabilities and position our military forces to meet emerging threats. With “NATO Forces 2020” the Alliance has taken an important first step toward providing NATO with the tools it needs to tackle 21st century challenges.