Successful NATO Summit Increases Potential for Cooperation With Eastern Neighbors

President Barack Obama chats with Turkish President Abdullah Gul before the official photo at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama chats with Turkish President Abdullah Gul before the official photo at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

The NATO Lisbon Summit this past weekend is of major significance for all countries of Europe including Ukraine.  Major decisions were reached regarding European missile defense, NATO’s new strategic concept and NATO’s commitment to assist Afghanistan.  The key documents are posted on our Embassy website and merit a close reading.

For many years I have been an active participant in my country’s relations with Eastern Europe, beginning with my days on the State Department’s Soviet desk, and through my tour as Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow and my time as US  Ambassador to Lithuania, Georgia and now Ukraine.  So I have watched with interest the last few days as President Obama joined European leaders in Lisbon for the historic NATO Summit, followed by a U.S.-EU Summit.  I was particularly interested to observe the potential new cooperation between NATO and Russia.   While Ukraine’s leaders have chosen not to seek membership in NATO at this time, they know the door remains open, something that was confirmed at Lisbon.  I noted with interest President Yanukovych’s decree last week establishing a presidential commission led by Foreign Minister Gryshchenko, which is charged with ensuring Ukraine’s continued cooperation with NATO.  Along the same lines, one need only look at the draft Annual National Plan (ANP) which Ukrainian Ministry of Defense submitted to President Yanukovych last week outlining military cooperation and exercises planned for 2011.  This is the kind of cooperation that is good for Ukraine and NATO.

President Barack Obama walks with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, left, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama walks with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, left, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In adopting its new Strategic Concept, NATO leaders have taken a significant step to focus the alliance on the emerging threats of the 21st century, such as cyber attacks, terrorism, and ballistic missiles.  And in a meeting with the NATO-Russia Council, the leaders agreed that the Council will resume theater ballistic missile defense exercises and identify opportunities for Russia to cooperate with NATO’s new territorial missile defense capability by June 2011.  As President Obama said after the Summit, “Together we’ve worked hard to reset the relations between the United States and Russia, which has led to concrete benefits for both our nations.  Now we’re also resetting the NATO-Russia relationship.  We see Russia as a partner, not an adversary.  And we agreed to deepen our cooperation in several critical areas:  on Afghanistan, counter-narcotics, and a range of 21st-century security challenges.  And perhaps most significantly, we agreed to cooperate on missile defense, which turns a source of past tension into a source of potential cooperation against a shared threat.”

In short, as the alliance adapts itself to new challenges, I hope Ukraine will find a way to continue to build its own security within the larger European security framework.  We look forward to continuing to work with our Ukrainian friends in dealing with the range of threats that confront our modern world.

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