This year’s annual Security & Defence Agenda NATO conference gathered experts from across national, EU, NATO and private sectors to discuss the top policy priorities for the Alliance following the recently concluded Chicago Summit. Topics covered included the perceived ‘pivot’ of US foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific region, the reform challenges posed by the “Smart Defence” military equipment agenda and themes of financial austerity facing Europe.
As Italian Defence Minister Admiral Giampalo Di Paola told participants, “the fundamental mistake we have to avoid is retrenchment – to look at the Alliance when Afghanistan is over [in 2014], and say ‘let’s go home’.” The Minister outlined that such an outlook for Europe, no matter how severe the financial constraints, “does not reflect the security challenges that we face, and the international engagement that is necessary at this time.”
The Alliance will retain a responsibility to operate beyond its border for the foreseeable future, the Minister added. “Even if we are not the global police, we are open to global challenges – that requires defence commitment.”
Other high level speakers included Huseyin Diriöz, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning, Alejandro Alvargonzalez San Martin, Secretary General for Defence Policy at the Spanish Ministry of Defence, Murad Bayar, Turkish Under-Secretary for Defence Issues and Jim Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy at the U.S. Department of Defence.
New recommendations for European defence and security
The conference also provided a platform for the formal release of the Security Jam 2012 Report - the results and recommendations of the world’s largest online security and defence policy discussion. The report details the top ten recommendations generated by this collaborative event, to which over 3,000 participants from 116 countries had their say.
They include the need to focus on EU defence industrial policy, the possibility of forming a “NATO-China Council” in the mould of the current NATO-Russia model, and the suggestion of a country-wide public health and education scheme to help support Afghanistan after the 2014 NATO pull-out.
The full report, with top ten recommendations and VIP commentary, can be accessed here.
Participants at the conference strongly supported of the ideas and future targets presented in the report.
E.J. Herold, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, said that “this year’s report is even better than the first, and I am very enthusiastic about these recommendations – we hope such ideas will form the basis of what we at NATO will be doing in this post-Chicago summit period.”
Danish Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Claus Grube, voiced views very much in line with the Jam recommendation of forming a NATO-China Council. “We should recognise that the rise of Asia carries enormous opportunities, as well as challenges. One such challenge will be to encourage China to communicate its vision of its place in global security – we should make sure NATO is still a relevant security partner here.”
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