The Associated Press
November 29, 2006
Leaders of the 26 NATO allies met Tuesday and Wednesday in Riga, Latvia, for their first summit since 2004. Here’s a look at the main decisions:
The summit reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to the “stabilization” mission in Afghanistan, despite increased violence following a move this year into the Taliban’s southern heartland. Leaders stressed the need to follow up military action with development aid, and seek closer coordination with civilian aid players like the UN and EU. Some allies agreed to modest reinforcements of the 32,800-strong force. All said their troops could move around the country in support of allies in trouble, but Germany, Italy, Spain and France resisted calls for them to allow long term deployments to the southern battlefields.
Croatia, Macedonia and Albania can expect an invite to join NATO in 2008. Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro received a surprise invite to join NATO’s pre-membership program. NATO agreed to maintain its troop levels in Kosovo as the U.N. decides whether to recommend independence for the Serbian province.
NATO agreed to seek closer military and political cooperation with Asia-Pacific democracies like Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. But French concerns meant the plan did not go as far as its American backers hoped. NATO offered more training to Arab military officers, at first in academies in Europe, but holding out a possible creation of a defense school in the region. The alliance said its door remains open to potential new members in Europe.
Leaders declared the NATO Response Force fully ready as a 25,000-strong spearhead of modernized alliance. However, political differences remain on how the force will be used and paid for. Sixteen countries agreed to jointly buy three giant C-17 transport planes from Boeing to give NATO more airlift. The summit agreed to improve coordination between special forces and called for more study into proposals for a NATO missile defense shield. A new “political guidance” document urges modernized military planning.