According to the US-Taliban peace agreement reached after May 1, 2021, NATO-led coalition forces should begin the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and therefore the further presence of coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq One of the main issues of the first meeting on February 18.
There are currently at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, allied with NATO Allies and Partner Countries (including Georgia’s 860 troops), with the appropriate weapons and equipment, the exit of which will require adequate logistics and additional security measures. However, Brussels does not rule out the possibility of withdrawing the multinational force from Afghanistan, not from May, but this year at all, due to the fruitless intra-Afghan dialogue and the renewed terrorist attacks in the country in 2021.
As stated at a press conference on February 17, the withdrawal of NATO multinational forces is opposed by the “Afghanistan Study Group” created on the recommendation of the US Congress, which believes that the presence of international security forces should continue, and the number of coalition forces Should increase by 4500 fighters.
“I have already mentioned that I am not going to talk in advance about the conclusions of this week’s ministerial, but I can tell you that we need to find the right balance between these two issues: do not stay longer than necessary and, at the same time, do not leave too early to “We find ourselves in a situation where Afghanistan is once again becoming a platform for international terrorists, their refuge, which was the main reason for our entry there (into Afghanistan).”, – said the always cautious NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, at a video conference in front of the NATO Ministerial on February 17.
“Prevention is better than intervention”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg from Norway has been the Secretary General of the Alliance since 2014. His appointment coincided with a transatlantic agreement initiated by then-US President Barack Obama to increase defense budgets by member states to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) to “distribute the financial burden” within the alliance.
During this time, the number of NATO members fulfilling its commitments is growing every year, and therefore, next year, when he resigns as NATO Secretary General after 8 years of service, Jens Stoltenberg hopes that the progress will be even more impressive.
“2021 will be the seventh year in a row in terms of increasing defense spending. Since 2014, Canada and its European allies have contributed a total of an additional $ 190 billion. “We expect the nine allies to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, and the 24 allies are expected to spend 20% of their investment on military equipment.”, – said the Secretary General of NATO on February 17, before the start of the first meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in 2021.
The even redistribution of financial burden is directly related to the challenges faced by the strongest military bloc in the late second and early third decades of the 21st century.
These include international terrorism, cyber and hybrid threats, dangerous climate change, the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, the escalation of natural disasters, the rift over conventional arms control and nuclear non-proliferation. , Including economic and military-political threats.
“Authoritarian China and Russia are at the forefront of the fight against the rule of law. We must therefore strengthen political dialogue and practical cooperation with our allies to develop our values and protect our interests. I will offer (the ministerial) to strengthen the exercises and increase the potential of our partners in the region, as prevention is better than intervention. “, – said Jens Stoltenberg on February 17.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
Without the issue of Georgia and Ukraine
As for Georgia and Ukraine, the two countries wishing to join NATO, according to the agenda of the meeting of the Alliance Defense Ministers, neither NATO-Georgia nor NATO-Ukraine are planned.
The commission meeting, although these two independent countries have been considered potential candidates for the alliance since 2008.
“We do not want to lag behind Georgia very much, and, ideally, to get a Membership Action Plan (MAP) with Georgia, for which we are actively working”, – said the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denis Shmihal, at a press conference after meeting with the Secretary General of NATO in Brussels on February 8.
Earlier, on January 22, Georgia’s strong desire to join NATO was reiterated by Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, reiterated by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who unequivocally said it was “time” to “show more solidarity and more solidarity” in resolving the issue.
During his 7-year tenure as NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly called Georgia “one of NATO’s most important partners.”
Moreover, one of the key recommendations of last year’s report by the Reflection Group, set up by the NATO Secretary General, is to “maintain NATO’s open door policy” and “prepare partner countries for NATO membership”.
“NATO’s open door policy must be supported and activated as a crucial factor in preparing partner countries for modernization, integration and future membership. NATO should expand its assistance to Partners who have announced their intention to join the Alliance to help them develop the tools and reforms necessary for membership by working together with the Partners’ political, military, civilian and administrative structures. “NATO must remain committed to raising the importance of the decision and membership talks at the 2008 Bucharest Summit to a higher level.” – It is mentioned in the recommendation related to NATO enlargement, which, together with the 67-page conceptual report, will be presented by the NATO Secretary General to the Summit of the Heads of State of the Alliance in 2021.
But it is still unknown when the next NATO summit will take place. It is too early to say whether enlargement of the Alliance will be on its agenda and whether all the members of the North Atlantic Alliance will support such a strategically important issue.
A New Sheet in Transatlantic Relations
During the last four years since US President Donald Trump took office, there has been a sharp disagreement over many issues within the Alliance. At times, this confrontation even bore the marks of an existential threat to the Alliance.
On February 17, the NATO Secretary General was reminded at a press conference a week ago by the BBC that Donald Trump, at the 2018 Brussels Summit, was ready to announce the withdrawal of the United States from the NATO defense budget due to Germany and other countries. .
Jens Stoltenberg has neither confirmed nor denied this information, as journalists like to say. Just to point out that this is all in the past, we have to look to the future.
“The future is that in the United States, in Washington, we now have an administration that is firmly committed to the work of the transatlantic alliance, NATO, Europe and North America. I welcome this. Twice after the election, I spoke to President Biden, and twice he spoke very seriously, very clearly, about rebuilding alliances and further strengthening NATO. “And my proposals for the NATO 2030 Strategy are really just a plan of how this should happen and how we should use this unique opportunity to turn a new leaf in transatlantic relations.”, – said Jens Stoltenberg on February 17.
It is noteworthy that for the first time in 2021 NATO First Virtual Ministerial is the new US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, who has been well known in NATO since the time when the future Pentagon chief served as head of the US Middle East and South Asia Command Center. .
It is noteworthy that the two-day NATO Ministerial will also be attended by Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who recently visited Russia for the first time, the country most aggressive towards the North Atlantic Alliance.
Finally, the Ministerial will clarify the issue of holding the Alliance Summit scheduled for 2021 and, most importantly, the meeting on February 17-18 will discuss the draft of a new concept developed by NATO under the chairmanship of the Secretary General, which should be adapted and strengthened in the next decade.