Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič returned home from the NATO Summit held on 20-21 May 2012 in Chicago. The Slovak President led our national delegation at the highest level summit of the North Atlantic Alliance held in the United States of America; the delegation also included Miroslav Lajčák, the Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Martin Glváč, the Slovak Defence Minister, and Peter Vojtek, the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces. The North Atlantic Council met at the level of Heads of State and Government on the first day of the summit. On the second day, the leaders of the NATO member countries met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the representatives of the Alliance partner states under an extended format.
The goals of the summit set by the world leaders included the plans for the Alliance to gradually drown down the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and complete the transition of security responsibility to Afghans in order to take full responsibility for their country’s security and administration, while continuing NATO’s engagement in ensuring Afghanistan’s stability and security even beyond 2014, as part of a wider international community.
The Heads of State and Government of the NATO member countries undertook to ensure that the Alliance, during and at the end of the second decade of the 21st century and even amid the inevitable austerity measures, continues to have the defence capabilities at its disposal that will enable it to fulfil its core essential tasks both in the area of collective defence and international crisis management. Along with the NATO partners, the presidents and prime ministers participating in the Chicago Summit sought more effective ways to jointly face common security challenges of the 21st century, primarily by shaping the favourable security environment, as well as by sustaining and enhancing the attained capabilities to jointly operate in operations and missions. All of these goals were basically fulfilled at the summit, according to the participating world leaders.
The Allies and partners participating in the ISAF operation agreed to continue the phased transition of security responsibility in line with the strategy adopted at the Lisbon Summit. By mid-2013, the Afghan security forces will be in the lead for security in all parts of Afghanistan, while the ISAF forces will shift from a combat mission to performing primarily assistance and training tasks. The ISAF mission in Afghanistan will definitely be completed by the end of 2014.
However, a new NATO-led mission will remain present in Afghanistan even beyond 2014, focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces; the military planning of this mission should begin immediately after the summit. At the same time, the NATO and its partners participating in the ISAF mission will share in the financial support to sustain the Afghan security forces.
The Allies decided to effectively invest in their defence capabilities even in the current environment of austerity. They agreed to implement a new culture of cooperation in order to jointly achieve what they would otherwise be unable to achieve individually, given the existing financial situation.
They agreed to implement multinational projects which will provide the necessary capabilities at an affordable cost. This will be performed as part of the so-called Smart Defence initiative; in addition to the development of multinational projects, other essential components of Smart Defence include prioritisation and specialisation. In order to provide for their further enhancement, it is necessary to resolve a crucial issue of how to ensure access for the member countries to those capabilities they will decide not to keep at the national level as part of prioritisation and specialisation.
Examples of the new approach to the defence capabilities building include the deployment of the Alliance Ground Surveillance system and the continued air policing over the three Baltic states by the national air forces of other Allies.
The Heads of State and Government of the NATO member countries also declared that the Alliance had achieved an Interim NATO Ballistic Missile Defence Capability in Europe, and approved the results of the Deterrence and Defence Posture Review prepared in the previous period.
The leaders of the NATO member countries also met with the representatives of the group of thirteen partner countries that had recently made particular political, military and/or financial contributions to NATO-led operations and missions and to a subsequent democratic transition in the post-operational period, and that share common values and goals with the Alliance. Their geographic distribution also symbolises NATO’s aspirations to be the centre of a global network of security partnerships.
At the meeting, the partners outlined their national visions of further development of their cooperation in partnership with the Alliance and the ways to address common security challenges of the 21st century. The North Atlantic Council at the level of permanent representatives was tasked to explore, in consultations with the partners, the possibilities to strengthen the partnerships as suggested by the partner countries themselves.
The NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers held a separate meeting with their counterparts from countries aspiring to become full members of the Alliance. They have reassured them that the Alliance remains open to new members and that they will be assessed in light of their own performance and individual assessments in this respect.
As mentioned by Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the summit, the negotiations proved that it was necessary to seek possible ways of cooperation with Russia. “The Russian Federation should be a strategic partner for the Alliance in the future,” the Slovak President said. Ivan Gašparovič discussed the possible cooperation with Russia with US President Barack Obama. They also discussed the future of Afghanistan and contributions to its further development.
“The Slovak Republic is prepared to participate in the financial support to Afghanistan, but we want to hear from Mr Karzai how Afghanistan itself is prepared,” Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič said after the summit. “I am glad that my idea has won support among several other presidents as well," he added.
President Ivan Gašparovič reassured the Allies that the Slovak troops would remain in Afghanistan as long as the Alliance considered it necessary. "Afghanistan remains a priority for Slovakia,” the Slovak President pointed out. However, he indicated that Slovakia’s military contribution should be modified. "There will be some changes as regards the military guards and special forces and, of course, the training of future instructors, troops and policemen," he added.
After the summit, President Ivan Gašparovič opened a new Honorary Consulate of the Slovak Republic in Chicago on Monday evening.