Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

It should be noted that May 29th is designated as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The history tells us that on May 29, 1948, the newly formed global organization United Nations, more specifically its Security Council established the first peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), based in the Middle East. In 2001, the General Assembly proclaimed 29 May as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to pay tribute to the men and women who serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations and honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

Last year on May 29 the UN marked the 60th anniversary of its Peacekeeping Forces being deployed. Now that we are into the NATO 60th anniversary it is important to do an assessment of the lessons for the global security that history bestowed us with. I am especially concerned with the lack of "real" cooperation between essential organization such NATO, the UN, and the EU. Although there is much talk and plenty of bureaucracies, duplications and inefficiencies are common and almost always the rule. Do we need a major war or a severe crisis, so we can be as productive and visionary as the generation of leaders which established this prominent organizations in the post WWII period? Can the global financial crisis at least provide the catalyst for better and more efficient division of the arduous labor needed to maintain (preserve) the global security? Let's live some and we will see as a famous Russian proverb states...

NATO, Russia want foreign ministers meeting

BRUSSELS (AP) — Political ties between NATO and Russia are gradually improving following the break caused by the Russo-Georgian war, but a ministerial meeting is needed to pave the way for military cooperation, officials said Wednesday.

NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero said that ambassadors from NATO's 28 nations and Russia's envoy to the alliance were determined to hold a meeting of foreign ministers "as soon as logistically possible."

The ambassadors met on Wednesday within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up to improve cooperation between the former Cold War foes.

Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin described the meeting as constructive and forward-looking. "Discussions were focused on giving new stimulus and quality to our joint work," he said.

Moscow and NATO have sought in recent months to improve ties that were frozen after Russia's war with Georgia last August.

A meeting of foreign ministers had been scheduled in April, but tensions soared again over the expulsion of two Russian diplomats for alleged spying and the retaliatory move by Moscow which expelled two NATO officials. Moscow also strongly objected to a NATO military exercise in Georgia, and the planned ministerial talks were called off.

Rogozin said that although both sides were now determined to move forward on issues where they had shared interests — such as Afghanistan, anti-piracy efforts and disarmament — the meeting of foreign ministers was needed to endorse any formal military-to-military cooperation between Russia and NATO.

Russia has allowed NATO nations to use its road and rail networks to transport military supplies to Afghanistan, after the alliance's main supply chain through Pakistan came under repeated attack by pro-Taliban guerrillas.

Although the main transport line has not been cut, NATO commanders say they need alternate routes to ensure that logistical supplies will continue to flow through uninterrupted.

Obama's first 100 days

The election of Barack Obama as America's 44 th President raised high hopes, not only in the United States itself, but in Europe too. Everyone believed that the transatlantic relations would get a great boost. What has the outcome been so far?

Obama made a major trip in March and April of this year to Europe. He took part in the G20 summit in London, attended the NATO summit in Strasbourg where he played a great role by supporting the revision of the strategy towards Afghanistan. He then flew to Prague for an informal EU-US summit. High on the agenda was resolving the problem on relocating the prisoners from Guantanomo Bay. After that in Turkey he was welcomed with open arms and reached out to the Turkish people. Europeans cannot have ignored Obama's assertive approach, although it could have been felt, as a bit too much. Does this matter? Certainly not!

But how have the Europeans been reacting to all this 'friendly' behaviour? Sadly enough they have all been busy with domestic issues that have been arising as serious problems in their own countries. Gordon Brown and his Labour party faces very bad polls and British politicians in general are having a hard time in being taken serious by the British people. In Germany the election competition is well underway and Merkel is up against the odds with an economy that is suffering badly and a serious oppenent named Steinmeier. Silvio Berlusconi aims at maintaining a dominant political position in Italy, which isn't easy if all attention is drawn to behaviour in the personal sphere.

Obama has shown us so far that inspirational leadership can really make a difference. But the transatlantic relations can only been promoted and intensified if both sides of the Atlantic take their responsibilities. Therefore, will the real European leader, 'please stand up'?!

Baltic Eagle 2009

The armed forces of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are in the final stage of training the Baltic Battalion and will soon commence Baltic Eagle 2009 military training, scheduled from 02 to 17 June at the Ādaži military training area in Latvia. The Baltic Battalion is a multinational unit delegated to the NATO Response Force (NRF).

The military training has been planned by the Baltic States Land Forces commanders. Approximately 1 100 soldiers will be involved in the military training, which will test the combat readiness of the Battalion for inclusion in the NRF.

The combat readiness of the Battalion will be assessed using NATO standard procedures. The assessment will be performed by representatives of the armed forces of the Baltic States, with support from the Advisers and Training Team personnel of the Danish Defence. The Danish Defence has played a significant role in Baltic States Land Forces Brigade training for several years. Representatives from NATO will monitor the assessment process.

The combat readiness of teams delegated to the Baltic Battalion has already been tested by the NATO member countries in military training either managed by the international staff of the Baltic Battalion or run on a national level. The joint management of all forces and operations will be conducted during the Baltic Eagle 2009 military training.

According to the military training schedule, the NRF will take positions in the military conflict zone and will execute extensive operations, including the relocation of forces and offensive and defensive tasks.

The military training will take place in three stages: the coordination of forces, field training, and combat firing. New weapons and equipment corresponding to the modern combat warfare requirements will be used during the training at the Ādaži military training area, including third generation Spike guided anti-tank rockets, heavy 8x8 multifunctional transportation vehicles and SISU armoured personnel carriers, G36 assault rifles and other equipment. Approximately 200 technical units will be involved in the military training, including 40 armoured personnel carriers.

The Baltic States soldiers will apply common combat procedures and common language during the military training; however, there will be some differences. For example, Lithuanian soldiers will use armoured M 113 personnel carriers, while the Estonians will use SISU and the Latvians will use an armoured Humvee wheeled vehicle.

“We have conducted various military training for Baltic Battalion teams, both on a national and international level. It’s obvious that they are ready to execute the assigned tasks. Now, with the deployment of forces, we will have the opportunity to observe how these different teams work together as one entity, as a united team. It will be a dress rehearsal for combat readiness for performing certain tasks when fully equipped,” emphasizes Baltic Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Remigijus Baltrenas from Lithuania.

The Baltic Battalion was created in 2007 with a joint agreement between the Baltic States. The armed forces of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania provided personnel for the infantry company of the Battalion, combat support elements and other combat capabilities. Each country is responsible for the provisions of its own contingent. The overall contribution of the Baltic States (approximately 800 soldiers) to the NATO forces is significant. At the beginning of 2010, the Battalion will commence its six month on-call period as a part of the 14th rotation of the NRF component for land.

The NRF is a high-readiness and technologically advanced combat force created by the Alliance with components of the land, air, naval, and special forces, which can be easily deployed when required. It can perform combat tasks in any part of the world and from a wide range of operations.

More information is available here


Dear friends,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interview - Professor Victor Marques dos Santos

Interview given by Professor Victor Marques dos Santos to the Portuguese Atlantic Youth Association, 12 May 2009

Victor Marques dos Santos. Associate Professor with Tenure. 

How do you feel NATO handled the transition into a post-cold war era?

The end of the cold war faced NATO with an awkward scenario where the classic enemy had apparently vanished. Althoug the western approach and mindset over security and defence remained the same, soon the revision of the strategic concept became unavoidable. This was based on the available prospective and on the evolutionary perception about new challenges related with the new and different nature, scope and reach of risk and threat management. This was also increasingly related with new global issues and the need for solutions through which governments are evaluated and legitimized by their constituencies. 
Handling the transition is still under way, but it has entered a new phase. The hopeful predictions of the immediate post-cold war era didn’t materialize as expected, and the transition process is still unfolding. The cold war era and the inherent international order have not been replaced by a “new world order” that we can deal with from a classic conceptual perspective, through a static framework of analysis. 
The present situation implies handling an environment characterized by uncertainty, and sustained interactive processes of dynamic and synergic change. In this new context, NATO must develop a proactive public diplomacy effort, devising innovative ways to ensure sustained public acceptance, support and credibility as a reliable and legitimate player, to promote and provide security, while improving its visibility and image among friends and partners. NATO must be portrayed as being a part of the solution, through an increasingly flexible and diversified performance capacity, by responding to the new issues and challenges often involving non-military missions.

Talking about past and future enlargements, do you support them?

The post-cold war era enlargements have proven to be successful. The partnerships and other relational frameworks and joint instances created and implemented with third countries, seem to be of the utmost importance for a deeper, transparent, mutual understanding, fostering cooperation, improving confidence building measures and gradually replacing mistrust and confrontational attitudes by reciprocal acknowledgement and dialogical settings. Any new enlargements must ensure that this acquired assets and the new the relational environment built so far, are maintained and improved. NATO Allies also face the responsibility to contain, manage and help to settle potential crises, maintain and improve strategic stability in areas of interest where failed states are unable to provide it. Member states’ constituencies are now increasingly “attentive publics”, electorates and tax payers that understand how foreign policy decisions impact their lives. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for policy-makers to seek legitimization of provocative actions, moves or attitudes that, in the eyes of the international public opinion and of the transnationalized civil society, would seem unjustified and contrary to their perceived interests, namely by jeopardizing their security. 
The logic behind future enlargements must conciliate the core and binding objectives of member states’ defence and security, as consecrated by the Treaty, with other interests resulting from the new geopolitical environment and the inherent economic evolution, namely the access to basic resources, and institutional, social and political stabilization of certain geographical areas. The U.S.’ new “balanced strategy” principles, aims and objectives, as well as the other NATO countries strategic perceptions, will certainly impact and influence the logic of future enlargements, in defining the conciliation terms of those states’ own interests and strategic visions, with the Treaty’s principles, objectives and tactical adaptations. In any event, future enlargements must equate the convenience of new “out-of-area” memberships with the possibility of developing special relationships, such as operational and tactical cooperation agreements under new partnership frameworks. 

Do you think NATO’s enlargement should be focused on other areas? Say the southern area of the North-Atlantic for example?

This is an area of obvious interest, where the partnership agreements versus membership options should be equated. If, on the one hand, the “out-of-area” concept seems to have lost its operational meaning, on the other hand, the Treaty in itself, sustains the original binding principles and commits member states to certain obligations that may be reassessed and rearranged through specific agreements, and adapted to regional and state agendas and requirements. This will ensure strategic and operational cooperation, based on mutual interests, without the need to resort to full membership. 

What do you think about NATO’s involvement with Russia? Which path do you think the relationship between the two should take in the 21st century?

Regardless of its strategic implications, this issue still involves perceptions and objectives determined by a strong psychological component. The relationship between NATO and Russia cannot be assessed without taking into account the sharp differences of attitude underlying each one’s approach path to the present stage of the relationship. These differences will remain and its effects will persist, for as long as we don’t recognize that Russia hasn’t overcome de debacle of 1989-1991, and that the West holds, and frequently reasserts, an expanding posture emboldened by the power void resulting from the same course of events. This attitude has allowed for Russia’s legitimate and powerful argument, as well as for a nationwide condoned incentive, to redress itself and regain its pride through the return to its old superpower statute in the community of nations. Russia is showing both the remaking of its military might and its capability to condition its neighbours’ economic interests through energetic dependency, and strategic interests, as well as through its active participation in all the formal and informal international decision making instances.
But by achieving international recognition as an inevitable player, Russia will also be led to identify areas of mutual interest, namely strategic cooperation with the Europe and the West that will come to be dealt with in a constructive manner. The 21st. century is bound to reveal new common threats, interests and objectives as fast growing and complex interdependences become the earmark of the global relational setting. This may determine potential alignments and common agendas, that will foster mutual perceptions about the need to expand common ground to agree upon, identify and limit the areas of consensual dissent, and develop innovative ways to manage conflict, limit damage and improve the stabilising effects on the overall relationship.

How do you foresee the future vis a vis a coexisting NATO and European Defence Force/Army?

I think that operational advantages, interchangeable commands, control systems, equipments, sharing information, viewed through an economy of scale concept, must be central to the criteria for an interactive, synergic and complementary coexistence. The different nature, purpose, scope and reach of each of the two entities cannot be separated from the very different origins and evolving character of each one’s own dynamics and enlargement processes. The undeniable importance of defence and security should also determine the level of commitment of the EU member states to NATO, especially relating to perceived and identified “out-of area” interests.

What would you guess to be NATO’s main challenges and threats in the 21st century?

Prospective is difficult when the century is only nine years old. Experience shows that predictions tend to set up scenarios that remain as such and rarely materialize. Today’s threats may not be the ones of tomorrow. Socio-economic evolutions, migrations, resource depletion and scarcity, climate change, environment and ecological degradation, demographics and the access to basic survival related resources like clean water and food, will change perceptions, priorities, attitudes and collective behaviour, values and mentalities. Terrorism in all its forms and shapes, piracy local insurgencies and anti-social behaviours in urban and rural areas, both in industrialized and developing countries, as well as mass migrations originated either by conflict or by those needs and survival imperatives, are just a few examples of the instability and the consequences of change. 
All these factors are potential threat multipliers. They are also bound to reshape the geopolitical setting through the geographically as well as institutionally differentiated allocation of power. The ensuing polarization and proliferation of displaced power centres will depend on the re-evaluation of resources deemed crucial to meet the inevitable needs of each actor, giving way to the identification of new power factors in competition with military might.
However, may be the greatest challenge for NATO will be its members’ perceptions and political will to steer and correct course in a dynamic, sustained and permanently adaptive way, in order to forestall potential crises and conflict drivers as they unfold, by anticipating the new patterns of change. To achieve this performance at operational level, the Alliance needs to be revitalized, and the transatlantic relationship should be rebalanced. 
The decision makers’ perceptions about change should lead them to try to conciliate each one’s national interest with both the Alliance needs and the global community imperatives. This won’t happen if political leaders retain a cold-war-era-like mindset and the corresponding framework of analysis, by trying to adapt obsolete conflict resolution instruments and strategies, to a globalizing scenario whose requirements go far beyond the “business-as-usual” attitude of situational threat awareness and operational preparedness. 
In the new century, the correct perception of the sustained dynamics of change and the inherently inevitable need for interactive complexity management, become crucial and can only be attained through innovative, communicational, informational interactive and synergic processes and instruments. Dynamic interactive perceptions and critically, mutual knowledge, should be regarded as enhanced drivers for change, rather than as improved power factors. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

First trilater meeting Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan on Insurgency

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Tehran on May 24 with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari to discuss regional cooperation, with a special focus on growing insurgency in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Firstly scheduled on the 19th of May, the event was postponed to last sunday due to heavy work by President Zardari.
This summit gained particular significance as it was the first trilater meeting focused on regional security Iran hosted in the recent times, in an attempt to emerge as a regional player, to counterbalance its Sunni Rival, Saudi Arabia, and to gain levers with United States over Iraq. Reconciliation with United States, indeed, is undergoing but gridlock persists. (2009 is an election year in Iran.)
Moreover, the importance of the Summit lays in the evidence that a political settlement to the Taliban Insurgency needs some sort of consensus involving Pakistan and Iran which both owns much of the country stability. Karzai is the most seriously concerned of the three as proven by his recent manouver to reach out to Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar. The Taliban Insurgency worries not only Afghanistan but Pakistan and Iran as well. Radicalization of tribes along the Durand line can poses a critical threat to Pakistani national security. Iran influence over its Eastern flank could be diminished by a more powerful and united insurgency movement.
During the meeting, drug smugling, economic and energy cooperation have been discussed as well.

SIMOTAN IV - NAC issues a consensual draft communiqué

Friday, May 22, 2009

Armenian Foreign and Defence Ministers visit NATO

May 20, 2009

Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandyan and Minister of Defence Seyran Ohanyan of Armenia met with the NATO Secretary General on 20 May for an exchange of views on the implementation of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP).

Minister Nalbandyan and Minister Ohanyan also had a meeting with the North Atlantic Council. During the discussion, NATO Allies commended Armenia for the progress in defence reform achieved so far and for the growing practical cooperation with the Alliance.

Allies encouraged Armenia to pursue its reform efforts and reiterated NATO’s commitment to continue supporting Armenia within the IPAP. They also welcomed Armenia’s contribution to KFOR, and looked forward to Armenian participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Finally, the Ministers briefed the Secretary General and the NATO Ambassadors on regional security issues.

SIMOTAN IV Kicks off

Biden Eats Ice Cream in Kosovo

The Vice President of the United States Joe Biden concluded a three day visit to the Balkans aimed at demonstrating an intensified US engagement in the region. He visited Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo before ending his journey in the Western Balkans. I am curious about the particular order of the visit, as it does resemble the order of the NATO involvment.

The United Press International reported that on his first visit to Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, the US Vice President Biden went to the U.S. Bondsteel military camp for lunch, which included his favorite ice-cream. The hope of the people from the region is to see the etnic tensions and divisions melting as fast as the ice cream when consumed; however, the unlikely chances for short term integration in the EU and NATO are refrigerating those hopes quickly.

Biden told the American troops they protected innocent people in Kosovo exactly 10 years ago and now they are providing Kosovars the security to construct an independent, democratic and multiethnic state. He also paid tribute to the families of 4,295 soldiers killed in Iraq, 679 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan and 34,084 wounded in the two countries.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Russia to conduct large-scale war games in Caucasus

Russia Today, 20 May, 2009, 01:25

All brigades in Russia’s North Caucasus military district are to participate in the Kavkaz-2009 military maneuvers in June 2009, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency.
First deputy Minister of Defence Aleksandr Kolmakov says the scale of the war games will be comparable to those of the Soviet era.

Simultaneously, all of Russia’s military commands are set to conduct demonstration tactical maneuvers at the same time the Kavkaz-2009 war games are underway this summer.

Further, the newly created army re-structuring of brigades will closely study the experience of the military operation in Georgia in August 2008.

At the moment, the armies of 12 NATO countries are taking part in the Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 war games in Georgia, being held within the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

These military drills close to Russian borders have resulted in numerous protests from top Russian officials.
The August War in Georgia had started right after the Kavkaz 2008 military maneuvres were over.... Should we expect another real "war games" later this July?

NATO Review: Law, order and the elections in Afghanistan

This week NATO has released its new NATO Review dedicated to the law, order and the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan, which you can access here.
What makes this Review an interesting to read that it is not one more piece, where NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is praised for its work and achievements, but reveals current challenges and threats to the establishment of so desired stability and peace.
I would like to highlight an article published by Sari Kouvo, where she perfectly describes the current state of affairs in Afganistan concerning the rule of law, or more correctly to say, absence of it from the part of the cenrafl gov-t. She describes the current processes as "institutionalization of impunity".
I find the heading "Rule of Law deficits as Security Challenge: 'Touching the Surface' " as a very pricise, giving us the insight into the story.
Here are some interesting extracts:
Visiting a provincial prison in northern Afghanistan some years ago, I met a friendly and engaging prison chief. He told me about the challenges he was facing with corruption amongst the police, prosecutors and judges and how bad he felt about prolonged pre-trial detention and his administration’s shortcomings.

He also emphasized how much he appreciated the cooperation with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and was eager to show me the refurbishment done with PRT support. In the middle of the conversation the prison chief had to take a call.

After my translator and I left the meeting, my translator informed me that the telephone conversation was about how much bribe a certain prisoner should be expected to pay for his release (...)
My experience with the prison chief is a perfect illustration of the failure of the rule of law reform strategies deployed in the first years of the state-building process: ad hoc and donor-driven reform projects focusing on some law reforms, short-term capacity-building and refurbishing infrastructure. These efforts affected nothing but the surface of the Afghan security and justice sectors, while a culture of corruption and impunity was allowed to grow stronger. Depending on who the interlocutor is, the security and justice sectors show their different facets. The well-meaning foreigner with her driver and translator and the Afghan peasant who is claiming back his land from the local commander face very different realities of (in)justice. (...)
The failure to exclude the leaders of armed militias, many of whom have known records of gross human rights abuses, from government structures and the failure to ensure a comprehensive disarmament process have further weakened good governance and rule of law. The presence of leaders who perceive themselves to be above or beyond the law in the government has entrenched the void between myth and reality in the internationally-supported rule of law reforms in Afghanistan. (...)
The Afghan government’s only presence among large parts of Afghanistan’s poor and illiterate populations has been:
  1. Prison chiefs like my friend from the north
  2. Corrupt police officers ready to harass if they do not receive their bribe
  3. Judges whose decision depend on the will of the local strongman rather than on law and
  4. Unofficial local governors who find it convenient to serve not only as governor, but also as police chief, prosecutor and judge in their district.

Not surprisingly, these patterns of corruption and crime have undermined the legitimacy of the government and are contributing to growing insecurity: a citizen that cannot trust the government is unlikely to defend and support it.

Much emphasis is currently put on the upcoming electoral cycle and its power to restore the Afghan government’s legitimacy. Though many observers warn that the elections are unlikely to be free and fair, the hope is that they will be at least credible. Elections, enabling citizens to choose their political leadership, can certainly be a powerful tool for legitimacy


Follow us in the next days, with posts, photos and videos!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scheffer receives the highest honour in Bulgaria

Photo: Reuters

As The Echo reported, Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov conferred on outgoing Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer the country's highest honour, the Stara Planina first class, at a ceremony on April 23 2009.

Bulgarians were glad that the country had joined Nato and the country's support for Nato's open-door policy yielded positive results, Purvanov said.

Scheffer is stepping down and will be succeeded by Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen. This was his last scheduled visit to Bulgaria as Nato secretary-general.

Purvanov said that the honour was conferred on Scheffer for his exceptional role in enhancing peace and security on a global scale.

Purvanov said that Bulgaria's good performance as a Nato member was largely due to the support and co-operation of Scheffer.

During his visit, Scheffer also held talks with Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

International Forum on Technology for Security, Rome 11-14 May

The Italian Atlantic Committee participated to the 20th edition of the International Forum on Public Administration organized in Rome from the 11th ot the 14th of May.
The Italian Atlantic Committee stand displayed an exhibition on NATO 60th Anniversary and a video on International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Italian Atlantic Committee and NATO materials were distributed to the 30.000 visitors which toured a 4 Pavillion Forum.

The Stand was visited - among the others -by the Italian Atlantic Committee President, Hon. Enrico La Loggia and by Mrs. Nadja Milanova, NATO Public Diplomacy Division Officer. A delegation of 20 YATAs coming from different Italian cities attended the International Forum. Several conferences and roundtables on Security and Techonlogy and Communication Strategy were attended by Italian Atlantic Committee authorities and young representatives.

NATO appoints new SACEUR

The past May 12th, NATO's Defence Planning Committee has agreed to the requests from President Barack H. Obama to release General Bantz J. Craddock (US Army) from his responsibilities as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and to appoint Admiral James G. Stavridis, United States Navy to succeed General Craddock as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
Admiral Stavridis is currently serving as Commander, United States Southern Command. In addition to the NATO position, he has also been nominated by President Obama to be the Commander, United States European Command.
SACEUR is responsible for the overall command of NATO military operations and conducts the necessary military planning for operations, including the identification of forces required for the mission and requesting these forces from NATO countries, as authorised by the North Atlantic Council and as directed by NATO's Military Committee. In the case of an aggression against a NATO member state, SACEUR, as Supreme Commander, is responsible for executing all military measures within his capability and authority to preserve or restore the security of Alliance territory.
The SACEUR is appointed by the US President, confirmed by the US Senate, and approved by the North Atlantic Council of NATO. There is no assigned term for the SACEUR and it has ranged from one to eight years.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New functionalities

As you can see we have made some changes on our blog. We added more links on information sharing and a new section with news and publications. We are trying to integrate all our resources so that they can be easily accessed by anyone.

Follow YATA on Facebook, the YATA Blog on Facebook (also become a fan and follow us on Networked Blogs app), YATA on Twitter (now with the RSS feed of the blog redirected to Twitter, you can follow our posts there), and the YATA Channel on Youtube.

We also added a new section where we want to include all national chapters blogs. Please feel free to provide us with your national YATA blog address, either by commenting on this post or to and

Thursday, May 14, 2009

President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers took part in NATO information campaign

Author: Toms Kalniņš, Chancery of the President of Latvia

On the occasion of NATO 60th anniversary and Latvia’s 5th anniversary of membership in NATO Latvian Transatlantic organisation (LATO) with the support of NATO, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 30, 2009 launched a broad NATO information campaign in the schools of Latvia.

During the last six weeks almost 50 schools have been visited, where lecturers from LATO, the Ministry of Defence of Latvia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Latvian National Armed Forces, embassies of the U.S., the Netherlands and Canada, as well as from the University of Latvia and Soros Foundation Latvia were explaining to children and their teachers the idea of NATO, its values and goals, activities and international operations.

This week also the President of Latvia H.E. Mr. Valdis Zatlers and First Lady Lilita Zatlere participated in the campaign and visited Madlienas secondary school, in the district of Ogre, central Latvia. During his speech president of Latvia stressed the importance of being safe and secure, taking into account lessons of Latvia’s history, and the role of NATO in securing peace in Europe and in particular - independent state of Latvia. He also explained why it is so crucial for the members of the Alliance to work closely together in Afghanistan and why Latvia’s involvement in international operations is needed.

Students were very attentive listeners and after President’s speech challenged him with numerous questions. As teachers later admitted, they haven’t seen for a long time such an attention and activity of the audience . President made his public address in informal and friendly manner, thus catching the interest and trust of the students and building up an interactive communication.

After President’s speech a special short documentary on Latvia’s 5 years experience in NATO was demonstrated and a representative of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) explained what has changed in the military sector after joining NATO. In the conclusion a small quiz was organised and the most active students received symbolic NATO gifts and souvenirs.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The final phase of the NATO Information campaign in the schools of Riga’s region

On the occasion of Latvia’s 5 years membership in NATO and NATO’s 60th anniversary Latvian Transatlantic organisation (LATO) in cooperation with NATO, the Ministry of Defence of Latvia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) on March 30, 2009 launched a broad NATO Information campaign in Latvian schools, so far visiting 40 schools in the four Latvian regions – Latgale, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Kurzeme. On May 8 NATO Information campaign will continue in Riga’s region, visiting 10 schools in the Ogre, Limbaži and Tukums counties.

The campaign will be held as in primary and secondary schools as in boarding schools located mainly in the rural regions with several prominent guests attending, including H.E. Mr. Valdis Zatlers, President of the Republic of Latvia, H.E. Mr. R. Scott Heatherington, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada, Mr. Bruce Rogers, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Latvia:

  • May 8 – Ķeipenes primary school and Taurupes primary school. Lecturers: Ms. Liga Berzina, LATO project manager and Mr. Toms Lepsis, representative of the NAF;
  • May 11 – Madlienas secondary school and Jumprava secondary school. Lecturers: H. E. Mr. Valdis Zatlers, President of the Republic of Latvia and Mr. Toms Baumanis, LATO Chairman of the Board;
  • May 12 – Salacgrīvas secondary school and Staiceles primary school. Lecturers: Mr. Bruce Rogers, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Latvia and Mr. Toms Lepsis, representative of the NAF;
  • May 13 – Katvaru boarding school and Alojas Ausekļa secondary school. Lecturers: H.E. Mr. R. Scott Heatherington, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada and Mr. Toms Lepsis, representative of the NAF;
  • May 14 – Irlavas secondary school and Džūkstes secondary school. Lecturers: Mr. Mārtiņš Mūrnieks, director of “Wider Europe ” program, Soros Foundation – Latvia and Mr. Toms Lepsis, representative of the NAF.

The goal of the campaign is to inform and educate schoolchildren and their teachers about NATO, its goals and role in Latvia’s security policy, as well about the benefits and costs of the Latvia’s membership.

During the each visit a special short film “Latvia in NATO – five years” shot by the State Agency of the Ministry of Defence of Latvia “Tēvijas sargs” is demonstrated; further experts from Ministry of Defence, National Armed Forces (NAF), LATO, several embassies and universities make presentations about the political and military aspects of NATO. In its turn, local units of the NAF introduce the audience with the development and everyday life of the Latvian army, displaying military equipment and vehicles as well as answering children’s questions. Pupils and their teachers are encouraged to ask questions and participate in the quiz – most active ones receive practical presents and souvenirs from LATO, NATO, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. Every school gets both printed and audiovisual information materials about NATO, NAF, security and defence policy issues.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The winners of NATO summit simulation game traveled to Brussels

On April 23-24 the six best Latvian students traveled to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium to meet the representatives of Latvia’s and USA mission to NATO and discuss current issues of the NATO agenda.

These students proved themselves to possess very good knowledge and were active during the two rounds of the competition “NATO 60 years experience – quo vadis?” devoted to the NATO 60th anniversary and 5th anniversary of Latvia’s membership in NATO.

At first students and active youngsters had to build the team of two and write an essay about the political and military aspects of NATO and in this context of Latvia’s 5 years experience in NATO. The authors of the best 26 essays were selected by the special commission with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and LATO.

These 26 teams were invited to participate in the NATO summit simulation game held on March 27, representing each one of the NATO member states.

Then during the simulation game a commission with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minitry of Defence, LATO and Latvian Institute of International Affairs evaluated the activity, argumentation and knowledge of each team and chose three best teams who received the chance to travel to the NATO Headquarters. Another three teams (4th -6th place) received gift tokens of the book store “Valters un Rāpa”.

During the visit to Brussels Latvian students had meetings with:

- the representatives of Latvia’s mission to NATO - permanent representative of Latvia to NATO Mr. Jānis Eichmanis, Lt Cdr Vitalijs Klimanovs and counselor Ms. Dita Putnaergle

- international staff of NATO - Information officer for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ms. Neringa Vaisbrode, Information officer for Afghanistan, Bulgaria and Romania, Dr Nadja Milanova.

- representatives of the Mission of the Unites States to NATO - Deputy Chief Mr. Walter Andrusyszyn.

During the meetings, Latvian students had a chance to discuss such topics as NATO operations, partnerships and the future of NATO in the light of the NATO 60th anniversary and NATO Summit held on April 3-4 in Strasbourg/Kehl.

More information about the event:

Teams of the United Kingdom, USA and France win the NATO summit simulation game

And the winners of the competition „NATO 60 years experience – quo vadis?” are …

Competition for university students and active youngsters „NATO 60 years of experience – quo vadis?”

During the NATO information campaign in Vidzeme region 10 schools were visited

Starting from April 15th till April 21st LATO team visited schools in the central region of Latvia - Vidzeme.

This was the second of altogether five regions of Latvia, where NATO information campaign took place, visiting 10 different schools – primary, secondary and secondary vocational schools.

During each visit a special short film “Latvia in NATO – five years” shot by the State Agency of the Ministry of Defence of Latvia “Tēvijas sargs” were demonstrated (15 min), later experts from the Ministry of Defence, the National Armed Forces (NAF), LATO, several embassies and universities made presentations about the political and military aspects of NATO, as well as introduced the audience with the development and everyday life of Latvian NAF:

• On April 15 we visited Burtnieki Ausekļa secondary school and Smiltene gymnasium, the lectures were made by the docent of University of Latvia, the Head of Political Science Division Mr. Toms Rostoks.

• On April 16 we visited Rāmuļi primary school and Vecpiebalga secondary school, where the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Zane Stāvause made presentation about NATO and Latvia’s 5 years experience in NATO;

• On April17 we traveled to O.Vācieša Gaujiena secondary school and Dāvja Ozoliņa Ape secondary school, where the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the chief of the first civil mission of Latvia to Afghanistan, Mr. Pēteris Veits explained both the political and military aspects of NATO and his experience in the mission to Afghanistan.

• April 20 – Ranka technical secondary school and Lizums secondary school, where the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Jurriaan Kraak lectured about the development of NATO, the experience of the Netherlands as one of the founding members and explained the current challenges on NATO agenda.

• April 21 - Kalsnava and Kusa primary school, where Ms. Liga Berzina, LATO project manager, explained pupils the development, aims and functions of NATO, its current challenges and the experience of Latvia’s 5 years membership in NATO.

After these lectures representatives of the National Guard explained their actual experience after joining NATO – what has changed, what has not. Some representatives of the NAF shared with pupils their own experience from the participation in international missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Then both pupils and their teachers were encouraged to ask questions and participate in the quiz – most active ones received practical presents, souvenirs from NATO, LATO, the Ministry of Defence of Latvia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. LATO also prepared both printed and audiovisual information materials about NATO, NAF, security and defence policy issues, which were presented to the school libraries. Then everybody was invited to have a look on the military equipment and some un-charged weapons thus illustrating the modernization of Latvian NAF.

The photos of the visits are available HERE

The future of NATO in the view of Latvian young leaders

On April 2-3, 2009 the forth NATO Youth Summit „NATO 2020: What Lies Ahead?” was organised on the sidelines of the NATO summit held in Strasbourg/Kehl. Latvia was represented by two active youngsters – Uldis Šalajevs, vice-president of Latvian Youth Council and Arvils Zeltiņš, 4th grade student at the Riga Stradiņš University.

As it was in the previous years in Prague (2002), Istanbul (2004), Riga (2006) and Bucharest (2008), this year in Strasbourg on the eve of the NATO 60th Anniversary young leaders from all over the Atlantic discussed the future of NATO and new security challenges as well as met with prominent experts and world leaders, like Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General, Dr. Fran Burwell, Vice-President of the Atlantic Council of the United States, Dr. Jamie Shea, Director of Policy Planning in the Private Office of the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist of the Financial Times, Mr. Edward Lucas, the Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for “The Economist”, as well as with the president of the United States Barack Obama. In total, more than 300 youngsters from 57 countries participated in the NATO youth summit.

Strasbourg/Kehl as the place of the NATO summit on its 60th anniversary has been chosen as a symbolic place on the border between France and Germany, thus stressing one of the NATO’s missions – establishing peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. During the summit 28 leaders of the NATO member countries discussed such issues as the progress of NATO’s strategy for Afghanistan and the results of the strategy review undertaken by the new US Administration, relations with Russia, France’s closer involvement in the Alliance and its impact on NATO-EU relations, and finally initiating work on a new strategic concept for the Alliance.

A meeting with the NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoope Scheffer could be named as the one of the most interesting and important events during the NATO Youth Summit, where he, addressing young leader from NATO member states and its partners, pointed to the three central issues: 1) NATO should cooperate more with the international organisations; 2) NATO has to transform its military capability till 2020 and 3) NATO needs to expand further and become a forum for political debate. Answering the question asked by Latvian young leader Uldis Šalajevs on what kind of specific role would be for Baltic States to strengthen NATO, Secretary General pointed that in NATO all nations are equal members and Baltic state do not have a specific role, but they are respected, distinguished members of the Alliance. He also stressed that NATO member states should find their own „niche” and „added value” to the Alliance. The second important meeting in the framework of the Youth Summit was with the president of the United States Barack Obama.

According to Uldis Šalajevs the goal of the NATO Youth Summit – to discuss the development of NATO till the year 2020 – has not been fully reached, because in general young leaders from 57 countries discussed the current issues of the NATO agenda. I think that NATO in the following 10 years should increase its role as the collective security provider and find adequate response to the new security threats (terrorism, scarse nature resources, climate change etc.)”

In his turn, Arvils Zeltiņš writes that “in general Youth Summit has justified itself. Disregarding that the majority of youngsters represented the United States, France and Germany, self-glorification in honor of the NATO 60th anniversary receded to the background. NATO-led operation in Afghanistan with its critical assessment and firm determination to continue has been brought to the forefront.” The whole article written by Arvils Zeltiņš is available (in Latvian) here.

This year NATO Youth Summit is organised by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Atlantic Treaty Association, Youth Atlantic Treaty Association, the Atlantic Council of the United States, l’Ecole Nationale D’Administration (ENA) and l’Office Franco-Allemand pour la Jeunesse (OFAL).

Latvian Transatlantic organisation and Latvian Transatlantic Youth Club are the national coordinators in Latvia.

Photos from the Youth Summit

NATO Youth Summit Programme

More information:

Introductory remarks by Jean-François Bureau, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at the opening of the Youth Forum

Keynote address by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Youth Forum

Q&A session with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the NATO Youth Forum

Youth discussion “Latvia in NATO – 5 years experience”

© Laila Bajare (Valsts agentura "Tevijas sargs")

29th of March 2009 marked the 5th anniversary of Latvia’s accession to NATO. Therefore it is important to understand and assess what has been achieved in those 5 years, what Latvia has gained acceding to NATO, and what should we do in the future to strengthen Latvia’s security.

In order to facilitate an open dialogue about Latvia’s 5 years experience in NATO and Latvia’s security aspects not only between decision makers and young people, but also among young people themselves, Latvian Transatlantic organisation, Latvian Transatlantic Youth Club and Youth Organisation of Latvia’s People’s Party in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence of Latvia on March 25 16:30-19:30 organised a discussion “Latvia in NATO – 5 years experience”. The discussion was held in the hall of the Ministry of Defence of Latvia, Kr. Valdemara str. 10/12, Riga.

In the first part of the discussion young people were addressed by State Secretary of Defence Mr. Jānis Sārts, Chairperson of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Saeima Mr. Juris Dalbiņš, Depujty Commander of the National Armed Forces of Latvia Brigadier General Juris Kikukucāns and Retd. Brigadier General Kārlis Krēsliņš. Distinguished speakers not only introduced the audience with Latvia’s experience in NATO during the last 5 years, but also answered numerous questions about Latvia’s security and defence in the framework of NATO.

In the second part of the discussion 36 Latvian youngsters, who were representing various universities, youth non-governmental organisations and youth organisations of political parties, were discussing among themselves Latvia’s 5 years experience of membership into NATO, trying to understand and give the answer to the question – whether Latvia’s membership in NATO facilitated its security.

The discussion was unique as it brought together young representatives from almost all youth organisations active in the field of international relations and security issues, including representatives from Latvian Transatlantic Youth Club, Youth Organisation of Latvia’s People’s Party, youth branch of the “New Era” party, youth branch of the bloc “for Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK”, youth organisation of the “Harmony Centre” party – PATRIOTI.LV, youth organisation of the bloc “Latvian First Party/Latvia’s Way” – association “Pirmie”, party “All for Latvia”, Latvian Conservative Youth Union, youth branch of the “Latvia’s Farmers Union” party, party “Civic Union” and others.

Photos from the event are available here