The first NATO summit on former Soviet soil gets fully underway in Latvia today, with members well aware they need to adapt to survive. The focus is on Afghanistan – NATO’s first operation outside Europe – and one which could prove crucial to the Alliance’s future. The pressure is on France, Italy, Germany and Spain to be more flexible about sending their troops to hotspots in the south, where fighting against the resurgent Taliban is most intense.
The UK, Canada and the US feel that, so far, they have borne the brunt, says US President George W Bush:
“Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, and drug traffickers and criminal elements and local war lords remain active and committed to destroying democracy in Afghanistan,” said Bush. “Defeating them will require the full commitment of our alliance. For NATO to succeed, its commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs.”
Analysts say NATO is facing the toughest challenges in its 57-year history. Member expansion is another pivotal point. The US has pledged to support Ukraine and Georgia in their bids to join up.
However, that is likely to exacerbate strained relations with Russia, with Moscow concerned about the spread of NATO around its borders. In addition, several European NATO nations have said they want to see progress in resolving what they see as “frozen conflicts” before any formal invitation is made.