NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is playing a crucial role in sustaining the alliance's Afghan mission, encouraging allied governments and publics alike during his transatlantic travels to appreciate the perspectives of their partners as well as the value of NATO as an institution. Consistent with that, among the objectives of his trip to Washington this week was to remind Americans of how extensively other NATO countries have collaborated in support of U.S. security objectives.
In addition to meeting with media and U.S. officials, Rasmussen was also in Washington to participate in a seminar held to advise the Group of Experts drafting the next NATO Strategic Concept, due out at year's end. The seminar, attended by several hundred NATO experts, was the final one in a series of four, and addressed transforming the alliance's structures, forces and capabilities. Previous seminars had discussed roles and missions, operations, and partnerships.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who chairs the group, later introduced Rasmussen at Georgetown University, where he delivered a major speech on the alliance at an event co-sponsored by the Center for a New American Security. From Rasmussen's remarks and in an interview with World Politics Review afterward, it became clear that although the alliance's Strategic Concept is important, NATO's immediate future will be most affected by the outcome of the war in Afghanistan. Losing that conflict could preclude NATO's ability to embrace all the new missions under consideration by the expert group, which range from cyber-defense to support for global humanitarian missions.