Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
October 31, 2002
The Prague Agenda: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit, November 21-22, 2002
On November 21-22, 2002, the leaders of 19 member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, to chart NATO’s course to address the security challenges of the 21st century. Since its founding in 1949 with the Treaty of Washington, NATO has served as the cornerstone of America’s defense policy, representing a pledge of mutual defense among member nations. From Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, NATO members worked together to protect the security and stability of the North Atlantic and Western Europe throughout the Cold War. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, NATO has remained one of the primary vehicles for extending NATO's collective ability to defend its peoples against the real threats of our time.
The Prague meeting will be NATO’s first Summit in a former Warsaw Pact country – the Czech Republic joined the Alliance in 1999. The leaders intend to set the future course of NATO in three major arenas:
NATO is an organization based on the principle of collective defense, and that requires the capacity for collective action. To remain the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, the Alliance must keep up with the changing world. When NATO’s leaders meet in Prague, they will take steps to ensure that they maintain the capability to meet the threats and challenges of the future – terrorism foremost among them – as well as it has those of the past. To address today’s threats, NATO must have the balanced and flexible forces to act whenever and wherever needed. Allies have responded positively to our proposal to develop a NATO Response Force that will enhance the Alliance’s ability to address a broad range of potential threats requiring a timely military response. The U.S. has strongly encouraged Allies to focus on key requirements that will develop and maintain these new capabilities. The U.S. will continue to encourage NATO member nations to cooperate – pooling resources and specialization in areas of expertise – so that the Alliance will be able to do collectively what our Allies cannot do individually.
Since NATO’s founding in 1949, it has welcomed new members who demonstrate readiness to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. The most recent new members, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, formally joined NATO at the Washington Summit in 1999. The Membership Action Plan (MAP) was established in 1999 to assist countries in preparing for membership by setting clear reform goals with specific benchmarks. Nine countries have been participating in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for the past four years and could be invited to join NATO at Prague: Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Participation in MAP is not a guarantee for membership, however. At the Prague Summit, the Alliance will only invite as many candidates as have proven themselves ready. Regardless of who is invited to join, the door to NATO membership will remain open.
September 11 and the Global War on Terrorism demonstrate the importance of extending NATO's security influence beyond the European theater. Even before September 11, NATO had initiated partnerships with Russia, Ukraine, and the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia regions in order to do this. At the May 2002 Rome Summit, NATO’s 19 Allies and Russia agreed to create a NATO-Russia Council (NRC) where they work as equals on a range of issues, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, and civil emergency planning. The NATO-Russia Council provides an unprecedented mechanism for action through specific, practical projects in these and other areas where NATO and Russia share common purposes and goals. NATO also worked with Ukraine to establish, in 1997, a Charter for a Distinctive Partnership, which strives to build a strong relationship and consult regularly on security issues. NATO and Ukraine are now taking steps toward an intensified dialogue that could yield even closer relations if Ukraine takes necessary steps towards reform.
NATO has two broad outreach efforts that provide Allies with important opportunities to intensify NATO’s relationship with the Central Asian and Caucasus states. These are the Partnership for Peace (PfP), launched at the 1994 Brussels Summit, and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) launched at the 1999 Madrid Summit. PfP and EAPC programs and activities encourage regional cooperation, as well as internal reform and stability, among those Partners.
Released on November 12, 2002