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Speech from the 2010 Atlanticist Summit in Lisbon – Young Leaders and the Future of NATO, November 20th

First of all, let me express my gratitude to the organizers for inviting me to kick start the final panel of such an important initiative. Actually, the Summit and all the relevant issues involved, including the new NATO Strategic Concept, have been already widely assessed over the last three days and by speakers who are certainly much more authoritative than me NATO and security issues, like the Secretary General Rasmussen, General Petraeus, Admiral Di Paola and Admiral Stavridis, Mr. Shea, to name a few.

Therefore, I cannot but give just some short comments as “food for thought” that I hope will be useful to the following debate. In particular, I would like to focus on NATO-Russia relations, the NATO-EU partnership, and the war in Afghanistan.

As for NATO-Russia relations, the highest NATO’s representatives and member States’ political leaders have highlighted the necessity to overcome the tensions of the last years and open a new phase of fruitful engagement and cooperation. In this domain, the provisions of the new Strategic Concept are a remarkable sign of the NATO’s genuine will to build up a constructive partnership with Russia, starting with the missile defense system.

On the other hand, though, it would be dangerous for the Alliance to deem cooperation with Russia as a value in itself or an unquestionable dogma for both its strategy and course of action. Several European Nations are pushing through such a vision, perhaps encouraged by mere short-term interests that still do not take into account the reality of relations between the Euro-Atlantic community and Russia.

As a matter of fact, the Euro-Atlantic community and Russia keep on sailing two different boats. Sometimes, these boats may go the same way, but in other circumstances they may take different directions and even clash. This is because NATO and Russia are still divided by different perceptions of the international security environment, different strategic and political cultures, different geopolitical interests.

Today, this is the reality of the NATO’s relations with Russia. Consequently, the Alliance should not have high expectations in pursuing dialogue and cooperation with Moscow. Rather, it should invest much more energies and efforts to mend the partnership with the EU.

The NATO-EU relations are indeed a matter of primary concern for NATO. This is a “family question” which directly affects the ability of the Euro-Atlantic community to preserve its security in the long run. Despite the wide overlapping membership, the single set of forces available, and the indivisibility of the Euro-Atlantic security, lack of dialogue and distrust are preventing NATO and the EU from developing a real synergy and mutually reinforcing strategies to cope with the threats and challenges of the post 9/11 security scenario. Yet, NATO and EU are currently engaged in the same theaters, such as in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and off the coast of Somalia against piracy.

In this context, a Transatlantic initiative is strongly required to achieve a “grand bargain” between NATO and the EU, thus finally establishing a real strategic partnership between the two Euro-Atlantic Organizations. In particular, an agreement is necessary to build up NATO-EU joint civil-military planning and capabilities in the stabilization and reconstruction operations. Such a development would be of the utmost importance also for the stabilization of Afghanistan, where an EU active role is still missing.

About Afghanistan, in conclusion, I would like to add just a few words. So far, we have heard much about the new transition strategy and the NATO’s efforts to bring peace and stability in the country. However, no mention has been made of Iran and of the role that Tehran is playing in Afghanistan, or, to better say, of the role that Tehran has been playing in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban regime soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There is much more to Iran than the nuclear issue and its quest for the destruction of Israel. These are quite worrying issues, no doubt. But more attention should be paid to the Iranian influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, no transition strategy will work, no 2014 deadline for the troops’ withdrawal will be met, if, at the same time, the Iranian question will not be solved. The solution to accomplish the NATO’s mission in Afghanistan goes not only through Islamabad, but through Tehran as well.