ISIS threat & unrest in Ukraine front & center at NATO Summit
NEWPORT, Wales (CNN) — The world faces a “generational struggle” against the threat of Islamist extremism, and ISIS should be “squeezed out of existence,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday ahead of a NATO summit in Wales.
Cameron told CNN that leaders meeting in Newport would be discussing the “poisonous ideology” of Islamist extremism and how to combat it.
The two-day summit, billed as the most important gathering of NATO leaders in more than a decade, comes at a time of global turmoil.
Also on the packed agenda for the 28-member NATO alliance are the challenge posed by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and NATO’s future role in Afghanistan.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a wake-up call,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday.
“It has … reminded all of us that our freedom, security and prosperity cannot be taken for granted, that some are trying to redraw dividing lines in Europe with force and in blood.”
The current dangers mean this “is a critical summit at a critical time,” he said, requiring leaders to “forge a stronger NATO for a more complex and chaotic world.”
The transatlantic defense bloc must adapt to meet new challenges, he said, including a reemerging threat from the east that will require the repositioning of NATO forces.
“We will adopt a readiness action plan that will make our forces faster, fitter and more flexible, ready to address any challenges whenever they come and from wherever they come.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Cameron and the leaders of Germany, France and Italy over the crisis in his country before the summit started.
Cameron: Bring killers to justice
Cameron said NATO members should agree on how to help Middle Eastern nations such as Jordan tackle the threat posed by ISIS.
Any request by Iraq to NATO for aid in fighting against ISIS would be “considered seriously,” Rasmussen said.
NATO has not yet received such an invitation from Baghdad, Rasmussen said, but help could come in the form of new military training programs such as ones the alliance has held with Iraq in the past.
Cameron declined to rule in or out the possibility of the UK military carrying out airstrikes against ISIS forces, as U.S. forces have done in Iraq.
“We don’t rule anything out, we’ll act with partners in our national interest,” he told CNN, adding that Britain was already helping the Kurds by providing equipment and was flying surveillance missions.
Cameron said Britain had been “working exhaustively to identify all the people that are potentially involved” in two ISIS videos showing the beheading of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff but would not give any further detail.
“We share our information with our key allies and (are) making sure we do everything we can to bring these absolutely horrific people to justice,” he said.
A British hostage was threatened at the end of the latest execution video, which features a militant with an English accent.
‘Russia needs America and Europe’
Cameron also had stern words for Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March and is accused of sending its troops into eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebels, a claim Moscow denies.
He said it was “positive” that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Wednesday set out a seven-point road map to end the Ukraine conflict, was “at least making noises about peace.”
But, he said, trust has been eroded by Putin’s consistent denials that Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil, when “everyone can see that that is the case.”
The Western nations that have already imposed sanctions against Putin over Russia’s actions need to make clear that if Putin does not allow Ukraine to choose its own future, Russia’s relationship with the United States and Europe will be very different, he said.
“And let’s be frank, Russia needs America and Europe more than America and Europe need Russia. We need to make that relationship pay.”
Ukraine is not part of NATO, but the alliance has said it will support Kiev in the face of what it calls Russian aggression.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that a push by some in Kiev for Ukraine to join NATO was a bid to undermine the peace process in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s state-run ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Lavrov said it was not coincidental that calls for Ukraine to end its nonaligned status and join NATO were voiced after Putin and Poroshenko held talks on possible ways to resolve the conflict.
“This is an obvious attempt to derail all efforts to initiate a dialogue aimed at providing national security,” Lavrov is quoted as saying.
‘Russia has ripped up the rulebook’
Obama arrived in Wales on Wednesday for the summit, after a visit to Estonia aimed at reassuring nervous Eastern European nations that NATO’s support for its member states is unwavering.
A vision of a Europe dedicated to peace and freedom is “threatened by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Obama said in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.
In a joint opinion piece published in the Times of London on Thursday, Obama and Cameron say NATO “is as vital to our future as it has ever been” and warn against isolationism.
“We meet at a time when the world faces many dangerous and evolving challenges,” they write.
“To the east, Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening a sovereign nation state. To the south, there is an arc of instability from north Africa and the Sahel to the Middle East.”
The two leaders say that those who argue against getting involved in action to address these threats fail to understand security in the 21st century.
“Whether it is regional aggression going unchecked or the prospect that foreign fighters could return from Iraq and Syria to pose a threat in our countries, the problems we face today threaten the security of British and American people, and the wider world.”
NATO chief: Time running out in Afghanistan
The summit was originally expected to focus on Afghanistan, NATO’s biggest overseas commitment of troops, before events elsewhere in the world seized the headlines.
Rasmussen warned Thursday that time is running out for NATO to be able to continue its mission in Afghanistan, as combat troops prepare to depart at the end of the year.
The role of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the country will shift from leading Afghan troops in the fight to supporting Afghans in an advisory and training role.
While votes in the contested presidential election are still being audited, Rasmussen said that “time is of the essence” for the Afghan government to finalize a Status of Forces Agreement to protect NATO forces there.
But he did say he was “encouraged” that both candidates in the runoff vote, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have agreed on the need for a new agreement.
Rasmussen said he remained hopeful that they could work on setting up an agreement that both could support so that the next president of Afghanistan could quickly sign it.
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