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American Forces Press Service

NATO's Deputy Secretary General Emphasizes Partnerships

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2014 – Collective defense is well and is truly back on NATO's agenda, the alliance's deputy secretary general said in South Korea last week.

Alexander Vershbow told the Seoul Defense Dialogue about the results of NATO's recent Wales Summit and what it means for countries outside the North Atlantic alliance.

Russian adventurism obviously is a problem for the alliance, Vershbow said, and so is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. NATO should be prepared to play its part in the international effort to stop the advance of ISIL, he added, and this will require more than just NATO members.

Summit Included 28 NATO Nations, 49 Partner Countries

"Wales was the largest summit NATO has ever held," Vershbow said. "Along with the 28 members of the alliance, we were joined by a further 49 partner countries, as well as representatives of the European Union and other international organizations."

Partner nations have fought alongside NATO members and Afghan forces. The summit recognized the importance of these nations -- including South Korea -- and included proposals to deepen cooperation, the deputy secretary general said.

"A prime example of this is the Partnership Interoperability Initiative," he said. "After our combat mission in Afghanistan winds down at the end of the year, we need to preserve and strengthen the ability of NATO and partner forces to operate together so that we remain able to tackle new challenges together."

Increasing NATO Exercises

The initiative looks to increase the number and scale of joint exercises, and to improve education and training with 24 countries that have sent troops to serve alongside NATO forces. "We will also reinforce the … operational capabilities concept to give partners greater access to NATO's common standards and assessments, which are often called the 'gold standard' for interoperability and readiness," he said.

NATO also established a new, permanent format for political dialogue and cooperation called the Interoperability Platform. "The first nations to take part will be Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan and Sweden, but others will be very welcome," Vershbow said. "This is a first -- the first standing consultative forum dedicated to interoperability, and by far the greatest opportunity for cooperation and dialogue for those who wish to be an enhanced opportunity partner."

NATO and its partner nations have common interests, the deputy secretary general said, such as assuring freedom of trade and travel, countering terrorism and cyber warfare and stopping the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons.

"By working together to defend and promote our common interests, we can help to make every country and every region more stable and secure," he added.

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