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US seeks to modernize NATO, deepen partnerships
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) April 26, 2012

The United States will push to modernize NATO, deepen alliance partnerships and hammer out details of the Afghanistan withdrawal at an upcoming summit, White House officials said Thursday.

"The alliance needs to be more deployable and more adaptable and we're taking those lessons learned from Afghanistan and integrating them into our planning going forward," said Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the National Security Council's director of European affairs.

NATO is pursuing a number of "smart defense" initiatives that will ensure that in an era of constrained military budgets, the transatlantic military alliance acts as a "force multiplier" that avoids "duplication or wasted expenditure," she said.

Baltic members are working to enhance their contributions and Sherwood-Randall said she anticipates that "substantial announcements" on air defense will be made as part of a "big package of capabilities" that will be presented at the summit.

The United States also hopes to advance progress already made on a missile defense system despite Russian concerns, said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

"Even as we'd like to cooperate with the Russians on the issue of missile defense we're not going to stop moving forward on our system just because of the concerns that they've raised," he added.

"We believe it's important to our security, we believe that it's important to European security and we frankly don't believe that it does threatened the strategic balanced that is in the world's interest in terms of having global security."

While Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit, discussions continue at the ministerial level, Rhodes added.

The United States also hopes to use the summit -- set to be held in President Barack Obama's hometown of Chicago -- to highlight and deepen NATO's global partnerships, Rhodes said.

"We want to make sure that NATO can project beyond its borders," he said, adding that in order to meet the challenges of global threats, NATO must be not only be an alliance but also a "hub of relationships around the world."

The summit will include members of NATO's International Security Assistance Force who will work to update plans for the transition to "full Afghan responsibility for their country," Rhodes added.

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