By Wyn Rees
It is the purpose of press officers within international organisations to convince the publics of their member states that each summit is of lasting importance. In reality, most summit declarations are full of symbolism and struggle to find ‘deliverables’ of substance to make them memorable. However the NATO summit in Wales will truly be of historic importance.
This summit was pre-destined to rank amongst the substantive meetings of the post-Cold War era because it preceded the withdrawal of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, assumed by the Alliance in 2003, has been its first ever ‘Out of Area’ mission. It has been a microcosm of the tensions within the organisation: between a superpower and its regional allies; a group of European states unwilling to pay for credible expeditionary forces and of a growing inequality of risk taking amongst its members. The impending withdrawal of those combat forces raised questions about the future orientation of the Alliance. It was the task of the Summit in Wales to wrestle with these issues and chart the future course for NATO.