From November 17-20, on the margins of the NATO Heads of State and Government Summit in Lisbon, the Atlantic Treaty Association, with the NATO Council of the United States and the Portuguese Atlantic Committee, hosted the Young Atlanticist Summit for young leaders and the future of NATO.
Working with the NATO Council of Canada, I headed to Portugal to take part in the Summit. While I will provide a detailed account separately of the various speakers, presentations and debates that occurred throughout the Summit, I will briefly highlight some of the events.
On day 1, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates welcomed everyone and gave a passionate speech on NATO and the transformation it would take that very weekend. We received briefings and had discussions on NATO operations and what was next for the Alliance. Speakers included Lt. General Walter Gaskin, Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO and Karl-Heinz Kamp, Academic Director of the NATO Defense College in Rome.
On day 2, I, along with the other Canadian at the Summit, had a private meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon. I had the opportunity to discuss the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with them. Our conversation also touched on Afghanistan, the UN and the new Strategic Concept. From what I heard, we were the only delegates who were able to meet with our Head of Government.
As I arrived back at the Summit site, more presentations were had. Admiral di Paola, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, spoke, followed by the Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Stavridis also briefed the Summit, followed by an in-depth report on Afghanistan by ISAF Commander General David Petraeus.
On the third day were treated with a VTC hook up with Afghan university students in Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad, which was extremely fascinating. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs for Bulgaria and Slovakia presented us with an engaging debate on the future of NATO. We were also treated to a speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon followed by a NATO briefing from Jamie Shea, who summed up nicely what had occurred over the past few days.
The Lisbon Summit produced many results and perhaps ushered in a new NATO. I look forward to presenting the results from the conference and summing up the many great speakers and presentations over the following weeks.
This certainly is an exciting time in the history of the Alliance.
By Sean Palter
*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s, and do not represent those of The NATO Council of Canada.