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          Strategic Military Partner Conference will be held in Belgrade from 13 to 15 June. This conference is taking place while a lot of things are unknown to the public, and there are also many loose interpretations. The media constantly calls it the NATO conference, Belgrade is covered with posters featuring the invitation for this conference not to be held, and there were even protest rallies outside the Ministry of Defence. Responses of the Ministry and the General Staff of the Army of Serbia, that are the hosts of this event, to all of this are moving in the frame of terse and, to the ordinary citizen, unclear information. And the thing is not at all complicated, nor is it a secret of great power. Therefore, first things first.

           

          What is the Strategic Military Partner Conference and can this conference be called a NATO conference?

           

          It can and it should. There is no dispute about that. Namely, the Strategic Military Partner Conference (SMPC) is held every year and it is organized by the Allied Command Transformation (ACT). After the NATO Summit that was held in Riga in 2006, Allied Command Transformation decided to organize a conference like that each year in order for Chiefs of the General Staff of the armies of NATO countries and partner countries to exchange views and experiences on military issues related to global and regional security. The first such conference was held in Skopje (Macedonia) in 2006, then in Tromso (Norway) in 2007, Tirana (Albania) in 2008 and in Helsinki (Finland) in 2010. The conference was not held in 2009 due to the technical reasons, and it is already agreed upon for the 2012 conference to be held in Croatia, and the 2013 one, in Sweden.

           

          What is the Allied Command Transformation? 

           

          In addition to the Allied Command Operations which is responsible for strategic, operational and tactical control of the NATO forces, there is also Allied Command Transformation that has a task to implement the military transformation of NATO using new concepts such as the one that was adopted in November 2010 at the Lisbon summit. These commands are directed by the NATO Military Committee, which represents the highest military body of the alliance and that is made of the military representatives of all member states, and, if necessary, it meets at the level of Chiefs of General Staff of the armies. So, the organizer of the conference in Belgrade is one of the two allied commands of NATO.

           

          Who will participate in the conference?

           

          When we look at the announcements we can see that the presence of more than fifty countries’ representatives (actually, army representatives) is expected. If we know that NATO has about half as many Member States (to be exact 28 -http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/nato_countries.htm), we can easily conclude that this conference is not just about the Alliance, but also has a greater significance. Namely, in addition to NATO member countries, the conference in Belgrade will host representatives of the Partnership for Peace (22 - http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_50349.htm), such as Serbia, but also including Russia, as well as some military neutral countries like Austria, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden, then representatives of the Mediterranean Dialogue (7 - http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_52927.htm) among which are Israel, Egypt, Jordan and several other Middle East countries, representatives of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (4 - http://www.nato.int/issues/ici/index.html) consisting of Arab countries like Kuwait and UAE, representatives of the contact states (4 - http://www.nato.int/issues/contact_countries/index.html) such as Australia and Japan, and eventually representatives of invited countries (3) India, Brazil and Pakistan. Also, the participation of the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) Swedish General Hakan Horn, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Italian Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, the Director General of NATO International Military Staff German General Jurgen Borneman and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French General Stephane Abrial is expected at the conference. 

           

          What is the theme of the conference?

           

          The theme of this year's conference is the transformation of NATO after the adoption of the new strategic concept at the Lisbon summit in November 2010. In addition to that, representatives of the countries which will participate in the conference will have the opportunity to discuss the deepening and widening of partnership, cooperation and trust, but also to exchange opinions, knowledge and experiences on the most relevant strategic and security issues at the moment. The conference lasts two days. On the first day, the representatives of participating countries, which will mostly be represented by the Chiefs of General Staff of the armies, will discuss the above mentioned issues in plenary session, while the second day will be devoted to work in groups on the following topics - Innovative approaches to the efficient capacity building, Secured access to global common resources and Training, partnership and support.

           

          Why Serbia and is it the NATO entering through the back door?

           

          Serbia will not become a member of any military alliance, including NATO, until a political decision about that is made. However, the military leadership has repeatedly stressed that the Serbian Army is reforming according to NATO standards, which are recognized as the best in the world. Bearing in mind the strategic, and not the political level of the conference, it can be firmly assumed that the topic of possible accession of Serbia to NATO will not be on the table. Serbia and its army are of great importance to regional security in the Western Balkans. One can therefore understand the need of the most powerful military-political alliance in the world to hear the messages coming from here. And what can Serbia get in return? First of all, it can take advantage of the opportunity and contract joint training and perfecting, participation in joint military exercises, modernization of weapons and military equipment and participation in regional initiatives. This would greatly enhance the capacities of the Serbian Army to stand shoulder to shoulder with the modern armies of the world. Who needs more? 

          Translated by Jelena Kajganovic, BCSP Intern

          Sources:

           


          1. Official web-site of the Strategic Military Partner Conference

           

          http://www.act.nato.int/smpc

           


          2. Web page of the Strategic Military Partner Conference 2011

           

          http://www.mod.gov.rs/smpc/sr/index.php
           

           

          3. Interviews of General Miletic and General Abrial regarding Strategic Military Partner Conference 2011

           

          http://www.mod.gov.rs/novi.php?action=fullnews&id=2946
           

           

          4. The official web page of NATO

           

          http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/index.htm
           

           

          5. Filip Ejdus Natobauk, Cosmopolitan realist

           

          http://www.filipejdus.net/2011/06/natobauk.html?spref=fb

           

        • Tags: military, nato, strategy, Partnership for Peace, Defense Ministry
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