NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and John Key, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, signed a new partnership cooperation accord at NATO headquarters on 4 June 2012.
“Partnerships are essential to NATO’s success and we want to be even more closely connected with countries that are willing to contribute to global security where we all have a stake”, the Secretary General said after his talks with Prime Minister Key.
The NATO-New Zealand Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP) formalised ties between the two sides after almost two decades of increased cooperation. The agreement maps out practical steps where NATO and New Zealand will deepen their cooperation in areas such as intelligence, counter-terrorism, cyber-defence, disaster relief, crisis management and joint education and training. The Alliance has similar partnership programmes with Switzerland and Sweden among others.
The 3-page agreement notes that the shift in global economic power is producing "unpredictable consequences”. . “Climate change and the growing competition for resources are placing further pressure on the international system," the document adds.
"This challenging global outlook calls for active engagement by partners sharing common values”. The document also cites "enhancing interoperability and enabling support (and) logistics cooperation" that will help New Zealand engage in future NATO-led missions.
“I think the signing of the cooperation agreement today is another important step forward between the relationship between NATO and New Zealand. I think it makes sense to build that framework and to build that level of cooperation together as we face an uncertain world with a great many challenges”, said Prime Minister Key at the joint press briefing with the NATO Secretary General.
In a written statement Mr Key said: “The arrangement is a non-binding agreement that will be used to maintain ongoing political and operational discussions and underpin any future co-operation with NATO where it is mutually desirable. Co-operation could come in a number of areas, including maintaining ongoing political dialogue on security issues of mutual interest, offering further NATO training opportunities to our Defence Force, and engagement with NATO as it moves to tackle emerging security challenges of interest to New Zealand”.
New Zealand has cooperated with NATO on peacekeeping missions, including in Bosnia, and is participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. New Zealand currently contributes over 150 personnel to ISAF, the majority of who are deployed in Bamyan Province at the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). It also has troops stationed in Kabul. Last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced New Zealand's mission in Afghanistan will end one year earlier than planned.
New Zealand was one of 13 partners from around the world who joined NATO nations for a special meeting at the Chicago Summit last month to discuss common challenges. At the summit, McCully confirmed a late 2013 withdrawal for New Zealand's PRT in Bamiyan and that a formal handover from New Zealand to Afghan forces would be concluded this year.
The departing New Zealand forces likely will leave some equipment, including light-armoured vehicles, for Afghan forces, reported UPI. The departure will end what will be by then a decade of New Zealand involvement in the NATO Afghanistan mission in which five New Zealand soldiers have died.
When asked at the press briefing whether he thought New Zealand was ahead of its time (having celebrated last year 25 years of being nuclear free), Rasmussen said that although “some of our Allies share the New Zealand experience, but we also have to maintain a realistic approach to nuclear policies”. He reconfirmed the outcome of the recent Defence and Deterrence Posture Review, in which NATO has stated “that as long as nuclear weapons exist NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance. That's actually part of the overall deterrence policy”.
The Secretary General added, “We would very much like to see a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons, so-called tactical nuclear weapons, but seen from a Euro-Atlantic perspective it has to take place in a balanced manner, and we have to take into account that while we have reduced the number of nuclear weapons significantly since the end of the Cold War, Russia hasn't. So there is a disparity that has to be taken into account”.