SYDNEY - Australia has signed a new partnership with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that creates a framework for stronger cooperation amid rising global tensions.
Australia is far from the North Atlantic and is not a member of NATO. It does have, however, close ties to the multinational grouping. NATO has spent the past three decades building partnerships with non-member countries to improve military co-operation.
Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia’s agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is renewed every two years and the latest version signed Wednesday has a greater focus on the Pacific region.
Canberra also plans to work alongside NATO on access to rare earth elements, which are important parts of military technologies, as well as cooperation to improve cyber and maritime security.
Australia contributes to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, and also funds Afghan defense and security forces.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Canberra was making a valuable contribution in another conflict zone.
“In Iraq you have hundreds of trainers and you have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers," he said. "Prevention is better than intervention and I think all the best tools we have in fighting terrorism is to train local forces, build local capacity [and] enable them to stabilize their own countries.”
NATO was set up in 1949 largely to block Soviet expansion into Europe. Much has changed.
In 1999, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland became the first former Warsaw Pact countries to gain membership. Another landmark step came six years later when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — all former Soviet republics — joined the military grouping.
The United States, Britain and France are among the original NATO members. The organization is currently operating in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as conducting anti-terrorism missions in the Mediterranean Sea and counter piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa.
Secretary-General Stoltenberg is in Australia for two days following a visit to New Zealand for security talks.