The challenge posed by Islamic State (IS) extremists loomed large as over 60 world leaders gathered in the sylvan Welsh town of Newport on Thursday for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit that came down heavily on Russia for its ‘destabilizing’ influence on Ukraine.
In a joint article published in The Times on Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama wrote that Britain and the US can lead efforts to secure world peace, setting the stage for the NATO summit.
They wrote: “If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats, they could not be more wrong. Countries like Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers . . . We will be more forthright in the defense of our values, not least because a world of greater freedom is a fundamental part of how we keep our own people safe.”
They also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “trying to force a sovereign state to abandon its right to democracy and determining the course of [Ukraine’s] future at the barrel of a gun” and wrote that “we must increase Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself.”
Obama and Cameron interacted with children at a local school before joining other leaders to discuss the two key issues of Russia and IS, even though the IS challenge was not on the agenda of the influential western military grouping.
In a series of radio and television interviews before the summit, Cameron again did not rule out joining air strikes against IS extremists in Syria and Iraq. Conservative party whips have already begun asking party members of parliament for this views on military action against IS.
Cameron also announced that Britain will directly arm Kurdish forces fighting IS extremists and that a British military officer had been dispatched to advise Kurdish forces. Britain also announced the handover of 1.5 million pounds worth of life-saving equipment for use by Syrian search and rescue teams.
Indicating that NATO could undertake military missions against IS, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary general, said the alliance would seriously consider any request from Iraq to help it fight the extremists. He also said NATO would be willing to help train the Iraqi armed forces again.
Rasmussen said: “I do believe the international community as a whole has an obligation to stop the Islamic State advancing further. As regards NATO, we have not received any request for a NATO engagement. I’m sure that if the Iraqi government were to forward a request for NATP assistance, that would be considered seriously by NATO allies.”