The Latest: NATO allies to create joint intel division

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Posted: Jul 09, 2016 2:59 PM
The Latest: NATO allies to create joint intel division

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the NATO Summit in Warsaw (all times local):

9:00 p.m.

NATO allies have agreed to establish a new joint intelligence and security division to better position the U.S.-led alliance to respond to evolving threats by more effectively sharing information.

The decision is included in the 32-page Warsaw Declaration adopted by leaders at the two-day summit that concluded Saturday.

The declaration says: "The importance of intelligence in informing our planning, operations and decision-making continues to increase."

It adds: "The new Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security will direct NATO's intelligence and security activities, ensuring better use of existing personnel and resources, while maximizing the efficient use of intelligence provided by allies."

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8:25 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama has left Warsaw aboard his Airforce One plane and is on his way to Madrid, after attending a two-day NATO summit in Poland's capital.

The president wrapped up the summit with a long news conference before taking off from Warsaw's Chopin airport shortly after 1800 GMT.

The summit decided to boost security on NATO's eastern flank by deploying four battalions in Poland and in the three Baltic states. The allies also agreed to do more to help countries in North Africa and the Middle East fight against the Islamic State group.

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8:10 p.m.

Reflecting on the prospect of serving two full terms leading a nation at war, President Barack Obama says it's important to recognize that U.S. military operations today are fundamentally different to when he came into office.

Obama says U.S. military forces are not involved in active combat, but train and assist forces in nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. He says an exception to that rule is direct attacks against the Islamic State group.

Obama is acknowledging that confronting what he describes as "non-state actors," such as the Islamic State group is something the United States will have to grapple with for years to come.

He says his goal has been to partner with countries so that they can eliminate terrorist threats, but as seen in Afghanistan, that takes time.

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7:20 p.m.

The leaders of NATO and Ukraine say the alliance will implement a new program of support for Ukraine as it reforms its defense and state, while facing aggression from Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko held a news conference following Poroshenko's meeting with the leaders of NATO member states Saturday, the second day of the alliance's summit in Warsaw.

Stoltenberg said the leaders have agreed on a new Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine that will assist the nation as it reforms its defense and security institutions, to make them more efficient and accountable. The alliance will also assist Ukraine in countering threats from improvised explosive devices and from hybrid warfare.

Stoltenberg said: "An independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security."

He added: "NATO is committed to helping Ukraine achieve that goal."

Poroshenko pledged to continue to reform state institutions and the armed forces, which, he said, should reach interoperability with NATO forces in 2020.

He also pledged to continue to fight corruption.

Both leaders condemned Russia's seizure of Crimea and other hostile actions on Ukraine's territory.

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7:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama says now is a pivotal moment for the NATO alliance, as it faces a wide range of threats around the globe, from terrorism and Russia's provocative behavior to Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union.

He said the U.S. continues to pledge its unwavering commitment to defending Europe, adding that "in good times and in bad, Europe can count on the United States."

He said the U.S. will send troops to Poland as part of the plan for NATO to deploy four multinational battalions to the alliance's eastern flank. Others battalions will go to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Obama also warned that all NATO members must step up and do better in the broader effort to have all the nations spend 2 percent of their national incomes on defense. NATO leaders, he said, had a "very candid conversation about that."

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6:55 p.m.

The composition of four multinational battalions that NATO will deploy to its eastern flank is beginning to take shape.

Leaders at a two-day NATO summit in Warsaw began to make commitments to the four battalions, which NATO will begin deploying on a rotational basis next year to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Each battalion will include about 1,000 soldiers from various member states, but will be commanded by one so-called "framework nation."

The United States will lead one battalion in Poland to which it will also contribute troops. The force will also include one company from Britain and one from Romania. A company is made up of around 150 to 200 troops.

In Lithuania, Germany will be the framework nation for a battalion that will include troops from Germany, France, Portugal, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Britain will lead a battalion in Estonia with 500 of its own troops but also a company each from France and Denmark.

Canada will head a battalion based in Latvia, but there were no details yet about other contributors.

NATO says that Italy and Croatia have also pledged a company each but it's not yet clear where they will go.

Poland, while hosting U.S. forces, will send soldiers of its own to one of the Baltic deployments.

There were no public details about the considerations behind which soldiers will go where.

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6:15 p.m.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda has officially declared the two-day NATO summit in Warsaw as being over and says it has successfully responded to the changing security environment in Europe.

Duda was the host of the summit, which some observers say was the most important meeting of the 28-member alliance since the Cold War.

Duda said the meeting was a "success for NATO and a success for Poland" as it debated a wide range of security challenges and found a "real response to the changing security environment in Europe."

The summit decided to boost security on NATO's eastern flank by deploying four battalions in Poland and in the three Baltic states. The allies also agreed to do more to help countries in North Africa and the Middle East fight against the Islamic State group.

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5:55 p.m.

NATO leaders gathering in Warsaw have grappled with some of the most dangerous threats to the modern world, but also found time for light banter about the Euro 2016 soccer championship.

President Francois Hollande was asked at a news conference Saturday if the championship wrapping up in his country was mentioned at the two-day NATO summit, and he said "yes!" — eliciting the laughter of journalists.

France defeated Germany 2-0 on Thursday to qualify for the final against Portugal on Sunday.

Hollande said German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted graciously to her country's loss.

Hollande said: "I think many heads of state and government had seen the match of the French football team against Germany in Marseille. Nobody told me they were delighted about the results, but Merkel was very elegant in the commentary about the match."

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4:20 p.m.

NATO leaders say they still want a constructive relationship with Russia "when Russia's actions make that possible."

In the past, NATO governments often spoke of forging a partnership with Russia, but that language was absent from a formal declaration issued Saturday by the 28 NATO allies on the second and final day of a NATO summit.

The Warsaw Declaration on Trans-Atlantic Security states that "NATO poses no threat to any country" and that its member nations "continue to aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia's actions make that possible."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Saturday NATO has not entered another Cold War, but that Russia is no longer conducting itself like a partner.

Russia accuses NATO of provocative behavior with a plan sealed at the Warsaw summit to deploy alliance troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, areas under Moscow's sway less than three decades ago.

Stoltenberg said NATO will explain the decisions taken in Warsaw to Russian government representatives next Wednesday at a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels. That forum, designed to bring together Russia and the Western alliance, last met in April after a nearly two-year break as ties deteriorated over Russian actions in Ukraine.

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3:10 p.m.

NATO leaders have agreed to do more to support countries in North Africa and Middle East that are prey to violent Islamic extremism.

Alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Saturday NATO will start a training and capacity-building mission for Iraqi armed forces in Iraq, provide assistance for Jordan, and establish a new intelligence center in Tunisia to help that country's special operations forces.

Stoltenberg said NATO leaders at the summit in Warsaw also agreed in principle for alliance surveillance aircraft to provide direct support to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. NATO diplomats say they expect the flights to begin this fall.

He said NATO will also launch a new maritime operation in the Mediterranean, Operation Sea Guardian, and cooperate closely with the European Union's efforts to halt human smuggling operations that have fueled Europe's greatest migrant crisis since World War II.

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2.50 p.m.

A few hundred anti-NATO activists have protested in Warsaw against the decision by the alliance to deploy troops on NATO's eastern flank.

The protesters marched in downtown Warsaw on the second day of the NATO summit in the city, carrying banners reading "Stop NATO" and chanting "NATO get out of here."

The summit has decided to boost NATO's deterrence in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Some protesters carried long loafs of bread Saturday and chanted "money for the hungry not for tanks."

A separate group of pro-democracy campaigners gathered in a downtown square for a ceremony in which the square was named after Martin Luther King, a U.S. human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was assassinated in 1968.

The gathering was organized by Poland's anti-government Committee for the Defense of Democracy.

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2.45 p.m.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that the next NATO summit will be held in Brussels in 2017.

The NATO leader made the announcement on Saturday at a summit being held in Warsaw.

Stoltenberg said the summit will be held at the revamped NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the Western military alliance is headquartered, which will be ready in 2017.

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2.30 p.m.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius says he's not surprised that Mikhail Gorbachev is accusing NATO of escalating tensions with Russia, but insists the former Soviet leader is simply wrong.

Gorbachev, who was Soviet president when the Cold War ended, accused NATO on Saturday of escalating tensions with Russia at a summit in Warsaw where the Western alliance has finalized plans to deploy four battalions to its eastern flank as deterrence against Russia.

Linkevicius said that kind of language from Gorbachev "was expected" but argued that NATO, in building up its forces in the east, is merely "reacting to aggressive behavior" of the Russians.

He also said Russia's own military buildup far exceeds in both numbers and intensity what NATO is doing.

"The Russians are very creative in mixing up the consequences and the reasons," he said. "We are used to these methods."

Linkevicius said the NATO plan to deploy a German-led battalion to his nation was reassuring given Russian aggression in Ukraine, even though it's only a force of about 1,000.

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2 p.m.

NATO allies have agreed to maintain a stable military presence in Afghanistan, bolstered by President Barack Obama's decision to make a smaller cut in U.S. troop levels than he had planned.

Obama has been urging NATO leaders gathered in Warsaw to expand their support for the war against the Taliban.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies also made commitments to continue to fund the Afghan security forces through 2020, and are "close to" the needed $5 billion per year.

The U.S. has pledged to provide $3.5 billion annually to fund Afghan forces, and the government in Kabul is expected to contribute as much as $500 million. Allies would provide the remaining $1 billion. The funding would maintain a total of 352,000 Afghan Army troops and police officers.

Stoltenberg said it's too soon to say exactly how many troops allies will agree to keep in Afghanistan but he believes force levels will remain largely stable at about 12,000.

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12:25 p.m.

The Belgian foreign minister says his nation will provide at least 150 soldiers to a new multinational NATO battalion based in Lithuania.

NATO leaders formalized an agreement at a NATO summit in Warsaw to create four battalions of about 1,000 soldiers each to be deployed to the Western alliance's eastern flank.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders says Saturday all the Benelux countries would be "very active in the region." But he also stressed the need "keep an open dialogue with Russia, because we need to talk about Syria and Iraq."

The new plan will see NATO forces deployed on a rotational basis for the first time to a swath of eastern Europe that was part of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, angering Russia. Germany will lead a multinational battalion in Lithuania, with similar battalions to be led by the United States in Poland, Britain in Estonia, and Canada in Latvia.

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11:55 a.m.

Mikhail Gorbachev, whose time as Soviet president saw the Cold War end, has strongly criticized NATO for escalating tensions with Russia in the alliance's summit this week.

NATO's leaders on Friday announced at the summit in Warsaw plans to beef up alliance forces in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of which border Russia. Moscow earlier this this year said it would put more troops along its western borders, including two new divisions.

Gorbachev was quoted as saying Saturday by the Interfax news agency that "NATO has begun preparations for escalating from the Cold War into a hot one."

He says "all the rhetoric in Warsaw just yells of a desire almost to declare war on Russia. They only talk about defense, but actually are preparing for offensive operations."

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11:20 a.m.

Poland's foreign minister says NATO is open to Ukraine's ambition to join the military alliance but any talks will be possible only after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is solved.

Minister Witold Waszczykowski spoke Saturday at the start of the second day of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

In its key decision, the meeting has boosted the alliance's defenses on its eastern flank, where nations are nervous about their security after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and supports separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The NATO agenda on Saturday includes a meeting between the leaders of the 28 NATO member nations and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, who has been invited as a guest.

Waszczykowski say as a political climate is building in Ukraine in favor of becoming a NATO member in the future. He also said another country, Georgia, is "eligible and is ready" to join NATO and the decision depends on the "will and the determination on our part."

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10:50 a.m.

Over dinner, NATO leaders gave a glum assessment of Russia's geopolitical intentions, a NATO official says, agreeing that Moscow "is likely to exploit any vulnerability" in the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine.

The official, who was not authorized to make public remarks and spoke on condition of anonymity, says President Barack Obama and the other alliance leaders agreed during their Friday evening discussion that they need to maintain "a firm and united stance" on Russia and that Moscow "has to deliver" on its commitments under the Minsk agreements designed to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

One particular focus of the NATO leaders during dinner was the Western Balkans and the independent nations that once were part of Yugoslavia, like Macedonia.

— John-Thor Dahlburg

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9:30 a.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have begun the second day of a summit meeting in Warsaw that's expected to lead to decisions about Afghanistan, the central Mediterranean and Iraq.

On Friday, leaders approved the deployment of four multinational NATO battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia, as well as a Romanian-Bulgarian brigade for the Black Sea region.

The Warsaw summit, NATO's first in two years, is considered by many to be the alliance's most important since the Cold War.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO needs to adapt to confront an array of new threats to its member nations' security, including cyberattacks and violent extremism generated by radical Muslim organizations like the Islamic State group.