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World Leaders Descend On Wales To Help Decide NATO's Way Forward


I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. It's being called the most important NATO summit in decades. President Obama and dozens of other leaders are meeting at a golf resort in Wales. Their packed agenda includes wrapping up the war in Afghanistan, curbing the threat of the Islamic State and dealing with Russia's actions in Ukraine.

NPR's Ari Shapiro begins our coverage from Cardiff.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: One shiny black sedan after another rolled up to the Celtic Manor golf club. World leaders emerged from behind the tinted windows to the click of cameras and the occasional shouted questions. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stepped up to the microphones to answer a few.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Our transatlantic community represents an island of security, stability and prosperity.

SHAPIRO: He said Russia threatens that security; as he put it - ripping up the international rulebook in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian reporter asked Rasmussen what he makes of the reported peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

RASMUSSEN: What counts is what has actually happening on the ground. And we are still witnessing, unfortunately, Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: As those formal arrivals took place, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron took part in a more casual arrival ceremony.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good to see you. Where am I sitting - is that my seat?

SHAPIRO: At the Mount Pleasant Primary School in Newport, Wales, the seat of power was for a short while a low plastic chair built for a 9-year-old. Kids in matching maroon sweaters white collared shirts told Obama and Cameron what they had learned about NATO. Then the motorcade left the kids behind and the real work began. Obama and Cameron sat at an adult-sized table with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and perhaps most importantly, there guest, the president of Ukraine. Although Ukraine is not a NATO member, Russia's actions in Ukraine are taking center stage at this meeting.

PHILIP BREEDLOVE: We thought this kind of thing was over in Europe. And so NATO now has to consider, what does this mean?

SHAPIRO: Philip Breedlove is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In an interview on MORNING EDITION today Breedlove said NATO is looking at giving more aid to Ukraine - and also looking for ways to punish Russia.

BREEDLOVE: I think what you will see from the summit is that NATO, among other European nations, will begin to take even more strident measures if we continue to see the overt Russian business being done inside the sovereign Ukraine nation.

SHAPIRO: But Ukraine is not the only crisis occupying world leaders here in Wales. The Islamic State is a major focus too. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron wrote a joint op-ed in The Times of London today. It says those who want to adopt an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century. Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria threaten our security at home, they wrote. Obama did not make any public remarks today. As the summit host, Cameron addressed the assembled leaders.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: NATO is the anchor of our security. And over the next two days, we must reinvigorate and refocus this alliance to tackle new threats.

SHAPIRO: This summit marks a pivot to those new threats from the war in Afghanistan, which has occupied NATO almost since the turn-of-the-century.

At the summit, service members marched into the meeting hall bearing their country's flags, representing the men and women who've served in the Afghan war since it started more than a decade ago.

DOUG LUTE: This is an inflection point for the alliance.

SHAPIRO: The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Doug Lute, told reporters in a conference call that today's focus was diagnosing the security threats to NATO.

LUTE: Day one becomes sort of an assessment and a discussion about the challenges. Then day two; tomorrow, really deals with, OK so what are NATO's responses?

SHAPIRO: He said that means we will likely have more details about help for Ukraine and a response to the Islamic State by the time the summit concludes on Friday.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News. Cardiff, Wales. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.