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  • Report: "U.S. planning NATO rival to Euro-Army"
  • EU split on funding for military operations
  • President Chirac calls for boost in French defense spending


  • The Netherlands to take command of Amber Fox mission
  • Yugoslavia votes for its own abolition


  • President Bush charts first-strike policy on terror




  • According to The Sunday Telegraph, June 2, America is drafting plans for a NATO-run military unit to rival directly the EU’s rapid reaction force. The Pentagon is proposing that NATO set up small, highly mobile units prepared to project the Alliance’s strength to trouble spots. The new, multinational forces would be drawn primarily from NATO’s European members but are also likely to include U.S. troops. They would be sent on dangerous missions, which the U.S. believes are unsuited to the so-called European army. It is reportedly envisaged in Washington that the Euro-NATO force would quickly relegate the fledgling EU rival to "mundane peacekeeping duties." The newspaper claimed that Pentagon officials have been working on the new plans ahead of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels this week, where Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is expected to urge NATO’s European members to increase defense spending. The newspaper further said it had learned that American officials want to identify the components of five or six "mini task-forces," each with its own command center and specialized purpose. Like the European Rapid Reaction Force, their troops would train together but would not be permanently stationed in the same force. "It would be a capability, not an actual standing force," one defense expert is quoted saying. The newspaper remarks that since NATO’s supreme commander is by tradition an American general, any American troops committed to the new response forces would be under ultimate American command. But, it adds, some American officers would almost certainly find themselves answering to non-Americans just above them in command, another issue being debated within the Pentagon. According to the newspaper, NATO officials in Brussels confirmed that they were aware of the U.S. plan. They insisted, however, that any new response force would be complementary to the European defense force and not intended to supplant it. The article is reprinted in the Washington Times, under the title, "NATO seen as Europe’s top gun."


The Washington Post continues to report on an exercise last month in which the U.S. Army in Europe fully deployed its Immediate Ready Force for the first time, rapidly airlifting 2,500 troops and 325 wheeled and armored vehicles from bases in Germany to a training exercise in Hungary.

The Immediate Ready Force combines light, airborne infantry from the Southern European Task Force, based in Vincenza, Italy, with medium-weight mechanized units and heavy-weight armored units from the 1st Armored Division, based in Germany, stresses the newspaper. Noting that all of the Immediate Ready Force’s vehicles, equipment and ammunition remain, ready to roll, at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks, adjacent to the Ramstein air base, the article quotes Col. Yarbrough, commander of the Southern European Task Force’s 173rd Brigade, saying: "We offer decision-makers the ability to take a runway…. (The commanding general of Army forces in Europe,) Gen. Meigs, talks about the U.S. Army in Europe offering the commander in chief agility, mobility and lethality."


  • According to the Financial Times, EU member states are divided over how to finance future military missions operating under ESDP, further complicating the goal of having a 60,000-strong rapid reaction force in place by this time next year. The divisions reportedly emerged again last week when EU countries failed to reach agreement over what military costs should be shared and what costs should be carried by the individual member states. The newspaper recalls that ESDP is still plagued by serious shortfalls in capabilities, such as strategic airlift, logistics and command and control, while finance ministries are holding back on raising defense spending for most of the 15 member states. Defense experts admit that since these shortfalls will not be met by next year, they are preparing contingency plans, says the newspaper, adding that these would include leasing Russian long-haul air transportation, a proposal raised during this week’s EU-Russia summit in Moscow. "It could be Russia’s ticket into ESDP," the newspaper quotes one unidentified diplomat saying. The article adds that on the financing, the Benelux countries, France, Italy and Greece want a great emphasis on "common costs," partly for ideological reasons. Their argument is that if ESDP is going to be a common venture there should be maximum solidarity over expenditure. Germany, the neutral countries and Britain, in contrast, support the principle of costs lie where they fall, a system similar to NATO. They reportedly recognize, however, that some costs have to be common, such as administrative and infrastructure expenditure once an operation gets under way. According to the article, these could include the barracks, transport, interpreters and backup for the military headquarters and even the EU insignia on soldiers’ uniforms.


  • President Chirac has taken the first step to ensure France gives a significant boost to its defense spending after a steady decline over the previous seven years, writes the Financial Times. According to the article, Chirac has called for a complete reappraisal of the 2003-2008 spending program that was drawn-up by the previous Socialist Jospin government, but not approved by parliament before its dissolution. Chirac reportedly justified the decision, approved at a special meeting of the Defense Council Friday, in a communiqu citing the changing nature of "external threats posed to France’s security" and the lessons learned from the battle against terrorism. According to the newspaper, the overall aim is to bring the French military up to the operational level of Britain in the context of France’s commitment to be at the core of the EU’s planned new 60,000-strong rapid reaction force. The newspaper stresses that even if the rightwing parties backing Chirac fail to gain control of parliament in this month’s general elections, the next government will find it difficult to avoid an increase in defense outlays as a result of this fresh spending plan.



  • According to AFP, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced Friday that The Netherlands will take command of NATO’s Amber Fox mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from June 26. "The soldiers will leave the Netherlands on June 12 to fulfill this mission, which is scheduled to last for another four months," a Defense ministry spokesman reportedly said. The dispatch adds that on Friday, The Hague received an official request from NATO Secretary General Robertson to take command of the mission.


  • The Guardian, June 1, reported that the Yugoslav parliament Friday voted to abolish the Balkan federation and replace it with a looser union between its last remaining members, Serbia and Montenegro. The new state is due to be formed by the end of the year, adds the article, noting that the move clears the way for experts to flesh out a constitution from a blueprint pushed through by the EU in March. The article recalled that the West is keen to head off a Montenegrin drive for independence, which it fears would destabilize the region.




  • The Washington Post reports that in a speech at a graduation ceremony at the United States Military Academy Saturday, President Bush said the United States could no longer deter attacks from other countries by threatening massive retaliation, but instead must strike looming enemies first. Bush’s remarks generated reactions in the European media. Under the title, "Bush sets out case for U.S. first strike," The Guardian stresses that in his first major speech since returning from Europe, Bush shrugged off his allies’ concerns, his generals’ caution and the threat of conflagrations in to the Middle East and south Asia to make a powerful case for U.S. first strikes. Though the word Iraq was never used, the coding was not deep and Bush made his clearest move yet into a position where inaction may be electorally untenable, stresses the newspaper. In what it sees as an "historic shift in American policy," The Daily Telegraph observes that Bush came close to burying two of the key security pillars of the Cold War, when America ensured its security by deterring foes with the threat of massive retaliation and containing them with sanctions and treaties. According to the newspaper, the speech clearly exposed the gulf in thinking between Washington and its allies in Europe, where leaders continue to push for diplomatic solutions to such crises as Iraq’s suspected nuclear-chemical and biological programs. Sueddeutsche Zeitung opines that Bush’s logic seems attractively plain, but also terribly simple, because fine details such as international law and the rights of sovereign states are ignored. "The new policy raises more questions than it answers. When is a preventive strike justified? Who is threatened by such a strike—anyone or only an expanded axis of evil? And especially, who has a right to do this—every country which feels threatened, or only the United States?," asks the newspaper.



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