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Updated: 26-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

26 March 2004

  • U.S. plans for smaller, agile force in Europe


  • EU raps Kosovo Albanian leadership over clashes


  • Portugal to ask NATO for air surveillance at Euro 2004
  • Russian minister warns NATO on military doctrine
  • Bulgaria approves new defense strategy
  • Belgian fighters to patrol Baltic air space


  • Retired brass urge delay in U.S. antimissile shield


  • The commander of U.S. troops in Europe outlined plans for a reduced, more mobile force working from smaller bases that could dart in and out of hot spots and stabilize areas from eastern Europe to Africa. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, head of the U.S. European Command, said the Pentagon was nearing final decisions on realigning operations in Europe and he expected to be ready to consult with allies on the plan in two to three months. Gen. Jones, who is also Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe, told a House Appropriations subcommittee in Washington that the number of U.S. troops to be withdrawn from the region was still under discussion. The changes in Europe will “make our forces more strategically usable and more effective both toward the greater Middle East ... and in my area which is emerging threats and conditions in Africa and the security of the Mediterranean,” the general added. He declined to comment on a report in The Washington Post that up to half of the 71,000 troops based in Germany could be withdrawn. Gen. Jones said the plan was “specifically designed to be non-threatening to countries such as Russia.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the report and others on troop withdrawals speculation. (Reuters 252051 GMT Mar 04)


  • The EU rapped Kosovo’s Albanian leadership on Thursday over anti-Serb violence that rocked the UN protectorate last week. “The European Council called on all leaders, especially the Kosovo Albanian leadership, to take responsibility for the situation and to ensure such acts and threats of violence are not repeated,” said a draft statement by the bloc’s leaders. The EU statement, to be issued on the second day of a summit in Brussels on Friday, condemned attacks on NATO and UN personnel and said those responsible for violence must be brought to justice. The statement called on Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to demonstrate a commitment to multi-ethnicity. (Reuters 260143 GMT Mar 04)


  • Portugal will ask NATO for AWACS planes to boost security at soccer’s European championship finals, Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said on Thursday in Lisbon. The requested Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft would be used to monitor any suspect air traffic during the Euro 2004 tournament from June 12 to July 4 and the Rock in Rio music festival in Lisbon on May 29-30 and June 4-6. (Reuters 251405 GMT Mar 04)

  • Russia may revise its NATO-friendly military stance if the U.S.-led alliance does not drop its “offensive military doctrine,” the Russian defence minister said in an article published on Thursday. Sergei Ivanov, writing in the magazine “Russia in Global Affairs”, charged NATO with failing to evolve fully into a political organisation, and said Moscow wanted NATO military plans to be purged of anti-Russian features and alliance members to stop making anti-Russian remarks. “If NATO remains a military alliance with its current offensive military doctrine, Russian military planning and principles of developing the armed forces, including its nuclear component, will be revised,” Mr. Ivanov wrote. (Reuters 251543 GMT Mar 04)

  • Bulgaria perceives terrorism and illegal arms of mass destruction as a main threat to its security, according to a defense policy document approved by parliament in Sofia. The document says Bulgaria faces no conventional military conflict that could threaten its territorial integrity within the next decade. Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said the document stresses also the need to rearm Bulgaria’s army with western types of weapons by 2015. Also on Thursday, the government approved US $46 million in spending meant to cover immediate costs of Bulgaria’s accession to NATO. (AP 251618 Mar 04)

  • NATO newcomer Latvia said that Belgian fighters would start patrolling Baltic air space once the region joins NATO next week. A Latvian Defence Ministry spokesman said Belgium had agreed to provide at least four fighter jets to a Lithuanian air base, which would patrol the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian air space from March 29, when the Baltic trio joins the defence alliance. Norwegian ground personnel will arrive at the Silauliai air base on Friday to prepare for operations, he added. (Reuters 251331 GMT Mar 04)


  • A group of 49 retired U.S. generals and admirals is urging President Bush to postpone the scheduled deployment this year of a multibillion dollar missile shield and spend the money instead on securing potential terror targets. In a letter to be released at a news conference on Friday, the officers, including retired Admiral William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1985 to 1989, described the complex technology as untested and a poor use of scarce defense dollars. “As you have said, Mr. President, our highest priority is to prevent terrorists from acquiring and employing weapons of mass destruction,” said the letter. As the “militarily responsible course of action,” the signers urged funds earmarked for missile defense go instead to bolster nuclear weapons depots and protect U.S. ports and borders against terrorists. (Reuters 260254 GMT Mar 04)


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