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Updated: 31-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

31 March 2004

  • Donor nations meet in Berlin to seek to help on stabilizing Afghanistan


  • Bulgarian CHOD on country’s participation in NATO Air Defense System
  • Russian admiral: Baltic states’ NATO accession “militarily insignificant”


  • Washington seeks NATO-Mideast cooperation


  • Defense Minister Struck outlines ambitious military procurement plans


  • AP reports a donors’ conference aimed at smoothing Afghanistan’s transition to post-Taliban democracy opened Wednesday with appeals for the world to make boosting security in the nation a priority. According to the dispatch, UN Secretary General Annan told the gathering that “security remains one of the most important contributions—if not the most important—that the international community can make.” Earlier AFP reported that Mark Malloch Brown, the administrator of the UN Development Program (UNDP), urged NATO Tuesday to fulfill as soon as possible a pledge to expand peacekeeping forces into Afghanistan’s provinces so elections can be held there later this year. “Security has been so much a part of the difficulty of pulling off these elections. Sufficient deployment to ensure law and order across the country is critical,” he reportedly said in an interview.

“NATO hailed (its takeover of ISAF) as a historic moment. It was the Alliance’s first test in operating ‘out of area’ from its traditional European base. It undertook to help President Karzai’s government extend its power outside Kabul and assist with preparing the elections planned for this summer. But despite public pledges to provide ISAF with urgently needed capabilities such as helicopters and communications, member states have failed to deliver,” writes the Financial Times. The newspaper, which quotes one unnamed senior NATO military officer noting that “rhetoric has been loud but delivery has been poor,” claims that since December, promises made by Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey to provide helicopters were either delayed or not met amid concern over costs. The newspaper quotes Gen. Jones saying, however: “We keep asking the Alliance countries to deliver what they have promised. We are not setting unrealistic expectations. Everything we ask for is needed.” Diplomats now admit it will be difficult for NATO to create and command five new PRTs, the article adds. But it notes, “Gen. Jones says he still hopes NATO will be running five by June in the north and north-east of the country.”


  • Sofia’s BTA, March 30 quoted Chief of the Bulgarian General Staff Gen. Kolev announcing that as of 1400 hrs. GMT on March 29, the Bulgarian armed forces are assuming their allied obligations through the Air Defense System. According to the dispatch, Gen. Kolev said he had signed a document delegating powers to SACEUR for direction and assignment of missions to a portion of Bulgaria’s Air Defense personnel.

  • Baltic Fleet Commander Adm. Valuyev said Tuesday the Baltic states’ accession to NATO was more of a political and demonstrative nature and did not have any serious military significance,” reported Moscow’s Itar-TASS, March 30. According to the admiral, the dispatch added, “four Belgian F-16 aircraft, which are part of the NATO stand-by forces and which will patrol the Baltic skies, do not pose any threat to the military grouping in Russia’s most westernmost region.” However, the fact that “airborne, naval and land subunits may be deployed on a permanent basis, as the next step, evokes anxiety.” In a related report, Interfax, March 30, quoted Adm. Valuyev saying: “Such rapid location in Lithuania of an air force patrol unit, which is absolutely unfounded from the military viewpoint, has not come as a surprise to (Russia). However, the patrolling of the Baltic states’ borders by air, first by Belgian and next by Norwegian and British pilots, forces the Russian Federation to reinforce various combat duty forces.” The report suggested that the fleet’s air service and air defenses, which have been monitoring NATO reconnaissance flights off the coast of the Kaliningrad region, would be the first to be reinforced.


  • According to AFP, a senior U.S. official said in Washington Tuesday the United States is looking to extend to Middle Eastern countries the same kind of cooperation established between NATO and the former Soviet bloc nations under the PFP program. The idea is one of several U.S. projects for democratic and social reform in the Arab-Moslem world, Robert Bradke, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe, reportedly said. Tools used in PFP could be used to show “what we can do on areas like counterterrorism and enhancing interoperability,” he suggested. According to the dispatch, he said such a move would help Middle Eastern countries reinforce their ties with NATO with a view to peacekeeping operations or joint military exercises, or to obtain NATO support for defense reform and planning. Washington also wanted to boost the Mediterranean Dialogue “and try to invigorate that,” he stressed.

A commentary in French daily Le Monde, March 28, urged Europe to take the “Greater Middle East Initiative” seriously.
The Greater Middle East Initiative is not a ruse devised to divert attention away from the difficulties being encountered in the democratic reconstruction of Iraq, which remains one of the cornerstones of the projects, the article said, adding: “Its inspiration is older, and it is not exclusive to the neoconservatives of the Bush administration. Even Bill Clinton made speeches about the need to democratize the Middle East, tough he was more moderate and less commanding than his successor at the White House. Democrats and Republicans readily agree that the greatest mistake in U.S. foreign policy following the first Gulf war was to accept the restoration of the status quo in the region, in the name of stability and the Alliances with the autocratic Arab regimes. They regard this as one of the main causes of terrorism, together with … the inability to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But are these two things not connected? Both parties, with differences regarding means of implementation, regard the transformation of the Middle East as a major objective for the coming years…. The next U.S. president will have the Iraqi problem to deal with, and will indeed be obliged to pay attention to the future of the region. The most enthusiastic, including Democrats, believe that the “Greater Middle East Initiative” is an ambition that can strengthen transatlantic ties again. So it would be wrong for Europe to regard it as a pie in the sky.”


  • Deutsche Welle reported that in Berlin Tuesday, Defense Minister Struck stressed Germany would honor its commitment to purchase 180 Eurofighter aircraft, ending speculation it might renege on its order due to budgetary constraints. The program said that under the catchphrase “Bundeswehr in Transformation,” Struck is currently engineering the biggest overhaul of the German armed forces in their 55 years history. “Struck aims to radically change the face of the monolithic Cold War standing army in an effort to get in shape for Germany’s new security challenges such as anti-terror operations, conflict prevention and nation building,” the program added, further quoting Struck saying: “The Bundeswehr is on the right path to reach three essential goals: First of all, we will create modern structures in the military. Secondly, we will make contributions to the overall transformation of NATO and the European defense effort, and thirdly, we will provide planning security for Germany’s arms industry and for all of our Bundeswehr staff.”


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