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NATO Plans Summit in Late 2006 on Upgrading Forces

03 November 2005

State Department, Pentagon stress common values, partnership with Europe

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- With European troops playing an ever-growing role in regional crises – from Pakistan earthquake relief to supporting the African Union in Darfur – NATO is planning a summit in 2006 to focus on improving the alliance’s military abilities.

U.S. officials have said they would welcome any moves to bolster Europe’s military capabilities. In recent public meetings in Washington, officials from the Pentagon and the State Department also emphasized the shared values and common culture of the United States and its longtime allies in Europe.

“Any effort which results in more – and more relevant – capabilities for our European allies is a net benefit,” Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said November 2 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

In particular, European forces need to focus on “expeditionary” and “deployable” capabilities that would allow them to react more swiftly, he said.

“We absolutely need capable allies,” Giambastiani said. “We share the greatest congruence of interests and values with NATO allies. Building their capacity and capability will result in more effective partners.”

Before becoming the United States’ second-ranking military officer in August, Giambastiani was NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation -- in charge of helping NATO reshape its forces for 21st century operations.

NATO’S SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS ORGANIZATION “ON TRACK”

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said November 3 in Vienna, Austria, that the modernization of alliance structures and capabilities “is well on track. But the NATO allies all realize that there is still important work to do in this area, and we have planned a NATO Summit meeting late next year to serve as a focal point for those efforts.”

De Hoop Scheffer discussed NATO’s military operations and capabilities during a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna.

“NATO has moved from a rather static approach to security that was suitable in the past to a much more active and functional approach,” he said.

Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the CSIS October 25 that the United States and Europe are moving beyond their “brittle and emotional debate over the Iraq war” and are increasingly working together “to make the world a better and a safer place.”

However, Fried said, the alliance’s military force structure still does not reflect the diversity of today’s missions, which can take place thousands of miles from the alliance’s traditional center of gravity in Western Europe.

“NATO needs more expeditionary capability,” he said. “It doesn't need a lot of heavy tank battalions that can’t operate where they may be needed to operate. It needs expeditionary forces. It needs more air transport, it needs more helicopters, and it needs this at a time when defense budgets are pretty flat in most countries.”

“It is possible through military reform to get more of the expeditionary capability without massive or really any increases [in defense spending], but it takes a while and it takes a lot of will,” Fried said.

In his remarks in Vienna, de Hoop Scheffer noted that following missions in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, the 26-nation military alliance has taken part in a growing number of operations.

He cited NATO’s maritime counterterrorist operation in the Mediterranean; its command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; the launching of a mission to train and equip Iraqi security forces; and NATO’s assistance to the African Union with its peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

NATO allies also have responded to a number of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the recent earthquake in Pakistan, which, de Hoop Scheffer said, “has led to the largest relief operation that NATO has ever undertaken.” (See related article.)

The alliance has “made good progress in modernizing our forces, making them more agile and usable for the different types of operations,” he said. The alliance has also streamlined its bureaucracy and established the NATO Response Force, which is currently leading the alliance’s emergency effort in Pakistan.

A transcript of Fried’s remarks is available on the State Department’s Web page.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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