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09 January 2003

Burns: NATO Strengthening Ability to Maintain European Security

(Cites expansion, rapid response force, new relationship with Russia)
(630)

Washington -- The addition of seven new nations to NATO, new relations
with Russia and closer ties with ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia
and the Caucasus, and new and expanded military innovations are all
part of NATO's objectives as it remakes itself for the 21st century,
says Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

These innovations are critical to NATO's role as the single,
integrated institution for the security of Europe and North America,
Burns said January 9 during a lecture at Johns Hopkins University's
School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Burns is the
U.S. permanent representative to the Council of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO).

The continuing role of NATO is to maintain peace and stability, and to
restore peace when conditions warrant, as they have in the Balkans, he
said. NATO currently has 40,000 troops in the Balkans performing three
different peacekeeping missions, he said.

In addition, Burns said that having U.S. troops stationed in Europe is
no longer in question as it had been several decades ago in
Washington. "There is a consensus in this country and in our
government that the United States must be physically present in Europe
through our troops and certainly through our NATO alliance to be part
of the equation to keep peace in Europe," he said.

At the November Prague Summit, NATO agreed to expand its membership by
inviting seven former Warsaw Pact members -- Bulgaria, Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- to join the
Alliance. It will bring NATO membership to 26 nations and will be the
deepest penetration by NATO so far into eastern Europe, representing
"a dramatic change in the European landscape," Burns said.

Burns said these nations face an 18-month transition period before
becoming full members. He said the U.S. Senate is expected to receive
the amended NATO Treaty in April for consideration and approval, which
is an important step in the new member approval process.

To illustrate the readiness and willingness of the new members, he
cited the case of Romania, which airlifted a combat battalion into
Afghanistan that participated directly in combat operations, a feat
which some current members of NATO are not physically able to do
without assistance from others.

Other measures adopted at the NATO Prague Summit included developing a
lighter and more flexible 20,000-strong rapid response force that can
swing into action within 7-to-20 days, Burns said. This measure is
designed to better prepare NATO to respond quickly against threats
wherever they emerge, a sharp break with the traditional strategy, he
said. The force -- involving land, sea and air units from Europe and
North America, including some U.S. troops -- is expected to become
operational in 2004.

Burns said this is especially important because of the global threat
of terrorism and the fact that the vast majority of NATO's threats
will come from outside Europe, a change from an inward focus by NATO
military planners to an outward focus in strategic thinking.

Another measure calls for the European allies to begin spending more
on defense and defense technology to make NATO more capable. Finally,
NATO agreed to overhaul its command structure radically to function in
the 21st century threat environment, he said.

Burns said a final component in the rebuilding process is the growing
NATO relationship with Russia and many of the east European nations.
He said the alliance formed the NATO-Russia Council, and Russian
representatives meet with the NATO nations every day in Brussels in 20
different committees. Burns said new relationships with Russia, the
Ukraine, the states of Central Asia and the Caucasus are critical to a
stable security environment in Europe.

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)