10 October 2003
NATO Defense Meetings Show Progress of Military Transformation
Burns says Russia is clearly a partner of NATO
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent
Colorado Springs, Colorado -- At the conclusion of an intense
round of meetings that were part of the informal NATO defense ministerial
meeting in Colorado Springs, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns
said the United States expressed its support for the alliance's
decision in principle to extend International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF) activities to regions outside of Kabul.
Speaking to reporters at an October 9 press conference, Burns
said the broader peacekeeping responsibilities for the ISAF in
Afghanistan, which would include having German forces move into
the northern city of Kunduz, would help to support the Karzai government.
The ISAF mission in Afghanistan is currently being led by NATO.
Burns also said the October 8-9 meetings revealed significant
support by allies for ongoing peacekeeping missions in Iraq. The
United States is very pleased, for example, by the Turkish government's
decision to deploy military forces to Iraq, Burns said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who hosted the ministerial,
came away from the session with the sense that "NATO has been transformed
militarily," Burns said. Burns noted that it was Rumsfeld who only
a year ago proposed a far-reaching transformation agenda that included
forming a NATO Response Force (NRF). Now, there are significant
accomplishments to point to, including a new allied command structure
as well as the new Allied Command Transformation (ACT) located
in Norfolk, Virginia, under the leadership of Navy Admiral Edmund
Giambastiani. And lastly, there is the planned activation of the
lead element of the NRF in the Netherlands on October 15.
As outgoing NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson put it in his
concluding press conference: "Transformation is now truly the central
pillar of NATO's future effectiveness."
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, at his October 9 press
conference, expressed gratitude to Rumsfeld for inviting him to
visit the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) headquarters
in Colorado Springs. Ivanov said that Russia and NATO face similar
problems ranging from countering the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction to military reform to becoming more agile and
responsive to modern threats. He also said that Russia is looking
at the subject of theater missile defense with the United States
and, separately, with NATO.
Burns said Russia made clear in the meetings that it wants to
have "a very close relationship with NATO." He also said that Ivanov
described press reporting on Russian nuclear ambitions as "erroneous." The
ambassador said he heard no negative intentions expressed at all
by Ivanov, and that both the tone and substance of the discussions
One of the main challenges facing the ministers at the conclusion
of their Colorado Springs meeting is how to pursue a cooperative,
not competitive, relationship between NATO and the European Union
(EU). A senior U.S. administration official said that of the 25
countries attending an EU conference in Rome in September, 21 said
they wanted to maintain the NATO-EU relationship and not create
separate defense capabilities. "The great majority of them want
a continuing vibrant relationship with the United States based
in NATO," he said.
Additionally, Robertson said that following the Colorado Springs
meeting, NATO faces "a new comprehensive program of work that will
include an end-to-end review of decisionmaking, an overhaul of
our force generation process and a range of new output measures
to increase usability across the board."
This is an alliance, Robertson added, that is tasked with "ensuring
stability and safety from the Straits of Gibraltar through the
Balkans to Afghanistan." And, he said, NATO does its job well. "Just
ask those who benefit from the NATO patrol in the Mediterranean,
ask the people of Bosnia and Kosovo who are at last able to live
Attendees at the Colorado Springs meeting included ministers from
NATO's 19 members: Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the
Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United
Kingdom and the United States. Also present were representatives
of the seven nations that have been invited to join NATO in the
spring -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia,
and Slovenia -- and Russia, a NATO partner.