Rumsfeld Arrives in Berlin to Thank, Meet With NATO Allies
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BERLIN, Sept. 13, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived here today to thank NATO allies for their humanitarian contributions to the stricken U.S. Gulf Coast region and to meet with other defense ministers on issues concerning the future of the alliance.
The North Atlantic Council has approved a plan for NATO planes to transport humanitarian-relief supplies from NATO countries to the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a senior official traveling with Rumsfeld explained.
"The NATO countries, indeed countries around the world, have just been wonderfully forthcoming," Rumsfeld said aboard his plane traveling to Germany. He added that 118 countries have provided supplies or support.
During meetings here today and tomorrow, NATO defense ministers will continue work on issues raised during a formal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Belgium, in June.
Discussions at today's informal meetings will focus on keeping NATO transformation efforts moving forward. Decisions aren't made at such informal meetings, the official explained. Rather, they are intended to "'tee up' issues."
"The idea is ... to get some sort of real work done without the formal 'baroque ballroom dancing' of the more formal interactions," he said.
Issues discussed today will center around the NATO Response Force, which is designed to be the alliance's quick-reaction force to project power outside Europe. When the force is fully operationally capable, scheduled for October 2006, it should be able to respond anywhere in the world within five days.
The United States proposed such a force during a 2002 summit in Prague, capital city in the Czech Republic. The organization is scheduled to be fully operational by October 2006.
A live exercise in Cape Verde in June 2006 will provide valuable "lessons learned" to further shape the force, officials said.
"Its important for the NRF to do this for it to succeed, for us to learn lessons and to plow those lessons back into the process," the defense official said.
"It's kind of like a shark," he said. "It has to keep on swimming and making forward progress."
Rumsfeld called the NATO Response Force the "principal mechanism that will be leading the transformation of national militaries." As countries need to implement advancements for the forces they provide for the NRF, NATO officials hope those advancements will then migrate to those countries' complete forces.
Rumsfeld made a brief refueling stop in London en route to Berlin and arrived here early this afternoon.
Other topics of discussions over the two days of meetings are likely to include expanding the presence of the NATO International Security Assistance Force into the east and south of Afghanistan and the progress of NATO forces training Iraqi security forces.