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Rumsfeld on NATO: 'Everyone Does Not Have to Do Everything'

By John Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

NICE, France, Feb. 10, 2005 – The breadth of contributions NATO's 26 members make to the alliance's various military operations benefits the member nations and means "everyone does not have to do everything," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Rumsfeld met with reporters during the second day of informal meetings among NATO defense ministers.

The secretary noted that various NATO nations are participating in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. "The advantages are several," he said. "First, from a stress standpoint, just having that kind of broader capability and capacity is a very helpful thing from the standpoint of those countries. Second, the breadth of involvement on the part of NATO countries in these kinds of activities puts a lot of countries with a stake in the success of those countries, and that's a good thing.

"Everyone does not have to do everything," he said, "and indeed it's unlikely that everyone will do everything."

Rumsfeld used NATO's training and equipping mission in Iraq as an example, noting that some NATO countries train Iraqi forces in Iraq, some train Iraqi forces outside Iraq, some provide equipment, and some contribute money to the trust funds associated with the effort in Iraq.

National caveats - restrictions some countries place on their forces that hinder multinational operations - were a major agenda item during the ministerial meetings. "What we're trying to do in NATO is to have countries' parliaments develop a comfort level, an understanding, that to the extent we're going to operate together, it's much better if there are very few restrictions or very few differences in the rules of engagement," he said.

The secretary acknowledged that it's not a simple matter, as the need in some cases for parliamentary approval and various political factors mean it will take time to ease such restrictions. "But the tension is that to the extent they're not worked out," he added, "it can be a bit more dangerous and a bit more difficult on the ground in whatever country might be involved."

NATO's transformation, another major topic of the meetings, must continue, Rumsfeld said. "As the world changes, so must NATO," he asserted. "Those of us who strongly support this alliance recognize the need for it to continue to transform itself to meet the 21st century challenges and threats," the secretary said. "This includes making NATO forces more capable, more usable (and) more deployable. It also entails organizational reforms to streamline the NATO bureaucracy and get it better arranged for the 21st century. And I'm confident that as these things take place, they will be important in making sure that NATO remains probably the most successful military alliance in world history."

Rumsfeld said NATO doesn't always act quickly, given that so many nations and the alliance now has 26 members must agree on courses of action.

"NATO may not instantaneously do the right thing," he said, "but NATO does, over time, find its way to the right decision."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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