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NATO Has Weathered the Storm, Robertson Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 12, 2003 – After a tough "spring storm," NATO is "stronger and more united", NATO Secretary General George Robertson said today.

Robertson spoke following the NATO defense ministerial. He said the alliance is looking ahead to new prospects and challenges.

Robertson said the defense ministers joined for the first time by the seven new invitees discussed issues ranging from the Balkans to Iraq.

He said the health of the alliance is not in question. "The substance of our meetings also confirms that the transatlantic alliance has weathered its spring storm and emerged stronger and more united than before," Robertson said.

In February, disagreements over Iraq, along with Turkey's request for assistance to defend itself from possible Iraqi attack, seemed to suggest the alliance was on its last legs. "NATO's decision to assist Turkey, to take over the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, and to help Poland in Iraq could not have been made by disunited alliance," he said. "It was made by a transformed NATO able to meet today's threats wherever they may come."

The ministers adopted a new more flexible command structure that establishes a functional command aimed at NATO transformation. The ministers also discussed the new NATO Reaction Force and moved the date for some early operational capability to fall 2003.

Robertson also said the ministers discussed the progress being made in building new capabilities. Fifteen nations signed on to a memorandum to lease strategic airlift and sealift. The ministers also discussed specific targets for buying new communications assets, precision-guided munitions and air tanking capabilities.

The seven invitees are Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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