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NATO's Robertson: Allies Must Spend More for Capabilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Dec. 2, 1999 – "The time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace in Europe or elsewhere," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said Dec. 2 at the conclusion of the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting here.

Robertson said the alliance is starting to institute the Defense Capabilities Initiative signed at NATO's Washington summit in April. This was Robertson's first defense ministers meeting as secretary-general.

"The success of this initiative will be crucial if the allies -- particularly the European allies -- are to be able to carry out all of NATO's missions," he said. "If NATO is to do its job of protecting future generations we can no longer expect to have security on the cheap."

Robertson said the alliance is stronger than ever, but has shortcomings that need to be addressed. "We need troops who are trained, equipped and ready for actual use, and not just forces that exist on paper alone," he said. He detailed how the European allies have 2 million soldiers on active duty and yet had trouble putting together the 40,000 soldiers needed for Kosovo.

He said NATO needs troops that are mobile, sustainable and survivable and backed by the best command, control and intelligence facilities.

He said the initiative would cost the allies more money and require a change in spending habits. He said the allies must "spend smarter and to spend it on the right things. Money is important, but what it buys is also important."

He said he is encouraged by the willingness of NATO allies to share assets -- especially transport and logistics. The allies are also putting more emphasis on multinational formations such as multinational headquarters.

"We're starting to move in the right direction," he said. "Defense ministers are preparing NATO for the challenges of the next century." Robertson said he will push to ensure NATO plans fully incorporate the Defense Capabilities Initiative and that allied governments fully fund them.

He said the ministers also discussed the progress of the European Security and Defense Identity sponsored by the European Union. Robertson said more will be known following the EU meeting in Helsinki, Finland, later this month.

The secretary-general said he is particularly pleased with the proposed European Rapid Reaction Force. The force would have 40,000 to 50,000 troops available within 60 days. Some critics maintain the force would allow Europe to perform missions without the United States and ultimately divide NATO.

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