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Cohen Calls on Europeans to Adapt NATO for New Century

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MUNICH, Feb. 8, 1999 – NATO must be more mobile and better able to sustain and protect its armed forces to meet future challenges, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told European security specialists here.

Cohen addressed nearly 250 participants and observers at the 35th annual Munich Conference on Security Policy Feb. 6.

"We have yet to fully adjust to the world in which we live," he said. "We have to see it not as it once was, but truly as it is, and to imagine how it may be and try to shape it in ways that are advantageous to our interests."

Since the conferees met last year, Cohen pointed out, events clearly demonstrated the world's new challenges. Serb forces unleashed terror in Kosovo, prompting NATO preparations for air strikes. India and Pakistan exploded nuclear weapons. Terrorists bombed U.S. embassies in Africa, and in response, the United States attacked terrorist camps in the Middle East. North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan into the Pacific.

"The future is rushing at us with astonishing speed, Cohen said. "We close our eyes to the present at our peril." The secretary outlined his thoughts on how NATO must adapt for the 21st century and how members have the chance now to forge an even stronger alliance for the next 50 years.

NATO must adopt a new strategic concept reaffirming collective defense of its members as its central mission, he said. This founding document also must reaffirm that the alliance will always act on consensus and in the spirit of the principles of the United Nations, he added.

Facing today's and tomorrow's challenges, Cohen said, NATO must prepare its forces to endure the stresses of operations such as those in Bosnia, which had no pre-existing communications, logistics, headquarters or other infrastructure. The alliance must transform its defensive capabilities, he said, adopting a common operational vision based on four core capabilities.

"We must be mobile enough to project our forces rapidly. We must effectively engage by delivering the right response, be it humanitarian or combat, when and where it is needed, in the right amount in the right place at the right time," Cohen said.

"We have to increase our sustainability by supporting our forces with more tailored and efficient logistics systems," he continued. "And we have to enhance the survivability of our forces by protecting them from terrorist, chemical, biological and even cyber attacks."

All NATO nations are taking steps to combat these types of threats, but more can be done to "halt the hopes of those who would show us fear in a handful of dust," Cohen said, paraphrasing a quote by the American poet W.H. Auden. To further this end, the secretary added, the United States has proposed setting up a clearing house to share information and improve programs to protect service members and civilians from weapons of mass destruction.

Fighting terrorism requires greater intelligence, Cohen said. NATO allies need to gather more information and share it to defeat those who would cause great casualties, he said.

"It is my firm belief that the best hope for protecting ourselves against those who would unleash weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological or chemical, is to reserve the right to respond to such attacks with any means at our disposal," Cohen said. "Any question about that policy undermines our deterrent capability. I think we have to make that very clear to all who would contemplate unleashing any sort of a weapon of mass destruction on the alliance."

NATO nations must commit the funds to prepare for tomorrow's missions, Cohen told the international defense officials. "Last year at this conference, I noticed a growing gap between allied and U.S. spending on research, development and procurement."

It may not be possible for all alliance members to seek significant defense increases, Cohen said, but U.S. officials believe that, at a minimum, defense budgets cannot be reduced any further. "The difficulties and the dangers of the world surely do not permit it," he said.

This year's U.S. defense budget, the secretary noted, includes $112 billion in additional defense resources over the next six years, the largest sustained increase in defense spending in 15 years. To ensure tomorrow's readiness, the budget includes $53 billion for this year's procurement needs, he added. It will climb to $60 billion in 2001 and higher thereafter.

"These new resources are going to keep us on a path to make sure we have the forces who are equipped with the ships, aircraft and weapons they need to carry out this revolution in operational concepts that is going to change the way we fight," Cohen said. "We are going to continue funding the research, development and deployment of air and missile defenses designed to protect U.S. forces overseas as well as our friends and our allies."

Cohen noted the success of the Partnership for Peace and NATO intent to strengthen the program. NATO must forge even stronger partnerships with other European nations if it is to prepare for the dangers and changes of the next century, he said. The alliance plans to improve partners' military education through a consortium of defense academies, to use a computer simulation network to enhance training exercises, and to share expertise at special training centers in partner nations.

On a final note, Cohen stressed the importance of U.S.-NATO relations with Russia and Ukraine. "We intend to continue to work with both Russia and Ukraine, understanding there can be no stability throughout the continent without a stable Russia and a stable, prosperous Ukraine," he said.

The secretary is on an eight-day trip to Europe and Africa that ends Feb. 12.

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