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UK's Robertson Named New NATO Secretary-General

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 1999 – British defense leader George Robertson will succeed Spain's Javier Solana as NATO secretary-general and chairman of the North Atlantic Council, alliance officials announced Aug. 4 in Brussels, Belgium.

Solana, secretary-general since December 1995, is leaving NATO this fall to become the European Union's high representative for foreign and security policy.

Robertson was appointed the United Kingdom's secretary of state for defense in May 1997. Born in 1946 in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland, he has served in numerous elected positions within the British government. NATO officials said the alliance has not yet determined when he will assume the NATO position.

In a statement released at NATO's Brussels headquarters, Solana said he warmly welcomed the allies' decision to appoint Robertson. He said he looks forward to working with Robertson to build a stronger European role in NATO.

"I have worked closely with him over the last two years and have valued his support and advice on all the key issues facing the alliance," Solana said. "During the Kosovo crisis, he showed firm and principled leadership. I believe he has all the qualities to become an outstanding secretary-general of this alliance."

As chairman of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest decision-making body, Robertson will help formulate policy. Since NATO acts on consensus, it will be his job to help the 19 allies find common ground. He will serve as NATO's main spokesman and may be entrusted by members to negotiate with third parties on the council's behalf.

During a March speech at the Royal United Services Institute in the United Kingdom, Robertson talked about the future of the security alliance founded in the wake of World War II. He said collective defense remains the alliance "linchpin," but NATO's fundamental tasks now extend beyond the mutual security pledge.

"Today, the breadth of missions that NATO might undertake or support is staggering," he said. New missions such as peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo require the same high- capability forces essential for collective defense, he said. Robertson called on NATO members to ensure their forces are deployable, flexible, sustainable, mobile, interoperable and survivable.

He also called on NATO's European members to strengthen their military capabilities and to make a better contribution to NATO. "If we are to fulfill our ambitions for a strong Europe in a strengthened NATO, then constructing a European pillar and reinvigorating the trans-Atlantic partnership is the very fiber of our alliance."

The United States has always been a major presence in NATO. At present, about 6,000 American service members are part of alliance stabilization forces in Bosnia and another 7,000 support NATO peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. The United States contributed more than half the aircraft involved in NATO Operation Allied Force, the 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia.

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