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U.S. Officials, NATO Look at Alliance Enlargement

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2002 – The theme for NATO's November summit in Prague, Czech Republic, will be "new capabilities, new members and new relationships," said Ian Brzezinski, deputy assistant defense secretary for NATO and European Affairs.

Brzezinski and U.S. European Command chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston testified June 19 before the House International Relations Committee.

Brzezinski said NATO will consider admitting new nations into the North Atlantic Alliance at the Prague summit. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania have applied for membership.

NATO enlargement is in America's interests, he said. No nation would be invited to join, he continued, that doesn't provide new capabilities to the group.

"Enlargement reinforces NATO's capabilities by introducing into its ranks allies committed to contributing to the full spectrum of alliance missions and responsibilities," Brzezinski said to the representatives.

On a broader level, he said, NATO enlargement would help Europe become more effective in dealing with new global challenges.

"Enlargement works to eliminate the still-existing and destabilizing residues of the Cold War," he said. Brzezinski emphasized that a European continent not worried about the remains of the Cold War would be able "to direct its attention and military assets to the new and urgent challenges of the post-9/11 era."

NATO recognizes the need for change. Alliance Secretary- General Lord George Robertson told the American Enterprise Institute June 20 that "terrorism has mutated from being a nation-specific problem of law enforcement into a lethal threat to national security and to international stability.

Terrorists are willing to kill indiscriminately, and that fact has transformed terrorism into the greatest security challenge, Robertson said.

"Al Qaeda planned to kill thousands of people on September the 11th by turning airliners into deadly missiles," he said. "There can be no doubt that if they gain access to other, even more potent weapons of mass destruction, then they will use them without a second thought."

The alliance needs capabilities to combat these threats and to ensure stability in Europe, Ralston told the House committee.

"NATO remains a vibrant, strategically relevant alliance, playing an exceptionally important role in maintaining greater European regional stability and security while also making vital contributions to the global war on terrorism," he said.

Since Sept. 11, the alliance has proven its worth and flexibility, Ralston remarked. It invoked Article V of the North Atlantic Charter on Sept. 12 and offered equipment, personnel, intelligence and other resources to the United States, he added.

"Several NATO allies, as well as other nations within our area of responsibility, have provided intelligence, frozen terrorists' financial assets, detained suspected terrorists in their respective countries, provided basing and overflight rights and other forms of key support in our global efforts to combat terrorism," Ralston said.

"Some NATO nations provided cargo aircraft, manpower and expertise to prepare and load cargo pallets for shipment in support of the humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan," he continued. "Some contributed directly to the strike missions in Afghanistan, and several NATO allies are contributing to the International Security Assistance Force there today. Without an aggressive and continuous security cooperation program, many of these contributions would not have been possible."

Any NATO enlargement would have to take into account capabilities -- military, political or geographic -- that nations might bring to the table.

Brzezinski said NATO enlargement has reinforced U.S. and alliance efforts toward better relations with Russia. "Despite predictions of some, relations between Russia and Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary have actually improved dramatically since their accession to NATO," he said.

In joining the pact, aspirant countries will be part of the most technologically advanced military alliance in the world. Aspirants must be ready for the responsibility. All 10 hopefuls are members of the alliance's Partnership for Peace and have contributed to NATO's missions in the Balkans. Further, all have membership action plans and periodic consultations with the alliance to track progress.

"Each aspirant brings a different set of challenges in the military reform area, and each requires different approaches to defense reform," Brzezinski said. The countries have made significant progress in fitting into the NATO structure, but "no aspirant should rest on its laurels expecting a positive answer at Prague," he said.

NATO membership selection involves a number of military considerations, Brzezinski said. "One is development of sound national strategy documents -- documents that lay out the groundwork for determining defense needs and that lay out the maps for resources that will be allocated to ensure that partnership goals and eventually maybe NATO force goals are addressed," he said.

Effective, modern, interoperable command and control systems are a must, as is the development of host-nation support capacities. NATO needs the ability to deploy to any allied territory, Brzezinski said.

Other areas NATO allies continue to examine are personnel reform and training. "Training is paramount to fielding effective fighting forces, especially training at the company and battalion level , not just training of individual soldiers," he said. Part of this is ensuring the aspirant countries have the correct size military for NATO.

Finally, information security is another issue of great concern to NATO, Brzezinski said. "The ability to safeguard NATO classified material is essential for planning and executing NATO missions. And overall, the aspirants have made progress in this area, but more progress must continue."

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