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NATO Addresses Need to Properly Organize, Equip Forces for Future

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 6, 2002 – NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told alliance defense ministers today that the Sept. 11 attacks in America make clear the continuing needs for defense and military preparedness.

Robertson opened the NATO defense ministerial talks here by telling the ministers their forces need to be "properly organized and equipped for their future missions, even if that means additional resources for defense and security, and ... substantial changes of priority within our defense programs."

Several former communist nations have indicated they're ready to join NATO. Similar NATO meetings in Prague, Czech Republic, in November will decide who will be invited to become members.

A concern expressed by U.S. and NATO officials has been that admitting more members could widen the so-called capabilities gap between the U.S. defense establishment and those of other alliance members. Incompatible weapons, aviation and communication systems make interoperability difficult in multinational operations.

Robertson explained the Day 1 talks would focus on NATO's "adaptation agenda" in four specific areas:

o A new capabilities initiative with firm national commitments to deliver the most urgent requirements.

o Concrete proposals to improve NATO's defenses against biological and chemical weapons.

o A package of counterterrorism measures that commits the alliance to deploy forces as and where required.

o Internal reforms to ensure that a larger NATO alliance remains an effective and flexible organization.

Recent experiences in the Balkans and in counterterrorism have underscored the differences in capabilities among NATO nations, Robertson said. These matters are of "direct concern" to defense ministers, he added.

Later today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will meet privately with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Ivanov is here to attend the first meeting of the new Russia-NATO Council launched in Italy in May.

Rumsfeld is in the midst of a 10-day trip that is scheduled to take him to Estonia, the Persian Gulf, and India and Pakistan before returning to Washington June 14.

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