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Allies Must Modernize, U.S., NATO Leaders Say

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2002 – NATO is as relevant today as it has been in the past, but the alliance needs to develop its capabilities to combat global terrorism and other new threats, Secretary of State Colin Powell told NATO foreign ministers gathered in Iceland May 14 and 15.

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Ben Bradshaw (from left), United Kingdom minister of state,; U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; Abdulaziz Kamilov, Uzbekistani minister for foreign affairs; Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, NATO deputy secretary-general, and Ambassador Günther Altenburg, NATO assistant secretary-general for political affairs, attend the semiannual NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. NATO Photo.

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"We all need to have highly mobile, sustainable forces with modern combat capabilities -- forces that can get to the fight, wherever it is, and carry out a mission with efficiency and precision," Powell said in the capital, Reykjavik.

Specifically, he noted, NATO needs more airlift capability. "The kinds of challenges NATO may be facing in the future won't always be located in Central Europe. NATO has to have the ability to move to other places."

During the two-day meeting, Powell said the NATO allies reaffirmed their commitment to defeat terrorism and committed their nations to strengthening both national and collective capacities for doing so. He said greater investment is needed in communications and intelligence capabilities and navigation devices that can provide precise information about a potential opponent and their own forces.

NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative, announced at the 1999 50th anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., listed nearly 60 specific modernization initiatives. Powell recommended that between now and the Prague summit in November, the allies pick five or six capabilities to focus on and invest in.

The United States, with the largest defense budget of all, continues to add more money to deal with today and tomorrow's threats.

"We think that all of our colleagues in NATO should be doing likewise, not just making sure that they are spending adequate amounts for their defense, but making sure they spend it wisely." he said.

Operations in Afghanistan demonstrate that NATO "has a bright military future," Powell said. Some 14 NATO nations are there, "not necessarily in a NATO capacity," but they're "bringing NATO capability, bringing NATO experience."

Seven of those 14 NATO nations are involved in combat, he said. Working within NATO, he added, these nations have learned to understand modern doctrine, to work with one another, to operate on a battlefield with other countries' forces that speak different languages and have different equipment.

"That doesn't just come out of the ether," Powell stressed. "It comes out of our experience in training together, operating together and spending a great deal of time on exercises in our various joint commands throughout NATO."

In time of crisis, he said, the United States feels "absolutely comfortable in going to NATO and saying, 'Please send AWACS over. Come guard the continental United Sates. That is a tremendous capability to have available to the alliance for whatever missions might come the alliance's way."

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson echoed Powell's call to modernize capabilities in his remarks at the ministerial. He said NATO transformed after the Cold War to build a new kind of security across Europe and a second time, to overcome instability in Bosnia.

They also agreed on the importance of pushing ahead new military capabilities urgently needed "to enable NATO to deal with the threats of today and tomorrow as effectively as it dealt with those of yesterday," Robertson said. Along with developing defense capabilities, this also includes streamlining decision-making and overhauling NATO's Brussels headquarters' organization.

He said NATO must now change to deal with the threats of a new century -- "Threats that cannot be measured in fleets of tanks, warships or combat aircraft. Threats no longer mounted only by governments. And threats that can come with little or no warning.

"To deal with this new and dangerous world," Robertson concluded, "we have agreed that NATO must modernize and that NATO will modernize."


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of State Colin Powell talks with Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov of Uzbekistan, during the May 14-15, 2002, NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. NATO Photo.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson speaks to NATO member nations' assembled representatives at the semiannual NATO foreign ministers meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. NATO Photo.  
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