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NATO Moving From Collective Defense to Collective Security

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2005 – NATO is moving from the principle of collective defense to the principle of collective security, the alliance's top general said here today.

In an interview, Marine Gen. James Jones spoke about the future of the alliance and changes in U.S. European Command. Jones is "dual-hatted" as the supreme allied commander for operations and the commander of U.S. European Command.

He said that the alliance has moved away from reactive defensive missions that characterized the organization in the 20th century to building capabilities that can take on asymmetric threats.

Jones said there is no question that the alliance and the nations of the alliance are under pressure and attack from radical fundamentalist movements. But NATO is also under attack via drug trafficking, human smuggling, and threats to vital infrastructure.

To combat these threats, NATO and the U.S. European Command are embarked on simultaneous transformations. NATO officials are looking at command-and-control and intelligence structures in place. Officials are examining the headquarters with an eye to streamlining it.

NATO transformation is best depicted via "the expanding mission in Afghanistan; the ever-present NATO mission in the Balkans; the NATO contribution to Iraq; the NATO footprint in support of the African Union in Africa; the emergence of the NATO Response Force, which will reach full operational capability next year; and an on-going counterterrorism operation call Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean," Jones said.

On the European Command side, the largest aspect of transformation is that the command will have a lighter footprint in Europe. "The biggest change is to the U.S. Army Europe, which will have the two heavy divisions move back to the United States at some point," Jones said. "They will be replaced by more light, more agile, more mobile brigade-sized forces that will be used much more effectively in the peacetime-engagement missions in regions to the east and, obviously, to the south as Africa becomes more and more a reality that we might face."

European Command, which has 91 countries in its area of operations, is stressing relations with Africa. The moves are bringing better focus on asymmetric issues. "In Africa we've had more consistent U.S. presence than in the past through the use of U.S. Marines and U.S. Special Forces units and light units that can go in and make a huge difference for a small amount of money," Jones said.

Jones said the dual transformation is also increasing synergy between NATO and U.S. European Command. He said the links between the U.S. command and NATO forces are growing much stronger and the forces are becoming closer. He said this is aided, in part, because the U.S. component commanders in Europe are NATO commanders in their own rights.

But not all is brightness and light, Jones said. There is the political will to do more, but there is also a political will to "fund less." During the Prague Summit of heads of state of NATO countries in November 2003, NATO nations agreed that 2 percent of each country's gross domestic product would be dedicated to funding the nations' militaries. More countries, not less, are funding below the 2 percent mark, Jones said.

A shortage of airlift and sealift capabilities exists in the alliance, as well. And there is still a wide gap between the military capabilities of the United States and European allies, Jones said.

But, in general, the alliance is moving in a positive direction. "In the 20th century, people understood what NATO was for: It was a linear defensive alliance designed to take the first hit that that never came," Jones said.

The Warsaw Pact went away; the Soviet threat dissolved; and NATO was in limbo for a bit, he said. But when the attacks came on Sept. 11, 2001, all the NATO countries recognized a new "unifying anchor point" for the transatlantic relationship.

"We have to do a better job of defining why NATO is as useful to our citizens on both sides of the Atlantic as we did during the 20th century," Jones said.

Contact Author

Gen. James Jones, USMC

Related Sites:
U.S. European Command

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