Rumsfeld 'Feels Good' About NATO Defense Meetings
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
POIANA BRASOV, Romania, Oct. 13, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "feels very good about the results of today's meetings," according to U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, who attended today's informal meetings of NATO defense ministers here with the defense secretary.
This morning's round of meetings focused on military transformation topics, Burns noted. The key issue within that category, he noted, is usability.
"Of the two-and-half-million Europeans in uniform," Burns explained, "NATO had estimated that roughly 3 to 5 percent of them could actually be deployed beyond their national boundaries" for difficult NATO missions.
"That, of course, is a major problem for the alliance which needs to be addressed," Burns observed, noting Rumsfeld had brought up the issue a year ago during a NATO meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Yet, progress is being made, Burns reported. Denmark reallocated more money for its defense needs over the past year, he noted, and has doubled the number of its forces available for difficult NATO peacekeeping missions.
And, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, Burned said, "have all worked very, very hard on this problem within their own systems." But, "there's enormous room" for additional improvement in regard to the usability issue, the ambassador noted.
Another U.S. issue involving NATO, Burns continued, involves that fact the United States is spending $417 billion on defense needs this fiscal year, while the combined annual defense spending of the 25 remaining NATO members amounts to $200 billion.
"And that matters," Burns said. Some NATO-member countries should consider reducing their military personnel costs. Money saved in this way, the ambassador explained, can be reinvested to acquire new defense technologies that have proven their worth in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We're beginning to see" some improvement regarding military transformation and usability within NATO, Burns said. Yet, he acknowledged, they are complex and difficult issues that "require the attention of politicians in the NATO countries, as well as people in the armed forces."
Another NATO wrinkle, Burns said, involves the issue of national caveats, or conditions, that govern some member-countries during times of deployment. During large-scale rioting in Kosovo in March, he noted, NATO commanders could send only half of their available troops to quell the violence.
Rumsfeld has led a major effort during the past six months to try to convince NATO members with caveats to remove them.
And, after today's NATO meetings "we've made a lot of progress in Kosovo," Burns reported, noting "nearly all" of alliance members in that Balkan area agreed to drop their conditions of deployment.