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Rumsfeld: Transformation Moving NATO Into 21st Century

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

POIANA BRASOV, Romania, Oct. 13, 2004 – Initiatives designed to expand NATO's capabilities are helping the alliance to better confront 21st-century challenges such as global terrorism, the U.S. military's top civilian said here today.

For example, NATO's recently established rapid response force, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted to reporters during a roundtable discussion at a local hotel, "will help the entire alliance move into the 21st century."

After meeting earlier today with senior Romanian government officials in Bucharest, Rumsfeld traveled to this Transylvanian resort town to attend Oct. 13 and 14 NATO informal defense ministerial meetings.

Now with 26 member nations, Rumsfeld noted that NATO has also expanded its chemical-biological warfare capabilities. And, with NATO deployments to the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, Rumsfeld pointed out, the alliance has moved outside of its traditional sphere of operations.

These developments, in concert with current NATO initiatives to streamline headquarters staffs and modernize capabilities, "gives the alliance a chance of really being relevant" to confront new threats to peace and stability, Rumsfeld pointed out.

If NATO cannot quickly respond to modern challenges such as those presented by transnational terrorism, Rumsfeld reasoned, then "you don't have a military alliance for this century."

Rumsfeld envisions that modern military practices that form the organizational backbone of NATO's quick reaction force will spread across the alliance.

"As countries commit to that response force and as it is used," Rumsfeld explained, "it will then back into the member countries the kind of transformation that's necessary for those countries to reform the rest of their military capabilities."

The secretary praised former Pentagon NATO specialist J.D. Crouch, now the U.S. ambassador to Romania, for the work he did on changing the NATO command structure.

Under Crouch's watch, Rumsfeld noted, NATO had reduced its headquarters elements from 20 to 11. The alliance, the secretary added, continues to streamline staff operations to obtain more warfighters for duty on the front lines, thereby improving its "tooth-to-tail ratio."

Ongoing NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo will likely be discussed during the ministerial meetings, said U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, who accompanied Rumsfeld to the roundtable.

"And, there'll be a lot of talk on transformation -- the issues the secretary referred to," Burns observed, in the context of meeting 21st-century threats.

"How do you change the doctrine and capabilities of the alliance so that we can be successful meeting these new threats?" Burns asked. In confronting global terrorism, he added, NATO has "to go beyond Europe to defend Europe." And that, Burns pointed out, "is the strategic shift that has occurred in NATO."

Burns said NATO representatives at the ministerial meetings here would likely discuss expanding the alliance's presence into western Afghanistan to bring about more stability with parliamentary elections slated for the spring.

In Iraq, NATO will accelerate training of Iraqi security forces at the request of the interim government, Burns noted. As part of fulfilling that mission, he said, 300 to 400 NATO-member officers will be assigned to instruct senior Iraqi leaders at a military academy to be opened in eastern Baghdad.

The Iraqis, Burns continued, also have asked NATO for more equipment for its expanding security forces. Trained and equipped Iraqi security forces now number about 100,000, DoD officials recently noted, with 40,000 to50,000 more expected to be added by January. The current goal, according to DoD, is to train and equip 200,000 to 250,000 Iraqi security forces.

Several NATO members, Burns pointed out, had once belonged to the Warsaw Pact and have old Soviet equipment in their warehouses. And much of that equipment, he noted, "fuels and runs" the Iraqi armed forces.

Therefore, a solution to the equipment issue, Burns suggested, could involve some eastern European NATO members donating or selling their surplus Soviet gear to the Iraqis.

Burns said another alliance issue involves the still-unstable situation in Kosovo, where about 20,000 NATO troops are deployed to keep the peace. Violence in Kosovo erupted again in March, he said. NATO defense ministers will therefore likely "reconfirm the need" to maintain current alliance troop levels there, he added. And, the NATO mission in Bosnia, Burns reported, will be handed over to the European Union in December.

NATO made the right decision to deploy its forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, Burns asserted. Now it's the time, he added, for the alliance "to get on the ground and make a difference" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and "do it in a very strong way."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns
U.S. Ambassador to Romania J.D. Crouch

Related Sites:
North Atlantic Treaty Organization

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