Rumsfeld: 2003 a Busy Year for NATO Countries
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 8, 2004 In the past year, "NATO has undergone probably more positive change than in most 10-year periods in its history," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here Feb. 7.
Rumsfeld was in Munich to attend the 40th Munich Conference on Security Policy. Defense ministers, elected and other government officials, and academicians from throughout the world gathered to discuss military and security issues at the annual event.
During an address to the full body, Rumsfeld recounted some NATO's successes since last year's meeting.
Working together, he said, NATO allies have:
- Streamlined the NATO command structure;
- Stood up a new chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear battalion;
- Worked with Poland and Spain to stand up a multinational division in south-central Iraq;
- Stood up a transformation command "that's working with friends and allies from all over the world to improve our ability to work together;" and
- Deployed a NATO force to lead the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Over the same time period, the secretary noted, the alliance has been preparing to welcome seven new members during the upcoming NATO heads-of-state summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in June.
In yet another feat since last year's conference, "Saddam Hussein spends his days not in his many palaces, but in jail," Rumsfeld said. "And the Iraqi people are in the process of moving towards building a free society."
The convictions of coalition members and loved ones of those who've died in this cause have been reinforced by the continued discovery of mass graves, prisons and torture chambers, Rumsfeld said. But, he continued, the fighting could have been avoided if Saddam had conceded to the will of the United Nations.
The secretary spoke with pride of recent progress in peacefully disarming Libya. That country's leader, Colonel Moammar al Ghadafi, announced in December that it wished to dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Since the announcement, Libya has given international inspectors equipment and documents relating to nuclear and long-range missile programs and has begun destroying unfilled chemical munitions, Rumsfeld said.
"With these important steps, Libya has acted and announced to the world that they want to disarm and to prove that they are doing so," he said. "Compare Libya's recent behavior to the behavior of the Iraqi regime. Saddam Hussein should have opened up his country to the world. Instead he chose the path of deception and defiance."
Rumsfeld pointed out the difference between Iraq's and Libya's choices should teach a lesson to rogue nations. "The pursuit of weapons of mass murder can carry with it costs," he said. "By contrast, leaders who abandon the pursuit of those weapons and the means to deliver them will find an open path to better relations with the free world."