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Perry Speaks of NATO's Future, Bosnia Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 1996 – NATO will be bigger and more flexible thanks to changes recently approved at the North Atlantic Defense Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium.

Defense Secretary William J. Perry also spoke at a news conference about the future of the peace implementation force in Bosnia.

NATO changes look to the future, Perry said. "NATO will be stronger and more united," he said.

He said expansion of the alliance is moving ahead as planned and the "zone of stability" will encompass the nations currently in the Partnership for Peace program. The partnership is a pathway nations wishing to join NATO must follow. Perry said he anticipates a clear plan and schedule for new NATO members to come out of the December NATO ministers meeting. He would not speculate on the timetable.

NATO is building a special relationship with Russia and pointed to Russia's help in Bosnia and ongoing nuclear disarmament efforts as proof this relationship is growing, he said.

Perry said the alliance is a trans-Atlantic organization that works best when the countries are united. Any European-only NATO operation still must be agreed to by all parties. "NATO military authorities will be proposing different ways of effecting operations separate from the overall NATO operations," Perry said. "And they will have their own chain of command, but it would be a unified chain of command."

Perry said the implementation force in Bosnia is NATO's most significant creation. "IFOR is the first major military operation of NATO," Perry said. "It has been an outstanding success. It's demonstrated the ability of the NATO nations to operate with solidarity, and it's demonstrated the value of years of effort in forming the command structure, in training and exercising together, in building common doctrine and standards."

The force is halfway through its deployment to the troubled country, Perry said, but still faces formidable tasks. The force needs to maintain freedom of movement in the country so refugees can return home and voting can take place for elections set for September. "I fully expect IFOR will complete the mission on schedule at the end of the year, and I expect it will be a successful mission, and that the major drawdown of forces will begin about Dec. 20," Perry said.

Perry said he believes the war will not restart once the implementation force leaves. He said the parties want peace, the balance of forces now is different from when the war started, and NATO air strikes are a powerful deterrent to the war restarting. "All of the former warring factions have had very vivid examples of the capability and effectiveness of NATO air strikes," he said.

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