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NATO Talks Highlight Future

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BERGEN, Norway, Oct. 3, 1996 – NATO is looking to the future -- a future role in Bosnia, expanded relations with Russia, new alliance members and a streamlined command structure.

NATO officials held talks here Sept. 24 to 26. A special "16 plus 1" session included Russia's new Defense Minister Army Gen. Igor Rodionov. While no decisions were made during the informal meetings, defense leaders from the 16-nation alliance made plans for decisions soon to come. The first was whether a follow-on mission in Bosnia will be needed once the implementation force's mission ends in December.

IFOR's mission in Bosnia is an "outstanding success," according to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry, but difficult tasks remain ahead. Municipal elections slated for November 22 are yet another challenge for the multinational force, he said. IFOR provided essential security during national elections Sept. 14, and even more people are expected to vote in upcoming municipal elections, said NATO Secretary General Javiar Solana.

U.S. Army Gen. George Joulwan, NATO's supreme allied commander, outlined plans for winding down the IFOR mission and redeploying the force. IFOR will continue to provide security in Bosnia through Dec. 20, according to terms of the Dayton accord. While redeployment will begin in November, IFOR will maintain a fully capable force through Dec. 20 and then rapidly deploy the remainder of the force.

NATO officials are now focusing on what comes next for Bosnia. "All ministers agree the international community, including NATO, cannot and will not abandon Bosnia," Solana said. "If there is a requirement for a follow-on force, I am confident NATO will be prepared to play its part."

A new force would have a new mandate and a strictly limited timeframe, Solana said. "There can be no open-ended commitment, and the primary responsibility for bringing peace to Bosnia will continue to be with the parties themselves."

IFOR's success and peaceful, national elections have created a hopeful, new environment in Bosnia, Perry said. "Many allies feel the peacekeepers must stay longer to build on those recent gains," he said. "While IFOR has been successful in implementing the Dayton peace agreement, some NATO ministers believe there is still a role in stabilizing those gains. Others believe it was only necessary for NATO to deter war from breaking out again."

Military authorities will assess prospects for stability in Bosnia over the next year and develop contingency plans. Options range from withdrawing on schedule to providing a war deterrence force. Ensuring freedom of movement is an example of a stabilization task, Perry said. A war deterrence mission involves providing enough military power to deter any faction restarting the war, he said.

During this planning stage, NATO will consult Russia and other non-NATO countries that might participate in a follow-on force. "No country, including the United States, can make an informed decision on participation until NATO completes its study and specifies a mission and a force structure," Perry said.

Perry said the United States will wait for the NATO study results before deciding on its follow-on role. Many allies have said they will not join a follow-on force unless the United States participates. Rodionov said Russia will commit troops to a follow-on force if NATO deems one necessary.

NATO officials also talked about the alliance's future in post-Cold War Europe, according to Perry. "NATO was originally created to protect Western Europe from an invasion from the East," he said. "That threat no longer exists. Now NATO faces not a threat, but a challenge -- a challenge to create a security circle that includes all European nations."

This European security circle must include Russia, Perry said. "I believe Europe cannot be secure unless Russia is inside that circle, working together with us." Russia's participation in IFOR serves as the model for continuing relations, he said.

NATO ministers proposed methods of expanding relations with Russia, including setting up permanent military liaison offices in Russia and NATO and having Russia participate in combined joint task forces planning for contingency operations. They also discussed establishing a method for crisis consultation and scheduling regular meetings between NATO and Russian officials.

Next year, NATO will announce which applicants will be considered for membership. The alliance is not actively seeking new members, but it is open to new members who qualify, Perry said.Membership criteria include having a strong, established democracy, a functioning market economy, civilian control of the military and military forces compatible with NATO.

Candidate nations prepare for NATO membership through NATO's new Partnership for Peace. "The most significant step NATO has taken since the end of the Cold War has been the creation of Partnership for Peace," Perry said. "It is the basic foundation for this circle of security we are building for Europe."

While many nations are applying for membership, not all will be selected, Perry said. NATO authorities have held more than 50 hours of talks with 13 partners seeking NATO membership, Solana said. "We have learned a great deal about partners' respective policies and capabilities, and they in turn have learned more about the requirements of NATO membership," he said.

Officials want to ensure NATO's enlargement does not leave a security vacuum for nations not accepted into the alliance. NATO's acceptance of new members should not create new dividing lines in Europe, Perry said. A "no" answer should be interpreted as "not yet," because candidate nations can continue to work on meeting NATO's membership criteria.

He said the NATO ministers agree the Partnership for Peace must enhance the training it provides and broaden the mission it undertakes. Expanding partnership activities will keep Europe unified and stable, he said.

NATO officials also considered further efforts to streamline the alliance command structure. One of the restructuring goals, Perry said, is to permit a more visible European role in the alliance. Ideas include giving the deputy supreme allied commander Europe more responsibility for Western European Union operations.

Who will head Allied Forces South is an area of contention between the United States and France. The French, who are returning to active NATO participation after nearly three decades, want to see a French commander. U.S. officials say it is essential Allied Forces South, which includes the U.S. Sixth Fleet, remain under U.S. command. "We must protect what works and change what doesn't work," he said. "Not the other way around."

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