Rumsfeld Pleased With Summit, but Wants to Do More
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia, Nov. 22, 2002 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he is "very pleased" about some aspects of NATO's Prague Summit, but he's not satisfied.
"I'm never satisfied," he said to reporters traveling with him. "It's a genetic thing. I am always pushing and pushing."
By any measure, the summit accomplished much. The alliance invited seven new countries to join: Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
NATO also agreed to transform the alliance into one that can deal with the threats of the 21st century.
One visible aspect of the change was NATO leaders agreeing to the NATO Response Force. "It is something that will contribute a great deal to NATO's relevance and ability to function in the world," Rumsfeld said.
The United States proposed the force in September when the NATO ministers met in Warsaw, Poland, to prepare for the Prague summit. This week, the NATO leaders at Prague gave the go-ahead to military planners to start fashioning the force.
The NATO Response Force, characterized as a warfighting capability, could number around 20,000. Depending on the mission, it would rapidly deploy into areas and undertake a military task in close cooperation with the United States or on its own, the secretary said.
"The idea of the response force was that NATO ought to have standing forces in high readiness able to function in the 21st century security environment," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary emphasized the only way the force will work is if it is completely interoperable and that it has trained and exercised together. "This is exactly on the mark for what NATO ought to be doing," he said.
Rumsfeld also attended a meeting of the Partnership for Peace nations. A total of 46 countries now participate. He said one needs only to look at the global war on terrorism to see the usefulness of the organization. He said the partnership program has allowed the United States to develop relationships throughout the region. Those established with Central Asian nations have been particularly helpful in the actions in Afghanistan.
The secretary said he believes the new nations invited to join NATO will bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm and value. He said the countries won't provide big armies, navies or air forces, but specialized niche capabilities that will be a real value to the alliance.
NATO will now work with the invitees to ensure they meet its criteria. They could join as early as May 2004.
The secretary also spoke about transforming the alliance. He talked about U.S. efforts to transform, and was pleased about the command structure change accepted by the alliance. It will set up a transformation command in Norfolk, Va., to monitor alliance progress.
He said the global war of terrorism has punctuated the need for transformation. "Many people believe that given the fact that we have these problems across the globe, given the dangers and the risks, that we ought to forget transformation -- quite the contrary," he said.
Rumsfeld observed that the militaries of the new nations coming into NATO were fashioned on the old Soviet Bloc model. "If there is anything that is not relevant to the 21st century, it is that," he said.
Knowing that, these countries are committed and determined to address "frontally" the need to make the kinds of institutional changes to ensure they "are investing in the future, not the past," Rumsfeld said. "Over time, even big bureaucracies can make changes, " he noted, and their commitment will "ripple back through NATO."
Finally, Rumsfeld would like to see the alliance stop spending on things that aren't needed, even though there's a constituency for the capabilities and pressure to keep things the same.
"I'd like to see us inject a sense of urgency into recognizing the new security environment of the 21st century and do everything that is humanly possible to be respectful of the taxpayers' dollar and simultaneously invest in those things that will protect our people," he said.
"Our people deserve to have the defense establishments of our respective nations focus on real threats that exist today and will exist prospectively," Rumsfeld pointed out. He calculated that these threats are distinctly different from the past, and present a degree of lethality that is beyond people's imagination in the last century.