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NATO Faces Different Threats Today From 50 Years Ago

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2002 – The dangers facing NATO today are vastly different from those the alliance faced when it was formed, President Bush said today in Prague, Czech Republic.

Bush is in Prague for the NATO Summit. Member countries are widely expected to invite several nations to join the alliance Nov. 21. Aspirant countries are Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

When the NATO alliance formed in the late 1940s after World War II, the Soviet Union loomed as a threat to America and the countries of Western Europe. The threat grew when the Soviets and their captive Eastern European satellite nations formed the Warsaw Pact alliance.

Today, Bush noted, NATO heads of state are meeting for the first time in a former Warsaw Pact capital.

Terrorism and "the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq" are the dangers NATO countries must be able to defend against today, he said. Cooperation will be the key to protecting member nations against these threats, Bush said, so NATO countries must be better able to fight side by side.

"Those forces must be more mobile and more swiftly deployed. The allies need more special operations forces, better precision-strike capabilities, and more modern command structures," he said. "Few NATO members will have state-of-the-art capabilities in all of these areas. I recognize that, but every nation should develop some."

Bush proposed creating a NATO response force "that will bring together well-equipped, highly ready air, ground and sea forces from NATO allies old and new."

NATO's limited options regarding military troops in Afghanistan proved that such a force needs to be able to react to crises outside Europe, he asserted. "This force will be prepared to deploy on short notice wherever it is needed," Bush said.

The president also acknowledged some countries will need to spend more to build defense capabilities. "For all of us, it will require more effective defense spending," he added.

Improving capabilities aren't all that NATO nations must commit to. Bush called on free nations to "accept our shared obligations to keep the peace." He called the preservation of international stability "noble work" and said nations that benefit from stability have a duty to defend it.

"The hopes of all mankind depend on the courage and the unity of great democracies," Bush said. "In this hour of challenge, NATO will do what it has done before. We will stand firm against the enemies of freedom, and we'll prevail."

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