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NATO Must Plan For Future Role, Robertson Tells Ministers

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 24, 2002 – The Cold War is over and NATO must now plan and prepare for 21st century challenges such as terrorism, the alliance's senior leader said here today.

Kicking off two days of informal defense ministerial meetings, Secretary-General George Robertson remarked to defense ministers, diplomats and senior military from NATO's 19 member nations that the world has changed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Robertson made it clear he believes terrorism not only threatens the United States, but also represents a serious threat to the alliance -- and to the world.

NATO held ceremonies two weeks ago at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the attacks. The observances provided an occasion, Robertson said, "to express our sorrow, but also to reaffirm our complete solidarity in the fight against terrorism."

However, he noted that if there is a time to grieve for loss and for remembrance, there is also "a time, in the face of menace, for planning and for strategy."

As the November NATO Summit nears, Robertson urged members to think about the alliance's role in the future. An important part of that role will be "protecting our citizens from criminal terrorists and criminal states -- especially when they are armed with weapons designed for massive and indiscriminate destruction," he said.

NATO played a key role in defeating Cold War threats, Robertson pointed out. Today, he continued, NATO's aim "must be to maintain the will and the capabilities to deter those 21st century threats where possible, to root them out and destroy them where deterrence has broken down, to defend our forces and our people from attacks of all kinds, and in the worst cases, to make the best use of our military capabilities in dealing with the consequences of future aggression against us."

Like the U.S. military, Robertson noted that NATO must transform itself so it can "play an equally pivotal part in the war against terrorism and the dangers of weapons of mass destruction."

Having members commit to acquiring improved military capabilities and streamlining command and headquarters structure would enable NATO "to deal effectively with today's threats rapidly and efficiently," the secretary- general noted. This statement seemed to refer to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's upcoming proposal for NATO to establish a rapid reaction force.

U.S. defense officials have been saying the past few days that such a force would possibly be organized and equipped to deploy outside NATO's traditional European area of operations. Rumsfeld is slated today to update NATO officials on Iraq.

"So, colleagues, we have much work ahead of us today and tomorrow," Robertson noted.

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Related Sites:
Rumsfeld: U.S.-Polish Relationship Is 'Strong and Healthy', Sept. 23, 2002
Rumsfeld: NATO, Like U.S., Needs to Transform Its Military, Sept. 22, 2002
Warsaw Meetings May Presage Rumsfeld's Agenda at Prague NATO Summit (Revised), Sept. 20, 2002

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