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Cohen Says Allies Must Invest or NATO Could Become 'Relic'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, Dec. 5, 2000 – NATO allies must pay more than "lip service" to the Defense Capabilities Initiative or the alliance stands in danger of becoming a relic, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said here Dec. 5.

Cohen, speaking at the NATO Defense Ministerial, also said that while the United States strongly supports the European Union's initiative to develop a Rapid Reaction Force, operational planning for such a force should be done using already existing NATO planning facilities.

"I indicated NATO could become a relic if a number of factors were to present themselves and if a number of caveats were not at least adhered to," Cohen told reporters traveling with him.

The United States would remain committed to the alliance and European security if the Europeans commit their resources to developing the capabilities outlined in the DCI, he said. These include more sealift, more airlift and more precision-guided munitions. It also calls for developing a better command and control apparatus.

"During the entire history of NATO -- and especially in the last four years -- the United States has seen its security firmly linked with the security of Europe," Cohen said. "It is a fundamental tenet of American foreign policy that the United States cannot be secure and prosperous unless Europe is secure and prosperous."

"We need to establish a cooperative collaborative mechanism as far as ESDP and NATO are concerned," he continued. "As long as there is openness, transparency and a noncompetitive relationship then the United States would remain committed."

Operation Allied Force that defeated ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, "revealed huge disparities in the military capabilities of NATO members and showed significant new investment was necessary to improve NATO's ability to fight effectively as a unified militarily modern alliance," Cohen said during a news conference at NATO headquarters.

The European Union's proposal to develop a 60,000-man Rapid Reaction Force will allow Europe to deal swiftly and effectively with local challenges to security where NATO itself is not engaged militarily, he said.

Cohen pointed out to the ministers the need for NATO and the EU to establish a mechanism where the two organizations can cooperate, and have a transparent collaborative approach to defense planning. He said there should not be duplicative planning organizations.

"To establish such duplication would in fact result in a weakening of NATO's capabilities, and result in a situation in which we would have the United States and Canada and European allies responding to threats and crises on an ad hoc, fragmented and inefficient fashion," Cohen said. "And that is not desirable for the Europeans or the United States."

He proposed a common defense planning process involving all 23 NATO and EU countries "as the only logical cost- effective way to ensure the best possible coordination of limited forces and resources."

EU access to NATO planning machinery would give the allies a forum to work out the arrangements for the EU to use NATO assets in EU-led operations, he said. It would also provide "a flexible and generous approach to participation by non- EU allies.

"Every European member of NATO will have only one set of forces and one defense budget: not one force and budget for NATO and another force and another budget for the EU."

The European Union is slated to meet in Nice, France, this week to try and hammer out these details, NATO officials said. NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Dec. 14 and 15 at NATO headquarters here.

Cohen said he hopes details can be worked out by the end of the year, but if not, any new administration can take the work already done and run with it.

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