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Cohen in Brussels for NATO Talks

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 5, 2000 – The European Security and Defense Program, the Defense Capabilities Initiative and meetings with Russia’s defense minister highlight William S. Cohen’s last NATO Defense Ministerial as the U.S. secretary of defense.

The meetings come as the European Union strives to set up a European Rapid Reaction Force -- a rapidly deployable, corps-sized unit with 60,000 soldiers. The force would allow the Europeans to operate alone when NATO as a whole is not involved. While most members of the EU are NATO members as well, Ireland, Sweden and Austria are not. Further, Turkey, the United States, Norway and Canada are members of NATO, but not in the EU.

The force would have access to NATO assets and, Cohen said he hopes, will share NATO’s planning headquarters. Cohen believes that if they try to set up operational and planning capabilities that are “separate and distinct from NATO, … then that is going to weaken the ties between the United States and NATO, and NATO and the EU,” he said during an interview.

He said the NATO countries do not want to see the United States isolate itself from Europe. “They want to see ESDP strengthen NATO itself,” he said.

Cohen will also discuss progress on NATO’s Defense Cooperative Initiatives. Airlift; sealift; precision-guided munitions; logistics; and command, control, computers, communications and intelligence are at the heart of the DCI. NATO’s experiences in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force reinforced the need for improvements in these capabilities. Cohen said the allies have to understand “that they have to do more as well.”

He said the allies are just going to have to spend more on defense. Some reforms and changes can be made that reduce expenditures, Cohen said, but ultimately the allies are just going to have to dedicate more money.

Cohen said he will meet with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev during the course of the meeting to discuss arms sales to the Middle East. “This is something that the State Department is taking up with the Russians,” he said

Cohen also said he will assure the ministers that there’s unlikely to be a major change in the relationship between the United States and NATO no matter who America’s new president may be.

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