NATO Chief Says EU Force Will Draw Alliance Together
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2001 The trans-Atlantic relationship is at the heart of the world's security, said NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, and care must be taken so the alliance doesn't drift apart.
Robertson spoke at the international Wehrkunde Conference in Munich Feb. 3 and supported the European Union's European Security and Defense Program.
"In the modern security neighborhood, to have only two options -- NATO or nothing -- is just asking for trouble," he said. "A European defense role can help fill this vacuum." Robertson said he is upbeat about the state of the trans-Atlantic Alliance even in the face of such experts as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said he believes Europe and North America are drifting apart.
Kissinger's warning was that European and American partners will go their separate ways unless they recover a sense of common destiny. "I simply do not believe the drift has been as great as some might say," Robertson said. "The trans- Aatlantic relationship is still very deep, solid, valuable and irreplaceable."
Robertson views the European Union proposal to field a 60,000-member rapid reaction force as a positive change. The EU envisions using the force when NATO as a whole is not involved in a crisis. He said Operation Allied Force, the 1999 air war against Yugoslavia, pointed out the imbalance in defense resources. The United States carried the burden, and that "is not fair or right, and certainly not sustainable," he said.
The secretary-general said many North Americans have called for Europe to do more in defense. "Many Europeans themselves want to make a greater contribution and have a correspondingly greater role in matters that affect their own security," he said.
Robertson takes the tack that Americans and Europeans want the same result. "The main difference between the current European defense efforts and those that went before is that the current project links European ambitions with both capability targets and NATO know-how and backup," he said.
NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative is important to both the alliance and the new European capability. He said European governments have stopped the bleeding from defense budgets and are increasing spending on their militaries. Money spent on improving NATO capabilities can only improve European capabilities, he said.
Great Britain has completed, and Germany has begun, a total revamping of their forces to meet the threats of the 21st century.
"We have achieved more in the last 12 months on the mechanisms for building European defense than we achieved in the preceding 12 years," Robertson said. "Clearly, we have much more to do, but given the common objectives of Europe and America, the building of a stronger European defense role -- with a better-balanced NATO -- is a success in the making."