(Press backgrounder from NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium. Also participating was Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.)
Senior Defense Official: Thank you. We’ve had a very productive set of meetings this morning. Obviously Secretary Rumsfeld has arrived here in Brussels. Is that better? Okay good.
Secretary Rumsfeld has arrived here in Brussels after trips to Lisbon, Portugal, to Tirana, Albania, and to the Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany. And we’ve had morning sessions of the Nuclear Planning Group, the Defense Planning Committee and the first session of the North Atlantic Council, Defense [Ministers Session].
A wide range of topics were discussed today, but the focus really this morning was on fulfillment of the Prague capability packages, which came out of the meeting of the Heads of State. In particular, the NATO Response Force, the capabilities commitments and the command structure.
Let me start with the first and the third of those. The ministers approved today a concept, essentially a concept of operations, for the NATO Response Force. And there was really a strong sense of enthusiasm around the table not only for the creation of this force but also for the acceleration of its development. We’re looking at an early capability by this fall, and then follow on with what would be considered an initial operating capability in the next fall. The Chairman of the Military Committee, General Kujat, and General Jones and others engaged in this dialogue with ministers on setting up the NATO Response Force. And this has been completely agreed and I think is a very, very positive step forward.
In addition to the need for the NATO Response Force as a capability that the Alliance can use to address the full spectrum of threats that it might have to deal with, the other thing that ministers agreed on was that the NATO Response Force would really be a focal point for developing new capabilities for the Alliance -- that the capabilities needed to create the NATO Response Force are the high priority capabilities that nations need to invest in. And that those things which are not needed will no longer be invested in.
On the second point about the Prague Capabilities Commitment, there is a review of this by ministers. I think the general view was that while some progress has been made, there is still quite a bit more to be done. And that there needs to be more concrete and more tangible commitments. Some of those commitments will come later on this afternoon when, I believe there will be MOUs [memoranda of understanding] signed on airlift and sealift projects. But I think the general consensus -- and certainly one from the United States point of view -- is that investment and more investment in the right kinds of capabilities by the Alliance as a whole is still needed.
Finally on the command structure, the ministers approved the new NATO command structure, which will result in a major reduction and streamlining in the size of the command structure, taking it down from roughly twenty elements down to eleven elements. The number of combined air operations centers will go down from ten to four, plus two deployable centers. And this streamlining really represents, I think, an important potential resource saver for the Alliance. It also means now that we’re better organized, I think, to conduct joint combined operations.
And I think maybe the most exciting element of this is that there are two new strategic commands. The Allied Command Europe is no longer. It has now been replaced by Allied Command Operations, which has operational responsibility for the entire geographic responsibilities of the Alliance. And the second strategic command, Allied Command Atlantic, is also no longer. And it has been replaced by a functional command, Allied Command Transformation. And in his hat today as Joint Force Commander, but within the next couple of weeks we hope, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani will become the new Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, which is really a direct link between the between the Joint Forces Command in the United States, which is responsible for U.S. transformation, and the Alliance. He will function in a dual-hatted role, as both the head of Joint Forces Command on the U.S. side and also as the Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation, with a European deputy.
In addition to that, this new Allied Command Transformation will have a significant European footprint. There will be a Joint Warfare Center established in Stavanger in Norway. There will also be a joint training area established in Poland for this Allied Command Transformation, and there’s the prospects for other countries to develop what we call Centers of Excellence in the area, in areas such as maritime capabilities, CBW, defense capabilities and the like that would be brought in underneath this Allied Command Transformation.
So with that as a general backdrop, I’d like to turn it over for some questions.
Q: I have a very simple one just to start with. This is a really simple question. So, what we’ve been calling SACEUR is going to become SAC-OPs? Is that correct?
Senior Defense Official: No.
Q: It will still be SACEUR?
Senior Defense Official: The names SACEUR and SHAPE will continue, but SACEUR will now be the head of Allied Command Operations.
Q: (Inaudible.) General Jones, as he’s double-hatted, is now responsible for the whole of the world operations, not just Europe?
Senior Defense Official: The whole of what?
Q: Geographic area, outside Europe.
Senior Defense Official: Yes, correct. Well, when I say outside Europe (what I mean is) the North Atlantic area. So his responsibilities as Supreme Allied Commander Europe at the head of Allied Command Operations means he has operational responsibilities for that entire geographic area. Whereas before, remember there were two strategic commanders. One was responsible for the Atlantic and this was established at a time when it was envisioned to be a major Atlantic battle that would be going on -- surge of U.S. forces -- and that Atlantic battle, of course, would be going on with the Soviet Union, Soviet submarines, Soviet surface ships, aircraft and the like. This obviously is a thing of the past, and so it seemed to make more sense for the Alliance to put its operations under one commander, and then to provide for sort of the functional transformational aspects of the Alliance in another commander.
The real -- one of the real other advantages of Allied Command Transformation is that it also establishes a major strategic command on U.S. territory in Norfolk, Virginia, and establishes, therefore, a transatlantic link. There will be a lot of, large number of allied officers staying in the Norfolk area, although the character of the officers that will be sent there will be changing very dramatically over time because it’s very much a maritime focus now, and it will now become a joint focus.
Q: (Inaudible.) Just a couple of Iraq-related questions. Could you first talk a little bit about the significance of NATO agreeing to help the whole set-up there in Iraq. Second of all, you talk a little bit about how the U.S. feels about NATO, about what else NATO might be able to do in Iraq, and whether you were satisfied thus far with the kinds of offers of assistance --
Senior Defense Official: We are very enthusiastic about NATO’s decision to help the Poles. I think it’s a big step for NATO. It’s a strong commitment to a new ally who is stepping up to very important responsibilities. And it will be viewed as very helpful to the coalition in Iraq. So it’s a winner all around as far as we’re concerned.
And you know, we’re at the nascent stages of this. NATO has just made the decision. There is going to be a force generation conference going on, I believe, over the next few weeks to try to figure out what particular areas will be able to support the Poles. At the same time, I would add, NATO is also doing force generation for ISAF IV in Afghanistan. So, there is really an amazing amount of activity going on, all of it out of the European theater and all requiring the kinds of capabilities that we’re trying to build in this capabilities commitment and through the NRF. So I think all of these pieces, the action, the sort of tangible action that NATO is taking to improve its capabilities are also a reflection of the new responsibilities that the members of the Alliance see that they need to step up to.
Q: (Inaudible.) The letter of intent to be signed on airlift – any guarantee that the C-17 will actually be used in the mix? Are the Europeans willing to pay?
Senior Defense Official: I don’t think that -- my understanding of the letter of intent is that it doesn’t make those decisions. It doesn’t get down to that level of granularity. But as I understand it, there is a prospect for C-17 leasing, as well as leasing of other types of heavy lift aircraft, Ukrainian aircraft. So I think those are still open, but the letter of intent is just that, it’s a letter of intent. It’s not, at this point, a commitment to specific projects or specific leasing deals; that will be worked out in time.
Can we go back to the back row here maybe?
Q: (Inaudible.) -- with the Spanish decision to assist in Polish sector -- is it now a Polish sector? Or a Polish-Spanish sector --
Senior Defense Official: I am -- I think we are -- well pleased with the fact that Poland is attracting strong support for its commitment to stand up a divisional headquarters and I think that the decision by Spain to join shows the confidence that all parties have in Poland, and certainly including -- I would especially include -- the United States in that. And I think that this is a coalition effort that we are embarking on. There are Poles, there are Americans, there are British, there are Spanish, there are Australians and there are many, many other countries that will be involved. And I think that’s the best way to characterize it.
Q: (Inaudible.) -- what do you mean by early initial capabilities?
Senior Defense Official: I think the early capability is to begin, is first of all to stand up, the training regiment; to get the NRF into a position where it could be used. And it will also be smaller in size than the full capability that we would propose to have committed eventually when the NRF reaches full operational capability, which, as you may remember, was about a brigade-sized element plus its a similar commitment no the air side and the maritime side. So, you won’t see that full brigade capability in this early capability. But a smaller capability built on what we call third-tier special operations-type forces could be then built onto over time to provide that full brigade-type capability. So smaller, a little bit different in composition and with an emphasis early on, I think, in developing operational concepts, standardization and the like. And the training regiment and certification necessary to be able to make the force able to carry out its tasks. And Allied Command Transformation actually will play a role in that, in helping to certify the NATO Response Force.
Clarke: Okay, we have about two more.
Senior Defense Official: Okay, you pick them.
Clarke: No, you pick them.
Senior Defense Official: Okay, how about this gentleman here?
Q: (Inaudible.) How do you see the division of responsibilities between the NRF and the European rapid reaction force?
Senior Defense Official: Well, as you know the NRF is designed to deal with a broad spectrum of potential contingencies, all the way up to forced entry-type situations, high intensity combat. The European Rapid Reaction Force, as I understand it, is based on the so-called Petersburg principles. It’s designed to focus more on peacekeeping and peace-enforcement type operations. So I don’t know that there is a strict division of labor here.
I think that one of the things that we in the Alliance and I think in the EU are cognizant of is that there’s one set of capabilities -- that the Alliance members -- there’s such a broad overlap. We don’t have separate militaries for the European Union and for NATO. We have a grouping of national militaries. And so we’re going to have to make judgments, I think, down the road in where the particular emphases out to be. The EU has just sent a force into Macedonia. They are, I think, contemplating sending a force into Africa. And NATO is helping by supporting ISAF. So I think that these things will be worked out practically and I don’t know that there will be a strict division of labor but to the extent that there’s a difference, I think it’s really based on the fact that the Petersburg principles kind of outline the EU’s set of objectives for that force, and the NRF, on the other hand, is a full-spectrum force.
Q: (Inaudible.) -- the Alliance moving beyond the divisions over the war in Iraq -- (Inaudible.)
Senior Defense Official: I think that there was obviously broad support in the Alliance for our position on Iraq. It was maybe not unanimous. But what we have today is an Alliance that has come together to say that NATO should play a role in the reconstruction of Iraq; NATO should play a major role out of its traditional geographic areas, including as far away as Afghanistan. And that we have been able to work out concepts of operations for a NATO Response Force in a way that is, I think, fully compatible with Berlin-Plus and the NATO-EU arrangements. We have a new command structure that is going to be able to be supportive of those activities. And every country around the table is more strongly supportive of increased capabilities. So I think, yes, that the Alliance is in a much better position today than it was in February when we had some serious divisions.
But, as is usual, I think, of NATO, warnings of its death are always premature. And we have a very strong and vibrant Alliance and nineteen come twenty-six members who are really committed to seeing this Alliance maintain itself as the most important security institution in the transatlantic area.
Clarke: Great place to stop. Thank you.