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Wolfowitz Says NATO Ties Are 'Essential'

Wolfowitz Says NATO Ties Are 'Essential'

By Linda D. Kozaryn, American Forces Information Service.

Washington D.C. -- (AFPS) February 2, 2002 -- NATO support for the war on terrorism proves the trans-Atlantic alliance is strong, united and ready to face new threats, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told European allies today in Germany.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said in remarks prepared for delivery at the Munich Conference on European Security Policy, those who might have consigned NATO to oblivion as a Cold War relic can no longer question the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's value.

"Our trans-Atlantic ties are not obsolete," he said. "They are essential.

"For the first time in its history," Wolfowitz said, "NATO has invoked Article V, not because of an attack on Europe, but because the United States itself has been attacked by terrorists operating from abroad."

Seven NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft, flying out of Tinker Air Force Base, he said, are patrolling U.S. skies, relieving the burden on the U.S. AWACS fleet, which is strained by operations in two theaters.

NATO's response to the Sept. 11 attack demonstrated the alliance could deal with uncertainty and uncharted territory. "This alliance has proven itself a flexible instrument, adapting even as the challenges change dramatically, he said."

NATO as an alliance and NATO members individually are playing important roles in the war on terror, he said. U.S. operations in Afghanistan are benefiting from more than 50 years of joint planning, training and operations in the NATO framework. NATO countries, along with others from around the world, are contributing to the war effort and post-Taliban reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Twenty-seven nations work together at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, and 16 nations are serving in the theater. "Most are NATO allies, but others, notably Jordan and Australia, also have significant forces," Wolfowitz said.

"Another 66 nations have contributed various forms of support throughout the campaign," he said. "We could not possibly have achieved what we have so far without the support and assistance of a number of countries in the region, most importantly, Pakistan."

Looking beyond the war on terrorism, Wolfowitz called on European security leaders to continue strengthening and enlarging NATO, as well as building a new relationship with Russia.

"In Warsaw last June," he said, "President Bush emphasized the importance of 'NATO membership for all of Europe's democracies that seek it and are ready to share the responsibility that NATO brings.' That is as important today as it was before Sept. 11."

Rather than build a new wall down the middle of Europe as some critics had predicted, the first round of NATO enlargement in 1999 "has built new structures," Wolfowitz said. "But these are bridges, not walls."

NATO enlargement has strengthened security and promoted stability throughout Europe, he said. It has provided incentives for countries to reform their political systems, strengthen relationships with and bring military forces under civilian control.

Further enlargement will help improve relations among NATO members and between members and nonmembers, he said.

The alliance today has a historic opportunity to build a new relationship with Russia, Wolfowitz said.

He noted the United States and Russia have begun to fashion a new strategic relationship based on common security interests rather than on the Cold War's distrust and threat of mutual nuclear destruction.

"We have been able to set aside the fears of the past and plan for radical reductions in the legacy nuclear forces of the Cold War," Wolfowitz said,

"It is important that we get started with practical, concrete forms of cooperation that build on NATO's and Russia's mutual security interests," Wolfowitz said. "It is also essential, as NATO and Russia work together where we can, that NATO retain its independent ability to decide and act on important security issues."

As NATO enlarges and builds relations with Russia, he said, it's important to remember that NATO is a military alliance and its credibility and ability to prevent war depend on its military strength. NATO must improve its structures and capabilities to deal with "surprise and uncertainty in the decades ahead."

Wolfowitz called on the alliance to launch a military transformation agenda at the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic. This agenda should include plans to develop NATO's counterterrorism capacities, he said.

"Fighting terrorism, which has been so clearly linked to weapons of mass destruction," he noted, "is part of NATO's basic job description: collective defense."

The transformation agenda, he said, should also include a reform of NATO's command structure "to make it leaner, more streamlined, more cost efficient, and, above all, more flexible." He also called on the alliance to focus on a capabilities-based approach to defense planning.

"During the Cold War, NATO sized and shaped its forces against specific geographic threats," he said. "The only Article V attack in NATO's history came from an unexpected source in an unexpected form.

"Rather than trying to guess which enemy the alliance will confront years from now or where wars may occur," he said, "we should focus on what capabilities adversaries could use against us, on shoring up our own vulnerabilities, and on exploiting new capabilities to extend our own military advantages.

"We are in a new era, facing new risks, and we must have new capabilities," Wolfowitz concluded. "This should be our main objective as we approach the Prague summit."


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).