NEWS

Alliance to gain battleworthy force with a worldwide range

Without a doubt, terrorism is at the top of the agenda for the new NATO. «The US is at war and everyone should realize what that means; that is, that evil no longer comes from Berlin or Moscow, but from where you least expect it,» said one leading US military source at the Mons headquarters in Belgium (where France is not represented by its military but by a police official, although with military status). «Promoting democracy» is the next major issue, frequently in combination with the aforementioned. Activities formerly seen as falling in the domain of the police, such as certain categories of organized crime, are also being discussed, as there is a general conviction that all these issues are interlinked. Religious fundamentalism is also giving rise to concern among NATO’s senior officials. The main element in NATO’s new military structure regarding these questions is the creation of the new NATO Response Force. Initially scheduled to be ready in October 2004, according to the new NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR) Gen. James Jones – who is the first leader in the alliance’s history to come from the Marines and not the land army or air force – at least one sector will be ready a year ahead of schedule, by October 2003, a fact that is in itself significant. The force will have three levels of preparedness. The first level will comprise a force of 2,000, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world within five days. At the second level, 18,000 troops will be ready to act within a period of between five days and a month. At the third level, over 40,000 more will be ready in less than two months for any destination deemed necessary. The entire force will be ready before the end of 2006. The procedure for recruiting the troops is still open to negotiation, as are decisions on which member states they will be drawn from, where they will be based and when they can be relieved. Disagreement can be ruled out, since the political decisions have been reached. An attempt is being made to recruit the first 2,000 from European armies. Within the general framework of change, cuts are important. At the Mons headquarters, the number of officers is to be reduced by about 30 percent, with similar cuts in a number of other NATO units. The next crucial issue regarding NATO’s military capabilities concerns military weaponry and other means of fighting. Strategic air lift (transport of troops and supplies) is perhaps the most typical example of the huge distance between the capabilities of the Americans and the Europeans. In Europe at the moment there are currently only four aircraft with NATO specifications suitable for this purpose, while the US has over 380. In fact, the Germans and the Poles, who participated in recent NATO operations, had to rent Russian-built aircraft from Ukraine to transport their troops, but in one case this was not possible as the Japanese had got in before them, in order to transport toys for the Christmas market. Of course the US’s defense budget is far greater that the total of that in all other 18 member states and more than double the second largest in NATO, that of Britain. The US currently spends $379 billion annually on defense, so in order to close this dangerous gap (which among other things creates problems with compatibility), they want their allies to spend more on defense, although the latter have no guarantees that this will give them a greater say in the decision-making process. The conviction is growing in the US that because no other country but the US can ever provide everything necessary on its own, whether with regard to the arming of the new NATO Response Force or with the provision of military equipment, each country could specialize in providing specific supplies on a regular basis. However, many Europeans believe this theory of a NATO «toolbox» will only increase American supremacy and instead of providing economy of scale, will force the Europeans to dig even deeper into their own pockets.