NEWS

‘NATO will put wide range of capabilities at Greece’s disposal during the Olympics’

NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, General James Jones, leader of the US forces in Europe is the first officer in the history of the alliance to reach that highest office from the marines, a development indirectly linked to the transformation of the alliance itself. Kathimerini interviewed him at NATO headquarters in Mons on a number of issues, including NATO’s involvement in security arrangements for the Olympic Games, the transformation of the alliance and its new role, future strategies regarding the concept of a «Greater Middle East» and the results of the «doctrine» of imposing democracy from outside, as implemented in Iraq and elsewhere. ‘Greece decides, we provide’ How will NATO contribute to the security of the Athens Olympics? The Olympic Games are such an important issue that all of us in NATO want to help Greece the best way we can. We are here to help, to ask how we can help, as it is the Greek government who will decide what the best possible help would be. NATO will put a wide range of capabilities at Greece’s disposal and we will fashion together a proper package that will be designed to support and be of assistance to our friends and allies. The specifics of that package are not yet determined and so we are very much in a consulting mode right now, designed toward establishing the proper response that addresses Greek concerns and requests There is time Do we have enough time to organize all this, because the Games are now not even 100 days away? NATO is transitioning to be a much more responsive alliance. We are moving from a static alliance designed for the defense of Europe to a more expeditionary capability. Indeed the idea of the NATO Response Force (NRF) for example, which is the most transformational capability that is going on in the alliance, is emblematic of the types of capabilities that we can bring to bear very quickly. So is that the force we will see in Athens? I don’t know if it will be the NRF itself, but it will be a response package that is expeditionary in nature. As you know, we have other packages like NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System), which is designed to go immediately if it were asked. So 110 days for the alliance is a lot of time to be able to do that. We don’t wish to be obtrusive, we don’t want to add to Greek problems by having large numbers on the ground but we can do many things from the sea base platforms, we can help assure the integrity of the air space. We can bring a lot of assistance to bear against the multiplicity of threats that might face us and that is really the work that is ongoing right now. Given these components of the NRF, is that the entire force? No, let me be very clear on this, the NATO Response Force being built is a capability that can be task-organized; that means that specific pieces of the NRF can be brought together to make a package. Let’s forget about the Olympics for a minute. Let’s suggest that the NRF is now a fully operationally capable force. It is conceivable that in the future, there may be two or three missions simultaneously emanating from the NRF. One could be humanitarian assistance, one could be a kind of training activity, another could be a non-combatant evacuation, all going on simultaneously in three different parts of the world. So one of the things we are all trying to make sure our public understands is that even though you may have 15-20,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and special forces, when you say NRF it doesn’t mean the whole thing, it means a tailored part. So whether we call it the NRF or whether we call it a task force, the help that we could bring to Greece, the assistance, would be a tailored package. but it would be responsive, rapid and focused, to meet the needs of the situation. Is it possible to provide security for Greece without having NATO soldiers or staff on the ground? Yes, you can put command and control at sea if you wish to. The NATO AWACS is in the air, it can be based somewhere else. We’ll just have to wait and see how the relations and the dialogue with Greece and the Greek authorities develop. There may be a need for chemical and biological response capability. Who is going to pay the cost, the alliance or Greece? Generally speaking, the nations that participate in the operation pay for their portion of the operation. Some of it will come out of common funding, some of it will be borne by the host nation and so there is not one answer to that question. Do you believe there will be a terrorist attack during the Games? I don’t know. I obviously hope not, but it is clear with the recent explosions in Istanbul, Morocco and Madrid, that one can’t discount the attraction of a major event like the Olympics – going all the way back to Munich, for example, for people who are focused on that kind of activity. So one of the main ways to counteract that is to deter such activity through good planning and evidence that even if they tried, they would not be successful. We are anxious to work with the Greek authorities to make sure we do whatever we can to convey that message that this is not something (these people) want to try (in Athens).