03 October 2003
NATO Defense Ministers Meeting to Discuss Operations, Transformation
"Study seminar" will engage both ministers and
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Staff Security Affairs Writer
Washington -- Defense ministers and chiefs of defense from 19
NATO countries will be hosted in Colorado Springs October 8 and
9 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for informal meetings to
discuss current out-of-area peacekeeping operations and how the
alliance must transform itself to meet future challenges.
"NATO is very important to us," a senior Defense Department official
says, especially because "it is very much on the frontline of the
global war on terrorism", and because the focus of the alliance
is no longer limited to "its traditional geographic domain, which
was Europe and North America."
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon October 3, the official
noted that the alliance remains a central pillar of "U.S. foreign
and defense policy in the transatlantic region." NATO is in the
throes of an historic transformation process, he said, making this
an important meeting because, "it will help to determine the course
of those alliance transformation initiatives into the next several
The official said the meeting will provide an opportunity "to
illuminate some of the issues that will arise from the creation
of the NATO Response Force" that is expected to stand-up in June
2004 but will not be fully operational until 2006. The North Americans
and Europeans "need to do a better job of developing not only more
deployable forces," he said, "but forces that can deploy more quickly" and
in a more agile fashion.
The meeting's agenda, which he described as "heavy," is not expected
to result in any decisions but will be an opportunity for the ministers
and their defense chiefs to discuss peacekeeping operations in
Kosovo and Bosnia, NATO's lead role in the International Security
Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the alliance's support for
stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The official said he expects the discussion on Iraq to embrace
a variety of views on the ground situation there and the progress
that is being made there. "I think we've gotten very good support
from our NATO allies in Iraq," the official noted.
A new event, described as a "study seminar," is being introduced
at the ministerial. The classified exercise, which will focus on
a fictional scenario, is designed "to stimulate a discussion on
the implications of the current security environment," the official
said, "and how quickly crises can emerge and ...change." It will
be held at the Joint National Integration Center at Schriever Air
Force Base in Colorado.
The concept of the study seminar was initiated, the official said,
because NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson wants "to try to
reinvigorate the NATO meetings and make them more meaningful" and "more
useful to the ministers."
The discussions that will be prompted by the as yet unknown scenario
are expected to prompt an examination of NATO's decision-making
processes at both the political and military levels, according
to the official. They will try to draw some lessons from what they
learn from it, he added.
In addition to these activities, there will be a North Atlantic
Council Meeting, a NATO-Russia Council meeting, and various bilateral
meetings which are expected with Russia and the United Kingdom.
This will be Robertson's last informal NATO defense ministerial.
Dutch Foreign Minister J.G. de Hoop Scheffer will replace Robertson
as secretary general in December. The briefer said the new NATO
secretary general will be "a great promoter of transatlantic relations," adding, "he
certainly enjoys the trust of everyone in the U.S. government."
The last U.S. hosted informal NATO defense ministerial meeting
took place in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1995.