NATO's Secretary General says much work lies ahead if the alliance is to meet global security challenges in an era of terrorism and regional conflicts. The comments came at the start of a two-day NATO meeting in Colorado that began with an unusual exercise.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke with reporters after sitting through a simulation of a future terrorist crisis that begins in the Middle East but threatens Europe with weapons of mass destruction. Also attending were defense chiefs from 18 other NATO countries plus seven Eastern European nations slated to join the alliance next year.
The exercise, held at a high-security U.S. military base near Colorado Springs, was designed to test NATO's ability to react to such a future crisis, and show how a future NATO rapid-deployment military force would bring the situation under control. The event was off-limits to the news media.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said the point of the hypothetical crisis, called "Dynamic Response '07," was to test NATO's strengths and weaknesses.
NATO Secretary General Robertson picked up on what he deemed a weakness, saying the exercise showed that NATO currently lacks troops that could be deployed outside of Europe on short notice. He added, in his words, "we need real, deployable soldiers, not paper armies."
NATO envisions completing a "rapid response force" of 5,000 soldiers backed by 15,000 support personnel that could be deployed virtually anywhere within a matter of weeks, even days, by the year 2006.
Aside from planning for possible future crises, over the next two days the defense chiefs will examine current affairs, as well, including the expansion of NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. They are also to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.