U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins his 18 NATO counterparts in Brussels Wednesday for discussions that will include shifting the alliance's focus from conventional wars to threats posed by the new war against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He will also visit India and Pakistan, another step in international efforts to reduce escalating tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir.
For half a century, NATO has managed to contain the Cold War. But a senior U.S. defense official calls last September's terrorist attacks against the United States a wake up call about new kinds of unprecedented threats, including those posed by nuclear, chemical and even biological weapons.
In this new, post September 11 environment, NATO members find themselves facing threats posed not by armies but by weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. Much of the discussion this week in Brussels will focus on what the militaries of 19 NATO countries need to do to adapt to that kind of warfare.
After leaving Brussels, Secretary Rumsfeld will head to the Persian Gulf for discussions with allies there about the threat posed by Iraq and to South Asia. There, he'll meet Indian and Pakistani leaders in an effort to head off war between two nuclear powers over the disputed region of Kashmir. Before leaving Washington Tuesday, he told reporters tensions between the two countries have been a distraction in the fight against terrorism but have not hampered U.S. objectives.
He and other Bush administration officials have made clear they expect Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to do more to end crossborder attacks by Muslim militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir and until then, maintain that India has a right to self defense.
"There's no question but that I would not be going on this visit if we were not concerned about the situation between the two countries and to the extent that a country is a victim of terrorism, we have indicated that we personally believe it is clearly within their right to try to stamp it out," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will be in New Delhi and Islamabad several days before Secretary Rumsfeld arrives just part of what has been an international effort including Russia and China to avoid war in South Asia. Both officials will be carrying coordinated messages about the horrific consequences across the region if conflict between the two countries leads to a full blown nuclear exchange.