- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

The United States is drafting plans for a NATO-run military unit to rival directly the European Union's much-criticized Rapid Reaction Force.
In a move that illustrates the Bush administration's distrust of EU military ambitions, the Pentagon is proposing that NATO set up small, highly mobile units to project the alliance's strength to trouble spots.
The new, multinational forces would be drawn primarily from NATO's European members but are likely to include U.S. troops. They would be sent on dangerous missions that the United States believes are unsuited to the so-called "European Army."
Washington envisages that the Europe-NATO force will quickly relegate the fledgling EU rival to peacekeeping duties.
NATO officials in Brussels confirmed that they were aware of the U.S. plan. They said any new response forces would be complementary to the European defense force and would not be intended to supplant it.
"They would have different purposes," one of the officials said. "There would only be a conflict if two different missions were going on at once, and both NATO and the EU wanted to draw on the same European forces."
One Washington defense analyst said: "The only people who could object to this are those Europeans who hoped that European security and defense policy could be entirely disconnected from NATO."
Pentagon officials have been working on the new proposals before a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels this week, where Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to urge NATO's European members to increase defense spending.
Mr. Rumsfeld, a critic of the EU force, will also urge them to plug what the Bush administration regards as serious gaps in Europe's military capability.
U.S. military spending of $354 billion 3 percent of economic output is almost twice that of all European NATO members combined. Britain, which spends 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on defense, is one of the few countries to come anywhere close to what the United States spends.
Most EU members are cutting their defense apparatus and lack precision-attack weapons, electronic warfare equipment, intelligence equipment, missile defense and special forces.
Mr. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, are concerned that the EU force will weaken NATO. The Pentagon plan has won support from within President Bush's National Security Council as well as from the White House's own defense and foreign policy advisers.
NATO already boasts Europe's only fully deployable mobile headquarters, the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which is capable of directing up to 60,000 troops and was used in the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo conflicts.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that U.S. officials want to identify the components of five or six "mini task forces," each with its own command center and specialized purpose.
Their troops, much like the European Rapid Reaction Force, would train together but would not be permanently stationed in the same place. "It would be a capability, not an actual standing force," said one defense expert.
There are differences of opinion within the Pentagon. Some officials believe U.S. interests are best served by bypassing even NATO, and instead building "coalitions of the willing" to face individual crises, as in Afghanistan and during the Gulf war.
Others do not want U.S. troops involved in the small task forces, believing that the United States should operate with complete independence.
Since NATO's supreme commander is by tradition a U.S. general, any American troops committed to the new response forces would be ultimately under U.S. command.
But some U.S. officers would almost certainly find themselves answering to non-Americans just above them in command, another issue being debated within the Pentagon.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide