- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

NATO is the single best vehicle for waging the war against international terrorism, Secretary-General George Robertson said yesterday in taking on a growing chorus of U.S. skeptics about the role of the Atlantic alliance in the fight against Osama bin Laden.
"A permanent coalition is better than a temporary one," Mr. Robertson said in an address at the American Enterprise Institute.
"A value-sharing coalition is better than a coalition of convenience. And a NATO coalition is better than anything else," Mr. Robertson said.
NATO's 19 members invoked the collective defense clause the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, supplying AWACS surveillance planes to patrol American skies and committing ground forces from 14 countries to fight alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
But the Pentagon has largely bypassed NATO's command structure in fighting the terrorism war, preferring bilateral arrangements with NATO allies and with countries outside the alliance, such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan and the Philippines. There are also deep divisions within NATO about the dangers posed by such states as Iran and Iraq.
The Bush administration and Mr. Robertson also have been pressing NATO's major European powers to increase their military spending, which on average is barely more than half of the U.S. defense budget as a percentage of gross domestic product.
James B. Steinberg, a top national security aide in the Clinton administration and director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said President Bush "still needs to convince [our] European allies that the United States takes NATO seriously."
"There is a clear anxiety about U.S. attitudes toward NATO," Mr. Steinberg said.
Mr. Robertson said NATO has responded quickly and forcefully to the changed threats of the post-September 11 world, placing the global fight against terrorism at the heart of its mission after a half-century defending Western Europe from Soviet attack.
NATO, he said, can either take the lead in rooting out terrorist networks or support non-NATO operations with planning and military assets.
"NATO gets it. NATO gets the big picture," Mr. Robertson said. "That's why we are moving forward with a sense of urgency to retool the alliance to tackle terrorism."
Mr. Robertson also insisted that the alliance will rely on deterrence as its primary defense against terrorists, rogue regimes and unconventional threats such as chemical, nuclear and biological warfare.
"Deterrence is the key element in NATO's strategic concept, and so it must remain," he said.
But Mr. Bush in his June 1 speech at the U.S. Military Academy said the United States now places a far greater emphasis on a strategy of striking at "terrorists and tyrants" before they can pose a major threat to U.S. interests.
"Deterrence the promise of massive retaliation against nations means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Robertson said yesterday that the president "has not been saying anything new," adding that NATO was prepared to take preemptive action against threats if deterrence did not work.

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