- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

NATO members have finally admitted the military alliance will need to reform if it is to provide security in the face of increased terrorism threats. In a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels yesterday, allies agreed to reform command and control structures, with a deadline of September for military experts to conduct a full review of every part of the command structure. As part of the reforms to be reviewed, the United States, Britain and Spain have proposed that new NATO units be created to deploy to the world's trouble spots, and Britain an dSpain suggested that the units be operable out of the NATO area. These proposals, while still in the planning stages, show that the United States and Europe aren't ready to give up on working together, and they are a good first step in ensuring that NATO is prepared to handle new threats.

After the Kosovo war, the European Union, led by France, proposed creating a new 60,000-troop rapid reaction force, but the much-criticized project never went anywhere. The new proposals envision a drastically different force. Before September 11, NATO's concept of rapidly deployable units envisioned hundreds of European-only troops, taking aim at defined enemy, NATO spokesman Eve Brodeur said in an interview from Brussels. "Now we have to look at something more deployable, more specialized," he said.

The proposed new military units are part of an attempt to make NATO better-equipped to fight terrorism, weapons proliferation and weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon's proposal would have the new multinational units made up mostly of European troops, but would also include Americans, the London Sunday Telegraph reported. The Blair-Aznar proposal also calls for increased interoperability between the United States and Europe.

The military unit proposals, welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, could improve trans-Atlantic relations on several fronts. Critics of the former EU rapid-reaction force were worried that the United States would lose its influence if Europe were to have its own independent army. However, if the units are under NATO auspices and include American troops that concern is addressed.

Secondly, since September 11, NATO allies have declared their support for the United States by stating that the attack against America was an attack against all. Yet since that time, NATO has not acted as a whole. Europeans have felt sidelined, and Americans have been frustrated with the Europeans' lack of military capability. If NATO indeed does create new mobile military units, both sides would be forced to work together and match capabilities.

Finally, the proposals address NATO's Cold War mentality and free the alliance to prepare for threats to civilian targets by non-government actors from beyond America and Europe. NATO will only survive if the United States and Europe continue to work together to fight new threats. This proposal could greatly increase NATO's chances of survival.

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