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NATO: Robertson Chides U.S. On European Cooperation

  • Andrew Tully

The secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is calling on the United States to make available military technology to its European partners in the alliance. NATO chief Lord George Robertson said in a Washington speech that such transfers would help Europeans do their fair share of shouldering alliance responsibilities.

Washington, 23 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson is telling the United States that it should stop accusing the alliance's European members of not contributing fully to military operations.

Robertson says this attitude seems to contribute to America's tendency toward unilateralism in foreign affairs. He made his comments in a speech yesterday at the Brookings Institution, an independent policy-research center in Washington.

Robertson said the U.S. government should understand that the conflicts of the past 11 years have demonstrated the importance of Washington working together with its allies and other friends in international relations, despite its great military and economic power: "Kosovo and Afghanistan and Bosnia and the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm before them show one thing very clearly: that you cannot conduct either diplomacy or military operations on your own, and that you require different options for different circumstances."

U.S. officials have complained that some European partners in NATO do not contribute appropriately to the alliance's efforts, most recently in connection with the military campaign in Kosovo.

Robertson countered that it would be wrong to say America's European allies in NATO have no military capability, but he conceded that -- for now at least -- they do not have enough of that capability. And for that, he said, the United States has itself to blame, at least in part.

The NATO leader said European NATO members themselves have complained repeatedly that Washington has been refusing to share the technologies that their commanders need to be able to communicate with their forces, and that their pilots need for precision air strikes. Robertson said this behavior by Washington is unacceptable: "If the United States wants the Europeans to share the responsibilities and risks of dealing with today's threats, it must be prepared to transfer the technology that is needed to modernize European armed forces."

Robertson recalled the battle of El Alamein, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, in 1942, in which British, French, and Greek troops defeated a German force. He said this victory was assured in part because the United States shared what he called its highest technology of that time, M-4 tanks, even before the tanks were being used by the American military: "You, the Americans, took away any alibi for failure and created the conditions for success. That is a lesson from history with real relevance to today."

Robertson said it is time for the United States to "remove the alibis" to ensure that NATO becomes an effective alliance. He said it is important that the alliance improve as it looks ahead to a long and unconventional war against international terrorism.

According to Robertson, too many people wrongly believe that NATO is not capable of fighting elusive enemies like Al-Qaeda. In fact, he said the very looseness of their network makes them weak when confronted by the determined nations that oppose them: "We cannot allow a small, unrepresentative network of criminal extremists to believe that by exploiting the openness of our free societies that they've somehow got us licked. They are not invincible. They will be defeated in any war where freedom-loving people are united against evil."

Robertson also spoke about the NATO summit that is to be held in Prague next month, saying he believes the meeting will shape the alliance to meet the threat of international terrorism and the other challenges of the 21st century.

But the NATO leader refused to discuss the expected enlargement of the alliance, telling his audience that they will know soon enough which nations will be admitted.

Nine countries have applied for NATO membership. They are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia. The alliance is widely expected to accept all but Albania and Macedonia.

In a question-and-answer period after his speech, a Russian reporter asked Robertson about Georgia's chances of joining the alliance. Robertson replied that Georgia must first file an application for membership. Until then, he said, he could not comment.

The NATO leader also said the alliance's relations with Russia have been going well. Russia has expressed concern that NATO -- originally created to counter the threat of the Soviet Union -- has been expanding to include countries on its very borders.

Robertson said he will be traveling to Moscow next month to plan for a seminar on counterterrorism there. He said that event will be a sequel to a terrorism seminar held recently in Rome.