Nato plan for rapid-reaction force to counter Russian agression
Nato defence ministers were today reported to be considering the creation of a rapid-response military force to respond to Russian aggression.
The proposal, a compromise dreamed up by the Pentagon to reassure allies, was to under discussion at today’s Nato defence ministers meeting in London, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Britain called that meeting in April to discuss how Nato could be transformed to better address post-Cold War needs. But the creation of such a force would take Nato back to its roots as a deterrent on its own eastern borders after years of expeditionary missions to Kosovo and Afghanistan.
A senior US defence official told the newspaper that Washington would push for the creation of a small, light defensive force that could be deployed to a threatened member country.
Nato’s only current standing deterrent is a paper one – Article Five of its charter, which deems an attack on one member as an attack on all and obliges all countries to come to its defence.
But Article Five has been invoked only once in Nato’s history, after the September 11 attacks on the United States, and newer members in Eastern Europe have questioned whether the alliance still has the will and capability to carry through on its promise.
Questions will be asked today about whether such a force could in effect replace Article Five or whether it may provoke rather than pacify a resurgent Russia. There also remains the question of who would staff and equip the force, not to mention where the authority to deploy it would lie and in what situations it could be used.
Robert Gates, the US Secretary for Defence, hinted yesterday at the idea of a more concrete deterrent, calling for a revival of “the kind of actions Nato has been engaged in for 60 years that are not provocative and tend not to draw any firm lines”.
“We need to proceed with some caution as there is a range of views within the alliance,” he said, a nod to the like of Germany, France and Italy who are more cautious on the wisdom of Nato’s eastward expansion.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato Secretary-General, is due to speak today on a roadmap for the alliance’s transformation to provide quicker response forces and more mobile capabilities both in Europe and elsewhere.
[Source: The Times, London, 19Oct08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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