NATO plans crisis response at top secret U.S. base.
Colorado Springs, Colo. - NATO defense ministers met at a top secret U.S. military base Wednesday for an unprecedented test of the alliance's readiness to send troops around the globe for a sudden crisis.
The four-hour exercise at Schriever Air Force base on the edge of the Rocky Mountains kicked off a two-day meeting of ministers and military chiefs of the 19 NATO countries and the seven eastern European states invited to join their ranks.
Details of the "Dynamic Response '07" study seminar were kept under wraps to preserve the element of surprise for ministers, but officials said it involved a terrorism and weapons of mass destruction scenario set in a fictional country.
It is set in 2007, a year after NATO's planned high-readiness force of up to 20,000 troops will be fully activated for deployment anywhere in the world.
The $7-million exercise was an advance test of NATO's ability to overcome likely political and military differences when a crisis breaks and deploy their most lethal troops outside its historic European territory within five to 30 days.
"It provides an opportunity to examine the world's future security environment and NATO's potential role," a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters.
Getting NATO's "phone to ring"
The exercise was held at the U.S. military Joint National Integration Center, a high-tech missile defense and space warfare facility 10 miles east of Colorado Springs.
The high-tech war-gaming base is so secret that the military refuses to post photographs on the Internet.
The ministers sat at a round table in a specially erected tent with large video screens and military chiefs from the 26 nations observed from a building nearby. "It's very substantive and businesslike with no frills," a NATO official said.
The remainder of the informal ministerial meeting, held once a year away from the alliance's Brussels headquarters, will take place at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.
The ministers will consider expansion of NATO's peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, the European Union's offer to take command of its Bosnia operation in 2004 and on Thursday they will meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Officials said the Pentagon had originally envisaged including an element of preemptive action in the seminar scenario, but backed away from this in the light of what one diplomat said would have been an "inevitable train wreck."
The alliance held a crisis management exercise last year in which a Middle Eastern country was ready to attack Turkey with biological and chemical weapons. Facing the reluctance of other allies to agree, the U.S. and Turkey declared themselves ready to respond, with or without the participation of others.
Preemption is a key element of the Bush administration's security strategy following the 2001 hijacked airliner attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But diplomats said Washington is treading carefully with its NATO allies after an acrimonious split over bolstering Turkey's defenses ahead of the U.S.-led Iraq war, which triggered one of NATO's deepest crises in its 54-year history.
The NATO Response Force plan is one of several initiatives launched to transform the Cold War alliance, which was sidelined by Washington after the 2001 attacks.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, host of the Colorado meeting, told reporters on Tuesday that the alliance's "phone will ring" if it can be prepared for post-Cold War threats.
[Source: By John Chalmers, Reuters, 8Oct03]
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