By Kathleen T. Rhem
WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2006 – NATO nations must invest enough to give NATO forces the capabilities they need to meet current and future challenges, President Bush told alliance leaders in Riga, Latvia, today. "The most basic responsibility of this alliance is to defend our people against the threats of a new century," he said.
Bush described details of several military transformational initiatives that NATO leaders will announce during this summit.
The NATO Special Operations Forces Initiative will strengthen the ability of NATO special ops troops to work together.
A new Strategic Airlift Initiative will ensure a dedicated fleet of C-17 cargo aircraft available for use by NATO members.
The Riga Global Partnership Initiative will allow NATO to conduct joint training, exercises and planning with non-NATO partners such as Australia and Japan, "countries that share NATO's values and want to work with our alliance in the cause of peace."
A new Training Cooperation Initiative will allow military forces in the Middle East to receive NATO training in counterterrorism, counterproliferation and peace-support operations.
These moves will follow other recent transformation initiatives such as the creation of the NATO Response Force, to ensure the alliance can deploy rapidly and effectively, and NATO Transformation Command, to ensure the alliance is prepared to meet threats of the future, Bush said.
"When NATO was formed in 1949, its principal mission was to protect Europe from a Soviet tank invasion," Bush said. "Today the Soviet threat is gone, and under the able leadership of the secretary-general, NATO is transforming from a static alliance focused on the defense of Europe into an (expeditionary) alliance ready to deploy outside of Europe in the defense of freedom."
NATO recognized that threats to alliance members may come from outside Europe and sent international forces to Afghanistan, 3,000 miles away from Europe, Bush said. "NATO has expanded (the International Security Assistance Force) from a small force that was operating only in Kabul into a robust force that conducts security operations in all of Afghanistan," he said.
Future threats could come from any front, Bush said.
"We're in a long struggle against terrorists and extremists who follow a hateful ideology and seek to establish a totalitarian empire from Spain to Indonesia," the president said. "We fight against the extremists who desire safe havens and are willing to kill innocents anywhere to achieve their objectives."
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