Forces: December 17, 2000


: Defense Secretary Cohen used his last address to a NATO Conference to denounce the European Union's (read France's) plan to build a "Rapid Reaction Force" outside of the NATO command structure. Cohen noted that the force would require duplicate command and support structures, which were not needed as NATO already had these, and diverting resources to create new ones would cost NATO nations more than they could afford to spend. The US has long complained that Europe isn't spending enough on its military forces. Cohen also noted that everything the European Rapid Reaction Force could do could already be done by the existing Joint Combined Task Forces created by NATO. Indeed, the Europeans seem to think that the US is going to provide them with AWACS planes, precision-guided munitions, and aircraft assets more or less for the asking. The European force lacks what NATO has: a clear chain of command and leader. The French, British, and Germans, being more or less equal, expect to share power rather than defer to the much larger US. The European force seems to exist only for one reason: to turn NATO into "the US force" in Europe as opposed to what it is now, the one truly collective force. Cohen's words were addressed to all of Europe, but were clearly meant for the British. The closest of US allies, Britain has long opposed any move that would weaken NATO, but Prime Minister Tony Blair changed that policy last year and signed on to the French plan.--Stephen V Cole


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