Yesterday, in approving the creation of the rapid-deployment force, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson addressed the alliance's shortcomings. He said the deployment force marked the creation of a military arm that will enable NATO to answer calls anywhere in the world. The force is to be operational by October 2004.
U.S. Senate and the parliaments of NATO members.
"The whole of the armed
forces in any of these countries could not be compared with any Western military power in terms of equipment or anything else," said Phillip Mitchell, ground forces analyst for the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "It's going to take quite an effort to integrate in every aspect, including communications, equipment and training."
Slovenia, for example, has no air force and no navy, although its army has an air element that includes about 250 people. Its ground forces rely almost exclusively on T-55 tanks, the Yugoslav version of the Russian T-72, built in the mid-1950s, making them a generation older than those in the fleets of most NATO countries.
The country has a total of about 9,000 military personnel, and about half of them are seven-month conscripts. The United States, by contrast, has a volunteer professional force of about 1.3 million troops.
Of the countries poised to be admitted, Romania offers the largest number of troops - about 99,000 - but also is strapped with aged equipment. None of the countries has communications equipment that enables it to speak with its U.S. or British counterparts, although that is a problem with many of the NATO countries.
On the eve of the summit, Bush encouraged the other NATO countries to pull their weight by spending more on military capabilities. He said, and NATO leaders agreed yesterday, that the alliance needs to be able to fight side-by-side better, to increase special operations forces and to build a larger arsenal of precision bombs.
"Every member must make a military contribution to this alliance," he said. "Never has our need for collective defense been more important."