″The Stronger the EU Forces Become, the Better″ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.04.2006
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"The Stronger the EU Forces Become, the Better"

In an interview with DW-WORLD.DE, Victoria Nuland, US Permanent Representative to NATO, spoke about the ongoing activities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as plans for its future expansion.


Nuland during a recent visit to the Macedonian capital, Skopje

Victoria Nula n d has bee n US perma n e n t represe n tative to NATO si n ce July 2005. Previously, she was pri n cipal deputy n atio n al security advisor to Vice Preside n t Che n ey from July 2003 u n til May 2005 whe n she worked o n the full ra n ge of global issues, i n cludi n g security i n the broader Middle East . She is a graduate of Brow n U n iversity .

DW-WORLD: Croatia , Alba n ia a n d Macedo n ia are hopi n g to joi n NATO i n less tha n two years. What's their cha n ce i n your opi n io n ? Will they be ready to joi n i n 2008?

Victoria Nuland: I was just down in Croatia, Macedonia and Albania talking to their governments, parliaments and the public. Our view is that they have all made huge progress but none of them is ready today. Each one of them has tough areas to work on. But we are confident that if they work very hard, they will all be in the strongest possible position when NATO takes a next look at inviting new members, which will be in 2008. We are working with them to strengthen their candidacies on the various issues that they still need to work on. We are supportive of their aspirations and hopeful they will make it.

NATO is also playi n g a n importa n t role supporti n g the Africa n U n io n (AU) troops i n Darfur . There is talk that the UN may take over the AU missio n , but cha n ces for the UN to solve that crisis are pretty slim. Ca n you foresee a bigger role for NATO i n the troubled regio n ?

Flüchtlinge in Darfur Sudan

Sudanese refugees

First of all, NATO has already been doing a number of things: transporting African Union troops, helping them with training and logistics mobility, etc. And I think that that the African Union has valued this support. As you know, there is a discussion going on in New York about the United Nations coming in and assuming management of that mission, but still with a strong AU contribution. Last week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called our secretary general and asked him for two things: more NATO support for the African Union in this transition period until the UN force comes in, on the one hand, and NATO's help with the planning of the UN mission, on the other. One of NATO's great strengths is our ability to plan and manage military operations. So, I do hope -- and we are talking about it at the headquarters now -- that NATO will answer that call and play a stronger role.

There are many things that we can do: We can embed some of our people with the African Union forces, help them establish an operation center to make their mission more effective, or help them use their equipment better. Like us, the African Union forces are composed of many nations and it is not as easy as it might seem for militaries from many different nations to work together. But that is something that NATO is good at. We are also hopeful that -- now that the UN has welcomed our planning support -- we can help the UN mission to be effective and strong, while helping the people of Darfur to bring peace and stability back to that part of the world.

But will we see a n y NATO boots o n the grou n d?

Obviously, if we go with trainers and support, they will be wearing boots, but today we are not talking about NATO combat forces. It is not clear to me that that would be welcome. But I think that our training staff will be very much welcomed by the UN and the AU.

NATO has also played a n importa n t role i n trai n i n g officers i n Iraq . How do you see that missio n ? Is it goi n g well? A n d what do you foresee for the future: Could there also be a bigger role for NATO i n that area?

Amerikanische Luftwaffe in Irak

US and Iraqi soldiers

NATO is actually playing a really important role in Iraq. And it is a terrific thing, particularly when you consider how difficult the Iraq subject was at the NATO table just three years ago. But today all 26 NATO allies are contributing to our training mission in Iraq. We trained more than 2,000 Iraqi officers last year. This year, we are hoping to train as many as 4,000. And the graduates from our school are already playing a strong operational role in Iraq. I recently heard that some of them led units that helped quell the violence after the Golden Mosque incidents.

By training officers from all the ethnic groups in Iraq, we are helping to form a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Iraqi army which is important for the future for Iraq as well as an exit-strategy for us. I think that the question of expanding that mission will be up to allies. We will have to wait and see what the new Iraqi government and the new Iraqi defense minister want. If the Iraqis come to us and ask us to do more -- expanded offerings, different kinds of courses -- I would hope that we will be willing to do it since it has been really very effective.

How would you assess your cooperatio n with the EU, especially i n view of the fact that the u n io n pla n s to build up its ow n defe n se forces?

From a US point of view, we'd like to see the European forces as strong as possible. I think that the EU taking on the election support mission the Congo will be a good test. The mission will be at a strategic distance, multinational and will require significant troop contributions. If the EU forces can do that kind of mission without the US, without Canada, without some of its other allies, that will only make them stronger when they come together with us in NATO.

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