Bush Is Happy to See Europe Toughen Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Woodcock

President George W Bush, does not 'have a problem with' proposals for a joint European Union military force, so long as it does not undermine Nato, his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

There has been concern in Washington for some time that the EU states had allowed their military capability to decline, and the US was happy to see efforts to improve it, she said.

Ms Rice also sought to calm European worries over the development of the National Missile Defence 'missile shield' - nicknamed Son of Star Wars - designed to protect the US against attack by so-called rogue states.

She insisted that the incoming administration's European allies should give it time to develop a diplomatic strategy to calm the anxieties of Russia and China over NMD before being critical of the scheme.

Asked whether President Bush was concerned about the EU's plans for a rapid reaction force or 'Euro-army', Ms Rice said: 'We are concerned about what has been a decline in military capabilities on much of the European continent. To the degree that the rapid reaction force and the European security and defence policy does not undermine Nato, that it is co-ordinated with and transparent to Nato, that Nato is still the primary instrument for security, no-one has a problem with this.'

Ms Rice admitted that the exact form that NMD would take had not yet been decided, but insisted that it was designed to aid deterrence.

Critics have said that the creation of a 'missile shield' would lead to a new arms race, as it would contravene the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaties of the 1970s.

And many in Britain are concerned that NMD would make the country a prime target for those wishing to strike America, as it would rely on an early warning system at Fylingdales in North Yorkshire which would not itself be covered by the 'shield'. …