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General George turns guns on critics of new Euro force.

NATO boss Lord Geroge Robertson yesterday attacked Tory scaremongering over Europe's new rapid reaction force.

The Secretary General lashed out at "exaggerated" claims that the EU defence force would ruin the North Atlantic alliance.

He reaffirmed his support for the proposed EU force and his belief that it would be "NATO-friendly".

Lord Roberston said: "I want it to be connected to NATO's planning.

"I want it to be part of an overall increase in the capabilities of the North Atlantic alliance and of its European allied nations.

"Only by adapting to the new risks and challenges of the future will NATO continue to be relevant."

And he said he had been assured by the incoming administration of George W Bush that he would not unilaterally withdraw US troops from peacekeeping missions like that in Kosovo.

Tory leader William Hague and his most extreme anti-Europe frontbenchers said the European force would severely damage military relations with America.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen warned that the EU force could make NATO a relic.

But Lord Robertson said that would only happen "if we get it terribly wrong" - and that Euro-sceptics had misrepresented the American military chief's warning.

He said: "He wanted to encourage the Europeans in the project, which is a NATO-friendly, European rapid- reaction force that would be used in very limited circumstances where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged.

"I happen to believe strongly in that as well."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 27, 2000
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