WASHINGTON — Before departing on a trip to meet with NATO and European military leaders, Defense Secretary Les Aspin outlined an ambitious plan Friday for military operations among selected nations that would address changing post-Cold War security needs.
Speaking to the Atlantic Council, a nonprofit public-policy center, Aspin said that under the plan, members of NATO and Central and Eastern European nations would share military planning and training operations and would undertake rescue missions, disaster relief and peacekeeping patrols.
"These consultations," he said, "should do much to increase the sense of security and stability of the Eastern Europeans."
The program, dubbed Partnership for Peace, would operate under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, described by Aspin as lying "at the heart of any new Euro-Atlantic security system."
Aspin leaves Tuesday for Belgium and France, where he will meet with NATO leaders and other defense ministers to push the plan.
Under the program, leaders at a separate NATO summit early next month would approve a framework for the partnership and issue invitations to 22 members of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council--Eastern Europe's liaison to NATO--and other European states.
Each new country joining the pact would agree to identify facilities, resources and forces it would be willing to share. Partners would be required to pledge civilian control over their military organizations and agree to open their defense budgets and policies to outside scrutiny.
In a key element of the program, Aspin said, "allies and partners would agree to consult whenever the territorial integrity, political independence or security of a partner state was threatened."
He warned that participation in the partnership would not guarantee that a nation would be permitted to join NATO and enjoy its security guarantees.