Europe risks being next terror target, US warns
MAJOR Western cities including London, Paris and Berlin could become targets for terrorist attacks which would dwarf the events of 11 September, the US defence secretary warned yesterday.
Donald Rumsfeld warned of a very real risk of future nuclear, chemical or biological assaults unless NATO took action to protect its member countries. The hijacked airliners that crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre could just be a foretaste of the unpredictable attacks that might be unleashed in the "tumultous decades ahead," he said.
"The terrorists and their state sponsors have demonstrated both their ingenuity and their ruthless disregard for human life," he said.
"As we look at the devastation they unleashed in the US, contemplate the destruction they could wreak in New York, or London, or Paris, or Berlin with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
"We need to face the reality that the attacks of 11 September - horrific as they were - may in fact be a dim preview of what is to come," he said.
Mr Rumsfeld was speaking at the opening session of a two-day winter security meeting of the alliance at allied headquarters in Brussels. He stressed that Afghanistan was not the only country where terrorists operated, al-Qaeda was not the only terror network, and that other unexpected threats would emerge. Cyber-attacks, threats to space assets and information networks, advanced conventional weapons, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons all had to be considered.
Mr Rumsfeld’s comments were echoed by Lord Robertson, the NATO Secretary-General, who said the "outrages" of 11 September had changed the whole perception of the dangers the world now faced.
"Our security environment must now be seen in a fundamentally different and a considerably darker light," he said.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, was also in Brussels to discuss closer relations with NATO.
Mr Rumsfeld promised US support for closer ties and consultation, but cautioned that the alliance must protect its right to independent decision and action among its 19 member countries.
"No country should be treated as a de facto member of the alliance, or given privileges that are otherwise denied to NATO aspirants," he added. It was an apparent reference to long-standing opposition by Washington and the majority of NATO states to any Russian veto over decision-making.
Mr Ivanov said Russia still strongly opposed George Bush’s decision to withdraw in six months from the the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, but wanted to co-operate in areas such as deep joint cuts in nuclear arsenals.
The agenda included talks on improving the efficiency of NATO operation in the Balkans, where the alliance is leading 60,000 troops in three separate military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.
Mr Rumsfeld suggested NATO cut its forces in Bosnia by up to a third - about 6,000 of 18,000 troops - because police work there had begun to strain armies needed to fight terror.
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