Speaking with reporters in Washington Wednesday, US Permanent Representative to NATO Victoria Nuland was optimistic about the alliance’s new response force, saying plans are moving forward to have it stand up by fall 2006. She noted that it’s “a challenging goal, but we’re going to get there.” Alliance leaders plan to stage the first live exercise for the NATO Response Force in June. The exercise will comprise 4,000-5,000 troops deployed from participating nations to Cape Verde. Nuland says the scenario is demanding. It will test the NRF’s capability to ensure quick deployment of forces, communicate well with partners, and handle a potential chemical, radiological, biological, or nuclear weapon environment. The full-up exercise, unlike the deployment of a small contingent to Pakistan for earthquake relief, also will be a test of the political and economic will of the alliance. Nuland says, “If you’re going to commit forces, you better be ready to pay for them to go somewhere.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.