Nato has formally launched its rapid response force, which is designed to take the alliance into a new era in its history.
Nato is trying to shake off the Cold War era
The 9,000-strong rapid force will be capable of deployment to troublespots anywhere in the world within five days.
Nato military chief General James Jones handed the colours of the new force to its first commander, British General
Jack Deverell, at a ceremony at Nato HQ in the Netherlands.
"The creation of the initial Nato response force... is an important sign that the alliance is rapidly changing to meet the new threats of this new century," said General Jones.
"The (force) will give the alliance the military capability to do what it could not do before - insert military forces into a deteriorating situation earlier in a crisis, with more speed, at greater ranges, with more
sustainability than ever before."
Spain - 2,200 people, ships, aircraft, helicopters
France - 1,700
Germany - 1,100
United States - 300, ship and aircraft
Overall commander: British
Ground force commander: Turkish
The force is Nato's first to combine air, land and sea forces - and special operations troops - under a single commander.
The force represented "an unambiguous commitment of the alliance's intent to stay militarily relevant in a global context", the general said.
Nato, anxious to move on from its traditional Cold War structures, believes the new flexible and fast force will play a key role in the war against terrorism.
"The Nato Response Force is an important, innovative new military capability for Nato, and further evidence of Nato's on-going transformation to meet the new threats from global terrorism," said US ambassador to Nato Nicholas Burns.
The force will have 21,000 troops at its disposal by 2006.
Service personnel from different Nato countries will spend six months with the force in an international rota system.
Nato has already branched out of its traditional role by taking command of the Afghanistan peacekeeping force two months ago.
The response force will hold its first exercises next month in Turkey.