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Spreading Democracy: One Person at a Time

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Dec. 20, 1996 – It takes more than a strong national consensus on democratic reform to make a democracy, Rear Adm. Marsha I. Evans told students here Dec. 13. "People make democracy work, and knowledge is the tool they use to turn ideals into practices," she said.

Evans is interim director at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here. Those who will use their new knowledge and skills to make democracy work, in this case, are people like Commander Osman Metalla of Albania, Col. Tchinguiz Mamedov of Azerbaijan, Col. Alibek Sliotbayev of Kazakhstan and Professor Yevgenniy Baranovski of the Russian Federation.


These are four of the Marshall center's latest 12 distinguished graduates. About 15 U.S. and 80 international students from 28 countries recently completed courses at the center's College of Strategic Studies and Defense Economics and the Institute for Eurasian Studies.


The Marshall center helps civilian and military officials from new democracies develop national security organizations based on democratic principles. Senior defense officials study national security affairs, research European security issues, hold conferences and attend courses in regional studies and language training.


"The Marshall center exists today because some truly visionary people seized upon a unique and fleeting moment in the history of true century," Evans said. The idea behind the school was to draw Central and Eastern European nations into the security circle of Western Europe. The method is to forge bonds among the people who will be the new nation's future leaders.


Since opening in 1993, the Marshall center has created a network of graduates, nearly 400 from the College of Strategic Studies and Defense Economics and more than 2,000 from the Institute for Eurasian Studies, Evans said.


Marshall center students are the vital link to a new security architecture in Europe, said William J. Perry. The U.S. defense secretary has addressed the five graduating classes. He told this year's class progress made through NATO's multinational peace implementation operation in Bosnia, including Russian forces, and Partnership for Peace is proof a new Europe and a new NATO are being formed.


"The once captive nations of Europe have done so much for their freedom," Perry told the graduates. "Your courageous citizens have worked hard to build solid democracies, vibrant market economics and good relations with your neighbors. You have worked to achieve armed forces whose very purpose is to support peace and democracy. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for your hard work, sacrifice and achievement."


During Perry's Dec. 13 visit, officials briefed the secretary on plans to restructure and improve the center's administration, curriculum and assessment procedures. He also met with a roundtable of new graduates to get their feedback.


"We wanted to get the good and the bad from their perspective to emphasize what's good about the program and find ways to eliminate the bad," Perry said. "Typical of the answers we got was from a Polish student who said, 'Everything is good about the center. The only thing bad is that I have to leave tomorrow.'"


Specific recommendations from the students, Perry said, include providing more English training -- and sooner in the program -- and enrolling NATO officers, because a big part of the school's value comes from interchanges among the students themselves.


"On the one hand," Perry said, "we have a robust program under way to improve the center, and on the other hand, the feedback I'm getting from the students is giving it very high marks. I want to be careful that whatever we do to improve, we recognize we're building upon success and we do not take any actions to diminish the quality of what we have here."


Perry said Partnership for Peace with its multinational military exercises is a way of reaching out to the new democracies, but the Marshall center reaches out one-on-one to the next generation of military leaders.


"These students in five or 10 years will be the leaders in their countries. They will have had this experience here, and [the value) they get is not just what they get in the lectures, it's in the networks they form here."


The United States and Germany fund and staff the Marshall center. German Parliamentary Deputy Minister of Defense Michaela Geiger told graduates the center has become a highly respected institute and international meeting place.


"Here in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the heart of Europe," Geiger said, "the concept of a trans-Atlantic and pan-European cooperation becomes a reality."


Relationships made among students will serve all of Europe, Geiger said. "In your studies and in many of your discussions, you were able to become thoroughly familiar with the ideas of the new Europe. You now know on what the foundation of Euro-Atlantic security is based -- human rights, democracy, a market economy and being good neighbors."


The exchange of knowledge and experiences, respect for each other and mutual understanding and trust developed is especially important, Geiger said, "It is a foundation for building a new NATO. Your experience here at the Marshall Center will be an important basis upon which you and your country can build."


Geiger said nothing describes the spirit of the new NATO better than George C. Marshall's vision for a peaceful, democratic and prospering Europe. His beliefs are now on the European-Atlantic policy agenda, she said.


"First, a continuation of the integration and unification of Europe, Second, a political, economic and strategic Euro-American partnership based on equality. Third, a careful process opening NATO and the European Union to the Central and Eastern European democracies, and this as a prerequisite for long-term stability in Europe. Last, a special, cooperative relationship with Russia and the Ukraine."


Geiger said Europe needs America's help to make this agenda a reality. "Only with American help can we guarantee stability in and around Europe and welcome the new democracies from Central and Eastern Europe," she said.

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