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Rumsfeld: Strengthening Democracy is Work of All Free Peoples

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said strengthening democracies is the work of both NATO and the Inter-American System.

Rumsfeld spoke today about his recent trip to attend the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, and the NATO Summit in Prague, Czech Republic. He then answered questions at the Foreign Press Center here.

"The two meetings took place a half a world apart, yet I was struck by the similarities of objectives," Rumsfeld said.

In Europe and the Americas, democracies are "seeking to consolidate democratic gains" and adapt institutions built during the Cold War to the threats of the 21st Century. "There were some who thought with the end of the Cold War, that NATO might be somewhat less relevant," he said. "Instead the opposite has taken place. More countries are seeking to join, and our decades of security cooperation among the NATO allies is paying off as new threats emerge."

He noted that the same thing is happening in the Inter-American System. "The need for the nations of our hemisphere to work together has not diminished at all," Rumsfeld said. "It has grown as has the need for the institutions that facilitate hemispheric cooperation."

In both Santiago and Prague, American delegates offered concrete proposals to facilitate this cooperation. In Chile, the United States offered a naval initiative to encourage cooperation and to upgrade command and control systems of participating countries. U.S. officials also proposed an initiative to integrate national peacekeeping capabilities into a regional effort. "Both were well-received," Rumsfeld said.

In Prague, alliance nations approved streamlining command structures and a NATO Response Force. "And most importantly, NATO invited seven former Cold War adversaries to become allies," the secretary said today. "For one who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO during the height of the Cold War, it was a moving experience to be there as the presidents of those seven nations spoke about what the day meant for them personally and for the people of their respective countries."

Rumsfeld told the foreign reporters the experience assures him that, despite the dangers of the new millennium, "freedom is ascendant, and the cause of liberty has prevailed over the darkness of tyranny and terror, and will do so again."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers Briefing at the Foreign Press Center, Nov. 26, 2002

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