Rumsfeld Proposes Initiatives to Strengthen Hemisphere's Capabilities
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
SANTIAGO, Nov. 19, 2002 All democracies benefit from security, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered two initiatives to foster security and draw Western Hemisphere nations closer together.
Rumsfeld offered the initiatives today during a speech at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas here. He asked the delegates to consider ways to expand national capabilities into regional ones. Maritime and naval regional cooperation is aimed at strengthening operational and planning capabilities, upgrading national command and control and improving regional information sharing.
"This could potentially include cooperation among coast guards, customs and police forces," Rumsfeld said.
The second initiative is aimed at improving the hemisphere's peacekeeping capabilities. Rumsfeld noted that many Western Hemisphere countries already are leaders in peacekeeping.
"We should explore the possibility of integrating these various specialized capabilities into larger regional capabilities so that we can participate as a region in peacekeeping and stability operations," he said.
Rumsfeld thanked the delegates for the unanimous support they provided the United States following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said those attacks highlight the threats of the 21st century. He noted that many of the countries represented at the ministerial lost citizens in the New York and Pentagon attacks.
"As a result of the attacks, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, not only in the United States, but throughout the hemisphere," he said. "The lesson of the experience is clear: 21st century threats transcend geography and respect no borders."
Those threats, Rumsfeld said, are at the heart of his proposals. Security is a cornerstone of democracy and prosperity. Unstable areas that can be used by drug traffickers, hostage takers or arms smugglers destabilize democratic nations.
"Elected governments have the responsibility to exercise sovereign authority, conferred at the ballot box, throughout their national territory," he said. "We are all benefited by helping democratic nations across this hemisphere exercise effective sovereignty over their territories."
The secretary noted the old threats that face the area -- organized crime, arms trafficking, piracy, money laundering -- are being joined by new threats such as cyber crime and "unknown threats, which can emerge without warning." He said these threats must be countered with new capabilities.
Rumsfeld, who will leave Santiago today for the NATO Summit in Prague, Czech Republic, said he was struck by the similarities in the objectives of the NATO alliance and of the governments of the Western Hemisphere. Both groups are working to strengthen democracies, set military priorities, identify new threats and transform capabilities to meet those threats.
"There are some who thought with the end of the Cold War, NATO might fade into irrelevance," he said. "Instead, more countries are seeking to join -- and decades of security cooperation paid off when new threats emerged.
"The same is true of the Inter-American system," he continued. "Today, the need for our nations to work together has not diminished, it has grown -- as has the need for the institutions that facilitate hemispheric cooperation."