Cohen: Cooperation Key to Combating Global Threats
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BRASILIA, Brazil, Nov. 15, 1999 Nations must work together to combat drug trafficking, cyberterrorism and other international threats, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen recently told South American officials.
"To the extent that we can cooperate together -- share information, share technology, share intelligence -- we can promote the goals of protecting our people through an adequate defense," Cohen said Nov. 12 at a press conference at the U.S. embassy here.
Cohen was in South America to meet local officials and in Argentina and Chile. In Brasilia, Cohen met with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Foreign Minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia and the country's first civilian defense minister, Elcio Alvarez.
Cohen said Brazilian officials raised the issue of illegal drugs at each of his meetings. He stressed that drug trafficking threatens all freedom-loving people and all democratic societies and said drugs can corrupt and undermine governments and lead to organized crime, terrorism and illegal migration. He called for regional cooperation to combat the problem.
Defense chiefs from throughout the Western Hemisphere are slated to meet in Brasilia in October at the fourth Defense Ministerial of the Americas. Asked if the attending ministers would consider creating an international police force, Cohen expressed his view that most would be reluctant.
"I believe most of the countries involved will want to cooperate on a regional basis, but that would mean also maintaining the sovereign integrity of their own police forces, their own armed forces," he said. "And I think they would be quite hesitant to talk about an international force because of the sovereignty issues involved."
While all countries in the region are concerned about transnational drug trafficking, Cohen said each country must decide for itself how it wishes to combat it.
During his Brazil visit, the secretary said, he congratulated President Cardoso for establishing a new defense ministry and placing the military under civilian control. "The United States considers the civilian control of the military an important foundation for any democracy," Cohen said.
He and Alvarez signed an agreement to create a bilateral working group, similar to those the United States has with Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. The new group will provide a forum to discuss defense and security issues of mutual interest, Cohen said.
Under the agreement, U.S. and Brazilian defense ministers will meet annually, alternating between the two countries. The first meeting will be in the United States next year. Cohen said U.S. defense officials would share experience on joint services, budget planning and other programs with Brazilian counterparts in the process of creating the new defense ministry.
Cohen said he looked forward to returning to Brazil for the defense ministerial. "Brazil's willingness to host this meeting is another sign of its leading contribution to regional stability," he said. He lauded the Brazilians for participating in the Military Observer Mission Ecuador-Peru and in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in East Timor, Indonesia.
Following his stop in Brazil, Cohen traveled to Argentina over the weekend to meet Nov. 15 with President Carlos Saul Menem, President-elect Fernando de la Rua and Defense Minister Jorge Dominguez . During his final stop Nov. 16 in Chile, the secretary is to meet with President Eduardo Frei and Defense Minister Edmund Perez Yoma.