Mr. Undersecretary, Ministers,
First, let me thank our Chilean hosts for their gracious hospitality. Chile is a model of political and economic freedom—and so it is fitting that we meet here in Santiago to discuss how we can defend our democracies in a world of dangerous new threats.
The last time I served as Secretary of Defense, only 14 countries in the Western hemisphere could be considered democracies. Today—with the exception of one holdout—almost the entire hemisphere has embraced representative government.
Our nations are united not only by geography, but by common values. So it was no surprise that when freedom was attacked on September 11th, the nations of this hemisphere immediately invoked the Rio Treaty. The people of the United States are grateful for your friendship and your steadfastness.
More than thirty of the Hemisphere’s thirty-five nations lost citizens in the World Trade Center 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. The lesson of that experience is clear: 21st century threats transcend geography and respect no borders.
When terrorists are driven out of countries—as they were in Afghanistan—they often find have in the world’s many ungoverned regions.
In this hemisphere, narco-terrorists, hostage takers and arms smugglers operate in ungoverned areas, using them as bases from which to destabilize democratic governments.
Elected governments have the responsibility to exercise sovereign authority, conferred at the ballot box, throughout their national territory. We are all benefited by helping democratic nations across this hemisphere exercise effective sovereignty over their territories.
Our hemisphere faces a number of other threats as well: old threats, such as drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage taking, piracy and money laundering; new threats, such as cyber-crime; and unknown threats, which can emerge without warning. These new threats must be countered with new capabilities.
After this meeting, I will fly to Prague to join President Bush for the NATO Summit. We will discuss the transformation of that Alliance to meet 21st century threats, and will consolidate democratic gains by inviting additional former Warsaw Pact adversaries to become NATO allies.
In preparing for both of these meetings, I was struck by the similarities in our objectives. We all are working to:
· consolidate the democratic progress of the region;
· set military priorities in our democratic societies;
· identify the new threats of the 21st century; and
· transform our capabilities to meet those emerging threats.
There are some who thought that, with the end of the Cold War, NATO might fade into irrelevance. Instead, more countries are seeking to join—and decades of security cooperation paid off when new threats emerged.
The same is true of the institutions of the Inter-American System. Today, the need for our nations to work together has not diminished; instead it has grown—as has the need for the institutions that facilitate hemispheric cooperation.
Next May, the Organization of American States will meet to review the hemisphere’s security architecture. Our objective should be to strengthen those institutions, and develop new areas for concrete cooperation.
I hope that this week’s conference will consider two such initiatives:
First is an initiative to foster regional naval cooperation. The objective would be to strengthen the operational and planning capabilities of partner nations, upgrade national command and control systems, and improve regional information-sharing. This could potentially include cooperation among coast guards, customs, and police forces. I suggest we consider a round-table as a good way to consider and pursue this initiative.
Second is an initiative to improve the hemisphere’s peacekeeping capabilities. Many of you are already leaders in this field—you are sending skilled and experienced forces, with specialized capabilities, to global hot spots. 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.
At the Summit of the Americas last year, President Bush described his vision of a hemisphere where “democracy, prosperity and security” flourish. Security is a cornerstone of that vision, because security is the critical foundation that makes democracy and prosperity possible. The freedom and prosperity of our peoples depend on our ability to defend those common values. Working together, we can do so.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.