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Security Relies on Partnerships, Cooperation, Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013 – Partnerships and international cooperation are vital components of military-to-military contacts across the globe, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs said here yesterday.

Derek Chollet, who has responsibility for defense policy with Europe, NATO, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, provided a quick look at problem areas during the Defense One Summit.

The assistant secretary discussed the situation with Egypt with Defense One’s executive editor Kevin Baron. Chollet visited his counterparts in Egypt in September -- his first visit to the country since the overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi’s government.

“As you know, President [Barack] Obama decided to hold some of our military assistance while continuing a large amount of our assistance to the Egyptian military,” Chollet said. All levels of the U.S. government, he said, have reached out to Egyptian officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who speaks regularly with his Egyptian counterpart, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“The military-to-military ties are very strong,” Chollet said. “The Egyptian military has taken strong action in the Sinai, and they are abiding by the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords, and that’s a good thing.”

U.S. officials still have deep concerns with some of the events in the country, he acknowledged, especially in terms of transition to permanent civilian rule.

Moving beyond Egypt, Defense Department leaders are engaged with allies throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Hagel and other defense officials have met frequently with the Saudis and other members of the Gulf Cooperative Council and with leaders in Israel and Jordan.

“That engagement … is constant, it’s important, and it allows us to have the kind of conversations about strategic issues that we need to have,” Chollet said.

Iran, countering terrorism, and providing oil security all are concerns the United States shares with the nations of the region, the assistant secretary said. The U.S. military has been working with the nations of the region to improve regional military capabilities, and that has been going well, he added.

Moving to NATO, Chollet said he believes the alliance’s next summit in the United Kingdom will be the most significant in 20 years.

“It will be an important inflection point for the alliance for what NATO wants to do moving forward,” he said, “and what role the alliance should play in global security.”

U.S. officials believe NATO should remain the core of the global security architecture, Chollet said, so the European allies are going to have to step forward and invest in their militaries. This is complicated by the economic crisis in Europe and budget problems in the United States, he acknowledged.

Russia and NATO do cooperate, Chollet said, and the United States and Russia cooperate daily. Last year, he said, Russian and American service members worked together on more than 70 exercises and operations.

“There are areas where we are fundamentally going to disagree,” he said. “But there are also areas military to military where we cooperate quite a bit.”

The United States and Russia want to work together in areas where there is agreement, “while understanding we still need to work on finding ways to agree about things we still disagree about,” he said.

“In missile defense, in the future of nuclear weapons, there are still some fundamental disagreements we are working on,” he added. “But we do not want that to inhibit our ability to find practical areas of cooperation.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)


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