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Wolfowitz: NATO Important Anchor; Iraqis Responsible for New Government

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2003 – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today told U.S. Senate members that NATO remains a key partner in national security matters, and emphasized the importance for the Iraqis to choose their own leaders in the post-Saddam era.

Wolfowitz provided testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which wanted DoD's views on the current proposal to increase membership in the Atlantic alliance by seven nations and how a new government, representative of the people, should be created in post-Saddam Iraq.

"NATO is and will remain the anchor of the U.S. security relationship with Europe," Wolfowitz declared to committee members. He added that the alliance is "the central framework, not only for trans-Atlantic military cooperation, but also for the West's mobilization of its comprehensive, collective power to defend our common interests."

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, the chief of U.S. European Command and NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, accompanied Wolfowitz to the Capitol Hill hearing.

NATO was a bulwark against Soviet aggression during the Cold War years, Wolfowitz pointed out. A few years after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, he noted that NATO intervened in the Balkans to prevent a wider conflict and establish regional stability.

The Atlantic alliance remains just as relevant today, he emphasized, as an instrument in deterring the twin 21st-century threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The deputy secretary noted that previous enlargement of NATO in 1999 by adding Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic helped to build "a bridge on which Russia has been able to move closer to Europe," in security and political terms.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Wolfowitz noted that NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time, calling on all members to come to the aid of a member who'd been attacked. He recalled that NATO sent five of its Airborne Warning and Control Systems aircraft to the United States Oct. 9, 2001, to help protect America's skies.

And today, Wolfowitz said the alliance is supporting the deployment of Dutch and German forces to undertake the leadership role in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"Few would have predicted that NATO or NATO countries would be doing anything in a country as far away and as remote as Afghanistan," the deputy secretary remarked, "but it is."

At the start of the 21st century, Wolfowitz pointed out that "NATO continues to be the central instrument for solidifying peace in Europe and drawing nations on both sides of the Atlantic closer together."

The proposed addition of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to NATO's roster of nations will contribute "to a united Europe," Wolfowitz declared, that "will provide a context to security that can encourage reform in Ukraine and Russia."

Regarding the future of post-Saddam Iraq, Wolfowitz first paid tribute "to the extraordinary young men and women, and indeed, a few older men and women who are their commanders, for a heroic, professional, humane and truly brilliant [military] performance" in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To help a free Iraq take its place among the peaceful nations of the world, the deputy secretary noted it's important to realize that outsiders cannot simply impose a democratic government on the Iraqis.

"Our goal in Iraq is a democratic Iraq that truly represents the wishes of the people of Iraq, with leaders who are chosen not by us or by any outsiders, but by the Iraqi people," Wolfowitz emphasized.

This means, he continued, that "we can set up some parameters for a [democratic] process [in post-Saddam Iraq], but we cannot write a blueprint."

The international community has a responsibility to see that democracy takes hold and flourishes in Iraq, Wolfowitz pointed out. He declared that "the coalition is committed to working with international institutions, including, most importantly, the United Nations."

Wolfowitz noted that the U.S. and its coalition partners "welcome support from U.N. agencies and from non-governmental organizations in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people."

And any larger U.N. role with Iraq "will be determined in coordination with the Iraqi people themselves, with other members of the coalition [and] with the secretary-general and other members of the United Nations," he concluded.

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