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Defense Ministers Meet in Argentina

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BARILOCHE, Argentina, Oct. 9, 1996 – Establishing civilian control of the military is a necessity in many fledgling democracies. The United States now plans to help teach civilian defense leaders to run their armed forces.

The United States will open an InterAmerican Center for Defense Studies in Washington, according to William J. Perry. The U.S. defense secretary announced plans for the new center Oct. 7, during the second Defense Ministerial of the Americas.Defense leaders from 34 nations met here Oct. 6 to 9, amid the snowcapped Andes, cobalt lakes and brushcovered pampas of northwestern Argentina. U.S., Canadian, Central and South American defense officials came to this resort town near the Chilean border to renew bonds forged a year ago at the first ministerial, hosted by the United States in Williamsburg, Va.

At the first meeting in July 1995, defense officials committed themselves to historic levels of security cooperation to strengthen their democracies, Perry said. The second meeting in Bariloche would be the second chapter in the creation of a new hemisphere of democracy, peace and security, he said.Opening the interAmerican center was one of several U.S. initiatives Perry announced aimed at enhancing security ties among democracies in the Western Hemisphere.

The InterAmerican Center for Defense Studies will be located at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Perry said. The United States will fund and manage the center, but Perry proposed other nations' representatives also sit on the center's advisory board.

"The plan is to have teams travel throughout the region to give courses," Perry said. "The whole point is to advance civilian knowledge of, and the ability to more effectively control, military matters." The center would focus on national security, defense and military affairs. It will also help civilian leaders learn about defense policy formulation and resource management, he said.

In a second initiative, Perry said the United States will give advance notice of significant weapons purchases. The proposal is not intended to deal with every handgun purchase, but only with those weapons listed on the U.N. registry, he said."Regular and frank exchange of this information in the hemisphere would be a major milestone, enhancing regional confidence and transparency, so I invite all of you to join in this measure," he told the other 33 delegates during the opening session.

"Countries promote security by being open about what they're doing in defense," Perry said. "We believe that full openness on these matters does a lot to promote security, to reduce the tendency of a country to make a worstcase estimate and then take actions on their own."

The United States will also promote regional cooperation by hosting multinational conferences. Perry said DoD will host a defense environmental conference in spring 1997 to spark interest in training and education in environmental coordination. DoD also offered to host a conference on disaster relief, but no date or location has been set.

The first defense ministerial inspired the Williamsburg Principles, which now form the foundation for continuing meetings, according to DoD officials. Under the principles, the multinational leaders agreed democracy is the basis for mutual security.

They agreed to work together to promote democratic values, human rights and civilian control of the military. They agreed to rely on negotiations to resolve disputes and to recognize the role armed forces play in defending the legitimate interests of sovereign democratic states. They also agreed to be open about defense matters and to cooperate in such international efforts as peacekeeping and combating narcoterrorism.International defense officials are putting the principles into practice in the region, according to Perry. Paraguay chose democracy over dictatorship last April. Peru and Ecuador recently marked the first anniversary of an agreement to settle a border dispute peacefully. Colombia and Venezuela are now working together to increase border security by sharing information about guerrilla activity.

Nations are also joining forces and using their militaries to combat regional narcotics trafficking that threatens the sovereignty of some Latin American states, Perry said.The United States recently contributed $112 million in equipment to help combat drug trafficking in the region. DoD is currently participating in Operation Laser Strike. Several countries are making land, air and river interdictions based on radartracking information provided by U.S. military officials.

In Panama, troops from the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay are taking part in Exercise Cabanas 1997, a peacekeeping training exercise. Just a few years ago, such an exercise would have been unimaginable, Perry said. "This exercise and others like it that have taken place over the last year are dramatic symbols of the change that has swept our hemisphere."Since the first ministerial, DoD officials said, U.S. forces and troops from more than two dozen Latin American and Caribbean nations have taken part in more than 30 military training exercises, he said.

Since the Williamsburg Principles were espoused, U.S. Southern Command sponsored a human rights conference in Miami in February. The Organization of American States sponsored a conference on confidence building and security measures in November 1995 in Santiago, Chile. Delegates issued the Declaration of Santiago calling for regular exchanges of military budgets, policies and doctrines, Perry said.

During the latest threeday conference, defense officials focused on three themes. The first was regional security threats and the defense establishment's role in meeting them. Second was the defense establishment's role in peacekeeping, emergency response and demining. Third was relations among defense systems, including enhanced transparency, civilian structures, and education for modern defense organizations.

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