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Cohen: U.S. Must Engage in World Affairs

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 1997 – The goal is simple: create a more stable, democratic, prosperous world with fewer threats to American interests.

To reach this goal -- a security vision for the 21st century -- America must engage in world affairs, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the World Affairs Council in San Francisco July 21.

Although some would like to avoid foreign entanglements," Cohen said, "America cannot walk away from the world. ... We cannot afford to ... zip ourselves into some form of continental cocoon and watch events unfold on CNN."

Engagement includes strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance by updating defense guidelines and maintaining a strong relationship with Korea, Cohen said. It includes enhancing alliances in Southeast Asia, a region that will soon overtake Europe as America's second-largest export market.

It also includes "working with China where we can, disagreeing where we must and doing what we can in a very firm, clear-eyed fashion to ensure China contributes to the tides of economic dynamism and cooperation and trust that are filling the Pacific Basin," Cohen said.

America's ties to Europe are now expanding through its membership in NATO. NATO's Founding Act with Russia, signed in May, and NATO-Ukraine charter, signed in July, pave the way for cooperation and consultation with the former Soviet states, Cohen said. The Atlantic alliance also recently opened its doors to three new member candidates: Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

New ties among these European nations make America more secure, Cohen said. As history has shown, "when Europe is safe, America is more secure. When peace in Europe is threatened, its storms will touch the shores of the United States."

Cohen noted while thousands of Americans fought and died defending freedom in Europe twice in this century, no American blood has been shed fighting for any European nation in the last 50 years. NATO has not been attacked, and no NATO nation has ever attacked another, he said.

"So you can see that by spreading stability, prosperity, ending regional conflicts, regional aggression, we have a much more cost-effective foreign policy, not to mention a much more humane foreign policy," Cohen said.

During a recent trip to Ukraine, Cohen said, he visited a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise involving U.S. forces from the California National Guard, Ukraine and nine other former Warsaw Pact nations.

"They were all gathered on what used to be the largest Soviet military training ground in Europe," he said. "It was an inspiring sight to watch these countries parade across the ground in front of me, marching to their own national anthems. This is an area that had once known the footfalls of troops from one-half of Europe who were training for war with the other, and yet that day, I saw forces from all over Europe who had come to train for peace."

Expanding NATO offers security and stability to nations that have suffered greatly from five decades of Soviet oppression, Cohen said. The enlargement process is also causing nations to improve their relationships with each other and fix disputes that, in the past, would have led to major conflict.

By engaging in world affairs in the Far East, Europe and elsewhere around the globe, Cohen said, America can help create "a new century that isn't defined by conflict, but by cooperation and not by its perils but by its promise."

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