Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England
Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces Day
30 November 2006
Thanks you….My good friend, Bisera, Colonel Sinisa … Distinguished Guests…
Good evening! It is a privilege and honor to join you this evening to celebrate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Armed Forces Day!
To the leadership, to the Armed Forces, to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina – warmest congratulations on the Riga Summit invitation to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program! This is a most welcome recognition of remarkable progress to date.
This month also marks the 11th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords – the landmark negotiations that gave birth to the modern state of Bosnia and Herzegovina – and introduced full sovereignty, peace, reconciliation, and great hope for the future.
The Ambassador has just described the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s defense reform so far – and it is an extraordinary success story! The country is now blessed with a single, unified Ministry of Defense and a single Unified Armed Forces under full civilian control, and progress is being made toward a truly integrated force structure.
The greatest challenge for Bosnia’s newly elected leaders will be to consolidate these important transformations. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made a great start – but there is still a lot of hard work ahead, and it is important to keep up the momentum.
In the United States, it was the American Armed Forces that boldly led the way to integration – and laid the groundwork for giving Americans of all ethnic backgrounds and in all walks of life equal access and opportunity. Today, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Unified Armed Forces are also leading the way toward integration – including providing the nation’s first national holiday!
For a country so recently in crisis, Bosnia has made an extraordinary transition - from being a “consumer” of security to being a “provider” of security. That ability – and that willingness – could not possibly come at a better time.
Today, America and her friends and allies face a much broader array of security challenges than ever before, including terrorists determined to destroy our very way of life. No individual nation can meet these challenges alone.
The United States is proud to claim Bosnia and Herzegovina as a partner in meeting our shared threats and in standing for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let me assure you – America remains committed to an on-going, long-term partnership. Though it changes in character, it will only grow in strength, as we move toward a more traditional bilateral military relationship – like those America enjoys with other NATO aspirant countries in Europe.
It has been delightful, working with the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including our counterparts, the Minister of Defense and Chief of Defense. The Department of Defense looks forward to continuing those personal relationships.
And I am grateful to enjoy such a warm personal relationship with the Ambassador. In addition to business matters, Bisera and I have shared dinners, barge cruises, and an iftar celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Bisera – thank you for this friendship and partnership!
On this day of celebration, congratulations to the members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the nation’s people and leadership!
To all of you – for your friendship and partnership, now and in the future – “Hvala!” Thank you for everything you do, every day, in the name of freedom and liberty, to leave a more peaceful and prosperous world for our children and grandchildren.