Security in the Middle East: New Challenges for NATO and EUU.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Posted in NATO , UN , Broader Middle East | 12-Feb-05 | Author: Donald Rumsfeld

US Minister of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his speech.
Thank you, Horst. It is good to be with you.

Secretary General Annan, my colleague Minister Peter Struck and fellow ministers, members of the Congress, parliamentarians, distinguished officials and friends. Well -- here we are again.

First, I want to thank our hosts here in Bavaria for their always warm hospitality.

It has been forty years since I was a NATO parliamentarian. It has been more than thirty years since I served as ambassador to NATO. So I hope you will permit me to make a few personal observations about the enduring relationship that has existed among the nations of the Atlantic Alliance.

There have been times when it was predicted by the pundits that the Atlantic Alliance would crumble or become irrelevant. That is surely what our enemies have wished for. They know that divisions and differences aid their cause. But we know that our collective security depends on our cooperation and mutual respect and understanding.

Since we met last year, consider the historic events that have taken place. And some would not have happened were it not for the contributions of people in this room:
  • NATO added seven new members - nations eager to contribute to the Alliance in powerful ways;
  • In Afghanistan, 8 million voters, 40 percent of them women, chose their first democratically elected President in 5,000 years. Think of it. Attending that Inauguration was a memorable moment;
  • And in the Palestinian Authority, a democratically-elected president offers the hope of a new chance for peace;
  • Ukrainians have demonstrated the depth of their commitment to free and fair elections;
  • And in Iraq, Saddam Hussein's former subjects voted for the first time with ballots that offered a choice of 70 political parties, rather than but one.
I spent Christmas Eve with our forces in Iraq, They were anxiously preparing for the Iraqi leader. Yesterday was my first trip back since the January 30 elections. I can tell you the Iraqi people are proud of their accomplishment. As they well should be. Even after a suicide bomb went off at a polling station, Iraqis still came to vote. Across the country, voters arrived on crutches and in donkey carts, passing by posters that threatened: "You vote, you die."

On election day, Iraqi security forces protected over 5,000 polling stations and stopped eight suicide bombers. These are the brave forces that some still try to belittle.

Think of the transforming effect these elections can have. Braving threats of bombings and beheadings, Iraqis went out, tentatively, they stood around polling places, waiting to see if anyone else was going to go in to vote. And what they saw was that others, and everyone was going to go in to vote.

For years, under the Iraqi dictator, decent citizens learned to keep their thoughts and beliefs to themselves. Imagine their astonishment to learn that everyone around them felt the same desire to vote.

That life-changing experience had to give them enormous encouragement and a strong sense of national and individual identity. And what a damaging blow to the extremists whose ideology the voters were so clearly rejecting.

While there have been differences over Iraq, such issues among longtime friends are not new. Consider just a few of the divisions that have come up among NATO allies over the past decades since I was a NATO parliamentarian in the 1960's:
  • I remember Skybolt in 1962;
  • France's decision to pull out of NATO and to expel NATO from France in the late 60's;
  • Disagreements about the deployment of Pershing II missiles in the 1980's;
  • Differences in approaches to the Middle East peace process;
  • And so many more.
As ambassador to NATO in the 1970's, I had to fly back to testify against an amendment in the U.S. Senate to withdraw all of America's forces from Europe. Think of it - in the middle of the Cold War. What if we had failed, and lost our will during the Cold War.

So our Atlantic Alliance relationship has navigated through some choppy seas over the years. But we have always been able to resolve the toughest issues. That is because there is so much that unites us: common values, shared histories, and an abiding faith in democracy.

Today, we also share a common enemy. Extremists have targeted all civilized societies across the globe: in New York and Washington; Istanbul; Madrid; Beslan; Bali; and more.

Radical Islamists do not seek an armistice with the civilized world. They will not negotiate a separate peace. Rather they seek to impose the totalitarian rule George Orwell described as "a boot stomping on a human face - forever."

By now it must be clear that one nation cannot defeat the extremists alone. Neither can any one nation successfully combat the asymmetric threats of this new era.

It will take the cooperation of many nations to stop the proliferation of dangerous weapons.

Proliferation is a global concern, and it requires a global effort. This is why some 60 nations have joined the Proliferation Security Initiative in an effort to keep deadly weapons from dangerous regimes.

Together, we are having success in dismantling proliferation networks, such as the one directed by the now notorious A.Q. Khan.

German, Italian, British and American authorities confiscated nuclear equipment bound for Tripoli in 2003. Such pressure surely prompted Libya's decision to open its WMD inventories to inspectors.

Building on this collaboration, the U.S. proposed a Global Peace Operations Initiative - another way to work together by helping to train countries for peacekeeping operations and to develop their own defense capabilities.

And it surely takes a community of nations to gather intelligence about extremist networks, to break up financial support lines, or to apprehend suspected terrorists.

These efforts require the contributions of many governments and all elements of national power - legal, diplomatic, law-enforcement, and intelligence gathering. It is not the work of the military alone; indeed, the military can only be part of the solution, and is always the last resort.

The arrests of Islamic extremists last month by French and German authorities show the critical work necessary to win the struggle against extremists. Often quietly, America and other NATO nations are sharing intelligence, capturing terrorists, and disrupting their finances. And because of our work together, some three-quarters of known al-Qaeda leaders have been killed or captured and others are on the run.

This important work extends beyond the Atlantic alliance, to a 90-nation coalition that includes old friends on every continent, many here today, and most recently, two new allies with capitals in Kabul and Baghdad.

It will take many nations to help Afghans and Iraqis succeed in bringing democracy to places where tyrants once ruled and terrorists once trained.

Because we know the value of democracy, we stand with those who freely choose it. In Afghanistan, the NATO Alliance is leading the International Security Assistance Force. Every NATO nation has had personnel in that country, and more than half of all NATO nations have had forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our host country, Germany, has been a valuable contributor to Afghanistan's security and reconstruction efforts. Additionally, at the Marshall Center in nearby Garnish, the United States and Germany are educating young leaders from Partnership for Peace countries on the challenges of building more modernized militaries and more efficient Ministries of Defense.

Spurred on by such examples, one of NATO's newest members, Lithuania, is taking leadership of a Provincial Reconstruction Team - joining other European nations in contributing to Afghanistan's stability and progress.

In Iraq, the people are rejecting the ideology of Bin Laden and Zarqawi.

And as the Iraqi people take more steps along the challenging road to democracy, more nations are standing with them. A few days ago, at our NATO Defense Ministerial Meeting in Nice, I was struck by the enthusiasm over the democratic experiment underway in Iraq. Many NATO countries have agreed to help train Iraqi Security Personnel, put together a war college and military academies, and provide funds or equipment to Iraqi Security Forces.

These are welcome and encouraging signs, and the Iraqi people are grateful for them. It sends an important message to the extremists: that they are on the wrong side of history.

These are historic times for freedom and democracy. Members of NATO share much more than an Atlantic alliance; we are united by ties of blood and purpose, a heritage of liberty, and a calling to confront extremists' violence -- and defeat it.

Sixty years ago, World War II came to an end. Since that time, we have counted on each other in times of peril and challenge. I am old enough to remember both the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and the ascension and collapse of Nazism, of Fascism, and of Soviet Communism as well. Together we have helped to protect Kosovo. And recently brought aid to the victims of a devastating Tsunami. Great achievements are possible when the Atlantic Community is united.

Our unity need not be a uniformity of tactics or views, but rather a union of purpose. Those who cherish free political systems and free economic systems share similar hopes. And working together, those hopes can be realities for the many more who yearn to be free.

As Winston Churchill once said of our Atlantic Alliance: "If we are together, nothing is impossible."

I thank you for your invitation. I'd be happy to respond to some questions.