MUNICH, Germany - Pentagon chief Robert
Gates responded Sunday to Vladimir Putin's assault on US foreign policy by
saying "one Cold War is enough" and that he would go to Moscow to try to reduce
tensions. Gates also sought more allied help in Afghanistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin , left, and US-Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates sit side by side during the Security Conference in
Munich, southern Germany, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Global conflicts are on
the agenda of the 3-day-conference. [AP]
He delivered his first speech as Pentagon chief at a security conference in
Germany and then flew to Pakistan to discuss fears of a renewed spring offensive
by Taliban fighters in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan, a close US ally in the fight against terrorism, has faced charges
that the Taliban militia stage attacks from Pakistan against Afghan government
troops and NATO- and US-led coalition troops.
policy creating new arms race - Putin|
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that the
United States' increased use of military force is creating a new arms
race, with smaller nations turning toward developing nuclear
Gates' rebuke of the Russian president relied on humor and some pointed jabs.
"As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with
nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost," Gates said. Then, as the audience
chuckled, the defense secretary said he has accepted Putin's invitation to visit
"We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in
partnership with other countries, including Russia," said Gates. "One Cold War
was quite enough."
In his speech Saturday, Putin blamed US foreign policy for inciting other
countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an "almost
uncontained use of military force."
The Russian leader said "unilateral, illegitimate actions have not solved a
single problem, they have become a hotbed of further conflicts" and that "one
state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."
Gates also made an urgent call for NATO allies to live up to their promises
to supply military and economic aid for Afghanistan.
"It is vitally important that the success Afghanistan has achieved not be
allowed to slip away through neglect or lack of political will or resolve,"
Gates said. Failure to muster a strong military effort combined with economic
development and a counternarcotics plan "would be a mark of shame," he said.
Gates also said that prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, and other mistakes have damaged America's reputation. It will take work,
he said, to prove that the US still is a force for good in the world.
While he did not mention the war in Iraq, Gates told officials at the
security conference that Washington must do a better job of explaining its
policies and actions.
For the past century, he said, most people believed that "while we might from
time to time do something stupid, that we were a force for good in the world."
Many continue to believe that, Gates said. But, he added, "I think we also
have made some mistakes and have not presented our case as well as we might in
many instances. I think we have to work on that."
The bulk of his speech was devoted to the future of the NATO alliance and the
need to work together to defend against threats.
Gates also sketched out the challenges ahead, from Iran's nuclear ambitions
and the situation in the Middle East to China's recent anti-satellite tests and
Russia's arms sales.
Just eight weeks on the job, Gates used the conference and a NATO gathering
this past week to debut on the international stage and meet privately with some
of his counterparts.
In other comments, he said the Bush administration would like to close the
Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but there are some terrorists there who
should never be let free. Gates also said detainee trials there will be
conducted in the open and with adequate defense for the prisoners.
The first public test of Gates' diplomatic skills came at a venue that at
times was dominated by his more bombastic Pentagon predecessor, Donald H.
So as Gates neared the end of his remarks, he made a deliberate move to
separate himself from Rumsfeld.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Rumsfeld sharply criticized nations opposed to
the conflict -- specifically France and Germany -- and referred to them as part
of "Old Europe."
Without mentioning Rumsfeld's name, Gates said some people have tried to
divide the allies along lines such as East and West, North and South.
"I'm even told that some have even spoken in terms of 'old' Europe versus
'new,'" Gates said. "All of these characterizations belong in the past."
In Pakistan, Gates planned talks with the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf
and other top officials on cooperation in counterterrorism and efforts by
Pakistan to stop militants from moving across the border with Afghanistan, a
senior Pakistani government official said Sunday. The official spoke on
condition of anonymity because he did not have the authority to speak formally
about Gates' visit.
Pakistan denies the charges that the Taliban are staging attacks from inside
Pakistan and says it has deployed some 80,000 troops along its rugged border
with Afghanistan to track down militants.
Pakistan's border regions along Afghanistan long have been suspected to be
the hiding places for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman
American forces in eastern Afghanistan have launched artillery rounds into
Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote US outposts, the commander
of US forces in the region told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Musharraf acknowledged recently that his outgunned Pakistani frontier guards
have allowed insurgents to cross the border and said the army soon would fence
parts of the border to stem the problem.
The Pentagon has plans to extend its recent buildup of several thousand
combat troops in Afghanistan, initially announced as lasting until late spring,
well into next year, a senior US military official said last week.
That move would keep US troop levels at between 26,000 and 27,000 until at
least the spring of 2008.