Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 9 News List

New alliances for a new century

The US is undergoing a significant transformation of its military arrangements and partnerships around the globe, which are necessary adjustments in the face of new realities and threats

By Donald Rumsfeld

In 1970, I traveled to Egypt as part of a delegation representing the US at the funeral of president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Back then, Egypt was closely aligned with the Soviet Union. When we arrived in Cairo, it seemed that everywhere one looked there was evidence of the Soviet presence -- Soviet tanks, missiles and troops.

During the visit, we were sched-uled to meet with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. No one in our delegation was sure what to expect, given the uneasy relations between our two countries at the time. To our surprise, Sadat told us that he, in fact, had respect for the US. The reason? As a young military officer, he had visited our country and had had an excellent experience.

And, indeed, within two years of taking power, Sadat expelled the Soviets from Egypt and began to build a friendship with the US that, despite challenges and periodic differences, has proven important and valuable ever since.

I mention the importance of these military-to-military relationships because the US in this new century is undergoing a significant transformation of its military arrangements and partnerships around the globe -- necessary adjustments based on the new realities and new threats that have emerged since the Cold War's end.

It is important to note that since 2001, the US has probably done more things, with more nations, in more constructive ways and in more parts of the world, than at any other time in its history.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US President George W. Bush helped fashion and lead the largest coalition in history -- 80-plus nations -- to fight the global war on terror. Furthermore, roughly 60 nations are currently cooperating in the Proliferation Security Initiative to prevent dangerous weapons and materials from being transported to terrorists or outlaw regimes.

There has been a rethinking of the structure and role of our traditional military alliances, including the NATO, which is setting up a new NATO Response Force and has moved outside Europe for the first time with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The focus of attention today is on Iraq and Afghanistan. But in future decades, priorities will change. And much of what we may be called on to do in the future will likely be determined by choices made by others.

Consider Russia, a nation with vast natural resources, an educated population and a rich heritage of scientific and cultural achievements. Like Americans and others around the world, they are threatened by violent extremism. Russia is a partner with the US on some security issues, and our overall relationship is the best it has been in decades. But in other ways Russia has been unhelpful -- using energy resources as a political weapon, for example, and in their resistance to positive political changes in neighboring countries.

The same holds true for China. The Chinese are educated and talented, and China has great poten-tial, with high economic growth rates and an industrious work force. Nonetheless, some aspects of Chinese behavior remain unsettling and complicate our relationship.

Last year, a US Department of Defense report noted that China's defense expenditures appear to be much higher than acknowledged by the Chinese government. Coupled with a notable lack of transparency, this understandably concerns China's neighbors.

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