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Secretary of Defense Gates, British counterpart praise Alliance
The defense secretaries of the United States and Great
Britain today praised the strength and depth of the U.S.-British
alliance and pledged continued cooperation in meeting today’s
challenges and those of the future.
During a news conference after their meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his British counterpart, Liam Fox, said they discussed a variety of issues, including Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Afghanistan, an upcoming British defense and security review, the need for NATO reform, and the threat terrorism poses to the world.
Fox, part of the new British government that took office in May, said today’s meeting continued discussions the two defense secretaries had while in Singapore for the “Shangri-La Dialogue” Asia security summit. He said their talks have been “wide-ranging, very friendly and extraordinarily productive.”
Gates called the United Kingdom one of the oldest and closest U.S. allies.
“The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is based on profound cultural and historic ties that stretch back generations and transcend any political moment or political party,” he said.
During their meeting, Gates said, the two men discussed Fox’s recent trip to Afghanistan, and the U.S. defense secretary noted the sacrifices the British people have made there.
“Right now, 9,500 British troops are demonstrating incredible courage on the battlefields of southern Afghanistan,” he said. “I told Dr. Fox how much we in America appreciate his nation’s leadership in this effort and offered my condolences for the nearly 300 British troops that have been lost in the conflict, including several just this week.
“To paraphrase a poet from the Great War,” Gates continued, “British fighting men and women have more than done their bit and have had their share.”
The same is true of other nations in the coalition, he added, pointing out that six U.S. soldiers, two U.S. Marines and two Australian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan just yesterday.
“Even as we mourn all these fallen heroes and pray for their families,” Gates said, “we stand in awe of their valor and their service.”
Both nations face many difficulties, Fox said, but he said the strength of their long-standing relationship will help them work on those problems together.
“We recognize that there are a range of very difficult issues in security and regionally and internationally that we will want to share with,” he said, “but we have the tremendous comfort of the strong and enduring relationship between our two countries.”
Fox said that when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill first spoke about that relationship in March 1946 during his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Mo., he did so as a wartime leader who understood the military and intelligence implications of that relationship.
“It was a hard-headed assessment of the national interests of both countries,” Fox said, “and we have been discussing that special relationship very much in terms of the national security imperatives for both countries.”
Great Britain and the United States have fought side by side and endured many shared sacrifices throughout their long alliance, Gates said.
“Along with our European partners, we have made common cause against dictators, tyrants and virulent ideologies seeking to destroy the foundations of the free world,” he said, “and we’ve expended untold amounts of blood and treasure to unite Europe and protect the values upon which our societies are built.
“Today, as we face new challenges in a new century,” he continued, “I’m confident that this special relationship will be, as it has been in the past, the bedrock alliance of partners guaranteeing a peaceful and prosperous future.”
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