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American Forces Press Service

Gates: U.S. Prepared to Work with Russian Military

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, Oct. 13, 2007 – The United States and Russia face some common security challenges and there are ways to cooperate in meeting those challenges, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

The secretary addressed about 500 students and faculty at the Military Academy of the General Staff. Gates said he’d had “a full and frank exchange of views” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian leaders during his two-day visit.

“These conversations will continue and I firmly believe they will continue to benefit the relationship and standing of both our nations,” Gates told the Russian officers.

He outlined challenges facing the U.S. military as it transforms “to a posture more appropriate for the 21st century.” and said the Russian military faces many of the same challenges.

The term “transformation” or the “revolution in military affairs,” Gates said, “entered the lexicon of the U.S. military a number of years ago as ways to describe the potential for new technologies to fundamentally alter the nature of war.”

He credited the Soviet military for its original thinking on such matters. In the 1970s, Gates said, Russian officers wrote about “how to use new sensors, reconnaissance and battle-management systems to gain an edge on the battlefield.”

In the 1980s, Gates said, a top Russian officer predicted “a scenario where conventional weapons could be as effective and dangerous as weapons of mass destruction, owing to the gains made in precision, information technology and communications.”

In Vietnam, the U.S. military proceeded with its own transformation involving technology, organization and strategy, the secretary said. In Somalia, Haiti and the Balkan, the military faced new types of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

New challenges arose in Iraq and Afghanistan where “quick conventional victories have given way to long, complex and grinding campaigns against violent, adaptive insurgencies,” he said.

Lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan are helping the military prepare for what lies ahead, Gates said. “The U.S. military has undertaken a number of reforms to prepare for what will likely be a generational campaign against violent extremists,” he said.

He cited three examples. First, the U.S. Army is becoming more agile and expeditionary because it no longer has months to prepare and assemble before deploying. Second, the military has learned to support troops’ families because their welfare affects morale and retention. Third, the reserve force has changed from a “strategic reserve” to be used in the event of World War III, to an “operational reserve” that is part of every mission.

Overall, Gates said, transformation “now stands for a process of constant evaluation, adaptation and change. It is an ongoing process, and more needs to be done.”

“Looking forward,” he said, “one of the most important roles for our military will be less direct combat and more a matter of helping the security forces of partner nations defeat extremists within their own borders.”

He said the United States is “ thinking about how to best incorporate those capabilities into our armed forces in a way that does not detract from their warfighting capabilities.”

The struggle against terrorists also requires the use of diplomatic, economic, political and military power, he said. “The Defense Department is seeking better ways to integrate with other branches and agencies of the U.S. government,” he said.

Provincial reconstruction teams, used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are an example of this approach. “These units bring together soldiers from the United States and other nations with experts in agriculture, reconstruction and other fields,” Gates said.

Another program assigns civilian anthropologists and social scientists to deploying brigades, he noted, adding that commanders in the war zone can attest to the program’s positive impact.

Gates said he told the Russians he talked about what the U.S. military is doing in the way of transformation in the hope that it would help create “a climate of trust and transparency.”

“We are prepared to work with Russia -- and with the Russian military -- to try to turn possibility into reality for the people’s of both nations,” he concluded.

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