- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

MUNICH — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates responded yesterday to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault on U.S. foreign policy by saying, “One Cold War was quite enough,” and that he would go to Moscow to try to reduce tensions. Mr. Gates also sought more allied help in Afghanistan.

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.

Mr. Gates’ rebuke of Mr. Putin 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,” Mr. Gates said. Then, as the audience chuckled, the defense secretary said he has accepted Mr. Putin’s invitation to visit Russia.

“We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia,” Mr. Gates said. “One Cold War was quite enough.”

In his speech Saturday, Mr. Putin said U.S. foreign policy has incited other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an “almost uncontained use of military force.”

The Russian leader said that “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.”

Although U.S. officials mostly played down the speech as empty rhetoric divorced from the real world, European listeners said it showed the West must square up to a brash and combative new Russia, both in the Putin era and beyond.

“We should take him at his word. This was the real Russia of now, and possibly in four or five years’ time, it could go further in this direction,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of the Munich gathering.

“We have to have a dialogue with Russia, but we must be hard-nosed and realistic. We must stand up for our values.”

Mr. Gates, in his Munich speech, 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,” Mr. 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.

Near the end of his address, Mr. Gates distanced himself from his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had often dominated the annual Munich forum.

Without naming Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Gates said some people had 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,’ ” Mr. Gates said, in reference to a Rumsfeld remark that infuriated many European allies. “All of these characterizations belong in the past.”

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