|Robert Gates delivered his first speech as defense secretary .|
Gates slams Putin attack on US foreign policy
Says he'll travel to Moscow to try to ease tensions
MUNICH -- US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates responded yesterday to Vladimir Putin's assault on US foreign policy by saying "one Cold War is enough." He said he would travel to Moscow to try to reduce tensions and sought more allied help in Afghanistan.
He delivered his first speech as defense secretary at a security conference in Germany and then flew to Pakistan to discuss fears of a renewed offensive by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, a close US ally in the fight against terrorism, has faced charges that Taliban militia are staging attacks from Pakistan against Afghan troops and NATO- and US-led coalition troops.
Gates' s 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 Russia.
"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."
Putin said that "unilateral, illegitimate actions have not solved a single problem, that 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 promise 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 at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base , Cuba, as well as other mistakes have damaged America's reputation. It will take work, he said, to prove that the United States still is a force for good in the world.
Although 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 crisis 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 make his debut on the international stage and meet privately with some of his counterparts.
In other comments, he said that the Bush administration would like to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but that some terrorists there should never be freed. 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' s diplomatic skills came at a venue that at times was dominated by his more bombastic Pentagon predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld.
So as Gates neared the end of his remarks, he moved to separate himself from Rumsfeld.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Rumsfeld 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."