HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Nov. 18, 2011 — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay today reaffirmed the ties between their nations in the defense of North America and in multinational endeavors around the world.
In a news conference after meeting here in conjunction with the Halifax International Security Forum, the two leaders noted that the United States and Canada share in a variety of cooperative and international efforts.
Panetta said that while this is his first visit to Canada as defense secretary, he has visited before as a member of Congress, as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, and as CIA director.
“I believe very deeply that this is a special relationship — a very special relationship between our two countries,” Panetta said. “We share more than a border with our Canadian allies. We share a common history, we share common values, and we share a common approach to advancing our security interests. All of this has led to … one of the strongest defense relationships that we have in the world.
“We share a vision for extending peace and prosperity through a very broad alliance structure,” he continued, “both as NATO allies and as advocates for an enduring, multilateral engagement, both here in North America and around the globe.”
In their meeting today, Panetta said, he and MacKay discussed a range of issues related to challenges the United States and Canada face in continental defense and the 21st-century world, including the need for improving coordination in securing borders and dealing with trafficking in narcotics, weapons and people.
“One of the key ways to approach these problems is by fostering regional forums such as the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas and by building the capacity of our neighbors to counter these kinds of threats,” the secretary said. “And I look forward to working with Peter MacKay in trying to expand that cooperation.”
NATO’s summit, scheduled to take place in Chicago in May, was another area of discussion between the two defense leaders, Panetta said.
“Our efforts there will be to declare an interim capability for NATO’s European territorial missile defense, the next steps on Afghanistan,” he said, “and, obviously, further ways to strengthen the trans-Atlantic alliance that we enjoy.”
The United States and Canada have worked together to defend the continent they share through the North American Aerospace Defense Command for more than 50 years, the secretary said, recalling a visit to NORAD’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It is incredible to see Americans and Canadians standing side by side in that operations center,” he said. “It is a singular signal that Canada and the United States stand together when it comes to the security of our countries.”
But military cooperation between the United States and Canada isn’t limited to North America, Panetta said.
“Our troops have stood shoulder to shoulder not only here, but in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the world,” he said. “In Libya, we had the chance to work together to give Libya back to the Libyan people, and try to protect those people from a brutal regime.
“Just as our men and women in uniform have partnered together so effectively, Minister MacKay and I have really, I think, continued and strengthened a very warm relationship between our two countries when it comes to security,” he added.
The secretary noted that he offered thanks to MacKay when they met two months ago in Washington, and that he wanted to do the same today, for Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan — where 150 Canadian service members have died — and Libya.
“All of that reflects the fact that we fight together, and we bleed together as one,” Panetta said.
Together, the secretary added, the United States and Canada provide “a very powerful voice for peace, for freedom, for democracy and for security.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)