Panetta, MacKay Reaffirm U.S.-Canada Partnership

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)