May 24, 2013
Argentina, US: re-defining a relationship
By Carolina Barros
“In recent years, we have overhauled our relationship with the US in Defence matters: subordination belongs in the past,” said Carlos Pérez Rasetti, Training and Education under-secretary at the Defence Ministry, when consulted yesterday by the Buenos Aires Herald.
Pérez Rasetti is a civilian, an expert in Education and from Santa Cruz (the presidential province), and is in charge of the coordination of studies, academic training and courses at the Defence Ministry. Among these courses is the Expanded Military Education and Training Programme IMET (International Military Education and Training), which will be taught by three US lecturers (including two war veterans) exclusively to civilians, the majority Defence Ministry employees, between today and Wednesday.
“It is the first time since we started holding these courses, in 1996, that there will be no uniformed personnel in the audience,” said Pérez Rasetti when speaking to the Herald. He added that “before, it was the US who administrated the right to admission to these courses, entirely directed at military personnel, but after suggesting it to Washington, this year we are implementing the course for civilians only.”
In 2011, the IMET programme was discontinued: it was the direct consequence of the episode in February of that year when a US Air Force plane was grounded in Ezeiza, and when Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, pliers in hand, led the task-force that seized sensitive material on board (to be used in these courses), causing an international incident and unprecedented tension in the bilateral relationship.
However, the visit by Frank Mora, US deputy assistant secretary of Defence for Western Hemisphere Affairs, three weeks ago and his meeting with Defence personnel (as well as a tête-à-tête with Minister Arturo Puricelli), undoubtedly disentangled many of the knots caused in February 2011. According to Pérez Rasetti, the meeting between the two teams saw the representatives reach an agreement to have a new Argentina-US cooperation framework for Defence education and training to be presented by the Americans by the beginning of 2013.
“Our cooperation conventions are antiques, dating back to the Cold War. For that reason, we have been overhauling these for the last two years, to achieve new bilateral agreements in this area, no longer based on subordination but in a situation in which we are the ones to define the Argentine Defence policy, and where the US knows well that we do not mix Defence with (home) Security,” said the head of Training and Education. “As the US has been lagging behind in making this definition, we decided to reduce the level of cooperation during the period before signing a new convention.” (During Nilda Garré’s period as Defence Minister that cooperation was never reduced).
In the same vein, the Defence Ministry yesterday published a statement in which it specified that the IMET programme to be taught this week consists of a seminar on the “Development of Strategic Guidelines”, which focuses on civilian-military relations, strategic leadership and the transition toward planning based on capacities.
“In response to the versions that suggest that these courses are ‘US encroachment’ (daily Página/12 dedicated its Sunday cover story to this issue), they are wrong: we are aware that the Americans think differently but this does not mean that their ideas are infectious nor that there is ideological recruitment,” said Pérez Rasetti. “We’re not in a kindergaten; to maintain relations with a global power like the US, it is fundamental that we know how they think and how they handle things.”
“After all,” concluded Under-Secretary Pérez Rasetti, “President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is the one who directs us toward the path to follow, which is to keep cooperating with the US through a new convention in terms of cooperation in techniques, activities and Defence training.”