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 News Article

Hagel Travels to Poland, Germany to Meet With Defense Leaders

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel begins a trip to Europe today to meet with defense leaders and to attend the 50th Munich Security Conference.

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters Hagel’s first stop will be in Poland, where he will meet with senior Polish officials in Warsaw.

“Poland has been a steadfast ally to the United States,” Kirby added, noting that the secretary will thank officials there for supporting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere and express U.S. support for Poland’s efforts to modernize its defense establishment. Hagel also will visit Powidz Air Base in central Poland, where U.S. and Polish troops work together to further Polish and regional security.

In 2012, the United States opened a full-time aviation detachment in Poland to increase interoperability through joint training exercises and regular rotation of U.S. military aircraft. The United States also is helping Poland prepare to host NATO missile defense assets in the 2018 timeframe.

Before leaving the country, Kirby said, Hagel will make a brief visit to Kiszkow Village in central Poland, where his mother’s grandparents were married before immigrating to the United States.

Next, the secretary will travel to Munich, where he will make a joint presentation Feb. 1 with Secretary of State John F. Kerry on the importance of trans-Atlantic cooperation at the annual Munich Security Conference.

The conference, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, is a key gathering for the international strategic community. The independent forum is dedicated to promoting peaceful conflict resolution, international cooperation and dialogue in dealing with present and future security challenges.

It was called the Internationale Wehrkunde-Begegnung when it began in 1963. Wehrkunde, pronounced “verkunda,” literally translates as “military science,” Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger said in the book “Towards Mutual Security: Fifty Years of Munich Security Conference,” published Jan. 22 by the Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht publishing house in Göttingen to commemorate the conference’s 50th anniversary.

The book contains chapters by top leaders, including Hagel, Kerry and Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Hagel, who for years attended Wehrkunde as a U.S. senator, said in his contribution to the book that the conference has evolved to include Asia security issues, a summit on cyber, and a forum on energy.

“The Munich Security Conference has stayed relevant for 50 years because of its ability to adapt to a constantly changing world,” he wrote.

“This conference was founded to bring people together,” he added, “because people are the ones who truly change the world. Technology and institutions are instruments of change but it is people who invest, lead, decide, inspire and both prosper and suffer.”

Hagel will have an opportunity to meet with several counterparts from other nations at the conference before returning to Washington, Kirby said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)


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