Cohen Visits Danish KFOR Training
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Jul. 12, 1999 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen got a glimpse of how one NATO nation is preparing its soldiers for their role in the NATO-led security mission in Kosovo.
After meeting with Danish government leaders here July 9, Cohen traveled to Oksboel Training Range in Jutland to observe a live- fire exercise put on by the Danish Reaction Brigade. From atop tall sand dunes near the coast, Cohen and his party watched as Danish soldiers fired machine guns mounted on armored personnel carriers, mortars and Leopard tank guns.
The brigade is sending a battalion of 850 soldiers to Kosovo in August to serve in the French sector of the southern Serb province. Along with maintaining its combat readiness, the unit is practicing such peacekeeping skills as house searches and site inspections, riot control, patrolling, weapons handling and mine awareness.
Cohen's visit to Denmark was the first stop on a seven-day trip to seven European nations. He told reporters traveling with him that throughout the trip he planned to talk to allies about operations in Kosovo and to stress the need for NATO nations to upgrade their defense capabilities.
After meeting with Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup, Cohen said he was particularly glad to learn of Denmark's plans to improve its armed forces, as called for in NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative. Danish officials said the emphasis in Danish defense is shifting from territorial defense to an increased international capacity.
Denmark plans to buy new transport helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and two new multipurpose support ships to enhance its air- and sealift capabilities, Haekkerup said at a press conference with Cohen. He said Denmark also has earmarked about $400 million for equipment for the 4,600-member reaction brigade, created in 1993 to support peace operations and to serve with NATO's Rapid Reaction Force.
"We're working closely together on issues that are fundamental to European security," Cohen said. "They include bringing stability to Kosovo, building stronger defense capabilities in Europe, forging better relations between NATO and Russia [and] working to incorporate the Baltic states into European security structures."
The secretary discounted a reporter's suggestion that NATO's air-only campaign means rethinking the idea of combined joint task forces.
"We should not try to magnify the success of the air campaign into something larger than it was," Cohen said. "The situation was unique in that NATO had a consensus for an air campaign, [but not] for anything more. I think we have to look at what took place here, how effectively it was conducted, but understand this is not necessarily a template for all future types of conflicts."
NATO should be prepared to face future conflicts with combined air, naval and land forces, Cohen said. He the Kosovo conflict has made clear the need for allies to modernize their forces. This includes acquiring more precision-guided munitions and improving mobility; command, control and communications; and logistics sustainability, he said.
Cohen fended off questions about Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. If the Serbian people decide they want to be part of the international community, he said, they will oust Milosevic.
"Serbia's long term interests would be served by promoting democratic reforms," Cohen said. "Milosevic would have to go certainly in the short term, but in the long term interests of the country, they should move to a democratic form of government with free and open elections."
Asked if the United States would support any country granting Milosevic political asylum in order to hasten the change of the regime, Cohen replied: "He is an indicted war criminal. If there's any place he seeks sanctuary, perhaps I would recommend the Hague [Netherlands], where he could face a trial on the merits of the case."
From Denmark, Cohen traveled to Oslo, Norway, to attend a July 10 Nordic-Baltic ministerial, before moving on to Hungary, Albania, Turkey and Greece. The secretary is scheduled to return to Washington July 15.