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Release No: 379-97
July 15, 1997

Remarks as Given and Questions Taken by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen to the Atlantic Club Sofia, Bulgaria July 13, 1997

Mr. President, thank you very much for that generous introduction. I particularly appreciated the part when you started to talk about all the things that I have done, etc., etc. That was a very good sign that we will try to be as brief as possible.

Mr. Vice-president, let me say on behalf of my wife Janet and all of those who are in our delegation "Thank you" for an extraordinarily generous welcome. You have been most gracious host and you have contributed greatly to a weight problem that I'm sure that I picked up in just one day in being in your lovely city. My apologies to those of you who have to stand. It's not often that people stand up for me when I give a speech, but I am pleased to be here today to witness you on your feet before even I start talking. I hope you'll be on your feet when I finish.

Let me say, last Friday, the Fourth of July, was Independence Day in the United States. And as always, we celebrated the holiday with a huge fireworks display over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. And the fireworks in all their brilliance, they dazzled the night sky and reflected off the surface of every structure in the city. And it also cast flashes of light on a statue of Vassil Levsky, erected only two years ago in the heart of Washington to honor Bulgaria's freedom fighter.

This monument honors not only Levsky and his vision of a free and independent Bulgaria, but also his larger vision of tolerance and freedom among all the world's peoples. And inscribed upon it are Levsky's immortal words: "Freedom and to each his own."

Although Bulgaria declared its independence over 100 years ago, it is clear to the world now more than ever that you are using your freedom in a way that honors the memory and legacy of Levsky.

In the words of the poet and modern-day Bulgarian leader, Blaga Dimitrova, you have seized upon "the human longing for something different, a different time, a different way, and a different place." You have seized upon this time to create a democracy and a market economy, to follow a pathway to greater stability and security, and to transform Bulgaria into a model for the Balkans and a good neighbor to all of Europe.

I have come to your country and to your city to express America's support and admiration for Bulgaria's remarkable progress in so short a span of time. And frankly, I am not very surprised. Seven years ago the university from my home state of Maine, which I represented for the past 24 years as a member of our Parliament, the university established the American University in Bulgaria.

Our Ambassador at the time, Sol Polansky, was pivotal in establishing this bond between the State of Maine and Bulgaria. And I was honored to be selected to serve on the board of advisors. Even then I was deeply impressed with the spirit and the enthusiasm of the Bulgarian people for change and democracy.

And today I am even more impressed as Bulgaria is moving toward even greater achievements as part of the new and toward the better Europe we are building.

This week in Madrid, we set about building this better Europe - a Europe healed, and whole and free, at peace with itself and with the world. And our building was evidenced by three historic actions.

First, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to developing a new relationship with a new Russia by fully implementing the Founding Act that was signed back in May. This Act sets NATO and Russia on a future course not of confrontation, but of consultation and cooperation on mutual interests and mutual concerns. History has shown that Russia as a Great Power can often side with those who seek liberty -- as Russia sided with Bulgaria against tyranny in the 19th century. The Founding Act is an opportunity for Russia to once again side with the nations who seek freedom.

This is a tremendous opportunity for both Russia and for the West. For Russia, the Founding Act gives Moscow a voice -- not a veto or a vote -- but a voice in Brussels, and a role in the new Europe.

And for the West, these consultations allow us to demonstrate that just as NATO is not a threat to Russia, so too will enlarging NATO, including Russia, make all of Europe safer and more secure by enlarging the realm of liberty, stability and prosperity.

What we have built are the footings for a new bridge to Russia. And in so doing, the Founding Act paved the way for NATO's second historic act in Madrid this past week: NATO invited three new democracies to begin accession negotiations to join the Alliance. The three Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic they have made the necessary progress on military, political, economic, and social reforms. And they clearly are ready to take the next steps to becoming full members, accepting all the rights and responsibilities of membership.

But as we discuss the first round of new accessions, we have to make something perfectly clear to the other new democracies. That is, that the first new members shall not be the last and that the door to NATO membership will remain open to others. There are a number of other European states [that] have declared their desire to join NATO, and many of them are making excellent progress in preparing themselves for membership.

An invitation to join NATO is a momentous action, it is not something that is taken very lightly and it carries heavy obligations both for the new and the old members. There must be no dilution of NATO's strength, which means that we must not weaken NATO in the process of enlarging it, or threaten the overall stability in Europe. Where the countries who are on the right path, but need more time, they of course should adhere to the wiser course of action, and that is for us to defer invitations, encourage and support continuing reforms, and make sure that the door remains open so they can walk through that door when they are ready.

NATO and the US are committed to walking side by side with Bulgaria down that path and providing all the help that we can. We appreciate the significance of Bulgaria's decision to seek NATO membership, and we consider Bulgaria to be a serious contender and candidate for future rounds. We are going to share ideas about how forces are organized within democracies, about the defense planning process, about budgets and transparency, and other types of ways in which we can share information with you and with other nations. We will offer advice on training issues and creating professional forces. And we will provide assistance in becoming interoperable with NATO in the areas of communications, command, control, intelligence, and logistics.

The best way through the door to NATO membership is still the Partnership for Peace. Three years ago NATO established the Partnership Program as a way for those who are seeking membership to demonstrate that they are ready to shoulder the responsibilities of membership, and to give those nations who are not aspiring to membership a chance to still interact with NATO. And since then there have been hundreds of exercises and activities, and the Partnership has succeeded beyond most of the expectations, the most optimistic expectations.

Bulgaria has been a strong supporter of PFP and has taken part in many exercises - even hosting two of them. Peaceful Eagle in 1997 was a command post exercise and Bulgaria tested and trained commanders and headquarters to deal with a variety of peace enforcement scenarios. And then there was Cooperative Partner '97, where nine nations plied the waters and practiced peacekeeping skills on the Black Sea. And just two days ago, in Ukraine, I saw Bulgaria's forces join with forces from America and nine other NATO countries and Partner nations in an exercise called "Cooperative Neighbor."

By making the most of the Partnership Program, Bulgaria has not only helped itself, Bulgaria is helping all of Europe by helping to make the Partnership a vital and enduring element of the new European security architecture, which has NATO at its center.

Now it is critical that Bulgaria take advantage of Enhanced PFP Program and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to become involved in the full range of NATO's new missions, to take part in more complex exercises and the exercise planning process, to become involved in the force planning and review process, and to identify additional qualified officers to take part in the liaison cell at the Partnership Coordination Center in Mons, to work directly with NATO on important security issues that affect all of Europe, and to continue down the path toward NATO membership in the future.

And a critical step in that path is ensuring public and parliamentary support for the reforms necessary to pursue NATO membership. In a democracy, no step is more critical, in a democracy nothing is more important. NATO enlargement must be more than the creation of national leaders. And you have extraordinary national leaders in Bulgaria. They are young and dynamic, charismatic. They are committed to a vision of the future that is unbounded. It's in fact the duty of these new leaders to engage the hearts and the minds of the people. As democracies, we have learned that public support for government actions, particularly actions involving national security, legitimizes those actions. And given the momentous implications of enlarging NATO, we must earn public support for it. And to earn public support for it, we need to have open, full, national discussions about the benefits and also the burdens.

The benefits are enormous. For new members, it means being part of the most successful peacetime military alliance in history, and building closer and stronger ties with the West. For NATO, it means a stronger Alliance by erasing the artificial line that divided Europe and extending a circle of security that can better protect the peace and prevent future war. For both NATO and new members, it provides a security for democracies to flourish, just as it did for Western European nations such as Germany, Italy, and Spain. It provides a realm of trust and cooperation in which members can resolve their differences through negotiation rather than confrontation. It embodies the wisdom that liberty enlarged is liberty ensured.

But, of course, along with these benefits come the responsibilities of enlargement. The responsibility of being a contributor -- not just a consumer - of collective security. Bulgaria's military is respected at home and abroad, and it can ensure Bulgaria becomes a key contributor by continuing with military reforms, creating a strong body of skilled civilian defense leaders, and following through with commitments to streamline the forces and create a professional military.

It should also continue organizational reforms and equipment modernization to improve interoperability with NATO, establish a permanent representative at NATO headquarters to develop closer working relationships, and build new ties with neighbors by peacefully resolving old disputes.

It remains a major achievement that Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And we hope that it will be possible to soon resolve your outstanding differences on the language issue on a mutually acceptable basis. In this way, Bulgaria can play a role in bringing peace and stability to the region.

The Balkans are in need of this kind of role model of cooperation and tolerance. And you can provide that. Bosnia has been just the opposite, where some would still prefer to dig fresh graves rather than bury old hatreds.

Even in peace, these old hatreds and fears are hindering the Bosnians' efforts to rebuild their country and become a part of a prosperous and free Europe. We commend Bulgaria for its support of the peace process in Bosnia -- especially sending an engineer unit which, while small in size, is significant in its contributions to peace.

The United States knows how far Bulgaria has come - and the challenges that you face in the future. But we know -- and the world knows - that you are going to succeed. For your history shows that Bulgaria is equal to the most difficult tasks.

In the 1870s Bulgarian and Russian forces fought together in the Shipka Pass against a force almost five times their number. Through determination and grit, the Bulgarians and their allies were able to win the battle, and they used the expended ammunition to cast 12 great church bells that still peal notes of freedom throughout Bulgaria. Well, today, Bulgaria is ringing the bells of freedom not only within its homeland but throughout all Europe, joining a carillon of other European nations proclaiming a victory for our vision of a Europe united in peace, democracy and security from the Atlantic to the Urals.

As a Balkan nation, Bulgaria has a special role to play in this new Europe. Poets have long called Bulgaria the "jewel of the Balkans" because of its tremendous physical beauty. Today, Bulgaria has the chance to become a jewel of the Balkans for its reform and revival of the democratic spirit, to become a model of democracy and peace for the region, and a neighbor that helps to build stability and security throughout all Europe.

Greek mythology tells of the poet Orpheus who married the beautiful Eurydice. After Eurydice dies, Orpheus' grief is so great that the gods grant him permission to retrieve her from the underworld so long as agrees to do what? To not look back over his shoulder during that return journey. Unfortunately, Orpheus does look back and Eurydice is lost to him forever. Today, Bulgaria is not looking back but forward, and only forward, on its journey into freedom, democracy and security. We are committed to working with Bulgaria every step along the way, and to welcoming Bulgaria as a member of a free, democratic and united Europe.

And if I might in conclusion paraphrase T. S. Elliot: "Footfalls will echo, down the path we chose to take, through the door we did not fail to open into a garden filled with flowers from the Valley of the Roses..."

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Solomon Passi, president of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria: It is my understanding that we may urge the Honorable Secretary of Defense to continue with his presentation rather than answer questions. As is our usual practice the Secretary of Defense has agreed to take your questions. So you have the floor. Mr. George Gantchev, a Member of Parliament.

Mr. Gantchev: Defense Secretary Cohen, welcome to Bulgaria. We are keen to be part of the world community. My friend Sol Polansky and I in 1989 were very keen to see a different Bulgaria. How without a mini-Marshall Plan, how without (a) compensation of twelve billion dollars of (the) three embargoes that Bulgaria suffered, how can we hope to enter NATO when for seven and a half years we have been destabilized from many, many directions? And I pray to God that you are going to see a feasible solution for us. I am anxiously waiting for your answer. Thank you.

Secretary Cohen: I met during the course of the day with your President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, members of Parliament, the Chairman of your Foreign Relations Committee and National Security Committee. Throughout our discussions it is clear that Bulgaria is currently on the right path. You are currently pursuing a policy of certainly promoting democracy, of promoting market reforms, of having a market-driven economy, of respecting human rights, of having civilian control over the military, of making sure that you have good relationships with your neighbors, all of that is now contributing to respect for and confidence in the Bulgarian economy and its people. It is going to take time to reverse decades of mismanagement and oppression and pursuing an economic system which has been demonstrated over and over again to be failed and flawed. And so, with a few more years, with the strong leadership that you have today, if you continue to pursue these reforms you will find that the United States is going to be eager to help in ways, in any way in which we can. Some in the form of economic assistance, but also in the form of military assistance, from helping to reshape your military -- you are going through a downsizing of your military. It's important that that military be reshaped in a way that will raise the standards to levels that are consistent with those of other NATO countries so that you can prepare for eventual accession into NATO. I have said during the course of the day that the real issue is not how much money is spent on your military, which after all NATO is fundamentally a military alliance. The real issue is not how much is spent, but how it is spent. It must be spent wisely. It must be spent with great prudence. It must be spent with great direction. We hope in the coming months to provide that kind of cooperation. There will be a Defense Ministerial here in October. Your Defense Minister invited me to attend and I indicated to him that I'll be coming back in October to participate in that Defense Ministerial. We have had the Under Secretary for Defense Mr. Walter Slocombe here in March to work with your military establishment to find ways in which we can be helpful. And I think that it is a pretty strong symbol and a message that we are committed to helping Bulgaria to pursue the path toward prosperity and stability and greater freedom and putting it in a very strong position for accession into NATO.

(Passi thanks and welcomes Mr. Slocombe.)

Question from Samuel Frances, EFE Agency: Two questions, one of which is real short. You have indicated earlier that Bulgaria is a very serious contender for NATO membership. But does this mean Bulgaria is a 1999 candidate for NATO membership? And my second question, Bulgaria is searching to guarantee its security through NATO membership. In the case of Cyprus, however, the NATO membership failed to prevent the separation of the island and the decision currently being put forward to install a confederation there is more a way to legalize such partition. Why has NATO failed?

Secretary Cohen: I am not sure I fully appreciated the entire question. But let me try to respond about why NATO made the decision that it did. There was a virtual consensus from the beginning that three countries were qualified to begin negotiations for accessions into NATO. There was disagreement amongst all of the NATO members in terms of who else should come in, what other countries should qualify. NATO operates not by majority vote, but by consensus. Everyone finally agrees after the full debate and discussion takes place, they all nod their agreement, that this is the course they should pursue. President Clinton felt very strongly that we should proceed with prudence and with caution. As I mentioned, this is an important, momentous decision for other member-countries to seek to come into NATO itself. As a momentous decision it entails great rewards and it also entails great responsibilities and burdens. President Clinton felt strongly on two counts -- because this has been the most successful military alliance in the history, certainly of this century and perhaps that of the world, we should proceed with some caution as we seek to enlarge it. And that secondly, we wanted to make sure the door stayed completely open. That if, in fact, additional nations had been granted accession negotiations, to begin those negotiations, it would have sent precisely the opposite signal to Bulgaria, to the Baltics, to every other European nation who might seek membership in some future time. And so President Clinton, who by the way is very, very favorably disposed toward Bulgaria -- he has high hopes for Bulgaria, he wanted me to convey that to the Bulgarian people, and I did so to your President and your Foreign Minister and your Defense Minister, he has very high hopes that Bulgaria will in fact qualify in the very near future, if you continue on the path that you currently are pursuing. And so he wanted to send a signal by not enlarging it beyond three that the door is open, that we are hoping we can help those nations, including Bulgaria, who want to gain admission into NATO, to enjoy its benefits, that the people are prepared also to pay for the burdens. The burdens need not be that large. And I mentioned this earlier in my comments. Reform can take place on an economical basis. But you must understand that Bulgaria must be prepared to exercise the full responsibilities of NATO membership, and that includes all of the responsibilities, not only of having an adequate defense for itself, but being prepared to defend all of the other allied nations as such, members of that Alliance, and also being prepared to go outside the normal area of operation, as you have done by participating in the peace-keeping mission in Bosnia.

And so the President felt that Bulgaria and other nations needed more time. The answer was not "No,", but "Just not yet," and we are very hopeful that we can help contribute to the acceleration of your admission into NATO.

Mr. Passi: Thanks. I am very glad indeed to learn that President Clinton is so very favorably disposed toward our country and let me avail myself of the occasion that Secretary Cohen is among us to convey our invitation to President Clinton to visit Bulgaria and present, of course, a lecture before the Atlantic Club. (Applause.)

I am now pleased to yield the floor to Colonel Maxim Minchev, the Atlantic Club's Director of Press. In the meanwhile let me make known the contribution of Bulgarian Balkan Airlines, DHL, and the Eurodollar Car Rental Company to the organization of today's event here.

Mr. Minchev: Mr. Secretary, we have witnessed in the recent years the inefficiency of the United Nations Organization. Do you share the opinion that NATO, which on the other hand has proved in the last couple of years to be considerably more efficient, is in a position to enlarge and intensify its international activities worldwide?

Secretary Cohen: The question is whether or not NATO can maintain its efficiency in the future. One of the questions raised by critics of NATO enlargement is that by seeking to enlarge NATO ultimately it will be weakened from within, and so it will become less efficient; that those countries who come in will not measure up to their responsibilities, that perhaps even existing members of NATO will not add their contribution to the requirements for enlargement, and that ultimately it will undermine the very efficiency that now exists. In order to measure up to the criticism and to overcome that criticism, very careful analysis will have to be made to those countries who are seeking admission, the three who have been granted accession negotiations, of the privileges coming up. We will look very closely. I can tell you as a former member of the United States Senate, some members of the Senate are quite skeptical about the wisdom of enlarging NATO, because they fear that these other countries will not be willing to do what is necessary to measure up. And so they will ask of me, they will ask of the Secretary of State, they will ask of the President "Show us the evidence. Where are the facts that would warrant us agreeing to and ratifying this enlargement." And that is the reason why it is very important that there be very strong public support for becoming a member, or wishing to become a member of NATO. because it is not a short-term commitment. "Let's just do enough to get through the door." It is a long-term enduring commitment of measuring up to the high standards of NATO membership. And unless there's a strong public support for that, then that would be taken as evidence of a lack of will, a lack of spirit and a lack of commitment. And so what is necessary for NATO to maintain its efficiency is for all of us to be very careful about those who come in, to make sure that their leaders and the people whom they lead are truly committed to both the benefits as well as the burdens that are necessary to measure up to make sure that it maintains its efficiency.

Mr. Passi: Thanks. Mr. Stoyan Dentchev and next comes Mr. Kamenov. Mr. Stoyan Dentchev, until recently a Member of Parliament. May I take the opportunity to announce Balkancopy, Kodak Gold Film, Silen 87, Nestle, UVT, Atlantic Ltd., Rostivexim, Microart Belene, Technologica, Naturella and, of course, Baj Gentcho. You can see the powerful support that came from the Bulgarian business in organizing this lecture tonight. Go ahead, Stoyan.
Mr. Dentchev: Mr. Secretary, would you elaborate a little bit more on the future relationships between NATO and Russia and specifically on whether there are any clauses in the agreement that NATO signed with Russia, that set up any borders of partition concerning the accession and non-accession of NATO aspiring countries? Thank you.

Secretary Cohen: The question is: could I expand a bit upon the relationship that NATO now has with Russia and whether or not there is anything contained in that NATO-Russia Charter that would prohibit or prevent other European nations from joining NATO itself. The answer is that we wanted to make sure and make very clear to the Russian people that this new enlarged NATO presents no offensive threat to their country. That it is designed to stabilize all of Europe, to reduce ethnic tensions, to reduce and eliminate border disputes, to promote greater democracy, and prosperity, and stability. And that, ultimately, works to the advantage, to the benefit and to the security of the Russian people. We have taken some rather extraordinary steps in trying to persuade the Russian people of our good intentions. We have, for example, invited Mr. Primakov into the room where the Joint Chiefs of Staff of our military meet on a daily basis. That is unprecedented. We invited Mr. Primakov and we gave him a long briefing where he was able to ask questions of all of our generals, and he seemed quite satisfied about what NATO enlargement really would mean to Russia. We also invited the now former head of their military, Mr. Rodionov, to have the same briefing and to satisfy him that this is really going to work to the benefit of Russia. In the Charter itself there is nothing that would allow Russia to impose impediments to other countries, European countries who are seeking admission. We have said we will give them a voice, we'll allow them to come and present their voice to NATO. But they are not allowed to have a vote. They are not allowed to interfere with the internal procedures and policies of NATO itself. And so the answer is that the NATORussia Charter is really designed to ameliorate, to allay, to reduce their concerns about what NATO enlargement means as far as their security. And we think over the period of the next several years we will demonstrate that NATO enlargement will actually benefit the Russian people rather than posing any kind of a threat to them.

Mr. Passi: Thanks. And talking about all those who contributed to today's lecture I cannot but appreciate the exceptional support we received from the American embassy. And I would particularly like to thank Ambassador Bohlen. Thank you, Ambassador. And wish to hope, that if the Embassy continue to work in the same energetic fashion, President Clinton will be coming to Sofia pretty soon too. You have now the floor, Tikhomir.

Mr. Kamenov: Mr. Secretary, I am delighted by your speech. It's a common knowledge (that) prosperity and security go hand in hand. (A) high degree of security is (a) vital precondition for massive foreign investment. Massive foreign investment is vital for prosperity. Bearing in mind the leading role of the United States in NATO, wouldn't it be (a) wise idea to fix an early date, or a schedule of that, for Bulgarian membership (in) of NATO in order publicly to encourage foreign investment in this country and adopt a policy of high-ranking NATO officials for encouraging transnational businesses in view of forthcoming Bulgarian membership? Thank you.

Secretary Cohen: It was a very important question and you are quite right, there is a direct connection between security and trade and international investment. And wouldn't it be a wise thing for the United States to set a specific date at which Bulgaria could be admitted into NATO? First, let me say with respect to setting specific dates, when you do that, you then set up, it seems to me, an unwise sort of rush to the gate to make sure that everyone who wants to get in can get in by a specific time-frame. We think it is much more prudent to indicate that there are going to be constant, or I should say, continuous reviews of the progress being made by those countries who have indicated they wish accession into NATO. And that in the communiqu itself it talked about reviewing the progress in the next meeting in 1999. That date being specified in the communiqu itself is not insignificant. Secondly, it is not insignificant that I am here immediately following the conference in Madrid. My purpose in coming is twofold. Number one, to reassure you that we are very supportive of Bulgaria. To reassure you that we are going to work very closely with you in the coming weeks and months to make sure that progress proceeds as it currently is on the path to greater expansion of what is taking place today. And to send a very strong signal to international investors that we consider Bulgaria to be one of those nations who'll be seeking and hopefully will be granted accession in the future.

By virtue of the fact that former Secretary of Defense Perry came in 1994, that Mr. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe came this March, and that I am here today and I have publicly advised your press, your Ministers and your leaders that I'll be coming back again in October - that is a very strong message that all of you should take some comfort in - that we are serious about Bulgaria, we are going to work with you, we want the international community to recognize Bulgaria for the outstanding progress that was made and to do everything that we can to make sure that in the future, when we have accession negotiations, that you are among those that will be granted accession. (Applause.)

Mr. Passi: Thanks. I now hope that following this reply, Tikhomir's crystal dream of his childhood - that is to supply his medicines to the Sixth American Fleet - will now come true.

The Mayor of the city of Varna, Mr. Khristo Kirtchev, an Atlantic Club member and a supporter of the Atlantic cause, official host of the manifold NATO warships visiting the port of Varna.

Mayor Kirtchev: Mr. Secretary, a cordial welcome to Bulgaria. We are very glad to meet you and to see you here in my country. By the way, now in the United States you are upgrading your country to meet the challenge of the 21st century. You have a lot of excessive equipment. It is a very painful question of our army to be upgraded, too. Is it possible our modest Navy to be supplied by the American (inaudible) Combatants, for example, or our Air Force. You give a lot of tanks and personnel carriers to our neighbors. Is it possible to give a hand to our army, too, because our soldiers, our officers, they are very eager to study American technology. Of course to join the NATO forces we have to practice with American and West European armament. It is quite a practical question because I know, I follow the news about your army very closely, I am a fan of your army. Madam Bohlen here, she knows about that, that's true, yeah? and I am in very good relations with your Joint Chiefs of Staff. So it is a quite practical question for us, because I know that just to jump into NATO now it is a day-dream. But it is quite practical now you are shrinking your army in half, you know that, and a lot of equipment should go there and there. Is it possible to give us a hand? Thank you very much.

Secretary Cohen: I'll have to check with Under Secretary Slocombe to see what we have in our inventory but let me say that we do have programs, of course. Our Foreign Military Financing Program is something that will be helpful to the Bulgarian military; we have what we call IMET Program -- International Military Education Training Program, and we have funding in our budget for that as well. And I will examine whether or not surplus or excess military equipment can be, in fact, directed to Bulgaria. Obviously we expect you to continue to participate in the PFP Programs; we expect that you will upgrade your equipment to make it interoperable with NATO's. So I will look to see what the policy is and what it can be, and what may be available that we find to be surplus or excess equipment.

Mr. Passi: Thanks.

Question from unidentified listener: Secretary Cohen, welcome to Bulgaria. Thank you for coming. It's a pleasure to have you here. I'd like to ask you a question about the American commitment to NATO and to Europe as a whole, particularly from the military point of view. As you well know, American history is a record in part of the engagement and alternately disengagement from Europe and from foreign affairs in fact. Can you give us some idea of what the American commitment is now to NATO and to Eastern Europe, and how that commitment will be changing as time goes on. General Joulwan is now retiring as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He's given ideas as to what the level of forces should be in Europe. How are commitments changing at this time. And can you give us some idea as to what those changes will be and what levels they will be at for the future.

Secretary Cohen: How much time do you have ?
Q: Well, just quickly, in a few moments, if that is possible.

Secretary Cohen: We just completed something called the Quadrennial Defense Review. We refer to it in the shorthand description, the "QDR". And one thing, there are several things that came out of the QDR, but what we determined was that we are going to have a policy which allowed us to shape our environment, the security environment. In order to shape the security environment, that meant that we have to be forward deployed. There are some people in our country who believe that it is time for the Europeans to take care of Europe, and the Asians to take care of Asia, and for the United States to simply come back to the continental borders of our country and take care of our domestic problems. That is a very narrow, short-sighted and, I am happy to say, a small viewpoint that is held by a few people in our country. Either at the extreme right or left of our political spectrum. What the QDR revealed and what I believe the American people support is to be committed and fully engaged in world affairs. And that's why I traveled to Japan and South Korea recently to tell them that we are going to have approximately a hundred thousand troops forward deployed for the indefinite future, and that's why I have come to Europe to tell the Europeans that we, under the QDR analyses, we'll still have roughly a hundred thousand deployed in the European theater while we'll continue to be forward deployed in the Arabian Gulf. All of this is because we believe that by being forward deployed we are helping to shape opinions - those of our allies who will understand that we are strong and reliable and we are going to be durable, and also shaping the opinions of our potential adversaries to let them know that they are up against a very strong, reliable and durable United States.

And so I can only assure you that that is the analysis that we made in the Pentagon. Its a viewpoint that is shared by members of Congress, by the leadership of Congress, by the President of the United States. And notwithstanding the fact that General George Joulwan is stepping down from his tour as SACEUR, we have General Wes Clark, who has already been confirmed by the US Senate and we will continue with the same policies that we have today.

Mr. Passi: Thanks.

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