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Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC, Thursday, January 11, 2001

I first met [former Congressman and Director, Woodrow Wilson Center] Lee [Hamilton] when I was, I'd like to say bright, but new freshman member of Congress, and I didn't meet him in any committee hearing, I met him down in the House gymnasium where those new members were encouraged to go to build friendships. Lee, as you may or may not know, is also a great basketball player. As I recall you were All State and perhaps even played a touch of pro ball when you finished up at Indiana. But he wasn't playing basketball, he was playing paddle ball, as I recall, and I was the new kid in town. I proceeded to try and show off just how good I really was on the basketball court.

I recall there was a man by the name of Doc Ruth who used to sit on the sidelines, and he used to play for North Carolina, as I recall, and he was quite a ball player in his day, and was renowned for his shooting capabilities.

I went down and started showing off how far away I could shoot from the hoop, and he had a bunch of his contemporaries saying "Doc, looks like you finally met your match." It sounded like something out of an old Western where this guy comes riding in on the white horse in the black outfit, kind of chewing tobacco on the side and saying, "Who's the new kid in town?"

He was sizing me up, and they started putting bets down as to whether or not he could take me on in a shooting contest. I kept shooting, and I kept listening to all of this.

Finally I turned around as they were putting the bets down and I said, "I'm prepared to play, but only if we shoot from this far out," about 25 feet. He looked at me and he said, "Son, how long did you say you've been here?" I said, "Oh, about three weeks." He said, and I'll clean this up, "Well, who are you to tell me what the rules of the game are going to be?" and he walked away out of the gym.

It was a moment of humility that I had to express. I hung my head saying there are rules to be obeyed and I just broke one of them by telling a senior member of Congress exactly what was going to take place that day. But I have never quite forgotten that you tread lightly around the old stalwarts -- at least you did in those days. But it was a good lesson that I learned and that's where I first met Lee Hamilton.

I've considered myself to be a student of his at the time. He was a great mentor and a great example for me, so he is already in my Hall of Fame. So Lee, I'm delighted to be here.


You will be spared a speech from me this morning. I gave a speech at the National Press Club yesterday afternoon. I was at the Sperling Breakfast this morning for an hour and a half. I looked in my briefcase as I was coming over here for the speech that was prepared for me to unload on you, and the briefcase was empty of that speech, so I will spare you of that. [Laughter] I will try to summarize some of the things that I have dealt with over the past four years, or perhaps beyond, and what I've always found most invigorating is to hear your questions, to have a real exchange and dialogue. I find that to be more illuminating at least from my perspective and I hope from yours.

I was thinking about the passage of time. I've always had a sort of gothic preoccupation with time. I felt it leaking through my fingers as a very young man. No doubt the reason I used to write poetry about time and our place in it and how transient everything really is. And of course the first name that comes to mind is that of [futurist Alvin] Toffler. And it comes to mind in the context not only of my own reading of him, but of Kim Dae Jung, the President of South Korea.

The last meeting I had with President Kim Dae Jung he told me of the time when he was in prison. One of the books that he read was, I think, Toffler's Third Wave.

And here is another hero of mine, [former Congressman] John Anderson -- maybe the first person who ever befriended me on the House floor when I was in a moment of high anxiety. I had just introduced a bill to create tax incentives for people who conserved energy as opposed to tax incentives for those who discovered it. I was immediately ridiculed on the House Floor by the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. As I recall he said, "That's the most ludicrous idea that I've heard in 25 years." That was my maiden speech. [Laughter]

John Anderson immediately came to my rescue and picked me up off the floor in saying that he found merit in my arguments. So John, it's great to see you here today.

But back to Toffler. Kim Dae Jung talked about the importance that Toffler had played while he was in prison and it reminded me again, in terms of looking at time and Toffler when he was writing his book Future Shock back in the early '70s and how time was speeded up by events, and everything was being shaken in the so-called hurricane winds of change -- our culture, our traditions, everything being shaken in this wind. And how technology had really miniaturized the world. It had shrunken and reduced it to a mere ball sort of spinning on the finger of science, and how rapidly everything was taking place.

Then there was [historian] Francis Fukuyama. I hope he's not in the audience because Frank is a friend of mine. But Fukuyama, you recall, wrote a book, or a thesis at least at that time, called The End of History, in which he more or less predicted that with the collapse of the Soviet Union that we would see the forces of democracy and free and open markets spread throughout the world.

That produced a reaction by a South African academician by the name of Peter Vail who said, "Rejoice my friends, or weep with sorrow. What California is today, the world will be tomorrow." [Laughter]

That in turn produced a treatise that came from Samuel Huntington who said wait a minute, it's not the end of history. We're now entering the clash of civilizations. You have failed to take into account the dynamic interplay of the major religions and ethnic conflicts and hatreds that are bubbling up and boiling over.

I remember at that time spending a good deal of time over in Southeast Asia meeting with a close friend of mine by the name of Anwar [Ibrahim] who was the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. We had convened a group that met every year called the Asia Pacific Group. What we wanted to do was to see if we couldn't have a feast of civilizations. Why did it have to be a clash of civilizations? Why couldn't we find ways that we could pick and choose the best out of each civilization and hold onto our own cultural differences at the time when we celebrated other countries' civilizations?

So that is something that I have always tried to do in my capacity as a member of Congress and then the Senate, even as Secretary of Defense. As most of you know, I did not anticipate being in this position. I had decided after 24 years on Capitol Hill that it was time for me to leave the public stage and to become a private citizen. And you may also know that in days past, one did not leave the Senate voluntarily. One either died in office or was defeated. It was very rare for people to voluntarily surrender a position in the United States Senate. But the year in which I left, there were 13 who voluntarily retired. Obviously for different reasons, but I think there was a common element of frustration of how the pace of things had changed, how much gridlock there was.

There was a piece written in the National Journal by an author who said that we were suffering from demo-sclerosis, and I thought it was a brilliant term to describe exactly what had taken place in our political process. That there had been so much delegation of power into so many different hands that it was difficult to ever generate a consensus or to have power in the hands of people who could generate and produce a result. It was enormously frustrating for me as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for example, when Senator [Sam] Nunn was chairing it at one point, and he and I would work together and all of us on the committee would spend months, months listening to testimony, witness after witness, making trip after trip out to the field to meet with our commanders and see our systems. We produced a bill, and by the time it was sent to the Floor of the Senate there were over 220 or 230 amendments pending. We said how does this work?

It used to be that if a Chairman produced a bill and sent it to the Floor, there might be half a dozen or a dozen amendments, but now we were looking at 200 amendments by people who had no experience on the committee, and yet they had to be either debated or disposed of. So there has been a proliferation of the power centers, a disintegration of power centers into small groups or individuals. That has produced this sort of gridlock or demo-sclerosis that was written about.

Some may see that as desirable. The less activity on Capitol Hill then the more power ultimately delegated to the states. But I think in terms of the major national issues, national security issues, those that require a federal initiative or a federal thrust, that that needs to be addressed. So it's going to be quite interesting to see what's going to take place now in a body such as the Senate where one or two or five people can tie the Senate up in knots for months, as has been done historically, to now see we have a 50/50 split, how that's going to unfold in terms of the power balance with [Vice President] Dick Cheney sitting, hopefully not every day, but having to sit on major issues and cast a deciding vote, should it come to that. So it's going to be an interesting period that we're going to pass through.

I thought I might just say a few words about the Defense Department and what I encountered as I took over and how that impacted upon our foreign policy as well.

When I entered the Pentagon it was at the end of January and I was confronted with something called the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review. I must tell you, at the Pentagon we are remarkable in our ability to formulate acronyms. Each day we are confronted with at least a dozen new ones. But the QDR is the Quadrennial Defense Review and we have one underway right now. It was nearly, I would say, 60 or 70 percent complete by the time I got there, so there was very little time for me to try to alter the course that we were set on.

But the essence of our QDR was summed up in words that you may or may not have heard me say before called shape, respond, prepare. We repeat it like a mantra. This is our strategy.

Shaping the political environment internationally in ways that are advantageous to the United States and to our allies. How do we do that? We do that certainly through our diplomats, but we do it through the forward deployment of our men and women in the military. We have, for example, 100,000 of our troops throughout the Asia Pacific region. We have roughly 100,000 throughout the European theater. We have approximately 23,000 at any time in the Gulf. So we are forward deployed. That forward deployment helps us to shape the environment in ways that promote peace and stability.

I'll give you an example. The Asia Pacific region. I have delivered speeches to the Chinese officials, to the Chinese military and point out that notwithstanding the voices that I hear from time to time saying the United States should pull out of Asia, let Asians take care of Asia, that that would be a big mistake. A big mistake for us, but a big mistake for China and others as well.

By virtue of the United States presence throughout the Asia Pacific region, we have created a stable environment. If the United States were to leave tomorrow, who would fill the vacuum? Would it be China? Would it be Japan? Would it be India? Would it be Pakistan? Who would fill the vacuum? Nature abhors a vacuum, so does the geopolitical system. So there would be some contest for dominance in the region. And by virtue of the Americans being there, not seeking land, not trying to conquer territory, but by having a presence, it has been very stabilizing. As a result of that stability, China itself has been a major beneficiary. They have been allowed to pursue the four modernizations of Deng Xiao Peng. They are now in the process of modernizing their military as was predicted. And we should understand that. But they've been able to carry that out in an atmosphere that is relatively stable. Where there has been little threat. There's been some instability throughout the Asia Pacific region, principally now in Indonesia, which is another subject matter. But our presence has had a very positive and productive result for all of the countries in the region.

What have we done? We have strengthened our relationship with Japan. Japan remains the key rock of our stability and our policy in Asia. And the fact that we are seeking to have a better relationship with China doesn't mean it's a zero sum game. The fact that we have better relations with China doesn't mean that we diminish our support and our relationship with Japan. We continue both.

We had a very tough year last year in our relations with China following the bombing of the embassy in Belgrade. A great mistake on our part and one that injured our relations with China, but those are in the process of being repaired. It's important for us to maintain strong military to military ties with the Chinese, to have more transparency and openness, more communication, exploring ways in which we can cooperate in the future. Even as we have areas of disagreement.

It's very clear that we support a One China policy and the Three Communiqués, but we also support the Taiwan Relations Act. Now if you speak to Chinese officials, they have trouble understanding how you can reconcile a support for One China policy at the same time saying that you support the defensive needs of Taiwan. But we do. We have both policies. And we must maintain those and to insist that China not seek to have a unification with Taiwan through military means. I think there is hope that that can be achieved.

When I was last in China I had meetings with President Jiang Zemin and others and it was an interesting formulation. And I continue to see some nuances and changes. A year or so ago the Chinese officials were saying that we're setting a time limit. At the end of that time limit if they don't agree to unify, then we'll use force. This time, when I was there, they said we don't intend to use force. Although we always reserve the right to use force we don't intend to use force. That's different. That's a very different signal that's being sent.

And if you look at Taiwan's new President, he was saying something that I thought was quite interesting. The Chinese government was saying one China, two systems. [Taiwanese President] Chen Shui-bian was saying one China, two interpretations. Surely even John Anderson or Lee Hamilton can find a way to bridge those differences. So I think there's great hope that that can be achieved, provided we see a lowering of the rhetoric and a lowering of the threat environment so that we don't see the Chinese government building up more and more military capability in Southern China posing a threat to Taiwan, and then Taiwan coming to the United States saying, "See, the threat has been escalated. We must have more sophisticated defensive equipment." Then it starts to escalate on both sides. That is to be avoided.

But that's part of our QDR, our shaping by being present.

We also have to be able to respond. We have to respond across the full spectrum of contingencies.

If you see our people in action, I say this over and over again. It's been the most exhilarating experience of my life. But to see the caliber of people who are wearing our uniform, to see how young they are, how capable, how professional, how patriotic, how educated they are, the things that they do day in and day out that go completely unknown to most of the people in this country, you would stand in awe.

I can't tell you how exciting it is to be out there, to see them in action. We don't really focus on it until there's either a crisis such as Kosovo, or in Iraq, or there's a tragedy such as we saw with the USS COLE. But we are blessed in this country to have the kind of military that we do.

And they do everything. They're not only warriors. They're also humanitarians. They're peacekeepers. They fight wild fires and floods and hurricanes. They do everything, and we ought to do everything we can to make sure that we continue to attract them and then to hold them -- to keep them, retain them in our service. So responding to virtually everything is something that we are the best at.

Then there is the preparation. How do we prepare for the future?

Some of that has to do with technology and hardware. When I took office we were spending roughly $43 billion a year on procurement. The goal had been to get back up to $60. We are now at that level. So it's investment in technology and in equipment.

But it's also trying to prepare for the kind of threats that we will face in the future. There we look at biological weapons, chemical weapons, even nuclear weapons. The spread of all weapons of mass destruction is increasing. So we've got to devise means of either slowing the proliferation, stopping the flow of weapons going to the arms bazaar. We've got to develop equipment. Certainly garments and other things that will protect our forces in the field, technology that will detect the kind of systems that are being used against our forces. But also to prepare the American people. What would happen if you had a chemical or biological attack right here at home?

The Japanese people had that experience several years ago with the release of Sarin gas in one of their subways. What would we do if we had a similar situation?

So we're in the process certainly of preparing our forces to deal with this in the field, but also we have to help train the local communities, the local police and fire departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FEMA -- Federal Emergency Management Agency. We have to be prepared for these kinds of attacks because they are likely to take place sometime in the future as the Hart-Rudman Commission has reported. That's part of our preparation.

A couple of issues, and then I'm going to cease and desist from imposing a senatorial length speech on all of you.

NATO and the Europeans. How are we going to reconcile what seems to be at least, on the surface at least, some not conflict, but at least some measure of competition between NATO and ESDP, the European Security Defense Policy.

Here is something that's very important. NATO has been the single most successful institution that we have had that has preserved the peace in the North Atlantic and in Europe over the past 50 years. We want to see that continue. In fact we enlarged NATO and embraced three new members, and the door to NATO remains open for many other nations that want to gain entry into NATO.

But now there's something called ESDI [European Security Defense Identity] or ESDP, and it has been born from a number of different sources, but you may recall during the war in Kosovo a number of deficiencies became exposed. We have talked about them for years, but during the conflict they became quite evident to many nations. We saw shortages in airlift, strategic lift; we saw shortages in command, control, communications, secure communications; we saw shortages in precision guided munitions; we saw shortages in the ability to rapidly deploy large numbers of people. So we saw all of those things during the Kosovo conflict, and then we had a summit here, a NATO summit here in Washington, and we adopted something called the DCI -- the Defense Capabilities Initiative. We identified all of those shortfalls and every single country signed up to correcting those deficiencies. We're all in this together, and we agreed to that.

Then there's something that has emerged called the European Security Defense Identity. I think many Europeans feel that they are in a better position... After all, we in the United States have been banging on the door saying you've got to do more, you haven't spent enough, you haven't reformed your military, do more. They're saying okay, now we're prepared to do more. Suddenly you have people over here saying well that's not quite what we meant, so there's some confusion about that.

But I think that many European members feel that they need to persuade their publics and their parliaments that this is a European security initiative. I think that's fine. I think it's fine to say it's a European security initiative, provided that what you build, what you reform, what you do in the way of acquisition is completely consistent with what needs to be done for NATO. And it should not be a separate planning bureaucracy for the EU or the ESDP, separate and apart from NATO. Because the minute you start dividing that kind of authority, that planning process, then you are going to weaken the trans-Atlantic link between the United States, North America, Canada and the European countries. That would not be good for Europe and it won't be good for us.

So how that is resolved becomes terribly important and the new administration will indeed focus upon that.

How the administration focuses upon Russia and China also will be critically important to global stability and security. I won't take a lot of time here in addressing that. I'll save it for your questions and hopefully some answers.

But Russia is going through a very difficult time. They are still in a period of transition, and I think that the forces of democracy have not taken deep root. We see some sort of inconsistent signals coming from President Putin. On the one hand expressing a desire to work with NATO and the United States and the West; and at the same time he seems to be tightening the pressure on the newly independent states, the former republics of the Soviet Union. We see some indications that he is less than enthusiastic about the freedom of the media.

So I think that we haven't seen a real clear picture of exactly where Russia intends to go in the future, and we have to try to work with Russia.

An item that's going to come up is called national missile defense. It is something that President-elect Bush has campaigned on. He has strong support for that within his new administration. And it's something that we have to deal with Russia and our European friends very intensely with.

I have met with my counterparts in Russia, and as you know they have expressed opposition to a limited missile defense system for the United States. Our European friends are divided on it to say at least. Some have been persuaded that the threat coming from the proliferation of missile technology does indeed pose a threat to the United States and to European countries, but they have yet to be persuaded that the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty should be abandoned. I think any discussion about a national missile defense system has to take into account the political dimensions, the international political dimensions of the ABM Treaty.

And it may be that the new administration will decide that they can proceed along the line of producing a much more robust national defense system, but they will have, in my judgment at least, to contend with first trying to persuade the Russians that this is something that is reasonable and can be worked out with the Russians, and certainly will have to have the support of some of our NATO allies, at least, because you will have to have forward deployed what they call X-Band radars on NATO soil.

So those are issues that will have to be worked out and the new administration will have to confront.

China. We think that our relationship with China has been put back on a positive course, and how we proceed with China I think will very much have an impact on stability throughout the region.

I have found that other nations throughout the Asia Pacific region when they see that we have good relations with China, then they feel strengthened. When they see that we are having rough relations with China, then they feel less secure. So this is going to be important.

We have made a very strong effort to secure a very strong relationship with all of the Asian countries. If you look at the Philippines, we now have a visiting forces agreement that was ratified by the Philippine Senate last year.

We have the Singaporeans who have built a new pier which will accommodate our aircraft carriers which they will welcome at their pier as often as we can come.

We have strengthened our relationship with Thailand.

We have a very strong relationship, of course, with Japan, which as I indicated is the real anchor of our security relationship.

South Korea, we are working with Kim Dae Jung to help him pursue his sunshine policy, and there is hope on the one hand in dealing with North Korea. There's also some concern. Because even though Kim Dae Jung has opened up to the North and there have been some very positive things in the way of food distribution and a willingness to have economic exchanges, we have not seen much in the way of reciprocity coming from the North. In fact they still maintain a very formidable military poised just over the DMZ [De-Militarized Zone].

So there is great potential and cause for hope. There are also some perils out there that the new administration will have to confront.

But I leave this position very confident with our military. We've done some remarkable things. We have reversed the decline in defense spending. We have provided the biggest pay raise in a generation. We have changed the compensation for retirement from 40 to 50 percent. We are in the process of eliminating inequities in terms of our housing. Most of you are not familiar with this, but under our existing law if you life off base you're required to pay at least 15 percent out of your pocket for housing, compared to if you live on base. A great inequity which we are in the process of changing. And we're focusing on better health care and medical treatment for those who serve us and have served us.

I would like to say that we have successfully conducted the campaign in Kosovo. We have successfully contained Saddam Hussein. He does not pose a threat to his neighbors at this point, and I don't believe will be in a position to do so unless the sanctions are removed and he's able to take much of his revenue and put it back into rebuilding his military.

And we have been successful, and this is where my wife Janet has played such a major role, in helping to reconnect America to its military, and improving the quality of life for our men and women who are serving us.

Let me cease and desist here, I think I have talked beyond my allotted time, and entertain your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you spoke about the need to lower the threat environment in East Asia, and particularly in the Taiwan Strait, yet many of the policies advocated by the new Bush Administration would seem to have, at least hold out the possibility of raising the threat environment. I'm talking specifically about some of the things that the President-elect and his senior people have said on arms sales to Taiwan, on missile defense.

Do the policies of the new administration, insofar as we know them, with respect to China and Taiwan concern you? If not, don't you see them going in a somewhat different direction than the Clinton administration has gone with respect to China?

A: I don't think we know enough yet, I don't think those policies have been really solidified or confirmed yet.

For example, we do have a program, a theater missile defense program in which Japan is participating with us. Ever since the North Koreans launched that missile over Japanese territory it certainly got the attention of us and our Japanese friends, and they have been participating in a program to develop a theater missile defense program.

Now that too is a concern to China because there is some fear that this technology will somehow be used to defend Taiwan itself. That's not the purpose of the program, but that's a concern on the part of the Chinese.

I think that the new Bush administration will have to focus in terms, very closely in terms of the national missile defense system, and its impact upon our relations with our allies, what the reaction will be on the part of the Russians and the Chinese. But I think it's too early to say how this is going to unfold. It's just too early in this stage.

I believe that President-elect Bush is committed to a missile defense program, but I think that the scope and the pace and the purpose have yet to be fully defined, and we'll see in the coming months.

But I think he has picked a very strong national security team. I have every confidence that they will analyst this, that they will look at it from a military as well as a diplomatic point of view and come to a judgment which will then have to have the support of the American people and the Congress.

Q: You have dealt with the Pacific area and also in Europe and you just referred casually to the Middle East, to having...

A: I've never returned casually to the Middle East. [Laughter]

Q: But you haven't dealt with the role in the Middle East, and you have been [influencing actions] for a long time in the Middle East not only through the Defense Ministry but also through your heading the group in the Council on Foreign Affairs, and also through your visits, your friendship with so many leaders in the Middle East.

How have you found the Arab-Israeli conflict affecting the interests of the United States in this region?

A: I think the conflict has called into question certainly at the average Arab population level questions about the U.S. role. We still have the strong support of the Arab leadership. I have spent many times meeting with [Egyptian] President Mubarak whom I admire a great deal, and visited with him on my last trip through the Middle East. I have been to Saudi Arabia I think 11 or 12 times throughout the region. I tried to go at least twice a year to all of the Gulf states; visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and then all of the Gulf states.

The Arab leaders support the United States in terms of what we are seeking to do in preserving stability in the region and understand that we do not control or dictate Israeli politics. That we certainly are a strong friend and ally of Israel, but Israel makes decisions on its national security for itself.

I think at the level of the, the so-called street level, people who do not serve in government, that they believe that somehow American policy is either articulating or forcing Israeli policy, and that's not the case. But I think it's difficult for them to grasp that.

So I think there has been some weakening at the general population level of support for the United States as a result of what's taking place, but there is still strong interest on the part of the Arab leadership for the American's role.

Let me say something else as long as we're talking about this subject matter. I think it's very important in terms of Syria has a new President, and I think it's very important that the Syrian leadership not mistake what is taking place in Israel as any sign of weakness. There is some notion that somehow because the Israelis either pulled out unilaterally, out of southern Lebanon or failed to respond militarily when some of their soldiers were kidnapped and apprehended, that Israel is weak. That would be a big mistake. So I think that everyone understands that. We ought to communicate that message, that what we need to do is to make sure that this conflict that currently is taking place between the Palestinians and the Israelis does not spread. That it could very quickly spread into a regional conflict. And I think all are concerned about that. So we have to do everything we can.

I believe President Clinton through his last working days has tried to find some formulation that will be acceptable to the Israelis and to the Palestinians to say that there has to be a commitment to peace because the absence of that is what you see now. It's a dissent into hell. It's a hellish existence of people being killed without any surcease, so there would be no end to it. It will escalate. The Palestinians will retaliate, the Israelis will retaliate, it will continue to escalate, there will be terrorist groups who will try to exploit the differences -- they may be Hamas, maybe Hezbollah. And that has the potential to have this spread well beyond Israel itself and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So President Clinton, to his credit, is trying to find a formulation that the Israelis could accept and that would be acceptable to the Palestinians. That has not proved to be the case. So President-elect Bush will have to also become deeply involved in this. His new Secretary of State, General [Colin] Powell, will have to be deeply involved with this issue along with the entire administration, because the consequences are so great.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I am older and grayer and obviously slower than I was back in those days when we served together, so I offer a public apology for being late. But in addition to commending you for your latest chapter of public service, I raise a question in another area that I think affects our national security.

The retiring Ambassador to the U.N., Richard Holbrooke, has described the peacekeeping function of the U.N. as a core function, and that it is broken and badly in need of repair.

In the last session there was offered legislation that would provide for a small, mobile, 6,000 person force not equipped with heavy weapons, but adequately trained and mobile to deal with the kind of situation that occurred in East Timor and Sierra Leone and so forth.

And more recently I've seen the suggestion that that should, that problem should be dealt with through the Foreign Military Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Defense, I think it's called the Defense of Africa Initiative, that would use American forces and American facilities on a regional basis to train the locals in primarily developing countries in that field.

My organization supports an independent capacity on the part of the U.N. to act swiftly in the area of peacekeeping, with the kind of force that I briefly described. I wonder if you would have an opinion on that subject.

A: With respect to... John [Anderson], thank you. You certainly haven't slowed as far as your advocacy is concerned, in any way.

As far as peacekeeping is concerned, we are engaged in something called the ACRI, another acronym I can generate for you, but the African Crisis Response Initiative. And this is an effort on our part to help train members of Africa, the various countries -- I think we have six or seven now who are participating in this program -- so that we can help train them and provide equipment to the extent that we can, but to prepare them for peacekeeping so that U.S. forces will not be called upon and have to respond.

This is a subject matter of great debate, I'm sure, within the new administration and with the Congress who are saying that we're over-stretched, and we are. We are stretched very thin around the world. It's one of the reasons why when I received a call from our Australian friends who have been with us in every single war, totally committed to the United States, when they needed a peacekeeping force in East Timor and they wanted the United States to take a leading role, I had to say we can't. We're in Kosovo, we're in Bosnia, we're in Korea, we're in the Gulf. We don't have the ability to now take on another mission. We will help you. We need to have some of the Asia Pacific countries, the ASEAN countries take the major role with you and you be the leader. We will provide communications, intelligence, support, but we cannot take an active role in that peacekeeping mission.

So this will become no doubt a subject of debate in terms of how much can we do. There's a question about should we stay in the Balkans. We have a peacekeeping force in both Bosnia and Kosovo. We have actually reduced that, John.

When we first went into Bosnia we had over, I think about 26,000, or 20,000 at least troops. We're down to about 4600 now over a five year period. There will be an assessment made as to whether we can go down to smaller numbers. The same thing will apply to Kosovo. At what point in time can we reduce the numbers?

The issue as far as the U.N. is concerned is something separate and apart. The U.N. didn't distinguish itself initially with its peacekeeping force in Bosnia, and that is the reason why there is such antipathy toward the notion of having the U.S. participate in blue helmet operations under the U.N. flag, as such, and there's real concern and opposition to that. I doubt whether that will be reversed in the near future.

But I think that peacekeeping will continue to be a part of the U.S.'s mission, although I agree with President-elect Bush, that we will have to be very discriminating and very careful in terms of committing U.S. forces because they are on many, many missions with a smaller force which is causing problems with operational tempo and personal tempo which means that that will have an impact and ultimately they'll leave.

So we can take these initiatives, the African Crisis Response Initiative, and others to try to build up peacekeeping forces with other institutions.

Q: Embassy of Lithuania, [Minster Counselor] Kestutis Jankauskas.

Mr. Secretary, you probably would agree that Central Europe, particularly the Baltic region, has been one of the biggest successes of the first [sic] decade. And this is thanks to U.S. active and foreign policy and active involvement.

Looking to the next year upcoming NATO summit, what course of action would you recommend for the U.S. next administration and for the NATO, having in mind that Russia as you characterized it, having in mind the relations with the European Union and your allies in Europe.

A: What we have said and what we are committed to is to say that NATO has an open door. That those nations who can demonstrate that they are committed to free markets, who have developed their economies, who have imposed civilian control over their military, who in fact could be contributors to the security of the NATO members, they will have every opportunity to walk through that door.

We have also said that that door stands at the top of a very steep set of stairs, and we don't want anyone to think that membership in NATO is sort of like joining a club. Because once you're in NATO there's no back door out. You're in and you're not out. So it's important that any member who seeks membership be fully committed to the burdens of membership as well as the benefits of it.

The Baltic states will continue to be controversial because the Russians of course have always expressed opposition to membership. We have said to Russia very clearly that Russia has no veto. This is something that NATO in its own wisdom must undertake to decide. Each one of the NATO, the 19 NATO countries must decide whether the new aspirants are committed and fully committed to spending the kind of resources that will be required to modernize their military forces, again so they're not simply consumers of security but producers of it as well. So that is the policy that the United States has adopted and I believe will continue to adopt.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you have made several references to national missile defense which is a cloud hanging over the next stage of our national security policy. And in that context, your consultations with the Russians would seem to be of particular importance. You said that President Putin has sent mixed signals, and that's true of this subject as well as some others.

I wonder, on the basis of those encounters you had, do you conclude that President Putin is seeking genuinely to deal cooperatively with what he acknowledges is a missile proliferation problem, or do you come away from this period thinking that the primary Putin objective is to sew dissention in the alliance and prevent further movement in that direction?

A: Excellent question. Let me answer in this way.

When President Clinton went over to meet with President Putin, shortly before President Clinton arrived in Moscow, President Putin had an interview I believe with Tom Brokaw [NBC News], during which time he said we have a better idea. Let's have a Russia/NATO theater missile defense system. We agree that the threat is growing, let's have a NATO/Russia theater missile defense system, which kind of leaves out the United States in terms of what he was talking about at that time.

Then he said we have a better idea as far as a national missile defense system. We have something in mind which finally, after questioning on the part of myself and others, would be something called a boost phase intercept system. We said we're interested. We'd be happy to explore a boost phase intercept system, not necessarily as a substitute for what we're doing, but as something that the two of us could work on together. I sent a team over to Moscow to meet with their experts, and frankly, it was very disappointing. They sat virtually sphinx-like when we said well, what do you have in mind? What sort of system are you contemplating?

There is an inherent inconsistency on the part of the Russians in terms of their response, because on the one hand they said we would have some missiles that would be, interceptor missiles that would be forward deployed on various territory that would take out the missiles that would be launched, but it would not require an amendment to the ABM Treaty.

And of course anyone who looks at the ABM Treaty understands that if you are deploying either at sea or on land interceptor missiles to take out ICBMs that are in flight, that's going to require a modification of the ABM Treaty. But ours won't.

In any event, I come to the conclusion that since there has been no further progress made in these discussions, that it was more tactical in nature than substantive.

Now I say that, I'm trying to give Moscow every benefit of the doubt. When I arrived in Moscow, when I went over shortly after our President went, there was an item in the paper by Admiral General Zakalov, as I recall, and he said that he could identify somewhere between five and seven or eight countries that might pose a threat in the future. And that implication was that therefore there was an emerging threat, therefore we should consider ways in which we could contend with that.

Then later there's a statement saying there is no threat, it's completely imaginary, something that's been generated by the Pentagon and the United States.

So I have, my own judgment is that the Russians are not serious about cooperating with the United States and at this point I don't see any real commitment to it. I could be wrong. I'd like to give President Putin the benefit of the doubt, but I have not seen any evidence that there's a real genuine commitment to any kind of a shared or cooperative effort to develop an NMD system that would protect Russia, Europe, and the United States.

Q: My question is on Iraq. During the election campaign many of Mr. Bush's advisors have suggested somehow toughening policy toward Iraq. You've thought about this for a long, long time and I know you know the consequences for policy toward Iraq. It affects the entire military strategy in the Gulf.

And realistically, as you think about it now, what are the available options to the new administration? What alternatives? What are the tradeoffs they're going to face? I'm not asking you to suggest to them what to do, but realistically, what are the sort of alternatives they're going to face and what are the costs for each one of them? If you'd articulate that, I'd really appreciate it.

A: Let me just talk about what we are faced with and I leave it to the next administration to come up with its own approach.

I think what has taken place with respect to Iraq really can only be said to be a failure of the U.N. If you look at what the U.N. declared -- Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, caused massive destruction, has failed to account for the missing in action, prisoners of war. He has failed to open up his doors to allow the inspectors to go in to complete their job. And the U.N. has said until such time as that happens, sanctions must remain in place.

What has taken place? Saddam has thrown out the inspectors. They have not been there for almost two years now, so there is no way to verify what is going on under rooftops such as this. He could be producing aspirin in a pharmaceutical plant. He could be producing VX or anthrax. So we have no way of knowing what exactly is taking place on the ground because the inspectors have been thrown out.

In the mean time we have had a number of countries say, but now we must remove the sanctions. So the sanctions have been responsible for curtailing Saddam's military ambitions.

If you go back and look at how much revenue was generated prior to the Gulf War, virtually 85 to 90 percent of all the revenues coming from the sale of oil was going into his military. Since that time, because of the sanctions and because of the Oil for Food program, the inverse has taken place. Virtually 85 to 90 percent of all the revenues generated from the sale of oil goes through the U.N. for distribution for humanitarian purposes. What he's able to smuggle on the side, or cheat, or cut deals with various countries at the margins goes back into his military. Yet you have some of our friends and allies who say well, we've got to remove the sanctions.

Here is the dilemma that has been presented. Saddam has been very successful in his propaganda campaign. He has been persuading the Arab population, which naturally sympathizes with the plight of the Iraqi people. This is genuine. This is sincere. They all feel very strongly for the Iraqi people. What we have said is there's one person who's inflicting the deprivations upon the Iraqi people, it's Saddam Hussein. All he has to do is to open up, comply with the Security Council resolutions, and these sanctions will come off.

So if there's any deprivation taking place, this man is responsible for it.

Now that's a message which you, I repeat every time I go, but day after day you have got Saddam and his propaganda machine going throughout the Arab population saying look at the suffering of the Iraqi people.

So what you're seeing is a less vigorous commitment to the imposition of the sanctions. But I will tell you, if they are removed. If he is successful number one, having thrown out the inspectors which is the finger in the eye of the United Nations, and the Security Council, if it is unwilling to enforce its own resolutions, they will become meaningless and they will have no affect in the future. So if they're unwilling, the nations who have voted for it are unwilling to stick by it, then the U.N. will become less relevant in the future.

But if the inspectors have been thrown out and now the sanctions were to come off, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam will go back to being Saddam again. He will take the revenues, he'll build his military back up, he will continue his effort to develop long range missiles, chemical, biological, and to be a military force in the region.

Now will the region be safer as a result of it? Will it be more stable to have a strengthened Saddam Hussein? I don't believe so. But I frankly, I put this back to the U.N. which John Anderson has raised about the U.N., if the U.N. is going to pass resolutions, it ought to stick by them. And when Saddam throws the inspectors out there ought to be a penalty associated with it. Not more favorable trends for Saddam, not more negotiating with Saddam, not people now saying well, if you agree to let the inspectors back in we won't enforce the no-fly zones against Saddam.

We have contained him in a way that he has not been able to rebuild his military and he's not been able to threaten his neighbors. That containment strategy and policy has worked. Now whether it can be sustained, is another issue. I believe that the United Nations has very much a stake in terms of how it is going to stand by its commitment, and the new administration I believe will have to make it very clear that if the United Nations is unwilling to stand behind it and if people are simply going to erode it, call for its elimination without any compliance on the part of the Saddam, it will have a long range impact upon the U.N.'s credibility.

Updated: 11 Jan 2001
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