Saturday, April 8, 2000
(Press Conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at Udairi Range, Kuwait)
Secretary Cohen: Alright, well you have just seen a live fire exercise and you've seen the kind of skill and discipline that these Marines have exercised and the key to military success is speed, power and maneuverability. And that's precisely what Charlie Company was involved in here just a few moments ago. This is the kind of training that is required to make sure that we always have a strong deterrent. And the best way to ever prevent wars from taking place, is to make sure you are prepared to fight them should deterrence fail and that's the reason why Charlie Company is out here, why the MEU is here, to demonstrate to our Kuwaiti friends and to all in the region, that our forces are fully prepared to respond quickly and decisively with overwhelming power. So, it is an opportunity for me to come out and see our Marines, to thank them for the sacrifice they make, the discipline that is involved in their training and the kind of commitment they have to the security of the United States and to that of our Kuwaiti friends and all in the region. I'd be happy to take your questions.
Q: Secretary, the French Foreign Ministry said the air raids on Iraq are pointless, deadly and alarming. Does this indicate that the alliance between the Western countries are not together at this moment?
Secretary Cohen: As a matter of fact, it doesn't. All of the countries are united in supporting the resolutions, which insist upon full Iraqi compliance. The fact that the French Minister made these comments does not in any way indicate that there is any lessening of commitment to see to it that Saddam fully complies with his obligations, to let the inspectors back in and to make sure that he has dismantled, discontinued his weapons of mass destruction program. Until such time as the sanctions are removed, and they cannot be removed until there is compliance, the alliance will remain firm.
Q: What are you talking about with the Kuwaitis, about the progress that you mentioned from the last trip, the troop enhancements here, and also any defense contract progress?
Secretary Cohen: No, we're going to talk about the cooperative defense initiative, something that is very important throughout the gulf region, and that is to make sure that all of us are prepared to deal with a chemical or biological attack upon any of the countries throughout the gulf, including U.S. forces. So we will talk about the CDI initiative and ways in which we can continue to train together, exercise together, and to make sure that we have a seamless interoperable combined force, and that is the purpose of my visit.
Q: Chemical biological threat is increasing?
Secretary Cohen: Indeed. The intelligence would indicate, and we have filed a number of reports to the effect that the spread of chemical and biological weapons has not abated in any way, and that we have to be prepared for the worst type of an attack. And that's why we are engaged in the preparations that we are.
Q: So what does it involve?
Secretary Cohen: It involves shared early warning, something that we are also hoping that all of the Gulf states will participate in, so that they can share in this capacity that we have to detect a launch of a missile, to prepare passive defenses, protective clothing, equipment that can identify the type of chemical or biological agent that might be involved. And also active defenses, in terms of Patriots to be able to coordinate all of that, to make sure we provide the maximum protection that we can to our troops and to our people.
Q: We are just a few kilometers from the Iraqi border. Is this intended as a show of force to Saddam Hussein?
Secretary Cohen: Not specifically. What it is designed to do is to have our forces exercise in a way that prepares us for any contingency. It is not directed specifically against Saddam Hussein. We remain prepared to defend should he ever try once again to attack Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or to launch any attack against his neighbors, but this is preparation for all contingencies.
Q: Mr. Secretary, for the Patriots that failed to work, who is going to pay for them to change them over, not the ones you already changed but the ones you already sold to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel. It is a lot of money involved. When are you going to do the changeover? And speaking about the strategic defense, Kuwait is moving on the C4I. What indication do you have now as a time frame, when are you going to do it and what happened to the famous Apache deal that has been on for like six or seven, and keeps disappearing all the time? Thank you.
Secretary Cohen: Well, the first question was on the Patriots. Those have been replaced and whatever costs associated with that will be worked out. I can't give you a time frame, but all of our allies who are on the front-line, so to speak, have all been taken care of. We have no problem with the Patriots that are now being used on the front lines of the force.
Q: PAC-IIIs or PAC-IIs?
Secretary Cohen: Same PACs that we had. In terms of the second question, on the C4I, it is moving and I will have more information tomorrow after I have an opportunity to meet with the Defense Minister and others. In terms of what kind of progress has been made, but yes we are moving on that, and Kuwait is to be commended because it is in the forefront of the CDI program and making sure that its troops and its people are protected against the kind of attacks that could come from any source. On the Apaches, that is entirely up to the Kuwaitis. The United States, of course, stands ready to provide the kind of equipment that is necessary, but this is a decision that the Kuwaitis must make in terms of when they wish to acquire.
Q: During your visit to Qatar, did you sign any agreements to use the territory of Qatar? Especially as we know that Qatar has hesitated to sign any such agreement.
Secretary Cohen: No, in Qatar, we discussed ways in which Al-Udeid may be used in the future, in a crisis situation. We are working our way through that through our various interagency processes. We have very good relations with Qatar, we have of course, extensive pre-positioned equipment in Qatar, and we would expect to have whatever agreements we have as far as sharing of military information, those agreements will be forthcoming.
Q: Including open air bases?
Secretary Cohen: I just indicated on the air base, Al-Udeid, that we are looking for ways in which we could possibly use that in times of crisis for our air expeditionary forces.