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Background Briefing on Secretary Cohen's trip to Europe

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
June 04, 1998 2:00 PM EDT

CAPT Doubleday: This is a backgrounder on Secretary Cohen's upcoming trip to Europe, where he will be visiting Italy, Belgium, NATO, Denmark, and Poland. And we have with us today a senior defense official to provide you with a little background on the trip. Sir?

Senior Defense Official: Good afternoon, everybody. Throng of thousands. Let me talk a little bit about what might be of interest to you on the trip. First, with respect to NATO, he will go to Rome first. That will be for relatively short meetings with Minister of Defense Andreatta. And of course, they will both see one another in Brussels.

There are probably four, maybe five, key points that will be discussed in NATO. The first is a focus on the continuing adaptation of NATO. This will be done in the context of the defense planning committee. And one of the points the Secretary will be making will be the importance of maintaining the interoperability of NATO forces during a coming period of high technological change. And he will focus on things like C4I, on logistics, on the necessary changes in doctrine to be able to do that on the need for a theater missile defense.

The second issue that he will talk about -- and he'll talk about it both with the NATO allies and then the next day with the Partnership for Peace -- will be the need to continue to enhance the Partnership for Peace, to ensure that it is a stand-alone organization that has value in and of itself. And we will be suggesting several initiatives, including the following kinds of things: the development of facilities in the partner countries, and these would include field training centers. One possibility might be in Macedonia, (inaudible). One possibility might be in Ukraine.

Another kind of thing would be to have a defense consortium of the defense-type colleges, both in the NATO countries and in the partner colleges -- the partner countries. The third kind of thing would be to have an on-line network which you could do, for example, simulations on-line, computer-generated exercises on-line in all the countries, NATO and partner. And he'll talk about -- and then continue to go forward with things that have happened that you all know about in the Partnership for Peace, including establishing partnership elements with the various levels of command and working to have the partners be part of the CJTF's.

They will talk -- the ministers will talk -- about the proposed changes in the strategic concept. There will be no decisions. It will be an exchange of views. We're looking to have a revised strategic concept by about this time next year, in time for the April summit. I'm sure there will be significant discussion about both Bosnia and Kosovo, as it was at the foreign ministers meeting about a week and a half ago.

And then there will be a meeting with Minister Sergeyev, in which there will be some discussions of actually some practical things that are being accomplished in the (inaudible) and discussions with the Russians possibly on their involvement in CJTF, their involvement in discussions with them on joint exercises on peacekeeping, those kinds of issues on participation in PFP.

Two particular things that at various times I think you can expect the Secretary to have raised, will be just the year 2000 problem, the computer problem as it touches on military activities, and the information assurance issues that Deputy Secretary Hamre has previously raised, and we would follow up on that. Those are the points in NATO.

He will go to Denmark. There will be a multi-lateral meeting there with the Baltic countries and with the Nordic countries. One of the focuses there will be on a defense assessment that has been made by the Defense Department on each of those Baltic countries. It has been well-received by each of them. And I think as you all know, the Nordic countries, in a variety of ways, have been very active to support the security of the Baltics and we will talk about this defense assessment at the ministerial level. Their staffs have been briefed to see if it can be used as a basis for further multi-lateral support of these countries.

And then he'll go to Poland, where there will be discussion of, of course, Poland coming into NATO and all the issues surrounding three new members. And let me stop there and take questions.

Q: Will the discussion focus on options, the military options, and do you see a decision on that at this meeting?

A: I don't think this meeting will have any decisions. And I think it's too soon to be talking about military options, because that implies that they really have been developed. I think we're in an earlier stage than that.

I think, as I know you've heard, both on the record and off the record, NATO is looking at lots of possibilities, but we're not really up to that stage yet. And they may get -- go ahead with guidance to do some of those things, but we're -- you've got a lot between, assuming I understood your question correctly, between taking options in the way you've heard about with respect to Bosnia. Not to say that they won't consider going forward, because the Secretary has said NATO's got all options open.

Q: I'm a little puzzled by the, sort of, this insistence on this order of things with Kosovo. People cite the Dayton Accord as settling Bosnia, but I think most people would also cite air strikes as creating the Dayton Accord. So, it's the chicken-and-egg argument here. Is it necessary to consult with NATO if the United States decides that there's something bad going on at Kosovo and air strikes might slow it down?

A: In Europe, the United States operates through NATO. We're not bound to, but as a matter of fact, we are a member of an alliance that's been very successful. And the activities that were taken in -- you're talking about '95 -- were NATO activities. They weren't U.S. activities. So, it's in our interest to work with our allies.

Q: The NATO discussion seems to focus on some sort of ground force that obviously takes a lot of planning and exit strategy, all that kind of stuff. Air strikes, on the other hand, can be wrapped up fairly quickly.

A: Let me be clear. I don't think you do know what the NATO discussion focuses on, and I'm not going to go into the particular options. I mean, that's what they're going to talk about.

Q: Will the team that's been in the Baltics now have time to report back before the Secretary's there? The NATO team?

A: Yeah. The team that -- I think the answer is yes, but I don't know that we would get a formal report. My understanding, -- and I may have the dates wrong -- I think we have people right now in Macedonia and I believe they will be able to get to Albania in time to at least give a report back. Whether they do it through cables or otherwise, I'm not exactly sure. So I think furthermore, we have both our own people and the various NATO countries have people there and we've had people there before, so I think we'll have a pretty up-to-date reading.

Q: Is there also a nuclear planning group meeting?

A: Yes.

Q: Or is there any discussion of the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation potentially?

A: Number one, there is a nuclear planning group meeting. And I expect that in one way or another, the -- you didn't mean Afghanistan -- you meant Pakistan and India, right?

Q: I'm sorry, yes.

A: Right. And I expect that, in fact, there will be some discussion at least of the implications for NATO of Pakistan-India. It's obviously a very important question. There are also other meetings going on, as you know. Today, there was one that I presume was completed by now in Geneva. There's a G-8 meeting with a lot of the same countries next week. I actually forget the date.

Q: The 8th.

A: The 8th. And so I think the defense ministers will probably want to have some statements about that. But this, for the moment, is not the main forum on that.

Q: In your nuclear planning group, would that -- is that the appropriate form to deal with missile proliferation? I mean, and is there a growing concern about -- well, clearly there is growing concern about Pakistan and India's missiles. Is there also a growing concern about, say, Iran's missile program and would that sort of thing be addressed?

A: We in the past, as you know, briefed on both Iraq and Iran and proliferation issues and the like. It could be done in the nuclear planning group or it could be done in the leg of NAC meetings. I think that we will probably talk a little bit about theater missile defense -- the Secretary will, in the context of what happens to be called the Defense Planning Committee, which is a (inaudible) committee. But there's, you know, there's no hard and fast rules to where it comes up.

But, just to answer what I think is your real question, will -- is there a likelihood that this will be discussed? In general, yes. In particular, I don't expect that this would have a focus this time on Iran. More likely, as is suggested, on India and Pakistan.

Q: Do Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic get any new status? They're not fully confirmed yet. I'm just wondering, do they -- will they be more present at this meeting than they have been?

A: Yeah. There is an arrangement and I can't -- I'd have to get you the technical details of that event. I don't have them in my head, but the answer is yes. They have a lot more access now than they did before. They get to come to meetings. They -- I'm going to call it observer status. There's a different word for it, but they are obviously almost allies and from a U.S. point of view, now that Senate has acted, we are very comfortable with them.

Q: Why is the Secretary going to Poland but not Czechoslovakia and Hungary? Is there any --

A: Czech Republic.

Q: Czech Republic to you.

A: Czech Republic.

Q: Right. Well, you're speaking to one whose blood is up so --

A: Yeah. He's been in Hungary recently. It was before -- he was -- he's going to Poland because it's valuable to go there. I'm sure he'll go to the Czech Republic at some point. It's just a question of trip planning, nothing else.

Q: And the meetings in Poland will be about what?

A: Well, they'll be about --

Q: What are the issues that you would want to bring up?

A: One issue that he will focus on is the issue of their taking appropriate steps with respect to becoming interoperable with NATO. That's both a technical issue -- they have recently had what are given to them called the target force goals, which are like the force goals for NATO members. But since they are not NATO members, they're called target force goals.

They have had -- they gave us, when I was there in September of last year, a -- I forget whether it was -- it was a 15-year plan, a 15-year plan. They've updated that plan in light of the target force goals. We did a recent review of that about a week and a half ago. We think they're on the right track. The Secretary will talk about some of the particulars of that there.

He will discuss with them not only the immediate defense issues for Poland and its own forces, but also Poland's role in the context of becoming a member of NATO, what it might (inaudible) do and continue to do with respect to its neighbors. How does it not only become a new member to come in, but now to be a member to be part of? The polls are actually quite good on this. They have substantial activities. For example, Ukraine with Lithuania, they're working with the other two new members. But these will be the kinds of things that he'll talk about.

Q: Are there any particular issues, other than interoperability, the Officer Corps or the Air Force or anything specific?

A: Yes. Issues in the sense that there are problems to be solved. I think it's fair to say the Poles have a very clear understanding what the problems are, but let me list some of them. They have a force structure issue they're going to reduce down from about 220,000 to about 180,000. That will give them some additional money to spend on things they ought to spend it on.

They have a personnel kind of issue, in the sense that they have excess officers, too few non-commissioned officers. They have to develop the programs to bring about non-commissioned officers. They still need to work on interoperability from a variety of points of view. One is communications with the whole C4I... Another is the ability to receive NATO forces, which focuses on infrastructure and logistics. And each of these -- those are just examples, but those are important examples.

Then the last one, which I really ought to point out, is to increasingly incorporate NATO doctrine and NATO training into their approach for doctrine training. Now, we've been talking to the Poles for a number of years about these issues with a high degree of receptivity, and part of their planning is to accomplish this.

And what we will do is both talk about an assessment of how they're doing from the Secretary's point of view, which they will want to hear, and ways to go forward and then take steps. They will have suggestions thus, I'm sure, in asking us for particular kinds of help. We have discussions with them on what we might do precisely, most usefully in the personnel area. We may have some particulars. Those, again, would be kinds of examples.

Q: Where does the question about buying new fighters and that kind of stuff fall in (inaudible)? Where does that stand?

A: We spend a certain amount of time in making sure that the Poles understood what we thought were the highest priorities for them. And they're the priorities I just listed: the personnel, the training, the interoperability priorities. We always said that we were not opposed to their purchasing high-performance aircraft, but it was very important that they got their first priorities -- understood what their first priorities were and got them on track and went forward with them in an appropriate way.

As you recall, and I won't have the exact date right, but it's roughly 1996, if I remember correctly, the Department of Defense, and the whole government really, arranged for a program whereby it was possible for Poland and some of the other countries potentially to lease high-performance aircraft. They didn't go forward with that for a whole variety of reasons.

We still focus on the particular -- get your first priorities right and make sure you have a system in place. Now, we also tell the Poles that what they need to do is develop a forward-looking budget so that they can start to incorporate in a resource-constrained way, which they are like any other country, modernization issues. And one of those issues is aircraft. So we will talk to them about how to do that. Ultimately, the decision is theirs.

Q: And do you have a time by -- sort of a time table by when you'd like to see them start modernizing their air force or is that --

A: No, really, from my own personal perspective, and I think theirs too -- although you'll be on the trip so you can ask them -- I think they need to make sure that they have the necessary resources to do these other things which I think they and we consider higher priorities and then decide, like any other country, how much additional you can put into defense and what does that mean when you can start a funding wedge, and when you can support a full group.

And I just say group as a nonspecific word, because they have to decide on how many they can support, over what period of time they can acquire them. And that's just a normal budgetary programmatic kind of decision, which they have to make in a systematic way. Poland didn't really have a PPBS system until relatively recently, when they started to put it together. So it's harder for them to make those decisions and really understand the implications. They have gotten some assistance on putting that together. That's part of what they're trying to do with this 15-year program, and the first five years of that program is really meant to be something akin to our five-year defense plan. And they need to continue to work on that.

And when they can do that, you know -- in principle, we have no problem with them modernizing right across the board. At the same time, they have lots of economic issues. They have worked very hard on those. We don't want them to undercut the economic growth because of putting too much into defense. We want them to work on the high defense priorities first and then, working with all that, to work into a modernization decision including aircraft, but not only aircraft.

Q: Just to clarify, the assessments from the Baltic countries, those are, what, assessments of their military requirements or what?

A: Yeah. Not only their military requirements, but how they might go about fulfilling them.

Q: For possible future NATO membership?

A: For the purpose of having good militaries in order to become a member of NATO, they need to meet all the criteria, and one of which is to have reasonable military interoperability with NATO. But it was also -- I mean, we have an independent relationship with the Baltics, not just through the (inaudible) NATO. I mean, as you know, he signed the U.S.-Baltic charter in January, for example.