United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing: Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy NATO

Presenters: Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy NATO
December 03, 1997

Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy NATO Headquarters December 2, 1997

ASD Bacon: First, Walter Slocombe, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, followed by Ambassador Robert Hunter the U.S. Ambassador to NATO and then we'll take questions, and it's on the record, obviously, Walter.

USD Slocombe: What I'd like to do for you is to give an overview of some of the issues which were discussed this morning and then the Ambassador can come in and fill in on some of the rest. (inaudible).

The focus of the meeting this morning was on the problem of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The security challenges that they pose for the Alliance in current and forthcoming conditions. There were several formal groups that met during the session of the Nuclear Planning Group that Secretary Cohen gave an update on the prospects for Start II ratification, on the discussions between the United States and Russia on moving beyond Start II to Start III once it is ratified and the ABM TMD demarcation agreement which should help facilitate Russian ratification of Start II. This issue, I am confident, will be discussed further when Minister Sergeyev meets with the Alliance Ministers of Defense tomorrow as well as in bi-laterals with him.

General Habiger, who is the United States Strategic Command Commander, gave a report on his very interesting and significant trip to visit the strategic rocket forces in Russian recently. This was a follow up on the discussion between Defense Minister Cohen and Minister Sergeyev at Maastricht on the question of safety and security of nuclear weapons.

General Habiger said that -- he described the really very open way in which the Russians had received him, the opportunities he had to see one of their nuclear storage facilities that -- as far as we know, he is the first Western official, the first NATO official that actually visited a Russian nuclear weapons storage facility, and as someone very familiar with how these facilities operate, he was able to make an evaluation of what he saw.

Now, as he made clear, he only saw one and it was a brief visit, but in general his impression was that the Russians have for their strategic nuclear weapons systems quite a good system of safety and security. This is an area where the Alliance and the United States bi-laterally are going to follow up and try to work on the problem of insuring safety and security of nuclear weapons.

On a slightly more pessimistic note, the NPG also included a DIA briefing on Russian tactical nuclear weapons. The brief covered a large number of such weapons which the Russians continue to have, their changes in doctrine toward a doctrine, which in some ways, actually resembles NATO's old doctrine; the deployment of those weapons, and the security problems that are presented by them and particularly the need for greater transparency.

There is a considerable difference in the description of the numbers and problems between our version and the Russian version. So, this is an area which we will be following up on. I should also say that during the NPG meeting, the British Minister of Defense reviewed the status of nuclear issues in the on-going British Strategic Review.

In the NAC, North Atlantic Council meeting and Defense Ministerial session, there was also considerable focus on the nuclear, chemical and biological issues. The Secretary briefed on -- first of all, he reported on the increases that the United States Department of Defense has made on our own focus on these issues, on increased funding, on design and distribution of better protective gear. On our work on theater missile defenses, and on our preparations for domestic response to the possible use of these weapons as terror instruments in the domestic context.

He also underscored the importance of the Alliance carrying through on it's own programs, so called Force Goals related to meeting the CW/BW problem. He then gave a briefing on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, and essentially addressed the issue of why is this dispute between the UN and Iraq so important? Why is it so important that the sanctions stay on? That the U-2 flights continue? That UNSCOM be allowed full and unfettered access to suspicious sights? The reason, of course, is that Iraq has maintained a substantial program in all of these areas. They have made extensive efforts to conceal it. They have lied about what they're doing and then made partial further disclosures as additional information became available. He made clear that we will need the continuing support of our allies as UNSCOM moves forward to try to carry out its mandate which has been agreed on, once again, at the level of the Permanent Five, the declaration in Geneva. Because the issue here is the spread of weapons of mass destruction, of poison gases like VX and Sarin, of biological agents like Anthrax, of the development and concealment of a substantial missile program. This is going to be a long term effort where we will have to insist on full compliance and unimpeded access for UNSCOM before there can be any question of moving on to the next stages.

There was then a briefing on the Iranian program. As the Secretary described it, the Iraq program is the more immediate question and, in some sense, the Iranian program may be in the greater, longer term problem. The briefing described how Iran is developing long range missiles and at the beginning stages of developing chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities and the importance to that effort of assistance from outside. These briefings, both the description of the threats, the problems that are presented and the efforts that the United States is making, that the Alliance is making, and the United Nations is making to try to constrain this I think we're very well received by the other ministers. Several of them spoke and said that it was a frightening presentation, in some respects, but also an important warning and a call to action.

  • Before Ambassador Hunter comments on other non-weapons of mass destruction aspects of the DPC, I'd like to say something about Bosnia. The Secretary will deal with this in more detail in his own press conference because the formal discussion of Bosnia issues will come this afternoon. The topic did not arise this morning, as such, because it will be taken up after lunch. Since the issue is already the topic of a good deal of corridor discussion and press reports and was discussed at the Euro Dinner last night, which Secretary Cohen attended, I'd like to clarify the US position.
  • First of all, President Clinton has not made any decision on the US role or US participation in Bosnia, in general and specifically, in a NATO-military force that might be a follow-on to SFOR after June of 1998. The United States, in the course of these meetings which will take place — the NATO meetings beginning with this meeting and then following through with a whole series of meetings through to the Foreign Ministers level NAC meeting in two weeks time -- will endorse a study by the NATO military authorities of a whole range of military options. Ranging from terminating NATO's military involvement to essentially continuing what NATO is doing now. And that study and that endorsement is without prejudice to the outcome.

President Clinton has, of course, stated repeatedly that the United States shares an interest to stability and peace in Bosnia, but we made no decision on what the future role of the United States will be. We have made it clear that it is our view that the international community must intensify it's efforts to make the Dayton Peace Agreement work in the remaining period of time and that SFOR is there until June, 1998. And that we need particularly more progress and more focus on improving local police capabilities in the international policing effort through IPTF.

In addition, it's important to recognize that the Congress has set conditions for US military involvement beyond June. Congress will certainly want to see greater European commitment. Congress will want to see the distinction between SFOR and any follow on force, if there is one.

I say all that because there is some tendency, I think, both on the part of some Allies and some people in the media to think that this is all a foregone conclusion, and that a continued US role is something that can be taken for granted. But nothing is ruled in, nothing is ruled out -- no decisions have been made yet at this point.

Bob you want to cover the DPC, and anyone else....

Ambassador Hunter: Thank you Walt. As I think you all know that until recently, the Defense Planning Committee was the forum in which Defense Ministers met. The last two years since the French have been participating, in most areas the DPC has focused almost exclusively on areas that involve the integrated Military Structure.

  • And that involved, today, two major presentations. One was the Annual Defense Review, which is the peer review process that each of the allies that belong to the integrated structure go through to make sure that they are fulfilling the commitments that were made under the Strategic Concept of 1991. And, indeed, the ministers were able to report that the progress that is being required is being sustained.
  • Secretary Cohen did underscore the essence of the NATO Alliance as an Article Five defensive alliance, and the need to avoid any backsliding by any of the allies in order that we will not have a hallowing out of the Alliance by failing to meet these commitments that allies are stepping up to. The second report was in regard to the three countries that have been invited to join NATO. It is essential that they be ready, willing, and able to fulfill all of the requirements as full Allies, members of the integrated structure. And the military authorities were able to report that after the intensive review, that these three countries, are indeed doing what is required in order to play a full role within the Alliance. This is a center point of what we're doing here at the moment, and the message has been fully received and responded to.

Walt and I will now take questions on any of the subjects that were raised.

Q. Walter said that beginning with the meeting today and up through the foreign Ministers, that these series of meetings will endorse a study by the SACEUR and support from the jobs on options for Bosnia. Have not the Defense Ministers already endorsed that or will they not endorse that today and get this process started.

USD Slocombe: They will start the process but I expect that there will be further steps in defining the terms of reference for that study. It takes place over the course of next week or so. Bob is more familiar with the intricacies of NATO procedure than I.

Ambassador Hunter: Charlie we have the Peace Implementation Council coming up which is going to look at the progress so far and forecast the future, not just what SFOR has been doing, but also on the civilian side, and it will help to determine whether there is even a need for a follow-on force. So Defense Ministers start out today with a general view of what's happening, indicating that there is a willingness to move forward and do some planning of options subject to what the PIP says in terms of the need, and also subject to a review by the Foreign Ministers. We want to make sure as we go into this in the most careful manner in order to get this right, both politically and militarily, as we enter in the progress of thinking of what might be done, and if so what would be done.

  • Q: So they are not going to start formulating these arguments until after the Foreign Ministers get going.
  • Ambassador Hunter: That is correct.

Q: A follow on, what is the recommendation of the military commander specifically, General Clark in terms of what should be the task of a follow on force and how many soldiers would be included.

USD Slocombe: It's not normally the function of the military commander to recommend what the mission should be. One of the things to be done in terms of starting the study, is to define a range of possible missions, and then to ask the military what forces would be necessary to carry out those missions. General Clarke has not made any recommendation on this subject at this point.

Q: I wondered how you would assess the mood in congress at the moment on the question of the follow-on force. Is it shifting away from the idea of having American troops there after June? Is it beginning to respond to informal pressures on the Administration to allow troops to remain? What would be your overall assessment of the mood?

USD Slocombe: I think there is a recognition in the Congress that this is an issue which is important both in terms of Bosnia itself and in terms of the security of Europe, more broadly and the role of the United States in Europe. There is certainly not a consensus at this point on what US policy should be. The Congress has, however, in the way Congress acts authoritatively, that is legislation, has required that the President, if he were to decide to maintain US troops in a NATO operation, give quite an extensive report to the Congress on a whole range of aspects of issues of mission, of expected force size, rules of engagement, and that sort of thing. I think it is too early, however to talk about a consensus as having emerged in the Congress on how to proceed.

Q: If I could just follow up on that, to what extent may this issue get linked to the debate over the ratification of NATO enlargement?

USD Slocombe: I suppose it could be linked to a whole lot of things. For all I know it can be -- that's one possibility it could be linked to a lot of other things.

  • Q: I know it's not the function of the General to dictate the mission but the assessment of the senior NATO military commanders about Bosnia has been that without continuing military international presence, that Bosnia will return to war. Under those circumstances how is it possible that
  • America can seriously consider not staying?

USD Slocombe: I think your basic point is correct. I think a lot of people who have worked with this issue, including many of the military people, are very concerned about what would happen if there were no outside military presence in the country. That is one of the data points that has to go into the analysis. What follows from that, in terms of what kind of military presence, who would have to contribute to it, what the mission of that force, if there was one, would be, is what they're going to be analyzing over the course of the next several weeks, and I suppose, months.

Q: Are you seeking an armed police force, as one of those options?

USD Slocombe: One of the things we are looking at, as I said in the opening statement, [is] we believe it is important to strengthen the international police capability and the local police. There are a number of things which could be done. One possibility, which has been discussed, is to create an international, armed police force, and the point is less that it should be armed than it should be a police force rather than the kind of mentoring, training, oversight kind of operation that IPTF is.

Q: International, right?

USD Slocombe: International.

There are obvious difficulties with doing that. There's a lot else that needs to be done that is more within the four corners of what the international community has already undertaken to do by way of police — strengthening the mandate, increasing the numbers of IPTF people -- IPTF, if I remember correctly, stands for International Police Task Force, it is the UN mandated police training and mentoring, and to some degree, back-up type operation that exists in Bosnia today. They need more resources; they need more people. That's also on the agenda. The United States attaches a lot of importance to getting a greater effort into the police program, generally.

Q: Iraq. We hear a lot of information reporting that Iraq hides something, it lies. From the practical point of view, the United States assessment is that Iraq has the means to threaten lives there and what, if so, are you talking about? What kinds of threat?

USD Slocombe: Well, for example, Iraq had, as a result of various things they now admit, had weaponized Anthrax so that it could have been delivered by missile and it was working on a missile with a 3,000 mile range. Three thousand miles can get deep into Alliance territory.

Fortunately, it wasn't ready yet. But the question of what is at stake here has to do with the kind of programs they had underway. There's no question that the Iraqi program went well beyond simply the immediate neighbors, and of course, one NATO country borders directly on it.

Q: Now I'll change subjects to this missile security in Russia. You said that you heard in a briefing from a military official that Russia has a good system of security.

USD Slocombe: General Habiger, yes.

Q: What was he referring to? Dismantling? The protection of existing missiles? What about storage of radioactive materials?

USD Slocombe: That's a good question. You get a second one.

Q: What's the difference between the discrepancy you say in numbers — Russian numbers and your numbers? Can you expand on that?

USD Slocombe: Let me take the second question.

To some degree, as you may remember, the limitations, except for the INF missile limitations, the limitations on tactical nuclear forces, theater nuclear forces, are by way of being informal, non-binding, mutual unilateral acts, so to speak, that were agreed to in the early 90's between President Bush and President Gorbachev. That means there's no agreed international system for what it is you are counting; how you are counted; how you verify. The result is that, not surprisingly, the United States and the Alliance on the one hand and the Russians on the other, have rather different ideas about what the counts are for the Russian force. That produces a discrepancy. The Russians say, no, your numbers are much too high. We have no way of knowing, but we are reasonably confident that the numbers were once accurate. If in fact, there has been substantial dismantlement that we don't know about, that is a logical possibility. There may also be issues of how weapons which are not currently deployed in an operational configuration are counted and how far back in the cycle you go. I will say that even if you make the most generous allowances, there is probably still a substantial Russian advantage.

On the first part of your question. It is important to clarify what it was that General Habiger was reporting on. General Habiger had visited a strategic, rocket forces, nuclear storage facility. I think everybody understands that in general, the security and control arrangements are a lot better for Russian strategic forces — that is the long range missiles and bombers — than they are for the theatre nuclear forces. At least we know more about them and what he was saying, was that in so far as what he saw, is typical of how the Russian strategic forces operate, he felt that they ran a professional, serious and effective weapons security program — with, you know, quadruple fences, multiple check points, the three person rule, a careful effort to screen the personnel that were allowed near nuclear weapons. Now, that does not address at least two other important parts of the problem. One is the sub-strategic, non-strategic theater nuclear force, and the other is what I think you're getting at — the materials, the technology, the expertise — that is outside the military system, to some degree, and certainly outside the formal weapons control system.

Q: Are they showing how all of that is being handled?

USD Slocombe: That is one of the issues that we need to work on. It is one of our high priorities with the Nunn-Lugar program. It is, I think, one of the things that the Russians are genuinely concerned about. I know from conversations with Sergeyev and his predecessors, that they understand that this is a problem, as well. It doesn't necessarily mean that this is out of control, but the question of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons outside the strategic forces is an issue that is of concern to them, as well as, to us.

Q: You said that, before today, the three countries are making good progress in their ability to join. Could you point out a little more detail and whether or not the magically shrinking $1.3 billion dollars is [inaudible] up to the cost?

Ambassador Hunter: What I said is the three countries that have been invited have been judged by the military authorities to be ready, willing and able to meet all of the requirements of being a NATO Ally. What happened was that the military started with an assessment of potential risk threats to the Alliance and to the potentially three new countries. Then as to what military requirements there would be on the part of them and the rest of the Alliance in order to meet them, and then looked at the details of a long, ongoing dialogue with each of these three countries into what they are doing as assessed by current plan projections had NATO requirements that will be able to meet these requirements. No, the cost figures have not been discussed this morning, they will be talked about this afternoon. It is agreed, among the Allies, in the various categories costs, namely the readiness and willingness of the three countries to provide for their own security, what's going to be required in three NATO common budgets, in particular the NATO infrastructure program, will require about $1.3 billion over 10 years, and I have already mentioned the report on the efforts by individual existing Allies to meet their current force commitments, which are also judged to be sufficient for them to protect the new allies if, at some point in the future, they should come under threat.

Q: You have spoken of the progress made by the three countries, but are there any areas in which there has been a lack of progress? Or areas in which they are lagging behind?

USD Slocombe: Certainly there are plenty of areas where they lag behind; which they ought to reach by the time they've been members of the Alliance for any substantial period of time. Those issues will all be discussed in the course of the next day.

Q: Any examples, please?

Ambassador Hunter: Wait now until after we've had the discussion.

Q: With regard to the Mediterranean security agenda, has anything been expressed?

USD Slocombe: Mediterranean security. I have to tell you that it has not been discussed. I believe it's on the agenda for later.

Q: If the existing allies are doing so well as the ambassador suggests to fulfill their current force commitment, why does the Secretary keep raising this concern about potential hollowing out of the Alliance?

USD Slocombe: The report makes clear that there are still substantial shortfalls. I think the current Allies have identified what those shortfalls are and have plans to meet them. What the Secretary is saying is we need to make sure collectively, that includes the United States as well, we need to make sure we do the things which we're committed to in these various plans because if we don't, we will not have the capacity to meet the kinds of military challenges we might face in the coming years.

Additional Links

Stay Connected