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DoD News Briefing: Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy December 3, 1997

Presenters: Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy December 3, 1997
December 04, 1997

Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense For Policy December 3, 1997

Kenneth Bacon (ASD/PA): Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and also Robert Hunter, the United States Ambassador to NATO.

My only request is that when you ask questions please identify yourself and your news organization. Thank you.

Slocombe: Good afternoon, what I want to do is to give you some sense of the discussion in the Permanent Joint Council at the Defense Ministers level meeting which took place this morning and then Ambassador Hunter in addition to adding to any of the things I've said, will talk about the meeting of the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council which took place subsequently.

Now this was the first formal meeting of the 16 NATO Defense Ministers with their Russian colleague in the Permanent Joint Council. It's not, of course, the first time there has been such a meeting, but it was the first formal meeting between Sergeyev and his NATO counterparts in this new PJC format.

It is clear that the PJC is going to be a very important forum for consultations and discussions between NATO and Russia. In the meeting-- I suppose the rather special nature of the meeting was characterized by Sergeyev who chaired a third of it. Under the PJC rules there is a troika, that chairs the PJC comprised of the Secretary General, the Senior Russian representative, and one of the NATO allies on a rotational basis, and I meant this being Canada's turn for this meeting. But Sergeyev began his part of the meeting by saying he was a little more used to chairing meetings of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union than chairing meetings at NATO, but he figure he would get used to it.

The meeting were characterized by the determination to move from rhetoric to results, and by candid and serious exchanges on some quite serious subjects. The PJC discussed Bosnia defense cooperation and major increased transparency and confidence.

On Bosnia, the Ministers pointed to Russian-NATO cooperation and the military operation in Bosnia as a very good example of the very real potential for substantial cooperation in the military field, on the most serious and important security issue in Europe. Sergeyev said that Russia would be prepared to participate in a follow-on force under current arrangements--that is under the current NATO command arrangements, assuming, of course, that there was U.N. authority and that NATO eventually makes a decision to stay. A dialogue on this will continue with the Russians as NATO considers the way ahead.

We also discussed--the Ministers also discussed other practical cooperation opportunities. For example, the Norwegian Defense Minister spoke about the work of the Norwegian/Russian/U.S. agreement on working on defense- related environmental problems in the Northern Area.

The French Defense Minister talked about French/Russian cooperation on military responses to civil emergencies.

There was a good deal of discussion of greater Russian involvement in the PFP, the Partnership for Peace, and Sergeyev said that Russia would present an individual partnership plan for consideration next year.

The NATO Ministers urged that there be more Russian participation in PFP exercises as a way to dispel any Russian concerns about their purpose and character.

I think it's important also to note that the meeting gave the NATO Ministers a chance to clarify NATO's position with respect to the scope and the jurisdiction, so to speak, to the PJC. Secretary Cohen and several other NATO Ministers made the point that the PJC is for the discussion of cooperation measures, that is, like Bosnia, in areas where we have decided to cooperate with Russia and NATO on the two parts…The PJC is also a mechanism for transparency. For example, on the nuclear issues which were discussed yesterday.

At the same time the Ministers made it clear--the NATO Ministers--made it clear that they did not accept Sergeyev's suggestion which repeated a long standing Russian position that the PJC would have a role in deciding on internal NATO issues like the update of the Strategic Doctrine, and the definition of the required infrastructure in connection with the admission of new members, NATO force size, and nor would it displace other international forum. So that for example, the point was made that the Vienna negotiations that will remain a venue for negotiations on CFE.

  • This is a long standing point that is clarified in the Founding Act and the meeting I think was useful in providing an opportunity to clarify the point. The tone of the meeting was very cordial, and now Marshall Sergeyev was congratulated on his promotion. The NATO Ministers took note of the important step the Russians have taken in sending another Permanent Representative here, military representative to SHAPE. And there was a business like, and quite substantive meeting, and I think it's significant that real issues were discussed including some mildly contentious ones, not just rhetoric.
  • After Ambassador Hunter's presentation, I'll be glad to take questions.

Ambassador Hunter: Thank you all. As you know the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council was created last year to replace the North Atlantic Cooperation Council which itself derived from the wreckage of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

The EAPC brings together 44 Ministers from not just the old NACC countries but also including the so-called neutrals. This was a meeting in part to review the work program for the EAPC for the next 2 years, and to go to some very specific items. There were presentations on environmental security, one by Secretary Cohen, and the other by the Swedish Minister and also on international terrorism as effecting countries in the region with presentations by the Turk and by the Bulgarian.

And then the Chairman of the 3 NATO bodies on non-proliferation topics made their presentation. And that included a presentation on nuclear biological and chemical weapons that was based on the OSD study that was just released a week or so ago. There was also a presentation on Bosnia, current circumstances and the way forward through to the end of this year. There was no discussion, although various partners who spoke did indicate their hope that the mission would be renewed after next June, and offered themselves to take part in that.

As you know, there are 15 members of the Partnership for Peace who are acting with SFOR in Bosnia, more or less on the same terms as every NATO ally. With regard to the work program for the next two years, very ambitious efforts in political security matters, regional cooperation, relations with the OSCE and practical cooperation among various members. The efforts in policy planning, arms control, disarmament, non- proliferation, discussions about terrorism, peace keeping, defense economic science, the Committee on Challenges in Modern Society, information policy and of particular importance to members of the EAPC, civil military action in what in the United States goes under the Federal Emergency and Management Agency.

While I'm here, let me just call attention to something, that when Walt and I briefed yesterday had not yet been decided but in many respects is the most important practical achievement of this two-day session, which is completion of work of the long term study, where NATO will now move forward to modernize its command structure, reducing the number of headquarters from 65 to about 21 or 22; the two final issues being resolved between the Greeks and Turks, and between the British and the Spanish over Gibraltar. This means that NATO will not only be able to save the monies that have been used for these commands, which can be applied elsewhere, including the modernization required for expansion, but also this will enable NATO now to step up and meet fully its commitments in the revised doctrine in the so called post-Cold War era. The combined joint task forces are moving forward, the trial underway right now based upon the Central Command (inaudible). Next year that will move into western European Union, and, indeed, will, with the new command structure enable us to do our job in the 21st century, a major achievement, that occurred yesterday late in the day.

Walt and I would be pleased to take your questions.

Q: Hungarian Television. I wondered if after Marshall Sergeyev's explanation this morning (inaudible), I wonder what is your assessment on President Yeltsin's last night announcement (inaudible). Does it have any real meaning (inaudible).

USD Slocombe: Our understanding is that it is simply a repetition of the position the Russians have taken in the past. And, indeed, to which some degree has already been agreed, that the START III level will be about that much lower than the START II level. Our understanding is that it is not, in fact, as some of the initial reports indicated, that a unilateral decision to make cuts, but a Russian statement that they believe that a number on the order 2,000 is the right number for Start III. That is, in fact, a range that has already been agreed as a potential element for START III agreements.

Q: On the 40 percent announcement this morning by Yeltsin, that's not new. They've said before that they are going to cut their (inaudible) by 40 percent. Although, he did say they'd start doing it in January of '99.

USD Slocombe: This is just with respect to conventional.

Q: That's right, conventional.

USD Slocombe: I was just responding to...

Q: I know, I know, I understand that.

What's your reaction to this — the fact that they're going to start this cut in January of '99.

USD Slocombe: I have to confess that I've been in meetings all morning, and I haven't had a chance to look into this.

Q: What was discussed in this meeting? Is Sergeyev going to...

Ambassador Hunter: It was not discussed. Sergeyev did not raise it. I don't think any of us have enough information yet to react.

Q: Since you can't answer that, can you tell me a little bit about... [laughter].

How about the bilateral agreement that the United States and Russia are going to sign on the exchange on the military officers? Is this also going to forward the US help for Russia to fund a professional NCO corps and that kind of thing? Does this go beyond just an exchange of military offices?

USD Slocombe: Again, Charlie, I hate to make you 0 for 2, but I'd like to defer on that one until after that bilateral.

Q: This is Jamie McIntyre with CNN. Can you just comment generally on the state of the Russian Military? There have been several reports recently suggesting that the Russian military is in a state of disarray. That its real threat is to itself. Do you see any danger signals or warning signs that the Russian military is coming apart.

USD Slocombe: I don't think there's any question that the Russian military is a deeply troubled institution. That's not my characterization, or the American Government's or the American delegates community's characterization; that's what you read in official statements by Russian military leaders and in the Russian press. There are certainly some areas which are maintained at a very high level of readiness and are actively-- notably strategic nuclear forces. On the other hand, there are elements which have gone unpaid. Their level of exercise and training, the level of response to descriptions on our own, clearly areas that where there are very real and very substantial problems.

Q. CNN. Marshall Sergeyev repeated this morning the Russian contention that the control of task force nuclear weapons is firm and safeguards are in place. Do you accept those kinds of statements?

USD Slocombe: I certainly accept them in the sense that I think we have a strong common interest in insuring that they are true. And one of the things which I hope we will be able to do through the mechanism of some of the discussions of nuclear issues through PJC as well as bilaterals, that is on a NATO Russia basis as well as bilaterally, is do things which will increase confidence on both sides, that those statements are true. We certainly want them to be true.

Q. Jim Mannion AFP. Was there any discussion with the Russian situation in Iraq?

USD Slocombe: There was a, I believe--I hate to put words in his mouth-- my recollection is that Marshall Sergeyev referred to it briefly as an issue, but I expect it will be discussed in the bilateral between the Secretary and Marshall Sergeyev this afternoon.

Q. Jim Mannion AFP: And what will Secretary Cohen be looking to get...

USD Slocombe: I think the United States position on this is pretty well known, but again I would rather not anticipate what the Secretary will say to the Minister this afternoon. Our position is that it is very important that UNSCOM have free and unfettered access to sites to get its work done which is what is agreed between the Permanent Five statement in Geneva, and is for that matter also an element of the Russian....agreement (inaudible) and that I think is going to be the core of our policy. That would be the core of Secretary Cohen's and Minister Sergeyev's meeting this afternoon.

Q. CNN. Back to Iraq just for a moment. In Secretary Cohen's presentation to Ministers yesterday, I guess he referred to Iraq continuing to hide its Scud missiles, I was just wondering if you could tell us what the current assessment is on how many Scud missiles that Iraq has and how many they might be hiding?

USD Slocombe: Well if we knew exactly how many they had we'd know-- we'd know better, and if we knew more about how many they were hiding, we would know more about how many they had. There is acknowledged to be some rather small discrepancy in the inventory between what the records indicate they bought at various stages and then adding up those which their records indicate they fired, and which were destroyed at various stages. We are also concerned about counting whether or not, so to speak, the incoming inventory is correct.

The numbers are not huge but they are on the order of a few tens as the kind of area of concern, but we would identify from where we think, the discrepancy is.

CNN: I think a senior NATO official yesterday indicated that Secretary Cohen said that Iraq could be, could have as many as 200 scud missiles, is that correct?

USD Slocombe: Because of the uncertainty of what it is we are looking at I don't feel particularly comfortable putting in numbers. Two hundred is certainly within the range of possibility and this simply underscores the importance of UNSCOM getting in there and being able to do a thorough going inspection including looking at any place that they identify as a possible hide site, whether for missiles or for other things. Missiles I suppose, from this point have the advantageous characteristic that their relevantly large compared to some of the other things , and therefor more susceptible to inspection.

For example, one of the issues about so called Presidential palaces is in these huge areas, there are garages, and warehouses, and big buildings, which could be used not simply to hide refrigerators that have biological agents or places to hold chemicals, but are plenty big enough to hold stocks of missiles, and that's one of the reasons that we insist and UNSCOM insists that it be able to inspect without regard to designation of places as sensitive sites or residential palaces.

Thank you.

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