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DoD News Briefing: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Presenter: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
December 29, 1997

First of all let me say, that on behalf of my wife Janet who is with me, General Clark and Mrs. Clark, we are delighted to be here and I can't tell you how proud we are of the job you are doing.

We know it is a tough time for all of you to be away from your families at this period of celebration, but I want you to know that the great work that you are doing doesn't go unnoticed, doesn't go unappreciated. Everyone back in the country is solidly behind the effort that you are making here. You are the peace keepers. The bible says, you know, blessed are the peace makers, blessed are the peace keepers as well. We know how much sacrifice is involved, and the great pride we take in our soldiers.

I travel all over the globe, and the one thing that stands out is that everybody wants the United States to participate in some way in their security. Whether you are looking at our forces in South Korea, our forces spread throughout the Asia-Pacific region, our forces who are now deployed throughout the Persian Gulf region, we are helping to maintain stability and hopefully promoting prosperity throughout all the world. That takes great sacrifice on your part. It means being away from home at times like this. And so have a great deal of pride in what you are doing and we also say prayers for your safety. You are in an area that is reasonably secure, but you can never take any chances. No matter where you are you have always got to be at the ready and on alert.

But what we want to tell you today is that we are deeply appreciative of what you are doing for our country. And the reason we are looked upon as being number one is because--it's partly because of our equipment--we have the best equipment, we have the best training, we have the best educational system, but we have the best people and we bring the best people into our forces. And I know that you are not serving here alone, you have soldiers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark.. All of you are doing an outstanding job. I came to praise and thank all of you, but in particular I wanted to single out the soldiers who have been here--some of you for a second tour, it may be even someone a third--I'm not sure, General Clark, but hopefully that will not be the case in the future.

You have done an outstanding job, and all I can say on behalf of those of us who are leading the country as far as our military is concerned back in Washington, that we think about you constantly, we worry about you, we're concerned about your quality of life. And that's something that we focus on. Janet who travels with me is always trying to find out ways in which we can make your quality of life better--for you and for your families. Because we need to keep you. We can't afford to have you come in and then leave, because that simply puts us behind the eight ball as such, and starting all over again. So we need to keep the best people and attract the best people in and hold you, and the reason we can hold you is we make your quality of life really satisfactory, but also your opportunities.

So I don't want to give you a long speech today because we've got a special treat for you. We've brought some entertainment here today, to help elevate your mood. We've got a very talented young lady that my wife is going to introduce to you. I just want to tell you again that we appreciate your being here and the sacrifice you are making day-in and day-out, that we are mindful of it, we care about you, and we will continue to care for you and your families. We're going to care for you--you're caring for us. And that's the message I wanted to bring to you today. It's really a pleasure for me to be here, it's my first trip to Macedonia. I've made three--it's my third trip to Bosnia this time, this year. I made two prior to that time. And so I just wanted to be here with you, and General Clark, Mrs. Clark, to say thank you, during a season in which you are away from your families and to thank you for the great work you are doing on behalf of our country. Thank you very much.

Question and answer period with Secretary Cohen and the local media:

Q: (Zoran Bogatinov, Macedonian TV) Will you more concretely specify the NATO security arrangement for Macedonia?

A: Well, the president and I, and your Defense Minister, and other officials had an opportunity to discuss ways in which we can be helpful, and structuring some sort of a security arrangement after the termination, of the end of UNPREDEP. And so, we will explore ways in the coming months how that can be achieved. But basically, I wanted to pay a visit to your president, to express my admiration for his leadership, and expression of our friendship with Macedonia. So we will try to find ways in which we can cooperate even more in the future.

Q: (Konstantin Testorides, MAKFAKS News Agency) Mr. Secretary, how do you comment the talk, the statement of [Secretary of State] Madeline Albright, about the "imaginative" of the NATO for the Macedonia, after the termination of the mandate?

A: Well, as she gave a very positive statement, and I think that's the right signal to be sent. That we are looking for creative ways in which we can be helpful, and we will continue to work with your officials in the coming months. One of the reasons I stopped here was to again, not only visit our troops who are here, on the peacekeeping mission, but to find ways in which we can build upon the relationship that we currently have and make it stronger.

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