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Joint press conference with Secretary Cohen and Swedish MoD von Sydow

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
June 12, 2000

Monday, June 12, 2000

(Joint Press Conference with Swedish Minister of Defense Björn von Sydow at the Haga Palace in Stockholm, Sweden)

Minister von Sydow: Ladies and gentlemen, you are very welcome. Secretary Cohen and I have met for some days, first in Brussels at the EAPC (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) meeting on Friday, and then in Vilnius at the Nordic-Baltic-U.S. Ministerial, and now in Stockholm in a bilateral discussion. On the agenda has been a discussion, more of an informational nature, with the secretary on ABM. We have also discussed the development in the relations between all countries in the EAPC context. The EAPC includes all countries except the Former Republic of Yugoslavia as members, and the Russians are back, as we found out, for instance, last Friday. We have discussed whether we can give more substance to this important cooperation.

We have also discussed bilateral relations, and we hope to be able to increase our cooperation relating to peace support and peacekeeping operations. We are doing pretty well in Kosovo and in Bosnia, but more can be attained. We have also discussed the industrial and procurement bilateral relationship and from the Swedish side, we are very positive to the U.S. initiative, the so-called Declaration of Principles. The U.S. outlines an open intention to increase the already high level of military procurement from Sweden. We have also been invited by the Americans to participate in, and to take part more fully, in the discussions regarding the so-called revolution in military affairs. We hopefully can cooperate more in that endeavor.

Finally, we have been discussing, in Vilnius, and now also in Stockholm, the possibilities of finding ways to increase the cooperation between all countries in the EAPC with military capabilities in and around the Baltic Sea area. That involves, of course, the Nordic countries, the Baltic States, Russia, the U.S., the UK, Germany, Poland and others. We agree that we should start a process, within the framework of the EAPC, to increase this cooperation, and the secretary, speaking in Vilnius, was very clear about that. His words stated how necessary and how important it is to involve Russia in this process of making all parts of Europe more secure and stable, thereby, of course, giving all these countries the right to form their own respective security policies. From the Swedish side, we continue to pay great attention to and to devote great effort to starting this process. It was welcomed by the others in Vilnius and now we have been discussing the details. We will start a process to increase the cooperation between these countries, countries in our part of the world, and hopefully it can lead to a ministerial some time ahead. It will not take place this year, but perhaps, hopefully, it can take place next year. The importance here is, of course, the real cooperation, the real openness between all these countries which share the common interest of having this part of the world, as well as other parts of the world, enjoy a stable and secure environment. In such an environment, democracy will be the common way of stabilizing international relations as well.

With these words, I give the floor to the secretary.

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much Minister von Sydow. I want to thank Minister von Sydow for hosting this visit, especially on a holiday, and to have key members of your staff and policy advisors, military advisors, here this morning. It is a great privilege. Thank you for arranging the magnificent weather over the weekend. (Laughter)

Let me say that the bonds between the United States and Sweden are extremely strong. There are many Swedes, including the family of my military assistant, Admiral Johnson, whose ancestors settled in the United States during the 19th century. The forefathers of our Ambassador Olson also came from Sweden.

My own state of Maine contains towns named Stockholm and New Sweden. The population of New Sweden is eight hundred. (Laughter) They are truly a hardy group of people. Today, Sweden is an active participant in the Partnership for Peace, working with the U.S. and more than forty other countries -- NATO and non-NATO members alike -- to create security and stability in Europe.

Sweden's participation in 14 United Nations peacekeeping and peace monitoring operations shows its commitment to helping resolve conflicts and to promoting stability throughout the world. Sweden's commitment of troops, police and military observers in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo, is an important contribution to European stability.

Sweden, as the minister has just pointed out, is also committed to working with Russia to improve European security, and we discussed outreach to Russia, since, following my meetings here, I am leaving shortly for Moscow.

Björn has briefed me on Sweden's ambitious program to restructure and to reduce Swedish armed forces. While the plan reflects a substantial peace dividend from the end of the Cold War -- an achievement made possible by NATO's deterrence and the success of democratic and free market forces -- it also prepares Sweden for continued participation in peacekeeping and crisis management activities.

I am impressed by the quality of Sweden's forces and by the planned emphasis on building the capability to deploy quickly and operate smoothly with NATO and non-NATO forces. However, as I have said to NATO partners, when restructuring and modernizing forces, it is important to also maintain adequate defense budgets so that forces are always prepared to meet future contingencies.

The end of the Cold War has produced progress toward a new Europe that is more integrated, stable and prosperous. But even the new Europe contains serious security challenges, particularly those in the Balkans.

The U.S. is pleased to be working with Sweden through the Partnership for Peace program to ensure that the new Europe is also a free and peaceful Europe. With that, the two of us will take your questions.

Q: Can you tell us what your view is about the U.S. proposal on national missile defense, versus the Russian proposal on missile defense?

Von Sydow: We have listened to the arguments surrounding the program and our comment has been that it is very important that this program is made in an international regime. All capabilities relating to nuclear, to biological, chemical warfare, these capabilities which are deterrent capabilities, they, in our view, should be regulated in international regimes. Otherwise, it may be so that we can foresee a development of more instability which countries do not have a joint context for the development and the doctrines surrounding these systems.

Q: Sir, by that do you mean only do NMD within the context of the ABM treaty, an amended ABM treaty?

Von Sydow: We are not a participant in that treaty. But we won't argue for treaties or international regimes in general relating to all these kind of systems but we have stressed no detail in or how this international regime should be attained.

Q: Mr. Minister, are you at all concerned that, if the United States proceeds with NMD, that it could have a destabilizing effect on relations with Russia, particularly in this part of the world?

Von Sydow: I think the experience during all the Cold War is that these kind of systems -- deterrent uses, nuclear warheads and the biological, chemical -- they are best handled within international obligations and transparencies between not just those involved but also the other world in general. So, definitely, we will strongly urge all countries to also, when technology is changing and the security of our world is changing, always to pay attention to adding or using the international regimes for the new developments.

Cohen: Could I add this footnote to the comment? That is precisely the reason why President Clinton has advocated that we seek to negotiate modifications to the ABM Treaty to take into account recent changes in technology and capabilities being acquired by the other countries that have been identified. And it's important that we try to, as best we can, negotiate these kinds of changes in a constructive fashion. Minister von Sydow also mentioned the need for transparency and we have yet to hear any transparent proposals coming from the Russians in terms of what exactly they would have in mind now that it recognized that new threats have emerged and what they would propose in order to counter them. The United States has spent the past year meeting with our Russian counterparts to outline the kinds of changes that we believe are necessary to defend U.S. and allied interests against emerging threats and we would hope, in the coming days, that the Russians would spell out with great detail and transparency exactly what they have in mind or the kind of threat they now recognize.

Q: You know, sir, you mentioned in your presentations that you saw a lot of increased cooperation in the Baltic region. Could you spell out a bit more specifically what exactly you have in mind and whether you see a special agenda for the Swedes in the future?

Cohen: Well the Swedes do have a very ambitious agenda. Sweden has been cooperating with the United States in establishing a consortium of defense universities. Sweden has been taking the lead in establishing a simulation network whereby Allied, partner and other voices can actually have training sessions over the Internet and save time and travel expense and yet learn how to cooperate in terms of planning and preparation, and other types of activities so Sweden has a very active role participating with the United States, with the Baltic states, with NATO members. As I have stated before, it is non-aligned but it is not disengaged. It is very actively engaged in trying to promote greater stability and security in the Baltics. We were together a day or so ago at a meeting in Vilnius with your minister advocating that a number of changes take place on the part of the Baltic defense establishments to modernize their capability but also advocating that they actively engage their Russian counterparts. Sweden is playing a very active and constructive role with more and more engagement on the part of EU members, non-EU members, NATO and non-NATO, and it is very helpful.

Q: President Putin made some pretty strong comments in an interview recently against the U.S. missile plan and actually said Russia would consider pulling out of arms control treaties because of it. Will your talks in Russia focus more on convincing Russia of the merits of the U.S. plans or are you going to talk about their plans?

Cohen: I think that we'll do both. The first thing that we want to do is to explain to the Russians, as directly as we can, that the system that the United States is now conducting research and development on can and will not pose any threat to Russia's strategic systems. It is limited in nature and limited in capability. The Russians can overwhelm any defensive system very easily. So this is not directed towards Russia. What it is directed to do is to provide protection to the American people against a few dozen missiles that might be in the hands of the so-called rogue nations and that's what we have been in the process of outlining to them for the past year. Frankly, the Russian proposal is very vague. It has no concrete dimension to it at this point. Now, if the Russians have a way to cooperate with the United States and with NATO members to defeat and defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles, then we certainly are interested in learning more about it. Because of the vagueness of the proposal, the fact that it was not even raised during the summit but only in a press statement or interview with a journalist, leaves much to be desired in the way of definitiveness. I will also point out that there has been some reference to a quote, "demarcation agreement or treaty," and according to that treaty, the system that the Russians presumably have in mind will be designed to deal with short-range and medium-range missiles but not long-range missiles. So the system that they have proposed will not even provide protection to most of the European members of NATO and no protection at all to the United States. There is much to be determined by the Russians in the coming days and I will be eager to hear from them and also rearticulate the nature of our system and why it will not pose any kind of a threat to the Russian strategic systems.

Q: I understand that some of the neutral countries or non-aligned countries are interested in having a formal right in the decision-making process within NATO. What is your view on that?

Cohen: I think you can have a decision-making role in NATO if you are a NATO member. If you are not a NATO member, then certainly your views can be taken into account through an informal process but one of the legal aspects of being a NATO member is you get to decide. If you are not a NATO member, then you don't. But we have a PJC [Permanent Joint Council] that is important to the Russians. We have a NATO-Russia Founding Act in which there is a presidential commission or council and there, the Russians have an opportunity to raise their concerns. We have said on so many occasions they have a voice but not a veto over the internal deliberations of NATO itself. So, in order to have an effective decision-making role in NATO's interests and its agenda, you must be a member of NATO.

Q: Mr. Minister, I have a question about Sweden's non-aligned status. As an EU member, how do you reconcile non-alignment with participation in the European Security Defense Policy? Isn't that a forum? Doesn't it bring you into a type of military alliance with the other European countries?

Von Sydow: I think we definitely have a role in the complexities in today's Europe. Sweden has no deficit in security. I think that is the basic assumption for our non-alignment but active role in EU and also as a partner with NATO. We think we can play an important role from that position and the secretary has been kind to outline that taking part, for instance, in Kosovo and in Bosnia. But also here in this part of the world, we are trying from our position to give an opportunity for all countries here around to take what can be a shield in more cooperation. So, for us, it's a good mixture.

Q: Sir, can you get a little more specific about how Sweden would cooperate in the revolution in military affairs?

Von Sydow: I think from a technological point of view, we have good pre-conditions. We have an industrial base which can give examples and also actual capabilities for medium-sized economies and countries to also develop these high technological capabilities. They cannot, surely not, be on the global, grand strategy level but they can be on a lower level, operational level or tactical level. They can then no doubt be of a technological and personal capability level that is competitive toward U.S., can perform with their economy, technology but also with their wider responsibilities. That is a part of our present restructuring and we are very pleased by the U.S. now to be invited to take on a more vocal collaboration on technology but also in doctrine. How do we use these new technologies in today's world and tomorrow's world?

Q: There's a news report this morning that the U.S. is seeking protection for U.S. troops in peacekeeping and foreign operations from being bound by human rights violations in the U.N. and I know that Sweden is a powerful voice in the U.N. Could you both give your perspective views -- maybe why the U.S. deserves such protection and where Sweden falls on this subject?

Cohen: Yes, this is about the International Criminal Court. We have not supported participating in supporting the creation of an International Criminal Court. But due to the fact that it is completely independent, we have seen how independence can be translated into something that is without restraint, certainly in our own experience. What we wish to do is to say that those parties who are signatories to it certainly are bound by it, but the notion that a non-signatory would be bound by an independent court that is not accountable to the United Nations or to anyone but itself, we think could pose a threat to U.S. troops. We have the largest amount of troops in the world that are forward deployed. We have a hundred thousand troops forward deployed in the Asian theater. We have a hundred thousand throughout Europe. We have forces deployed in the Gulf and the notion that any one of those troops could be hauled before the international court on charges, when in fact we have a judicial system for dealing with allegations of abuse, human rights abuse, would seem to put our forces certainly in jeopardy from our perspective. So, unless there can be some measure of either U.N. authorization, some sort of filter, in terms of the absolute power of a totally independent court, then we cannot support that.

Q: A couple of months ago, there was quite a big story in Sweden where former Secretary of Defense, Mr. Casper Weinberger, said there had been submarines in Swedish water during the Cold War, NATO submarines. Have you been discussing this during the meeting? Could you share your views on this, please?

Cohen: We did not discuss this during the meeting but I can only tell you that, based on all the information that I have, there were no U.S. ships in Swedish waters.

Q: Then why did Mr. Weinberger say that?

Cohen: You'll have to ask him.

Q: He specifically said it was NATO submarines, not U.S. submarines. And the U.S. Government has answered the question from Sweden. You were very clear in pointing out exactly what you said. But that was never the issue. The issue was not U.S. submarines; the issue was NATO submarines. It was NATO's responsibility, Mr. Weinberger said. Would you be willing to try to help us clear up this?

Von Sydow: I can just inform you that has not been discussed here and that we have gotten a message also from the United Kingdom and the message is the same. There has been no U.K. submarine intrusion into Swedish waters in the said way as Mr. Weinberger has said.

Thank you.

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