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Remarks by Secretary Cohen and GEN. Shelton at NATO HQ, Brussels, June 12, 1998

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
June 12, 1998

Secretary Cohen: Yesterday I talked about the seriousness with which we and our NATO allies view the situation in Kosovo. I communicated the same message to Russian Minister of Defense Sergeyev during the very cordial and candid discussions we had early this morning. We are in agreement that the violence must stop.

My meeting with Marshall Sergeyev helped to build upon the productive relationship we have established. We discussed a wide range of issues in our bilateral relationship: START II ratification, military reform and downsizing, the computer year 2000 issue, and the many levels of contact in the relationship itself. For example, General Habiger, the U.S. Strategic Forces commander, had a very good trip to Russia last week. General Shelton chairman of our Joint Chiefs is going to be traveling to Moscow this weekend and Russian National Security Advisor Andrei Kokoshin will be traveling to Washington to visit with me and others next week.

As you have seen in the schedule, today there were meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council as well as the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. The majority of European defense ministers gathered at NATO headquarters today. The relationships built in such meetings are critical.

This morning in remarks I made at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting, I said our ultimate goal for the 21st century should be a cooperative security network of Allies and Partners, with Partnership for Peace as the cornerstone.

We are steadfast in our commitment to Partnership for Peace's evolution as an independent framework for European security, worthy of membership in its own right, not just as a stepping stone to membership in NATO. In addition, PFP will remain a primary vehicle for preparing aspiring NATO members for the military obligations that Alliance membership entails.

This morning, I briefed my counterparts on an initiative sponsored jointly by the United States and Germany to strengthen defense and military education through enhanced national and institutional cooperation. This Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institute will bring together interested countries and increase the number of individuals in government and private sector with defense and security policy expertise. It will promote professional military education in participating nations and encourage collaborative approaches to defense education.

Kosovo was discussed in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Permanent Joint Council meetings as well as the meeting I had with Minister Sergeyev. Many Partnership Ministers associated themselves with the views expressed by NATO yesterday. There is full agreement that the violence must stop.

Today Secretary of State Albright is participating in the Contact Group ministerial meeting in London. Military options to support international political efforts are being developed for consideration by NATO. The message Mr. Milosevic needs to take from this is clear: stop the indiscriminate use of force in Kosovo and resume talks with Kosovar representatives.

General Shelton has a few remarks, and then we'll be happy to answer some questions.

GEN. Shelton: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Ladies and Gentlemen. I'm here principally to underscore what Secretary Cohen has said. This has been a very productive series of meetings both on the pressing issues at hand in Kosovo and on the longer range structural and strategic issues facing the Alliance. Secretary General Solana has reported to you on the great the progress we're making and transforming the alliance to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century.

Further the situation in Kosovo was a major item for discussion among my counterparts the military Chiefs of Defense. Military officers understand very well both the capabilities and the consequences of using military force. Use of military force is never a consideration to be undertaken lightly. It generally means that our diplomatic efforts have failed and there are always negative consequences for civilians. Unfortunately the Serbian Government has already made the choice to use armed forces in Kosovo and their excessive actions have created a crisis not only in Kosovo, but also in the countries with which it shares a boarder.

Among my colleagues, to include the Russian Representative, there is a clear consensus that the violence in Kosovo must end.

Both the Serbian Government and the people of Kosovo itself must exercise restraint and work together to achieve a political solution. NATO military commanders today are hard at work developing the details for the upcoming NATO air exercises in Albania and Macedonia, and for the submission of military advice and options to the NATO leadership concerning a range of possible NATO military options in support of our overall objective to end the violence in Kosovo, to bring the parties together for negotiations, and to maintain the security and stability of the region. NATO's commitment is clear--the violence in Kosovo must stop and all parties must choose the path of negotiation for a lasting political solution to the issues of governance in Kosovo. Thank you and we will be happy now to take your questions.

Q: For General Shelton, could you tell us what you believe the consequences of a military exercise will be for Yugoslavia, when it is held in two neighboring countries?

A: (Shelton): Susanne, I think the first thing that I would want to emphasize in this is--that as Clausewitz said at one point, "War is extension of politics by another means." And so the first thing we want to do is exercise all the other types of options before we even consider the military option. I know there has been a lot done in this regard in recent days, but I think there is still a whole host of other things that are open to resolve the issue without having to resort to military force. Obviously, we look at the use of military force as a spectrum in which you can choose from light on one end to heavy on the other. And that is what is on going now as the NATO Military Committee looks at the various options that are available to recommend to the Alliance.

Q: Mr. Secretary, aren't you afraid that the Kosovo problem could strain your relationship to Russia to such an extent that it could damage your cooperation, especially if within the NATO force should switch to the military solution?

A: (Cohen): First of all the purpose of having a Permanent Joint Council is to discuss issues such as this. All of the members of NATO were very open, very candid about the need to resolve this peacefully and looking for Russia's participation in arriving at a solution.

I would think that the Russian Defense Minister, many of us have come to know him quite well during his tenure, would be in a position to take back a message to President Yeltsin, based upon the conversations that he has had that there is an undivided consensus within the NATO countries and also at the luncheon that we attended today with as many as 44 other members, who are not members of NATO who attended that luncheon, to take back an overwhelming consensus that this the world view as such as to what is taking place within Kosovo. That will have an impression, I would hope, on President Yeltsin. President Yeltsin is going to talk very directly to Mr. Milosevic. We think that message will be strong; we hope it will be strong and unambiguous about the need for Mr. Milosevic to sit at the negotiating table and to resolve this peacefully.

I think that Russia, obviously would have to take into account its own perception of events in Kosovo, and also take into account that it might be isolated within the world community if it does not seek a way to bring whatever leverage it can to bear to bring Milosevic to the table, and as I said yesterday this is not something that should be seen in any way as an endorsement of the UCK's move for independence. We want them both to sit down at the table and not seek to exploit this NATO position, and that articulated by other PfP members as a reason to continue to try to push for independence.

Q: Sir, you are going to Moscow at the weekend, will you be briefing the Russians on what the imminent air exercises are going to do? We note that Marshall Sergeyev who was just in this room said that he didn't feel he knew enough yet about what was the aim of the exercise, was it humanitarian, was it a display of force. He didn't know enough to say if he felt it was in keeping with the Partnership for Peace Program. What will you be telling him about the air exercises that are coming up in days?

A: (Shelton): First of all I think it is important to understand that the exercise is still in the formative stage. The NATO Military Committee just recommended yesterday that we look at an exercise. General Clarke and his staff, the SHAPE staff, had been working very hard to shape an exercise in coordination with AFSOUTH. That's just shaping up. One of the goals of an exercise of this nature of course, would be to familiarize the forces with the area to look at their interoperability to make sure they are all working off the same sheet of music, so to speak, which is quite common anytime we look at the potential for conducting any type of an operation to run a training exercise to familiarize everyone with standard operating procedures and things of this nature.

How much I would be able to tell about the exercise by the time I arrive will determine the current state of the exercise.

Q: Mr. Secretary, why does America not feel that the U.N. Security Council mandate is necessary for military action? And is the U.S. alone among NATO membership in feeling this way?

A: (Cohen): There are a variety of views with respect to the need for U.N. Security Council activity. I think there is a general consensus that any proposed potential military action should be based within a legal, or anchored to a legal framework. There is a difference of opinion, in terms of whether that legal framework would be in the Security Council. Some feel it should be in OSCE, others believe it is within Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. I think there is an overall consensus there should be a legal framework. How that is to be interpreted, will have to be worked out the heads of state and our foreign ministers.

Q: General Shelton is it possible to get any precise information about the beginning of the exercise, and which kind of weapons will be used in the exercise?

A: (Shelton): The exercise itself, the concept is just being developed as we speak. Exactly who will participate, what will be participating, what types of systems will be involved is all being worked out now in coordination with the NATO Partners. In coordination with the host nation, if it turns out to be in Italy, there are all kinds of things being resolved with that before the forces would actually move and start the exercise. I really can't give you much on the concept because that is in the developmental stage, as we speak.

Q: Mr. Secretary, concerning this legal framework, are you not afraid that all legal debate could take too much time in order to produce a very, very strong signal to Milosevic?

A: (Cohen): I think you have all detected a sense of urgency on the part of the NATO members, that time is of the essence when you are dealing with potential bloodshed of a fairly significant scale. I do not anticipate that there will be a lengthy debate on this issue; hopefully we are developing a consensus. The Contact Group is meeting in London; there is a sense of urgency to try to resolve this. Mr. Milosevic is going to Moscow on Monday or Tuesday.

We are looking at a fairly short time frame in terms of the pressures being brought to bear to say, solve this peacefully. There is not one country that wants to seek a military solution, or military options to exercise them in order to bring about this peaceful result. We would far prefer, and that is a unanimous opinion from the Russians all the way to the Partnership for Peace members, everyone prefers a peaceful solution. There is also a sense of urgency about this--I think it's tangible; you may have gathered it from your interviews with people here, but I can tell you from my setting through two days of meetings, there is a strong consensus that action needs to be taken soon; preferably diplomatic and peaceful, but it needs to take place soon in order to prevent further killing.

Q: As for nuclear force proliferation, Mr. Secretary, how would you like to enhance or update arms control schemes with regards to the theater in nuclear weapons or sub-strategic weapons. Is there any discussions to globalize the INF treaty or are there options for example?

A: (Cohen): One of the issues we did touch upon this morning with Marshal Sergeyev has to do with the ratification of START II.

We need to have the Russian DUMA ratify START II so we can move on to START III immediately. And in the context of START III we would take up not only strategic systems but sub-strategic systems, as well as discussions on defenses. This is something that is of vital interest to all of our countries with the proliferation of missile technology more and more countries will be interested in acquiring theater missile defense systems. I assume that Russia also has an interest in protecting its country as well as its forces that may be deployed on peacekeeping missions and others. So I think that this is something that will be of interest to all of the countries involved.

Once we get by START II--and we cannot proceed to START III under our own law; Congress has dictated that there must be a ratification of START II before we move on. But those are the subject matters that we would take up immediately.

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