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Press Conference with Secretary Cohen and Minister of Nat'l Defense Onyszkiewicz in Warsaw, Poland

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Polish Minister of National Defense Janusz Onyszkiewicz
June 15, 1998

Host: Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, at the invitation of the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Mr. William Cohen, the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, is presently visiting our country.

Both gentlemen have 25 minutes for the meeting with you, please ask short questions.

Minister Onyszkiewicz: First of all, I want to say that the US Secretary of State' s visit is the first visit after the US Senate ratified the Accession Protocols, which lays our track to NATO. It is worth it to remind the enormous role which in that process, in those discussions, in the Senate, this very Secretary of State,-- Secretary for the Defense, Mr. Cohen, played. I think that it is worth to say it here clearly and openly. It is also worth to say this thing; that our bilateral relations with the US have reached the level of the relations - not friendly relations, not partnership relations, but as a matter of fact, of the allied relations, thus preceding in some way the formal moment of Poland's entering into a military alliance with the United States. And that the relations are being executed with the assistance of great number of meeting platforms where the two countries are meeting the US, --various working groups, that have made it possible for us to concentrate upon the general matters, the political matters, because the matters of a technical, often minor nature, which sometimes even dominate in the talks at the level of ministers, are solved right on the spot. They are moved forward, in the number of working teams, which we have many.

Secretary Cohen: Well, Mr. Minister, Thank you very much , and ladies and gentlemen, we have continued a conversation begun at least a year ago, when I first met your minister, on his visit to Washington. Since that time, we have maintained a strong line of communication, on the issue of Poland entering into the membership for NATO. I would take this occasion to commend the Polish people once again for their commitment to the ideals and the interests of NATO, to their commitment to the peace-keeping operations the world over, and we look forward to working with Poland as full partner in NATO very soon.

Yesterday we were in Denmark, in the castle that was allegedly frequented by Hamlet. And from Hamlet there is the wisdom that brevity is the sole of wit. The same may be said on the opening statements of press conferences.

Host: We begin the questions - let us give the floor first to our American guests, the American press:

Q: As the fighting continues in Kosovo, is Mr. Milosevic getting his call?

A: (Cohen): Well, as we know, Mr. Milosevic is on his way to Moscow. And hopefully, during the course of his meeting with President Yeltsin, President Yeltsin will be persuasive, in indicating to Mr. Milosevic that he is becoming increasingly isolated in the world. And that the message will be very strong, and hopefully unequivocal, and that that will carry additional weight with Mr. Milosevic.

Q: Questions to both Ministers. To Mr. Cohen: Does the US expect Poland to take part in the mission to Kosovo? To Mr. Onyszkiewicz: Is Poland prepared for such a mission?

A: (Cohen): Let me first answer the question by saying would Poland be requested to participate in the peace-keeping mission, first, there must be a peace. There can be no peace-keeping mission unless there is cessation of hostilities and the killing stops and there is an agreement on the part of the parties to negotiate and to end their conflict. And so it is premature to speculate at this point as to whether or not the United States or NATO would require or request Poland to participate in the peace-keeping mission.

But secondly, let me indicate, that Poland has been perhaps in the forefront of those nations who have contributed their soldiers and resources to peace-keeping missions the world over, and so to the extent that there is a peace-keeping mission to be achieved, I would expect that Poland will continue in its tradition for providing its participation in any such mission.

A: (Onyszkiewicz): As far as the second part of the question is concerned, that is the question whether the Polish armed forces would be ready, be able, to take part in the operation of this sort, then I would like to remind that there is no decision to the effect that such an operation would go ahead, there is no decision to the effect that also what would the character of such operations would be -- all points to the fact that , but it is still the matter more of the evaluation and speculation rather than the decisions already issued, that should such operations be started, they would be operations which would be started as, and, well, executed with and through the air forces. As far as the participation in operations of this kind, then should it even come to that, then at that moment, still, one does not know whether Poland would be requested to take part, and the reason for which such doubts appear is, that so far we have practiced too little together, in such actions with pilots of the NATO countries. But as far as the other operations are concerned, the operations on land, then that is really a very hypothetical situation, and let's wait for the further development of the situation. I repeat again, there in no decision that such operations shall go ahead, thus nobody approached us to take part in such situations, so, let's wait.

  • Q: Mr. Secretary Cohen, is the decision of the Polish government to reduce the MOD's budget substantially for the next year not surprising for you, and, have you discussed that with the Polish Government?
  • A: (Cohen): No, we have not discussed this issue, in fact. What the Polish government is going to do in terms of its allocation of resources obviously is for the Polish government to decide. I have indicated during the meeting, and did it indeed during the meeting with the Prime Minister, that Poland contributes roughly 2.3% of its GDP to military and arms resources. We think that that is going to be important to continue that kind of a commitment, and I see, as the economy expands in the future, to have perhaps the additional resources to make sure that Poland has a strong national defense system, which is fully integrated with NATO. And so, we did not discuss it, but I'm confident that Poland will make its contribution to NATO.

A: (Onyszkiewicz): I would like to point out to the fact that your question included a certain thesis. Namely, you said you indicated that the Polish government intends to reduce the defense resources; well, nothing like this has ever happened, obviously there is a budgetary discussion going on, but the Government has no such intention, so it's as if you had asked, how long ago have you stopped beating your wife.

Q: Mr. Secretary, You mentioned the forthcoming talks in Moscow. If those talks bring no results, then, what will the reaction of NATO be, and how quickly will that reaction be?

A: (Cohen): It is clear from the meeting that took place in Brussels that all of the NATO countries condemn the continuation of the violence, are calling for it to stop, have called upon the NATO countries to put together an air mission, in order to demonstrate the resolve of NATO countries. In the event that that is unsuccessful, along with other diplomatic pressure coming from the variety of sources, then NATO obviously would have to consider what next steps would be necessary. The NATO ministers also charge the NATO military authorities to examine the range of military options that could be called upon. But as the Minister has indicated, no such decision has been made, and there's no decision to take military action. That's something that would require some deliberation on the part of the NATO members and obviously individual parliaments and congresses that will be involved in such a decision. But there are obviously military options that had been looked at very closely and they will be considered and hopefully that will not be necessary to ever implement.

Q: A question to Mr. Secretary: The Russian Minister of Defense expressed his outrage associated with that area over which the exercise shall be carried out. In view of that, has NATO carried out the sufficient quantity of consultations before the decision was made to go ahead with the exercise?

A: (Cohen): As a result of the meetings a number of us held with Minister Sergeyev, both personally, and on a bi-lateral basis, and also in the open forum, I think that it is very clear that NATO expected the air exercise to take place in the very immediate future. There was a great sense of urgency on a part of all of the members of NATO that it should take place as soon as possible, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that they occurred today.

  • Q: Well, I have two questions; first of all, have you discussed the issue of the possible sale of the F16s to Poland and , secondly, have you discussed the division of authority, of competence, between the Polish Government and the Polish President, the authority and the competence over the armed forces obviously.
  • A: (Onyszkiewicz): Perhaps I shall start from the second question. Namely, our meeting was of the political character, and that was not something like a discussion over the Constitutional Law in Poland. Due to that, we obviously have not talked on that. We have touched upon the matter of equipping the Polish forces with the multi-purpose airplanes. We consider it important to know what we can expect from the USA, what the possibilities are, what the offers are, that sort of assurance that such possibilities we shall be having submitted to us, and for the time being, the matter ended. I would like to remind again, that if we want to talk seriously about the matter of purchasing such systems of armaments, we should have a clear idea on the manner of financing such a program. Well, at this moment there is no such a clear view, and such clear perspective on that - so we are still at the stage of trials.

Host: We are ending this Conference, I thank the Ministers.