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DoD NewsBriefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
August 08, 1995 11:30 AM EDT

Tuesday, August 8, 1995 - 11:30 a.m. CDT

[Dr. Perry is joined in this briefing by Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent, UKArmy - Chairman, NATO Military Committee, from Fort Polk, Louisiana,]

Secretary Perry: Thank you.

This has been a truly historic occasion. We have out on this parade field,today -- and about ready to participate in joint exercises -- the troops of 14nations that used to be standing in confrontation with NATO, training togetherwith three NATO nations in peacekeeping operations.

It's very appropriate to note that this year we're celebrating the 50thAnniversary of the end of World War II, and for most of this last 50 years,Europe was divided between NATO and the Warsaw Pact -- mighty armies faced eachother across ideological and geographic lines. Now, we are working to replaceconfrontation with cooperation. The balance of terror is over, and we arebuilding a new balance of trust.

This exercise, COOPERATIVE NUGGET 1995, is an important part of our effort tomake Europe more secure.

In this peacekeeping exercise, we are learning to work together as friendsrather than facing each other as enemies. During COOPERATIVE NUGGET, ourforces will learn to operate with each other as they practice combinedpeacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations at the battalion level and below.We will also practice coordination with the civilian population and workingwith non-governmental agencies such as the Red Cross.

The goal is simple. By being partners in peacekeeping, we can be truepartners in peace.

But exercise is just one part of the Partnership for Peace. FourteenPartnership for Peace countries have already started a NATO-style planning andreview process -- a dialogue that is at the heart of civilian control of themilitary, and greater understanding among neighbors.

In addition, countries have already begun to reduce long-standing tensionsthrough their engagement in the Partnership. Greek observers monitoredAlbania's participation in a search and rescue exercise. In the spirit ofPartnership for Peace, Romania and Hungary have held a number of exercisestogether. They've begun exchanging officers at their military academies, andthey have established a hotline between their general headquarters.

Later this year, U.S. and Russian forces will hold a search and rescueoperation, together -- just next month, as a matter of fact. The Balticnations are taking cooperation a step farther, forming a Baltic battalion forpeacekeeping duties and using common training facilities.

Like these exercises, these are all building blocks to a new securitystructure in Europe.

Thank you.

Q: Can you tell me why the Russians are not at today's exercises?

Perry: There are perhaps a dozen or so exercises -- Partnership for Peaceexercises -- planned over the next 12 months. The Russians are participatingin some of them. No nation is participating in all of them.

The Russians are participating in two peacekeeping exercises, jointly, withthe United States, between now and the end of the year. One of them is thissearch and rescue operation that I mentioned, which will be held in Hawaii inabout a month. Secondly, they will be participating, with the United States,in a peacekeeping exercise held at Fort Riley, Kansas, in October of thisyear.

So the Russians are participating in peacekeeping exercises with the U.S. andwith other PFP nations. They're not participating in this particular one.

Q: Of course, we're all interested in the war in Croatia. It appeared to bede-escalating there for a few days. It now appears to be escalating again.Could we have your views on that, sir?

Perry: I'll offer my view, and maybe Field Marshal Vincent will want to offerhis as well.

We were very apprehensive that this Croatian offensive could lead to a widerwar in the Balkans. We have cautioned restraint both on Croatia and on Serbia.To this point, there is no evidence that that escalation is going to occur.

To the contrary, the developments of the last few days in Croatia, plus twoother developments -- the advent, the arrival of the British and French andDutch Rapid Reaction Force in Bosnia, which are opening the supply lines toSarajevo, and the NATO ultimatum to protect Gorazde -- those three, incombination, have presented an opportunity -- a new opportunity -- for reachinga negotiated peace settlement.

Of course, the opportunity does not translate immediately into the peacesettlement. It will take a substantial diplomatic initiative on the part ofthe allies, in particular the Contact Group, and it will take a willingness onthe part of the combatants. But I believe that for the first time in many,many months there is a window of opportunity for reaching a negotiated peacesettlement.

Vincent: Just adding a little to that from the NATO perspective. NATO'sposition is really based on two considerations. Firstly, NATO does not have astand-alone position regarding these events. NATO has offered its support as aresult of requests from the United Nations. Secretary Perry has mentioned theevents of the last month where the North Atlantic Council, in the light ofevents in Srebrenica and Zepa, took some important decisions, which may haveinfluenced things. Very much out of the public glare, the Alliance has, highlyeffectively, supported the embargo operations in the Adriatic -- under UNSecurity Resolution 820 -- for over two years now. Maybe these are beginningto have an effect and to influence people.

But people have got to face up to the fact that there is no simple militarysolution to this conflict. People have got to come to their senses and arriveat a negotiated solution. I hope -- very much from NATO's standpoint, as Dr.Perry has indicated -- that this is a widow of opportunity that will lead us toa peaceful solution.

Perry: I would like to emphasize the point that Field Marshal Vincent made.I described to you three military activities. I do not believe that theseactivities -- or any other practical military activities we can conceive of --are going to lead to a military solution in Bosnia. What I'm suggesting isthat they may open a window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution and anegotiated peace settlement.

Q: Mr. Secretary, please, your opinion about the quality of Romanian effortsin Partnership for Peace actions.

Perry: I was very impressed from the beginning with the Romanian effort inthe Partnership for Peace. I visited Romania about a year ago and met withyour Minister, and we discussed all of the activities Romania -- both in termsof bilateral cooperation in defense matters between the United States andRomania, and between Romania's contribution to the Partnership for Peace.

Romania, if my memory is correct, was the first member to join the Partnershipfor Peace. They have been an active participant in many of the exercises,including this exercise here. I was quite impressed with the quality of theRomanian troops which I saw here, and have been continually impressed in theRomanian Ministry of Defense -- including Minister Tinca, whom I consider agood friend and a colleague.

Q: Is the Partnership for Peace a formal treaty organization, or is it justthe nations getting together for these exercises?

Vincent: Partnership for Peace had its origins at the NATO Summit in Brusselsin January last year. Its purpose was a very simple one. It was to carryforward the process that had been originally started through the North AtlanticCooperation Council by allowing those nations that wished to participate in apractical cooperation program -- on the military side involving training andexercises concerned with peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and search and rescue;and as Secretary Perry has indicated, also now, most importantly, in theplanning and review process which 14 Partner nations have now joined, andwhich, very closely, mirrors the Alliance planning and review process thattakes place on a biennial basis.

It is not treaty-based. It was by invitation from the Summit last year.Nations themselves can choose the depth, and the degree, to which theyparticipate. I think it's fair to say that initially there was the sense ofdisappointment and some cynicism that this was a [inaudible] substitute forenlargement. It was not. It has real substance and practical merit in its ownright. If people cooperate together like this in practical terms, they get toknow and understand each other better, just as we have done in NATO since itwas formed in 1949.

In addition, we do produce, if the United Nations or others wish to availthemselves of it, a capability to conduct efficient, multinationalorganizations on a basis that has never been achieved before, except within thealliance, so it has a practical utility as well. There is much, much more tobe gained from this process as we build on the sort of events that you've seenopening up this morning.

Perry: Let me add to that, if I may.

At the end of the Second World War, the Marshal Plan was the vehicle for notonly effecting the economic development of Western Europe, but the economicintegration of Western Europe. Today, the Partnership for Peace is a vehiclefor bringing about the security integration of Western Europe with EasternEurope -- bringing Eastern Europe into the security architecture of Europe.

It's not pointed directly to economic development, as was the Marshal Plan,but a successful security integration will provide the conditions under whichthe economic development of Eastern Europe can prosper.

Q: The Iron Curtain does not exist any more, but the nations, the nationalinterests, and historical ties stay. The friends of Serbs, the friends ofCroats. We saw this in the last days. There exists a partiality of some bigcountries.

Do you think that the military people on the ground can prevent the humanlosses, the flow of refugees? And what do you think about the Russianinitiative to organize a summit of former -- of leaders of former Yugoslavia toresolve this political problem?

Perry: The UN Protection Force, the so-called UNPROFOR, is there precisely tofacilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, to protect refugees, to deliverfood. They have been criticized in media around the world -- particularly, inthe United States, I think, quite unjustly. It's the presence of UNPROFOR --and the delivery of the food and the medicine and the clothing -- which haskept hundreds of thousands of Bosnians alive. When one criticizes them forwhat they have not done, one should put into perspective what they have done.

There are, literally, hundreds of thousands of Bosnians alive today who wouldnot be alive were it not for the presence of UNPROFOR. They are faced now witha different challenge, a challenge of Serb refugees flowing into Bosnia fromCroatia. The evidence that I have suggests they are already rising -- andrising very effectively -- to meet that challenge.

I will ask Field Marshal Vincent to comment also on that point.

Vincent: Yes, the Alliance, of course, is not directly involved in that,although Alliance nations are participating, very heavily, in the UN peaceforce effort -- both in Croatia and Bosnia. Indeed, they account for over halfthe forces contributed there.

Can I just make a broader response to your reference to old historical ties,and step back in the context of Partnership for Peace.

I started my military service as a conscript in Germany in 1950, so you canimagine the outcome that I have seen at the end of this period. The remarkableoutcome is that the Cold War confrontation, as Dr. Perry has referred to it,has come to an end without a major international conflict in the nuclear age.

But, perhaps, future historians will point out that maybe one of the greatestachievements of the Alliance is not that we enabled that confrontation, justthat we enabled that confrontation to come to an end without an internationalconflict; but that in Western Europe, amongst the Allies that now exist inNATO, we did not fight ourselves for half a century.

If we can spread that process of cooperation through Partnership for Peace,through a wider international community, then we will surely have made a verygreat contribution to future peace and stability in Europe -- despite thepresent difficulties that exist in former Yugoslavia.

Perry: Let me add also, a comment about the question you asked about theSummit meeting.

President Clinton has been talking with the leaders in the other nations, anddiscussing with them how to take advantage of what I've described as a windowof opportunity for a new, negotiated settlement in Bosnia.

I believe there will be a meeting in the near future -- perhaps, within a week-- of the Contact Group. One possibility coming out of that meeting would be adecision for a higher-level meeting, maybe even a summit meeting, but I wouldnot want to forecast that with any confidence.

Q: In light of a diminished Soviet military threat, and in the days of budgetdeficits and budget cuts here in the United States, what can you say to theaverage American taxpayer to justify the U.S. contribution, as far as bothphysical and monetary contributions, to NATO?

Perry: The first point I would say to the taxpayer is that in light of thedissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union -- and the dramaticreduction of threat as a result of that -- the United States defense budget hasdecreased in real terms 40 percent from the mid '80s to today. That is thepeace dividend which we were looking for and, indeed, have gotten.

It still remains a dangerous world. We have conflicts going on around theworld that are in danger of erupting into a major regional conflict affectingthe United States. We have had one such conflict in the last five years, whichwas DESERT STORM. More importantly, we have deterred a repetition of thatconflict, last October in Iraq. And we have deterred a new Korean War conflictwhen there was danger of that conflict occurring last June.

Deterrence also requires military forces. The essence of deterrence ismilitary capability plus the political will to use it. We do not believe thatwe should, or could, go it alone in the world -- in providing what we can tocontribute to the security and stability in the world. Of the variousalliances we have -- our alliance with Japan, alliance with Korea -- foremostamong all of these is the NATO alliance. We continue to support it, and itsextension -- the Partnership for Peace -- as contributing to the security andstability of Europe.

I think it's noteworthy that with the ending of the Cold War, not only are all16 NATO nations decided that they should stay in NATO, but there are more thana dozen nations who have requested being accepted into NATO membership. Thisindicates, I think as clearly as anything, the importance of NATO in providinga security architecture for all of Europe.

Q: In your speech you mentioned earlier possibly bring this Alliance into thefuture. In addition to what we've already done, what's planned for the futurepeace with others who aren't already in the Alliance?

Perry: The first point I would make on that is that the Partnership for Peaceis important in and of itself -- whatever happens to NATO membership. All ofthe nations who are participating in the Partnership for Peace areparticipating because they see real value in its role in extending the securityarchitecture to all of Europe, as well as training for peacekeepingoperations.

In addition to that, some of these nations -- not all of them, but some ofthem -- have indicated an interest in becoming members of NATO. NATO hasindicated they were willing to consider that expansion.

This process of expanding NATO will take some number of years, because itrequires the unanimous vote of all NATO members. It's a very major commitmentfor NATO countries to take on the task of security guarantees to anothernation. So it requires the unanimous consent of all of the NATO members, andin most of those nations, it will require a vote of their parliament. So wesee this as a process that will take some years to unfold.

In the meantime, Partnership for Peace performs an important function, andeven after NATO has expanded, the Partnership for Peace will continue to playan important role.

Q: Everyone wants to feel that they make a difference in life. Do you thinkthis is your most significant contribution?

Perry: When I was in the Defense Department in the late '70s -- as the UnderSecretary of Defense -- at the time that I left that job my staff gave me aplaque with four legacies on it, one of which was the stealth program, anotherof which was the cruise missile program. At that time, I was responsible forthe development of systems. So everyone wants to think of legacies that he orshe will leave behind when they leave a government job like this.

High on my list of legacies I would like to leave will be the defusing of thenuclear conflict -- the reduction of nuclear weapons all around the world. Andthose weapons that are left, taking them off alert -- not pointing them at eachother.

We have made very substantial progress in the last couple of years. Both weand the Russians, Ukrainians, Belarus, Kazakhstanis are reducing our nuclearweapons at the rate of 2,000 nuclear weapons a year. We will continue thatprocess for years ahead.

At the same time, we're taking actions which relate to my second legacy, whichis reduce -- I hope -- which is reducing the dangers of nuclear proliferation-- the spreading of nuclear weapons to other countries in the world.

The third -- to me -- very important legacy is the extending of the NATOsecurity architecture to all of Europe -- and the Partnership for Peace, I see,as a principal vehicle for doing that. This exercise is an absolutelyoutstanding example of bringing together these Partnership for Peace nations...All over the world, really, not just in Europe -- we have Asian nations here aswell.

There is a fourth legacy, which I'll mention -- not relevant to the questionyou asked, but very important to me. When I became the Secretary, I inheritedmilitary forces with a high state of readiness, with high morale, with highunit cohesion -- I believe the best military forces the United States has everhad. Also, they had a high quality of life for the people in these Forces.

I consider it my legacy to leave -- when I leave this job -- that I havesustained this high readiness of the U.S. Forces, the high quality, highmorale, and to have improved the quality of life for the military forces andtheir personnel.

Thank you.