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Media Availability with Secretary Cohen and MoD Altynbayev, Kazakhstan

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Mukhtar Altynbayev, Republic of Kazakhstan
July 20, 1998

Secretary Cohen: I am pleased to welcome Minister Altynbayev back to the Pentagon. When he was here with President Nazarbayev in November, we signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement. This represents his third visit to the Pentagon. Since then, Kazakhstan has been an active participant in the US security program, including English language training and military officer exchanges. In addition, Kazakhstan has received foreign military financing grants, primarily to upgrade equipment.

For several years, the United States and Kazakhstan have worked together to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Kazakhstan set an example to the world when it decided to dismantle its strategic nuclear arsenal. Kazakhstan is also a very active member of the Partnership for Peace Program.

The United States and Kazakh troops recently trained together in Cooperative Osprey, a large PFP exercise, at Camp Lejeune, and now we're helping Kazakhstan with defense reform, including long-term defense planning, development of a strong NCO corps and enhanced border guard force. I believe that the continuing cooperation between our militaries is becoming a very important force for peace and stability.

Minister Altynbayev: I'd like to thank the Secretary for inviting us here for our visit to the United States. It is based on the principal of partnership. The program for '97-'98 is progressing well and I'm sure that in our talks we will be able to extend the efforts that have already been undertaken.

As you know, the new relation has been established between Kazakhstan and the United States during the visit of President Nazarbayev to the United States in the fall of last year and the work of the Joint US-Kazakhstani Commission. As you know, we have been first in the elimination of nuclear weapons from our soil, nuclear potential. And now our relations are entering into a new phase of regional and international cooperation.

As you know, the reform of Kazakhstani armed forces is progressing effectively. We are basing our experience -- we are using the experience of the United States in order to effect our own reforms. The President of Kazakhstan has already signed an Executive Order to place our armed forces on the world standard, to have them achieve the world standard as, for example, the American forces. We are progressing in this regard.

Our efforts are aimed at increasing regional and national security and our efforts are aimed at stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, stop the proliferation of weapons and the illegal migration of people.

I would once again like to thank my colleague, Mr. Cohen, for this opportunity to visit your country, to exchange opinions and to work out plans for the future. Thank you very much.

Q: Secretary Cohen, apologies for changing the subject right at the beginning, but when you ordered the review of how the military handles cases of adultery, what did you hope to accomplish and are you surprised by the fact that there is some resistance in some quarters?

A: (Cohen): I hope to accomplish some means of standardizing approaches to the handling of these types of cases. I would indicate that I believe that we will have the recommendation hopefully by the end of this week, but within the next week or two that would achieve that type of approach so that we try to get as much regularization in terms of the handling of cases involving this issue and also deal with the fraternization rule as well.

So, I am trying to make it as fair as possible but also to have some standardized approach, if it can be achieved, to set some rules to clear up the ambiguities and inconsistencies so that people understand fully to what standard they will be held and those who are enforcing those standards will have some flexibility, certainly to enforce them, but to give a much more balanced approach to resolving them rather than going just from the incident itself to perhaps a court martial in the first instance. So, we will look at those and I will make a recommendation hopefully in the next week or two.

Q: Secretary, does it bother you? Do you think you will be able to overcome it or do you think you can override it?

A: (Cohen): Any time that you are looking at existing policies and procedures and looking for ways in which you can correct any either deficiencies or what are seen as ambiguities, I suppose there are bound to be some resistance, but I hope to make a recommendation which I believe will enjoy the broad support of the service chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and throughout the military.

Q: When will you make that recommendation?

A: (Cohen): I hope by the end of the week, but if it is not by the end of this week, then certainly by next week.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned about the way the events are playing out on the ground in Kosovo right now?

A: (Cohen): Well, we are all concerned about the way events are playing out. We are trying to get both parties to the table to indicate to Mr. Milosevic that he should resist any temptation to use disproportionate force and to shell innocent people and kill innocent people. At the same time, we want to convey the same message to the UCK that we want restraint on their part. We want all parties to come to the table to resolve this in a diplomatic fashion. So, to the extent that the killing continues, then obviously it's a concern.

Q: Are you going to Kazakhstan in the future or not?

A: (Cohen): I am going to Kazakhstan in the future. Exactly when remains to be determined, but I have been invited on two separate occasions from the minister and I intend to accept his kind invitation.

Q: What plan will be the plan for the two days in Florida (inaudible)

A: (Cohen): (inaudible) your plans?

A: (Altynbayev): Yes. We will be visiting here, New York City, in the Florida area. We'll be looking at the land-based forces and studying the area in preparation of education of the armed forces.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister.

A: (Cohen): Okay. Thank you.

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