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DoD News Briefing: Dr. Joseph Nye, ASD International Security Affairs

Presenters: Dr. Joseph Nye, ASD International Security Affairs
September 11, 1995 10:30 AM EDT
Voice: Before I introduce Dr. Nye, a couple of short announcements for you.

Secretary of Defense William Perry will speak tomorrow evening at 7:40 p.m. at the Japan Society at the New York Hilton Hotel in New York City. The event is open to news media coverage, and the point of contact is Lydia Gomersahl at

(212) 715-1255.

Also, a not-for-rebroadcast audio signal will be piped in here on Channel 18 beginning just after 11:00 o'clock this morning of the NATO press conference in Naples from AFSOUTH.

Without further ado, I'll introduce Dr. Nye.

Dr. Nye: Good morning. I'm here to announce the publication of the United States Security Strategy for the Americas, which explains the U.S. security strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean region. This is the fifth and final report in a series of regional security reports commissioned by Secretary Perry.

The report demonstrates that the President's national security strategy of engagement enlargement is particularly well suited for the Western Hemisphere. You go back ten years, this region was struggling with status economic models, international debt problems, authoritarian governments, and various insurgencies. These problems created many obstacles, including costly efforts to contain armed conflict.

Today sweeping changes spurred by democratic and market-driven reforms have made the region a zone of expanding opportunity. For example, NAFTA and the proposed free trade area of the Americas are strengthening interdependence in this region. In addition, the region's geographic proximity and the rising number of hispanic residents here demand increased and sustained attention to this dynamic part of the world.

These developments have profound consequences for our national security strategy. We'll continue to put primacy on strengthening democratic institutions in the region. When democratic governance is threatened, we'll act with our friends through the OAS to determine appropriate measures to take. This principle was reaffirmed at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in July where all 34 delegations recognized that preservation of democracy is the basis for ensuring our mutual security. As the case of Haiti shows, the U.S. has devoted considerable resources to helping to restore an elective government.

We'll be continuing to pay close attention to unstable civil/military relations in certain countries, and direct resources to strengthening civilian expertise in defense matters.

As the report explains, a second strategic objective is to foster peaceful resolution of disputes, defense transparency and confidence-building measures. This is a major substantive theme of the Defense Ministerial, as well as a concrete outcome of the event.

At that time in Williamsburg, Secretary Perry announced that the United States will soon begin giving prior notification of significant multilateral exercises to our neighbors as a confidence-building measure. We'll also continue to lend assistance to Ecuador and Peru's efforts to resolve their longstanding border disputes. We'll increasingly tailor our joint exercise program toward multinational participation to build trust and transparency. In addition, we're looking forward to a successful OAS conference on confidence and security-building measures this November in Chile.

A third strategic objective is to carry out our responsibilities under the Panama Canal Treaty for a smooth transfer of properties. In addition, as President Clinton announced last week, we'll soon begin exploratory talks with the government of Panama to determine if continued U.S. military presence in Panama is in our mutual interest.

A fourth objective is to work with our friends in the region to confront drug trafficking and combat international terrorism. Virtually all of the world's cocaine comes from Peru, Columbia and Bolivia, and half of that enters the U.S. through Mexico, and a third through the Caribbean. DoD will continue to support law enforcement efforts in deterring and monitoring the flow of illegal drugs and preventing terrorist attacks.

Another important goal of our strategy is to expand cooperation, thus improving capabilities for joint action, for example, in peacekeeping. This is a growth area for many militaries in the region, and we encourage their participation.

We also rely heavily on traditional tools of military-to-military contacts for this and our other objectives. As endorsed at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, we'll support expanded cooperation with our allies in such areas as information sharing and arms interdiction.

Two additional areas of importance are preventing humanitarian crises from reaching catastrophic proportions, and encouraging efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction proliferating. Demining and disaster relief assistance are two increasingly important areas for DoD's attention.

In sum, this report details why we have grounds for optimism in the region, and the Defense Ministerial of the Americas underscored the increasing importance we place on close relations with our partners in this region. Our primary job will be to use our defense assets in low cost ways to help support stable, prosperous, and democratic neighbors.

Let me now take your questions.

Q: Dr. Nye, while this may not be intended to isolate Cuba, it certainly rather emphasizes the isolation of Cuba in the hemisphere. There are those who say that Cuba is already a failed experiment in communism, and why shouldn't the United States and other Latin American countries be reaching out towards Cuba instead of leaving it isolated?

A: The feeling of U.S. policy has been that Cuba has to make reforms before it can participate with the rest of the hemisphere. This is the reason why the Cubans were not invited to the Defense Ministerial in Williamsburg, where the theme was that these were democratically elected governments. Cuba doesn't have a democratically elected government. That has been our policy and remains the policy.

Q: Would it not encourage reform if the United States reached out to Cuba?

A: I think our view is that the current policy is adequate.

Q: Your report's not really spoken to the organization of the U.S. military as it deals with Latin America. Can you speak a little bit to the recent proposal to keep forces in Panama longer than originally foreseen, and the possibility of reorganizing some of the areas of responsibility such that SOUTHCOM might be seriously curtailed or even abolished?

A: President Clinton and President Balladaras announced last week that they would engage in talks about whether it's in our mutual interest to keep troops in Panama after the year 2000. It would be premature, since we don't know the numbers that that would result in. It could range from zero to some higher number. It would be premature to decide the structure of commands until we have a better idea of whether that's going to occur or not. We do know that SOUTHCOM Headquarters, however, will be transferred to Miami in 1998. That part is certain. The other parts of the reorganization depend on these talks which were announced last week.

Q: I haven't read the report yet, but do you in the report recommend a full court press kind of strategy to stem the demand here and the supply that comes through the Central American, Panama areas, to reduce the power of the cocaine cartels, both in Colombia and Mexico?

And secondly, would you address the security. Mexico says it has a national security problem with regard to its cocaine cartels. Do you see it as a security problem for us as well?

A: We have a major effort to try to provide assistance to South American and Central American, Caribbean governments, relating to drug interdiction. We have four radars on the ground in the region. We have a number of aircraft sorties. We provide this intelligence and information to the governments, and it has greatly improved their capabilities for interdiction -- so much so that drug traffickers are now often trying other forms of transportation other than air transportation. So yes, this is a major effort of SOUTHCOM.

As for the Mexican part of it, I'd say we are helping Mexico along with others. I think the drug traffickers, the narco-traffickers can create a security threat to governments in the region by their increasing resources and their increasing arms, and therefore, we take this very seriously.

Let me point out, however, that the first line of defense against drug trafficking is from law enforcement agencies and the role of DoD is as a support agency to the law enforcement agencies.

Q: You don't believe that DoD can or should do more than choke off the supply?

A: DoD is doing a great deal, but DoD is doing what it is supposed to do, which is support the law enforcement agencies.

Q: Is this our number one security threat in the hemisphere?

A: I think we would argue that probably this is one of the great security threats in the hemisphere. Loss of democratic governments in the hemisphere might be the number one security threat.

Q: What would be the purpose of continuing American military presence in Panama? General McCaffrey was here last week and said that they currently see no military threat to the Panama Canal. So if we're not guarding the Canal, what U.S. strategic interest could be played by maintaining our troops there?

A: In line with the objectives that are stressed in this report, strengthening democratic institutions, and in terms of combating drugs, for example, Panama provides an important opportunity for joint training, for example, jungle training schools which are done there, which allows us to work with Latin American militaries. It also provides us with a place from which we can support the various measures for interdiction of drugs.

But again, let me stress that this is subject to discussions with the government of Panama. There are advantages of the type I just mentioned, but this depends upon agreement by the government of Panama and the government of the U.S.

Q: Dr. Nye, are there any countries you could describe where you feel there is a danger of a loss of democratic governments that currently exist in Latin America?

A: Right now we're in a fortunate circumstance that governments are elected, but one has to realize that it's not been that long ago -- a decade, a decade and a half -- when there were only a few democratically elected governments in the hemisphere. So in that sense, we want the trend toward democracy to continue, and we want to reinforce it whenever we see any dangers.

One of the things we did at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas was to agree on the Williamsburg Principles, which essentially said that democracy and democratic governments is the first principle of security. This is a significant accomplishment. It lays a basis then for telling governments that, or telling militaries that any interference with civilian governments would not be accepted.

In addition to that, we have programs for training which include not only the usual IMET, but also what's called expanded or E-IMET which essentially is courses in democratic procedures, justice, military justice, and so forth.

Finally, there are situations where the U.S. can simply say to other governments or other militaries, we think this is inappropriate behavior in an informal sense.

So there are a variety of ways in which we are conveying messages that are trying to reinforce this strengthening of democratic governments throughout the hemisphere, but we have to be aware of the fact that it's a recent trend, and therefore, there is a danger throughout the hemisphere. But I don't want to name specific countries.

Q: How would you address the security threat that Cuba poses today?

A: Unlike a decade or so ago when you had active Cuban support of subversion of other countries, the Cuban military threat is much less than it was. On the other hand, there is a question of what will happen when the Castro regime goes, and will that lead to chaotic circumstances or to disturbances. We're not sure how that will happen.

So it's not the same sort of threat as we had in an earlier day, but sometimes chaotic situations themselves can create problems.

Q: These talks between the United States and Panama have been described as informal, I believe. Is there any structure to them whatsoever? Have they started? Will they be held...

A: Jim, what's the time for the start of the talks...

A: We'll start them as soon as possible. An actual structure has not been established yet. We're now in the process with Department of State to establish them.

Q: About civilian/military relations. What kind of message have you sent to Chile, to General Pinochet, about this specific issue?

And the second question is, in November '94, the U.S. saw a new kind of relation with Argentina, started the working group. Is this something you're going to follow with other countries, to start bilateral groups on defense issues, or not?

A: On Chile, I don't know that we sent a message to General Pinochet. I do know at the time of the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in Williamsburg, Secretary Perry put in a personal call to Minister Pereslloma to tell him that he was missed at the Ministerial, to thank him for the help he provided, and to tell him how important we regarded these Williamsburg Principles, and Chile's support for them. So I think that was a pretty strong message of support for civilian control. It went directly from Secretary Perry to Minister Pereslloma.

On the bilateral working groups, we did establish a bilateral working group with Argentina and at this point I don't know whether there will be establishment of other working groups. We have had a number of visits of Defense Ministers which fill somewhat of the same role. We had Minister Arozco of Venezuela here just recently; Minister Cervantes of Mexico was here a little bit before that; Minister Pereslloma was here from Chile; as well as Minister Camillon from Argentina. So there has been quite an active series of visits. There were others as well. An active series of visits of Defense Ministers.

Q: Is the United States concerned about civilian rule in Chile given the fact that there are a lot of things down there, I understand the civilian government can't fire leaders of the military.

A: The United States has been concerned to preserve civilian control of the military throughout the hemisphere, and that was why we had the Defense Ministerial of the Americas. One of its central themes was this whole question of democracy in the role of the military and civilian control. That includes not only the Williamsburg Principles which set out these goals, but also practical training programs where we are working both with Latin American militaries, but also trying to develop programs for Latin American civilians to become more expert in defense. If you're talking about civilian control of the military, you have to have civilians who know something about defense and know something about the military. So we've been talking about developing programs which will increase the capability of civilians to control the military in a practical sense. This may be something which will be incorporated more into the various defense colleges and training programs.

Q: How about Chile specifically? One of the reasons that Secretary Perry had to call the Defense Minister was that he didn't come to Williamsburg because of the continuing face-off with the military.

A: That is a matter of concern.

Q: But you didn't make an approach to Pinochet himself, because the power of the civilians, they know what they have to do but in this case the military power in Chile, they are not willing to accept fully control of the civilians. So do you have any...

A: The way the Chileans work out their relationship between civilians and the military is an internal matter for Chile. But the American preference for civilian control of the military has been made very clear in a number of message, including the one that I mentioned.

Q: If I could revisit Panama and the security issues. Does the Canal still have the value of a strategic installation, strategic to our interests? And secondly, as a base for American forces in pretty much the center of action. And sir, what about ten years ago there was a rogue named Noriega who had pretty much taken over Panama, and isn't there this internal risk of this kind of a government coming in and taking control of the Canal once again?

A: As you know, the treaties allow the United States and Panama both to provide for defense of the Canal. The Canal remains important. Whether it's as strategically significant as it was during the Cold War or in a period when more of the transfers between the two coasts was by sea, probably not. But it remains important. We retain a right to be involved in the defense of the Canal. Whether we will need a place in Panama to do that or not, is something that will be determined by the discussions with the Panamanian government. But I wouldn't say that the question of whether we're keeping troops in Panama is for defense of the Canal. I think it's more for the other purposes that I mentioned. There are other ways to defend the Canal besides having the troops in Panama.

Q: In your putting together this strategy, did you reconsider the function, the mission of the School of the Americas in light of all the continuing criticism of some of its alumni? I noticed in here that there's a section here, but you still speak highly of the school.

A: The School of the Americas has had an extensive review of its curriculum, and there have been many new courses added in the area of human rights and training for human rights. We feel that the School of the Americas has actually been a positive force for civilian control of the military. Any time you have an institution that graduates 58,000 students, it's very possible to find some examples of bad apples. That goes for any institution, including Harvard University.

However, if you look at the School of the Americas, it also has graduated people who played a very positive role. For example, when Defense Minister Arozco of Venezuela was here a few weeks ago, he delivered an impassioned defense of the School of the Americas where he had been both a student and instructor, and he was one of the people who helped prevent a military coup in Venezuela within recent years.

So I feel that the School of the Americas has made some adjustments that are in the right direction and can continue to help to promote the idea of civilian control of the military.

Press: Thank you.