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Secretary Cohen media availability en route to Brussels Belgium

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
December 04, 2000

(Media availability en route to Brussels, Belgium)

Cohen: This is my last appearance at the NATO meetings. This has been, for the past four years, I think, a rather historic time for NATO -- first of all, NATO enlargement, taking the three new countries in, having Allied Force, which was a major success from a military perspective and the first time that NATO has acted in this fashion, certainly beyond the Article V requirements and capabilities.

We're now in the process of trying to measure up to the DCI, the Defense Capabilities Initiative, and [we're] also working with the Europeans on formulating and shaping the ESDP, European Security Defense Program. All of that will continue tomorrow as we try to, again, make sure that the headline goals are met and make sure that whatever is done for ESDP is consistent with the DCI, with the Defense Capabilities Initiative, and that will continue.

Obviously, we'll hope to meet with Russian Minister of Defense Sergeyev during the course of the next couple of days. I have a number of bilateral meetings, but if he comes to this meeting then I'll have (inaudible) talking about Nunn-Lugar and other types of issues. It's bound to come up, the issue of arms sales to the Middle East, which is something, as you know, the State Department is taking up beginning on Monday with the Russians, and it's certainly going to become a subject that we're likely to discuss. Beyond that, it's going to be a quick trip.

Q: Just two things. Number one, are you going to show your fellow ministers that there's unlikely to be a major change in U.S. policy towards Europe and NATO no matter who the new president and Defense secretary are? And are you going to urge them to make sure that the EU and NATO, and you touched on this, cooperate closely on the formation of this new EU force and that NATO has a part in commanding it?

Cohen: I will stress both of those things. There is going to be a continuation of the policy toward NATO. The United States is strongly committed to NATO as an institution, but much will depend upon how the Europeans, in fact, shape the ESDP, that if, as I have said before, they try to or are desirous of a separate operational planning capability, separate and distinct of that from NATO itself, then that is going to weaken the ties between the United States and NATO and NATO and the EU. That's something, I think, the overwhelming majority do not want to see take place. They want to see ESDP to strengthen NATO itself. So, I think this is not the case of me pushing against a closed door, but an open door, that this is something that they see very much in their own interest. So, I'll make both points. There'll be a continuation of our policy, but also, they have to understand that they've go to do more as well. And I've raised this issue with them before, and they understand it that here is the United States increasing its budget substantially. And they need to do more in order to modernize their forces, to shape them in a way that makes them more rapidly deployable, sustainable, logistics, precision guided munitions, all of the things we've identified as shortcomings. They need to invest more in that to the extent that they can have savings and they can achieve those savings as (inaudible) reforming their military. That's fine. But they have to understand that more investment has to go into those accounts if we're going to achieve the goals.

Q: If it were the case that the Europeans set up their own operational planning cell or whatever, would the United States still be prepared to allow its assets in NATO be used for EU missions?

Cohen: What we've indicated is that we want NATO assets to be available in peacetime, during crises, during a time when the EU may want to operate on it's own. But we have to have complete transparency, and there should be a single planning operation, and not duplicative and redundant, because that will only weaken NATO itself. So, I think that we, the overwhelming majority, want to achieve that. I don't see that as a major problem.

Q: Thank you very much.