DoD NewsBriefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
Tuesday, December 5, 1995 - 1 p.m. (EST)
[NOTE: This press conference was presided over jointly by Secretary Perry and Secretary of State Warren Christopher at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.]
Secretary Christopher: Good afternoon. Secretary Perry and I have just taken part in what can accurately be called a "historic day" here at NATO. For the first time, all sixteen NATO foreign ministers and all sixteen NATO defense ministers met together. This was a clear demonstration of the unity and common purpose that NATO has as we prepare to launch our mission in support of peace in Bosnia.
In addition, today, we heard welcomed news that France intends to participate more fully in the military aspects of NATO. We also confirmed the selection of foreign minister Javier Solana of Spain as the next Secretary- General of NATO. We launched a new phase in NATO's enlargement program and we have taken steps to strengthen the Partnership for Peace. Not a bad day's work, as far as NATO goes.
NATO's deployment in Bosnia will help to ensure the stability of Europe by helping to end the bloodiest conflict in Europe since NATO's creation. Without NATO's air campaign, we could not have brought the parties in Bosnia to the negotiating table. Without the prospect of a NATO Implementation Force, it is clear to me that there would have been no peace agreement in Dayton.
As my colleagues made very clear to us, also, without United States leadership, without the United States implementation -- participation in the Implementation Force -- NATO would be not able to carry out the important mission which is going to be launched by today's meeting.
Today, at our meeting of defense and foreign ministers, we heard a briefing from the NATO commander -- the American, George Joulwan -- who gave us a briefing on the NATO mission plan. His briefing makes it clear that the mission is precisely defined, with clear, realistic goals that can be achieved in about a year. Our troops will have the strength and the authority to carry out their mission with maximum safety.
Over two dozen countries are united in a coalition of power and principle to help the parties in Bosnia in their courageous decision for peace. In all the modern history of Europe, this is the first time the soldiers from virtually every major European power will serve together in a common military operation. Think of it, soldiers from France and Germany, Britain and Spain, Greece and Turkey, Poland and Sweden, Russia and the United States, all sharing the same risks on the same soil, under the same banner, and at the same time.
Today, the Alliance also began the next phase in the process of enlargement a process that was launched by President Clinton at the NATO Summit in January 1994 -- beginning in early 1996, those partners who wish to pursue membership in NATO will hold extensive consultation with the Alliance on what would be expected of them if they became members. NATO, in turn, will consider what it needs to do to prepare for enlargement -- what would be the responsibilities and consequences [inaudible]. This process will take us through all or most of next year. We will then consider the next step to be taken thereafter at our meeting next December.
We also agreed, today, to take new steps to strengthen the Partnership for Peace. This includes a program of practical work, which will be a work plan toward membership for some countries; and for other countries, a means of strengthening their long-term relationship with NATO. I'm pleased that the ministers have also adopted measures to strengthen the Partnership in five respects, as I had proposed last spring. In closing, let me simply say that today's actions demonstrated the vitality and continuing importance of the Alliance as a force for peace and stability in an integrated Europe. Thank you very much. Secretary Perry.
Secretary Perry: For fifty years, NATO prepared for war, and our vigilance helped deter the very war that we feared. Now, we are preparing to implement a peace in Bosnia. It is both ironic and wonderful that the largest military operation in NATO's history will be to forge a peace, not to fight a war. All the qualities that we developed for war -- unity of command, discipline, and a shared vision of a secure Europe -- all of these qualities will make us effective in peace.
Today's meeting made it clear that NATO is approaching the challenge in Bosnia with remarkably strong unity and a clear common vision. My favorite motto is the Latin phrase carpe diem, "seize the day." What we have seized, this day, is more than an opportunity to secure peace in Bosnia. We have seized the opportunity to build a new security structure for Europe -- a structure which will last well into the 21st century.
We are also seizing the opportunity to advance the NATO/Russia pragmatic partnership -- an opportunity to resolve our differences and pursue our common causes in a spirit of equality and cooperation.
I met with Minister Grachev four times in the last seven weeks. We dealt with very difficult problems. But we did succeed in hammering out an agreement in principal. This agreement called for Russian participation in the peace implementation force. The NATO staff is now working with the Russians to make this agreement final.
It is clear that this arrangement, both in achieving it and in implementing it, will have its challenges. But our ability to establish this arrangement will demonstrate that there is a new NATO/ Russian partnership at work. In effect, this agreement casts a long shadow on how we deal with all other security issues in Europe for decades to come. We are drawing a circle which includes Russia inside the circle, working with us, rather than outside the circle working against us.
This is a moment of truth for our Alliance. A moment when we can, and we must, secure peace in Bosnia and build a better Europe in the process.
During the Cold War, President Kennedy voiced his hopes for the Atlantic Alliance. We are on the brink of realizing his hopes today. He said, "We must seek a world where peace is not a mere interlude between wars, but an incentive to the creative energies of humanity." Let it not be said of this Atlantic generation that we left our ideals and visions to the past. Indeed, I believe that by our actions today that this Atlantic generation will carry our ideals and visions well into the future.
Q: Mr. Secretary, at this stage, what would you like to see Congress do? Would you welcome a vote in the House? And, do you have an opinion -- I wouldn't call them "reservations," because there's no force of law -- but the particulars that some senators have suggested should be on that resolution, such as no nation building, etcetera. Secretary Christopher?
Christopher: I didn't know who you were addressing. Well, we would welcome an expression of support from both houses of Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Based upon what we've heard here, we would expect the Senate to go first. We hope to engender a spirit of bi-partisanship in connection with approaching this very important issue. The position taken by Majority Leader Dole looks in that direction and I'm very glad to welcome, today, the statement by former President Bush, who apparently has given his support to a bi-partisan approach to this matter. I applaud that. I think that this extremely important action taken here by NATO, today, will send both Secretary Perry and me home telling the Congress what a unified sense there is in the countries of NATO, how strong the belief is -- here in Europe -- that we should proceed to implement the Dayton agreement, and I have hopes that there will be a growing support for the implementation of this agreement.
With respect to what you call "provisions," or "conditions," Barry, those matters are being discussed between the Administration and the houses of Congress, and I have some confidence that the final outcome will be one that will be constructive all the way across the board.
Q: Secretary of State, looking at your meeting tomorrow with Minister Kozyrev, are you concerned by his remarks on Russia risking to end up with no politics towards NATO -- no policy towards NATO?
A: If I heard your question correctly, it seems to me that Russia's policy towards NATO is reflected in the conversations that Secretary Perry has had with Secretary of Defense Grachev. Moreover, as I read at least the ticker item reporting on Foreign Minister Kozyrev's press conference, he strongly endorsed a cooperative attitude between Russia and NATO, and I think that ought to be the aim of our discussions tomorrow and ought to be the aim of our policy between the two countries. I remind you that we have worked in close conjunction with Russia, in connection with the Contact Group. A Russian representative was present as one of the co-chairs at Dayton. I think the spirit of cooperation engendered there, at Dayton, will follow us here in our discussions tomorrow just as they have in the meetings between Secretary Perry and Secretary Grachev.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned a very important initiative today by the French, which will obviously mean that they will participate considerably more in NATO councils, particularly on the military side. Do you look on that as a positive step? In other words, do you think that it will be easier, therefore, to come to major decisions or might this, in fact, cause some difficulty?
Christopher: You seem to be directing that question to me and so let me say I welcome very warmly the step that the French have taken today. But as to how it will really play out in practice, I think Secretary Perry is better able to comment on that and I would ask Secretary Perry if you'd comment, please.
Perry: I have worked very closely with the French Minister of Defense on many issues, including the planning of the preparation for this IFOR mission. The announcement that they made today will certainly facilitate our working together even more closely in the future and, like Secretary Christopher, I warmly welcome this move.
Q: Secretary of State, do you think that NATO should work to arrest the war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic? And the second question, if you don't mind, based on French voices qualifying Dayton accord that lead to a deadlock, do you think there is a kind of lack of clarification in the Dayton accord about the Serbian cities in Sarajevo?
Christopher: The first question has to do with the war crimes tribunal and Dr. Karadzic. First, let me comment on what is involved in the Dayton agreement. As you know, under the Dayton agreement, all parties commit themselves to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes. In addition, the constitution of the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as adopted in Dayton, provides that the war criminals who have been indicted are not eligible for state office or public responsibility and also it commits the country to cooperate with the tribunal.
Now, with respect to the responsibility of IFOR, IFOR's responsibility
-- or NATO's responsibility -- is to turn over the war criminals if they come into possession of them, or if they come into contact with them, or if the war criminals do something to obstruct the implementation process. But it is not part of the NATO obligation -- not part of IFOR's responsibility -- to hunt down or to seek out war criminals. That's the responsibility of the countries involved, but it's not part of the NATO mission, except insofar as I mentioned in the course of my answer.
With respect to the situation in Sarajevo, let me simply say that President Milosevic has undertaken a responsibility to ensure that the Bosnian-Serbs comply with the provisions of the agreement. He was authorized to sign on their behalf. He did sign on their behalf. He also -- two-days later provided initialing by all the leading political figures of the Bosnian-Serbs. So, we are looking to him to carry out his commitment to ensure that the Bosnian-Serbs comply with the agreement.
I would say that I think it's up to the Bosnians -- President Izetbegovic and Prime Minister Silajdzic -- to make it clear to the Serbs who live in Sarajevo that they can live in peace and tranquillity and that their situation will be respected there. But, as far as their compliance to the Bosnian-Serbs, I think we're looking to President Milosevic to ensure that that happens.
Q: Mr. Secretary, considering the fact that you have included, in the final communiqué, the issue regarding the Conventional Forces agreement, are you -- tomorrow, with your talk with Mr. Kozyrev -- going to talk about Russia's violation of the agreement in the Caucasian region?
Christopher: I think that's a more appropriate question for Secretary Perry. I will be, as I have done over the last several times I've talked with Foreign Minister Kozyrev, I'll be discussing it. But I think it's more appropriate a question for the Secretary of Defense.
Perry: I believe that the CFE treaty -- the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty -- is the most significant security treaty in Europe today. And it has been quite successful. In Russia alone, more than 11,000 pieces of equipment have already been destroyed under this treaty. It is very important to continue and to sustain this treaty.
When the treaty was drawn up it anticipated there might be changes in the world and it had a provision for modification. The changes since then have been dramatic -- geo-political changes, including wholly new countries and boundaries -- and, so, it's quite appropriate that we have a modification of this treaty. That is in discussion now, in Vienna, and I anticipate that by the date this spring, when the modifications are to be determined, I anticipate a successful outcome of that.
Q: Secretary Christopher, if I could follow up on the Congressional vote. If it appeared that the House of Representatives could not support the Bosnia deployment, would you rather that it not vote instead of voting against it?
A: Jim, that's one of those "iffy" questions that I don't think I'll get into here from Brussels. We're looking toward support from both of the houses. We're going to be working hard to achieve that. I think, as I said earlier, the endorsement today of the implementation by former President Bush is a reflection of growing support for this. I think as people understand the opportunity that this presents to bring the war to an end in Bosnia, to prevent the spread of war, if they see the value of this for Europe and the United States, I expect a growing support of it. So, I'd rather not get into very hypothetical questions of drawing narrow lines between non-support and support-in-opposition.
Unknown Speaker: One final question.
Q: Yes. I would like a clarification on the issue again of the war criminals, because it's clear that IFOR is not going to look for them. But if, for whatever reason, they happen to encounter these individuals, when you say their responsibility is to "turn them over," it is to turn them over to whom? Directly to The Hague tribunal? To the civil authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina? And by what do you mean, the collective presidency? And, are the IFOR command already under the particular instruction to that respect? Thank you.
Christopher: If they come into contact with the indicted war criminals, their responsibility is to see that they are turned over to the war crimes tribunal. As far as the IFOR responsibilities, specifically in that regard, that's something that the commanders will have to have discretion to undertake as they prepare for their mission. The Dayton agreement provides broad authority for the local commanders to take action that they regard as being wise and prudent, but it doesn't obligate them to do more than to turn them over if they come into contact with them.
Thank you very much.