Thursday, September 12, 1996 - 10:30 a.m. (EDT)
[This media activity followed an Honor Cordon to welcome Minister of National Defense Jelko Kacin, of the Republic of Slovenia, to the Pentagon]
Secretary Perry: Mr. Minister let me welcome you again to the Pentagon, it's always a pleasure to have you here. I visited Slovenia in July, had a very good visit -- hosted by the minister -- my second visit to Slovenia since becoming the [Secretary] of Defense.
We'll take your question, or two, but I'd like to ask first if there's anybody from the Slovenian press here? Yes.
Q: Mr. Secretary, after your frequent meetings with Slovenian Government officials, signed that Slovenia will be in the first group of countries to be admitted to NATO ...
A: That's, of course, not a decision which is mine to make, that's a decision to be made by the 16 nations of NATO and, I believe, a decision which will be made next year.
When I visited Slovenia in July, I observed what the five criteria of NATO membership were: advances in democracy; in market reform; civilian control of the military; compatibility of forces with NATO forces; and good relations with neighbors. And I said at that time, that I believe Slovenia had made good progress in all of those areas and, today, I say that again.
Q: What is Slovenia's strategic value for NATO?
A: NATO is a security alliance. And each nation provides protection for all of the other nations. In addition to that, it performs other functions besides, such as the Partnership for Peace -- Slovenia, of course, is already a member of the Partnership for Peace.
Q: You said yesterday that the U.S. response to Iraq would be, I think your word was, "disproportionate," could you tell us what you meant by that?
A: We have, Jamie, as you know, very important interests in that region of the world and we have military forces there to protect those interests. We are in the process of moving even more military forces there to protect those interests.
If there is any challenge to those forces, we have a responsibility to protect them. And they have very, what we call, "robust," rules of engagement. So, everybody should understand that the United States will take all necessary and appropriate actions to protect our forces and to protect our interests in that area.
Q: Iraq, today, accused Kuwait of declaring war on Iraq for agreeing to accept the U.S. stealth fighters and has warned Kuwait not to accept those fighters. What would you say about that?
A: Those kinds of rash statements are totally unacceptable. Our forces are there, in the first place, because Iraq invaded Kuwait back in 1990; and they have been there since then to provide deterrence for any future action of that sort.
The U.S. military forces there do not pose a threat to Iraq, or any other country. They are there to provide security and stability in the region, they are there as deterrent forces.