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Secretary Perry with Minister of Defense for Republic of Italy - Oct. 2, 1996

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
October 02, 1996 12:30 PM EDT

Wednesday, October 2, 1996 - 12:30 p.m. (EDT)

Ceremony welcoming Minister of Defense Beniamino Andreatta, of the Italian Republic, to the Pentagon.]

Secretary Perry: Let me take the opportunity to welcome Minister Andreatta to Washington. It allows me to host you after the wonderful visit I had in Rome.

Minister Andreatta: This is the first time that I [have] come to the Pentagon. I started(ed) 20 years ago to come to the Department of State. But this was the first time I [have come] here. So I admire the deployment of your soldiers (laughter).

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Senate Armed Services Committee, particularly Senator Thurmond, seems upset that you haven't been able to make time to come up and brief the Congress on your trip to Norway and possible plans for deployment of U.S. troops in Bosnia. Why haven't you been able to make time to testify in public on this issue?

Secretary Perry: Jaime, I'll answer that question in just a minute. I want to find out if there are any Italian press here first.

Q: I have a question for Mr. Andreatta?

A: Yes. Would you ask that first and then I'll come back to Jaime.

Q: Yes sir. This is a question actually for both you gentlemen. Mr. Andreatta, the Russian military has not been paid in three months. There is...This is coming to crisis as far as the Russian leadership is concerned. Sir, do you feel that the Russians can protect their strategic arsenal with this situation? And how about the nuclear fissionable materials. Can they also be protected? And then one question for Secretary Perry?

And the question to both of you again is, now the Communists are saying the election was invalid because of the matter of Yeltsin's health being hidden. Does this now put the Communists and the military closer together with this grievance?

Minister Andreatta: I believe that the internal situation in Russia is characterized by a lot of disequilibrium, particularly in the financial field. So, as the experiences of Chechenya show, we have a certain part of the Army which is rather unqualified. But at the same time the strategic responsibility are in some division of the Army which is upkeep...up-to-date. So I realize the possibility of some negligence and lack of control also for the atomic army is still possible. But I believe that this general situation of the Russian Army is not an indication of the control on this particularly [sensitive] asset.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Perry, what of the political aspects?

A: Minister Rodionov -- when I talked with him last week - - expressed concern on the problem you're describing; which is the authority to pay the soldiers for several months. But he did not describe it as a crisis which in danger of getting out of control.

The second point I would make is relative to the control of the nuclear weapons. All of our evidence through the years have been the Russians put their best and the most highly qualified troops to that assignment. I have every reason to believe that is still the case and that they are still under good control.

And on third point, I do not see the military and the Communists as being natural allies in Russia. None of the military with whom I have discussed this issue have shown any desire to go back to the bad old days -- any desire to go back to the Communist regime.

Q: And about the question about why you haven't made time to testify on the Hill on the question of Bosnia and reporting on your recent NATO trip...?

A: The Armed Services Committee is having a hearing today, this morning, and they asked me to testify at that hearing this morning. I had a prior commitment with the Minister here and could not make that, but I have offered to go over and give them a detailed briefing on Thursday or Friday.

Q: Are you going to testify though before the committee in open session?

A: That's being discussed with them right now, but I have offered to be available Thursday or Friday. Also, we also offered the Deputy Secretary as an alternative for me for a hearing today. So we are trying very hard to accommodated the Armed Services committee. We consider the Armed Services committee to be a partner in all we've done through the years and we've had a very close working relationship with them.

Q: Would this have anything to do with the fact that you don't want to talk about plans for putting troops in Bosnia next year before the Presidential elections?

A: I'm anxious to talk about it and I have offered to go over Thursday or Friday to do that.

Q: And you're willing to do it publicly, in a public hearing?

A: Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary...

A: Pardon me. There's some aspects of that which are better discussed in a closed session. And so, what we would probably propose is mixture of a closed and open session.

Q: Are you ready, sir, to approve this anthrax inoculation program which General Shali apparently is supporting and endorsing?

A: I have not yet received the recommendation from General Shali. I expect that will be in my office in a few days. When it comes, I'll look at it very carefully and make a prompt decision on it.

Q: Can you give us a leaning? Are you leaning one way yet?

A: I'll make a prompt decision when I get the actual paper.

Thank you very much. Q: Thank you Mr. Secretary.