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Presenters: Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and German Minister of Defense Mod Ruehe
February 07, 1998

Wehrkunde Conference Munich, Germany

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, I would like to welcome you for the signing of the Roland Patriot Follow-on Implementation Agreement. Following the signing of the agreement, both Ministers of Defense will have a brief statement which will be followed by a question and answer period.

Secretary Cohen: It gives me a great deal of pleasure along with Minister Ruehe to sign this cooperative Air Defense Agreement. This measure will allow us to transfer the title of twenty-one U.S.-owned, and German-manned Roland and twelve Patriot Fire units to Germany. The combined value of these systems is $850 million dollars. I believe it is only right that the German air forces will man, maintain and operate the Roland and Patriot systems for use throughout the NATO area of operations. Germany will assume maintenance and manning costs worth over $850 million dollars through December of the year 2005.

Today's action is important to the future of U.S.-German armaments cooperation. This agreement illustrates the strength of Germany's reliability as a defense partner and the depth of our security alliance.

Minister Ruehe: From the German point of view, this is also a very important step in terms of intensifying the cooperation between our two countries. We see the signing of the follow-on agreement to the Basic Agreement of Air Defense in Central Europe, as an important step to intensifying our cooperation and our capabilities in this arena.

Within this cost of burden sharing, Germany will assume American NATO commitments and provide the United States within the framework of the alliance surface-to-air missile efforts for support during operations. Each deployment of these forces will be under NATO command and control and presupposes special Parliamentary approval.

In return for this support, the United States will immediately transfer twenty-one Roland weapons systems and, later in the year, 2005 twelve Patriot systems to Germany. As far as the structure of the German Air Defense Unit is concerned, there will be no change since the mentioned weapon systems are already being operated today within the framework of the agreement by the Air Force.

This follow-on agreement ensures that the network behind valuable Patriot forces in the air force will remain unchanged. In addition, we will receive the full control of the twenty-one ground systems currently owned by the United States.

The close German-American cooperation in the area of air defense will also effectively meet and contribute to meeting future challenges, including the increasing proliferation risks. This agreement underlines the unique German-American relations and at the same time is a visible expression of Trans-Atlantic solidarity. Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the question pertains to talk in the past about a joint German-American air defense unit. Is this still something being discussed at this time?

Cohen: The Air Force, yes. We have had a combined air defense task force that is looking at this as we speak. We will be continuing this discussion and we hope that it can become a reality as far as this joint force goes.

Q: (Inaudible)

Ruehe: It is more like a task force, not a unit. It is in the stage of a working group but the objective being in the future a joint air defense brigade.

Q: Mr. Ruehe, many members of the U.S. Congress, some of whom are here at this conference, have expressed some frustration about the lukewarm support from NATO allies for the U.S. position about Iraq. What would you say to them?

Ruehe: It is not lukewarm. As the Chancellor has said, neither he has been asked nor have I been asked, nor our military has been asked, so my understanding is what is most needed is political support. But it is clear that everybody cares in the same way about the dangers of these weapons and the situation in Iraq as the U.S. does and others do. And this is clearly the case with Germany. What the Chancellor said today indicates that there is clear political support.

Q: Secretary Cohen, if I could just follow up. The possible air strikes against Iraq have been described as substantial not a pinprick. It has been variously reported as lasting from the last several days or several weeks. Can you characterize for us what it is you mean when you say something that is not meager?

Cohen: Something is not meager was -- I mean substantial…substantial doesn't need any greater qualification in saying it would be something that would be calculated to reduce, contain, curtail his ability -- downgrade would be another way to describe it -- his capacity to manufacture and deliver weapons of mass destruction. It implies a threat to his neighbors. Beyond that, it would not be in anyone's interest to get more specific other than to convey in very strong language that this is a very significant strike, should it ever be carried out by the President and of course he has not done that yet. We still wish to have a diplomatic solution, but Saddam Hussein should understand that this a significant strike package, should it be carried out.

Q: Mr. Cohen, the Japanese Prime Minister asked that, according to the Olympic ideal, he is appealing that there be no action against Iraq during the Olympic games. Are you commenting on this?

Cohen: We would not discuss any timeframe that military action be conducted, if at all. Again, there has been no decision to take military action and we would not be in a position to disclose when a situation for attack might exist. To put it in another way, Saddam Hussein would take that … and attack a U2 flight for an example. And I don't think it would be reasonable for anyone to anticipate that the Olympics were over before responding so we do not have yet a time deadline, a month. I think the President has indicated very clearly that time is running short, the window of opportunity for Saddam Hussein to comply with his obligations is starting to get very narrow and that he should abide by these obligations. We hope that all the people who are seeking a diplomatic solution appreciate the need to move firmly and expeditiously to force him to come to grips with his obligations. But there is no definite timeline or deadline set. It is a matter that will be up to the President in consultations with our allies.

Q: Chancellor Kohl spoke about air bases being made available. He said that there was political support. Could you perhaps, specify just what sort of support Germany is ready to offer, logistics or otherwise?

Ruehe: As I said, we are answering questions that have not been asked and so I think it shows our willingness to give political support and, if necessary, also very concrete, pragmatic support, as the Chancellor has said. It is up to the U.S. to say what they need and what they don't need.

Q: Will you basically give them whatever they need?

Ruehe: Whatever they need may be a bit too much. As the Chancellor said, that is self-understood with regard to the bases here. But as I said, if they were important in that situation, I think we would have been asked before.

Q: (Inaudible)

Cohen: We had a very good meeting with Minister Richard. He agreed that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein continue to pose a threat. He indicated that his government also agrees that Saddam Hussein must comply with UN resolutions. They are going to continue to seek a diplomatic solution and will continue to work at that effort. They will await the result of that effort before making any further determination. I felt that it was a very positive meeting and a very good exchange and we were very pleased with the discussions that took place today.

Thank you.

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