DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
[This media activity follows an Honor Cordon welcoming Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, of Romania, to the Pentagon.]
Secretary Cohen: It's an honor for me to welcome Prime Minister Ciorbea to the Pentagon. I plan to visit Romania in the future to discuss the good relations between the United States and Romania as well as Romania's important role in the European security structure.
Romania is going to be a strong candidate for future NATO membership if it continues on its current path of political and economic reform.
As I stressed in Brussels last week, NATO enlargement is a process, and not a one-time event. The door to NATO membership remains open to countries that move steadily towards integration reform and reconciliation with their neighbors. Romania has taken some important steps in these areas, but the journey is not over.
I want to be perfectly clear. The United States did not say no to Rumanian membership in NATO last week, it said not yet. The prospect of NATO membership will remain open to European democracies that meet NATO's standards. Countries that continue to consolidate political and economic reform and show that they can meet the responsibilities of membership will be eligible in the future.
Romania and the United States share the same objectives. Both countries want a Europe that is peaceful, prosperous, democratic, and secure. Today we're going to discuss the steps that our countries can take together to meet these goals. These include ways to develop a long term partnership between the United States and Romania; the continuing improvement of Romania's relations with its neighbors; and enhancement of the Partnership for Peace program.
At a breakfast that I hosted in Brussels last week, Romania's Defense Minister made some very constructive suggestions about how we could have exchanges of military officers, parliamentarians, and civilian defense planners to help these non-NATO members prepare for NATO accession. So today we are going to discuss how we can turn these proposals into programs.
Bilateral relations between Romania and the United States are excellent. Today's meeting, along with those that Prime Minister Ciorbea has held with Vice President Gore and Secretary Albright will only strengthen these relations.
So Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. The podium is now yours.
Prime Minister Ciorbea: Secretary of Defense, I am most honored to be here to meet with you. I want to thank you for the very kind remarks made in connection with the reforms that we have undertaken in Romania and also for all the changes that we are implementing to become members of NATO.
We are here to look for solutions, not to create new problems in the NATO pact. We have been saddened by the decision that only nominated three states to be part of the first wave to be invited to be members in NATO. We will try to act until the time of Madrid meeting to have a very wise decision taken there, as wise as possible. This is our duty towards our own people and towards those who support us.
At the same time we are obviously very interested to develop a strategic partnership between the two countries which will cover all possible aspects -- political, economic, military, and so on. The military strategic dimension of this cooperation will certainly be part of our discussions a little bit later today.
We are convinced that this partnership is useful for both states and we will be able to exploit the geostrategic potential that Romania presents with the help of the United States and whatever we have to do to integrate Romania as quickly as possible within the structure of the North Atlantic pact.
That is why we are looking with confidence and with optimism to these relations. We are convinced that after 50 years of waiting, it is not going to be long before the Americans are coming into Romania.
Secretary Cohen: Questions?
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, do you hope to persuade the United States, Mr. Cohen, during your trip here to drop their opposition to Romania's entry in the first round?
Prime Minister Ciorbea: We wish and we hope at the last moment to be among the countries that will be accepted in NATO in the first wave. But as I said already, I came here to search for solutions and not to create problems within the NATO Alliance.
We will look realistically and pragmatically at the situation. If, God forbid, in Madrid the solution will not favor Romania, we will continue implementing the reforms in Romania. This is the only viable alternative. And this will lead, we are absolutely convinced, in a short time to Rumanian integration in NATO as a full member and in the European Union.
Q: I've got two short questions for you. First of all, what would be in your opinion, the consequences of delaying Romania's admission into NATO until the second wave for the American investments in the Rumanian military industry? And please give us some specific details in this respect.
Secretary Cohen: I gather from the first part of your question that you're asking whether or not we have calculated what the consequences would be to Romania in the event that...
Q: Yes, concerning the investments, the American investments into the Rumanian military industry.
A: It is our hope that Romania will continue making the progress that it has been making in recent times. And to the extent that we are able to expand our relationship through Partnership for Peace, enhanced Partnership for Peace, we believe that will put Romania in a very strong position when there are future rounds for accession.
As I said before, the door is open, and we want to make sure that everyone understands the door is open, and we hope that Romania will gain accession in a future time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think it's appropriate that the Army not open to the public the hearing next week for Sergeant Major of the Army McKinney, even though he wishes to have it open?
A: Two points. Number one, it's within the discretion of the convening authority to make such a determination at a preliminary hearing which is more or less comparable to a grand jury type of proceeding. In the event there were a determination to go forward with any sort of court martial, that proceeding, obviously, would have to be held in the open.
Secondly, there is a case now pending in the courts which we expect to be some... in the appellate process, I should say, in which we expect a decision to be made Monday or Tuesday, in a very short period of time. It should be resolved in a very short period of time.
Press: Thank you.