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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William Cohen
July 01, 1997 10:00 AM EDT

(This media activity follows an Honor Cordon to welcome Minister of Defense Bjorn Von Sydow, of the Kingdom of Sweden, to the Pentagon)

Secretary Cohen: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to welcome Bjorn Von Sydow to the Pentagon. This is his first visit here as Minister of Defense, but he is a student of the United States. He's been a visiting scholar at Pomona College in Southern California and also at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Although Sweden is a non-aligned nation, it has become increasingly involved in Europe's new security architecture and structure. Sweden is an active member of the Partnership for Peace and a strong voice for enhancing the PFP program. It currently is preparing to host PFP exercises that involve both the United States and Russian forces.

Sweden is a force in European peacekeeping. Swedish soldiers now serve in the U.S. division in Bosnia and, until recently, American soldiers served under a Swedish commander in Macedonia, and our soldiers continue to serve side by side in Macedonia.

Finally, Sweden is a leader on Baltic security issues. It helps to train and equip the Baltic battalion and the Baltic Maritime Squadron, and today we are going to discuss cooperation between the United States and Sweden on these and other issues.

And so before we take questions, Mr. Minister, I'd like to give you an opportunity to face the American and Swedish press.

Minister Von Sydow: Thank you. It's definitely a great pleasure for me to be able to be invited here. I will be here in America not for the first time being a minister, I've been here before in the capacity of being Minister of Trade. And today, we are facing up to a situation in which economics and defense coordinated can be the real assets for promoting security in Europe and in the northern hemisphere.

Great changes have occurred in the last years. No one could foresee just a few years ago what has happened during the '90s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Sweden is also finding itself in a situation in which our security is greatly enhanced. But, as my colleague said, we are prepared and we are doing a lot in order to establish a neutral respect and collective security in Europe, and a very important part of that is the presence of the United States in all Europe and in the Baltic Sea region. So that is some of the aspects we want to discuss.

And let me just say that we are doing a very interesting cooperation in Bosnia. As my colleague said, we're doing a great endeavor in order to stop not just a crisis but the catastrophe that was occurring, and we are a part in the NATO-led mission and our experiences in that area are also to be of great importance when we are going to restructure our national defense for the future and tasks in the future.

Thank you.

Q: Mr. Minister and Mr. Secretary, if I might ask you both a question. Western arms makers are in Eastern Europe now trying to sell very expensive arms to the countries who might join NATO, including very expensive fighter jets. Do you think that the West should be pressing those countries now to buy expensive arms before they get their economic houses in order?

Secretary Cohen: Well, if you would like me to address that initially, obviously, for those countries who are going to qualify for admission or accession into NATO, they are required to measure up to NATO standards. They will have to comply with all of the Article V requirements and that means that they will have to increase their defensive capability.

NATO remains essentially a defensive institution with some political overtones, obviously, but one cannot expand NATO and then not ask those new members of NATO to carry their full measure of support for the requirements. So if they're going to gain admission, they will have to measure up. But that's the formula which they, I think, have signed up to and those who will be granted admission, assuming ratification, that they will have to modernize their forces anyway.

I might point out, whether or not countries are admitted into NATO, these individual countries will have to modernize their defensive capabilities in any event, and most of them have come to the conclusion that alliances save money. And so it is less expensive for nations who seek admission to NATO to do it collectively, as such, or as part of NATO, as opposed to going it alone.

Q: Defense Minister, briefly, should these countries, for example, buy the Griffin before they get their economic houses in order again?

Minister Von Sydow: I think that the situation is that the Saab British Aerospace can offer a very cheap and efficient aircraft fighter. There is a relation to be formulated between Saab British Aerospace on the one hand and the national government on the other hand.

And from our view, from the Swedish government's point of view, we say that we have procured, ourselves, our national defense now with more than 200 aircraft (inaudible) The cabinet -- I had the issue up two weeks ago to make a final decision on procuring the Swedish national defense with that fighter. And I can say, and I do say, to them these are my arguments for us to buy that fighter, and then I give the floor to the Saab British Aerospace to have the further discussions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Navy today releases its report, the IG report, on Carrier Air Wing 11 and as part of that it's reported the return-to-flight status of Lieutenant Carey Lohrenz, one of the pilots who was grounded from that squadron, overruling the judgment of her commanders that she was an unsafe pilot. Are you concerned at all that political correctness might be putting women pilots into the cockpit who aren't ready or aren't safe?

Secretary Cohen: Well, I haven't had a chance to review the decision made by the Navy or the recommendation of the Navy. As I understand it, they have recommended she be allowed to fly land-based aircraft, and I'm satisfied that they would not make such a recommendation unless they felt secure that her qualifications would allow her to do that.

We are not interested in putting people's lives in jeopardy, and so political correctness should not be a standard and I don't believe the Navy is looking at it from that perspective.

Q: Secretary Cohen, is there any chance that the United States is going to reconsider allowing more than three nations to join NATO and to give in to the French demand that Romania joins and the Italian demand that Solvenia joins?

Secretary Cohen: President Clinton has made it very clear that he believes we should recommend only three, for the reasons that I expressed at the NATO ministers conference in Brussels recently. He remains firm in that conviction.

Unidentified Speaker: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

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