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Defense Ministers Chart NATO Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 8, 2000 – NATO defense ministers charted progress in the Defense Capabilites Initiative and in Kosovo during Defense Ministerial meetings here June 8.

The ministers also discussed the recent summit meeting between President Clinton and new Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, said the most important aspect of the Clinton-Putin summit from a NATO standpoint was the Joint Statement of Principles on Strategic Stability. "It includes a recognition by both countries of the emergence of new ballistic missile threats and the possibility of adapting the (Anti-ballistic Missile) treaty to reflect that," Slocombe said.

"The presidents instructed their governments to develop 'concrete structures that allow both sides to preserve strategic stability in the face of these new threats,'" he said.

This is a tremendous difference from what the Russians were saying six months ago, a senior defense official said. The official said now that the sides agreed there is a threat and there should be a response, "All you have left to argue about is the details of how you respond to the threat."

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a joint Russian-U.S.- European effort to build a missile defense system. While details are sketchy, the proposal seems to indicate adapting a theater missile defense, boost-phase system defense. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev is to meet with NATO ministers June 9 to discuss the proposal.

U.S. officials want to see what the proposal is before making any decision. Slocombe did point out that such a system would be technically very difficult to build and politically may be more difficult. Such a system would have to be located near the missile launch site, and he doubted whether many nations would allow that type of facility.

U.S. defense officials said the United States is willing to work with the Europeans to meet their defensive needs.

American officials also doubted whether such a system could be ready in time. DoD estimates rogue nations could have the capability to hit the United States with an ICBM by 2005.

"We welcome the prospect of cooperation (with Russia) in principle, but as a supplement, not as a substitute, for the timely deployment of the system that we have in mind," Slocombe said.

The ministers discussed steps members have taken to fulfill the Defense Capabilities Initiative signed in Washington during the NATO summit in April 1999. Slocombe said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen stressed the need for NATO countries to investment more in modernization. He said this investment will allow the allies to correct the problems and shortfalls highlighted by Kosovo. These include investment in strategic airlift, air-to-air refueling, more precision-guided munitions, and better command, control, communications and intelligence.

Each country briefed on the accomplishments to date. In Britain, Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon said his government has completed plans on about 70 percent of its commitment to DCI and reported partial completion of about 25 percent of the total.

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping reported on progress with the German defense restructuring plan. The goal is to develop a more professional, more mobile armed force. The Germans intend to concentrate on lift, C3I and precision-guided munitions.

Defense Secretary Cohen reported that the United States will buy more C-17s airlifters, JointSTARS surveillance aircraft and $500 million worth electronic warfare support. In addition, DoD will speed up procurement of precision-guided munitions, such as Tomahawk cruise missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

Several of the European nations announced plans for defense increases, but more must be done, Slocombe said. "Within the alliance it is transparent who is and who is not meeting which force goals," he said. "People know who are lagging. There were some very direct statements by a number of ministers about the need to find the resources to do the things we've undertaken to do in the alliance."

The officials took stock of Kosovo after almost a year in the province. The number of violent incidents has dropped dramatically during the year, Slocombe said. NATO forces play crucial role in maintaining order and in carrying out their other missions, he said, so the alliance must maintain adequate force levels.

"Kosovo will require some additional national contributions," he said. "The United States has made modest increases in its contributions with a long-range surveillance company and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, but we are still within the guidelines we have established for our overall contributions."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Media availability en route to Belgium, June 7, 2000

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