Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry - Hoover Institute Board of Overseers
Wednesday, January 31, 1996
Last summer, I went back to Stanford to give the commencement address.
I wanted to visit my old haunts, be with the graduate students, and just have a
chance to talk with former colleagues. I was really looking forward to my
homecoming, and I was also looking forward to getting away from Washington for
a few days, missing the daily dogfight over the issues. But the dogfight
actually followed me out to Stanford.
During my entire 20-minute speech, a private plane flew over the stadium,
trailing a huge banner which said, "Perry, stop the killing in Bosnia." After
the talk, I talked with some of the sponsors of that message, and it became
clear that their message was a demand for the United States to enter the war on
the side of the Bosnian government and, thus, use U.S. military forces to stop
the killing. That was seven months ago.
Today, the killing has stopped in Bosnia. But it has not stopped because we
entered the war, but because we deployed NATO airpower, which convinced the
exhausted armies to begin the peace. And, after we deployed the NATO airpower,
we deployed American diplomats to bring the warring parties to the peace table
and negotiate what came to be known as the Dayton Accord.
This combination of military power and diplomatic power brings to mind a
saying of Oliver Cromwell, who said, "The best ambassador is a man of war." We
didn't quite follow that. We believed that the best ambassador is a man of war
followed by a diplomatic mission. This is sometimes called "coercive
diplomacy," and that's what we were applying here.
The parties are now implementing this Dayton Agreement. Troops from the U.S.
and 32 other nations are giving the people of Bosnia the security and
confidence to pull back their weapons and rebuild shattered lives. I visited
Bosnia, just a few weeks ago, to visit with our troops, see how they're doing,
and to see how the peace is being implemented. I'm not going to give you a
trip report on that, today, but I will give you a one-sentence summary, which
is, "so far, so good." And, the American people can be very proud of the
performance of the American troops in Bosnia.
Peace in Bosnia is important to the United States not only because it means an
end to the suffering and the killing there, but because it reduces dramatically
the chance that the war could re-ignite and spread into a wider war in Europe.
And, if that war were to re-ignite and spread, it could threaten or destabilize
our allies and our economic partners.
Now, the reason peace has a chance in Bosnia is because we are doing exactly
what, in my commencement address, I exhorted the Stanford grads to do. That
is, to be engaged with other nations in the world, because problems in other
parts of the globe can ultimately effect our own security. We must work in
concert with other nations to resolve these problems. This, we are doing all
over the world and it is paying for us in tangible ways.
And, today, I want to talk with you a little about how we are doing it and
how, I believe, it's paying off. I will do this anecdotally, by describing
some of my activities the last two years as the Secretary of Defense. I will
select those events which illustrate just how much the world has changed in the
last few years and what we are doing to respond to those changes.
I will start by giving you examples of several unusual dinners which I have
had in the last year. I was served rendered Manchurian toad fat by a general
from the Peoples Liberation Army in China. I shared a barbecued cattle with
some gauchos on a ranch in the Pampis in Argentina. And, I had shishkebob in
fermented mare's milk in Tashkent, while listening to an Uzbeki colonel sing
Frank Sinatra songs.
I share these culinary experiences with you to make an important point.
During the Cold War, my predecessors spent their time working with our formal
allies -- Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, and perhaps a few
others. But, today, the Secretary of Defense works with defense establishments
all over the world, to renew our Cold War alliances for the post-Cold War era
and to build constructive working relationships with old enemies in transition
such as Russia and China.
During this last year, I've visited 40 separate nations and so far this year
-- in the first few weeks of this year -- I've already visited eight different
nations. Some of these were nations that no Secretary of Defense had ever
visited before and some were nations that didn't even exist a few years ago.
There we're establishing security bridges and encouraging these countries to
make the transition to stable market democracies, for example, in the Czech
Republic, Hungary, and Poland.
Similarly, much of my time is spent hosting in the United States defense
leaders from all over the world. This summer, I hosted a conference in
Williamsburg, Virginia for the defense leaders of the 33 democracies in this
hemisphere. There we discussed issues affecting the security of all countries
in the hemisphere. This conference was truly unprecedented. A few years ago,
I never imagined that there would be 33 democracies in the western hemisphere,
and as recently as a few months before the conference, many people were saying
that even these democracies would not be interested in discussing security
issues with a gringo neighbor from the north. But they were. And we had a
very interesting, and very significant, conference.
Democracy, peace, and market reform are now ascendant in our western
neighborhood and we have an opportunity to promote regional trust, cooperation,
and security. And at this Defense Ministerial of the Americas we seized that
opportunity and we agreed to begin working on a new era of stability in the
This is one of the benefits of engagement.
Perhaps the place where engagement is yielding the most tangible benefit is in
eastern and central Europe. There are several dozen countries struggling to
make the transformation from authoritarian governments with state run economies
to democracies with free market economies. We're trying to help them, through
the Partnership for Peace, which was formed by NATO two years ago this month.
And, now, just two years later, already has 27 Partner nations throughout
eastern and central Europe in addition to the 16 NATO nations.
These Partnership programs are intended to increase the stability and the
security of Europe by integrating eastern and central Europe into a single
security structure which shares common principles -- principles of peaceful
resolution of disputes, transparency of defense programs and activities, and
civilian control of the military. Very simple principles. But, ones which
are quite foreign to most of those nations as recently as five or six years
In just two years, the Partnership for Peace has changed the face of European
security. I never imagined, for example, that an American Secretary of Defense
would establish a school in Germany to teach former Soviet military officers
about democracy, budgeting, and testifying to legislatures. We did just that
two years ago. We called the school, of course, the Marshall Center, named
after George Marshall, who created the Marshall Plan and who as the third
Secretary of Defense stands as my role model.
Now, officers from all over eastern and central Europe come to the Marshall
Center to take a six month course in democracy and the functioning of a
military in a democracy. I have met with each of the classes there as they
have come together. I have spoken with the classes in assembly and I have met
with them in small groups. These young officers are the future military
leaders in the countries that used to be in the Warsaw Pact. And they all
leave the Marshall Center impressed with ideas, entirely new to them, about how
the military should serve a democratic society.
I also never imagined that an American Secretary of Defense would be in
Louisiana greeting troops from the Warsaw Pact. But last summer, there I was
in the reviewing stand and there they were. The Balkan nations -- Albania,
Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria; the Visegrad nations -- Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary, and Poland; the Baltic nations -- Albania, Latvia, Lithuania. And,
three Central Asian nations -- Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgistan. Each of
these nations had a platoon of troops in Louisiana and each of them was
marching by me in the reviewing stand, carrying the flag of their nation, side
by side with the flag of these other nations.
This was the first Partnership for Peace exercise ever held on American soil,
and it was truly inspirational to see these troops marching by and these flags
side by side. After the review was over, I went down and talked with each one
of the platoons from these countries and it was really exciting to me to see
their enthusiasm and their energy, being in the United States for this
peacekeeping exercise that we were conducting together.
The Partnership for Peace is the most successful European program since the
Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the war. It is training militaries to
work together for peace and, because this Partnership is a proving ground for
nations that want to join NATO, it has encouraged all of these nations to
accelerate democratic, military, and even economic reform.
These are the benefits of engagement.
But, the greatest change is in relations between the United States and Russia
-- the successor state, of course, to the former Soviet Union. For four
decades after the Second World War, the Soviet Union was committed to spreading
communism throughout the world and dedicated a large part of its gross national
product to building a military machine, which threatened its neighbors and,
indeed, threatened the entire world.
All of my predecessors had devoted most of their time and energy, and most of
the resources available to them, to building a military force capable of
deterring the Soviet Union. As a result, we have lived all of our adult lives
with a dark cloud hanging over our heads, which threatened to extinguish
humanity in a nuclear holocaust. Now, with the ending of the Cold War, that
cloud is drifting away and there is an opportunity to build a safer world. We
are trying to seize that opportunity, but it's still hard sometimes to believe
the changes that have been unleashed.
I never imagined, for example, that I would be in Kansas with the Russian
defense minister watching a joint military exercise. But last October, there
we were at Fort Riley, Kansas, watching American and Russian troops training
together for joint peacekeeping operations. After the exercise, Minister
Grachev and I gathered the Russian and the American soldiers around us and
talked with them. I was particularly interested in his comments to the Russian
soldiers as he told them that they should get to know their American
counterparts [and] how important their cooperation with the American soldiers
would be to their children. As I listened to him, I mused, "Toto, we're not in
I also never imagined that the Russian Defense Minister would help me blow up
an American nuclear missile silo in Missouri, which we did three months ago. I
had spent most of my career as a Cold Warrior trying to find ways to prevent
Russians from blowing up [our] nuclear silos. And, there the two of us were,
each of us putting our thumb down on the detonating device and causing this
silo to blow up pursuant to the START treaty.
I never imagined also that I would help him, and the Ukrainian Defense
Minister, blow up a missile silo in Ukraine, which we did just two weeks ago.
We stood in the snow and ice at Pervomaisk and each of us turned a launch
control key. These were the keys that were originally used to launch the
missiles and they had them rigged up so that, as the three of us turned the
key, the silo detonated.
A year ago -- just one year ago -- this silo was one of 80 at Pervomaisk,
which in aggregate contained 700 nuclear warheads, all of them aimed at targets
in the United States. Five months from now -- by this June -- the last of
these warheads will have been removed and the missile field will have been
converted into a wheat field.
Indeed, over the last year, the Defense Department has not only destroyed
thousands of American nuclear weapons, but it has helped dismantle and destroy
thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons, as part of the Cooperative Threat
Reduction program. We spend $400 million dollars a year out of the Defense
budget helping the Russians and Ukrainians and Kazakhstanis dismantle and
destroy their nuclear weapons complex.
When I'm challenged by the Congress, which I am, to justify the expenditure of
defense funds for what some of them consider non-defense purposes, I tell them
that these programs are an example of defense by other means. That is, we are
strengthening our own security by helping the Russians reduce their nuclear
weaponry. These are the benefits of engagement.
Finally, I never imagined that the Russians would agree to have one of their
brigades in an American division, under an American general, working to bring
about peace in the Balkans. During the last six months, I met four times with
the Russian Defense Minister to work out an arrangement whereby the Russians
could participate in the IFOR -- that's the NATO peace Implementation Force in
Bosnia. And, two weeks ago, the advance guard of the Russian brigade arrived
in Tuzla, reported to General William Nash, who is the commander of the
American 1st Armored Division in Bosnia.
The significance of this development in U.S./Russian relations goes far beyond
our quest for peace in Bosnia. Indeed, it cast a long shadow over European
security for a decade to come. The Bosnian conflict is an example of the
greatest security problem which Europe has faced since the ending of the Cold
War. And, in the resolution to that problem, we want Russia to be inside the
circle helping us solve that problem, rather than outside the circle throwing
rocks at us, and trying to interfere with a solution of the problem.
In general, then, we want ... to be engaged with Russia and we want Russia to
be engaged with us, even in the face of the continuing evolution and revolution
that is going on in Russia, today, many aspects of which, we think, are moving
in a negative direction. Some aspects are moving in a positive direction.
But, however those changes occur, we feel that it is important to stay engaged
with them. Why? Not because we are doing a favor for Russia. Not because we
want to appease Russia, but because we see it in our national security interest
to be engaged with them.
We can reduce the threat to American forces by reducing arms, by reducing the
danger of proliferation, and by increasing security and stability in Europe.
We can, in a small way, promote democratic freedom and economic reform in
Russia. And, to the extent we can succeed in that, it is not only good for
them, it is good for us, and the whole world as well. And, we cooperate in
the international field, when we can, and when we cannot -- when we disagree --
we can keep those disagreements peaceful.
We're doing this engagement through a wide variety of programs. I don't have
time today to describe these programs to you in detail, but one of them -- we
just finished a meeting in the last two days called the Gore/Chernomyrden
Commission, named after Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrden,
who is the co-chairman of this Commission. This is a commission which is now
in the sixth meeting over a three-year period, which is designed to promote
cooperation between Russia and the United States in the economic field and in
the field of security.
It has been a successful program. It has led to cooperative ventures between
American business and Russian business and has been a vehicle for reducing arms
and for reducing the defense complex in Russia today. It has also served a
very important role in allowing Russia and ourselves to work together to
achieve our mutual interest of avoiding nuclear weapons from proliferating in
Third World countries, which may pose a danger to both of us.
What if all of this fails? What if things really turn bad in Russia? What do
we have that is an anchor to seaward, to prevent these changes from having an
adverse effect on our security?
First of all, the programs which we are pursuing with Russia are programs
which are a value to the United States security in any case. What we are doing
with them in nuclear disarmament, for example. Helping them to dismantle their
nuclear weapons is a value to us whatever happens in Russia today. But, beyond
that, we are continuing to maintain a strong NATO and we continue to maintain
an adequate nuclear deterrence.
What we have then is a policy of engagement. I'd like to conclude by giving
you the name, the name we give it is a "pragmatic partnership." It is a
partnership because we work together with Russia in areas where we have a
mutual benefit. But, it's pragmatic in that it does not attempt to forecast
what the outcome of the ongoing revolution in Russia will be. But, as I said,
I have the anchor to seaward to protect this against any changes that may be
adverse to our security interest.