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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
July 26, 1995 12:40 PM EDT

Wednesday, July 26, 1995 - 12:40 p.m.

[This briefing by Secretary Perry took place at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, in Williamsburg, Virginia]

Secretary Perry: This Defense Ministerial of the Hemisphere has been a gathering of 34 democracies that share a commitment to peace and prosperity for the 600-million people in this hemisphere.

I came away from this meeting with some very strong personal impressions. First of all, there is a very clear recognition among the delegates of the importance of economic security to defense security, and vice versa.

Secondly, some of the smaller countries to this conference made some of the largest contributions to the intellectual content of it.

Third, on the confidence-building and security measures, we had a very important result in that we were able to symbolize the great substance of those proposals by an announcement made by my colleague from Brazil at the very end of the conference, in which he described an agreement that had been reached on demilitarizing in the Peru/Ecuador border dispute. This is a milestone that validates the type of work we are doing at this conference.

The guarantor nations worked very, very hard to help these parties reach the agreement.

Just yesterday, Vice President Gore -- when he was here at the conference met with the delegates from Peru and Ecuador to move them forward on this important agreement.

Another issue which is important here is the universal recognition among the delegates of the importance of civilian and constitutional control of the military.

I mention these points because there have been many, many years -- in fact, many decades in this hemisphere -- when these conclusions could not have been reached. We have reached now a very important opportunity to move forward to security and to prosperity in this hemisphere because of the developments that are taking place.

This conference established two important broad conclusions, one of which the delegates are calling the Williamsburg Principles, and the other which they're calling the Williamsburg Process.

The Williamsburg Principles consist of six points which I will very briefly summarize for you.

First, we recognize that mutual security rests on the preservation of democracy.

Second, we acknowledge that military security forces play a critical role in supporting and defending the legitimate interests of these sovereign, democratic states.


Third, we reaffirm our commitments that our countries made in Managua and Miami that our armed forces should be subordinate to democratically controlled authority and within the bounds of national constitutions, and they should respect human rights.

Fourth, to promote openness in the discussion of defense matters.

Fifth, to set as a goal for our hemisphere the resolution of outstanding border and other disputes through negotiated settlements.

Sixth, to promote greater defense cooperation in support of meeting security needs, including narco-terrorism.

These are the six Williamsburg Principles stated in very brief form. They support the commitment to economic and social progress made at the Miami Summit last year. This is an ambitious security agenda, but we have made a good start in Williamsburg, and now we have to continue what one of the delegates called the Williamsburg Process.

In that line, Minister of Defense Chameleon invited the delegates to attend a follow-on conference in Argentina, next year. We welcome his initiative in that regard.

With those opening comments, I'm prepared to take your questions concerning this conference -- concerning defense ministerial affairs in the hemisphere.

Q: Dr. Perry, some countries in Latin America -- among them Mexico -- have said for some time that the United States might be trying to form some kind of regional force -- perhaps, a regional peacekeeping force -- for the Western Hemisphere, something akin to NATO, in order to intervene in regional disputes under the leadership of the United States. Did you disabuse people who attended here of that notion?

A: That was not an objective of the United States, or of this conference. Any of the nations that thought that before they came to the conference, did not think that at the end of the conference.

In particular, I got a report from the head of the Mexican delegation as to how pleased he was with how well the conference had gone and how he was going to report to his government how effective, and how positive, he thought the conference was.

Q: Why not Cuba?

A: The purpose of this conference was not to have a confrontation on security issues. It was to have cooperation. To have cooperation there has to be some basic foundation of cooperation. We believe that the foundation on which cooperation is possible are democratic governments and militaries controlled by civilian and operating under a constitution. In the absence of those very important principles, the whole basis of our cooperation is gone. Therefore, excluding Cuba was not meant as a way of trying to offend Cuba, it was simply saying that Cuba does not have the basic foundation on those points, which would make it possible to develop cooperation on security issues. We hope indeed, I expect -- that some time in the foreseeable future, Cuba will be among the democratic nations that will be attending future conferences of this sort.

Q: In the past there was mistrust in Latin America toward the United States. Nowadays, they all are talking about cooperation, about how friendly they are with the U.S. To what do you attribute that change? Did the U.S. offer them something? What happened? What happened for this great change that we're seeing now?

A: There have been two great geopolitical changes in the last few years. One of them, of course, was the ending of the Cold War. The other was the creation of democracies in the hemisphere. These 34 nations that are here are all democracies. That provided the basis on which cooperation became possible.

On top of that, I would say that the Clinton Administration led by the President -- led by Vice President Gore -- have expressed their initiative and their desire to move forward in cooperation. That was manifested, I think, most dramatically at the Miami Summit, and then later by this Williamsburg Conference. The response we have gotten from the nations in South America and Central America and the Caribbean, have been very, very positive in responding to this. I believe that this was an idea whose time had come, and the results of the conference I believe demonstrate that.

Q: Can you give me some other examples of how this conference has served as a forum to help settle some disputes?

A: We did not use the conference as a forum for settling disputes. The settling of the disputes -- this particular demilitarization agreement reached between Peru and Ecuador -- had been in process for many, many months. It culminated at this time, and it did culminate through some of the discussions in the margins, you might say, of the meeting. Not in the meeting itself.

I think the most important way in which this conference will promote settling of disputes in the future come, first of all, from a statement of those Principles which I gave you. The fact that all 34 of these nations support those Principles is very important.

Secondly, a point which is not quite so clear, but I think is extremely as important, is the personal working relationships that were developed at this meeting between the Defense Minister of the United States and the defense ministers of 33 other nations. Not just that, though, but among some of these countries themselves.

One might have thought that the defense ministers of South American countries met and talked with each other. It turns out, that was not the case. This conference gave them a chance to talk with each other as well as talk with the United States.

When we were establishing the peacekeeping force for the Peru/Ecuador border, it was moving into in some ways, into new territory for many of us in the Department of Defense of the United States. We're trying to determine what it was we could and should be doing.

I had met, just a month or two earlier, with Minister Camilion from Argentina. Having established our relationship, I was able to call him -- Argentina's one of the other guarantor nations -- and discuss this issue with him. It turns out he had worked very diligently on that problem many years before, and was able to give me some very, very good advice on how to proceed forward on that. So, those personal working relationships are going to be very important in the future, and in many ways that may be the most important thing that comes out of the conference, right on the same pedestal, you might say, as the six Principles.

Q: How long do you anticipate the observers from the four guarantor nations, and the U.S. support contingent, staying in that area?

A: I can't give you an answer to that right now. This new development, which is a very welcome development, changes the dynamics of how that process is going to move, and we'll have to now look carefully at how it changes it and reevaluate... The guarantor nations will have to meet and reevaluate how long their peacekeeping forces will need to stay there. All of us hope that they can be removed sooner rather than later.

Q: If I could bring it a little closer to home, I understand that from this conference there might be ships leaving the Norfolk Naval Base to be stationed in Mayport, Florida. So what kind of impact might this have on the local community?

A: We did not discuss that issue at the conference -- that I'm aware of -- so I cannot help you on that question. It's a good question, to which I don't have the answer.

Q: Can you give us more details on what's involved in the agreement between Peru and Ecuador? How large an area it will be, how deep, that sort of thing?

A: I don't want to be a first-hand source of information on that. This was worked very, very hard by the Brazilian representative, who is still here, and I would refer you to him to get a first-hand precise account of the agreement that was reached. But it had to do with establishing a demilitarization zone in that area. But I am not a first-hand source of information on the details of that, and I would not want to quote you for fear of misquoting it.

Q: Secretary Perry, you mentioned that all of the nations endorsed the six Principles. Was there some kind of consensus?

A: No, we did not take a vote. What I did was passed out the draft of these Principles, this morning, after we prepared them last night. Had each of the delegates have an opportunity to read them. Then, I invited comments for changes and amendments to them. I did get two different delegates came to me with suggestions not for deletions, but for additions to it, and we did add those to it.

Q: Can you tell us what the additions were? Also, as a follow-up to that, could you tell us, have all of the countries agreed to participate in a follow-up conference, and has Mexico -- which you mentioned, specifically, before -- agreed to participate as a full participant rather than an observer?

A: The invitation was issued by Argentina, but nobody was asked to RSVP at this meeting. My expectation is that they all will attend, but that was not discussed at the meeting. My expectation is that Mexico will attend, but that will be for them to say, not me.

Q: And the two points that were added to your declaration?

A: Just points of emphasis. The delegates asked that there be more explicit reference in the -- to narco-trafficking, for example -- in the Principles. It was not in my original statement of it because there is a difference of view among the delegates on how to deal with narco-trafficking. In some countries, the military plays a first-hand role in it. In other countries, it does not. But all countries agree on the importance of it, and the importance of bringing national resources to it. So we had the Principles state what it was the countries agreed to, without highlighting the fact that there were different approaches to how to achieve that objective.

The other issue was adding more specific reference to the importance of economic security -- how it supports defense security and how defense security supports economic security. That's a very logical follow-up on to the Miami Summit.

Q: Will the United States attend the follow-up conference in Argentina if a non-democratic Cuba is invited?

A: The United States will attend the follow-on conference in Argentina, as we now understand that conference will be held. This is many, many months away, and much could happen between now and then. I don't have the agenda or any details of the meeting. But I have indicated not only the willingness of the United States to participate, but the enthusiasm of the United States to participate.

Q: Did you say the U.S. Defense Department is seeking a new approach in the war against drugs in the hemisphere?

A: The war against drugs in the hemisphere has been evolving for several years. It has several different components to it, one of which concerns us in the United States, primarily -- is dealing with the problem of demand for drugs, which is a very important element of the problem. It has nothing to do with the activity involving other countries. It's an internal domestic problem. There has been increased effort -- increased emphasis -- in that area.

Secondly, in dealing with the supply -- which is the area in which we work cooperatively with other countries -- there has been, through the years, some shift in emphasis, I believe, from interdicting the supplies en-route to the country as opposed to trying to reduce the supplies at the source -- either where they are grown or where they are produced. That is not a difference in strategy, it's just a difference in tactics -- and different judgment as to the ways of most efficiently dealing with this problem.

We do not have the last word on that, yet, because nobody is satisfied with the results of the counter-drug effort. We can cite statistics of how many arrests are made and how many thousands of pounds of narcotics have been captured or destroyed, but still, the bottom line is, they continue to flow into our country and other countries at too high a rate.

Q: Yesterday, Vice President Gore congratulated the Colombian government because they are doing a good job in the drug war. Do you think the relation between the two countries are better now?

A: First of all, I strongly agree with the Vice President's statement. In fact, I helped prepare his text in that regard. It's based on solid developments, solid information.

Secondly, I think the relationship between Colombia and the United States is very good. It's very good at the presidential/vice presidential-level, and I can testify from my meeting down here, that it is exceedingly good at the defense ministry-level.

Q: How should we interpret the Principles? Are these things that ideally should be followed? Are they commitments from the countries? Also, if you could elaborate a little bit on the six points -- the drug trafficking area. Are all the countries really willing to put the armed forces into this fight? Can you clarify that?

A: Let me answer the second part of that question first.

The countries fall into two camps, you might say. Those who believe that it is not appropriate to use the armed forces in fighting the drugs -- do it only with their police forces, the law enforcement agencies -- and that's a good many countries in the hemisphere.

Those who -- like the United States -- do not use the military in law enforcement, but we do make resources of our military available to assist law enforcement officers, both in our country and in other countries. The most obvious example of that is the extent to which our military resources are used to provide intelligence on the movement, for example, the movement of drugs the tracking of airplanes and tracking of ships that carry drugs.

I would emphasize, again, that in the United States, while the armed forces play an important role in it, and I am responsible for overseeing that role in the United States, this is not a law enforcement operation. We are prohibited by law that dates back more than 100 years -- called the Posse Comitatus law from the U.S. military -- U.S. Defense Department -- being involved in active law enforcement operations.

So our support role here is a support role for the law enforcement. We provide information to them, sometimes equipment to them, but we do not conduct law enforcement.

Q: What is the commitment then? The Principles...

A: Then principles are guidelines. To say that, I did not mean to minimize them. They provide a framework of thinking about these very important security problems. In case they sound simple and obvious to you, I invite you to think of how any of the defense ministers of our country could have stood up ten years ago and tried to state principles like that. It could not have been done. These are very important developments, to be able to state principles like that democracy is the basis for security in our country. These are very important principles.

Q: A quick question on Bosnia. Number one, have you had any final word for the Senate, which seems bent on unilaterally lifting the arms embargo? And, number two, there are reports today that despite U.S. insistence that NATO has agreed to keep the dual-key arrangement on airstrikes the way it is -- allowing senior officials who are not military officials of the UN to have the final say on airstrikes in Bosnia?

A: I don't have the final word on either of those questions. To my knowledge, before I came into this room, the Senate had not yet voted on the Dole Amendment.

Secondly, NATO -- the North Atlantic Council -- did come to a judgment last night on how to proceed in the air campaign which was called for by the London Conference. The Secretary General of the UN was going to make a statement about that. He has not yet made it, to the best of my knowledge.

I will offer just one elaborating comment, and then I will have to excuse myself for other pressing business.

The issue of dual-key is one which has been -- is confusing and has been confused in reporting. I want to get back to fundamentals. Setting aside the particular complex command issues in Bosnia, it's a long-held, and long understood, principle in the military that air operations against ground targets have to be closely coordinated with the ground commander. That is just good common sense, and it's sound military principle.

So the air commander, who is conducting strikes on the ground, must coordinate his strikes with the ground commander. That is U.S. military doctrine that has nothing to do with the specific problems in Bosnia.

The issues that have come up in Bosnia have arisen because the air commander is under a different command from the ground commander. The air commander is a NATO commander; the ground commander is a United Nations commander.

The principle is still valid. In our judgment, it has been ineffectively applied. This coordination has been ineffectively applied in the past, because it has called for... In addition to having the coordination between the air commander and the ground commander, it has inserted a political review authority in the loop. We think that is a mistake. We think you cannot conduct effective air-to-ground operations with political authorities being involved on a strike-by-strike basis making decisions. It just delays them intolerably.

So we have taken the very strong position that while coordination is required between air and ground, that coordination should not include, on a day-to-day basis, the political authorities. It should be military-to-military.

Q: Will the U.S. insist on that change?

A: I have stated you the U.S. position. The position is based, we believe, on sound tactical logic and on sound political judgment.

Thank you very much.

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