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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, October 27, 1998

Presenters: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
October 27, 1998 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

First of all I want to remind everybody that the Secretary is currently out in California. He will be introducing former British Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher tonight at a ceremony and a dinner in Beverly Hills which is sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Then tomorrow he's going to be delivering the 19th Annual Bernard Brodie lecture at the UCLA Center for International Relations in Los Angeles.

Both of those events are open to the public. If anybody has any questions on details please see DDI.

The backgrounder which was scheduled this afternoon at 3 o'clock for the Secretary's trip to Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong, is being delayed one hour. It will now occur at 4 o'clock. In its place at 3 o'clock we will now have a backgrounder on the subject of Kosovo.

With that, I will be happy to try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Mike, the backgrounder on Kosovo at 3 o'clock. Number one, why is it a backgrounder? Are we going to get some more information here than NATO and everybody else has given out on facts and figures about Kosovo?

A: We just thought it would be of interest to those of you who work in this building to get some of the views of what we have seen occurring on the ground in the last 24 hours or so, to give you an update on that.

The present situation in Brussels is that the NAC is meeting, and I would anticipate that there would be a formal statement released as soon as that meeting is concluded, but I can't predict at this point exactly when that will occur.

Q: Can you characterize the state of compliance at this point, just 30 minutes before the deadline?

A: Well, I think you've heard from others, and seen in your own reporting that there's very substantial evidence of compliance. We point to roadblocks that have been taken down, heavy weapons which have been moved into cantonment areas, troops that have either moved out of Kosovo or have moved back into their garrison areas.

The figures I have heard today are that about 90 percent of MUP reinforcements -- these are the specialized police that moved into the area when the violence erupted -- these, about 90 percent of those forces, the MUP, have been pulled out of Kosovo.

So I think that the overall assessment today is that the news out of Kosovo is very good at this point.

Q: When you say 90 percent of the MUP reinforcements, the special police, you're talking about above and beyond the police that are already there. How many of the military uniformed police are still in Kosovo? The ones that were there before this...

A: Jamie, there are substantial numbers of police who are still there, and under the agreement they are permitted to be there. I won't get into the numbers right now, but both uniformed military people, and these special police forces, are still present there but their numbers, as I say, are substantially reduced or they have moved back into garrison at this point.

Q: You talked about the special police forces. How about the uniformed military? How far...

A: The uniformed military, the assessment that I have seen is that they are in compliance at this point.

Q: They are in compliance.

A: In compliance at this point.

Q: We keep asking about radar, anti-aircraft missile batteries and all of that. Do you have anything further to report on not so much whether or not they have painted one of our aircraft, but whether or not they have disassembled some of them, moved them back into cantonment areas?

A: We have seen movement back into cantonment areas. To my knowledge, we have not been, none of the flights which have been made so far have been threatened by any kind of missile defense batteries.

Q: Seen missile defense batteries moved from where they were out in the field back into cantonment areas.

A: Into cantonment areas. And keep in mind that the requirement here is that the radars associated with these missile batteries have to be essentially disconnected from the missile systems. That is the requirement.

Q: That has taken place or...

A: I can't give you a full assessment on that one at this point, but I can say that we have not been threatened at this point. There have been, as you're aware, flights by both U-2 aircraft and also by the UAVs over the days since the agreement with Milosevic was reached to incorporate these reconnaissance missions into the overall verification regime which is being established to verify compliance with the agreements that he has signed up to.

Q: What flew today, Mike? A U-2 we know flew. What else?

A: I believe a Predator also.

Q: And did the U-2 fly a single mission on this important day or...

A: I can't tell you how many missions. We may be able to get into that later.

Q: How soon will it be before planes from other NATO nations join in the air verification?

A: I can't give you an exact timetable, but I would expect it to be soon.

Q: What's the status of the planning for the quick reaction force?

A: I would defer to NATO to give you details on that except that, as we've said before from this podium, there is a plan for a quick reaction force. The purpose of this force will be to extract members of the verification, the ground verification component if there is some requirement to do so.

Q: But it's taking an awfully long time. It's fine to say you have to ask your questions of NATO, but there are now observer people on the ground; there is hostile gunfire in the area. They could be trapped. Who would come and rescue them today?

A: Another point I would make is that the observers, the observers who are there now, these are the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission which is presently at work in Kosovo providing a lot of the information that I just passed along to you. Those individuals are receiving very good support, and certainly are not being frustrated by any of the activities of the Serb military forces that are in the area.

Q: There are in fact some OSCE observers on the ground already, apparently. But that's...

A: I think you're right. I think the game plan for the verification mission is one which grows out of these Kosovo observers who will ultimately grow to numbers in the vicinity of 2,000. I would anticipate that, however, the first step that would be taken would be for the observer mission, the Diplomatic Observer Mission, to double in size in the coming week as the, that is to say sometime next week, from about 150-200 into numbers upward from there. Then ultimately, as I say, you will see the verification mission, the ground verification mission number in the 2,000 range.

Q: That still doesn't address the issue of what happens if there is trouble. Who would come to their rescue today? There is no quick reaction force in existence.

A: I believe that there are sufficient forces in place that NATO has at its disposal to come to the rescue. Some of those are U.S., some of them belong to other nations, but they are close at hand and I think you're well aware of the contributions that the United States and other NATO nations have made to the effort that's underway right now, and that does include a search and rescue component.

Q: In the interim the United States is the quick reaction force? Is that what you're saying?

A: I would say that if a situation presents itself that there needs to be some step taken, that NATO would have at its disposal the necessary forces to do so.

Q: Will the United States contribute troops to the quick reaction force?

A: I don't think we can say at this point. I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't think that we have at this point enough detail to know the full answer on that.

Q: Mike, do you know yet how much the United States is being asked to contribute? How much it's costing? Is this money coming out of DoD's budget? Do you have any figures at all yet?

A: Certainly our contributions thus far to the very sizeable air component that's been put together are going to be paid for by the United States. But I can't, at this point, put any kind of a price tag on it.

Q: But there are going to be ground forces that the United States will spend dollars to support as well?

A: No, I'm not saying that. First of all...

Q: No ground personnel?

A: What I'm saying is that, and I think we need to all understand what we have here.

First of all, the people on the ground in Kosovo right now are members of this Diplomatic Observers Mission. While some number of those are U.S. military people, they are there because they know things military. They are not there in any kind of combat or security role. They are there because their mission is to observe military type things and they have the capability to know what they're seeing. They are working hand in hand with diplomatic types, both from the United States and from other European countries in carrying out this mission.

That mission is going to grow. That mission is going to grow, but maintain the same kind of complexion. That is to say it will be individuals who are there to verify, not to provide security.

There is this other component, this over the horizon component that the previous question concerned, which will not be in Kosovo, will only be in Kosovo if there is some sort of incident that requires the extraction of these unarmed verifiers who are making sure that compliance is being carried out.

Q: But my question is, is it true, Mike, that the verifiers that are American will be paid by U.S. tax dollars, and that whoever over the horizon, the rescuers, let's say, over the horizon, will also be paid by U.S. tax dollars?

A: Generally speaking, forces that participate in a NATO operation are paid for by their parent country. Yes. That is a true statement.

Q: What about the verifiers? Who pays for them?

A: They are also paid for by their host, by the parent country.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Another subject?

A: Yeah. Are we finished with Kosovo? I promise you a little more on that at this next...

Q: Is it clear yet where the over the horizon force would be based? I mean there's...

A: No, but I'm sure that when NATO makes some decisions on that they'll be in a position to announce where they intend to base it. I don't have that level of detail with me right now.

Q: Is that expected today?

A: It could come as early as today, but certainly within the next several days it should be announced by NATO.

Q: According to American press, Cyprus has begun building a naval base. Do you consider this as a positive element for the security of the Eastern Mediterranean since Cyprus is a strong ally and friend to the United States? Are you planning to help Cyprus from the military point of view to this effect?

A: The report that you're referring to, we know of only by a radio report out of Cyprus. So I can't verify the validity of the report. Nor can I tell you what the purpose of this base would be.

I would have to refer you to the government of Cyprus if you want to get any further information on it.

Q: No, no. I am saying it was reported today on the front page by the Wall Street Journal, saying specifically a naval base. What I'm asking you, do you see this as an element, a positive element from the military point, from the Department of Defense?

A: What I am saying at this point is that we don't have any confirmation that there is a naval base. What we have is a radio report, and you referred to a newspaper report which I would guess is based on this radio report, that there is a plan for such a thing. At this point there is not such a thing and I have no comment on predictions that it may or may not be in the offing.

Q: Captain, senior Turkish officials recently citing DoD sources, are talking about a Greek/Turkish crisis from Cyprus all the way to the Aegean, targeting in Cyprus sometime next month with the (inaudible) of the S-300 Russian missiles. Could you please comment on that?

A: First of all I would say that I don't have any kind of information on that particular interpretation of things. But what I have, am well aware of is, that the United States is strongly opposed to Cyprus' acquisition of the S-300 air defense system because it complicates the settlement efforts and heightens tensions on the island.

Q:...citing the Department of Defense, they're talking about, they are connecting this crisis with the arrival of the (inaudible), Mr. Nicholas Burns, in this town today. Even they are talking about the removal from the CIA, the Director, John Tenet, because of Greek origin.

I would like to know, do you have anything on that? Because they are citing Department of Defense officials. This is my concern.

A: No, as I mentioned before, I'd have to refer you to the Cypriot government for anything on the delivery of the air defense system, but that we are opposed to the acquisition of the S-300 air defense system because it will complicate settlement issues and it raises tensions on the island.

Q: Mike, there's a report out there that SecDef is going to be subpoenaed by the Office of the Independent Counsel in regards to a matter of the leak of Linda Tripp's personal file from this building. Do you have any comment?

A: The only comment I would make is I would want you to talk to the Office of the Independent Counsel.

Q: Could you say whether he's been subpoenaed to date?

A: First of all, I will tell you that I would never have any kind of comment on subpoenas that are made to individuals in cases like this. If the Independent Counsel wants to comment, I'm sure they will.

Q: Can you give us an estimate of the ongoing IG investigation into that matter of the file which was leaked?

A: It is still ongoing.

Q: Can you confirm that there will be joint naval exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea between the U.S., Turkey, and Israel from the end of November to...

A: We've talked about that before. We did one of these. It was a search and rescue humanitarian exercise, sometime ago. We are aware that there are plans for another such exercise. The last time I checked on this there had not been an actual planning meeting, so at that time I was not able to confirm any kind of dates and I do not have anything with me that would indicate that has changed.

Q: Another edition of relying on (inaudible) exercises?

A: Well, that was what the last one was, and my guess is that that's what's in mind this time. It was a search and rescue, kind of a humanitarian exercise.

Press: Thank you.

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