United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


USIA Foreign Press Center Briefing - Kenneth H. Bacon

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
October 21, 1999

USIA Foreign Press Center

MR. BACON: Marjorie, thank you. It's great to be back at the Foreign Press Center.

I thought I'd start today with a few remarks about a story in today's newspapers -- it's on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times -- about U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed around the world in the last 40 or 50 years.

I think the story raises a very interesting point, and that is, "What has happened to our tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles over the last several decades? And indeed, what's happened to our nuclear weapon stockpiles, generally?"

As you know, the United States has been highly committed to disarmament, which is a requirement under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which we are a signatory and which was renewed in the last couple of years. And it's one that we take very seriously.

And just to refresh your memories: during the Cold War, we and our NATO allies had a whole series of weapons. We had, of course, what we called strategic nuclear weapons, which are long-range weapons designed to fight against the capitals and the primary military and industrial assets of an adversary. So both the United States and then the Soviet Union built very extensive strategic nuclear arsenals that were designed primarily to deter each other from attacking the other. And these arsenals exceeded more than 10,000 strategic nuclear weapons at their peak, both in the United States and the Soviet Union.

By contrast, other nuclear powers, China, France and England, built nuclear stockpiles that were far smaller, each under a thousand weapons, usually in the low hundreds. Five hundred or below was the size of their arsenals, compared to the U.S. and the then-Soviet arsenals.

We also, U.S. and its NATO allies on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries on the other hand, built tactical nuclear arsenals. These were weapons of shorter range designed for battlefield or theater use.

In the case of the U.S. and its NATO allies, these weapons were designed to either deter or deflect a massive attack from the Soviet forces across Europe. That was the primary purpose of these weapons.

We developed a wide variety of such weapons, including our nuclear artillery shells -- surface-to-air missiles, surface missiles; mines -- anti-submarine mines, anti-ship mines. And about 30 years ago, the U.S. and its NATO allies had 11 separate types of tactical or theater nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

I want to contrast that to today. We now have a very, very small number of nuclear weapons in Europe, tactical nuclear weapons. Only one type -- bombs. Starting in 1987 the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate all surface-to-surface nuclear missiles of theater range -- that is, less than strategic range -- and we did that under the so-called INF treaty. In 1991, President Bush said that he would sharply reduce and unilaterally reduce U.S. nuclear weapons, theater nuclear weapons, in Europe and we reduced them by more than 85 percent between 1991 and 1993, and we reduced the places these weapons are stored by more than 80 percent between 1991 and 1993.

So there has been a very significant scaling back on the U.S. reliance on tactical or theater nuclear weapons in just the last decade, and this is actually something that began in the '70s or '80s but really gathered great steam at the end of the cold war.

Now, this has not been matched by Russia yet. They still have a much greater tactical nuclear arsenal than we do. They rely more heavily in their doctrine on tactical nuclear weapons -- that is, battlefield weapons -- than we do, but there is an encouraging sign that we will be able to address this issue in the context of the START III agreement, the so-called Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or negotiations to lead to a new treaty called START III. In 1997, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed in Helsinki that for the first time tactical theater nuclear weapons would be included within the universe of weapons discussed in the strategic arms limitation agreement.

I've talked some about tactical or theater nuclear weapons. Let me talk very briefly about strategic nuclear weapons. The START I agreement requires both Russia and the United States to reduce their accountable weapons to 6,000 from over 10,000 on each side. Both of us are in the process of doing that; both of us, I believe, are somewhat ahead of schedule in most areas. I believe they were supposed to reach those levels in 2001.

We have gone on and signed in 1993 the so-called START II agreement, which calls for further reductions to between 3,000 and 3,500 strategic nuclear warheads. The United States Senate has ratified that agreement; the Duma has not yet ratified that agreement.

Earlier this year, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that they would begin discussions for a START III agreement, which would reduce the warheads further -- strategic nuclear arsenals -- further down to a range of 2,000 to 2,500 warheads; that we would begin those discussions even before START II was ratified by the Duma. So there have been discussions that have already started toward a START III agreement.

Now, you can see that if this de-escalation continues and we succeed in reaching the START III agreement, that we will have reduced the strategic nuclear arsenals on each side from over 10,000 down to between 2,000 and 2,500. And the Russians have said that they hope to go lower than that, as has the United States, eventually go lower than 2,000 to 2,500. So that's what is in the future in terms of force reductions.

When you take this together in terms of both strategic nuclear warheads and tactical nuclear warheads, the United States has eliminated 13,000 nuclear weapons since 1988. That's at the rate of about 100 a month. And we are continuing to reduce our arsenals in accordance with the treaties, and we are committed to working with Russia to achieve further reductions in the future.

So with those brief opening remarks, I'll take your questions on this topic or anything else.


MS. RANSOM: Let's start with Harun, and wait for the mike.

QGood morning, Mr. Bacon. It's so nice to see you here. I'm Harun Kazaz with the Turkish Daily News. I want to refer to an article on Turkish -- I'm sorry, in the Washington Post today that a study indicated that the United States did store a number of nuclear weapons without the knowledge of host countries during the Cold War. Was -- is -- Turkey one of those countries? And if so, why did you feel you didn't have to tell the government while you were storing the nuclear weapons?

MR. BACON: Well, as the articles have reported, we have had a long-standing policy worked out in cooperation with our allies around the world to not comment specifically on where we or other NATO allies maintained tactical nuclear weapons. This is a policy that has been implemented and maintained for security reasons primarily but also for political reasons in the host countries as well.

So I can't comment specifically on the location of our stockpiles in any particular country except to say that today we have very limited stockpiles in a very small number of countries, and those stockpiles are maintained with the knowledge, cooperation and consent of the host countries.

MS. RANSOM: Next question. Right back there.

QMr. Bacon, this is Thomas Gorguissian, Al Wafd, Egypt. The Bright Star military maneuvers are going on these days, and it's the largest military operation since the Gulf War, with the size and participation of different countries. What is the purpose or the significance or the importance of such maneuvers nowadays?

MR. BACON: Well first, every year the Bright Star exercise is the largest military exercise since the Gulf War, in terms of number of people and number of countries involved. This isn't the first time we've held the Bright Star military exercise. In fact, my boss, Defense Secretary Cohen, will visit the exercise, I think, over the -- in the next several days. He's over there now.

We have found that we learn and relearn all the time that it's very important for countries of common values and common strategic goals to be able to work together, both militarily and non-militarily. So we have a series of exercises -- some are humanitarian, some are disaster relief, and some are plain vanilla military exercises -- all around the world to help us work better with our friends and allies. And that's really the purpose of the Bright Star military exercise; they allow us to get to know troops from other countries better, and allows them to get to know our working methods and operations better, and it allows us to build trust and cooperation by working together in military exercises.

Egypt has been the host of this military exercise for a number of years; it has been a very generous and accepting and effective host of these exercises. So in short, that's the reason for them.

QMay I follow up?

MR. BACON: Sure.

QIs there any kind of threat specifically targeting, I mean this maneuver is trying to avoid this threat or targeting this threat?

MR. BACON: They aren't designed to discourage a particular threat. It is clear that in 1990 and 1991, when one Arab country invaded another Arab country, a community of nations came together to repel that attack and to roll it back, and we showed that we could cooperate together then. And these exercises show that we're able to pull together, if that were to occur again. But there is not a specific threat in mind, no.

MS. RANSOM: Here's your next question on the left.

QYes, good morning, Mr. Bacon.

MR. BACON: Good morning.

QMohammed Al-Ahmi (ph) with Arab News Network Television. In the Arab world as well, Morocco was mentioned extensively in that story, as you know. Do you know if the U.S. government informed the Moroccan government about these bombs being in Morocco? And in North Africa as well, is the department concerned about the deterioration in the relations with Algeria since some press reports are talking about possible military confrontation between the two neighbors?

MR. BACON: Do you mean between Algeria and Morocco?

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BACON: Well, we are concerned, answering the second question first, about the possibility of a confrontation between the two countries. When Secretary Cohen was in Morocco, I believe a year ago, and met with the late King Hassan, this was one of the topics that came up. And I know that France and other countries would be equally concerned about such a confrontation. We hope that any disputes can be resolved peacefully.

In terms of the nuclear weapons; I am obviously not in a position to confirm where our nuclear weapons were stationed. And I am not enough of an historian over the last 50 years, to be able to say exactly what our relationships were with all the hosts.

But I can tell you that now, in the very limited number of places that we as a member of the NATO alliance have nuclear weapons, is done with the consent of the host countries.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is on the right?


QIt's Maria Luna (sp) with La Nacion from Argentina.

Could you comment on the document that originated this article we're talking about and also the method used by the authors to try to infer which countries had the nuclear weapons?

MR. BACON: Sure.

QIn which countries they were deployed?

MR. BACON: Well -- I mean, the document that they received under a law called the Freedom of Information Act, is a history of our tactical nuclear weapons, between 1945 and 1977, that talks about -- it's about an inch and half thick -- a document that talks about where the weapons were deployed, under what conditions.

And one of the points that the document notes is that we tried to be extremely careful about deploying these weapons. It gives a lot of details about the circumstances of the deployment.

The document was released under the act. But in line with our policy of not releasing specific information about where weapons were kept, that information was redacted or blacked out.

And what the organization, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, did was to make inferences or extrapolations about which countries were included. And they did this by using some alphabetical guesswork. And they assumed that the countries were listed in alphabetical order.

Some of their guesses are wrong. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to discuss which ones are wrong because we can't discuss where the weapons were. But some of their deductions did turn out to be incorrect. So I think you have to take some of this with a grain of salt.

But the basic point that the article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists makes is that at one time during the height of the Cold War, the '50s, '60s and '70s, we did have a large number of tactical nuclear weapons deployed around the world.

And the article also makes the point that that number has decreased dramatically since the height of the Cold War. And as it points out in the last paragraph of the article, and this article is widely available on the Web site. In fact, the Web address is printed in the New York Times today and, I think, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well. As the last paragraph of the article points out that now tactical nuclear weapons are a very small part of our defensive arsenal.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is here, Hoda.


QHoda Tawfik, Al Ahram, Egypt.

Secretary Cohen is stressing during his visit to the Gulf, that he is discussing the Iraqi question. Don't you know -- what really are the points of interest, which Secretary Cohen is stressing on? And is there any new developments, which require this?

And in relation to this, the opposition in Iraq, have they started to get their money or whatever, the equipment, according to the act, Freedom Act?

MR. BACON: Yeah. First of all, Secretary Cohen goes to the Middle East twice a year, as part of normal consultations with friendly governments. He goes to Asia generally twice a year and to Europe several times a year. And he, I think, has visited Latin America at least once every year that he has been in office.

So he carries on very extensive consultations with governments all around the world just to maintain a good relationship. So there is nothing special about this trip to the Middle East. It's one of his semiannual trips.

Second, in terms of Iraq, we and our friends in the Gulf are unified behind the policy of containing Saddam Hussein: containing him, one, from attacking a neighboring county; and, two, from attacking his own people; and three, from marshaling military forces in a way that would be threatening to other nations, whether he attacks them or not; that would destabilize them or frighten them in some way.

That's why we patrol no-fly zones, particularly the southern no-fly zone, to protect against attacks and mobilizations that would lead to attacks in the South. And the northern no-fly zone is mainly patrolled to keep him from attacking Kurdish minorities in the North.

This is basically what Secretary Cohen is discussing, the containment policy. He wants to know their views of how the policy is proceeding. He wants to know their views of what's happening inside Iraq, their views of Iraq's relations with other countries in the Middle East, et cetera.

So it's both getting their views on the situation and having a full discussion of how we think the containment policy is going.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question --

Q (Inaudible.)

Q (Inaudible) -- the opposition?

MR. BACON: The opposition, I am not -- this money is not administered by the Defense Department. I don't believe that money has started to flow to the opposition groups yet. But I am not certain about that, and I will check.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is on the far right.

MR. BACON: Yeah?

QHi, Ken.


QThe last time we spoke about was India and Pakistan nuclear program, at the Pentagon. Now the situation has changed of course: elections in India, the largest democracy in the world; and next door Pakistan again, democracy was killed by a military ruler.

Number one, how do you view the U.S. and Pakistan relations, military to military, today? And also if the Pentagon favors -- administration's willing -- waiver -- military waiver -- some of the military sales to the dictator in Pakistan?

And what do you think, the future?

MR. BACON: Okay.

First of all, we have made it very clear to the Musharraf government in Pakistan that we support a quick return to democracy. And I think that every statement that's been made by President Clinton and everybody else in the government has stressed that.

Second, we have almost no military-to-military relationship with Pakistan. And we have not had much of a relationship since 1990 because of the terms of the Pressler amendment.

The Pressler amendment required us to cut back on military-to-military relationships unless the president, then-President Bush, could certify that Pakistan was not working on nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, both India and Pakistan were working on nuclear weapons.

But as a result of the Pressler amendment, we cut back dramatically on our military-to-military relationship. So we have almost no military-to-military relationship with Pakistan now. In fact, I don't believe there are any programs, exchanges or -- official sales under way at this time, and I don't think there have been for some time.

QJust a quick one to follow.

MR.: (Inaudible) -- the microphone.

MR. BACON: Where is the microphone?

MS. RANSOM: No, the microphone is way over here.

Q (Inaudible.)

QSome unknown official in the State Department suggested that President Clinton who has powers now -- (inaudible) -- given by this Congress; in return to democracy or civilian rule in Pakistan, U.S. should sell some of the arms to the dictator -- I mean, in return, in exchange for civilian rule, which I think he may try under the -- (inaudible) -- that he will be ruler but he may bring some of the civilians in the government?

MR. BACON: Well -- because this State Department official is unnamed -- I of course don't know who it is -- (laughter) -- or exactly what he said -- and I think it would be better not to comment on it.

But I am not aware of any movement right now to resume arms sales to Pakistan.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is right here.

QMalcolm Brown. I am working for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. I have got a question on the subject of land mines.

The U.S. is committed to the replacement of anti-personnel devices by a fixed date. I am wondering how that process is going; can you give us an update on that?

MR. BACON: We're certainly actively pursuing alternative technologies at this stage. I have not reviewed the program recently to be able to give you an update on where that stands, but it's something that is a top-priority program.

MS. RANSOM: The next question is here.

QYes. Good morning. I am Dolia Estevez with El Financiero from Mexico. And I wanted to ask you about the status of the military-to-military cooperation with Mexico.

Back in 1996, it started as a very ambitious, kind of -- unprecedented exchange of equipment; concretely, the 73 helicopters that were returned to the United States by the Mexicans.

Apparently, this created a lot of anger among the Mexican military, to the point that there have been press reports to the effect that they stopped sending personnel to be trained in the United States and that you stopped, or someone stopped, the exchange of drug intelligence, military-to-military drug intelligence.

So I just would like you to clarify what the status of this military cooperation is with the Mexicans and if you would describe it, like some people do, as a "failure"?

MR. BACON: First, I am just not aware enough of the facts to give you a detailed answer to that question. But I can tell you that we continue to have high-level discussions between officials in our building and the Mexican military. I don't think that the relationship is a failure.

As you correctly point out, the relationship started just a few years ago when Secretary Perry went to Mexico. Since then, there have been exchanged high-level visits to the United States.

Secretary Cohen was scheduled to go to Mexico earlier this year but had to cancel because of Kosovo. But he does hope to be able to go to Mexico at another time.

Obviously, we have had some difficulties in the relationship. But I think that we share very common goals, and we share a common view of what is necessary to have security between our two sovereign countries. And we are determined to work with Mexico as well as we can, to advance those goals.

QCould you just concretely say whether there are talks with law-enforcement officials in Mexico to provide them with helicopters -- (inaudible) -- the same?

MR. BACON: I just don't know the answer to that question.

MS. RANSOM: The next question is --

QMr. Bacon, I am Satoru Suzuki of TV Asahi of Japan.

With regard to U.S. bases in Okinawa, Japan; now without going into any specific locations or specific numbers of nuclear weapons, can you confirm that the United States military would have tactical nuclear weapons in Okinawa?

And also about the relocation of Futenma Air Station of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Provincial Assembly in Okinawa passed a resolution last week in support of the relocation of the air base within the prefecture that was basically in line with the agreement between the president and -- (inaudible) -- Prime Minister Hashimoto three years ago.

Now, in the wake of such a resolution, do you think it is more likely that you'll be able to make significant progress in resolving the issue by the end of a year for instance, as called for by Secretary Cohen during his trip to Japan last July?

MR. BACON: In terms of location, I can't go beyond what I said earlier about location. I have nothing to add to what I said.

In terms of the Futenma Air Station, we are committed to making progress on that, but of course it requires decisions by the Japanese government as to where to relocate. And this is a question that has to be resolved in Japan, as well as in the United States. And what Secretary Cohen said, when he was last in Japan, was that we are committed to working aggressively with the Japanese government to resolve this question.

So as you know, there have been a number of plans discussed, and we'll continue to discuss those plans. But we do have to come up with a detailed proposal for relocation, and that's something that has to be done in Japan.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is from the right here.

QGood morning.

MR. BACON: Good morning.

QThis is S.W. Kim from South Korean MBC Television.

When do you expect the investigation into the alleged massacre of South Korean civilians by American soldiers, in the early 1950s, to begin? And do you expect the Pentagon to investigate all the incidents claimed by the South Koreans or the foreign press?

And what about the compensation? I'll appreciate if you state your position more clearly about compensation.

Thanks very much.

MR. BACON: Okay. The investigation has begun, but it's begun in a review-of-documents sense, and we have not yet begun to interview veterans. As you know, what was different about the Associated Press stories was that they actually had gone out and interviewed veterans who had fought in Korea in the summer of 1950 when these alleged events took place. The Associated Press stories contain some conflicting accounts and those will have to be sorted out. But we haven't begun the interviews yet. I can't tell you exactly when we will. This is being handled by the Army. I know that this is serious business. Secretary Cohen has told them that he wants this to be done as quickly as possible. But it's very complex, and we'd rather take the time and do it right rather than do it too hastily. So I can't give you a feeling on that.

In terms of investigating examples beyond Nokuen-Ri, Secretary Cohen has said that the first priority is to investigate the Nokuen-Ri accounts and then we will turn to other alleged episodes. So I think it will be broader than Nokuen-Ri, but how broad I can't tell you at this stage. Some of that may depend on what we learn in the basic Nokuen-Ri investigation, both from the documents we look at as well as from the conversations we have with veterans and with their former commanders.

In terms of compensation, the primary goal now of this investigation is to find out what happened. The Army review is dedicated to just learning what the truth is to the best that we can reconstruct it 49 years after the event, through the haze of fading memory and records that may or may not be completely clear about what happened. So once we figure out what the facts are, then we'll consider the next steps, and certainly compensation would be one of those steps.

MS. RANSOM: Your next question is here.

QMarcel Kalfa (ph) from Radio Canada, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Again about the story in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the article relates an incident over Canadian waters, over the Saint Lawrence River where because of mechanical problems a bomber had to drop a bomb and have it explode over the Saint Lawrence River. What can you tell us about that incident? And the second part, how did the U.S. government explain that incident to the Canadian government?

MR. BACON: I don't know anything more about that than what was in the article. I noticed the citation was, I believe, from an article in a Seattle newspaper, one of the footnotes, as I recall, and maybe that's a place that you could for more information. But I don't have anything more beyond what was in the report.

MS. RANSOM: You have a question on the right.

QMy name is Juurd Eijsvoogel, I'm with Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Mr. Bacon, I'd like to ask you, could you give us an idea of the way that the Pentagon is trying to learn lessons from the Kosovo war? Is there sort of an overall study or systematic study into the effectiveness of strategic decision, effectiveness of certain weapon systems and military approaches that is being undertaken right now?

MR. BACON: There is, and we're probably about half way through it.

Last week Secretary Cohen and General Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on lessons learned from Kosovo. They talked about some of the lessons learned, but they also said that we are continuing with our review in much more detail. Basically, we're trying to reconstruct every single sortie -- what was dropped, where it was dropped, the impact of the strike, whether it hit the target or didn't hit the target, in order to get a very detailed reconstruction of what worked and what didn't work and the circumstances under which they worked.

So some of this has already been done by NATO. We're doing a much more detailed review that essentially is almost a minute-by-minute reconstruction of what happened.

I can tell you that the initial conclusions drawn from the sort of first draft of the after-action review are that NATO functioned extremely well as an alliance. Obviously, we were victorious because of our determination, because of the quality of our weapons and because of the quality of our leadership and the quality of our tactics.

Having said that, there were some shortcomings that need to be addressed both by the United States and by our NATO allies. Those shortcomings are in several fields. One, we did experience some shortages in some of the munitions we used, particularly the so-called "preferred" or precision-guided munitions. I think that in the United States, we took steps to address those shortages during Operation Allied Force, and certainly since Operation Allied Force. So I think that problem to a large extent will disappear.

Second, we need to improve the NATO-wide communications networks that are used during tactical engagements, actually battlefield or airfield communications, through radios, particularly to make them more secure.

Three, we, the United States, and all the NATO allies have to devote more attention to what we call strategic lift or long-range lift; that is, the airlift and sealift that we use to transport troops and equipment over long distances so we can surge a lot of capacity into battlefield supply lines quickly before and during combat engagements.

And another conclusion was that we have to rely much more heavily on what we call UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, drones. Predator is one that was used extensively by the U.S. forces. The French also had drones and I believe the Germans had drones, as well, that were being used. But we all have to devote more attention to developing new generations of high-performance, stealthy, reliable, drones, particularly ones that can somehow penetrate through foliage and through bad cloud cover. So we all were hampered somewhat by the bad weather and by the intense forestation, or foliage, in Kosovo and Yugoslavia. So we're looking for ways that we can penetrate that more effectively in the future.

MS. RANSOM: We have three more questions. One?

MR. BACON: Yes. Oh --

QI'm sorry.

MR. BACON: Here.

QPierre Glachant with Agence France Presse. Do you plan other initiatives in the next weeks to convince the Russians to change their position about the ABM treaty because Moscow, apparently, is not so interested in your proposal of cooperation about the construction of a radar in Siberia.

MR. BACON: The answer is yes. As you know, we've already started that. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott spent some time in Moscow discussing our proposals for a national missile defense system which would require some changes in the ABM treaty. We think the ABM treaty is a fundamental building block of arms control. We want the treaty to continue, but the treaty allows for review and for change and we believe that some changes are appropriate to allow us and Russia to address new threats on the horizon, and those are what we would call possible attacks from rogue nations -- small, limited attacks, certainly, compared with the strategic nuclear attacks that both the Soviet Union and now Russia and the U.S. prepared for over the decades. And I addressed some of those issues earlier, in terms of our strategic deterrence.

So we will continue our discussions. Secretary Cohen, as you know, because you were on the trip, went to Moscow and met with his counterpart, Marshal Sergeyev and -- he, of course, is the former leader, commander of the Strategic Rocket Force in the Soviet Union, so he is very knowledgeable about these issues -- discussed some of the changes we'd like to make. And we will continue to talk with the Russians.

The point we're making is that the system we want to devise, our national missile defense system, should President Clinton decide to deploy it next summer, and the changes we want to make in the ABM treaty do not threaten Russia. What we're building, and what we're proposing, would do nothing to stop the type of attack that Russia could today launch against the United States or any other country in the world.

What we are looking at is a very limited system that could deal with a very small number of warheads coming at us, not the thousands that Russia could launch today under the current limits. So we think this is an important point.

We think that Russia faces some of the same threats we do from emerging nuclear powers, who may not respond to deterrence in the same way that Russia and the United States have. And, therefore, we will continue to talk with them on this.

MS. RANSOM: The next question is on the right.

QHi. My name is Arkadi Orlov. I am with the Russian News Agency RIA. And, Mr. Bacon, my question somehow is related to the previous one.

There are reports that the U.S. administration is offering to Russia some kind of help in the initial missile defense, provided it is deployed. Could you tell something about this? Could you comment on that?

Thank you.

MR. BACON: Well, that is true. What we have -- I think "cooperation" might be a better word than "help."

Russia has an extremely sophisticated strategic rocket force, extremely sophisticated radar technology. Unlike the United States, Russia does have a national missile defense system deployed around Moscow. We don't have one deployed anywhere in the United States now. So Russia has considerable knowledge and skill in this area.

And what we have proposed is ways that the U.S. and Russia could cooperate to address what we believe is a threat to both countries. And some specifics have been published in newspapers recently. I can't -- those types of things have been discussed. I don't believe we have made firm proposals at this stage. Our discussions have been -- these are the types of cooperative events we could look at, the types of cooperation we could approach together. But there are still a lot of decisions that have to be made, both in Moscow and in Washington, on this.

The crucial point is that we see this as a common problem, and we think there are common solutions to this problem; not an American solution vice a Russian solution, but common solutions. And we would like to work with Russia to achieve those solutions.

QWhat are those --

MR. BACON: Well, as I said, some of them have been printed. They could deal with specific radars, they could deal with sharing surveillance technology. One thing that's been discussed publicly many times is the Clinton-Yeltsin proposal for a shared early warning center. Russia has volunteered to establish that center in Moscow.

There have been discussions underway -- on our side they've been conducted by Assistant Secretary of Defense Ted Warner, who has been to Moscow several times to meet with his counterparts on this. These are ways that build on the confidence-building measures that we already have between the two countries. The shared early warning center would have Russian and American technicians sitting together reviewing radar infrared and other data that indicates missile watches, so that we sort of eliminate chances for miscommunication and misunderstanding in crisis situations, whether they're real crises or anomalies that occur sometimes. You know, if there is a gas fire somewhere in the world it can sometimes be picked up on our satellites and misinterpreted as a missile launch. This is a problem that's common to both countries and has happened in the past. And so by having our technicians sitting together, we can quickly sort through these types of potentially scary or destabilizing events. That's one thing that we're looking at, but there are others as well.

MS. RANSOM: Your final question is way in the back.

QPeter Gold from Fuji TV. I have a couple of questions about the naval firing range on Vieques.

MR. BACON: Right.

QThere's been a moratorium on the use of the range since April. I'm wondering if there's any sign of that moratorium being lifted, when that might happen. The Eisenhower Battle Group is supposed to prepare there before they deploy in February. I'm wondering if there's any signs of them being able to do their practice before they deploy, and if not, would they deploy unprepared?

MR. BACON: First of all, as you know, there was a day of hearings yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee where almost every top expert in the world on Vieques testified, including the people who just did the Pentagon report to Secretary Cohen, the governor of Puerto Rico and the secretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations. So I would refer you back to those hearings. I really don't have much to add to that day of hearings. But let me tell you where this issue stands in the Pentagon right now. There was a panel called the Rush Panel which reviewed the Vieques problem and came up with a recommendation, and that recommendation was that -- (audio break) -- cease using Vieques, and obviously that has not yet been accepted by the government of Puerto Rico.

So this is why Secretary Cohen wants to try to discuss the report to see if it can be used as the foundation for some solution to the problem.

MS. RANSOM: Ken, thank you very much for this highly informative briefing.

MR. BACON: Thank you.

MS. RANSOM: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.


Additional Links

Stay Connected