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Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, NATO Press briefing

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
June 13, 1996 12:35 PM EDT

Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, June 13, 1996, 12:35 p.m. (EDT)

Press Theater, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium regarding the Defense Ministerial and the expansion of NATO.

Secretary Perry: Thank you, Ken. President John F. Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Nineteen ninety-six has a been a year of truly historic change for NATO and these changes do look to the future and the future of NATO is bright. NATO will be stronger and more united. In meeting today, we welcomed the participation of Charles Millon, the Defense Minister of France. NATO will be larger. Expansion is moving along as planned. NATO will continue to expand its zone of stability through the Partnership for Peace. Tomorrow we will be meeting with the defense ministers of the Partner nations to discuss joint activities with these partners. NATO will build a special relationship with Russia. Tomorrow we are meeting in a 16+1 meeting the Russian Minister of Defense Grachev. In the meantime, we have been operating shoulder to shoulder with Russian troops in Bosnia and we're working very effectively with Russia in nuclear disarmament.

NATO will be more flexible. We directed the North Atlantic Council to refine arrangements for the combined joint task forces in the new European security and defense identity. NATO will continue to be a trans-Atlantic alliance. The United States cannot be secure if Europe is not secure and so the United States will continue to play a leading role in NATO.

We have no change, however, in NATO more significant than the creation of IFOR. IFOR is the first major military operation in NATO. It has been an outstanding success. It's demonstrated the ability of the NATO nations to operate with solidarity, and it has demonstrated the value of years of effort in forming the command structure, and training and exercising together, and building common doctrine and standards.

IFOR was established by NATO to carry out the military aspects of the Dayton Agreement. It's halfway through its deployment which will end on December the 20th, as called for in the Dayton Agreement.

I have said already that I believe that IFOR is doing a magnificent job, but I also would point out that it faces substantial challenges in the months ahead; maintaining freedom of movement so that the elections and the refugee resettlement can be carried out adequately. I fully expect that IFOR will complete this mission on schedule at the end of the year. And, I expect it will be a successful mission and that the major draw down of forces will begin about December the 20th.

Many people have raised the question what will happen in Bosnia in 1997? Is there a danger of the war restarting after IFOR leaves? I want to emphasize that, at this meeting, we did not discuss that issue. Indeed, any talk of the structuring of NATO forces in '97 is not only premature but speculative. My own view is that it is unlikely that a war would restart in 1997 because the parties are tired of war. They would not have come to the peace agreement except that they were tired of war, and that the correlation of forces is very different from what it was when the war started years ago.

In any event, the deterrence to that war restarting, implicit in NATO, air is very powerful. All of the former warring factions have had very vivid examples of the capability and effectiveness of NATO air strikes.

Last December when we had our meeting here and then earlier in the year 1996, many people were raising the question, 'what will happen when NATO goes in to Bosnia?' Many people were suggesting that it would meet fierce resistance from the warring factions. NATO entered without fierce resistance, rapidly took control in the country, and, early this year, the questions changed. It's 'what will happen when the spring comes? Will there not be again a resurgence of the war that we have seen every spring for the last five years?'

I think now it is absolutely clear that NATO has broken the cycle of spring offenses that has existed for five years in Bosnia. Bosnia is enjoying the first peaceful spring in five years. Today, you can go Sarajevo, in Mostar and see people sipping coffee in the sidewalk cafes. I'm ready to take questions.

Q: Dr. Perry, I'd like to ask, do you feel that the U.S. role and influence in NATO will diminish somewhat or any with the changes planned in the military structure? And would the United States be willing for a Deputy SACEUR, a European officer, to take control of any European only operations in NATO without answering the U.S. SACEUR?

A: I think the clear lesson from Bosnia is that NATO is a trans-Atlantic alliance and it operates best when we're all together. And, I hope everybody on both sides of the Atlantic has learned that lesson and that NATO continues to operate together on all of its major missions in the future.

The security of Europe is critical to the security of the United States. It's also true that America's involvement in Europe is critical to the security of Europe. I fully expect the United States to be fully, totally engaged in NATO and in European security as far ahead as I can see.

The other question had to do with the --

Q: Sir, in European-only operations, would you be willing for a Deputy SACEUR, a European officer, to take control of such operations without answering to the U.S. SACEUR?

A: I have only, have one strong requirement -- one strong condition -- on any of the restructuring of command structure that's being considered, and that is there has to be a unified command, a single line of command. That is absolutely essential. Within that very important constraint, then, we can consider proposals for changing the structure.

Q: Can you tell me though, from the SACEUR down?

A: Yes.

Q: Thank you. Your Excellency, will this special relationship with Russia, would it be established under a protocol base or a charter as Chancellor Kohl proposed in Berlin? And, if so, could you cite some of the principles of this charter if this is the case? Thank you?

A: Could you repeat the question, I didn't understand it?

Q: Yes, sorry. You said in your speech about a special relationship with Russia. I would like to know if this special relationship will be established under a protocol base or a charter and if so, could you say some of the principles of this charter?

A: Thank you. We have today, NATO has today a special relationship with Russia. It is manifested in the operation that we have going on in Bosnia and it includes Russian officers at SHAPE Headquarters in Mons. There's a team of Russian officers working there. And, we have discussed the possibility of making an institutional arrangement. It's based on this special arrangement that's already been established in Bosnia.

In other words, using the working arrangement that has been established for Bosnia as a model in making a permanent institutional arrangement from that. That has not been decided yet, but that is one of the things we will discuss with the Russians in the months ahead.

Q: Secretary Perry, in your opinion, can free and fair elections be held in Bosnia without the detention of Radovan Karadzic?

A: Several comments about the elections in Bosnia. The first is that we have very clear inputs from a great majority of the Bosnian people that they want elections and that they believe fair elections can be held. I want to emphasize that point because if time, if you look at the fundamental issues here, we are trying to provide a security arrangement and a government of the people of Bosnia. Their opinion is a very important input on that.

Secondly, the election is three months away. We have much to do between now and then, not only in terms of the physical arrangements necessary for the elections but in terms of increasing the security, increasing the freedom of movement, all of which IFOR is working very hard on today; that is, all the security aspects of it IFOR is working very hard on today. I am confident that we will reach the conditions in September, which will make real elections possible, and it will be to the great benefit of the Bosnian people.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, George Fraiz, Hungarian News Agency. I wonder what's your assessment, how long will it take to complete the adaptation of the NATO structure? I put the question because Defense Minister Charles Millon said, during his press conference, that the enlargement of the NATO could be [inaudible] seriously just after, when the adaptation was finalized. I would be grateful if you could say that you share of this view or not?

A: That question is going to be considered seriously at the December meeting, the Minister's meeting, and it's premature for me to forecast what will come out of that. I would expect what would come out of that meeting is a clearer plan, a clearer schedule, a clearer course of action on moving forward on NATO expansion. But, it is up to the Ministers at that meeting to specify the sequence of actions and the schedule by which those will be held. I would not want to speculate at this time on what that schedule would be.

Q: When you speak about the unity of command, am I correct in understanding that whatever European operation within NATO, would be subject to SACEUR authority, is that correct?

A: The unity of command means unity of command, which means that any force, any military force, any military operation, has a single chain of command. We have discussed ways -- and the command in the NATO military authorities will be posing different ways -- of effecting operations separate from the overall NATO operations. They will have their own chain of command and it would be a unified chain of command.

Q: Dr. Perry, one of the reasons it's been quiet in Bosnia has been the strictly enforced zone of separation. Yet, in the long run, clearly it must go away. When do you see Bosnia reaching the point where it's no longer needed?

A: That's very difficult to forecast, Steve. The zone of separation has performed an invaluable function in separating the forces. That has been a key to the cease fire; that is, to the remarkably successful conduct of IFOR to this point, and to the Bosnian people being able to live in relative peace. It is very difficult to say when that will be -- when that could be dispensed with, but it is important to note that this is an inter- entity boundary line. It is not an international boundary and every day, literally every day, even today within this zone of separation, thousands of people cross back and forth over that inter-entity boundary line, and that has to do with the freedom of movement that we've been discussing.

Q: Would you envision it still being enforced once the IFOR mission is complete?

A: I envision that the, as I said, that it will be not become an international boundary and the people will be free to move back and forth across that boundary-line.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that the success of IFOR to date. Has that success, in your mind, created a sense of unity among the 16 members needed to reach what may be a difficult decision this fall about the post-IFOR environment?

A: I think, without question, that the success of the IFOR operation both was a consequence of the solidarity, of the NATO nations and helped build solidarity. and it reinforced in all of our minds the importance of operating together at 16 and dealing with all important issues at 16. I believe that's going to influence our thinking in all future decisions we make, particularly any decision involving a major military operation.

Q: Thank you.

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