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Secretary Perry at NATO - Wednesday, December 18, 1996 - 10:45 a.m. (EST)

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
December 19, 1996 10:45 AM EDT

Wednesday, December 18, 1996 - 10:45 a.m. (EST)

Brussels, Belgium]


Secretary Perry: Three years ago, when I became the American Secretary of Defense, there were two events that coincidentally happened, which define both the hopes and the fears for not only America, but the whole world, in the security field.

At the NATO Summit, in January of 1994, the Allied leaders agreed to transform and expand NATO and build a new model for the future security of Europe. At that time they launched the Partnership for Peace, which more than anything expressed our hopes for a stable, secure future in Europe.

Just a month later, there was a mortar attack in a Sarajevo market that killed dozens of people, and that event -- more than anything else -- exposed the fear that not only the war in Bosnia would continue with this tragic toll of life, but the fear that that war could expand and become a wider war in Europe.

In the last three years, NATO has realized its hopes and quieted its fears. NATO is widening Europe's security circle: twenty-seven members of the Partnership for Peace work shoulder to shoulder with NATO countries in peacekeeping and other exercises; and sixteen of these nations are shoulder to shoulder with NATO in Bosnia. The Alliance is preparing to accept new members, and NATO has started a security dialogue with Russia that is leading towards a NATO/Russia charter. NATO has stopped the killing in Bosnia. And, IFOR has enforced that peace now for the last year. These accomplishments have created a relevance and a vitality in NATO that few predicted three years ago. They also showed that the trans-Atlantic partnership between Europe and the United States remains strong, and fundamental to a secure Europe.

Despite these achievements, NATO continues to face difficult challenges. We made important progress on many of these issues at this meeting. We made important progress in Bosnia in the historic decision that authorized the new Stabilization Force, effective this Friday. We agreed that a stronger police force is necessary so that the indicted war criminals can be brought to justice. We had important discussions and important decisions on adaptation. We have much work to do ahead of us, but where we stand today, compared to three years ago, is truly remarkable and all of the NATO members can be very proud of those achievements.

With those opening comments, I'd be happy to take questions.

Q: Dr. Perry, two quick questions. Number one, do you see Russian foot dragging in the inability to get an immediate agreement to exchange officers? And are you worried about a charter before the Summit? And, American officials are saying that Defense Ministers, in general, agree with your push for an international police force to pursue war criminals in Bosnia, except that they disagree on how to do it. Is that true? Would the United States take part in such a police force?

A: There's two pretty big questions there, Charlie. Let me try to deal with the first one.

I have to look at the U.S./Russia relationship in the perspective of the last few years: we do have soldiers serving shoulder to shoulder in IFOR; we have important disarmament programs underway in START I and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; we have -- under START and under our Comprehensive Threat Reduction program -- in the last few years, reduced 4,000 nuclear warheads that have been deployed, and dismantled 800 launchers. In addition to that, three nations -- Kazakstan, Belarus, and Ukraine -- which formerly were nuclear nations are no longer nuclear. All of that has come as a result of cooperation between the United States and Russia or NATO and Russia.

We have now the 16-plus-1 meetings -- this is now a routine event, a normal security dialogue between NATO and Russia. Those are the positive things.

What we have to achieve yet? We have, first of all, to get the START II -- a very important goal, and we have not achieved much progress in that goal in the last year. So, that's to be done yet. I have expressed before optimism we will achieve that goal next year, but we don't have that in our pocket yet.

We need to establish the liaison officers. We did not agree on that today. We will discuss that as part of a broader charter between NATO and Russia. The Secretary General told you that we're beginning work on that charter. He is optimistic that we will come together. We do not have it yet.

So, we have accomplished much in the last few years on the NATO/Russia relationship as well as the U.S./Russia relationship, but we have a lot more to do. Still to do: START II; liaison officers; and charter. We're making progress towards those, and we have some reason to be optimistic that we'll accomplish all three of those this year.

On the war criminals question, there was no formal action taken at this meeting relative to the war criminals, but there was a clear agreement that bringing these indicted war criminals to justice is an important mission. But the Ministers also agreed that this is not -- this was not an IFOR mission, it will not be an SFOR mission. They agreed that locating and arresting the criminals is a mission for a police force.

The SFOR -- Stabilization Force -- would need to coordinate closely with any such police force, and it also would have to maintain a secure environment. If a police force were out operating and arresting criminals, this could create a civil disturbance, and SFOR would have to deal with that disturbance. But we made a clear distinction between the police functions, which are not a function of SFOR, and providing the secure environment, which is a function of SFOR. And, we also -- there was strong agreement among all of the Ministers who spoke on the subject, that we cannot turn our backs on this problem; that bringing these indicted war criminals to justice is an important mission, but it is not an SFOR mission.

Q: To follow up on both those points. Firstly, how dismayed are you when senior Russian officials, like Minister Rodionov, who we've just heard from, come to NATO and state in very blunt terms the possible negative consequences of NATO enlargement? And secondly, on the war criminals question, with respect .... It is all very vague and "airy-fairy." Isn't the real question not who arrests war criminals; the real question is do you want them arrested? Once NATO decides -- or the international community decides -- that it should arrest war criminals, irrespective, perhaps, of the consequences on the ground, then it is a subsidiary question who actually or what uniform, as it were, the people arresting them are actually wearing.

A: We do not consider it a subsidiary question, who does the arresting. We consider it a fundamentally important question that NATO, IFOR, and now SFOR do not perform police functions. This is not a military function. We also consider it important that these indicted war criminals be brought to justice. We understand that that's going to create a security problem, and that SFOR has to be prepared to deal with that problem.

Now, it is clear not only from the discussion today with Minister Rodionov, but I have talked with dozens, if not hundreds, of Russians on this question of NATO enlargement -- at all levels of the government, all levels of their society -- and it is absolutely clear that there is a broad and a deep perception in Russia that NATO expansion is a threat to them, which implies, as the Secretary General said, that they believe that NATO is a threat. This perception is wrong. To deal with this problem, we have to find a way of correcting this misperception. That requires NATO action and it requires Russia action. We said that very plainly to Minister Rodionov today.

The actions that NATO has taken to correct this misperception: we have substantially reduced the size and the forward deployment of our military forces in NATO -- for example, going from more than 300,000 American troops in Western Europe to 100,000; we have eliminated 90 percent of our theater nuclear forces in NATO; we have held out a hand in partnership to Russia through the Partnership for Peace; we work together with Russia in Bosnia, through IFOR and then, as of this Friday, through SFOR. In addition to that, NATO has offered assurances to Russia, relative to the accession of new members. The Secretary General reviewed those with you -- the three "no's," I won't repeat them now.

What remains to be done, yet -- but this requires Russian cooperation -- is the establishment of the military liaison office; the establishment of a charter; and, I think most importantly, what I told Mr. Rodionov today, the Russian leaders must explain these facts to the public to allay their fears. There is no doubt that these fears, as Minister Rodionov said, that these fears are widely held in the Russian public; but it requires, I think this puts a responsibility on Russian leaders to try to get across to their public the facts which I've just described to you, to allay their fears.

Q: Mr. Secretary, during his press conference Mr. Solana, the Secretary General, seemed to qualify NATO's intentions. He said, at the Summit, NATO may identify new members, and they might be new members by the end of the century.

Is there a risk that no countries would be identified for enlargement at the Summit, and there would be no new countries that would qualify for NATO membership? Is that a risk at all?

A: There are two important decisions that have to be made. First of all, the decision by the heads of state at the Summit -- and I would not care to forecast for you what those decisions will be. I know what my recommendation to them would be, but I cannot forecast what their decision will be.

Secondly, even if the heads of state make the decisions, the parliaments of each of those 16 countries plus the parliaments of the countries that want to join NATO have their decisions to make -- that could take several years, and it is by no means ... It is not a pro forma operation. These parliaments will look seriously at the question of the security commitments they are taking on. I know that in the United States, where we require two-thirds-plus-one approval of the U.S. Senate, that there will be very substantial debate and very serious discussion of the commitment that the United States has taken on by doing this.

So, my only point on this is that this is not a pro forma. There's a very difficult and complex decision process ahead of us, and I would not want to try to forecast the outcome of it.

Thank you.

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