13 May 1998
(Defense secretary calls for broad display of disapproval) (650) By Ralph Dannheisser USIA Congressional Correspondent Washington -- India's action in detonating five nuclear test blasts in the past two days could produce "a chain reaction of other countries following suit" unless it is met with broad-based sanctions, Secretary of Defense William Cohen warned May 13. Stressing the need for a worldwide show of disapproval, Cohen declared that if only the United States and a few other nations react, "the impact would be marginal and the political effect would be negligible. "We need to bring to bear all of the political will, not only in this country, but on the part of our allies," the secretary said. Cohen made his comments in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on defense, shortly after President Clinton spelled out the United States' own plans to impose tough sanctions on India, including a ban on all U.S. assistance other than humanitarian aid. Asked by Senator Richard Shelby (Republican, Alabama) whether he had been surprised by India's action, Cohen replied that "it did come as a surprise," after Indian officials had made "a number of statements...(that were) misleading." Shelby, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has charged a failure of intelligence gathering by U.S. agencies and has scheduled hearings on the issue starting May 14. In the wake of the Indian tests, "there'll be pressure on Pakistan (to follow suit). There'll be other countries who see this as an open invitation to acquire the technology" to produce nuclear weapons of their own, Cohen told the subcommittee. "We have a real proliferation problem globally, and this is only going to make that worse," he said. When Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat, Iowa) said the new development makes it even more urgent to "push ahead on a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT)," Cohen replied, "I agree with you... We ought to accelerate our effort." The secretary described himself as "a strong believer" in quick approval of the CTBT. On another issue, financing of the continuing U.S. military presence in Bosnia, Senator Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska), the subcommittee chairman, questioned the continuing use of so-called emergency funds for the purpose. Noting that fiscal year 1999 would be the fifth year of U.S. involvement there, he said the Clinton administration should now request such funds as straightforward budget items. "We cannot treat the missions for which we're planning to stay for many years as annual emergencies," Stevens said. Senator Pete Domenici (Republican, New Mexico), a subcommittee member who also chairs the Senate Budget Committee, added that a continuing series of emergency funding requests "is making a mockery of the caps" set by Congress and the administration on defense and other spending. Cohen defended the U.S. role in Bosnia, if not the funding mechanism, citing the "demonstrable change for the better as a result of our having been there." He acknowledged that, while he had earlier hoped for completion of the U.S. role there by the end of June, the continuing involvement "no longer can be called an emergency." Thus, he said, costs would have to be budgeted in the next fiscal year. On other questions, raised by Senator Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania), Cohen said: -- He sees no indication that NATO enlargement to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- recently approved by the Senate -- would contribute to the rise of radical elements in Russia. "My personal judgment is that the expansion will not contribute to radicals coming to power," he said. -- Neither he, nor anyone at his direction, has tried to determine whether the Clinton administration's proposal for Israel to turn over another 13 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians would compromise Israel's security. "I have not made an independent analysis with respect to Israel's security," he said.