USIS Washington File

08 February 2000


(Defense Secretary Cohen says nuclear weapons needed to prevent
potential blackmail) (1,050)
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent

Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen says the United States will
continue to rely on nuclear deterrence to ensure that neither this
nation nor its allies will ever be in a position of being blackmailed.

Cohen told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee on February 8
that nuclear deterrence is needed, even if a National Missile Defense
system is deployed in the future, "to tell any nation that would seek
to threaten the United States that they could expect a retaliatory
strike that would destroy their country."

Cohen's comments came as he was responding to comments by Committee
Chairman John Warner (Republican, Virginia), who pointed out that the
secretary had spent considerable time explaining to European allies in
Germany on February 6 why the United States is researching and testing
elements of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system that would defend
the continental United States from a limited ballistic missile attack.

The secretary said he continues to evaluate a number of factors that
he must consider before making recommendations to President Clinton on
whether or not to deploy an NMD system. These factors include the
threat to the United States, technological feasibility, cost, as well
as arms control and diplomatic considerations. Cohen said the
threshold "will soon be crossed" when the possible threat of a
ballistic missile attack will dictate the need for an NMD. He said
funding -- $1.9 billion -- had been added to the new fiscal year 2001
defense budget that would allow the president to proceed with a system
if he decides to do so later this summer.

On the technological side, the secretary said program experts are
awaiting the outcome of test results in the coming months. The last
NMD test in January failed in its final few seconds, but Cohen
expressed confidence in the science and technology of the proposed
system. He said an upcoming test in April will help determine "how
fast the technology has matured."

On the diplomatic front, he said President Clinton and others must
calculate the impact of an NMD program on U.S. relations with European
allies and Russia because a limited NMD system would require amending
the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Both Russia and China have
been vocal in criticizing NMD, Cohen said.

He said he had sought to explain in a variety of forums abroad that
"what we contemplate in the way of a National Missile Defense no way constitutes a threat to the Russian strategic
systems, that it will not result in any decoupling from our European
friends, it will not diminish their strategic systems." He said he had
made a dedicated effort to meet with European allies and lay out
exactly what the United States intends to do if it goes forward with

During a hearing that was scheduled to consider the Clinton
administration's FY 2001 defense budget, several committee members
questioned either European defense spending levels or the level of
European commitment in Kosovo.

"Many members in this committee have spoken in the past about the need
for the Europeans to do more as far as defense spending is concerned,"
Cohen said. "You should look with some anxiety and some criticism at
the level of spending that's taking place in Europe." He went on to
say, "I come to you to ask you for additional funding. You will, in
all probability, support that, if not more. But then you look across
the Atlantic and you look at their budgets and they're cutting their
budgets. And I have tried to convey to our European friends that
ultimately that has a political consequence. You cannot expect the
American people to keep supporting our forces to make sure that they
are the most modern and capable while you continue to see your budgets

Cohen also said he has sought to convey to the Europeans that if they
are going to bolster their defense capabilities through the European
Security Defense Initiative (ESDI), for example, they need to ensure
that their capabilities are completely consistent with NATO
obligations. This message needs to be conveyed repeatedly, at the
highest levels, he said.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, who also testified at
the hearing, expressed his concern about "the slow pace of civil
implementation in Bosnia and the glacial pace of progress in Kosovo."
U.S. military personnel in those two locations are neither trained nor
equipped to "police the large civil societies in both Bosnia and
Kosovo or perform other functions that are normally associated with an
executive, a legislative or a judicial branch of government," he said.
The military official then stressed the importance of continuing "to
press the international community and the donor nations to meet their
obligations" there.

Senator Warner captured much of the sentiment of the discussion on
defense burdensharing when he told Cohen and Shelton, "you've heard,
far beyond my expectations, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle
express their concerns and a growing concern throughout this committee
about the failure of our allies, the European Community, other
organizations, to pull their share."

Cohen urged consistency, however. "We can't on the one hand continue
to pound on the door of the Europeans to do more, and then when they
undertake to do more by setting up an ESDI, say that we think that
that is somehow going to break the trans-Atlantic link."

There are ways preserve that trans-Atlantic link," he said, "and
that's the reason why we have to have openness, transparency, to
integrate the EU (European Union) with NATO planning, with meetings
that we have in Brussels and so forth, so we don't see any drift away
for Europe to create a separate, independent, autonomous military
capability which is not linked to the NATO umbrella." Cohen also made
the point that "we ought to encourage the Europeans to do more, as we
have, and then when they undertake to do it -- praise them -- just to
make sure that it doesn't drift off into something that would be
inimical to our own interests."

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State.)