Background Briefing

Thursday, December 2, 1999
Subject: Subject: Defense Ministerials, Dec 2-3, 1999 at NATO Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
Presenter: Attributable to Senior American Defense Official

As you know, the meetings this morning had three parts, first, the Nuclear Planning Group, second, the Defense Planning Group, the Defense Planning Committee and then finally, the first session of the North Atlantic Council and Defense Ministerial Session.

The main topic, which was discussed in the NPG, the Nuclear Planning Group, was a quite detailed presentation by the United States on the growing ballistic missile threat from rogue states.

Before that briefing was presented, however, Secretary Cohen made a point which I think is appropriate to repeat here--which, there was a press report about a month ago that at this meeting he would announce the withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. Secretary Cohen made clear that press story is entirely without foundation and is entirely false. The strategic concept commits the alliance to continuing to maintain nuclear, as well as, of course, conventional forces and the United States will continue to maintain it's contribution in that connection. We then presented a briefing on the emerging ballistic missile threat which was based on the material in the National Intelligence Estimate which was released sometime ago in the United States, which represents our best assessment, based on all available evidence of the state of this threat. The briefing, of course, was classified in a somewhat I don't know what the right adjective is, the NATO classification which always seem to me to be particularly secret. However, the essence of the material, but not all the evidence which was presented to Ministers is available in the unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate. Copies of that of course are available for those who want it. But the essence of the conclusion of the analysis that North Korea is embarked on a rapidly moving program to develop long range ballistic missiles, the test last year of the Taepo Dong I is a sign of the degree which they have made substantial progress. They're working on a so-called, Taepo Dong II, Taepo Dong is place in North Korea. Taepo II missile which will have range to reach large parts of the United States, and indeed, Europe, and there is some indication they are working on a longer range system that which would be able to reach large parts the United States and in all of Europe with a nuclear pay load. In addition, North Korea has a very high propensity to export, so that in addition whatever threat that North Korea presents directly to the United States, it's allies and the Far East, in principle, at least, to Europe, I think we have to be prepared for the possibility that North Korea would sell the missile technology, missile components, and conceivably the missiles themselves, to other countries, so those threats, those countries would then have the capabilities that North Korea would have.

I should say that North Korea has agreed, and is now compiling with that agreement to suspend actual flight tests of it's long range missiles. It is, however, and this was presented in the briefing this morning, continuing other aspects of the program, the program is by no means halted.

Iran has indigenous program; in additional to whatever potential that would be for acquiring finished product from North Korea, Iran has an indigenous program with substantial foreign assistance, which is not as far along as the North Korean program, but is proceeding, and within, say the next decade, would be able to have long range missiles capable in different variations, of reaching all of NATO territory, including, obviously, Europe as well as the United States and Canada. The message of the briefing was that the treat is real, the evidence is there, these are real programs with real potential to threaten both the forces of NATO in operations, in addition to substantial theater missile programs, but also the populations of the NATO countries. The way the discussion has been broken up, the discussion this morning focused almost entirely on the state of the threat.

In the Minister's lunch later today they will also talk about the U.S. consideration of the possibility of deploying a National Missile Defense to protect the United States against these threats. About the negotiations which we are engaged in with the Russian to up date the ABM treaty and, in course of that, the central point is that the defense, which the United States is considering, and I should make the point, the President has not made at this point a decision on deployment, but the defense which we are considering is not only not designed to counter the Russian deterrent, it represents no threat to that deterrent simply by reason of scale. The rogue state threats that we are talking about are on the order of, even when reasonably well developed, perhaps a few tens of warheads, Russia has now thousands, and even if you assume quite substantial reductions, either as a result of future arms control or simple economic pressures, it would still have a force which could, for better or for worse, could without any difficulty at all, overwhelm the defense that we are talking about. The United States is strongly committed, first of all, to consulting with our friends and allies on these issues. We know that there are concerns and questions and these meetings today are an important part of that process of consultation. And, we are also committed to working very hard with the Russians to do what the ABM treaty provides for, which is to update it's provision in light of the changing strategic situation.

In the discussion the DPC it certainly up to Secretary General Robertson to make his own announcements about what he said. But I think it is no secret that he had prepared and circulated and delivered a very blunt statement that NATO members are not meeting the ambitious goals which have been set. Goals which are ambitious, but are necessary for NATO forces to be able to carry out the missions that they will face in the future. And the NATO members must devote more money to defense, and change the priorities, which they spend the money they do devote to defense, in order to correct what he calls, serious imbalances of capabilities among the various NATO members. Unsurprisingly, Secretary Cohen echoed that report, that assessment, and commended him for his candid recognition of the problems, which exists. He identified areas, which we knew before Kosovo, were problem areas, but which Kosovo confirmed as problem areas, such things as transportation and mobility, electronic warfare, and precision guided munitions. He also laid stress on a problem which, fortunately, we didn't have to face Kosovo, but we have to assume we could face in many future conflicts, which is preparation for chemical and biological warfare and for fighting in that enviroment.

He also noted that the operation Allied Force, the Kosovo operation, revealed deficiencies, not only in European contributions, but in the United States, and outlined the improvements which we're taking in such areas as strategic lift and additional precision-guided munitions, to meet our own requirements. Again, without characterizing particular members, particular allies' comments, there was general agreement that, while it is difficult to find additional resources for defense, owing to different competing priorities, it is essential that we do so. And, that more cooperation and efficiency in pooling arrangements would make spending more productive. I think it was one of the frankest and most useful discussions of the issue of defense priorities and defense programs that NATO has held in a good long time.

The final session, which was actually still continuing when we came over to do this briefing, is an update on the situation in the Balkans with briefings by the chairman of the military Admiral Venteroni, by the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, British General Sir Ruppert Smith, and I should say that the reason that General Clark is not here is he has a family emergency which requires that he and his wife go back to the United States. And, a briefing by German General Rhienhardt, who is the commander of the forces in Kosovo. Just to summarize very briefly, the events which were noted in Bosnia, the SFOR is being reduced from something over 30,000 now to something just under 20,000 by April, and there will be a further review of required force levels next spring. In Kosovo, there has been great progress on the military side, and the security situation has greatly improved, not only relative to what it was when the war ended, but what it was a few weeks and months ago. However, very serious problems persist, there are sharply conflicting visions by the two big communities, the Albanians and the and Serbs, as to the future of Kosovo, and as everyone knows, there continue to be, both efforts by the Serbs, to in effect, to establish cantons within Kosovo which would be exclusively Serbs and efforts by some Serbs, and efforts by some Kosovar Albanians, in effect, to establish ethnically pure Albanian entity. I think with that, simply to make the observation that there is a lot left to do in Kosovo. Security is improving, a start has been made on the reconstruction, of the beginning of the building of a political process, but there is a lot to do. Some of those requirements were outlined in the briefing and subsequent discussion. With that background, I will be happy to take your questions.

Q: Among the concerns of the allies, perhaps the top concern from the allies, that Russia's warning that if the ABM treaty is not changed, and is refusing to change it thus far, that it could, would, withdraw support of the START and other arms treaties. And the whole arms control regime could come down like a house of cards. I noticed in the communiqué, it says, all allies support the central treaties related to disarmament and non-proliferation, was there a push to put that in there? Do the Allies want to make it very clear?

A: Nobody has to push, if the implication is to push the United States to agree to that language, no. That states our view as well. We believe that there is nothing incompatible between our concern with the growing rogue state ballistic missile threat and continued strategic stability and the arms control process. Indeed, one of the elements that we are talking to the Russians about is how future offensive arms control should proceed. Now, we have a problem in that the Russians have not ratified the START II agreement, which makes it difficult to proceed to further agreements. But we have had, as you know, some discussions--not negotiations--but some discussions about the shape of the future of strategic offensive arms control. And I acknowledge that there is an issue of how that would relate to an updated ABM treaty, but there is no reason why you cannot have a system in which the kind of limited defenses the United States is thinking about can coexist with a state of full strategic stability and, indeed, substantial further reductions on strategic offensive arms.

Q: Well, to follow up briefly, if the Russians make clear, if they don't change the ABM treaty and the United States decides that it's in its national interests to back out of the treaty in order to establish this defense, will the United States go ahead and do it even--even if it risks the arms control process?

A: Our position now is that we believe that there is no reason why we should have to face that choice or why the Russians should have to face the consequences of that choice. And that it will be our effort in the coming months to reach an agreement in the areas we've discussed. The treaty provides what it provides; there's no question about that. But that our position and our goal and, indeed, our expectation is that we will be able to reach a resolution of this issue by negotiation.

Q: Two things. First of all, can you give us some ideas as to how the warnings about serious deficiencies remaining went down with the nations it was aimed at, and secondly, the French and the Germans have offered the Euro Corps as a potential future headquarters in KFOR, thoroughly under NATO operational control. What's the U.S. feeling about Euro Corps under NATO control running Kosovo?

A: We have no objection in principle to it. We believe that Euro Corps or any other headquarters--it would be the Euro Corps headquarters--has to be militarily effective, and also, as is the case with the ARC and with LANDCENT, would have to be reasonably...would have to include officers from countries that are...I don't want to make this more complicated than it has to be. ARC was a largely British headquarters when it went to Kosovo, officers from countries that were participating...

Q: It would have to be augmented.

A: It would have to be augmented--that's exactly right. The same thing would be true of the Euro Corps, and this is something we would be prepared to discuss. I don't want to put a particular time on when, if indeed ever, it's appropriate to do that. But it's not something we have an objection to in principal.

Q: And on the reactions?

A: Oh, I'm sorry--on the reactions. Again, I don't want to characterize what other governments said, but I think in general it is the case that nobody seriously disputes that these deficiencies exist. And that these are the critical deficiencies. Some countries put higher priority on some than on others, but I think no one disputes the basic description, and no body seriously disputes that while there has been important progress in a number of areas, there's a lot less to do. I thin the questions have more to do with whether it is unfeasible in particular countries' economic and political situations to be expect to be able to find significant additional resources for defense. Or even in some countries, whether it will be possible to avoid further cuts.

One of the points which Secretary Cohen made was that almost all the NATO allies--quite rightly--made very substantial cuts in their defense budgets as a result of the end of the Cold War, but we're now--in some sense on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the wall, it has been substantially 10 years since the huge changes kind of began to really gather momentum. And the time when it was safe and prudent to cut defense as a way of meeting other needs has passed. And I think that's a general sense.

Q: Your Secretary of Defense made a point in Hamburg yesterday...he went out of his way to emphasize the importance of National Missile Defense. Is this something that is actually being recommended to the Europeans as a model to follow? Something to do themselves?

A: No. What he said yesterday...I don't think he went out of his way. I suppose Hamburg is in some sense out of the way, but other than that I don't think he went out of the way. Big, delightful city--not out of the way at all!

I think what he said was nothing any different than what has been said now repeatedly by American spokesmen in a number of contexts. The specific European reference--it is the fact, as the briefings demonstrated this morning, that this is potentially a problem for Europe as well as for the United States and our Asian allies and our allies in the Middle East and so on. What he said yesterday was if the Europeans decide to, that is the question of the European program as something they would have to decide whether they were interested in, either individually or collectively, and obviously will discuss...we discuss in the Alliance subjects people are interested in, and we would prepared to discuss it. We are not by any means pushing the idea; it's a decision for the Europeans.

Q: What percentage of the GDP do you think would be appropriate for the NATO member countries to devote to the defense purposes?

A: NATO has consistently avoided trying to set a target percentage. The number's a calculable number. The average is on the order of two percent of GDP. And I think it is fair to ask when countries are significantly below average, what is the justification for that. And there are some justifications, and I don't dispute that. Every country starts with a historical base, and I know in the case of the three new members that there is a conscious program over a period of time to building that to approximately he NATO average and in those cases it sees to be appropriate. But we have not, and we don't propose to say that every allied country must spend exactly the same, or indeed over a range of the same percentage of GDP on defense. There are different concerns. There are different--indeed, to some degree there are differences on issues like conscription and so on will produce a difference in amounts of spending, differences in countries with big internal security responsibilities as in the case of the United States, large responsibilities outside the European area will spend different amounts. It's not a question of if there's a precise target for GDP percentage. But that each country needs--in looking at it's own national priorities to bear in mind that in the current, still unsettled securities situation in Europe, it is appropriate to at least maintain, and where economic and other conditions permit, to increase defense spending to the very limited degree that would be necessary to meet the targets that NATO has set.

Q: I believe you said that the system we're contemplating would handle a few tens of incoming warheads. Did you give the Europeans today some indication of how many missiles would be involved in a system such as we're contemplating?

A: We haven't said, because...but it's a matter of public record, but the first phase of the first phase deployment would involve--assuming it were approved--would involve a hundred interceptors based in Alaska and, obviously, if the system is perfect, which of course it will be, it will only...a hundred interceptors will only intercept 100 war heads at best.

Q: We heard that it should be an article on Chechnya in Final Communiqué--have you already discussed Chechnya?

A: The short answer to that is no, and although I've read most of the draft communiqué, I haven't read the part on Chechnya if there is one. So people will have to address that later on. I'm sorry--I honestly don't know. There will be a discussion on that issue at a subsequent part of that meeting. On the situation in general.

Q: So, I guess it's too early to talk about troop reductions in Kosovo?

A: It's too early to talk about troop reductions in Kosovo, but obviously, we will review the force levels which are required, as time goes forward. But we've been there less than six months.

Q: Is that going to be on a timetable like you did with the forces in Bosnia?

A: There has not been any timetable set for that, no. At the appropriate time, we'll look at the force level. None of the allies have any desire to keep larger forces there than are required.

Q: Irrespective of whether Euro Corps headquarters goes to Kosovo or not, can you envision a time when America might decide to leave Kosovo to Europeans only and withdraw...

A: Well, I can envision a lot of things, but that in of itself is not an objective. I might suppose at some point when Bosnia and Kosovo have been fully stabilized in security terms, there may be very different arrangements from what we have now, but that's not something which is on the U.S. agenda at this point. It's a perfectly reasonable question, it's just not on the agenda.

Q: Bearing in mind what you were saying about spending, do you believe in Europe's plans which may emerge from Helsinki to build an available force of 50,000 or so troops? And if you believe in that idea, do you have any concerns about it?

A: I certainly have to concerns about it. One of the points which many Europeans make on this is that--no disrespect to Turkey, but even leaving Turkey out since it's not in the EU and has a big army--Europe has got something like half again as many troops in on active duty status as the United States. It's something on the order of 1.8 million people. Therefore, the idea that Europe should be able to deploy 50 or 60,000 on a sustainable basis is very important. It would be nice, it would be a good thing to be able to do it, but it's not the kind of unreasonable unreachable target. It seems to us any entirely appropriate...I mean, it's not for us to say what the specific European goal should be, but it seems to be a perfectly appropriate target.

Q: You say you're not concerned about it, but Strobe Talbot was quoted in London some weeks ago saying that they're concerned about a force growing from within NATO and out with NATO to compete with NATO.

A: Well, we would be very concerned, as I think many Europeans would be if the idea was to build a separate European military capability, separate and distinct and duplicative of what NATO does. But that is not what the European countries are talking about. What they're talking about--as I understand--what they say in their communiqués, what they say to us when they talk to us about it, is the capability for Europe to decide and act on its own, in conditions--situations--where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged. And that is an objective which we understand the rationale for and have no difficulty with. We would certainly be concerned at an effort to create a separate and distinct capability and force. But that is not what we understand to be under consideration.

Q: Has the Secretary referred to the possible problem of the new Russian doctrine? Especially I mean the possibility that they will [inaudible] nuclear arms? What is the U.S. stand on this and how can it complicate the whole business?

A: On Ken Bacon's advice, I left that out as a detail people wouldn't be interested in, but I'm very glad you asked the question.

In addition to the other briefings, Frank Miller gave a briefing on the new Russian military doctrine as it applies to nuclear weapons. The sum and substance of that briefing is that in 1993, the Russians formally abandoned the pretense which the Soviet Union had had as a matter of declaratory policy of not using nuclear weapons first. In fact, as we know from the documents which became available in Eastern Europe and indeed from statements by Russians, they never actually had any such policy; they just said they did.

Subsequently, there have been three different versions of Russian military doctrine--each of which has said in one form or another that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first and in response to various contingencies, including an overwhelming conventional attack which threatens the existence of the Russian republic. It would be unseemly for NATO to denounce that doctrine, because it does bear some resemblance to another nuclear doctrine, which was advocated at various points in the past.

I think the issue is not whether the Russians rely on nuclear weapons for deterrence, including for deterrence of an overwhelming conventional attack. That in of itself is neither new nor surprising nor anything to criticize. The question is whether the Russians are prepared, as we hope they are--and as they purport to be in principal--to carry on working on a system of arms control for strategic stability and the real conditions that apply now as contrasted to those conditions that applied during the Cold War.

Q: [inaudible] and a second question about this missile threat--when do you expect North Korea exactly to be able to attack, and did Secretary Cohen mention any other states, or just North Korea and Iran?

A: To answer the second question first. What the NIE says is that the North Koreans would be able to test the so-called Taepo-Dong II missile at any time. They have made an agreement not to do so pending discussions, but they haven't agreed not to do it ever. So they could do a test at any time.

One of the points that was made in the National Intelligence Estimate and was, of course, repeated in the briefing is that with the rogue states we're not talking about a missile system, a missile capability like the United States and the Soviet Union, and indeed, Britain, France and China developed during the Cold War--that is, an extensively tested, carefully prepared system. The North Koreans began selling the so-called No-Dong missile after one test and have deployed it, after, as far as we know, only one test they just did. There have been other tests of variants.

So that we have to assume that within a very few years, and I think the intelligence estimate is likely by the middle of the decade, North Korea will have the capability to send a payload to at least parts of the United States. Exactly how much of the United States would be covered by that threat depends upon some technical details of how they structure the program.

And now with respect to the three new members of the Alliance: They do have defense spending which is somewhat below the NATO average. One of the discussions at the time Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became members of the Alliance was the need to fundamentally reform their militaries, which is the most important part of it, but in that connection, to establish a program over a period of time gradually to increase the level of spending to get it nearer or to the sort of range of the NATO average at the time they joined. My understanding is that those programs are going forward.

Q: We were talking about in relation to gross domestic product, but how about spending within the defense budget for equipment and infrastructure?

A: You're quite right. Not just for the three new members, but for all the members of the Alliance, including the United States. What really needs to be done is to reshape and restructure the military establishments which were built up for Cold War purposes--somewhat different Cold War purposes in the case of Poland and the Czech Republic and Hungary and the other members of the Alliance, but still Cold War purposes--to restructure them so they are better able to meet the kinds of challenges that we will face militarily. That means more emphasis on mobility, sustainability, survivability--including in CBW environments, and effectiveness--which means essentially the application of technology to weapon effectiveness.

You're absolutely right. It is particularly the case in those three countries that it is at least as much, or it is more, an issue of restructuring and reforming the structure of the forces so that less is spent relatively on paying allowances and subsistence for troops, and more on investment and infrastructure. And that is also part of the programs in each of the three countries and indeed, in most of the allies.

Q: Going back to the speech Secretary Cohen gave yesterday in Hamburg when he singled out Germany in a pretty blunt way as doing not enough and not properly for defense--what was the reaction today if there was any?

A: It was hardly a surprise to the Germans. The Germans were in the room when he said it, in Hamburg, and I guess any German who wanted to watch on television was watching. I think that what the Secretary said very much echoes what Secretary General Robertson said today, which is that in order to meet the goals which we have set for ourselves, countries--particularly countries which spend relatively less on defense than other countries with somewhat similar economic, social and political problems--will need to spend more. Secretary Cohen acknowledged that there are reasons for the German problems with respect to defense expenditure having to do with the huge cost of unification, a consideration which applies to a lot of European countries, the costs of meeting the financial and economic targets necessary for European military union. Those are real, legitimate concerns. The problem is that defense is also a real and legitimate concern and needs priority as well.

Q: Do you have any indications on the wording the EU summit will use for on the issue of defense?

A: I have some indications, but I will hold my breath until--what is it, December 10th? In Helsinki, whenever the thing is released. Obviously, we will be watching with interest to see what they say, and we're discussing with allies who have a more direct role in what gets said than we do what we would hope they would be able to say in the communiqué.

Q: Thank you.