NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM PERRY
JANUARY 11, 1996
The Secretary of Defense talks with Elizabeth Farnsworth about his recent trip to Europe and the Middle East, where he dealt with troop deployment, nuclear disarmament, and peace .
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sec. Perry is back from a week-long trip that began at NATO and U.S. bases in Italy, and then took him to the staging area for U.S. troops in Southern Hungary and then to Bosnia. From there, he went to Ukraine for nuclear disarmament talks, and he wrapped up his travels in the Middle East. He went to Oman and Saudi Arabia and then to Jordan and Israel. Thank you for being with us after such a long trip.
WILLIAM PERRY: Thank you, Elizabeth. It's good to be home.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let's start with Bosnia. There are about--as I understand it--about 6,600 troops there now. From what you saw, is the deployment going as planned?
SEC. PERRY: The deployment is going as planned. I came away very, very proud of the American troops. In the face of snow and ice and mud and floods, they're overcoming those adversities and they're meeting their schedules. They are displaying--I told them when I met with them not only I was proud of them but they were displaying true grit.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to ask you about some of the things that are happening in Bosnia now. Today, according to news reports, a two-mile-long stretch of vehicles was, was passing through or across the airport in Sarajevo, and these were Bosnian Serbs who were trying to get some of their, I guess, home furnishings and things out of their homes before their parts of the city passes under--pass under Bosnian--under Bosnian government control. Does this present a real problem for the implementation force? Should they do anything about this?
SEC. PERRY: I don't believe so, Elizabeth. That's my answer to both of your questions. What-- our best understanding of what's happening is that there were many Bosnian Serb refugees that were in the Sarajevo area, and those refugees are now leaving and going to Pale and the Pale area. We do not believe that the Bosnian Serbs who live in that area are leaving their homes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're not expecting a mass exodus?
SEC. PERRY: Well, we--there are a lot of refugees there. There are thousands of them, and so there will be a large number of refugees leave. We do not expect the local Bosnian Serb residents, though, to be leaving their homes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So they've been reassured enough, you think, that they will stay there, because there have been all these reports that they would torch their homes and it would present such a problem for the NATO forces.
SEC. PERRY: Just yesterday, President Izetbegovic announced amnesty for the Bosnian Serb soldiers. I think that will be a very positive step towards reassuring, towards comforting the people who are concerned, which it's--there are still problems in the Sarajevo area. We're a long way from having that situation stabilized, but the developments to date I believe are not cause for particular concern.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Recently, the U.S. had to or was called out of its sector. I know that the U.S. is in one sector. The French are in another sector. The British are in another sector, and U.S. troops were called out to help with some Apache gunships when there was some idea that there were--there was, I guess, danger at the Sarajevo Airport and some of the advance troops for the President were coming in. Is that likely to happen, that the, the NATO commander will call on U.S. troops to help out in Sarajevo sometimes?
SEC. PERRY: Yes. The IFOR, the name of the NATO forces, is an integrated force, and the commander, Admiral Smith, who's an American admiral but is commanding that force, has the authority to call troops from any one of those regions to assist in any of the other. It's a convenience to organize them, to have them located that way, but we're not really organized as different national entities. We're organized as NATO, and we're there as an integrated force.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Um-hmm. And finally, on the news reports today about the mine, I guess there's an open pit mine which is--apparently has thousands of bodies that were dumped there allegedly by the Bosnian Serbs, and a British NATO force is just a mile away but is saying that it's not its job, it's not this group's job to open up the road so that the investigators can get in to look at that mine. What do you think about that?
SEC. PERRY: Two comments to make on that, Elizabeth. The first is that part of the IFOR responsibility is to assure freedom of travel throughout the region, and certainly a high priority in that is facilitating the investigation of the war crimes tribunal, so a very positive answer to that question, yes, we do have that responsibility. IFOR does have that responsibility. Secondly is that we've been in place now for less than three weeks, and it's going to be another couple of weeks until we're there in force. And before we are in a position to confidently establish freedom of movement throughout the country, we need to have the place in force. We'll be in that position in about another three weeks.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Moving on to Ukraine, would you describe what you did just South of Kiev, you and the defense minister of Russia and the defense minister of Ukraine.
SEC. PERRY: This was, I believe, an historic occasion. Having those three defense ministers come together at all, that's the first time that has ever happened, but what we came together for was to blow up, to destroy a missile silo, and ICBM silo. And all of my adult life I've been living with the nuclear cloud hanging over my head, threatening the extinction of all mankind.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We're the generation that hid--had to go under our desks for--
SEC. PERRY: Exactly. And now with the ending of the Cold War, that cloud is drifting away, but there are thousands of weapons still remaining. And we have as a high priority in the United States to take actions to get those weapons destroyed as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible, so we went there for the purpose--one aspect of that program was blowing up those silos. That site, Pervomayskaya, just a year ago there were 700 nuclear warheads all aimed at targets in the United States. We're in the process of dismantling that, removing that threat to the United States. By this June, that missile field will have become a wheat field again. That's the process we're going through right now. And to have those three defense ministers come together to participate in that activity gave me a real sense of, of accomplishment, a real sense of pride.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And you each had a switch that you moved.
SEC. PERRY: We each had a key which was the launch control key for the missile. The wiring had been changed so that when all three of us turned our keys, it caused the silo to detonate and to blow up.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The U.S. has been helping fund the efforts to get rid of these missiles in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. How's it going elsewhere?
SEC. PERRY: This is, by the way, called the Comprehensive Threat Reduction program for reasons that are obvious. And it's also known as the Nunn-Lugar program, because the program was initiated by Sen. Nunn and Sen. Lugar. That involves about $400 million out of the defense budget funds, and we're doing that in all four of the countries in the former Soviet Union that have nuclear weapons, and Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan is already nuclear-free. By this June, we expect Ukraine to be nuclear-free. Ukraine was the third largest nuclear power in the world, and they're going to be a non-nuclear nation by this Summer. And Belarus is also reducing its weapons. It will be nuclear-free by the end of the year. Russia, in the meantime, is reducing the size of their nuclear forces under START I, as is the United States.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And just before the meetings, the defense minister of Russia, Mr. Grachev, said that if NATO is enlarged to include the ex-Warsaw Pact nations, I think he said Russia might re-think its policy on tactical nuclear arms and its commitment to arms pacts. It's not a direct quote. Did he talk to you about that? Did he say that to you?
SEC. PERRY: Yes. I've talked with him many times on this whole question of the expansion of NATO, and I understand that Minister Grachev and most Russians are very much concerned about NATO. NATO to them has been the threat for decades. NATO is a four-letter word in Russia, and, therefore, they're very nervous about the prospect of NATO expanding right up to its borders. I believe, and I've explained to him many times, that as he works more--as Russia works more closely with NATO, they're already members of the Partnership for Peace, which is in NATO, that they will find that NATO does not pose a threat to them and, indeed, is there to enhance the security of Europe, which enhances their security too. The most significant development in that regard is Russia participating in NATO, with NATO in Bosnia. And they're going to see then that we can--they and NATO can work together for the benefit of the security of all of Europe. That's going to, I think, ease their concern in time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Moving on to your visit to Saudi Arabia, this was your first visit, I believe, since the car bombing last November--
SEC. PERRY: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --that killed five Americans. What did you find there? Do you think that was a sign of rising anti-West sentiment?
SEC. PERRY: No, I don't, Elizabeth. This was one act of terrorism in many, many years in that country. Anywhere our troops are deployed we have to be concerned with the prospect of terrorism. Even in Oklahoma, we had--some of our soldiers were killed by an act of terrorism. I found generally stability in the country; nevertheless, we have enough concern about this that we have taken additional security measures to make our troops less vulnerable to that sort of an attack, but I--I see no reason for singling out Saudi Arabia as a country where troops might have particular problems. It's a general problem we face with our deployments anywhere in the world, and we are taking special measures in Saudi Arabia. I talked, by the way, with all of our troops that are there and the families I met with two of the widows of the, of soldiers who were killed. Our mission there is very important, and we are not going to be pushed out of the country by an act of terrorism.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Jordan and Israel, Israel at this point, the big question now seems to be, or the big--Israel is really moving forward on this Syria peace and peace with Syria, and one of the main things they're trying to work out is a way to monitor the Golan Heights, and you said that the United States would help with that. What would U.S. troops do there?
SEC. PERRY: I made a fairly carefully phrased statement of what we would do there. I said first of all, our willingness to participate hinges first of all on there being a peace agreement which calls for a peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, and secondly, very importantly, our willingness to do that hinges on both Syria and Israel requesting us. If both--if all of those conditions happen, then we are certainly willing to, to participate in a peacekeeping operation. It would be a multinational peacekeeping operation. The Japanese have also indicated a willingness to participate in that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are you committing the U.S. to something prematurely though? There's a lot of opposition to this in Congress, isn't there?
SEC. PERRY: Uh, I also told them that any proposed--any response of the United States, we would have to consult with Congress about. My own belief is that Congress will support a reasonable move, a reasonable deployment of that sort. But it's premature yet because we don't have a peace treaty yet. We don't have a request yet. But given that, then we would certainly go to the Congress and consult with them and propose a course of action.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Things have changed so much in the Middle East. The Israelis actually lobbied, as I understand it, for the aid that you promised to Jordan, which is something very new, military aid, military sales.
SEC. PERRY: When I was in Jordan, I proposed to King Hussein the program which would provide a squadron of F-16's to Jordan, and he was--and he accepted that proposal. We will be going ahead with that program. I followed that with a visit to Israel. I briefed the Israelis on this program, and in the press conference I held with Prime Minister Peres, he--I mentioned nothing about this but he took the occasion, saying he thought this was a very good move, and he and the government of Israel strongly supported this enhancement of Jordan's security, and I think that certainly is an indication of progress in the Middle East.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you for being with us, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. PERRY: Thank you, Elizabeth. Nice to talk to you again.
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