Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich, Germany
36th Munich Conference on Security Policy
February 5, 2000


Remarks By Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen on NMD and the European Security and Defense Identity

Let me turn quickly to NMD. I can see that Minister Scharping is chafing to get into this debate. Let me turn to National Missile Defense and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. We have Russian participants here today and I think it is important that they be here today. I think it is important that we continue to engage in a dialogue, in a discussion, about this subject matter.

People have tried to minimize this, but there is a growing threat. There is a growing threat to the United States; there is a growing threat to our European friends as well. Some would suggest it is being exaggerated in order to justify this. During our last NATO meeting, we had a presentation of the growing threat. We pointed to North Korea, which is, in fact, developing a long-range missile capability that may have nuclear capability, that undoubtedly has chemical and biological capability. We know that Iran, with the help of a number of countries, is seeking to acquire a longer-range missile capability with chemical and biologicals and, if possible, even nuclear. We know that Iraq in fact came very close to having an intercontinental ballistic missile capability and we know for a fact that they have developed chemical and biological agents to be deployed in their warheads. We know that Libya also is seeking to acquire capabilities along the same lines. So, the threat is there.

The question is what do we do about it? Now, I know that some of the reactions on the part of our European friends say, "Well, what about deterrence? Why not just rely on upon deterrence? After all, it has worked against the former Soviet Union, it works against all potential enemies that if they should ever launch an ICBM against any country, certainly NATO or the United States or North America, that we would simply respond with our ICBM capability?"

That is true. We have that as a deterrence. The fact that we want to have a limited type of protection against the so-called rogue states should not in any way undercut the fact that we are going to maintain a strong deterrent. We don't ever want to be in the position of having a North Korea or an Iraq or an Iran, or anyone else, having a limited capability and then telling us, "If you try to move against us conventionally . . ." For example, let me ask you hypothetically, if Saddam Hussein had five or ten or twenty ICBMs with nuclear warheads, and he said that, if you try to expel me from Kuwait, I'll put one in Berlin, one in Munich, one in New York, one in

Washington, one in Los Angeles, etc., one in Rome let's spread the wealth, one in England, London how many would have been quite so eager to support the deployment of some five hundred thousand conventional troops to expel him from Kuwait? We would have had a different calculation, asking, "What kind of a risk are we running? This guy is not quite as stable, as secure as some of our former adversaries."

We never want to be in the position of being blackmailed by anyone who will prevent us from carrying out our Article 5 Obligations or responding to any threat to our national security interests. So there is a justification and a real reason why we have to deal with this and we have proposed to deal with it in the following fashion.

We have proposed to construct a limited system that will be designed to protect North America against a limited type of an attack that we contemplate that a North Korea, Iran, Iraq or others could have in the foreseeable future. The President has said, "I'll make no decision at this point." It will depend upon a number of factors. Number one, do we have the threat? We believe the threshold has been crossed on that. Number two, do we have the technology? We are rapidly developing the technology, we believe that will satisfy that requirement. We have another test coming up in April and then we will determine whether the technology is mature enough for the President to make such a decision. Third point, what about the costs? We have to deal with the costs of such a system. And then fourth, [we have to] take into account our dealings with our Russian counterparts and our European friends. [The President] will do all of that before any decision to deploy is made.

But I should point out that the members [of Congress] are here and they will speak for themselves. But there is a strong bipartisan support, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, who have passed legislation which the President has signed, that would indicate that the President should deploy a system as soon as it is feasible. The President will decide whether it is feasible taking into account all of those factors and I will not minimize the consultations and communications with either the Russians or our European friends. But I think that you should really look at the facts, listen to the nature of the threat and the fact that European nations will similarly be subject to that increasing threat and that we, many nations, are contributing to its enhancement by virtue of the transfer of technology.

 

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