3 May 2000
Secretary General, Lord Robertson
and SACEUR, General Ralston, US Air Force
COL FREYTAG: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to SHAPE
and welcome to the press conference on the occasion of Allied Command
Europe's Change of Command. We have NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
with us who will have an opening statement for you followed by General
Ralston, our new SACEUR. Please, Secretary General.
SEC GEN: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. For me there has
been a sense of sadness today at the departure of a great soldier, General
Wes Clark, who has been a pillar of strength to NATO during its most dramatic
and indeed its most testing times. During the period that we've worked
together he's become a trusted advisor and indeed a close friend and he'll
be very much missed.
At the same time, though General Clark is going to be a hard act to follow,
I'm very pleased today to welcome such an able successor who I know will
prove equally effective as NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe and I'm
looking forward to developing with General Ralston the same kind of close
relationship that I enjoyed with his predecessor. General Ralston comes
here with a wealth of experience which well suits him to join a long list
of distinguished holders of this post, the first of which was none other
than General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He's got extensive combat experience
himself, having flown 147 missions over Vietnam and more recently he served
with great distinction as the Deputy Chairman of the United States Joint
Chiefs of Staff at a time of tremendous challenge and change for the American
General Ralston comes here at a time when NATO has achieved so much but
is also facing many other tough challenges and I have been able to promise
him that's he's not going to be bored in his new job. In the Balkans,
in Bosnia-Herzegovina and especially in Kosovo, we have to build on NATO's
success by staying focused and determined and by continuing to devote
the resources that are needed. We started on a path to ensure that this
troubled corner of Europe enters the 21st Century with new hopes for peace
and prosperity and becoming a part of mainstream Europe where it belongs
and we are going to see that job through. The NATO itself is also changing
and the Supreme Allied Commander is at the very heart of that process
of change. We've got to adapt to new threats and we've got to move with
the times. Just let me give you a few examples. Learning and applying
the lessons of Kosovo will be one key priority. NATO's defence capabilities
initiative aims to ensure that we meet new challenges with the right equipment
and structure and not those that were designed for the old Cold War world.
Another priority is to develop a stronger European defence role in order
to ensure a more healthy, well-balanced, transatlantic link for the long
term and we must also continue with the building of a stronger relationship
with Russia and Ukraine and with the expanding number of nations in the
Partnership for Peace programme. It's going to be a very heavy agenda
which needs imagination and hard work to make it a success but it also
shows that NATO is an active dynamic organisation determined to continue
as the world's most successful military alliance and in General Ralston,
I know, that we have an extremely capable officer who's every bit up to
the challenges that lie ahead for all of us.
GEN RALSTON: Thank you Mr. Secretary General and let me tell all
of you first of all how very honoured I am and how very pleased I am to
be here today in Mons. Secretary General, as I mentioned before, I'm very
much looking forward to working with you and working with the great staff
here at SHAPE Headquarters and with the Military Committee and with the
North Atlantic Alliance as we meet the challenges ahead. I don't want
to go into great detail today. I want to spend a little time on the job,
travelling around, visiting with our various commands and our men and
women in uniform and then at a later date I would look forward to having
a more substantive conference with you. Thank you.
COL FREYTAG: Thank you, Secretary General. Thank you, SACEUR. Ladies
and Gentlemen, your questions please.
Q: Gen Ralston, do you believe that being an Air Force officer
brings a different perspective to the job here at SHAPE, particularly
in light of the Kosovo conflict?
GEN RALSTON: All I can do is give you my personal opinion. I don't
believe that it does. I have spent my last four years as Vice Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff not doing Air Force business or not doing
airman's business but trying to work with all the services across the
spectrum and I would certainly think I would do the same in the job as
SACEUR. I've got to work not only with all the services but with 19 nations
and their militaries so I'm looking at the job in a broader context of
how do I keep 19 militaries in step and, quite frankly, it's more than
19 because if you look at the Partnership nations that we have today in
Kosovo and Bosnia and even the non-Partnership nations that we have trying
to provide military leadership to bring them together as a collective
Q: Gen Ralston is the second air force General as SACEUR at SHAPE
and also in the future there will be a change of strategy in NATO to use
more air force capacities?
SEC GEN: No, I don't think it follows at all and I think General
Ralston has dealt with that issue that his major responsibility before
coming here was as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff bringing
together the incredible wealth of experience that comes from all of the
four American services and that will be an invaluable experience, I would
have thought, to bring here with so many nations and so many individual
I think it's a great moment, if one is being frank for an air force guy
to come here after air power has proven itself so much in this huge test
that took place last year, but I don't see that the tactics of NATO, both
on the military or the political side will change. We've got somebody
here with a wealth of military experience, but also somebody experienced
in the very highest command in the Pentagon and these are going to be
invaluable qualities to bring to the challenges that NATO is going to
Q: Secretary General, you mentioned the importance of the broadening
relations, stronger relations with Russia. What's next steps do you expect
after your visit to Russia, I mean, do you expect re-installing NATO representation
in Moscow and to create some kind of military representation in Moscow?
SEC GEN: Well, I hope that we can deepen the military cooperation
that is at the very heart of our relationship with Russia. Since my visit
to President-elect Putin earlier this year, we've seen our Permanent Joint
Council meetings expand in length and in content and intensity and I think
that is very good evidence of the way in which both sides see the developing
We've also seen the Military Committees, the Permanent Joint Council
Military Representatives Committee developing more on its side as well
and, of course, Russian troops serve with KFOR alongside KFOR and alongside
SFOR in bringing peace to the Balkans. So I'm hoping that we will see
step by step major improvements in the way in which we bring together
the strengths and resources that we have and clearly developing reciprocal
military relationships is one of the objectives that we should have for
making sure that the relationship deepens in an effective way.
Q: General Ralston, (Radio Slovenia) I would like to ask you two
questions. First of all, when do you expect the European Union to be actually
able to assume military peacekeeping tasks in an autonomous way as they
pledged to do and second question, when do you expect the European Union
to have an air force which is as strong as the current American one?
GEN RALSTON: Well, first of all I would like to say that I think
those questions are appropriate for the European Union to answer and not
for me. I do believe that one of the things I want to focus on and pay
a lot of attention to is the relationship between NATO and SHAPE HQs and
the European Union and as we work through that relationship and how we
do that I think it's very important that we do it. First of all, I'm very
supportive, personally, of what the European Union is trying to do. The
fact that the European nations could carry a greater share of what needs
to be done - I applaud that. From a SACEUR point of view, I just want
to make sure that we do it in such a way that doesn't detract from the
Alliance and so I'm looking forward to working on those issues.
Q: General Ralston, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson's predecessor,
recently spoke about some apprehensions about national missile defence
in the United States and how this could lead to a possible decoupling
of the security within the Alliance, do you see it as a possible priority
for you to try to overcome the apprehensions that seem to be felt by a
lot of the European allies toward national missile defence?
GEN RALSTON: Let me say that first of all I am serving here as
an officer of the Alliance and not as a US officer and I think the US
will certainly need to articulate their position, whatever it happens
to be. As you know the President has not yet made a decision on what that
would be. I do believe that there will be an opportunity to make sure
that the Alliance's concerns are expressed to Washington and that there
is a good dialogue on the subject. I think that's already underway and
I would expect that that would continue.
Q: (Czech Press Agency) To what extent are you aware of the state
of armed forces of the three new members and the transformation of their
armed forces and to what extent do you think that their military performance
is going to influence the future decisions on enlargement of the NATO?
GEN RALSTON: In my previous position as Vice Chairman, I've had
the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary more
than once and to visit with their militaries and make inputs to all of
them in terms of what we thought was the proper way ahead. I have been
warmly received in all three countries. I've had a very good working relationship
with the militaries of all three countries and I think all three countries
know what needs to be done. I think they have a plan and I think they're
working towards that and I certainly want to make it one of my goals is
to make sure that all of the members and the aspirants in fact are net
contributors to the Alliance and I think that process is well under way.
Q: (For the Secretary General) How do you see the further measures
for the stablization in Kosovo and do you see any immediate threat for
Montenegro - the democratic Government - by the Government in Belgrade?
Can you confirm the information that Croatia will be received as a candidate
for PfP and may be a member of NATO?
SEC GEN: On Kosovo, we will continue with the mission which is
to create a safe and secure environment for civic institutions to be created.
We will hope that more civilian police are recruited and I spoke to Javier
Solana yesterday on the phone - he is at New York at the UN just now and
is hopeful that more civilian police can be recruited which will take
a lot of the pressure off the KFOR troops that will be continued. The
establishment of prosecutors and of justices is also a key part of ensuring
that we go forward with the process of civic institution building and
I'm delighted that Mrs. Draskovic representing the Serb community in Kosovo
is now part of the interim administration and that is a very significant
step forward there.
In relation to Montenegro, we have no evidence that at the moment Milosovic
is creating any more mischief that he has been up to now but our demand
remains exactly the same and that is he should take off those provocative
sanctions that he is applying against the democratically elected government
of Montenegro and he should do it now. President Djukanovic has a right
to run his part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia according to the
mandate given by the people of Montenegro and that is a message that he
is receiving from the wider international community and I hope that he
listens to it.
The Prime Minister of Croatia, Dr. Racan will be coming to NATO next
week and we'll be attending a meeting of the Permanent Council and Ambassadors.
After that meeting has taken place then the North Atlantic Council will
make a decision as to whether or not Croatia is to become a member of
the Partnership for Peace.
Q: As an officer coming from the other side of the Atlantic, from
your point of view, do you think that in Kosovo itself and the region
around Kosovo something specific should be done more for further improving
the situation in Kosovo and the region around?
GEN RALSTON: Well, I would like to defer the question other than
to tell you that the day after tomorrow I leave to spend two days on the
ground in Kosovo. I'll be visiting with each of the brigade sectors there
as well as with the KFOR leadership and I want to go and take another
look. It's been a few months since I was in Kosovo. I want to check on
the progress and see what the challenges are and make up my mind from
Q: (Stars & Stripes) What do you see as your three biggest
challenges now in the job of SACEUR?
GEN RALSTON: I'll start off my getting through this Press Conference!
There are a lot of things that we need to work on that the Alliance is
working on and I look forward to working with the Secretary General. I
think our relationship military to military with Russia and Ukraine, as
has been mentioned, is a very important one and I think perhaps I can
bring some expertise to that. I had the privilege years ago in a previous
command of leading the first exercise from the United States to Russia.
We took a group of troops and helicopters and airplanes and went off
and that started a very productive relationship. The following year I
had the Russian military at Alaskan command and we did that for a number
of years so I had been working on that in the past and I look forward
to doing that in the future. I think the ultimate relationship between
NATO/SHAPE HQs, the EU and how that all develops is certainly a very important
task that we need to look at and I think we need to keep our eye on the
ball certainly for our on-going operations that we have the in Balkans
to make sure that we continue to make progress there.
COL FREYTAG: Ladies and Gentlemen, that concludes our Press Conference
today. Thank you for coming and thank you Secretary General and SACEUR
for attending this.