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DATE=12/2/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=NATO DEFENSE MINISTERS (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-256769 BYLINE=RON PEMSTEIN DATELINE=BRUSSELS CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: NATO Defense Ministers have discussed plans to build up European defense as well as the U-S proposal for a limited ballistic missile defense. V-O-A Correspondent Ron Pemstein at NATO headquarters reports U-S Defense Secretary William Cohen faced questions from the allies about what the Clinton Administration has in mind. TEXT: If the United States decides to go ahead with a limited missile defense, it will need support from NATO allies such as Britain and Denmark that will have to upgrade their radars to track the rogue missiles that might be fired. U-S Secretary of Defense William Cohen says such questions are premature until the United States decides next year whether it wants to build the limited missile defense. The European allies want to be consulted about the U-S talks with the Russians about missile defense and they confronted the Defense Secretary with a variety of questions. /// COHEN ACT /// They have raised issues about their deterrent, issues of de-coupling - also about whether this would be something that they might be interested in themselves and this is some kind of technology that perhaps the European nations might be interested in as well. So we covered the full panoply of issues. The United States would have to have the support of our allies for an effective system. We believe it is important that we discuss the issue with them about the nature of the threat. /// END ACT /// The United States maintains that countries such as North Korea and Iran could threaten Europe as well as U-S territory with long-range missiles. At the same time, the limited missile defense system is not envisioned to protect U-S territory against thousands of Russian missiles. /// COHEN ACT /// This is something of a very limited nature. It is designed to deal with rogue states. It is not directed against the Russians or others, and it would not undercut the Russian strategic deterrent and this is something that we have to make very clear. The Russians have many thousands of nuclear weapons which we are trying to reduce in START-Two and hopefully going on to START-Three. And so this in no way would undercut that strategic deterrent capability they have and that really in essence is what I have tried to lay out for the members today. /// END ACT /// Also at the meeting, NATO's secretary general, George Robertson, criticized the European allies for not contributing enough to their own defense in the future. /// ROBERTSON ACT /// We need troops which are trained, equipped, and ready for actual use, not just forces which exist on paper alone. These troops have to be mobile, sustainable, and survivable, and backed up by the best command and control and intelligence. /// END ACT /// The European allies had trouble finding enough troops to go to Kosovo for peacekeeping. European leaders will decide next week to form a 50-thousand to 60- thousand soldier rapid reaction force. NATO supports the concept, noting that this force would comprise only two percent of the one-point-eight-million soldiers already in European armies.(Signed) NEB/RDP/JWH/JP 02-Dec-1999 14:52 PM EDT (02-Dec-1999 1952 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .