DoD News BriefingThursday, September 23, 1999
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
Secretary Cohen: General Solana, Deputy Secretary Hamre, General Clark, Secretary Caldera, General
Shinseki, please come forward, Secretary Halpen.
Let me express to you, all of you, Jamie Shea, let me express to all of you my thanks for being here
to pay tribute to a special man.
Somerset Maugham once said that "the secret of Spain's greatness lay not in its culture but in the
leaders that it produces. The preeminence in Spain," he wrote, "is in its preeminence of character." He said, "In Spain it's
the men that are the poems, the pictures, the buildings and the philosophies. The Spanish excel in what is greater than art
So today we're taking just a few moments to express our gratitude and appreciation to one of the great
men, indeed one of the great leaders that Spain has produced. He's a leader whose career reflects excellence not only in that
rarified world of theoretical physics but in the rough hewn world of politics.
It was four years ago when he assumed the office of Secretary General that Javier noted in a somewhat
scientific analysis that his selection was, in a word, "improbable." He said that "life and the wind of life have taken me
places I never thought I would be." How many in this room could also repeat that very same expression?
But it's worth noting that many observers in both Europe and the United States believed that the challenges
that lay before him were indeed, in a word, "improbable and impossible."
He faced the immediate task of coordinating what was then the largest military deployment ever undertaken
by NATO, a multinational force of 60,000 soldiers preparing to enter Bosnia. General Clark is here to bear witness to the
leadership that Javier exhibited at that time.
He faced the unexpected opportunity of re-integrating France into NATO's active military operations
after an absence of nearly three decades.
He faced the historic challenges of expanding the membership of NATO, of reaching out to embrace old
foes as allies and redefining NATO's mission to prepare for a new century.
And more than any other individual in our alliance, the man that we honor today helped to accomplish
all of those goals and more. He did so by keeping in the very foremost of his mind a principle that was captured in a Spanish
proverb: "To observe the past is to take warning for the future."
Javier recognizes the forces of history, which had fractured Europe for so many centuries, the powerful
ideologies that were capable of inflaming age-old animosities. They simply could not be ignored. Nor could they be contained
behind any sort of arbitrary divisional lines.
He knew that these forces had to be confronted with candor and with courage and with patience. So while
we honor him for bringing the reborn nations of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO, we also thank him for his
vision and vigilance that he brought to the growing partnership with nations beyond NATO such as Russia and Ukraine and more.
The poet Matthew Arnold once observed that "for the creation of a masterpiece two powers must concur.
The power of the moment and the power of the man."
The evil that was unleashed in Kosovo this year will surely be regarded as a defining moment in the
evolution of Europe, and I will tell you there is some irony involved in having to wage war on the 50th anniversary of the
celebration of peace here in Washington.
But Javier, in the eye of this unexpected storm, maintained his focus and he used his talents to create
a diplomacy, a masterpiece of diplomacy that will be studied for years to come.
His power, to a great extent, was more personal than official. I would say that only a man of calm
determination could have persuaded the reluctant and restless to stay the course. Only a man of relentless optimism could
have stood strong against the raging currents of criticism. Only a man of deep perspective could have earned the respect and
admiration of such a diverse array of leaders.
Indeed, we are fortunate that the power of this man was more than equal to the power of the moment.
Einstein was perhaps the most brilliant of theoretical physicists, but he once said that "a hundred
times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends upon the labors of other men, both living and dead, and
I must exert myself in order to continue to give in the measure that I have received and am still receiving."
Let me say to all of your friends, Javier, that the legacy that you leave to the millions of Europeans
and Americans will be profound for our outer lives, but you are also, you're handing over an institution of great strength
and stability that will secure the blessings of freedom for generations to come.
But you've also affected our inner lives. You have given us a legacy of hope, one of humanity, the
hope that liberty and peace that only a democracy can offer. So for that we are truly indebted to you.
Let me join in a round of applause...
Secretary Cohen: Commander, if you will read the citation.
"Attention to orders. The Secretary of Defense takes pleasure in presenting the Department of Defense
Medal for Distinguished Public Service to Javier Solana for exceptionally courageous and innovative leadership as Secretary
General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from December 1995 to October 1999.
"Mr. Solana successfully guided the alliance through the Kosovo air campaign, the first major military
engagement in NATO's history; the establishment of peace enforcement missions in Bosnia and Kosovo; the enlargement of NATO
to include three newly-formed democratic states in Central Europe, erasing decades of Cold War division; and the approval
of a new strategic concept at NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit charting the course of the alliance for years to come.
"Mr. Solana oversaw the development of NATO's relations with Russia and the Ukraine; the strengthening
of NATO's Partnership for Peace; and the building of a foundation for European security and defense identity strongly linked
to the alliance.
"These and countless other efforts made an enormous and lasting contribution to peace and security
for Europe and North America alike.
"I take great pleasure in presenting Javier Solana the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished
Public Service." Signed William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense.
Secretary Cohen: If you'd like to speak you can say a couple of words. Or more than a couple.
Secretary General Solana: Thank you very much, Bill. And thank you very much all of you in sharing
with me this really moving moment.
I would like to say two words -- Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to be at this important
moment leading the alliance, a moment in which I think we have changed the history of Europe. But in any case, what I would
like to underline today is that all this has been a collective effort, an effort of many countries, 16 at the beginning, 19
at the end. And may I say that without one country, without your country, Bill, nothing of that would have been possible.
Thank you very much to you, to the people of your country. It's not the first time you've come to Europe
to help us. Let's hope that we will continue working together to create a world of peace, of stability, of justice, and of
prosperity. These are the aims of the alliance and these are the aims of the people that make up the countries that make up
It's the greatest alliance in the world. I am sure we will be able, you and me, to see not only the
[50th] anniversary, but I'm sure we'll see 100th anniversary of the alliance, Bill.
Thank you very much to you, to your country, to the people of your country, and being in front of military
people let me say the mission continues. Thank you very much.
Q: Secretary General, could I ask you in your new job as you move on to improve the security of European
nations, will that in any way conflict with NATO's intention to improve its own security by improving the weaponry of its
Secretary General Solana: Say it again.
Q: As you move to improve the security of European nations in your new job, will that conflict with
NATO's defense to improve?
Secretary General Solana: Can I answer the question with one word? No.
Q: Why not?
Secretary General Solana: Because I will be there.