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Press Conference at NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Reykjavik, Iceland)

For Immediate Release May 14, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Press Conference at NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting Reykjavik, Iceland May 14, 2002

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks to the Government of Iceland for hosting our conference. We have enjoyed wonderful hospitality and we are deeply indebted to them.

I am pleased to follow on from Lord Robertson's presentation to report that we did have a very successful meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers here. I was happy to brief my colleagues in our meeting on the historic treaty that the United States concluded yesterday with Russia. They all welcomed this agreement which will dramatically reduce nuclear warheads on both sides.

I noted that May 16th, this coming Thursday, will mark the formal conclusion of NATO AWACS flights over the United States and I thanked our Allies for having offered this vital support for America in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Today's meeting also revealed, I believe, a remarkable degree of consensus on the way forward as we approach our summit meeting in Prague this November. Our Allies share our views that NATO needs to develop new capabilities, take in new members and develop new relationships with Russia, Ukraine and the other countries in the Partnership for Peace.

My colleagues and I have agreed that NATO, the entire Alliance and not just the United States, needs to develop its capabilities to meet new threats we are facing. We all need to have highly mobile, sustainable forces with modern combat capabilities. Forces that can get to the fight - wherever it is - and carry out a mission with efficiency and precision.

We all look forward to inviting new members into NATO. We congratulated the nine aspirant countries for the progress they have made to date while stressing that they all need to continue their reform efforts. While we will not make any final decisions until the Prague Summit in November, we remain hopeful that we will have a robust round of enlargement at Prague.

We also welcomed the new relationship NATO is building with Russia. We believe we can lay the foundation for increased cooperation between NATO and Moscow while fully protecting the Alliance's ability to act independently. This afternoon we will approve creation of a new NATO- Russia Council in our meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. We look forward to the summit meeting in Rome on May 28th, where President Bush, Allied Heads of State and Government, and President Putin will sign the new NATO-Russia Agreement and hold the very first meeting at 20. We hope this will open a new chapter in NATO-Russia relations.

We also signaled our desire to deepen our relations with Ukraine and with the nations of the Partnership for Peace. We particularly expressed our desire to increase cooperation with the Central Asian states who are in the forefront in the struggle against terrorism.

Overall, in my judgment, this has been an extremely productive meeting so far, and I look forward to the other meetings we will be having here this afternoon and throughout tomorrow. With that I would be delighted to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you head into your meeting this evening with Foreign Minister Ivanov, could you give us an idea of the unresolved issues still pending with the Russians?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to, of course, the treaty on strategic arms, that's done. We'll do some tidying up and shake hands on it formally. But that's done and ready for our President's signature next week.

On the political declaration that will also be issued at the time of the Summit, there may be a few outstanding issues, but nothing of any great significance. I think all of that documentation is in pretty good shape.

I'm sure that Foreign Minister Ivanov and myself will discuss, as we have in the past, proliferation issues, especially with respect to Iran. There is a difference of opinion there. It's an area that we discuss every time we are together, and it is an issue I am sure that President Bush will be discussing with President Putin as well. Otherwise, I am looking forward to a productive meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov this evening. The preparations for the Summit are well underway.

There are some trade issues that cause me more concern than I would have anticipated when I first came into this job. Many years ago, when I used to come to NATO meetings as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I worried about strategic weapons going back and forth and, right now we are in a poultry dispute with Russia. So I am more worried about chickens going back and forth than missiles going back and forth. This is good. It is much better to worry about these kinds of exchanges than the kinds of exchanges I used to worry about.

So I think that our relationship with Russia is on a very, very sound footing and I think it will be greatly improved as a result of the upcoming Summit. I think that the treaty that we concluded yesterday with Russia on the strategic framework, as well as the agreement we will reach this afternoon on the NATO-Russia Council, is indicative of how things are improving with Russia as we move forward into the 21st century.

QUESTION: Secretary of State, what evidence have you seen to encourage you that NATO will succeed in closing the capability gap, and how worried are you about the spending levels of defense of European governments?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm concerned about it and we have discussed it. I think that we need to do more. We need to modernize our force. We need to put into our force structure - the NATO force structure - more lift capability. The kinds of challenges NATO may be facing in the future won't always be located in Central Europe. NATO has to have the ability to move to other places.

I think a greater investment is needed in communications capacity and intelligence capacity, in navigation devices that allow you to have precise information about a potential opponent and precise information about what your own forces are doing.

There are many things that need to be done. I think there is a sound plan that has been in effect since 1999 of some 58 specific initiatives. I think that between now and Prague, however, that has to be narrowed down to some greater specificity. Pick five or six of these capabilities that you are really going to focus on and you're going to be serious about and you're going to invest in.

I know that Lord Robertson has been giving this speech to all of my colleagues. It's one I take very much to heart. The United States, which has the largest defense budget of all is continuing to add more money to our budget in order to deal with the threats that we know are out there, that we see are out there. And we think that all of our colleagues in NATO should be doing likewise. Not just making sure that they are spending adequate amounts for their defense, but making sure they spend it wisely. Rationalization of spending across the Alliance, I think, is one area that deserves greater attention.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've referred to the NATO enlargement, especially to the Prague enlargement, and you call it a "robust" one. I want to ask you why we cannot find these words - "a robust NATO enlargement" in the final communiqué.

SECRETARY POWELL: I wasn't the author, but had I been I would have put it in there.

QUESTION: You weren't the author, but I guess the U.S. delegation made this contribution.

SECRETARY POWELL: We made our contribution and I'm not sure why the specific choice of words was made. But I use robust here and robust is, I think, a pretty accurate description of the feelings of my colleagues and the positions that I see emerging in all of the Alliance members, and I think the position that is emerging as a consensus within the Alliance, that it will be a robust enlargement, meaning more rather than fewer admissions to the Alliance as a result of the Prague Summit.

QUESTION: How many? How many states will be invited? Could you tell us that?

SECRETARY POWELL: A robust number (laughter).

No, it's very important that we not start giving out specific numbers, or saying who looks like they are in, who looks like they are out. All of the nine aspirants have to keep working as hard as they can to meet the requirements of the Membership Action Plan and other things that they have to do. And so it is best not to start lifting the curtain yet as to who might get in or what the number might be.

QUESTION: By saying today that the idea is to ask all the possible aspirant countries to join on the same day, don't you have some doubts that it will create difficulties in the process of ratification in national parliaments as, let's say Baltic states and Bulgaria are maybe not in the same capability level?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that I said all aspirant countries on the same day would be invited, but those who are selected for membership, I think it is best to invite them all as a group and then the ratification of the protocol will take its natural course. So I prefer to see it done in that way, as opposed to other models that have been suggested, such as the Regatta, where you put them in queue in some way. They have all been working hard. They all filled out their membership application, they all have been doing what we asked them to do, and if they meet the standards that were put before them, if they meet the test that we will apply to them in the course of the summer as we get near Prague, then it seems to me we should invite whatever number in all at the same time. That's my judgment.

QUESTION: Do you think that NATO, especially when it expands to perhaps 25 - 26 members will have a military future as well as a political future? Especially since, as in Afghanistan, it's very much a multi-national coalition force rather than a NATO-based one.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I think that NATO has a bright military future. I mean, when you look at Afghanistan there are some fourteen NATO nations who are there, not necessarily in a NATO capacity, but bringing NATO capability, bringing NATO training, bringing NATO experience. It was training within NATO, to understand modern doctrine, to work with one another, learn how to operate on a battlefield with other countries and other soldiers who speak different languages, have different equipment, but nevertheless can operate together. That doesn't just come out of the ether, it comes out of NATO. It comes out of our experience in training together, operating together and spending a great deal of time on exercises in our various joint commands throughout NATO.

So 14 NATO countries represented in some way in Afghanistan, and seven of them are involved in active combat. And when the United States, in a time of crisis, when we have planes flying into our buildings, we feel absolutely comfortable in going to NATO and saying, "Please send AWACs over. Come guard the continental United States." And I don't know who's in that airplane, all I know is it's a NATO airplane, with a NATO crew that has been trained to NATO standards. That is a tremendous capability to have to available to the Alliance for whatever missions might come the Alliance's way.

So I think the Alliance is as relevant as it has been in the past, both in political terms and in military terms. With the new nations coming into the Alliance, they will bring their unique capabilities in as well. I think that adds to the value of the Alliance and it adds to the ability of the Alliance to deal with the kinds of challenges that I believe are out there. I have seen this not just in Afghanistan. I saw it in Desert Storm when we brought forces from Europe -- not only our own forces but forces from a number of countries represented here today -- and they could operate together on the battlefield because we had practiced that same kind of military action on the plains of Central Europe. So I think that it is very relevant, and I have seen it over and over and over in the course of my military and diplomatic career.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on weapons proliferation and linking it to this strategic arms agreement with Russia. One of the great problems and concerns about proliferation is the security of stockpiled weapons, stockpiled materials inside the former Soviet Union, in Russia today. Are there going to be additional measures as part of this new strategic deal to help provide more money for securing nuclear materials, more money to help the Russians, dismantle warheads and so on? Most think tanks seem to suggest that it is the more likely source of the proliferation of nuclear weaponry.

SECRETARY POWELL: Not as a direct result of this treaty, nor was that the purpose of the treaty. We have a number of bilateral programs with the Russians dealing comprehensive threat reduction, "Nunn-Lugar" programs. We're working at some other interesting programs having to do with Russian debt that might be used to create new opportunities to help the Russians get rid of their nuclear stockpile as well as their chemical stockpile and any other technologies that we do not wish to see floating free throughout the world.

And so I think, perhaps, that with this treaty, with both sides going down to much, much lower levels of deployed warheads, more warheads are going to be going into stockpile waiting for destruction. Therefore, that gives me greater ammunition to take to my Congress and encourage them to put more resources to this kind of cooperative reduction program with the Russians. So I think I'm emboldened by it.

One has to remember that even as we came down from higher numbers of nuclear weapons under previous treaties, even then, you couldn't get rid of the warheads that were freed up, as quickly as you might like, because there is a limit, both in the United States and in the Russian Federations as to how quickly you can break apart a warhead, dispose of it, get rid of it's components. It is not the simple disposal problem that some people think it is. It is hard to do, it takes time, it's very technical, sensitive work. We understand the importance of keeping control of our stockpiles, and it is an area of continuing discussion with the Russian Federation.

Thank you.

###

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