Interview Of Colin Powell by European Journalists
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release May 20, 2002
Interview of Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell by European Journalists
May 17, 2002 Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: Can I start on the issue of the treaty to be signed in Moscow, the nuclear arms reduction. It seems like it is something that the US wanted to do anyway. It's not very restrictive. It doesn't require any dismantling of arms. And the same for Russia -- had to destroy missiles anyway.
What was the point of having a treaty?
SECRETARY POWELL: The Russians wanted a treaty, and the reason they wanted a treaty was because, in fact, it does reduce the level of arms that both sides have immediately available under the deployed status. It says that at the end of this treaty period, both sides will not have more than between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads mated up with launchers. You may have lots of other warheads that are in various states of dismantlement, waiting to be dismantled, or being kept as reserves or test weapons, test items -- I don't mean set them off, but to test them for reliability and safety.
But in fact, both sides now for this treaty period of ten years will meet twice a year in an implementation committee to review the progress to going down. There will be visibility. There will be transparency. They will be able to watch what we are doing. We will be able to watch what they are doing. At the end of that treaty period, they will be able to come and look and will not find more than 1,700 to 2,200 warheads married up with launchers.
What we actually do with our respective stockpiles will be national judgments. I expect that the Pentagon -- and the Pentagon gets very nervous when I speak about the Pentagon because I used to be at the Pentagon -- but I'm sure the Pentagon will do everything they can to reduce stockpiles because we don't want to spend more on these kinds of systems than we have to.
The Russians also want to get their numbers down. But even if -- let's say even if we had somehow made some deal on what to do with the stockpile warheads, the real constraint is the fact that we can only take apart so many of them a year, both we and the Russians. So even coming down under START rules and START I, not all of the warheads have been flushed out of the system because there is a limit on how fast you can do that.
So I think to focus on, well, you're not destroying warheads is a misplaced focus because I can't destroy them even if I wanted to because of the rate at which I can destroy them and the number of warheads there are. You have to remember that when -- to go back 12 years when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we were carrying around 12,000 warheads that could be mated up. And going down not to 2,200 that can be -- that would actually be mated up, if we choose to mate them up -- it doesn't mean we have to have 2,200 or we have to have 1,700. In fact, one can make the case the Russians may go even lower than that. It's a ceiling.
So I think it is good. The reasons the Russians wanted it -- and we agreed to it, as a symbol and as a sign of the closeness of our relationship and our willingness to be sensitive to their needs and their interests -- they wanted this to be more than just a political declaration between two sitting Presidents. They wanted something that was between two governments and ratified by two parliaments and something that would outlive the two presidents and would show some predictability in the future. I think they got that. But I think they got something very important for them and it was consistent with our plans anyway, so I think it is a good deal.
QUESTION: Are there any allowances of what to do with the (inaudible) that ends up on the Russian side and they are going to be dismantling missiles, which in the past has been a cause for concern?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not under the terms of the treaty. But under many other protocols, yes. We have comprehensive threat reduction programs with them. We have Nunn-Lugar programs with them. We are working with our G-8 partners on a 10+10+10 deal that I think you are familiar with. We put up 10 billion and the European Union puts up 10 billion, and over a period of 10 years that money is used with Russian money that will reduce outside debt, and they will use that money for these kinds of things. So, yes.
And as you know, there is another program that is still getting into place in a more effective way that takes nuclear fuel out of old weapons and uses them in American power plants. So, yes, but that does not have to be part of the treaty. That can be bilaterally -- our two congresses working on it. And we are as interested in those programs as we have ever been.
QUESTION: There's been concern for human rights aimed at the -- that part of the price of cooperation with Moscow has been that Putin and the Russian government have a free hand in Chechnya to do whatever.
SECRETARY POWELL: Not at all. I think if you check the record of what we have said with respect to Chechnya over the 16 months that we have been here in office, if I have my number of months correct -- time just speeds away. But we constantly point out to the Russians there is a difference between terrorists and those who may be part of other kinds of movements, and that we have told them they really should work harder to find a political solution, and because they are fighting terrorists does not give them a free hand to abuse human rights or to use their military in a way that would suggest the abuse of human rights. We haven't stepped back from that. It is been part of our continuing dialogue with the Russians.
And, also as part of that we are today, in fact, starting to move our teams into Georgia to help train Georgian forces so that they can be more effective in the Pankisi Gorge, which feeds people (inaudible).
QUESTION: The fact that Russia agreed, or has appeared to have acquiesced on NMD, which is what the bilateral commission seems -- that's going to be set up --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no. The bilateral implementation committee in this treaty has nothing to do with missile defense.
QUESTION: No, but the bilateral -- the commission involved in missile defense, which was reported was going to include you and Mr. Rumsfeld and the two Ivanovs to deal with missile defense issues.
SECRETARY POWELL: I just want to make sure we are precise. I'm not sure which committee you are talking about.
QUESTION: Is there not a commission that is going to be set up --
SECRETARY POWELL: A commission?
QUESTION: A commission involving you and Mr. Rumsfeld and the two Ivanovs to deal with missile defense issues and sharing technologies?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure that we will be talking to the other side, me and Igor and Don and Sergei, as we move forward on what we are planning to do on missile defense. It has always been part of our plan and part of our strategy that we would encourage the Russians to work with us on missile defense because we think the threat is more real for them than it is for us. We have to persuade them of that and then find areas of cooperation.
But if you are having reference to a specific commission of a formal nature, I need to do a little research to see what you are talking about.
QUESTION: It came out of a Moscow Foreign Ministry briefing a couple of days ago. This is what -- something that they said and reported on maybe in --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, the one thing the treaty did not do, nor will the political protocol, it will in no way inhibit our ability to pursue our missile defense programs. As you know, the ABM Treaty will lapse the middle of June -- the 13th, if my memory serves me correctly. We look forward to working with the Russians as we move forward in missile defense to share our ideas with them, to hear their ideas and see in what ways we can collaborate or enter into cooperative arrangements.
I would have to see what the Russians said to see what they are exactly referring to, but what stopped me with your question is when you say commission I see some formal arrangement --
QUESTION: It's how the Russians phrased it.
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. I will have to look at -- I will look at the statement and then let Richard (Boucher) get back to you on it.
QUESTION: Do you think that the resistance of some of your allies will be easier to (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. You know last year we spent a good part of the year with everybody saying you cannot even imagine leaving the ABM Treaty; it is the centerpiece of the entire strategic concept. The Russians were saying, if you pull out this one key, the whole house will collapse on itself. And if you do this, the other terrible thing that will happen is you will launch an arms race that will just be so destructive, and the Chinese will do all sorts of horrible things.
We listened. We listened carefully, because you have to take those kinds of concerns into account. But the more we talked to the Russians and the more we explained to them that we were talking about defending ourselves against a limited attack, not the kind of attack that they could mount against us; and as we talked to the Chinese and said, look, you have your rather modest-sized strategic force, you have never tried to make it larger, you've never grown it, and you have not aggressively tried to modernize it, although you'll have to modernize it -- we understand that -- but we are not going to do anything that's going to cause you to do anything other than what you're doing now. So watch us.
So in the course of ten months we explained that to everybody. We consulted. We listened to the Russians and then we were not able to work out with the Russians a way for us to do our testing inside the confines of the ABM Treaty. The President sent me over in early December and I sat down with President Putin and told him that we had to move beyond this, get out of the treaty.
I went and spoke to my German, French and Italian colleagues and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Chancellor of Germany and the President and Prime Minister of France, and explained it to them. They all wished we weren't going to do this, but we did it. And as President Putin said to me when I got through with my briefing, he said, "Well, we think you're wrong. We wish you would not do this. But it will not change the strategic reality that we do not feel threatened," he said, "and we will continue moving ahead with our strategic dialogue. And he said, "The one good piece of news about this is that it will be behind us. We won't have to keep arguing about this."
And then when we made our announcement and had choreographed with the Russians when we would make our announcement, Mr. Putin not only expressed his disappointment and said it would not change the strategic situation however, and they did not feel threatened, but he went one step beyond that; he announced his strategic reductions that same day on the 13th of December.
So when you look back on it, the ABM Treaty is about to lapse, the geo- strategic situation is not collapsing, and no arms race is breaking out. So I still don't know why anybody, and especially my European colleagues, would find some horrible tragedy about to befall us because we left the ABM Treaty and we are pursuing missile defense.
QUESTION: The people who were concerned, including the Europeans, were wrong. That is being --
SECRETARY POWELL: Who said that? I didn't.
QUESTION: Well --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I mean, I laid out the case.
QUESTION: Are you implying that they were wrong?
SECRETARY POWELL: I laid out the case that all of the horrible consequences that some were speculating would befall us have not befallen us, and they almost seem disappointed that it hasn't -- that all these horrible consequences did not befall us.
QUESTION: Now --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry -- go ahead, pursue it.
QUESTION: But in Reykjavik last week, there was a happy funeral celebrated for the Cold War, but some critics said there was another funeral, and that is for NATO as a fighting force with Russia having a say in NATO and it will be, they say, little more than another political body like OSCE.
Now, what role do you see for NATO at 21, 25 or 27 in the future?
SECRETARY POWELL: The same role that NATO has performed successfully for the last 50 years. NATO has not lost any of its authority or ability to operate as an alliance at 19. NATO will continue to play a political role in reflecting the values of democracy and freedom of the great North Atlantic community. All of the nations of NATO, those present and those that will join, will have a connection -- a strategic, political and military and alliance and protection connection -- to the United States of America and to Canada. So that role will continue. NATO can act collectively in its self-defense, and increasingly it will have opportunities to perhaps operate outside of the confines of Europe and North America.
When Russia is in the room with us with the NATO-Russia Council, it is - - NATO at 20 really doesn't -- that's why we didn't pick that term, because it is the NATO-Russia Council, and we have already started to discuss with the Russians the kinds of things we can do at 20. And I think you saw that also out at Reykjavik, and I think that list will grow over time as we get to -- as we get to know one another better in the context of this new council.
So I don't think NATO has lost anything. I think NATO continues to do what it has always done. We also made it clear that Russia has no veto about what NATO might want to do at 19. And if we ever take an issue to the NATO-Russia Council, all of us at 20, and subsequently realize that this isn't working and we really need to deal with this in an alliance, we can take that issue right back to 19.
Russia -- I remember Igor Ivanov at the meeting we had last fall very cleverly made the point, "We understand that this means that Moscow cannot veto anything that NATO at 19 wishes to do, and it also means NATO cannot veto anything that Russia may wish to do as a free and sovereign nation." So I don't think it hurts the alliance. I think it strengthens the alliance in an important way; it brings Russia closer to the West, and the West closer to Russia. And that certainly has to help stability in Europe.
And it has also, I think, helped defuse some of the concerns that we heard all last year and this year that if we ever dreamed about expanding NATO into the Balkans, this would be a major crisis with Russia. The alliance is considering a robust expansion, as you heard in Reykjavik. I don't know who will come in under that robust expansion, but you do not hear any longer concerns that if the invitation should include the Balkan states, this will create a crisis with Russia; whereas a year, year and a half ago, two years ago, that's what you heard everywhere.
QUESTION: Now, there are terms like "a coalition of the willing," or "mission defines allies, not allies define mission" that have become fashionable in Washington. Where does this Administration see Europe and NATO in its framework of different alliances that it has?
SECRETARY POWELL: NATO gives you a military organization, and within the military organization there are many, many capabilities. And we often think in terms of sending tanks and planes and things like that, but there is something else in that alliance that is exceptionally useful, and I have used it many times in my former life as a soldier. And that is inside of NATO we have countries and units that have trained together, that have common doctrine, that are interoperable -- not as much as we would like, but are interoperable. And that is an important capability that NATO provides. So when we went to Desert Storm, it didn't take a lot to put on the battlefield French units and British units and American units and American army units and Marine units. Sometimes getting the American Army and the American Marines is more difficult to glue together than the American Army and the British Army. But they came with common understandings of war. I saw the same thing when we did the one in northern Iraq after the war and then we had the - -
QUESTION: Northern --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'll think of it. I'll think of it. But we sent General Shalikashvili, who some of you may remember became SACEUR, but he was a three-star at the time, and I sent John Shalikashvili into northern Iraq and Turkey to put this thing together quickly. And I went in to visit him about a month later, and we had never put out a master plan or an op order about how this was going to work, but John had about, I don't know, a dozen NATO countries that all just sent troops there. He found the Luxembourg platoon standing there one day. Where did they come from? I don't know. They just showed up. Give them a mission. And he did. And he gave this platoon a mission. It was just -- we want to be a part of this.
And so NATO gives you this huge -- this huge pocket of capability that is more than just units and nations; it's training, it's interoperability, it's integration. And that can become an alliance going somewhere or it can become a coalition of the willing that draws from that alliance. So when I look at Afghanistan and I see that there are 14 NATO countries that are doing something in Afghanistan, either in ISAF or working directly with our Central Command, or doing something else, and seven of those NATO countries are in combat, should I say NATO isn't there? Or should I say it's great we have this basket of capabilities to draw from?
QUESTION: Perception really is that there is a division of labor -- the US fights, the Europeans either fund or keep peace.
SECRETARY POWELL: Tell that to the British troops that are fighting --
QUESTION: Well, the British are the only ones with the major capabilities from the West.
SECRETARY POWELL: That's not just -- that's just not the case. There are special forces and commandos who are there from a number of nations, and the list is known to you. But it's also true that nobody has -- no other nation has the kind of lift capabilities, sustainment capabilities, logistics capabilities, communications and intelligence and satellite capabilities that the United States has. So we will always tend to be the major partner in any of these kinds of operations, and in fact what you heard in Reykjavik earlier this week as well was me pressing, and all of the others pressing, and Lord Robertson pressing, on the need for Europe to develop more of these kinds of capabilities. We think Europe needs to do more.
QUESTION: Do you think Europe, with going conservative in these recent elections, will be more amenable to that view?
SECRETARY POWELL: It will be interesting to see. It is kind of interesting, when the budget is tight and demands on the budget are significant, I'm not sure how much new flexibility you get when the political defining point moves from left of center to right of center. But my inclination would be that there would a greater appreciation for the need for defense spending and enhancing the capability of European forces to go do the kinds of missions that are more likely for them to be out there for them to do.
QUESTION: And in more general terms, do you think you will be less criticized? Will it be easier to work with a conservative Europe, say like Kyoto and ICC and a few other items?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. I don't want to prejudge. I think we will wait for the several new governments that are forming now. I think I've had good meetings with my French -- my new French colleague at the moment, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the Netherlands. And so I don't think I want to prejudge.
QUESTION: Would you say that transatlantic relation is today in a difficult situation? There have been some disputes (inaudible) on the Middle East --
SECRETARY POWELL: I understand that there is a preoccupation in Europe with the difficulty in the transatlantic relationship with -- where did I read in one of our papers yesterday? -- the grotesque, I think The Washington Post characterized it, which I thought was --
SECRETARY POWELL: It was bizarre. I mean, it was a headline that said the Wider Atlantic Grotesque American Behavior or something. And I read all of this, and I try to understand the reasons for it. And I know about Kyoto and I know about the International Criminal Court, and I know the disappointment that exists among our European friends that America does not always share the same view that Europe does with respect to Kyoto or with respect to International Criminal Court, with respect to capital punishment and with respect to some other issues.
But the suggestion that somehow the United States just goes its own merry way without listening to, talking to, or consulting with Europe, I think is a canard. I spend an enormous amount of my time listening to my European colleagues. I can document it with meetings I've attended. I can document with my phone logs. I can document it with the relationships that I've developed with almost every one of my European foreign minister colleagues. I am in constant touch with them. I am listening to them. I'm explaining what we are doing.
When you look at what we did with the Madrid Quartet a few weeks ago, where I stood on stage in Madrid with Kofi Annan and the United Nations being represented by Kofi Annan, with Javier Solana and Josep Pique representing the European Union, and with Igor Ivanov standing there -- and I'm being -- we are being attacked for not being multilateral or being too unilateral? Why was I there? Why was I doing that?
Why do I spend so much time doing that? Because it is important for the United States to be a leader, but a leader needs fellow leaders, and a leader needs other people to work with us in grand coalitions. The President spends an enormous amount of time. I was late coming to see you because he was meeting with the president of Slovenia to talk about NATO expansion. The President spends an enormous amount of time on it as well.
Now, what I will also say is that this is an Administration and this is a President that has strong beliefs and values. And when we have a strong belief, we will explain that strong belief to our friends. We will explain it to the world, and we will try to see if we can accommodate what we believe is the right thing to do with the interests of our other friends who might not agree with us. Just because we may not be able to reach an agreement doesn't mean that we don't care or that we are just going off on our own or we don't care what anyone else says. Frankly, the evidence is rather thin that we don't take concerns into account.
The evidence is also there that sometimes when we strike what we believe is the correct position, and we explain and people don't agree with us, it turns out that a few months later, or a half a year later, maybe we weren't all that wrong. The President said "axis of evil" and it was amazing what happened after that in terms of the criticism that came our way, without people saying, wait a minute, we have talked about these countries repeatedly. The President came up with a clever way of capturing them all. And guess what? The North Koreans now want to talk to us. The Iraqis are trying to pretend that they're behaving better. And the President reinforced his policy that he wants to talk to the North Koreans. He believes that the multilateral approach to Iraq is correct with both improved sanctions that don't hurt the Iraqi people, and nevertheless a belief that a regime change would help the Iraqi people and would help the region.
And so we will continue to take principled positions that we think are right for us and right for the issue, even when our friends, after the most thorough consultations, don't agree with us.
QUESTION: So your impression that the criticism in Europe for the "axis of evil" approach has been defused?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. You tell me. I mean, I don't see it in any articles that have been written about it. And all the catastrophic things that were supposed to happen because the President used the line have not happened. In fact, I can show you some suggestions of improvement. Because he called it clearly. He said, North Korea we will meet with any time, any place, anywhere, but please don't ask him not to consider it an -- a member of the "axis of evil." When a regime starves a people, when a regime is in the hands of one single individual, with no pretense that there is any kind of a representative system, when that regime puts all of its money into military expenditures to threaten a neighbor that does not threaten it, what is wrong with calling it a member of an "axis of evil"?
It was another American President who used the word "evil" and caused the same kind of oh, my God, throughout various quarters. And guess what? The Soviet Union was evil, and it turns out it was an evil empire, and it was Ronald Reagan using such clear language that helped Mikhail Gorbachev say to his people, is this where we really want to be?
So we realize that sometimes we Americans speak in certain ways that cause distress in certain quarters. But it is not because we were necessarily wrong.
QUESTION: There is a lot of criticism about the US in Europe, but it's also going the other way. There's a lot of Euro-bashing going on here. It's now -- and sometimes you can have the impression that anti- Americanism has a sibling, which is anti-Europeanism in the public. And why is Europe part of the political spectrum in this country (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: What? Give me -- I'm the Secretary of State of the United States of America. Have you heard me Euro-bash?
QUESTION: No, no --
SECRETARY POWELL: Do you hear me in any of my speeches Euro-bash? Does the President?
QUESTION: I'm trying to understand why there is a perception that it's not public policy, but it's a perception. I'm trying to understand and I'm trying to get your interpretation of a perception.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's your perception. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I don't know, turn on Fox TV. I read commentaries about fair-weather friends, free-riders on security. We could go on forever (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POWELL: I think --
QUESTION: -- and it's certainly there, and it's growing and I'd like to pose the question to you, how do you interpret it, and why is it coming out of American (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: To some extent, it reflects the fact that we get bashed all the time. I think it may be something of a counter to the -- the speed with which Europe always finds fault, some in Europe. I mean, we really do have -- we have to stop thinking of Europe as some monolithic thing. As we have discovered, it is no more monolithic than politics in Washington.
And so there are some in Europe who are quick to find fault with any position that the United States might take that we believe is the correct, principled position. We talked about a number of those issues here today. So I think there is something of a reverse spin coming back on the rhetoric, when we say, we invest a huge amount in our defense structure, and have for many, many years, in order to be part of an alliance that has served Europe rather well. And yet, we manage to draw fire on almost every issue we undertake. Not from all of our European friends, but from some, and sometimes it's others who attack us.
But this does not mean that -- this churning and this intellectual ferment that we see -- does not mean that we are on the verge of some kind of separation or divorce; far from it. I have absolutely no problem, when I testify before my Congress, in getting whatever I need for foreign affairs, and in fact they are increasing the amount of money that I have to spend in terms of -- you see nobody in Congress who says, well, let's leave NATO; you see no one in Congress who is in any way taking serious action -- there will always be somebody with a resolution -- taking serious action which would undercut any of the transatlantic work that I do. And if you take a poll among the American people, it will be not unlike a poll with European people. NATO doesn't quite have the same cache that it might have had years ago, because the threat isn't quite there. It isn't quite the real-and-present danger thing. But what is interesting, you will not find American saying, therefore, bring home the remaining troops. No. I get no questions about American presence in Europe and what we're doing in Europe. I get no questions that would suggest that the American people don't understand the importance.
I mean, attitudes with respect to increasing the size of NATO -- how many countries should be added -- this is a subject of enormous discussion throughout Europe. This is not being discussed out in Duluth or in Kansas City. You want to increase it and people want to join? Great. It's a great club to join.
The Warsaw Pact went out of business; nobody wanted to be in that club. Everybody wants to be in our club.
But the point is -- I'm with you; I understand that there is this churning. But I have been in this business for many, many years, and I have never seen a time when there wasn't churning.
QUESTION: But you can understand a person like me getting up in the morning and reading the paper, watching the TV, that myself I'm sort of getting worked up on some of this stuff I'm reading about Europe. And I'm asking myself, what is this about?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, make sure you take a good stiff drink when you go home. (Laughter.) You get up in the morning, put a cold compress on your head and a couple of aspirin, and you'll get through the day. I mean, I have never (inaudible). I mean, when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, back in '90, '91, every day it was whither NATO? I mean, why do we need it anymore? What -- it is always there. Remember what we went through with the intermediate range nuclear force deployments. You do remember those days? No, you're not old enough to remember those.
QUESTION: I do remember. (Laughter.) I do remember --
SECRETARY POWELL: Does Greenham Common ring a bell?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POWELL: You know what I'm talking about. Greenham Common, and what was the base on the mainland?
QUESTION: Greenham Common.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no -- Greenham Common was England --
QUESTION: Yeah. That was (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POWELL: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It was in Holland, right?
SECRETARY POWELL: It was in Holland. It's where we put the GLCM, the ground launch cruise missile. And nobody knows what a GLCM is anymore.
But in those days, there was concern the whole alliance was going to have a huge -- every capital in Europe was in arms over this problem. Remember the ladies at Greenham Common? Surrounding the place and marching -- don't you dare bring these missiles here. We brought the missiles there, and we survived that, and the alliance was strengthened. And what did we do about it four years later? We took the missiles out when the INF Treaty was signed. I was proud to sign that one, to be one of the negotiators in that one.
And so there are always these kinds of things within the transatlantic family. And there will continue to be these kinds of arguments within the transatlantic family. I think they are probably more vivid now, because the way we talk about things, and on some of these --
QUESTION: Can it be the way some of them are being presented?
SECRETARY POWELL: It could be.
QUESTION: This talk of evil and what's good and moral clarity. Could that be sort of --
SECRETARY POWELL: It could be. I think that has something to do with it. I think we do have a tendency to speak in very clear terms, and we tend to speak in terms where we try to -- in the first instance, recognizing there are shades of gray in every situation, but nonetheless, let's start with a clear statement of the black and white, and we'll mix the colors and see where the gray is, which shade of gray we're going to work on.
QUESTION: You're the shades of gray department. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. No, this is great. This is great fun. Yes. The fact of the matter is, it is sometimes useful in order to clear the sinuses and make sure everybody is breathing deeply of the reality of the situation -- I'm almost getting poetic now. (Laughter).
It is good sometimes to clear the sinuses and breathe deeply of the reality of the situation, and the reality of what we are facing. And then figure out how to solve the problem, which gets you into the compromises. We are a democratic nation. We know what compromises are. I give long lectures to students about the fact that the United States is a nation where you have constantly got to make compromises. Why? In order to arrive at a consensus. Why do you need a consensus? Because that's how democracies work. But it is also good for one side to lay out a clear position, the other side to lay out a clear position, and let the battle be joined.
And so sometimes we lay out a clear position; let the battle be joined, meaning let the discussion start. Let's have a debate. Europe consists of nations that are our friends. Each and every one of them. Every nation in Europe is a friend of the United States. We have good bilateral relations with all of the nations of Europe. I believe we have good relations within NATO, and I believe increasingly -- increasingly -- what we have going with the European Union, and the amount of time I spend with the European Union, is a reflection of that.
So I think things are in very good shape, notwithstanding the churning about axis of evil or unilateralism or the occasional charges of simplicity, and the occasional --
QUESTION: -- come to appreciate the (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POWELL: No. Criticize us. If you feel it is appropriate, criticize us. There is a debate taking place -- there is a debate taking place on farm subsidies on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a debate taking place on trade issues on both sides of the Atlantic, whether it's steel or on other issues. But this doesn't mean that we are not mindful of the concerns of our European friends. I mean, I was there just a few weeks ago, and the President sat across the table from Jose Maria Aznar, our good friend, who has the presidency of the EU, and they talked about steel. And the President gave, I think, a spirited defense of the situation he found himself in. And the farm bill, we know there are concerns about the farm bill. And let's discuss these issues and get clarity.
But because there are these disagreements that are always part of a political dialogue. I don't think people should translate that into some new reality that the United States is not sensitive to European issues or is not working with Europe.
QUESTION: Do you think an issue like the Middle East, it would be more efficient for the US foreign policy to reach a consensus with Europe to reach a convergence of views on what's happening in the Middle East?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have. We have. I stood on stage in Madrid with Javier Solana on one side of me, and with Josep Pique on the other side of me, and with Igor Ivanov on the other side of Javier, and with the Secretary General of the United Nations. And we issued a declaration. And we issued a declaration that it only took us two days to write and reconcile among these rather diverse parties, and that declaration contained a common view of how to move forward in the Middle East.
And then, just two weeks ago, the same gentlemen were here in the United States, and we met upstairs for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and we reviewed my trip to the Middle East, we reviewed what happened. We looked to the way forward, and that same group reaffirmed the Madrid declaration here in Washington, and we talked about a way forward. It was at that meeting, three Thursdays ago -- if my memory serves me correctly -- that I announced on behalf of all of us that we would be convening a meeting, a ministerial-level, sometime in the summer.
QUESTION: The conference?
SECRETARY POWELL: Excuse me?
QUESTION: The conference.
SECRETARY POWELL: The conference, the meeting -- (Laughter).
QUESTION: What is it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Whatever I said; take your pick. As the President said to me, what's the difference, Colin? I said, well, I don't know. (Laughter.) Meeting, conference --
QUESTION: Is it still on?
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, yes. We are going to have a meeting or a conference or a soiree. I don't have a date yet, but the date isn't as important as the fact that a lot of pieces are moving now. Arabs are more involved in what the Palestinians are doing; the Palestinians are talking about the reform; Chairman Arafat has been making some responsible statements. Prime Minister Sharon is staking out his position; the Arabs are staking out their position. Good. As I said before, you have to see what the black and white is before you start picking out where the gray might be, and what shade of gray you might be able to paint the wall.
QUESTION: You can say there is a full consensus between US and Europe - - (inaudible).
SECRETARY POWELL: Your question didn't talk about the total attitude in Europe compared to the total attitude in the United States.
QUESTION: No, my question was --
SECRETARY POWELL: We talked about the process going forward. We have convergence on that, and that's the question I answered. Is it true that you will tend to get from European audiences if you poll them more support for the Palestinian cause than if you ran the same poll in the United States, where there would probably be more support for the Israeli cause? Yes. That's correct. That's indisputable. It is also the case if you read the poll that was out last week -- sounds like you if you haven't seen it -- to an extent that I hadn't expected, public opinion in the United States is very supportive of finding a way forward for both sides, and is essentially neutral as to who is right or wrong; let's find a solution.
And while I was getting a little bit of criticism on my travels around the Middle East, a very high percentage of Americans supported that trip. I think it was in the high 70s. And 82 percent of all Americans were supportive of the United States playing a role in bringing the two sides together.
So the bottom line is that, in my view, we are working very well with Europe. The President is looking forward to his visit next week to Europe. He will speak in a powerful way I think in Berlin. He will then go on to Russia. He will meet with President Putin; he will sign an agreement. He will visit St. Petersburg to enjoy the beauty of Russia and the culture of Russia. He will come back up out. He will be in France briefly, speak in Normandy, talk about what we did together as an alliance some years ago, and why that alliance is still strong. And then he will go to Rome, and south of Rome, at the air base. All of the NATO members will sign an agreement with Russia for the NATO-Russia Council.
So for all of the concerns about the strength of the transatlantic relationship, and with all the concerns that you have communicated to me today about is America going off, is there a distinct problem with Europe, I have to sit back and say, wait a minute. Monday we announced the treaty, and we didn't blow up the strategic framework, but enhanced it; Tuesday, I was in Iceland, and I met with my NATO colleagues, and we resolved the NATO-Russia Council; I then met with the European Atlantic Partnership Council, 46 nations talked among themselves about shared values and shared responsibilities. I talked to the Vilnius Nine about how many of them -- work hard, some of you will be getting into NATO. And then my President is going next week, and he's going to be in several capitals in Europe, and he's going to be signing a treaty in Russia, signing an agreement in Rome. This doesn't seem to me to be a relationship that's on the verge of breakup.
QUESTION: You talked to Joschka Fischer the other day. He said, it's not as much what governments do with each other, but with the perceptions in --
SECRETARY POWELL: Right. And --
QUESTION: So that we in government are not losing our publics, or our - -
SECRETARY POWELL: I agree with that. We have to do more on both sides in talking to the publics on both sides, and that is why I welcome this opportunity. You are the perceptors or perceptees. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.