DoD Background Briefing in Munich, Germany
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Senior Defense Official Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003
(Background briefing in Munich, Germany)
Senior Defense Official: What I thought I would focus on is just some of the bilateral meetings because I think at least some of you have been in the proceedings, right?
Q: Well, (inaudible). Yeah.
Senior Defense Official: Okay, good, so I don't need to go over that.
He had some short bilateral discussions with the Norwegian Minister of Defense, Kristin Devold; with the Georgian Minister of Defense and National Security Advisor. Tevzadze is Minister of Defense. Japaridze -- and please don't ask for spellings of me, but we can get them for you. I can run them down for you. And then with Minister of Defense Ivanov. They had quite a long session. We had some additional meetings this afternoon.
The Norwegians, there was a brief meeting, not formal. Mostly discussing two topics -- follow-on in terms of Iraq and particularly NATO and Iraq and also talking a little bit about follow-on activities post-Prague for NATO.
The meetings with Tevzadze focused mostly on our bilateral relationship including the Georgia Train and Equip Program. The Minister gave a status report on it. It's going extremely well. We have heard that, by the way, independently from our own military people who have been up there.
Q: Do you have a way to characterize extremely well? Numbers or something?
Senior Defense Official: I guess what I would say is that we are well satisfied with the professionalism and the enthusiasm, work ethic, and progress of the troops that are involved. And that we believe those troops will be able to make a contribution in the war on terrorism as they're involved in activities in Georgia and along the borders.
Ivanov and the Secretary had a fairly wide-ranging discussion. They talked Afghanistan, in particular transitioning to stability phases there, and civil implementation and that sort of thing and how we're cooperating. We, the U.S. and Russia are going to be cooperating in terms of the Afghan National Army, the creation of the army.
They talked about North Korea quite extensively. And I think had a meeting of the minds, if you will, on the severity of the situation, the importance of internationalizing the problem. They talked a little bit about some of our bilateral military-to-military cooperation.
Q: On North Korea, did the Russians specifically commit to doing anything to put pressure on the North?
Senior Defense Official: Well, I wouldn't want to characterize what the Russians are going to do, but I think we got the indication that they are engaged with North Korea.
Q: Given the fact that you think they have a relationship with North Korea that involved in the past assisting North Korea in their weapons of mass destruction, have you asked them to like give you a full (inaudible) of all that they know about those programs?
Senior Defense Official: We have shared information over the past. This back-issue was not a discussion in today's topic. So no, the two Ministers didn't talk about that. We have discussed that question with the Russians in the past and there has been an exchange of information and views on the topic.
Q: What was the (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: They're not, I think the focus of the discussions today were more on how to deal with the diplomatic and, of the problem. Obviously that has to involve international pressure including pressure from not just Russia but also PRC, Japan and South Korea.
Q: Any discussion about how to respond if they do (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: No, there was no discussion of that.
Q: Did Ivanov mention the wisdom of sending additional U.S. forces to the region or lack thereof?
Senior Defense Official: No discussion.
Q: No talk about McCain's calling for sanctions on North Korea?
Senior Defense Official: No, actually the sanctions issue did not come up. There was a more general discussion about the UN and the role of the UN. Secretary Rumsfeld made the point that this is a, there will be an important role not only for the UN but for the other international agencies as well, like the IAEA.
Q: Could you describe the Secretary's speech to (inaudible) Iraq. Would you describe any conversations with Minister Ivanov in which he says the UN is (inaudible) North Korea?
Senior Defense Official: I think they're completely consistent points of view. We're at a somewhat different stage, obviously, in that process. We have 17 resolutions out there on Iraq over 12 years. I think one of the points that the Secretary was trying to drive home in his remarks was there's a sense when we talk about a second resolution and when we talk about more time, if you will, for inspectors to inspect, there's a sense that the lack of historical perspective here. I think the point he was trying to make was that we have tried inspections, we've had inspections between 1991 and 1998. We have them again. We've tried economic and are continuing to use economic tools, even to have limited military tools that we've been using over the last few years, and that all of these things combined have not stopped him from developing weapons of mass destruction.
Q: But if the UN --
Q: Can you tell us more about what the Secretary was talking about Iran and Iraq and the possibility of a war there? (inaudible) with him (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: No, not a follow-on. Talking about the situation in NATO now with the help for Turkey.
Q: I thought you said --
Senior Defense Official: I'm glad you asked the question. No, no. I meant a follow-on from the discussions this morning. Sorry.
Q: Can I take you back to the UN question then?
Q: If you will, was there any discussion of NATO -- of more NATO -- nations participating in a pro-Saddam Iraq? Is Secretary Rumsfeld getting a briefing on that at all?
Senior Defense Official: No, we haven't had discussions on that. I think the focus right now is on NATO planning to, in the event that Turkey is threatened and doing some planning. That's the main focus. Of course there may be other -- We're not shutting the door on potentially other roles, but at this point I think it's premature to talk about these things until NATO makes the right steps in terms of Turkey. We're pretty confident that that will happen.
Q: You're pretty confident that NATO will approve? You think that will happen Monday?
Senior Defense Official: I didn't say it would happen Monday. I said I think NATO will ultimately approve that.
Q: If NATO doesn't approve Monday, though, how quickly would the United States, would the United States move to unilaterally do what you think needs to be done for Turkey?
Senior Defense Official: I don't know that the United States would necessarily even have to do any planning. There may be other allies who would....
Q: Outside the bounds of NATO?
Senior Defense Official: I think that we're obviously working with Turkey right now and one of the things that was very clear from the Secretary's remarks this morning, we feel, we the United States feel very strongly that if Turkey feels threatened we ought to be part of protecting Turkey. So I don't think it's a matter of how quickly we'll move. In some ways we're already moving in that direction in terms of our discussions with the Turks and working on the possibility of planning for having U.S. forces involved in Turkey.
Q: Can I take you back to the UN question?
Senior Defense Official: Which UN question?
Q: Tom Shanker's. Mr. Rumsfeld went beyond projecting that the United Nations was in danger of losing its credibility and indeed said it's already lost it in his mind, and there's a quote in there about how it needs to move out of being this object of ridicule and reclaim its role.
So how, given that I think fairly clear attitude towards the UN, how does the Administration look to the UN being useful in resolving the North Korean crisis? Clearly Rumsfeld indicated he felt the UN had already lost its credibility with the Iraq disarmament commission and the human rights commission and the sort of foot-dragging on --
Senior Defense Official: I really can't speculate on exactly what the measures would be. But first of all the IAEA is in effect, it's a separate organization but it's certainly recognized among the UN auspices. The IAEA needs to take action I think on this and send a strong statement to the UN on the actions that the North Korean government has taken. Then it really is for the Security Council to respond to that.
But I think the main point he was trying to make in terms of the UN as well as individual countries is that this is an international problem. This is not an issue that's a bilateral problem between the United States and North Korea. Many other countries are affected by this -- South Korea is affected by it, Japan is affected by it, China is affected by it -- and if fissile material were to end up in the hands of other weapons of mass diffusing states, many countries could be affected by it. So it's a problem that everybody needs to take extremely seriously. I think that was the main point.
Q: How about NATO? The Secretary's speech sounded as if the French and Germans don't shape up, the Defense rests by Monday, that NATO would (inaudible). Is the time running out for NATO?
Senior Defense Official: The number of times that NATO has been declared almost dead is, we don't have time to go into that. I don't think that is the case. But I do think it's important that, like I said, there have been a number of important turning points in alliance before and we're clearly coming up to one of those. I think it's very important, particularly given the fact that Turkey may well or may yet invoke its Article 4 rights under the treaty, and if it does so, I think that NATO has to act. And I think that, as I said earlier, I think NATO will act.
Q: (inaudible) protest by (inaudible) on Monday (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: I'm not exactly sure what the time is, but yes, there's something called a "silence procedure." So somebody has to break silence for it not to be approved.
And by the way, that is a --
Q: Even though it's being blocked?
Senior Defense Official: They could have just agreed to it. They didn't have a consensus. But to show you the depth of feeling in favor of doing this, the Secretary General was confident enough and comfortable enough to put it under a silence procedure by Monday. And that shows to me that there's a lot of support within NATO.
Q: Can you explain, you were talking earlier about planning for helping Turkey (inaudible). Is this different from actually sending them on?
Senior Defense Official: Absolutely. We're talking about --
Senior Defense Official: What this effectively would be would be a directive to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe to plan for how Turkey could be protected against a number of threats including the possible introduction of air and missile defense systems like the Patriot, CBW protection and the like. And so it's a planning operation.
As you know in our system as well as in the NATO system we begin by planning. A deployment would require a separate decision so I think that's one of the reasons why you saw on the floor today a certain amount of astonishment from a number of people that NATO wasn't even allowed to plan to do this.
Q: Hasn't the question been the deployment of Patriots and AWACS and other offensive type equipment?
Q: Or did they request a different planning for that?
Senior Defense Official: I'm not quite following you.
Q: Wasn't there a request to NATO to deploy Patriots and AWACS and things of that nature --
Senior Defense Official: The request at this point is to begin the planning. It's a two-stage process. It really ultimately will I think depend on what Turkey wants to do in terms of when Turkey would feel it needed those capabilities. But at this point our view is that it is only prudent to have all the planning done so that in the event those capabilities are needed the planning has already been accomplished, and if the North Atlantic Council were to decide and Turkey desired it, that the deployment could occur expeditiously.
One more question.
Q: Why didn't Turkey request that in the beginning, rather than (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: I think that it's a fairly major step for a country to invoke the treaty, and I think there was a desire to move this forward quickly and without the invocation of the treaty. That's one of the reasons why. The other thing is that the U.S. was also interested in looking at how we might be able to involve NATO in this process and as you know there were a number of proposals that were made by the United States, and among those proposals was the role that NATO could play in protecting allies who are geographically located near the theater of operations.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld's main message? Is this (inaudible)?
Senior Defense Official: I think that he and the Minister, by the way, have already had a brief conversation prior to the lunch and I think they're going to probably touch on a somewhat broader range of issues including the involvement of Germany in Afghanistan, the takeover of the German and Dutch lead around the (inaudible) as well as the help that the German government is providing in Germany on force protection as well as the issue in Brussels. I think there will be a number of topics.
Thank you very much.