Secretary Rumsfeld's Press Conference In Warsaw
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2002
(Press conference, Warsaw, Poland)
Voice: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is now talking with NATO members in Warsaw, Poland. As you can see it's in progress, so let's go to it right now.
Rumsfeld: Needless to say it would be the first Summit meeting of NATO to be held in a former Warsaw Pact country later this year.
Together it's a powerful symbol of our commitment to unifying Europe and creating a Europe that is, as has been said, whole, free and at peace.
The world has changed for the better to be sure and our presence here in a free Poland is a clear indication of how much better. But as we learned on September 11th the world has changed in more ominous ways as well. We have most assuredly entered a new security environment, one that is dramatically different from the one that this alliance was formed to deal with some 50 years ago. It's a world in which terrorist networks, terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction come together in a way that can cause unprecedented destruction to our cities, our people, and our way of life.
This alliance has come a long distance since last September 11th. It is unified with respect to the global war on terrorism and its understanding of weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks as the most serious threat to the alliance.
The alliance is now grappling with those important changes and working to make sure that we and it are ready to meet the new security challenges that all of our nations face in this dangerous and somewhat uncertain period ahead.
To be ready, NATO will need 21st Century capabilities. In that connection we did discuss the possible creation of a NATO response force that could give the alliance a capability to deploy and sustain a significant fighting force in a matter of days or weeks rather than in months or years.
We also discussed reform of NATO's command structures and getting rid of unneeded bases and command structure and forces. Organizing them and arranging them to be reoriented to deal with 21st Century threats.
Needless to say, with declining defense budgets in some NATO nations -- not all, but some -- we have a responsibility, all of us in NATO, to make sure that we avoid wasting the taxpayers' money and see that the dollars that are invested in contributing to peace and stability, actually have a relevant 21st Century purpose.
Finally we discussed the way ahead in the global war on terrorism and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. As the president has made clear, our objective in the war on terrorism is to stop another September 11th, or worse a WMD attack, before it happens. Whether that threat might come from a terrorist regime or a terrorist network or some combination of the two is beside the point.
We provided our allies with an intelligence briefing on the Iraqi threat that it poses to the world. The deputy director of Central Intelligence presented a detailed discussion of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and its support for terrorists.
Everyone is on notice. All now have a clear understanding of the threats that are posed.
I noted how at this moment back in the United States the committees of the United States Congress are holding extensive hearings, analyzing what actually happened prior to September 11th and why it was that it wasn't possible to connect the dots and avoid the September 11th attack. Who knew what when are the questions, pouring over tens of thousands of pieces of paper and documentation.
Throughout our history we see that there have been many books written about threats that occurred and attacks that eventually resulted and why they were not anticipated and prevented. Books like "At Dawn We Slept -- The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor," "From Munich to Pearl Harbor," " Why England Slept," are just three of the books. Already a couple of books have been written about September 11th and why it was that it could not have been anticipated.
The list of such books is endless. Indeed in the past year we've seen still more. Each is an attempt by the author to try to connect the dots after the fact -- to determine what happened.
Our job today, however, those in positions of responsibility, of governments in the NATO alliance, is not to try to connect the dots after it happens, it's to try to connect the dots before it happens. That is the responsibility of government. It is to analyze information, make judgments, calculations, and come to conclusions that to the extent they're wise conclusions can protect the lives of innocent men, women and children.
I'd be happy to respond to some questions.
Q: Last year after the 9/11 attacks -- James Kitfield from National Journal Magazine.
Last year after the 9/11 attacks NATO for the first time invoked Article 5. Your response to that was initially the mission defines the coalition. I know NATO got involved in some ways after that, but some people thought that was a blow to the relevance of NATO.
If the United States decides to act with Iraq and NATO does not play a part in that, will that be another blow to NATO?
Rumsfeld: First of all it was not a blow to NATO. Indeed, it was an example of NATO's cohesion and NATO's responsiveness after September 11th. It was an exceedingly unusual and bold action that NATO took.
The coalition that exists for the global war on terrorism was announced by President Bush with other countries to follow, and they did. NATO followed almost instantaneously. Today there are 90 nations involved in that coalition. It is the largest coalition in human history. It is not a blow to anybody. It's a success story.
Now with respect to the last half of your question, it's like, you know, stirring for troubled waters. The president has not made an announcement with respect to his conclusions as to what ought to be done with respect to Iraq. Therefore, one ought not to be surprised that there isn't a coalition.
What he's decided to do is to go to the Congress of the United States. He's decided to go to the international community at the United Nations. He's decided to have me and Secretary Powell and others make presentations to our NATO allies.
You can be certain that if and when the president decides to do something there will be other nations that will be assisting.
Let me go back to your comment about that I made a statement to the effect that the mission determines the coalition and the coalition ought not determine the mission.
I said it and it's correct. It has been enormously helpful to this world of ours.
Every country is somewhat different. They're sovereign nations. They have different histories, they have different circumstances, different geography, and the fact that they are able to help in different ways is important.
The thought that every country in the world, and it takes all the countries in the world to try to deal with a global problem like terrorism, the thought that they should all agree at the same moment to contribute in exactly the same way is nonsensical. It never has happened, it never will happen. Countries ought to be able to decide what they can do to help. Some countries are doing it publicly, some are private, but all nations that are involved in this coalition are sharing intelligence and it's that intelligence information that is helping us track down terrorists wherever they are and stop terrorist acts and save innocent lives.
The statement I made is sound as a rock.
Q: Speaking of Iraq -- [Laughter]
Rumsfeld: I didn't say Iraq. [Laughter] You said Iraq.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you [inaudible] in John McLaughlin style. On the scale from one to ten when one means tougher disappointment and ten supernatural contentment, which number would define your mood of this meeting? Speaking particularly about the formation of chances of making formation of ready reaction force by NATO, but also about other matters.
And could you tell us about progress of SDI program? Maybe [inaudible] context because of danger from some more distant future also important I think.
I want to wish you all the best in your endeavor.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, sir.
The McLaughlin Group - ten's high, one's low. I came away from this meeting very, very high. I would say it's up in the nine and ten levels. I think it's been an excellent meeting. We've had good discussions.
The problem that the Secretary General is facing and the NATO nations are facing with respect to the capabilities is a serious one and that is determined by budgets. Therefore the progress there has not been as great as it ought to be.
The response to our proposal with respect to a NATO response force has been broadly positive. I've been very pleased. I think it's critically important that NATO have a capability that can be deployed in a matter of hours and days. A warfighting capability. And my impression is that it received very broad and enthusiastic support.
With respect to the, I think you said SDI, the threat of ballistic missiles. If we've learned anything it's that the terrorist networks that exist in the world and terrorist states avoid attacking armies, navies or air forces and look for areas of vulnerability. They fashioned so-called asymmetric threats that don't require their going after armies, navies and air forces. That means that clearly ballistic missiles are a threat, cruise missiles are increasingly a threat, terrorism is a threat. We'll undoubtedly be seeing countries that are heavily dependent on technology such as the United States and the Western European nations. The attacks with respect to cyber attacks and that type of thing.
So what we've seen is a growing understanding of that, that those are the kinds of circumstances we're going to have to face in the 21st Century, and as a result we're proceeding with our missile defense program and other countries are interested in discussing various aspects of it with us, and I suspect we'll see continued improvements in the ability to deal with those asymmetrical threats.
Terrorism, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, cyber attacks and the like.
Q: Mr. Secretary, [inaudible] and you've said that you feel that a military coalition would be built against Iraq if such a decision were made.
Did you get an increased sense at this meeting talking to Ministers that it would be easy to build a military coalition against Iraq if the U.N. doesn't?
Rumsfeld: Every question I get is if this, if that doesn't happen some bad thing -- I don't get up in the morning and look like that and think about things like that.
The President went to the Congress and he is urging that they consider this problem. He's gone to the United Nations and they've got extensive discussions taking place. The same nations that are in NATO are also in the United Nations. Those discussions are moving forward. I know of any number of nations that are deeply concerned about this problem as the President is. I know any number of nations who have in a variety of ways indicated not just their concern but their interest in assisting and helping the president and the world community to find a way for Iraq to be disarmed as they agreed to do under the U.N. resolutions.
How that ought to be done, we've been trying political methods, we've tried economic sanctions, we've tried military activity in the Northern and Southern no-fly zones with our coalition partners, and none of them have worked. That is clear.
The question then comes, what does the international community think ought to be done about that and what does the president ultimately think ought to be done about that. Those are decisions that will be made in capitals across the globe.
Q: I have a question that is not a hypothetical question.
Rumsfeld: And doesn't have a negative at the end of it?
Q: Well, are you interested in improving relations with Germany? Have you considered whether the U.S. might --
Rumsfeld: How can you ask that question of someone named Rumsfeld? [Laughter]
Q: Have you considered withdrawing any U.S. troops from Germany? And did you intentionally snub the German Defense Minister while you were here?
Rumsfeld: Why would you ask that question?
Q: To get the answer. [Laughter]
Rumsfeld: No, I did not intentionally snub anybody. That's not my way.
Q: You would agree with me, I guess, that U.S. and German relations are slightly strained at the moment.
Rumsfeld: I've read that, that the White House seems to have made some comments along that line and I work for the president.
Q: You made some comments as well. But my question is forward-looking --
Rumsfeld: I think I repeated what the White House said.
Q: My question is forward-looking which is, are you planning to take any steps to improve relations between the United States and Germany.
Rumsfeld: Look, the president and the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have continuous relationships with all the NATO nations. They go on at multiple levels. Obviously we're in a period where there are quite strong views that are held in the United States about things that have been said and done, and how that will iron out in the days and weeks and months ahead is, I guess, yet to be seen.
But in answer to your question, it's not for me to make those judgments as to what the president or the Secretary of State decide to do. We certainly have no plans that anyone could characterize as reactive to that.
That was a pretty good answer.
Q: Mr. Secretary, would you allow me to follow up on this?
Is it true that you left last night's dinner before the German Defense Minister could speak? First question.
Secondly, what is your idea, what should the Germans do to restore relationships to where they ought to be? Thank you.
Rumsfeld: It's not for me to give advice to other countries. We do have a saying in America, if you're in a hole, stop digging. I'm not sure I should have said that. [Laughter] Let's pretend I never said that. [Laughter]
I hate to get into tick/tock little things like who was at dinner and that type of thing. But we've had a series of meetings for two days. A day and a half. Morning, noon, afternoon, night functions. I have attended and participated in almost every minute of all of those functions. Other Ministers have not. Some have been there for I'm sure as much as I have been which is about 98 percent of the whole thing. I think I left one meeting early, about 15 or 20 minutes early last night at, I think, quarter to 11 after having been at it since six in the morning. I don't think it's correct that the German Minister had not spoken, I think he had spoken at that meeting earlier. I had no idea, I told the Secretary General I had to leave the meeting, I had two issues I had to deal with. He had known it for 45 minutes. The meeting went on 45 minutes longer than its hard stop at 10 o'clock. I stayed 45 minutes longer, but I did leave before it concluded and I'm told it went on 10 or 15 minutes thereafter.
It also happens that the Minister you're referring to was not present during the entire afternoon session yesterday when we were giving our briefing.
Now, does that mean that he was snubbing somebody? No. I suspect he had a perfectly good reason to go back to Berlin. Does it mean I was snubbing somebody? No.
For people to waste their time chasing that rabbit and then only to run it down and find they've got the wrong rabbit, I think is a shame.
There was no snubbing that I saw in the entire meeting by anybody. That was visible. [Laughter]
Q: Bob Burns, Associated Press.
I'd like to ask you about the situation in Ivory Coast and the role that American troops may play. I understand some are nearby now. Can you describe the situation for us?
Rumsfeld: I can. The situation is evolving and we do have some troops, not in the country but in the vicinity. And at the moment things are at an acceptable level. Some real estate's changed hands but at the moment we see no threat to a small element of Americans that are in reasonable proximity to where there had been some problems. But we're watching it and it's not a serious problem -- at the moment.
Q: Peter Biles, BBC News.
How would you characterize the discussions that you've had about Iraq? Has it simply been a question of taking soundings, or does it go further than that in terms of trying to garner political and military support?
Rumsfeld: No. We were not here garnering, trying to garner military support because the president has made no judgment and conclusion as to whether or not he thinks military activity would be ultimately necessary.
He has said, needless to say, that force is your last choice, not your first choice, and he's demonstrated that by going to the Congress and to the United Nations and his patience over a period of a number of years, our country's patience, and the U.N.'s patience.
So we did not come here to do that. We came here -- I've always believed that if people have roughly the same set of facts, reasonable people, they're going to come to roughly the same conclusions. To the extent they're working off a different set of facts they're less likely to. And it seems to me everyone has their right to their own opinion but not the right to their own facts. So what we've tried to do is to take a shared intelligence that we've gathered and worked with a number of other countries, put it before this group, have them have a chance to ask questions of a very knowledgeable individual who spends his life doing this, and come to an understanding of the situation that roughly approximates our understanding. That is what we were doing. We were not here trying to persuade people to do anything other than invest the time to learn what's taking place in this world of ours and how critically important the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist states that have those weapons and terrorist networks that have an enormous appetite for those weapons, and in some instances have been working hard to acquire them.
Q: Norah O'Donnell with NBC.
Are there linkages between al Qaeda and Iraq? And where are they?
Rumsfeld: The deputy director of Central Intelligence briefed on that subject. I have no desire to go beyond saying the answer is yes.
Q: Polish Weekly Press.
What [inaudible] of Poland in new response force?
Rumsfeld: That of course is, with all NATO activities, up to Poland. Each country looks at the activities of NATO and makes judgments as to the ways it feels are most appropriate for it to contribute and it would be a question that would have to be posed to the Polish government.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Judy Dempsey, Financial Times.
You said there was a linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq. Given the dinner last night against the background of the national security strategy which the president unveiled on Friday, the briefing by the CIA and the Blair dossier. Did you receive, without asking because you never asked for support, but did you receive any kind of political or military support or gestures of this kind from any of the member states at this dinner last night? Given the huge amount of information now available to them.
Rumsfeld: First I must say that I thought the presentation by Prime Minister Blair and the document that he released yesterday was certainly a very useful and constructive step on his part.
You're right, I was not there yesterday or last night or this morning soliciting support. You asked if it just happened to come over the transom without being asked for and the answer is yes. The next question is, I'm not going to respond as to who it was or what they said, but the correct answer is yes. People did come up to me and indicate in a variety of different ways the views of their governments which of course Ministers of Defense don't make those policies, they implement policies of their governments.
Q: Just one brief question following up on that. Realizing you're not going to talk about countries or exactly what they said, could you just generally give us an idea of that support that you got coming in over the transom?
Rumsfeld: No. It's for those countries to say what they want to say. It's not for me to say it. And they do.
Q: [inaudible] Polish Television.
What was the issue of your private talks with German Defense Minister Struck and why couldn't Warsaw be the place of consolation between Germans and Americans?
Rumsfeld: What was the issue?
Q: The subject of your talks with German Defense Minister.
Rumsfeld: I didn't have talks with the German Defense Minister. I had a set of bilaterals that were set over the preceding months with the Netherlands, several people in the Polish government, Turkey, Italy -- I've not had a minute that I was not booked with either a NATO meeting or a bilateral. I did not have one scheduled with the German Minister, therefore it's impossible to have canceled one with the German Minister if you do not have one in the first place. It just wasn't ever there. That's all I can say.
Q: [inaudible] from Latvian Television.
Russia is trying now to push very much the linking between the CFE agreement and with enlargement. So can we expect some new political criteria last day before Prague, you come to the country?
Rumsfeld: I don't see any linkage between NATO enlargement and CFE, and I don't know any NATO countries that do. Was that your question?
Q: [inaudible] were discussing this this morning-with you.
Rumsfeld: I understand.
Q: What is your response for Russia's willingness to tie those two things together?
Rumsfeld: Statements were made by Russians, statements were made by others. The obvious conclusion is that there is no linkage between those two and that those countries will do what they will do if and when they end up entering NATO I think is the correct way to characterize at least the United States view.
One more. He's got a good one, I can tell.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what do you think about the situation in Georgia?
Rumsfeld: Who else had their hand up? [Laughter]
I think it's a difficult situation. You've got a country that's a sovereign nation, it's a former Soviet Republic. They have a government and they've got, there's no question but that there are terrorists operating on their border and moving back and forth into Chechnya. There's also no question but that that's a problem for Russia and Russia is deeply concerned about it. They raised it in Washington, D.C. with Secretary Powell and me a couple of days ago when they were there, Thursday and Friday as I recall. They raised it here in the NATO Council today. The United States position on that, we know the Russian position, the United States position is that it's important that Georgia's sovereignty be respected. We do not favor bombing in that area. We recognize the difficulty that it poses for Russia because it is correct that there are portions of some countries in the world that are not being governed, and where people are able to take advantage of borders. We see that in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. We see it in the Iranian/Afghanistan border. We see it in the Yemen/Saudi Arabia border. There are a number of border areas where terrorists have gravitated because they find it's to their advantage to operate in areas where there are those ambiguities.
But the United States has taken some of our forces into Georgia. We have worked with the Georgian government to try to train some of their people to develop a greater degree of competence so that they can deal with the problem, and President Bush has urged President Putin to work closely with the Georgian government, and see if they can't fashion a way to deal effectively with what is clearly a serious problem.
Thank you very much.