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Press Conference after Defense Ministerials in Finland

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 11, 2001

Saturday, June 9, 2001

(Press conference following the Nordic-Baltic-U.S. Defense Ministerial meeting at the Hotel Marina Palace, Turku, Finland. Minister of Defense Jan Erik Enestam of Finland hosted the meeting and the press conference. Also participating were Minister of Defense Girts Valdis Kristovskis of Latvia, Minister of Defense Bjorn von Sydow of Sweden, Minister of Defense Jan Trojborg of Denmark, Minister of Defense Linas Antanas Linkevicius of Lithuania, and Minister of Defense Juri Luik of Estonia.)

Enestam: We had a very interesting, useful and intensive meeting of Nordic, Baltic and the U.S. defense ministers.

Our main aim has been exchange of views on various topical issues on international security. In addition to that we have signed Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish agreement for industrial cooperation in the defense material area. It provides a framework for cooperation between our countries in the security of supply export control procedures and industrial participation.

We have today also signed with our Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues memorandums of understanding on bilateral cooperation between our countries defense forces. This is an important part of my government's policy of providing support for all the Baltic states efforts in developing their self-defense capabilities. Specific forms of bilateral cooperation will be discussed later on this year between the specialists.

We had three main issues on our agenda today. On the basis of a briefing by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, we had a thorough discussion on the security and defense policy of the Bush administration. Issues such as missile defense, crisis management and NATO enlargement were touched upon. We are assured that the United States will also in the future invest in the transatlantic security cooperation with the European countries.

Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian defense ministers talked about the development of military capabilities in their own countries. As we very well know, all three have made consistent efforts to improve their defense systems, working in close cooperation with their Nordic neighbors and the U.S. All three have also applied for NATO membership and investments in their military capabilities are, of course, parts of their national membership programs. On the basis of the presentations, we are able to conclude that a lot of progress has been made during the last few years.

The third item on the agenda was the multilateral security cooperation in the Baltic Sea area. This is also something that all the participants found extremely important. Several initiatives in this field have been made since the late 1990's. While there is no need to establish new structures it will be important to link possible new activities to those already established in the EAPC/PFP [Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council/Partnership for Peace] framework. Practical cooperation should especially be emphasized.

This was a short synopsis of our discussions today. I will now open the floor for questions by the press. I want to remind you that we have to close this conference at six o'clock sharp when delegations start to leave. I would therefore appreciate it if your questions would be short and compact so that we could answer as many as possible of them. And I would like to ask you all to make sure that your mobile phones are closed. And ask all questions to be made from your place where you are seated. You are especially asked to sit when you make the questions. (Laughter)

The floor is open.

Q: I'm Olli-Pekka Sulasma from the Finnish Broadcasting Company TV News. I'm going to ignore your request for short questions immediately and ask a question about stability and NATO expansion in the region you mentioned. Mr. Rumsfeld, you have at least three eager, possible new candidates sitting beside you. What are the prospects for the Baltic States possible membership into NATO? Is there a preference, and if and when the membership happens, what effect will that have in this region, the Baltic Sea region? And especially where does it leave militarily non-allied countries, such as Finland and Sweden?

Rumsfeld: You lived up to your word. (Laughter) We discussed the subject of enlargement and there is no question but that the three Baltic nations have made good progress in their military efforts and they have indicated a desire to be a part of NATO. The NATO process, as I understand it, is that it will begin soon with discussions and consultations. The policy of NATO is an open door -- and it is certainly encouraging that nations desire to be a part of NATO and that it is done by their free choice. The United States will be beginning that process along with the other NATO countries in the period immediately ahead and we won't know what the outcome will be, obviously, until those consultations and discussions have taken place.

As to what effect it would have on other countries, I don't know that it would have any particular effect on other countries. Countries are free to choose to affiliate with NATO or not to affiliate with NATO. I might say as an add-on to the comments of the chairman in the opening remarks that this has been a very good meeting and I certainly appreciate the efforts of the Nordic-Baltic nations to work together on security issues. We also applaud the various countries for the kind of cooperation that they have engaged in to improve their military effectiveness and their ability to contribute to peace and stability, quite apart from whether they are in or out of NATO.

Q: My name is Kursten Holm from Swedish TV. I heard your answer already, but again, are there any problems with the fact that Sweden and Finland are not NATO members?

Rumsfeld: The question was, "Is there a problem with that?" Not that I know of. (Laughter)

Q: But in the future when more of our neighbors will be NATO members?

Rumsfeld: I don't know what else I could say. It seems to me that NATO is an organization that exists. It has served an enormously useful role in contributing to peace and stability over the decades. There is not a doubt in my mind but that it will in the coming decades and the wonderful thing about it is that nations that desire to become a member can become a member and nations that desire not to be a member can do that as well. That has been the case throughout Europe over the past decades. There are a number of European countries that are not members of NATO.

Q: Would you prefer that even Sweden and Finland were members?

Rumsfeld: I really am very old-fashioned. I prefer that nations and individuals do that which they believe is in their best interest.

Q: And last question: when do you think there will be an agreement between the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO?

Rumsfeld: The United States is not really a central factor in those discussions. They are essentially between Turkey and the EU, and it is my understanding that the discussions have been going forward -- that EU has been moving closer to Turkey. There is no way for me, not having been involved, to tell you when it will end, but I suspect that at some point it will. We always seem to work these things out over time.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, I'm from Latvia (inaudible). If United States makes missile defenses its top priority, wouldn't that mean that the issue of NATO enlargement and interests of the Baltic states would somehow be subordinated to this question?

Rumsfeld: No. I don't see that they are connected, in any way.

Q: Mr. Secretary, John Achers from Reuters. I'm going to ask you more specifically abut potential membership of the three Baltic states. What about strong Russian opposition towards NATO as it considers knocking on its doorstep? Will Russian protests be taken into consideration in this?

Rumsfeld: Russia is an important country. It is a country that all of the nations represented at this table have relationships with. We are all interested in seeing [Russia] as a country that it orients itself to the West and has success in moving towards free political and free economic systems and becomes a prosperous part of the world.

The Russian government had some views with respect to NATO enlargement last time, and NATO enlargement went ahead. Indeed, a number of the countries that joined NATO consider their relationships to be very much better since they have gone into NATO than was the case prior to their joining NATO. NATO has made a conscious decision to certainly listen. And the minister of defense of Russia discussed his views that at the NATO-plus-Russia meeting, and others discussed their views. NATO has decided that no country should have a veto over who joins NATO.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, Bob Burns from Associated Press. If I could take you back to yesterday in your conversation with Russian [Defense] Minister Sergey Ivanov -- did you come away from that discussion with the understanding that the Russian government is still of the view that the ABM treaty in its current form should be part of the broader framework of relations with the United States?

Rumsfeld: You know, I am really old-fashioned. I am reluctant to try to characterize the views of others. I have enough trouble with getting my own views communicated properly on occasion. The world watched our press conference. We said precisely what took place in there. I came away, and I suppose everyone who watched the press conference, with the impression that both countries are interested in having discussions on a broad range of issues.

To try to characterize things that went on in the discussion beyond that, I think is probably not terribly useful. But the United States' position is clear. Certainly Defense Minister Ivanov is a very articulate and thoughtful individual and made his views quite clear. And I suspect that we will pick it up from there and have the kinds of discussions that countries have, preferably in private.

Q: May I follow-up? The reason I asked that is to ask you whether, in fact, you detected any change as you move forward in these discussions which will of course be followed up by President Bush? I'm trying to get some assessment of whether there has been any movement or change, based on your conversations yesterday, on this issue of the AMB treaty?

Rumsfeld: How does one answer that? President Bush has announced in a speech at the National Defense University his direction for our country. Secretary [of State Colin] Powell, at ministerial meetings in Budapest, discussed that with the foreign ministers. I have been in Europe now for a better part of the week doing the same thing. The president is coming along behind.

Do I think that there is progress being made? Sure I do. I think that the allies and PFP members and various countries that we have met with -- both here and in Greece as well as the bilaterals I have had -- have all been interested that there is an understanding of our desire to move beyond the AMB treaty, towards a framework that fits the 21st century, and puts the Cold War behind us.

I think that it is a mistake to take one piece or one element of a complex set of security relationships and deal with it in isolation. Missile defense is a piece of a much broader set of questions: offensive nuclear weapons, proliferation and counter-proliferation activities, issues of verification and monitoring. There is a range of things that need to be looked at in total rather than in isolation.

I am very pleased with the discussions I have had here in Finland. I am very pleased with the discussions we had in Brussels and in Greece, and there is no doubt in my mind that as we go forward, there will become a better and better understanding of the reality that the world has changed. It is time to put the Cold War behind us and the Cold War rhetoric behind us and the construct that existed -- and was useful during that period -- into a new light. And that is the process that is underway.

It is not something that anyone is going to divine and impose on anyone else. It is going to be something that is going to be the result of extensive consultations, just the kinds that we have just had in here today which were very good discussions. And it will unfold over time and I suspect that we will look back five or ten years from now and say, "Rumsfeld was exactly right." (Laughter)

Not quite -- Sometimes I kid. No, no, don't quote that. Don't do it, it would be wrong.

No, but I do think that we will look back five years and say yes indeed, some progress is being made and that we are looking at things in a realistic way for the 21st century.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, I am with the independent morning newspaper in Latvia. But if Russia no has veto for NATO enlargement process, wouldn't that mean that NATO goes to ignore Russia's interests?

Rumsfeld: Could you repeat the last sentence?

Q: That means that NATO goes against Russia's interests?

Rumsfeld: Of course not. I can only speak for the United States but my impression from all the NATO discussions is that the NATO members are very pleased that Russia has a linkage to NATO today and that they participate in some portion of the discussions.

Every country in a larger organization, a multi-national organization no matter what it is, never ends up getting their own way. None of us do. What we do is we get there in front of each other and we talk to each other and we end up learning others' perspectives. And out of that comes a process for dialogue and discussion that produces something at the end that can be characterized as a consensus. That is the way these things work. Nobody runs them. Nobody orders anyone else around.

I have been involved in NATO, off and on now for a good many decades and it is always been so and it will be in the future. And I don't think anybody ever participates in a multi-national activity and expects that everything is going to come out exactly the way they want, when they want it, and where they want it.

Q: Pirkka Kivinheimo from the Turun Sanomat newspaper. I noticed the words "intensive discussions" were used today about your discussions today. That usually means there were some disagreements. So, am I right in assuming that, for example, national missile defense was one of the issues that you agreed to disagree?

Rumsfeld: Who used the world "intensive"?

Q: Your chairman did.

Rumsfeld: The chairman did. Well, I am not much as a diplomat to know that that is the code word for conflict. But if it is, I would like to suggest that the chairman edit his own remarks because I don't think he meant to suggest that at all.

Enestam: Not at all. So there was no conflict...

Q: How would you characterize the response you got for your national missile defense idea here and how would the other members of the meeting characterize it?

Rumsfeld: I think it is much more important how they would characterize it.

Kristovskis: The issue just raised by journalists I asked to secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld. I have already received the answer, that the anti-ballistic missile issue is not related to NATO enlargement, I mean especially in Baltic area. This is the answer I wanted to receive and in this forum, the minister repeated it. Thank you.

Von Sydow: I made a question to Secretary Rumsfeld on what would you think about, what can be the consequences of the national missile defense of the United States relating to India, China and Pakistan. And I think Mr. Rumsfeld perhaps would like to answer himself now?

Rumsfeld: Well, what we talked about was that I don't see a relationship between the proposals that the United States is offering to provide some modest degree of defense against the growing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world, and what is taking place with India and Pakistan.

It is pretty clear to me that what is taking place there is we now have two new nuclear powers in that part of the world. They've received so much assistance from other countries that they have been able to do it in a rather rapid clip. They are continuing to get assistance from other countries with respect not to just their nuclear capabilities but with respect to delivery systems. One can argue that the reason India wanted nuclear weapons is because China had nuclear weapons in the region. Pakistan wanted nuclear weapons because India had nuclear weapons there. People can have all kinds of arguments as to what the motives of others are.

The fact remains we have two new nuclear powers in the region and that is not a trivial fact, it is an important fact. They are not going to give them up. They are not going to go away. The genie is out of the bottle and it is important that those two countries learn to live with nuclear weapons and not use them.

I mentioned in response to the minister's question that we have reason to be hopeful. If one thinks about it, probably for the first time in history -- I am not old enough to know all of history but I am old enough to know a lot of history -- probably for the first time in history, there has been a new powerful weapon that has not has been fired in anger for fifty years. Human beings ought to take heart with that. We ought to be encouraged by that. That, that they have not been used since 1945, nuclear weapons have not.

So the fact that India and Pakistan are two new nuclear powers does not mean that those weapons are going to get fired. What the United States and other interested countries ought to do is try to encourage that they not be used and to help those countries learn that it is possible to live with nuclear weapons and not use them. And to develop a stable situation that, such as the United States and Soviet Union had over a period of a number of decades.

Q: Jamie McIntyre from CNN, I have a question for any of the ministers except for Secretary Rumsfeld. I am curious if any of you were persuaded by the secretary's argument that it is time to go beyond the ABM treaty to some new architecture for security? And I am also curious from any of the ministers of the Baltic countries if you heard in Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks today any encouragement for the aspirations of your nations to join NATO?

Enestam: Nobody was persuaded. The character of this meeting was not to persuade anybody to do anything. We had open discussions on several items, exchanging information mostly. We were not quarreling on any item. I think it was one of, at least my best meetings, exchanging views among friends.

Trojborg: If I could answer. We had an excellent dialogue today and a good exchange of views and I think that everybody agrees that the world is changing, there are a lot technological and economic changes in the world. One of the positive things is exactly that we are now in a situation where we can leave the old Cold War rhetoric. And that is a stimulating factor in a situation where we are now beginning to be engaged in the discussion about the upcoming years and decades, new security architecture of the world. I think that that broad perspective is an interesting thing and that is what we intellectually, politically and economically should be engaged in.

I think what is important is to have a discussion about the key international agreements which provide stability and security. The ABM treaty is one treaty, and an important treaty, that has served an important purpose for a long time. But I think what is really important is how could you have an [inaudible] of treaties there is providing more stability, less proliferation and more security in the world.

Linkevicius: I will try to take the second part, and this is about encouragement. Are we encouraged a lot? I would be very positive because everybody should do his own part. And we should be encouraged and do our homework, what we are ready to do and the presence of the secretary in the meeting shows the interest in the region and I would notably say interest in the military cooperation.

If we are noticing the progress, if we are helping each other, if we are extending all our projects which we are counting a lot of them, up to now, and it's really a common asset, so I see that as an encouragement. But when this final ultimate goal will arrive, it will not be automatic. There should be some effort applied and we are ready to do that.

Luik: I would briefly comment on the second question as well. I think one would have to be blind not to see that the issue of Baltic membership has become an important political and military issue and I think that our meeting reflected that in a very positive sense. I would agree with my Lithuanian colleague here. Thank you.

Kristovskis: Yes, I also want to say that this meeting showed that states with different history and with different influence in security policy can meet together near at the same table and discuss for hours and have practically no antagonism. We understand each other very well. We understand the United States' efforts, we understand our Scandinavian partners' efforts and concerns about security in Europe, and of course they understand our Baltic efforts. This is what this meeting shows.

Q: Associated Press, Matti Huuhtanen. There are a lot of you gentlemen behind the table. But I would like to hear from any of you if you are at all concerned about the U.S. plans for missile defense and the effects it would have on stability in the region -- if we take Russia into account, Russian opposition. Do you not feel concerned that they may actually harm relations with Russia?

Von Sydow: I think it is a very important view that has been disclosed today to us from Secretary Rumsfeld. There is a very strong commitment from the United States to reach agreements on the development I would say in a wide sense of deterrences. And that relates to nuclear deterrence, but also it should be mentioned rightly I think, biological warfare capabilities and chemical warfare capabilities. And to a large extent today, these are regulated and should continue to be regulated.

My own view is that deterrences must be regulated internationally because hereby we can bring transparency into the systems and predictability. And hereby really avoiding the catastrophes, which are of course implicit in these deterrences. So I would say that one can have definitely many questions and critical questions on the developments, but I think a very important view has been disclosed to us by Secretary Rumsfeld and that is the commitment to international regimes on these deterrences.

Rumsfeld: If I may just comment on that so that the phraseology is well understood.

The president has indicated that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world is such that he is unwilling to leave population centers in the United States and to the extent our friends and allies around the world -- our deployed forces are threatened, so them as well -- vulnerable to a weapon of mass destruction threat from a person such as Saddam Hussein or Kim Sung Il.

The ABM treaty is designed to prevent you from having the ability to defend your population centers. Therefore, he said that we need to move beyond that treaty. That is why we have begun discussions with Russia, because the two countries that are involved in that treaty are the United States and the Soviet Union, and Russia as the successor, has an interest.

We have come to no conclusions at all as to what that framework out to look like. We have said that it is a lot bigger than missile defense. It involves proliferation of these technologies. It involves people who proliferate, and it involves numbers of nuclear weapons.

The president said he intends to have the lowest number of nuclear weapons that is consistent with a stable world circumstance for us and for our friends in Europe, which we have had over many, many years. But we are convinced we can do it at lower numbers of weapons.

It involves such things as monitoring and verification as has been suggested by other ministers here. That all being the case, exactly how it might be done is a very open question. It is not clear that it would necessarily be in an amendment to something, or something put in lieu of something else -- or whether it would be understandings, whether it might be simultaneous unilateral steps with respect for example to nuclear weapon reductions, which we are going to do regardless of whether we have an agreement. We are going to be reducing over a period of time.

What is open for discussion and consultation with both our allies and with Russia and with others is what that framework ought to look like and what the nature of it might be. We are in an early portion of the process.

I notice a lot of the headlines in the press have said: "Oh, my goodness, Rumsfeld pled for this or Rumsfeld pled for that. I have not been pleading for anything. I have been here in Europe for a week discussing and advising and informing and listening and learning and it has been a very useful time and I am delighted I came.

Thank you.

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