Press Conference with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Valdas Adamkus in Lithuania
PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: -- the U.S. Defense Secretary. Of course it is not his first visit here. During the very first days after Lithuania's independence in 1990 we have covered a long road and I believe that over those years we have converged in our goals, our commitments both in relation to democracy and the free world. I believe that today I do not have to convince the Secretary of the power of determination and commitment because we stand hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder together with the USA and NATO guarding peace worldwide and in the fight against terrorism. And today the visit of the Secretary to Lithuania is another proof of close cooperation and close ties.
Again, assure on my part once again that we have given our obligations not only in words but also concrete work and we'll make sure to achieve these goals.
Once again, Mr. Secretary, I'm very pleased to see you here.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, Mr. President. It's a pleasure to be with you again and to have a chance to visit your country.
We had an opportunity this morning to walk around the old city and see what a lovely city it is and to experience the history that you carry so well. We also had good meetings today with the Minister of Defense and talked about our bilateral relationships which as you know and have said are extremely strong. We value Lithuania's role in NATO. You are a country that has stepped up and participated at a level that is admirable. The role you're playing, for example, as head of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan is admired and respected and valued.
I think back to those days 14 years ago when I made my first trip to your country, and all the progress you've made since. The advantages of free political systems and free economic systems and the opportunities that they offer to the people of Lithuania and the success that one sees here, it's a thrilling accomplishment, and I congratulate you and the people of Lithuania.
VOICE: Since we only have ten minutes with questions, the first question goes to guests.
PRESS: Donna Miles from the Armed Forces Press Service.
Hello, Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about your country's support for the Global War on Terror. What do you see as your long-term support? Also how do you, as a democracy, how do you make sure that your public is right behind you and supporting what your country's doing?
PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: First of all, I would like to assure you that Lithuanian people fully support the obligations that we have assumed. We firmly believe that maintaining democracy in this region is necessary and this is why we have taken a very active stance in relation to, for example, Ukraine. I believe that the world has seen our involvement, our active involvement during the Orange Revolution in that country, and also how Lithuania participated to support the idea of democracy. Our troops today are in Afghanistan and Iraq and all these obligations serve the same purpose, to preserve stability and strength in the region. At the same time, strengthening democracy going eastward. This is why in the future we are holding a conference here in Vilnius to which we will invite countries of the South Caucasus where democracy also needs to be strengthened. We will also invite other democratic states in addition to the Baltic states to participate in the conference. And even the United States of America as an observer. This will be a step forward to ensure democracy and stability in the region.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'd like to follow on that and thank the President and the people of Lithuanian for hosting this conference. The NATO/Ukraine relationship is an important one and the United States very much agrees with Lithuania and other countries of NATO in their interest in participating and assisting Ukraine in their reforms and their interest in becoming more closely affiliated with NATO. We're pleased to be here to participate in this and to work with Ukraine in the weeks and months ahead.
PRESS: A question to Mr. Rumsfeld. BTV News, Lithuania.
What conclusions and lessons have you learned after the fighter plane crashed in Lithuania a month ago? And what measures have you taken to strengthen policing of the Baltic airspace?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I had been briefed prior to my visit here, but today in the Ministry of Defense meetings we also received a briefing on some of the lessons learned.
NATO at Shape is engaging in a still broader lessons learned effort and I'm interested and anxious to hear what they have to say as well, as I know all members of NATO will be.
One of the conclusions, of course, that has been reached is the interest in having some of the radars improved and strengthened here in Lithuania, and I know that the Ministry and the government are interested in seeing that that's accomplished in the period ahead.
NATO will also have to address some questions and as their lessons learned are completed I'm sure we'll all be engaged in that.
PRESS: Mark Mazetti, Los Angeles Times. This is a question for you, Mr. President. As the President of a country that relatively recently joined NATO, I'm wondering whether you have any advice to Ukraine which aspires to join NATO.
PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: First of all, we urge Ukraine to comply with all the requirements as soon as possible. Namely by implementing its accession plan. We have offered our support to Ukraine to implement the required reforms. We understand that without the [inaudible] compliance with the criteria they cannot join NATO and other Western organizations. Therefore our experts in certain areas are already now involved, being present in Ukraine, providing assistance in all these areas, particularly based on the experiences drawn from our transition of 15 years, a short period. And over the short period we have shown to the North Atlantic Alliance and the world that we are capable of doing this, and I'm convinced that Ukraine as a much larger country with more resources and with all our efforts, our contribution, they will achieve the same as we did.
PRESS: Lithuanian Television. Mr. Secretary, the Minister has touched on the [inaudible] support of Ukraine for NATO membership. Now sometimes NATO is associated with its most powerful member, the policies of its most powerful member, do you yourself or do you not feel responsible for that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The Minister of Defense of Ukraine and I had a meeting today and the subject for the degree of support for NATO in Ukraine came up. He expressed a great deal of confidence that as some of the myths and misunderstandings and misinformation was dispelled, that he had no doubt but that as was the case in other countries, including Poland, that there would be a substantial movement in terms of support for NATO.
It seems to me that NATO's policies stand on their own and I think that responds to your question.
PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: On my part I would like to add the following. Today with Mr. Secretary [inaudible] to have a look at the whole range of policies. In the East, relationships with Belarus and Russia, we talked about the violation of Lithuanian airspace and how this incident was centered, and we both agreed that in this case Lithuania was guided both by its [inaudible], but it also defended the common cause especially in relation to the violation of their airspace.
In particular, related to Lithuania's position as far as foreign policy is concerned, I believe there was no divergence of opinions.
VOICE: Thank you for your questions. This is all we have.