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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Moscow

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 13, 2001

Saturday, August 11, 2001

(Media Availability en route to Moscow)

Rumsfeld: I have nothing to say except hello and I'm glad you're all here. I'm sorry that you missed Australia.

Q: Well, are you going to convince the Russians to give up on the ABM Treaty and come to a better relationship that way or what?

Rumsfeld: As the president has said and as Secretary Powell has said, what we're about here really is a process over a period of time, and it's not a series of events. The State Department folks have been visiting, and the Defense Department people are visiting. And the president has met twice and will be meeting a couple more times this year at least.

It is not something that just happens, that two countries spend 50 plus years hostile and then suddenly accommodate to a new set of relationships. It takes some time, and there are so many things that have changed in the world. Certainly, one of the most significant is the circumstance between the United States and what used to be the Soviet Union. That is a dramatic, big event of the past decade. If you think about the changes in conventional forces, for example, between NATO and the Warsaw Pact that's taken place in the last decade, it ought not to be out of the question that there can be similar changes with respect to offensive forces, nuclear forces. And it is both of those that are being discussed, as well as the political and the economic aspects.

It's almost impossible to have -- let me rephrase that -- if you think of the American people, we, all of us, kind of seamlessly integrate political, economic, and security issues in our minds from reading the papers and listening to television and reading journals and talking to friends. And all of those things fuse into an opinion about another country, and these things can't be separated. If Russia is going to prosper and succeed, which certainly is in their interest and in the interest of the Russian people and the interest of Europe and the interest of the world, they're going to do it because of investment. That is to say that Russians will want to keep their capital in that country; non-Russians will want to invest in that country. Trained, educated scientists and mathematicians -- and they have some of the best in the world -- are going to want to stay in that country, as opposed to out-migration which we've seen some 800,000 educated people leave that country in the past decade. Now, for that country to be seen as an environment that is hospitable for investment by Russians and investment by everyone else in the world, we have to refashion the political and economic, as well as the security relationship. And we've gone a good distance on the conventional side. There's no reason we can't go a good distance on the nuclear side. It's in their interest and in our interest.

On the other hand, we have to reflect and confess and give credit to the reality that that is not easy to do for people. People don't find changing the first thing they think of when they get up in the morning. We all tend to be rooted somewhat into our past. You sit down with people, and you constantly see behavior patterns and words that reflect a Cold War construct, a set of thinkings or range of thinking or arrangements that demonstrate that they're in the back of our heads, those thoughts. And it seems to me that it's time to put them behind us.

Q: Given all of the contacts you've had in recent weeks, including the talks at the Pentagon this week, do you see that the Russian attitude is evolving in that direction toward your view of the ABM Treaty and those specific security issues?

Rumsfeld: I think it's a difficult road to travel, and I was not in those meetings and --

Q: But you were aware of what was said?

Rumsfeld: Yes, I think some people are better able to think about the future than the past. You know, I was thinking earlier this evening about missile defense and how hard it is to look into the future and predict. You go back ten years and then project to today. There are a lot of smart people in this airplane but there aren't a lot of us who would've described the world the way we find it today. And if you look ten years ahead, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the people of Russia would become fans of missile defense. The people in Moscow, of course, already have missile defense, indeed nuclear-tipped interceptors. They're already enjoying that, but the people of the rest of the world -- As the proliferation continues and as more and more countries demonstrate a weapon of mass destruction capability and an ability to deliver it, people's attitudes about this are going to change. They're going to see that it is desirable to be able to have the capability to deal with relatively small numbers of these things, which is what this is all about.

Q: One thing that will help this process is the fact that they are deeply anxious to make deep cuts in nuclear weapons. Are you prepared to give them assurances that you're ready for deep, deep cuts in nuclear weapons? That would certainly help, wouldn't it, in getting them to agree to change or throw out the ABM or whatever?

Rumsfeld: It is certainly a relevant, one piece of one third of the equation. It's an element of the security portion of the total equation. As you know and as they know, we have a nuclear posture review underway, and we've moved a good distance down the road. The president has said he wants to have the lowest possible numbers that makes sense for this country. We've already begun that process with the announcement with respect to Peacekeeper and with the announcement with respect to some Trident submarines. As we proceed through this, at some point in the weeks ahead, I'll be sitting down with the president again on the subject. He was over at the Pentagon last week on it, and we'll be coming to some recommendations. But that's not likely to happen in the next month or so.

Q: Can you tell us about where your relationship is with your counterpart, how you are getting to know him, and how critical you feel the relationship with him is in the months and years ahead?

Rumsfeld: Well, he's a thoughtful person. He is apparently close to the president, and it is a big advantage that he speaks English so you can get a better feel for a person than you might if it's all done through translation. We've met a couple of times, as you know, in Brussels, and we've talked on the phone and corresponded. Others from our administration have met with him. And I think that it's a very good thing that a person who is close to President Putin happens to be the minister of Defense in that country, and I think that is an aspect of the equation which is good.

Q: His background, though, is in intelligence not military, and there's some talk that he's having a difficult time bringing the uniformed officers along for transformation as he sees it. Have you discussed that or have any thoughts on that?

Rumsfeld: You know, I'm old fashioned. I just simply don't believe everything I hear, and I don't know what the facts are there. But he's a capable person, and I would suspect he'll do just fine in that post.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what would you say are the areas in missile defense where you could cooperate with the Russians? Is boost phased intercept an area where the Russians have something to offer us and where there's a possibility of cooperation?

Rumsfeld: I think it's too early to say. Our missile defense program, of course, is still in its testing phase until we see what pieces we might want to deploy. There have been some discussions in prior administrations about this. Warning has been one aspect of it, but I think it's too early to say.

Q: How much specific other areas, military-to-military relations other than just exchanges of officers or peacekeeping... How about specific areas where you might expand military-to-military cooperation in the conventional area?

Rumsfeld: Well, I have always been one who has encouraged military-to-military relationships. I think it is a very healthy, good thing in a world where we are divided up in separate countries to have contacts and relationships at that level. It tends to demystify things. Furthermore, political leadership tends to come in and out of office, sometimes with great numbers of years in between even, and military people tend to stay in for a career. And so continuity of those relationships can be enormously valuable. I'm one who will be encouraging military-to-military relationships, not just in this instance, but in others.

Q: Were you with President Ford on the Vladivostok trip?

Rumsfeld: I was. You must've been in high school then. That was a long time ago.

Q: But I read newspapers back then, so I know about it. You spoke a moment ago about how people create images of another country. Can you talk a little about the Vladivostok trip and other times you've been in Moscow and how that's affected your thinking?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Vladivostok trip was my first trip to Russia, and it was 1974. It was winter, late November. And it was some sort of a facility, a sanitarium or a camp of some kind. There were lots of houses in a compound, and of course, when you land, it was a very heavily defended airbase. Mr. Brezhnev, General Secretary Brezhnev, was a very gregarious, out-going, effusive kind of a person. And Gromyko was there, and Dobrynin was there. And the old interpreter, Victor, was doing the work. We had to go outside to have our meetings, assuming that we wanted to have privacy. We all would bundle up and go out in the snow and stand there and have discussions! It was interesting. In the evening, they called and invited President Ford to take a ride through town, and of course, he ended up getting into Mr. Brezhnev's car. They drove around town for about an hour in Vladivostok, in and around town and then back. And of course, neither one spoke a word of the other's language, and there was no one else in the limousine! (laughter) Every once in a while Brezhnev would reach over and grab the president's hand or the president's arm just to kind of connect and say, "Hello!" (laughter) If you think of the relationship back then in 1974 compared to today, it's just so dramatically different!

Q: How many times have you been back since then? Many, many or --

Rumsfeld: A good number. Paul O'Neil and I were on a RAND sponsored U. S.-Russia business forum, and for the last four or five years, we've been meeting with them twice a year.

Q: So you've been meeting with them regularly?

Rumsfeld: In recent years, regularly. Before that, it was intermittent. I would go in for security meetings, and I've gone over to meet with the Duma and talk to them about missile defense before I came to the Pentagon, a group of us did that. So I've been in and out for different reasons.

Q: Were they pretty receptive when you talked to them?

Rumsfeld: They were. I was quite interested. Well, everything's relative. The discussion when I met with members of the Duma -- it was the relevant committee for this subject and there were probably six, eight, ten, twelve of them and four or five of us, some Congressmen, Kurt Weldon, Jim Woolsey. And it got quite quickly to the kinds of things that we might allow them to do so they would feel more reassured, like MIRVing or something else. They were cooperating. The discussion was not "We won't discuss it." It was a perfectly rational interaction between the people who kind of had the idea that the United States was going to go forward with this because we see and correctly see an evolving threat. Therefore, if that were to happen, how could you do it the way that makes people comfortable, as opposed to uncomfortable.

Q: Let me ask you, Mr. Secretary, you've talked about how the Cold War is over and that there is a need for a new relationship. From the Russian point of view, though, there's NATO on the other side. The United States still is in a military alliance with the European countries. They're looking to an expansion of NATO. There's been some hints or suggestions that at some time in the future the Russians could conceivably -- you know it wouldn't be out of the question for the Russians to join NATO. Is that even remotely possible?

Rumsfeld: Well, from time to time, prominent people will opine on that subject. I noticed that someone in the German leadership did recently in response to a question. It's not something that I talk about simply because I haven't thought it through. So I'm disinclined to comment on it. The important thing about NATO expansion is that nations are asking to join NATO. NATO is not out soliciting members. There are countries in Eastern Europe who, for whatever reason, have concluded that it is in their interest, and I must say that I was struck while visiting with the Polish representatives at the Brussels meetings and they will tell you that their relationship with Russia is considerably better today since they joined NATO than it was before.

Q: What about Monday's meetings? What would constitute a good outcome of the talks on Monday? What do you expect to accomplish?

Rumsfeld: You just don't know. What you do is you listen to what they're saying and try to understand what the kinds of things are that they're interested in or concern them. And they presumably listen to what you're saying and begin a process of going back and forth. And you don't do that. None of us do it, even if we're all from one country. You don't do it with new people you're just meeting instantaneously. You have to get to know the situation, and you have to grow. And that's what we've been doing. It's been useful from our standpoint, and I think it's been useful from their standpoint. You still hear from time to time someone say, "Well, we don't know what they want," or "We don't know what they're going to deploy." Of course, it's not knowable what we're going to deploy because we're in a testing mode. And you need to say that kind of thing a couple of times, one would think, before they say, "Oh, that's true, you are, and we understand it. We've been briefed by General Kadish now." So I think we're taking pieces of things that historically were terribly important and worrying them around in people's minds in a way that then they see they were, used to be important. They were important, but they're not important now because the circumstances changed so dramatically.

Thank you.

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