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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with KSDK-TV St. Louis

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 16, 2001

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

(Interview with Karen Sauss, KSDK-TV St. Louis)

Sauss: Let's start first with -- I think for Americans who have grown up over the past 30 to 50 years we have grown to think of the U.S. as the country that advocates a reduction in arms, less contentious relations with other nations, and this step of maybe stepping out of the ABM Treaty creates an identity crisis for Americans. What has changed?

Rumsfeld: Really nothing has changed. The United States has been a good citizen in the world, and interestingly, if one thinks about it, there are very few times in history where we've had a nation that happened to be the sole super power on the face of the earth that coveted no one else's land, no one else's treasure, was willing through the good will of the American people to help to contribute to peace and stability in the world so that people can go about their lives and have their families and go to school and work and prosper.

Sauss: Wasn't that the whole purpose of the ABM Treaty, though? To create that kind of a peaceful world and help maintain it?

Rumsfeld: No, it really wasn't. The ABM Treaty was from 1972. It involved only the United States and the Soviet Union which no longer exists. And its sole purpose was to create a stable system between two hostile nations that had thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons poised at each other. And in the 30 years since, technologies have changed, the Soviet Union is gone, Russia is no longer our enemy, the Cold War construct that governed our lives and dominated our lives is history, and it's really time to get over it and get on with the new world.

Sauss: But what is the new reality? Why would we now want to have a missile system?

Rumsfeld: The first thing is that we don't have one. The American people seem to think that we already are capable of defending against ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. If you take a poll, many people believe that.

We can't. We do not have the ability to defend ourselves. It happens that Russia does. Russia has a ballistic missile defense system and their interceptors are armed with nuclear tips and they defend Moscow. We had, for example in Saudi Arabia ten years ago, 28 Americans killed and some 99 seriously wounded because we didn't have the ability to defend against a ballistic missile.

What's happened, the big change in the world is that back in the Cold War, during that 40 or 50 year period, there were really only two major super powers. Today, any number of countries are able to get weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles and they're doing so. They're so-called rogue states that behave quite differently.

So we need to be able to defend ourselves against those weapons.

Sauss: Can you speak directly, Secretary Rumsfeld, to the impact on St. Louis? We have a number of defense industries here. We are surrounded by military bases. What changes might this mean for St. Louis?

Rumsfeld: Well, I wouldn't have any idea because we're really only in a research and development and testing mode and we have not decided on the nature of a ballistic missile defense system that would ultimately be deployed. It will be a result of evaluating the various tests and research that's being done now.

Sauss: The greatest area of contention seems to be between the U.S. and Russia over this question. Can you see a possible compromise?

Rumsfeld: Oh, sure. I think we'll fashion some way.

Of course the treaty has a provision that allows either side to withdraw with six months notice, and President Bush has indicated that he feels that we should reduce our nuclear weapons to the lowest possible number that still assures our security, and we're currently in the process of reviewing the numbers of nuclear weapons, and I know the Russians are as well.

If you think of how far we've come with Russia in changing our conventional forces in Europe, it seems to me not unreasonable to think that we'll be able to do something with respect to our offensive and defensive nuclear capabilities as well.

Sauss: So you're suggesting that we might work out something where in return for reduction in nuclear arms we might have an increase in missile defense?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think it's unclear what might comprise an arrangement or an agreement or an understanding with Russia.

I just got in from Moscow, having been visiting with them about that. And it's not clear what the way ahead will be. But I suspect that we'll either have to withdraw from the treaty and then continue working with them on establishing a new relationship.

But of course it's a different world today. The Soviet Union is gone. Russia and the United States are not hostile. The treaty that we had in 1972 made sense then. It just happens that the times have overtaken it.

Sauss: Secretary Rumsfeld, one last question.

Clearly, you're making this tour today and answering questions, and I have to think that it has to do with a concern that this could be a PR problem for the U.S., both domestically and internationally.

What are the chances that if the U.S. withdraws from this treaty we're going to look like Big Foot trying to take over the world?

Rumsfeld: It's interesting. It's hard for me to understand how anybody in the United States or in Europe or anywhere in the world could be the slightest bit concerned about a defensive capability -- something that enables you to defend yourself. The only people that ought to be concerned about that are somebody that wants to use their weapons of mass destruction to destroy you.

If we were arguing about offensive capabilities, I could understand it and say oh, my goodness, people are concerned about that. But how can anyone say that it is in any way harmful to any person on earth for the United States to want to be able to defend itself against a ballistic missile hitting one of our cities?

Sauss: Right.

Thank you, sir. It was great to visit with you and it was an honor.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I enjoyed being with you.

Sauss: Good luck. Bye.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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