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Secretary Rumsfeld Address to the Munich Conference on European Security Policy

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 08, 2003

(Address to the Munich Conference on European Security Policy in Munich, Germany)

Dr. Horst Teltschik, ministers, parliamentarians, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you so much. Horst, I'm delighted to be with you. Indeed it is most certainly not my first visit to this conference. I've come off and on over many decades. It's a particular pleasure to be back in Europe! I'm told that when I used the phase "old Europe" the other day, it caused a bit of a stir. I don't quite understand what the fuss is about. As I said at the time -at my age, I consider "old" a term of endearment. Like an old friend.

As a matter of fact, you mentioned, I forget quite how you said I say things, but I'm told one of the German newspapers referenced the fact that my ancestors came from northern Germany and that it is an area known for plain, straight talk.

One of the advantages of age, and I've got some, when you are as old as I am, you've seen a lot of history. I lived through our depression and World War II. A young man when the NATO Alliance was founded, the names Churchill, Roosevelt, Adenauer, Marshall and Truman were not figures I learned about from history, but leaders that we all followed over the years, as Europe drifted into war and then was lifted from the ashes of World War II. They helped build our transatlantic Alliance and fashioned it into a bulwark against tyranny and in defense of common values and our freedom.

When the President appointed me Ambassador to NATO in the early 1970s, it was a defining moment in my life. I worked closely with dedicated and highly skilled diplomats such as Andre de Starke, the former dean of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, my close friend Francois de Rose, then the French Ambassador to NATO, Franz Krapf from the Federal Republic of Germany, and so many other very talented diplomats. None of us could have imagined then that NATO leaders would one day meet in Prague, where they would invite Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania to become members of the Atlantic Alliance.

It is remarkable how Europe has changed just over the course of my lifetime. Thanks to NATO's efforts, the center of Europe has indeed shifted eastward-and our Alliance is stronger for it.

Not only is the map of Europe being transformed, but so too is the map of the world. Out of the tragedy of September 11th came great responsibilities to be sure, but also unprecedented opportunities-to tear down calcified barriers left over from earlier eras and build new relationships with countries that would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago. And that is precisely what we have been doing in the global war on terror.

Our coalition for the global war on terror today includes some 90 nations-almost half the world. It is the largest coalition in human history. We are fighting alongside old allies and new friends alike. (Whoops-there's that word "old" again.) Some are involved in the military effort in Afghanistan. Others are helping elsewhere in the world-in Asia, the Gulf, the Horn of Africa. Some are helping with stability operations; still others are providing basing, re-fueling, over-flight, and intelligence. Some are not participating in the military effort but are helping in the financial, diplomatic and law enforcement efforts. All of these are important and deeply appreciated by all nations committed to the global war on terrorism.

As to Iraq, we still hope that force may not be necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein. If it comes to that; however, we already know that the same will hold true-some countries will participate, while others may choose not to. The strength of our coalition is that we do not expect every member to be a party of every undertaking.

The support that has already been pledged to disarm Iraq, here in Europe and across the world, is impressive and it's growing. A large number of nations have already said they will be with us in a coalition of the willing-and more are stepping up each day.

Last week, the leaders of Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, issued a courageous statement declaring that "the Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world security," and pledging that they would "remain united in insisting that his regime be disarmed."

Their statement was followed this week by an equally bold declaration by the "Vilnius 10"-Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. They declared: "Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend shared values... We are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce [Resolution 1441] and the disarmament of Iraq."

Clearly, momentum is building-momentum that sends a critically important message to the Iraqi regime-about the seriousness of purpose and the world's determination that Iraq disarm.

Let me be clear: no one wants war. No, war is never a first or an easy choice. But the risks of war to be balanced against the risks of doing nothing while Iraq pursues the tools of mass destruction.

It may be difficult for some to fully understand just how fundamentally September 11th transformed our country. Americans saw the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers as a painful and vivid foreshadowing of far more deadly attacks to come. We looked at the destruction caused by the terrorists, who took jetliners, turned them into missiles, and used them to kill 3,000 innocent men, women and children-and we considered the destruction that could be caused by an adversary armed with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Instead of 3,000 to be killed, it could be 30,000, 300,000.

Konrad Adenauer once said that "history is the sum total of things that could have been avoided." With history, we have the advantage of hindsight. But we must use that advantage to learn. Our challenge today is even more difficult. It is to try to connect the dots before the fact-to prevent an attack before it happens-not to wait and then hope to try to pick up the pieces after it happens.

To do so, we must come to terms with a fundamental truth-we have reached a point in history when the margin for error that we once enjoyed is gone. In the 20th century, we, all of us here, were dealing, for the most part, with conventional weapons that could kill hundreds or thousands of people. If we miscalculated-or underestimated or ignored a threat-it could absorb an attack, recover, take a deep breath, mobilize, and go and defeat an attacker. In the 21st century, that's not the case; the cost of underestimating the threat is unthinkable.

There is a momentous fact of life that we must come to terms with and it is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction, terrorist states and terrorist networks. On September 11th, terrorist states discovered that missiles are not the only way to strike Washington-or Paris, or Berlin or Rome or any of our capitals. There are other means of delivery-terrorist networks. To the extent a terrorist state transfers weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, they could conceal their responsibility for an attack.

To this day, we still do not know with certainty who was behind the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. We still do not know who was responsible for the anthrax attacks in the United States. The nature of terrorist attacks is that it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to identify those responsible. And a terrorist state that can conceal its responsibility for an attack certainly would not be deterred.

We are all vulnerable to these threats. As President Bush said in Berlin, "Those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent." We need only to look at the recent terrorist bombings in Kenya or Bali, or the poison cells that have recently been uncovered and disclosed here in Europe, to see that is the case.

Last week, President Bush spoke to the world about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. This week, Secretary Powell presented additional information in the Security Council:

  • Intercepted communications between Iraqi officials,
  • Satellite images of Iraqi weapons facilities, and
  • Human intelligence-from agents inside Iraq, defectors and detainees captured in the global war on terror.

He presented not opinions, not conjecture, but facts demonstrating:

  • Iraq's ongoing pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;
  • Its development of delivery systems, including missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles;
  • Its tests of chemical weapons on human beings;
  • Its ongoing efforts to deceive UN inspectors and conceal its WMD programs; and
  • Its ties to terrorist networks, including al-Qaeda-affiliated cells operating in Baghdad.

It is difficult to believe there still could be question in the minds of reasonable people open to the facts before them. The threat is there to see. And if the worst were to happen-and if we had done nothing to stop it-not one of us here today could honestly say that it was a surprise. It will not be a surprise. We are on notice, each of our nations, each of us individually. Really the only question is: what will we do about it?

We all hope for a peaceful solution. But the one chance for a peaceful solution is to make clear that free nations are prepared to use force if necessary-that the world is united and, while reluctant, is willing to act.

There are those who counsel that we should delay preparations. Ironically, that approach could well make war more likely, not less likely-because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty, instead of a signal of resolve. If the international community once again shows a lack of resolve, there is no chance that Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily or flee his country-and thus little chance of a peaceful outcome.

There is another reason to prepare now: NATO member nations have an Article V commitment to defend Turkey, should it come under attack by Iraq. Those preventing the Alliance from taking even minimum measures to prepare to do so, risk undermining the credibility of the NATO Alliance.

The stakes are high. Iraq is now defying the 17th UN Security Council resolution. The Council voted to warn Iraq that this was its "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations." Quote, unquote. The resolution, which passed unanimously, did not say the "next to final opportunity." It said the "final opportunity." And those who voted for it, and they voted unanimously, knew what it said. They were explicitly reminded what it said. The question is did the UN mean it? Did they mean it? We will soon know.

Seventeen times the United Nations has drawn a line in the sand-and 17 times Saddam Hussein has crossed that line. As last week's statement by the eight European leaders so eloquently put it, quote: "If [those resolutions] are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result."

Let me add these sad thoughts about the state of the United Nations. An institution that, with the support and acquiescence of many of the nations represented in this room, that would permit Iraq, a terrorist state that refuses to disarm, to become soon the chair of the United Nations Commission on Disarmament, and which recently elected Libya-a terrorist state-to chair the United Nations Commission on Human Rights of all things, seems not to be even struggling to regain credibility.

That these acts of irresponsibility could happen now, at this moment in history, is breathtaking. Those acts will be marked in the history of the UN as either the low point of that institution in retreat, or the turning point when the UN woke up, took hold of itself, and moved away from a path of ridicule to a path of responsibility.

To understand what is at stake, it is worth reminding ourselves of the history of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations. When the League failed to act after the invasion of Abyssinia, it was discredited as an instrument of peace. It was discredited properly. The lesson of that experience was best summed up at the time by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who declared: "Collective bluffing cannot bring about collective security."

That lesson is as true today, at the start of the 21st century, as it was in the 20th century. The question before us is-have we learned it?

There are moments in history when the judgment and the resolve of free nations are put to the test. This is such a moment. The security environment we are entering is the most dangerous the world has seen. The lives of our children and grandchildren could well hang in the balance.

When they look back at this period, what will they say of us? Have we properly recognized the seriousness of the threat, the nexus between weapons of mass destruction, terrorist states and terrorist networks? Will they say we stood still-paralyzed by a straightjacket of indecision and 20th century thinking-while dangers gathered? Or will they say that we recognized the coming danger, united, and took action before it was too late?

The coming days and weeks will tell. Thank you very much

(Journalist Questions Following Meeting with German Defense Minister Struck)

Q: Mr. Secretary, have you heard about the compromise proposal being put forward by the French and the Germans?

Rumsfeld: I heard about it from the press.

Q: You've not gotten any official word on this?

Rumsfeld: No.

Q: How does it strike you? An attempted...

Rumsfeld: How does what strike me? I have no knowledge of it.

Q: The German proposal to send Patriots to Turkey. They would do it with the Dutch?

Rumsfeld: I feel on that subject exactly like I said today in the session. That Turkey will end up with the Patriots and they will end up with the Chem/Bios one way or another. If it is bilateral, it is bilateral. The NATO AWACS is a separate issue. And they cannot end up with that unless it goes through NATO. How do I feel about it? I think that, as I said, Turkey needs to be looked after in this instance. They're an ally, and they're a friend, and they're the only country that is a moderate Muslim country in NATO. They're the only country that borders Iraq. The idea that NATO would deny them NATO support in that circumstance, in my view, is inexcusable.

Q: Do you expect an agreement on that by Monday?

Rumsfeld: I do not know what will happen on Monday.

Q: What topics did you speak about with your German counterpart, Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, a lot of things. We touched on all kinds of things-Afghanistan and Iraq and Turkey - a whole host of things.

Q: What do you think about the prospect of intensified inspections? I know you haven't heard the proposal, but how does the idea, you know, in general, of intensified inspections sound?

Rumsfeld: I'm in agreement with Secretary Powell's and the President's statements that the inspectors are designed to deal with a cooperative country. It does not take long to know whether or not a country is cooperating.

Q: Secretary Fischer was very passionate this morning...

Rumsfeld: Pardon me?

Q: German Foreign Secretary Joachim Fischer was very passionate...

Rumsfeld: Wasn't he!

Q: How did you feel about that?

Rumsfeld: I'm going to get my phone call. (laughter)

Thank you.

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