This interview with the Russian wire service ITAR-TASS was conducted on Saturday, August 14 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for this interview. And it has been more than two years from your last visit – two years passed. And is the military-to-military dialect between Russian and the US on track and what are your top priorities in this dialect?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, it’s very much on track. I think the minister of defense of Russia today said that we’ve met 15 times in the last several years, which is a lot. I hadn’t realized that, but it is a lot. We have relationships that are multifaceted in the military side. The central theme of it, however, involves the global war on terror and the – oh, the security risks that both of our countries face with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of those weapons and the risk that those weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists and terrorist networks.
Q: Iraq, the situation still [Inaudible] many soldiers, American soldiers unfortunately killed [Inaudible]. What are your plans for stabilization in Iraq and how soon can be it achieved?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The plan is what it has been from the beginning, and that is that this be a sovereign country. And now that it has its sovereignty, the international community should do everything it can to help train up Iraqi security forces so that they can take over responsibility for the security of their country. They now have something like 210,000 Iraqi security forces of which maybe 110,000 are properly trained, properly equipped and the remainder of which will be over the coming period. And every day they improve their capabilities. Every day they assume more and more responsibility for the security of the country. And obviously, the goal is to have that country be on a path towards a constitution, elections and being able to be responsible for its self.
Q: Thirty years ago you came to the Soviet Union for the first time, if I’m not mistaken it was a short stop-over with President Ford’s administration, then you became maybe…
SEC. RUMSFELD: A few years ago? That was 1974.
Q: Well, ’74 – 30 years. It should be the time. But you were…
SEC. RUMSFELD: You weren’t even born.
Q: No, I was born. I was born, unfortunately, I was born even 20 years before that. But you were then one of the youngest maybe the youngest secretary of defense in the whole American history.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
Q: You were 42 in that period.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Now I’m the oldest.
Q: Anyway. [Laughter] But my question is how do you compare to handle the changes of that period to this period? How do you compare it because and you kind of remember you are making the [Inaudible] Russian Soviet leader Breshnev at that time? Your partner at that time Marshall [Inaudible] was twice as old than you at that time.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Chuckles] Well, we met with Mr. Brezhnev – General Secretary Brezhnev in Vladivostock. And I can remember landing at that military base and there were missiles all around and heavily armed people and it was quite an unusual visit. It’s changed so much. We’re in a new century. The Soviet Union doesn’t exist as such and the relationship between President Putin and President Bush is a good relationship. The subjects that we discussed today are subjects that are discussed not in a hostile forum or in a controversial way, but they’re really more looking at problems from perspectives that are increasingly similar, which is a healthy thing. It’s a good thing. And we have worked with Russia in connection with NATO today. The Russian leadership comes to NATO meetings. We work with them on a bilateral basis and increasingly, it’s a multifaceted relationship as well. It’s not simply military to military. It’s political and increasingly economic and that’s a good thing.
Q: You mentioned NATO also and you served as ambassador to NATO a few years ago. But the cold war is over, but not [Inaudible]. He says it was good relationships for him. [Inaudible]?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think both take time. It is beginning to be matched for [Inaudible] and things don’t change instantaneously. It takes time. But for example, we’re going to have a naval exercise with some United States and with Russia and some other countries, I think in a month or so, and that’s a good thing. We have various types of cooperative threat arrangements that we are discussing. We work together in terms of missile defense on some aspects of that. And I think that the deeds are following along behind the words and that’s understandable.
Q: Now is the main three. What do we need to [Inaudible] on this front and how soon can it be achieved and what does NATO expect from Russia at this point?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know whether it’s what we’d expect from Russia, it’s what we all expect from each other. We live in this word. It’s a planet. It’s a dangerous place. It’s a century where increasingly lethal weapons are more readily available to everybody. And because free countries tend to be behave like free people, we see people moving in between nations, we see them crossing borders, we tend to want people to be able to say what they wish and go where they wish and do what they wish and that’s freedom. And to the extent that those same freedoms apply to people who are out to chop off people’s heads or throw them off the tops of buildings or plant bombs and blow up innocent men, women and children the danger is very real. So as we address these problems, we have to do it by sharing intelligence. We have to do it through cooperative arrangements, recognizing that no one country can solve the problem of proliferation. It takes cooperation among nations. And regrettably, there’s no international institution that has the – oh, the effectiveness or the authority to really solve that problem. So, it’s collections of nations working together to try to interdict whether in land, sea or air the movement of these very dangerous weapons. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is trying to do a good job and has been doing a good job in some countries in terms of calling the world’s attention to what’s taking place and that’s good. That’s a good thing. But it doesn’t stop and that’s a problem.
Q: Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of a wide victory of the second war – for World War II. How important is this for the United States and will we celebrate it together?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Will this what?
Q: Will we celebrate this?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, that’s an interesting question. It is an important event. That was a terrible war and it was a global war – a world war, as they call it. And my father was in it. He was on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during that period. I lived in California near a military base. And the whole world was seized with the dangers that the axis powers posed to this country of Russia as well as to the United States and Western Europe and the countries of Asia. This should be celebrated. It’s an important event. It ought to remind all of us of the dangers that exist and the importance of allied nations working closely together. It was a more leisurely period then, if you think about it. It took a long time to deal with those problems.
Today, given the lethality of weapons and the speed of electronics and the way things can move across this globe, you don’t have years to cope with those problems. Too many people die if, if it takes years. We have to be alert. We need to be attentive. We need to cooperate before the fact, as a collection of like-thinking nations. And I think that this global war on terror coalition that’s been put together has something like 85 countries. That’s a breathtaking number. I mean, it’s really a impressive thing that that many countries are sharing intelligence, are assisting each other with law enforcement, are cooperating in attempting to put pressure on terrorist bank accounts, making it more difficult for them to move across boundaries and that’s a good thing.
Q: America and Russia are now are reducing arms production. Do you see opportunities for the joint [Inaudible] there and has anything already been done?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we’ve talked about this and I think that sovereign nations want the means to defend themselves. And so, weapons are sold and transferred from country to country. On the other hand, there are certain types of weapons -- high technology weapons, highly lethal weapons – that ought not to be. And it is that line that ought not to be crossed. And we discussed that in recent talks here in Russia. We’ve talked about it in the United States. And I think that it’s important for all nations to cooperate and see that the technologies that relate to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that the technologies that involve ballistic missiles or cruise missiles of global reach, where do we draw the line there? Countries don’t need that protect themselves from their neighbors.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, America and Russia has a long history together. So, who are we now, fellow-travelers brought together by chance, real partners ready for compromise, or maybe allies?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a good question and I think that we have a lot of common interests and that that relationship for the last, what, 14, 15 years has been evolving, as relationships do. This is true with Russia’s relationship with other countries, as well. And, certainly, our relationship with other countries. But it’s been on a very constructive and positive trajectory and that is a good thing. It’s a good thing for each of our nations. It’s also a good thing for the world.
Q: Fifty years ago, you were a Navy pilot.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Chuckles] That’s right.
Q: And would you be so kind to compare your attitude to Russia that period during the Cold War and now?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, if you think back to that period…
SEC. RUMSFELD: … we considered the major threat in the world to be the Soviet Union. You use the word “Russia.” I wouldn’t. I would use the word – the phrase “Soviet Union.” And the Soviet Union was an expansionist nation. They were putting pressure on Western Europe. They were putting pressure on places in Africa and Central America. And they had intentions that were, in our view, other than peaceful. And it was a nation that was heavily armed, that spent an enormous fraction of its gross domestic product on weapons that denied its people the opportunities that come from a freer political system and a freer economic system. And it caused the west and the rest of the world to invest in defensive capabilities, to deter and dissuade. And we thought of it that way. We thought of ourselves as having a long-term task of recognizing that the goal is peace. We threatened nobody during that period, but believed that we needed to be sufficiently strong, that we would dissuade any other country from engaging in war-like activities. The deterrents worked pretty well. And as time passed, the world changed and now we’re on a totally different set of relationships and that’s a wonderful thing for the world.
Q: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.