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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Lucian Mandruta, Pro TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 19, 2003

Introduction in Romanian: "Here with me now in Bucharest is the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. His Excellency spoke with several Romanian officials, among those were the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister."

Q: Mr. Wolfowitz, what was the main topic that you talked about with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense?

Wolfowitz: Well, we have done a great deal with our two countries, and defense cooperation has really been outstanding. Ever since September 11th, Romania's been a great partner in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, and now, in Iraq, and the post-Saddam period, and we're looking forward to helping the Romanian armed forces. Also Romania's Defense reform has been a very important part of Romania's accession to NATO. As you probably know, our Senate just recently ratified the seven new members of NATO. That's a big step forward. So, I wanted to express our appreciation for that cooperation and to talk about defense reforms.

Q: What's your expectation in regarding to Romania uh in the post-Saddam era in Iraq? Troops? What type of involvement?

Wolfowitz: Well, definitely there will be a Romanian contribution to peacekeeping forces. We talked about that with Defense Minister Pascu. Probably, at least initially, I think something like a battalion-size contribution as part of the units that are there, and also some military police. In Afghanistan, as you probably know--but it's worth repeating here--people have been there I think almost from the very beginning and have distinguished themselves in combat. Romanian forces captured the largest, single cache of arms that we've found so far in Afghanistan. So, that contribution is important. On the non-military side, frankly one of the reasons I was interested in visiting here was to try to learn about Romania's experience in transition from a totalitarian system to a democratic one. It's very different circumstances.

Q: Can we help in that direction?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think you can. I think the knowledge and expertise as accumulated here, of things that work and things that don't work, and things you should do faster and things that maybe you should do slower.

Q: Does that mean that you are considering Romania as an example of success in terms of transition to democracy?

Wolfowitz: Absolutely. Does that mean it's a complete success? Not yet, but if you think about where Romania has come from, it's pretty impressive. And, if you also think about where it still has to go, then you have a lot of difficult work to do. But I think that's actually an inspiring example, because I think sometimes, mistakenly, people set up the American example as what Iraq has to aspire to, and we've been at it for over 200 years. We've had our problems at the beginning of our history. And yet, I can't think of a country that didn't. So, yes, I think Romania is definitely a model of success, but it's also got some lessons to teach about things that don't work. We would hope not only to have that kind of expertise, but I know also there's also a great interest on the part of Romanian companies to participate in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq. And we need to emphasize that in our system we've got to do things on a competitive basis.

Q: They have to go in and bid.

Wolfowitz: They have to go in and bid, and they have to be able to win bids. But I think what we want to try and make sure is, at least for those countries that participated in the coalition, as Romania did, that it's a level playing field. Sometimes that may mean trying to make sure that Romanian companies understand the rules under which they are bidding because no matter how hard you try, you can always do better in making a bidding process transparent.

Q: Did Romanian authorities mention this bidding process to you, and did they have specific demands in terms of economic reconstruction in Iraq, for the Romanian companies?

Wolfowitz: Definitely. Not demands and not things specific, but I did talk with the Prime Minister about the fact that our system can be complicated at times. And you have an outstanding Ambassador who's been back in Iraq or going back to Iraq, Mr. Onofrei, and everyone says he's a real expert on the country and a real expert in Arabic, which is a good thing. And we are going to try to make sure he has all the information that Romanians need to know how to compete in this process.

He'll be the point of contact with the office that we set up called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. That word reconstruction probably should be modified, because what we need to do is not reconstruction. There wasn't that much damage from the war, except in certain specific areas. But the damage from 35 years of tyranny is enormous. And the same kind of waste of resources that took place under the old dictator here is taking place in Iraq. So, there's got to be that kind of renovation.

Q: Now, if you don't mind, I'll go through two subjects that were really important here in the last few weeks. Ah, it started when the American Ambassador, Mr. Guest, specifically, mentioned corruption in one of his speeches, saying that this is one of the biggest problems of Romania, and this is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, that American investors are shying away from investing here. What's the official point of view of the Administration, and what is your personal view on that?

Wolfowitz: That is the official view, and it's not set in the spirit of antagonism or hostility. It's really said the spirit of friendship. And we know there are many officials in your government, including the President, who spoke about it just the other day, who are working to deal with this problem. And frankly [I] think that by saying the kind of thing the Ambassador said the other day, we can help give them some support against people who say, "Oh, it's not that bad." I was the American Ambassador to Indonesia in the 1980s, and I can tell you corruption is a disease, and it's a disease that can destroy an economy. You can't cure it overnight, but I think it's very important to work at it. If you ask me what's most important for the long-term security of Romania, it's actually to get the economy healthy, and to have a healthy economy, you have to deal with corruption.

Q: Do you feel that there are certain steps being implemented? Is the administration really looking at a timetable for what's happening with corruption in Romania? Do you have a specific thing that you are expecting from Romanian authorities?

Wolfowitz: I think that the Ambassador has had some excellent private discussions with Romanian authorities, and there is a limit on how helpful we can be by discussing too much in public. But I think one major step that's been taken that impresses me--I hadn't known about it until I came here--is that now all officials have to declare their private assets, and I gather for some people that's a little upsetting. But until you have that kind of transparency for government officials, it's very hard to control things. Transparency in our experience is the most effective control. When people know what's going on, then the worst kinds of excesses just don't happen.

Q: It's just the beginning. Is there anything more that you're expecting?

Wolfowitz: Oh, there's a lot more. I wouldn't say that we expect. I can't. I know that the Ambassador could, but he wouldn't because I think your officials know what's needed. And it's not a matter of what we expect. You are not doing this to please the United States. It's what is needed in order to get the Romanian economy really going again. Everything I've heard suggests that Romanians as a people have a real knack for commerce and business. And in fact, I think you have a rather thriving informal economy, as we call it. But that is a measure of the problems in the formal economy, and it's not the most efficient way to make progress. I think, if you can deal with the bureaucratic impediments, if you can deal with the corruption, this country can really take off.

Q: And the last question, you know Romania, being a part of the coalition that was gathered by the United States to fight a war in Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, has run into some sort of a trouble with the European Union. At the present moment, our relationship with the European Union has been a bit affected by that. Where do you see a solution for trying to keep a good relationship both with the United States and with the European Union, for Romania?

Wolfowitz: Well, let's be clear, 15 of 19 NATO countries supported the same position Romania did. When I last checked, the UK was a member of the European Union, and Spain was a member of the European Union, so was Portugal. So, the problem isn't the whole European Union. But more importantly, I think, if we think about the future instead of the past, and if we think about the fact--which I think is now recognized by the whole world--that the actions that we did together, with you and other coalition countries, to remove one of the most vile dictatorships in the world. We now have a common cause with all of the members of the European Union, to build a free, democratic, and prosperous Iraq. And I think if we focus on that common task, we can bridge some of those differences. I would look to the future, not look at the past too much.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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