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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Dan Preda, Radio Romania

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

Q: Mr. Secretary, your visit to Romania comes shortly after the United States ratified the enlargement NATO protocols for Romania and another six candidate states, and for this we are very grateful to America. But especially during the last months, there have been voices in the public opinion concerning what kind of NATO we are preparing to enter or what role the Alliance is going to have in the new international context. What would be your concept of this Mr. Secretary?

Wolfowitz: It sounds to me like the voices you’re mentioning are sort of linked to NATO. NATO had gone through enormous debates throughout its more then fifty-year history and what is remarkable about NATO as an organization is that it’s been able to be relevant in very different circumstances. Obviously during the period of the Cold War--maybe not so obviously--it sustained a very effective policy over a long, difficult period. I remember when the Cold War ended, some people said we don’t need NATO anymore, and others, like myself, said no, it’s a very important institution. I think NATO has proven to be an important instrument of transforming Central and Eastern Europe, enlarging the Alliance but assisting democratic transitions in the process. Now since September 11th, NATO is proving to be of value in pursuing the war on terrorism. So, when people notice that there is some debate among NATO members, there has always been debate among NATO members. We’re democracies and we believe in debate, but what is more impressive over the long period of time is that debate usually results in new and effective policies and I am sure it will now.

Q: How do you see the role of new member states, Romania especially, inside the Alliance?

Wolfowitz: Well, personally I think the new members bring a kind of new spirit to the Alliance which is valuable. It is countries that have experienced tyranny recently. I think it’s not an accident that so many of the candidate members, and the new members, like Poland, took a leading role in the policy to liberate Iraq because I think they understood what it was like to live under that kind of tyranny. That’s the great thing of NATO as an Alliance – it’s an Alliance of democratic countries that believe in freedom and democracy and that’s why it has been uniquely strong.

Q: And regarding Romania?

Wolfowitz: You mean Romania’s role in the Alliance?

Q: Yes

Wolfowitz: I think it brings that same kind of strength – I had an interesting discussion with some current and former members of the government about Romania’s transition and where Romania stands. We have a phrase in English to describe the difference between and optimist and a pessimist. An optimist says the glass is half full and the pessimist says it’s half empty. If you think about where Romania started from at the end of the Ceaucescu era, it has come a terrifically long way. If you think about some of the problems that remain then obviously you can say that the transition still has some work to do. What I think is impressive is, considering how embedded the old totalitarian system was here, Romanians are an inspiring example to people in Iraq and elsewhere in the world in what you can achieve with freedom.

Q: You’re very well known for your support of NATO enlargement but also as a great analyst of the mechanisms and reforms that candidate states have implement in this matter. Where do you see Romania from this point of view, using a term you are familiar with, as an international relations professor, what would be from the point of view of a sort analysis, Romania’s weaknesses and strengths?

Wolfowitz: Clearly one of their strengths actually is the military area, which is of course, my main concentration coming from the Defense Department. And the reforms that Defense Minister Pascu has been leading are really outstanding and the energy that’s going into them is impressive. We were, to be honest, a little concerned that maybe now that Romania has achieved NATO membership that the energy to continue the reforms would disappear, but absolutely not. The Minister understands that these are reforms that Romania needs to do for itself and I think we see that also in effectiveness of the Romanian forces who are fighting with us in Afghanistan and doing a very professional job. The kind of support we got from Romania during the Iraq war was quite important and now the contributions they’re making to help reconstruct Iraq [are, too]. If you ask me to step outside of my Defense Department role, I think that the greatest challenge for Romania is to remove the obstacles to a truly successful economy because I think that’s the underpinning of ultimately a democratic success. And I think you’re only part way there. I think its – as your President said, there are problems with bureaucracy, there are problems of corruption. I know from my experience with some of the economies in East Asia, that corruption is a disease that can destroy an economy. You’ve got to work at it. You don’t cure it overnight, but you’ve got to cure it. So, if I were a Romanian, or speaking as someone who very much looks forward to Romania’s success, I would say some focus on economic reform would be the place I would place the greatest emphasis.

Q: The Fox News Channel broadcast several days ago a information according to which the Pentagon and it’s NATO partners are awaiting the distribution of the American military bases outside the United States. Is Romania also included in this Pentagon review?

Wolfowitz: The answer is yes. It’s a worldwide look. It includes looking at our forces in Korea and Japan. It looks at how we’re deployed here in Europe. How we’re deployed in the Persian Gulf. So far the only actual conclusion was the one that was reached when Secretary of Defense Rumsfield visited Saudi Arabia a week or two ago and he and the Saudi Defense Minister agreed that with the threat from Iraq gone we could draw down most of our forces in Saudi Arabia. That is kind of a unique circumstance but I think we’ve learned some lessons from both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq about how to more effectively deploy our forces in Europe so that they can be effective outside of Europe. Definitely a contribution Romania made to both those operations makes us think about Romania in a different way than we did before, but that’s as much as I can say at this point because we haven’t drawn any conclusions yet.

Q: You could not be more specific concerning the United States’ intentions regarding the use of Romanian locations?

Wolfowitz: I can’t because we haven’t made any decisions yet and when we do we’ll first have to consult with your government before we start making announcements.

Q: Iraq still seems to be the top story. You once said that Iraq after Saddam has a lot in common with Romania after Ceausescu’s fall. Does this mean that Romania’s experience could also be used in reconstruction in Iraq? How do you see exactly the involvement of Romania in the reconstructive process?

Wolfowitz: Well I think it does have things in common and also maybe I am more aware than before that there are huge differences. One of the big differences is that Romania had to do it on its own and Iraq, for better and for worse, has a great deal of help, including from the U.S. military. I think though that Romania’s experience can be very helpful and I think Romanians who participated in the transition here would probably make very useful advisors with the new authority in Iraq and for that matter, as part of the coalition assisting the coalition provisional authorities. Your Ambassador, new Ambassador Onofrie, is in fact going to be Romania’s liaison to the Office of Reconstruction in Iraq and I suspect he will not only be giving advice to Romanian companies about how to participate but giving us some advice about how to do the job better.

Q: Have you discussed this subject today with Romanian authorities?

Wolfowitz: Yes, we did.

Q: In a comfortable manner?

Wolfowitz: We did, but I have to emphasize and I understand fully that this whole issue of participating in reconstruction activities in Iraq is something we have to handle on a competitive basis. What I hope we can make sure is that there is a level playing field and that Romanian companies have the information they need to have in order to compete on that level playing field.

Q: The military operations in Iraq seem to have ended but the war against terrorism is far from over. The last attacks in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Israel demonstrate the reality of what Ms. Rice was saying, that for overcoming terrorism whole nations must be involved in a global effort. So what do you think there is to be done; there was Iraq, who’ll be the next?

Wolfowitz: I think if you ask me what comes next, I think the most important thing that comes next is to make sure that the post-Saddam era in Iraq is successful and that Iraq goes from being a major sanctuary for terrorists to being a place where not only do terrorists have no home but in fact, it can become a model of success for the Muslim world. I think it’s important to make progress on the Arab-Israeli issue and I know President Bush has put it at the top of our agenda. In fact, the war against terrorism has two sides to it. One side is fighting and killing terrorists. The other side is giving hope to the people of the Muslim world, especially the Arab world, so that the terrorists don’t find such attractive possibilities to recruit. We’ve got to [do] both at the same time. It’s not just a matter either of using our military forces. We’ve got to use our intelligence people, our law enforcement people, our foreign aid people. It’s a very broad effort. It’s going to take time.

Q: One last question. Regarding your visit during these days, you have scheduled visits to NATO member states, candidate countries, but those are potential risk regions of terrorist activity. Do you have an explanation for choosing this little bit unusual route?

Wolfowitz: I went to the Balkans, which is what I think you are referring to, frankly because Friday was Armed Forces Day and I wanted to visit some American troops. And I felt it was important to send a message to the American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, that the mission they are performing remains a very important mission. And even though the world’s attention is focused on the incredible performance of our military in Iraq, we are still depending on our military also to carry out crucial missions in the Balkans. And while I was here, I had completely different reason for wanting to come to Romania, partly to thank your government for the efforts that have been made in defense reform and for the support we’ve gotten in the war on terrorism, but also because I do think that all of the central European countries have some lessons that could be valuable in thinking about how to assist Iraq in a transition from one of the worst totalitarian systems of the 20th century, into a free and democratic and prosperous country.

Q: Would you like to address at the end of this interview, Mr. Secretary, a special message for the Romanian people?

Wolfowitz: I’d be happy to. The real message is that we value our cooperation with Romania. We very much appreciate Romania’s assistance in the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq and in the general war on terror. But we also look forward to Romania’s success as a country. I think Romania has already made important progress. It has some real challenges in front of it, but I think overcoming those challenges will be good, not just for Romania and Romanians, but for all of central Europe and indeed for this whole continent. Since the United States sees its vital interests engaged in Europe, I think Romania’s success is important for our future. Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

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