United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with the Portuguese Minister of State and Defense

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 10, 2003

(Joint media availability with Portuguese Minister of State and Defense Paulo Portas, Fort São Julião da Barra, Oeiras, Portugal.)

Portas: [In Portuguese.] Good day. On Portugal Day, we welcome with great pleasure Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense of one of Portugal's oldest and strongest allies.

[In English.] Welcome, Donald. We all know your fascination on all Europe (Chuckle.); welcome to the very old Europe, and to the very first piece of land, friendly piece of land in the other side of the Atlantic, to the Western country of Europe. Between Portugal and the United States we don't need go-betweens. We are very good friends, very good allies; sometimes we have opinions, but in the toughest moments we are side-on-side. Thank you very much for your visit, to the acceptation of our invitation.

[In Portuguese.] We spoke basically about the international security situation, we touched on issues like the review of the Atlantic Alliance command structure that will take place this week. We expressed gratitude for American support for a position that Portugal has always called for regarding what would be best for the Alliance, capable of facing threats, capable of reducing risks, and where the position of the regional command in Oeiras would be relevant for us. On the other hand, we discussed aspects having to do with Iraq, where Portugal will be present in the reconstruction work with a corps that has provided excellent proof of its competence all across the board, and aspects regarding countries and regions of interest to all of us for the protection of peace, security and freedom. We were also able to touch on aspects having to do with re-equipping the Portuguese Armed Forces.

Rumsfeld: Mr. Minister, ladies and gentlemen.

It's a real pleasure for me to be here on Portugal's National Day and to particularly be in this lovely setting and to have your hospitality. We very much value our friendship as nations and our personal friendship and particularly Portugal's steadfastness and assistance in the global war on terrorism. We have worked together with respect to aspects of Afghanistan and Iraq, and we appreciate that a great deal. I must say I also had a good meeting with your Prime Minister when I was in Washington, he was there late last week, and was able to discuss some matters of mutual interest there as well. So I thank you for your hospitality and welcome this opportunity to be with you.

Portas: [In Portuguese.] First question?

Q: [In Portuguese.] Mr. Minister, Martin Cabral from SIC [TV]. Do you feel to a certain extent that you are hosting a person who might have lied in getting Portugal to support a war in Iraq where there were allegedly weapons of mass destruction that would be dangerous, and that have still not shown up?

Portas: [In Portuguese.] The only thing that the international community knows is that Saddam Hussein lied to the United Nations and to civilized countries for a decade. I would like to call attention to the fact that the weapons of mass destruction are not an assertion, they are a real problem. For ten years Iraq deceived the United Nations, first hiding them, then showing incomplete lists, then saying they had destroyed them, then moving them to systematically evade the international rules for containing this weaponry. Iraq is a country the size of France. A weapon of mass destruction might be the size of this podium. Finding something the size of this podium in a country the size of France is not something you can do in either a day or a month. But obviously Iraq today is no longer the threat to either the region or to the world that it was when Saddam Hussein was in power.

Q: [In Portuguese.] Rute Peixinho from Lusa [wire service] Agency. The question is for both. I would like to know if it has been decided that Portugal will have NATO's third operational command in Europe. I would also like to know if the United States supported this possible decision, and how you might characterize this command (Inaudible.). Will Portugal be at exactly the same level as the other two that already exist? Thank you.

Portas: [In Portuguese.] Just to put the question in context. It is the NATO meeting this week that will approve the new command structure. Countries don't have a command -- it is the Alliance that has commands, in various countries. Portugal always considered it to be extremely important, from the national viewpoint and from the Atlantic viewpoint of reinforcing the link between Europe and the United States, that the Oeiras command was given heightened value in this intelligent review of Alliance structures to which we all belong. I believe that we are in good shape to be able to say to the Portuguese that the Oeiras command will have important functions within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, and will be one of the regional commands -- one of the three -- that the new structure will contain. We are grateful for American support.

Rumsfeld: I'm being asked to respond, and I'll simply say that the NATO ministers and the senior-level review group have spent many, many months working on refashioning the headquarters and command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The United States has been going through that process as well; and it's clearly necessary to make those kinds of adjustments as we move into the 21st century, and face a series of threats that are notably different from those of the 20th century. We are hopeful that at this NATO meeting we will be able to come to closure on a whole set of adjustments and changes that have been proposed and will be considered by the ministers.

Q: A question for both of the Secretaries from Jamie McIntyre at CNN. Given the close relationship between the United States and Portugal, would Portugal be interested in hosting and would the United States be interested in having bases for U.S. military forces in Portugal?

Rumsfeld: Well, I can respond by saying that you're correct: the United States and Portugal does have a very long and warm relationship. It's political, it's economic and it's been military through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. From the standpoint of the United States, we have been reviewing our presence around the world, in every portion of the globe, and we've looked at it regionally and we are now in the process of starting to look at it globally. And we have not come to conclusions as to how we might best be rearranged to fit the 21st century. But at the moment, I know of no changes or plans for changes that are specific.

Q: Mr. Minister?

Portas: Just a simple answer: look at the Azores. (Chuckles.)

Q: [In Portuguese.] Teresa de Sousa, Público newspaper. A question for the American Secretary of Defense. Mr. Rumsfeld, I believe you are supporting the Norwegian candidate for the position of NATO Secretary-General. Taking into account the fact that the decision about this position is made through consensus, and also taking into account the fact that Norway is one of the rare European allies not a member of the European Union, would you be in a position to consider supporting the Portuguese candidate António Vitorino?

Rumsfeld: I have a -- first of all, you are incorrect. The United States has not taken a position in support of anybody with respect to the successor to Lord Robinson. It is a question that is being discussed inside the United States Government, and by the United States Government, with the other countries of NATO. And therefore the premise of your question should be revised. Second, the prime minister asked, and I agreed to meet Mr. Vitorino in Brussels, and we're in the process of attempting to arrange an appointment for me when I arrive there sometime later this week and will be there for the NATO ministerial meetings, and I look forward to meeting him. But I think Lord Robinson indicated he will be departing in December; it's now June, we have a little time for NATO to work its will and to arrive at a consensus, and there are a number of interesting candidates who are being considered.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, from Esther Schrader at the Los Angeles Times. There have been a spate of recent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, most recently yesterday. You said that help from coalition countries is not coming until September. Can you tell us what you are doing until then to improve the security situation in Iraq, and how some of your allies in Europe that you're talking to might be able to help the situation?

Rumsfeld: I noticed that after our visit on the aircraft coming over that report went out the way you stated it, and I would have to say that it would not be a correct interpretation of what I said on the aircraft. The implication that there won't be help in Iraq until the fall when allied countries' forces are likely to begin coming in is a misunderstanding of what was said. We have a substantial number of forces in the country. The United States has something in excess of 146,000 troops in Iraq. Our coalition allies currently have, I'm going to guess, somewhere between 12 and 15,000 at the present time. The United States is adding forces. We are altering the mix of our forces so that their increased presence will be seen and felt in the country. In addition, we are bringing onboard continuously hundreds and most recently thousands of Iraqis who are participating in joint patrols. So the idea that there won't be any help until the coalition countries arrive in the fall is exactly false, because the security situation in the country is improving as we proceed. The discussions that are taking place with some 41 countries are going forward, and additional countries are already putting forces into Iraq. When I said that the bulk of them were not likely until early September, that is correct -- but it is not to say that nothing is happening between now and then.

Second, the security situation there is this: We have a country the size of California. The prisons were emptied during the war by the Iraqis. There were something in the neighborhood of 100,000 criminals who were released out onto the streets, and there has been some crime and wrongdoing. That also occurs in the metropolitan areas of Europe and the United States and Asia on a regular basis, as well. Second, I would say that the remnants of the Iraqi regime, the Fedayeen Saddam, the Ba'athists and some very likely Special Republican Guards and folks are still there. And they are the ones that are periodically attacking coalition forces, sometimes successfully. Do I think that's going to disappear in the next month or two or three? No. Will it disappear when some two or three divisions of coalition forces arrive in the country? No. It will take time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we intend to do it.

Q: [In Portuguese.] Mariana de Vale Passos, TSF [Radio]. This question is for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld, you once used the classification of "old" and "new" Europe. In the meanwhile, the war in Iraq has ended, and in Évian the divergences between President Bush and President Chirac seem to have been overcome to a certain extent, including with President Bush making an appeal for transatlantic unity. Do you still think it is justified to use a concept that divides Europe into an "old" and "new" Europe?

Rumsfeld: That's a troublemaking question. (Laughter.) Why do you do that on a lovely sunny day? I just had a long flight over, and there you go -- you just lobbed that one right into the middle of the road. (Laughter.) Well, I suppose the truth has a certain virtue. I was the ambassador to NATO a long time ago, more than a quarter of a century; I guess it's 30 years ago. And when I was there, there were 15 countries; today there are 19 nations, and we've invited additional nations in, and we're going to be going to 26. When you go from 15 to 19 to 26 nations in an alliance like this, it alters its make-up, it is shifting its weight from Central Europe towards Eastern Europe somewhat. It shifts in other ways besides the center of gravity. It shifts in the sense of countries that have recently been repressed by dictatorships, and they bring in a fresh respect for freedom. And when I was asked a question, I've forgotten what the context was, but I was asked something about "Europe doesn't agree with President Bush" on something. As I could recall, the only country, one or two countries weren't agreeing. And about, first, eight, and then about ten were signing letters agreeing. And I made a reference to what you said, which I shall not repeat (Laughter.) because I'm prudent and diplomatic, careful and measured. I was really referring to the old NATO and the new NATO and that change that had taken place, and that one or two countries views are interesting and important, but they don't represent the whole of continental Europe. And indeed, I was right. (Laughter.)

Portas: [In Portuguese.] Let me just add one thing. In Europe, which is transforming itself into a union, into a continent, there are countries that with the help of the United States have gone on to prosperity following the Second World War. And there are countries that communism robbed of 50 years of history, and that are now on their way to freedom, to competitiveness and to progress. The transatlantic link is important to everyone in Europe. I think that this is the most virtuous outcome of certain discussions.

Ministry spokesman: That was the last question. Thank you.

Portas: [In Portuguese.] Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to say farewell to Secretary Rumsfeld.

[In English.] I'll just tell you one thing, Donald. You said in Washington that we have two things in common. You were elected to Congress with 30 years old; I was, too. You were Secretary of Defense with 40 years old, the first time; I was, too. But there's a third thing in common: after Iraq, we're still in job. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Very good, very good!

Additional Links

Stay Connected