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Press Conference with Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and NATO Secretary -General Lord Robertson

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 08, 2003 5:30 PM EDT
SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Thank you very much, and thank you for coming here to Colorado Springs to come to this defense -- informal meeting of ministers of defense.  And I'm pleased to be here with you with Secretary Rumsfeld to brief you on what we've been doing.

 

            We had a study seminar this morning called Dynamic Response -- (inaudible) -- seven.  At the meeting of alliance defense ministers held in June earlier this year, Secretary Rumsfeld kindly invited his colleagues to come to Colorado to participate in a ground-breaking event in conjunction with the informal meeting that we have been having.

 

            The theme of the seminar today was transformation, and the vehicle for addressing it was NATO's new Response Force.  Defense ministers and senior officials, both civil and military, were presented with a complex scenario set in 2007, which drew out the implications of transformation and examined how the NATO Response Force might operate in a fictional crisis.  The scenario involved a   NATO stabilization operation in a fictitious partner country, and a parallel and linked terrorist threat involving chemical and biological weapons; not a likely eventuality, but by no means an impossible one, either.

 

            As the scenario unfolded, ministers discussed freely the implications for them as decision-makers and for their national armed forces as well as for NATO.  This was, I have to say, one of the best discussions that we've had among ministers in my four years as secretary-general, but because it was private and designed to inform and provoke, but not to reach decisions or conclusions, I can't go into details about what ministers said.  But I can say that the seminar reached the following common understandings on what needs to be done.

 

            First, future crises will require prompt decisionmaking in national capitals, advanced planning in NATO, and rules of engagement to deal with the unexpected.  Second, crises which start small can finish big, and crises can happen concurrently.  NATO, therefore, needs to be be more flexible and be able to support multiple and prolonged operations.  Third, better intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing is needed at all stages in a crisis.  Fourth, NATO needs good, practical working relations with the United Nations, the European Union, other organizations and countries in a crisis region, and we need to be able to explain what we're doing and why we're doing it, to our publics and parliaments.  And finally, NATO countries must complete the Prague transformation agenda and make their armed forces much more genuinely usable for deployed operations.

 

            In my view, the study seminar was a great success.  It generated a range of insights into the continuing process of NATO's transformation.  And I am hoping that we can have other such imaginative events organized along with future ministerial meetings.

 

            I now ask Secretary Rumsfeld for his impressions before I come back and deal with the other elements of this ministerial meeting here in Colorado Springs.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you.

 

            Good afternoon.  As the secretary-general indicated, we have really done something that's never been done before at NATO, and that is to conduct an exercise seminar involving all of the NATO ministers of defense, the chiefs of defense, and the NATO ambassadors.  The seminar tested the potential capabilities of the new and evolving NATO response force and its ability to deal with the types of asymmetric threats that NATO is likely to face in the future.

 

            It was hypothetical, but it was designed to deal with real world threats and capabilities.  I think it was useful.  I know I learned some things.  And I hope others feel the same way.

 

            It was last year that the United States recommended to NATO ministers that they fashion a NATO response force.  So the progress has been swift.  And the seminar underlined the importance of that decision last year and highlighted the need for that response force to have capabilities that are agile, swift and lethal so that this wonderful alliance of ours can respond quickly and effectively to rapidly unfolding crises.  It also highlights the need for NATO to transform not only our forces and capabilities, but also to bring NATO's decision-making structures up to date so that NATO military commanders can take decisive action against fast-moving threats in the 21st century.

 

            I should add that a point of an exercise like this is to challenge alliance leaders with hypothetical but, hopefully, realistic scenarios to test our strengths and our weaknesses so we can study and discuss what we might do to improve our ability to respond.

 

            We had a good discussion following the seminar.  Those discussions will continue this afternoon and tomorrow.  The ministers will be meeting to plan the next steps forward for the alliance.  The seminar, I should add, was designed by NATO and the staff of the Allied Transformation Command, not by the United States.  All the ministers were participants, as was the secretary-general, the chiefs and the ambassadors.

 

            I want to say how particularly grateful to Brigadier General Christiansen (sp) of Norway, and his team, and all those who contributed to the design and presentation of this seminar, for their insights and their hard work.

 

            We also appreciate the hospitality of the folks at the National Integration Center at Shriever Air Force Base.

 

            Secretary-General?

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Thank you.

 

            Just let me sketch out what's going to happen the rest of today and tomorrow.  NATO and the invited nations' ministers will meet this afternoon to discuss the alliance's overall transformation efforts. There will be a ministers-only dinner this evening, which will be an opportunity to continue our discussions in a more intimate setting.  I expect that the key theme will be how we can increase the deployability and usability of NATO's forces.

 

            This is one of the biggest challenges before the alliance.  Out of 1.4 million non-U.S. soldiers under arms, the 18 non-American allies have around 55,000 deployed on multinational operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and yet they feel overstretched. One-point-four million in uniform, 55,000 in operations -- that equals overstretched.  That is a situation that is unacceptable.

 

            And if operations such as ISAF in Afghanistan are to succeed, then we have got to generate more usable soldiers and have the political will to deploy more of them on multinational operations. The blunt message from Colorado is going to be this.  We need real, deployable soldiers, not paper armies.

 

            And following on from that issue of usability, we'll tomorrow take up NATO's current operations, especially those in Afghanistan and in the Balkans.  And at 12:00 tomorrow I will hold a concluding press conference.

 

            Thereafter we will -- the ministers will be joined for a working lunch by the Russian defense minister, Sergey Ivanov, after which the NATO ministers will hold an informal meeting with him.  Issues will include current operations and defense reform and the future agenda for the NATO-Russia Council.

 

            MODERATOR:  Thanks very much for those introductions.  We now go to the questions.  First of all, Jamie McIntyre, please.

 

            Q     Jamie McIntyre with CNN.  Mr. Secretary, are you at all miffed with Condoleezza Rice over the handling of this NSC memorandum?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.

 

            Q     And do you believe that the press has mischaracterized the memo and its implications?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, not at all.  The task of the NSC is to coordinate among the departments, agencies.  That's what its charter is.

 

            I was asked if I had happened to have seen it, and the fact is, I hadn't seen it.  It was apparently at a lower level.  I get three or four memos from the NSC a day and send out three or four to other agencies.  I think, with the Chicago Cubs in the play-offs and what's going on in California, one could find something more important than that.

 

            Q     You're not --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm Cub fan; it's true.  (Laughter.)

 

            MODERATOR:  Okay.  We'll go to the next question.  Laurent Zecchini of Le Monde, please.

 

            Q     Laurent Zecchini from Le Monde.  Secretary of Defense, you have asked NATO countries to provide more troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  Till now their response has been very poor.  What does that mean?  Does that mean, for instance, as one U.S. official said recently, that NATO is in an excellent shape and that NATO has fully recovered from the Iraqi crisis?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Let me just take your question and try to correct it.  And it may not be easy, but -- you began by saying the response has been very poor.  You're wrong.  The response has been excellent.  The secretary of State and the head of the Central Command last year began the process of working with other countries, NATO as well as others, went out to something in excess of 100 countries, I believe.  And at the present time we have 32 countries in Iraq.  Of the NATO nations -- there are 19 NATO nations, excluding the United States, there's 18, and we have 11 of those countries currently in Iraq, and an additional one announced this week that they intended to offer troops.  That would be 12 out of 18.  That is not a poor response.  Of the NATO invitees, six of seven are currently in Iraq.  So all of this myth about poor response and going it alone is simply that: a myth.

 

            Now, what else has happened?  NATO has stepped forward and provided assistance to Spain and the forces of Poland and some others that are in that multinational division to help them and assist them in that process.   So NATO has responded, I would say, very, very well.

 

            I should add one thing.  The first time the North Atlantic Treaty Organization did anything outside of Europe was right after September 11th, here in the United States, when they deployed AWACS.  The first time NATO has done anything outside of the NATO treaty area was within the last recent weeks, when they took over the responsibility for the International Stabilization Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  That is a huge commitment.  That is a big thing, the first time in fifty-plus years that NATO has undertaken an assignment outside of the treaty area.  And it's in Afghanistan.  That is, to me, something that ought to be noted.  And I would hope that people would note it as a significant departure in the past practice of the alliance.

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Okay.  Next question here, please.

 

            Q     I'm Tom Squitieri with USA Today.  Lord Robertson, last week the Russians announced that they were going to consider a new policy on nuclear weapons:  that is, including them for the possible preemptive use for terrorist actions and others.  About a year ago the Bush administration announced a similar policy in its nuclear posture review.  Are you concerned that this would be a trend evolving, and will this issue be among the discussions tomorrow?

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Well, I have no doubt that when Minister Sergei Ivanov comes tomorrow he'll want to expand on the fairly sketchy details which came out of the meeting that President Putin had with his commanders last week.  That is what these NATO-Russia meetings are all about.  I spoke to Minister Sergei Ivanov at the end of last week about some of these reports, and he was at pains to tell me that he thought some of the reports bore no relation to what the reality was.  So tomorrow will be an excellent opportunity for us to go over some of that and to hear more information and perhaps to exchange things as well.  We've reached a remarkable level of trust in our relationship with Russia today, and I think that's good news for the world.

 

            MODERATOR:  Charlie, please.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, I wonder if we just might very briefly revisit Iraq, sir.  You told reporters pointedly, it seems, yesterday that you were not involved in any discussions on this new White House -- and as the team with authority over Iraq.  Do you not feel, sir, that perhaps the White House or others in the administration went behind your back to diminish your authority in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Not at all, Charlie.  The reality is that the National Security Council's responsibility is to do exactly what this one-page memo says they should do.  It happened that it apparently was discussed at the undersecretary or the assistant secretary level, and not at my level.  It need not have been.  It is not a problem or an issue.

 

            The idea that -- and think about Iraq and what's taking place. You've got political activity that's taking place that the Coalition Provisional Authority is working on.  You have the economic activity that's taking place.  I think that -- I think there are 17 countries participating in the Coalition Provisional Authority with Ambassador Bremer.  And then, you have the security responsibilities.

 

            The president made a decision to start it out with Jerry Bremer reporting to me.  The implication in the press was that he was going to report to the White House or Condi Rice.  As Condi has indicated, that was not the import of the memo, that's not what the memo said, that's not what was intended.  We know that that activity, as it matures, will migrate over at the Department of States.  I mean, that's how -- where ambassadors report. And eventually, it will arrive there at some point.  And that would be a decision would make at some point as these -- as the task kind of moves less security towards more political and economic, one would think.

 

            But I just am really quite surprised about all of this (foofa ?) about this memo.  It's a little, short, one-page memo.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Not that I can see.

 

            MODERATOR:  Okay, let's move on please.  Jonathan, please. Jonathan Marcus (ph), please.

 

            Q     Jonathan Marcus (ph), BBC.  Question for you, Secretary Rumsfeld.  Transformation is very much at the top of your agenda. It's now very high on NATO's agenda as well.  We see the new rapid- reaction force they're developing as so on.  Isn't one of the lessons though of the fighting in Iraq that however magnificently transformed a force may be, however capable it may be of winning light with all the new information technologies and so on, you still at the end of the day need significant numbers of soldiers on the ground?  And isn't there a danger that one of the by-products of this whole transformational effort will be insufficient boots on the ground to actually carry out the peacekeeping and nation-building missions?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I guess time will tell.  I think that there seem to be a certain category of people who believe more is better in terms of troops.  It's not clear that that's the case, either with respect to warfighting or with respect to post-war stabilization activities.

 

            For whatever reason, General Abizaid is consistently receiving information from all of his commanders in Iraq that they not only do not need more forces, they do not want more forces, that they feel more forces would be not helpful but unhelpful.  More forces require more force protection.  More forces require more logistics.  More forces, U.S. and coalition forces, create the impression of an occupation.   They put more of a non-Iraqi face on what's taking place.

 

            The number foreign forces in Afghanistan are relatively modest, as I'm sure you're aware.  The -- what's taking place in Iraq today  is, I think, important to understand conceptually.  There are three categories of forces:  There are U.S. forces.  There are coalition forces.  And there are Iraqi forces.  The Iraqi forces did not exist on May 1st.  They started working with the plans that existed to develop an Iraqi police force, an Iraqi army, Iraqi site-protection forces, Iraqi civil defense forces, and Iraqi border forces.  They have gone from zero to 56,000 Iraqis providing security in Iraq in about three and a half or four months.  Another 14,000 have been recruited and are in training.  They have projections to dramatically continue the growth in the Iraqis.

 

            So what you have is a total number that's here.  And portion U.S., portion coalition, and coming up under it is a very large number of Iraqi forces.  In my view, that is what ought to be done.

 

            The goal of the coalition is not to become the permanent provider of security for that country.  Rather, it is to be there for a short period, whatever it takes, assist in getting the Iraqi forces up to speed and armed and equipped and trained so that they can, in fact, provide for Iraq's security, which is the job of Iraqis, not of Americans, not of coalition forces, except for a period, and then allow them to take that over, just as the same thing's true in the political area, where the transition will go from the Coalition Provisional Authority, a transfer of sovereignty over a period of time to the Iraqi government as it evolves.

 

            So, the people who are saying that there should be more total forces, it seems to me -- foreign forces, it seems to me are probably not right.  We'll find out over time.  At least at the moment, it is the unanimous view of every commander that General Abizaid has talked to.  I'm sure you can find somebody who doesn't agree with it somewhere; that won't be hard because no one ever looks for 100 percent.  But at least at the moment, that is the best judgment of the coalition military authorities, and I accept that and believe it's correct.

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Could I just briefly add, in terms of general transformation, that it cannot be simply seen as sort of some buzz word that has to do with technology.  Of course transformation has to do with using new technologies against new threats in the future.  But we see it, and ministers today have agreed, we have to see it in terms of flexibility and agility against asymmetric and unconventional threats.

 

            You know, one of what I consider to be a key achievement during my term of office as secretary-general was the creation of Supreme Allied Command Transformation.  And I did it not alone, but with Secretary Rumsfeld, because it ties in with Joint Forces Command in the United States of America.  But what it does is to say we need to get our armed forces fit and ready and able to meet the security challenges of the future in order to ensure that people will remain as safe as they feel now.

 

            We've actually got plenty of people in uniform.  In the non-U.S. countries, it's 1.5 million regular and a million on top of that of reservists, with the vast majority of them being still configured for territorial defense when there is no extraterritorial en enemy.  Now, so long as you have so many unusable soldiers, the taxpayers are being ripped off.  It is a bad bargain for the taxpayers when they expect usable, deployable, survivable, well-equipped troops to be available to deal with each and every crisis that they are called upon to deal with, and yet we don't have them.  So we are graduating our ambitions according to what we can deliver.  And I think sometimes there's a danger that ambition severely outpaces the ability to deliver on it.  But more and more of the defense ministers today and indeed last week at the EU meeting were saying we have to get more deployable soldiers and we are willing to make the changes that will allow for more of our forces to be deployable.  That's transformation. That's what it's all about.

 

            MODERATOR:  Lady there, please.  Go ahead.

 

            Q    Secretary Rumsfeld, as you know, there is a growing opposition to Turkish troops' deployment in Iraq, not only from the Kurds but also from the Iraqi Governing Council.  How do you see this? Are they challenging your policy, the U.S. policy?   And how you are going to handle this?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  One would hope, skillfully.  I'm not sure that you properly characterized the situation, with all respect.  The Iraqi Governing Council I do not believe has had a vote opposing Turkish troops in Iraq.  There have been one or maybe two members of the Iraqi Governing Council who have opined that they might prefer that that not be the case, but to my knowledge there's not been a full action of any type by the council, unless there's something I don't know.

 

            You think there has been?

 

            Q     Yes, because according to all report, they decided unanimously, and also the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said many times and only yesterday in London said very clearly that they oppose any -- the foreign minister.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think I'm right.  If I'm wrong, I apologize to everybody, but I believe I'm right that the council has not acted.

 

            Does anyone here know that they have?  Or haven't?

 

            STAFF:  (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The government's understanding is that I'm correct.  I -- .

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  We've got time for two --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Very wise.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  We've got time for two final quick questions, so let's give --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  Just a minute.  Just a minute. Just a minute.

 

            Second, your question said there's growing opposition.  It's not clear to me that that's the case at all.  Let me describe the circumstance.

 

            The circumstance is the United States has roughly 130,000 troops there.  We have 32 other countries that have varying numbers of troops.  Those troops are going to have to rotate out at some point. They're not going to stay there in perpetuity.  They're going to stay there for a period and then be replaced.  And the total level will depend on how successful we are in increasing the number of Iraqis.  During this period, the Coalition Provisional Authority has the responsibility for providing security in the country.  We have to do that in the way that we believe is best.  And what I'm sure Jerry Bremer is doing -- Ambassador Bremer and General Abizaid, is working with the Iraqis and working with the other coalition countries to find a way that the offer, as I understand it, by the Turkish government to provide some troops can be done in a way that's satisfactory to Turkey, satisfactory to General Abizaid and satisfactory to the key people in the Iraqi Governing Council.  And I have a strong suspicion that in whatever period of time -- you know, some days, some weeks -- some period of time, we'll find it all works out.

 

            MODERATOR:  We've got to have the two very brief final questions.

 

            First, to you.

 

            Q     (Name and affiliation inaudible.)  Although the -- (word inaudible) -- scenario this morning was hypothetical, it was not so hypothetical.  You put it up in the Mediterranean.  That is something like a forecast; it's a message.  And Greece, as a NATO state, has a special interest on that?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm sorry to have to keep doing this to these questioners.  You're wrong.  (Laughter.)  It was hypothetical.  It was not a forecast, and it was not a message.  You have to put it someplace.  Where would you have liked to have had it?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, fine.  (Laughter.)  Next time, we'll try that!  (Laughter.)

 

            MODERATOR:  Okay, we go to the final question.  Moscow, it's to you, and that's the last one.

 

            Q     (Name and affiliation inaudible.)

 

            Secretary Rumsfeld, here.

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Down in front.  Down in front.

 

            Q     I'm right here.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Chuckling.)  Oh, I'm sorry.  I couldn't find you.

 

            Q     In less than two weeks, there will be the conference for the reconstruction in Iraq in Madrid.  But the time passes and the U.N. resolution is not -- has not already approved.  How serious do you think that the fact that the resolution has not been approved, how can affect to the results of the conference?  And besides, do you think that the Europeans should make more effort in economical terms, in money, as you are providing now?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I'm been out here for a couple of days, so I'm not as current as I might be as to what's taking place in New York and with respect to Secretary Powell and the discussions that are taking place on the resolution.

 

            I don't know the answer to your question as to what effect it might or might not have.  My guess is it might have somewhat more effect on troop proposals than it would on donors.  But I don't know that for sure.  It could have an effect on donors when you think about the international lending organizations, I would think, more than individual countries.

 

            The donors' conference, as you suggest, is going to be held in, I believe, Madrid, Spain, later this month.  And it -- we are -- have thus far, I'm told, very good response from countries.  And we are certainly -- we believe that the basic task of rebuilding Iraq belongs to the Iraqis.  And our task, our role, really, is to get them started.  And we believe that it's -- we're happy as a country to -- and the Congress, I'm sure, will be passing some funds to assist Iraq. The Iraqis have funds of their own, which will be coming when they get their oil revenues up.  And in addition, we believe that the international community has a big interest in seeing that Iraq is successful.

 

            So, we believe that over time, we'll find that there will be international donors.  There already have been some numbers of many hundreds of millions of dollars that have been donated in one way or another by various countries around the world, and I suspect we'll find that that number will grow over time as the Department of State and Department of Treasury work with other countries to increase it.

 

            Before we close this off, I would like to say this is the secretary-general's last informal NATO meeting.  He has another ministerial meeting or two in Brussels.  But we are very pleased to have him here in the United States.  He has done an absolutely first-rate job for this alliance, and we are grateful.

 

            Thank you, sir.

 

            SEC.-GEN. ROBERTSON:  Thank you very much.

 

            STAFF:  Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary-General, thank you very much indeed for that.

 

            Ladies and gentlemen, before you go, just to remind you, as the secretary-general said, that Lord Robertson will be back here tomorrow at 12 noon for another press conference and will update you on the progress on the meeting.  So please, see you back then.  But in the meantime, have a pleasant afternoon and evening.

 

            Goodbye.  Thank you.  

 

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