(Briefing at the Foreign Press Center. Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Victoria Clarke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)
Moderator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. It's a distinct pleasure and honor to welcome today to the Foreign Press Center Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers. Both of them will have an initial opening statement that they will make, and after that we'll proceed to the questions.
I would remind you, please, to, as usual, use the microphones and enunciate clearly your names and your organization, please, before you ask your question.
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. We returned this weekend from South America and Europe. On Monday and Tuesday, I attended the Defense Ministerial of the Americas meeting in Santiago, Chile, then flew to Prague to join the president and Secretary Powell at the NATO summit, and then on to visit two of the nations that had just been invited to join NATO, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The two meetings took place a half a world apart, and yet I was struck by the similarities of objectives at both gatherings. In both Europe and the Americas, free nations are seeking to consolidate the democratic gains and adapt their institutions to -- these institutions that really arose during the Cold War and the post-World War II period -- to deal with the new, dangerous threats of the 21st century.
There are some who thought that with the end of the Cold War, that NATO might be somewhat less relevant. I've seen a lot of articles and editorials and columns over the years. Instead, the opposite's the case. More countries are seeking to join, and our decades of security cooperation among the NATO allies is paying off as new threats emerge.
The same is true of the institutions of the inter-American system. The need for the nations of our hemisphere to work together had not diminished at all. It has grown, as has the need for the institutions that facilitate hemispheric cooperation.
At both meetings, we discussed concrete steps to strengthen multinational cooperation. In Chile we offered two specific initiatives. The first was to foster regional naval cooperation by strengthening the operational and planning capabilities of partner nations, and upgrading the national command and control systems of our respective countries, and improving regional information-sharing. The second was an initiative to strengthen peacekeeping cooperation by integrating the specialized capabilities of individual nations to create regional capabilities. Both initiatives were well received.
In Prague, NATO heads of state approved two important initiatives as well: a review of the alliance command structures, to streamline them and to focus NATO on transforming to meet their 21st- century threats, and second, a NATO response force that will enable the alliance to deploy forces in days or weeks, instead of months.
The allies issued a strong statement on Iraq, making clear that Saddam Hussein's regime faces very serious choices.
And most importantly, NATO invited seven former Cold War adversaries to become allies. For one who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO at the height of the Cold War, it was a moving experience to be there as the presidents of those seven nations spoke about what the day meant for them personally and for the people of their respective countries.
And then I had the pleasure of visiting two capitals of invitee nations -- Slovakia and Slovenia. They are nations whose people have lived under oppression, and thus, have a special appreciation for freedom and the rule of law. Their invitation to join NATO is an important event not only for their countries, but for free people everywhere because it reminds us that despite all the new dangers we face today -- and they are serious -- that freedom is ascendent, and the cause of liberty has prevailed over the darkness of tyranny and terror and will do so again.
Thank you very much.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
And good afternoon. I, as well, went to the Prague summit, and I'd like to associate myself with the secretary's remarks in that regard. It was inspiring to observe the sense of purpose and the mutual support that has energized all the NATO allies.
From Prague, I went on east to Kurdistan for troop visits and a meeting with President Akayev in Bishkek. The president and I had a long and comprehensive discussion during which I briefed him on our current operations in Afghanistan and thanked him for his support of Operation Enduring Freedom. My judgment is that I feel we can count on Kurdistan for their support, the support of their government. And the president emphasized to me the importance of perseverance, no matter how long the stabilization process in Afghanistan may last. Our troops, at an air base there in Manas, are in a high state of operational readiness, and their morale could not be better. There is no doubt that they understand their crucial role in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And for us -- for our U.S. forces there, we have both an active component and Reserve component, and they're working very, very well together.
Next, I went on to Uzbekistan to visit our forces at Karshi Khanabad. Here I found a similar combination of readiness and awareness of how important their mission was. As you would expect, our people at K-2, as we call it, are ready for operations in Afghanistan and in the region for however long it takes.
And despite the remoteness of the location and the hardship of the lifestyle that they lead there, they're determined to do their part because they understand how they're contributing to stability not only in Afghanistan but in the region.
On Sunday, I went on to Tibilisi, Republic of Georgia, where I had in-depth meetings with Ambassador Miles and our country team, as well as General Tevzadze and the Ministry of Defense staff. I met for an hour with -- over an hour with President Shevardnadze on Sunday. And the next day I inspected our Georgia Train and Equip project in Krtsanisi. I was accompanied there by the ambassador, by the minister of defense and by the chief of the defense staff.
Both Georgia and the U.S. can be very proud of this excellent train and equip program. Our Special Operations Forces there have performed magnificently in the last few months as trainers, and the results are absolutely stunning. The Georgia trainees have shown an aptitude and dedication for learning which has already put them on par, in some areas, with comparably sized U.S. units. And the enthusiasm on both sides is readily apparent. And the most casual observer can see that the personal and professional relationships that are being forged will link our two military establishments for some time to come.
As some may know, our Army Special Operations trainers there will be replaced with Marines in the near future, and we expect that to be a seamless turnover, with the same high standard of training carried out.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Hello, Mr. Secretary. I'm John Decker from Reuters Television. And my question has to do with Saudi Arabia. My question is, can the U.S. still rely on the use of Saudi military bases in the event of military action against Iraq? And, another question has to do with our relationship with Saudi Arabia in general. Much has been said by members of both parties about the reliability of our relationship with Saudi Arabia, and I was hoping you could give us your opinion about whether you think that Saudi Arabia is a reliable U.S. ally. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: With respect to the first question and the fact that we have U.S. forces based in Saudi Arabia, the relationship there has been a good one for a great many years. Much of my adult lifetime, we've had a relationship with Saudi Arabia. Since -- during and since the Gulf War, obviously, it has been a very close working relationship from a military-to-military standpoint. Precisely what we do there and how that works is something that we prefer to have the Saudis characterize rather than us. And that's worked well not just in Saudi Arabia, but it's worked well with country after country across the globe. Each country has different political sensitivities and different perspectives. But we have had and do currently have and, in my view, will have prospectively a good military-to-military relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Q: Umit Enginsoy with Turkey's NTV Television. Two brief questions. First, are you expecting a breakthrough on the ESDP soon? And secondly, next week you're sending your deputy, Dr. Wolfowitz, to Turkey and its region. What's on the agenda?
Rumsfeld: The -- ESDP, you called it -- European Defense Initiative, which has had several names, and you're asking will there be a breakthrough soon. The issue there is not so much NATO, as I recall, but an issue within the EU as to how they want to arrange it. And I never am one to try to think I'm smart enough to predict the future. Whether there will be a breakthrough or not, I don't know. It certainly would be nice if there were. That is to say, that it has been going on for some time, and it seems to me that it's important that the different perspectives that are being presented and which have resulted in this long delay in sorting it out, those perspectives have to be taken into account. And it seems to me that it is likely that they will be solved, but I wouldn't want to predict it.
Q: Wolfowitz's visit to Turkey and the region.
Rumsfeld: He is. He and, I think, Marc Grossman from the Department of State are thinking about going over next week sometime. And what they would -- you're asking what the purpose of their --
Q: What's the agenda for the visit?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. They're going to several countries. And my -- and I don't know if they've announced an agenda for their trip. But they are -- you're right, they're currently scheduled to go to, I think --
Staff: It hasn't been announced yet.
Rumsfeld: It hasn't been announced; I'm correct. So I'll let them announce it.
I keep forgetting I'm supposed to call on people. Yes? Yes? Last time they criticized me because I didn't call on enough men -- (laughter) -- so I'm being very careful today.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Harry Dunphy from AP. Is the Bush administration thinking of doing more than presenting the Saudis with evidence of continued terrorist financing -- that is, taking some action to cut off the money?
Rumsfeld: The administration has -- the United States administration has for more than a year and a half -- well, since September 11th -- been working with countries all across the globe to try to dry up the money that has been going to terrorists. They've worked with countries in the Middle East, countries in Europe. Right here in the United States we've had some activity. And we are getting good cooperation. We have -- I think the last number I looked at said that something in excess of a hundred million dollars has been frozen and is not flowing into the hands of potential terrorists. So I would say that that has been under way and is under way now.
Q: Donna Boderi, Al-Jazeera. My question is, it seems to be there are some indications on the part of the Iraqis that they will not be able to give the inspectors a full tally of their weapon sites by December 8th. If that happens, what impressions -- what conclusions will you draw? What -- how will be the reaction of the United States? And are you taking in consideration that the date coincides with a major Muslim holiday?
Rumsfeld: Well, when you say am I taking it into consideration, I'm really not a factor in this. This is now in the hands of the United Nations inspectors, and it is for those folks and the member states of the Security Council to make judgments.
I noticed your phraseology that Iraq "will not be able to" give a list of your sites. The last I read, they said they don't have any. That would be a fairly short list. (Cross talk.)
Way in the back. Yes?
Q: Which --
Q: Which --
(Cross talk.) SEC. RUMSFELD: The lady! (Laughter.)
Q: (Laughs.) Thanks very much. Lisa Miller from Australian Broadcasting Corporation, from Australia. Australia's currently on a very high alert because of the fears of a domestic attack internally. What's your intelligence? What evidence do you know about that, and how worried should we be?
Rumsfeld: Well, Australia, of course, lost a lot of people in the attack in Bali, and it was a terrible tragedy and vicious attack.
So it doesn't surprise me that their leadership has made a judgment that they need to be on a circumstance of heightened sensitivity and awareness.
I don't have any particular intelligence on -- and nor is that really my business. I see intelligence reports, but in terms of each country, and each combatant commander in the case of the United States, has to make a separate judgment as to their assessment at any given time. It costs a lot of money to stay on a state of heightened alert, and it stresses your forces -- policemen, military personnel and the like. So you have to manage it in a way that you reduce it when you think you can, to save the stress on the force and the money, and then you heighten it when you believe it's appropriate. And people, needless to say, don't want to be wrong on that, so they have a tendency to be careful, and I think that's a good thing.
Who has a question for General Myers?
Do me a favor, make it a tough one for him. (Laughter.) He's had an easy day. He needs a challenge.
Q: Yeah. Well, the first is, I think he said something about Kurdistan, was that --
Q: Okay. I thought it was a Freudian slip, but it wasn't --
Q: Then in Georgia you said something about enthusiasm. In Russian newspaper -- sorry. I'm from Finnish Television -- (name inaudible). In Russian newspapers they were very much convinced that Georgia gave the Chechen rebels air defense or air missiles. Was that discussed during the visit?
Myers: No, it was not discussed. One of the things we did discuss, of course, was the Georgian effort in the Pankisi Gorge to help eradicate not only the Chechen rebels there, but other terrorists that live in the gorge. And that turned out to be a -- I think a fairly successful operation, as far as they've gone so far. And we did discuss that at length with the different ministries that participated. But we didn't discuss other -- or missiles.
Rumsfeld: You had a question.
Is it helpful if I go front to back so you have to pass the mikes all the way? (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. There's -- I have to ask a kind of question -- Phoenix TV of Hong Kong, Wei Jhin. On this Chinese military delegation visit, what do you want the kind of military cooperation from China? Will you talk about arms sales to Taiwan?
Rumsfeld: I don't know, with respect to what they'll talk about. But what do we want is a military-to-military relationship with the People's Republic of China that is reciprocal, that is balanced, that assists their -- particularly, young -- military people in having an understanding of the United States and a perspective of this country and a perspective of what it is we do, how we do it and why we do it; and vice versa, that our people get a sense of what's taking place in the People's Republic of China.
The interaction between our two countries has been interrupted on occasion. Needless to say, the EP-3 aircraft downing and the way it was handled was a -- caused a substantial interruption. And we're now back on a basis that we're renewing those relationships, and I think that's a good thing.
Yes? I'm now being prompted as to who I should select. I want the record to show that. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, I guess I should be thankful; I will mention that. My name is Andrei Sitov. I'm with the Russian News Agency, ITAR-TASS. My question is very simple and technical. Is Russia, and maybe the countries that the general visited, among those 50 nations that you are asking for military help in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: The Department of Defense and the Department of State got together, and I think there were some 50-plus nations that the State Department went out with a cable to, saying that the United States was interested in knowing the attitude and what they might want to contribute in the event that a coalition of willing nations in fact had to do something with respect to Iraq. Some nations have said they would help in a lot of ways, some in few ways. Others said they would help regardless of whether there was another U.N. resolution. Some said they would prefer that there be a second U.N. resolution. Others said they would prefer to help only with respect to, oh, participation in Iraq after a regime was changed.
Now, no decision has been made to use force, by the United States or by the United Nations or any other country. The logic of doing that -- and the answer is, I don't know know precisely, but I'm sure they were; I would guess they were. And it was not just those 50-plus countries, because General Myers and I and General Franks and others, Colin Powell, are visiting with people from still other countries and talking to them as well. So it's not as though there's an exclusive list.
And the importance of it, it seems to me, is that it -- we would not have inspectors going into Iraq today except for the single fact that there is a possibility of the use of force to require that that country disarm. If that were not there, there would be no inspectors getting ready to go into Iraq, let there be no doubt.
And so what we've decided to do is to make sure that the Iraqi regime is aware of the seriousness of purpose of the international community, and this effort is part of that approach that we've been taking.
Q: Now the related part is one of the reporters in my bureau was a part of that first advance military training seminar for journalists. The question is, are you now willing to consider embedding foreign-based journalists in units that will be deployed? And my thanks go to the Foreign Press Center and to your office, the press office at the Pentagon.
Clarke: The operative word is "consider."
Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) Torie Clarke, the assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, says the operative word is "consider."
I better -- go back here, yes. Somewhere in the back. You decide. (Laughter.)
Q: My name is Siegfried Buschschluter. I work for National German Radio, Deutschlandradio. Mr. Secretary, what would it take for you to be able to describe relations with Germany with a more friendly term than "unpolluted"? (Laughter.)
Myers: That's pretty friendly.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I think that -- the Department of State handles diplomatic relations -- (laughter) -- and they do it well, and I don't get into that business, if I can avoid it! (Laughter.) I used to be an ambassador, but that was a quarter of a century ago and I've forgotten all the ways that they do it.
The -- furthermore, I think that it would be not really a good idea for anyone to get into the business of each day providing a thermometer of exactly how warm or cool the relationship is, and saying today it's 78 degrees, and the next day it's 75 degrees, or something like that.
I don't think any purpose is served by that, so I respectfully decline.
Q: But would anything short of participation in a military operation against Iraq be sufficient?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that that would do it. We don't get up in the morning and say that what we think about other countries is dependent upon whether or not they agree with us on Iraq. We've got lots of friends around the world who have different views. That is a misunderstanding of what took place in the last election campaign in Germany, it seems to me. To think that it's correctable by something involving Iraq -- it just isn't. It is -- that has never been the litmus test, and it isn't today.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Is this for Dick Myers?
Q: Mr. Secretary, my name is Kamal al-Baradai from Al Watana Arabic Magazine. Mr. --
Rumsfeld: From what?
Q: Al Watana Arabic Magazine. Mr. Secretary, a follow-up on my colleague's question. You sent to 50 countries. In the Arab world, there are -- (inaudible) -- reports that you sent to 10 countries, and two of them already said no to any cooperation. Is that true?
And to General Myers, General Myers, do you think that troop preparedness -- U.S. troop preparedness is ready to have a response against Iraq if -- come the 21st of February, or you are not? You still need more preparation?
Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the first question, it's not clear to me that your facts are correct, either as to the number that it was sent to or as to the response.
Q: So can you -- (off mike)?
Rumsfeld: I could, but I shan't. (Laughter.) I believe that each country ought to say whatever they want. And some countries tell us precisely what they are prepared to do, and then they also indicate that they would prefer that we keep that confidential. And that's fine with me. Our interest is in having the broadest possible support and having enough time to arrange the planning that's necessary.
We've got 90 countries -- it's the biggest coalition in the history of mankind -- helping with the global war on terrorism. And the reason we have 90 countries is -- and if you went around, asked the 90 countries precisely what they're doing, you would get an answer that might be somewhat different from precisely what they're doing. And that's their preference. And it's not for me to go out and say that Country X is doing this and Country Y is doing that. In some cases, they prefer to handle it differently, and that's fine with me.
Q: Can you confirm that none said no, on any level? I'm not talking about specific levels.
Rumsfeld: Well, the countries that -- I'd be surprised if we ask the countries who would say no. (Laughter.) So -- so -- I mean, I doubt -- I doubt that the leadership in Iraq will be helpful, although I suspect that there are people down the --
Myers: Ranks, right.
Rumsfeld: -- a little bit lower than the leadership who might be very helpful.
Myers: On the second part of your question, in terms of our readiness, it's clearly not tied to any particular date. And our job in the Department of Defense -- the secretary's job, my job, the job of our combatant commanders -- is to be ready to do whatever we're asked to do by our commander in chief, the president. And we're ready to do that, whatever he may ask, and whether it's a lot or some other situation, we're ready to discharge our responsibilities. It's not tied -- it's not tied to --
Q: A follow-up on that. Mr. Secretary, there were a lot of reports about your preparedness. And on 21st of February, the final report to the United Nations from the inspectors, that's what I'm asking, come the 21st of February, are you completely ready, or you are still -- (inaudible) -- enforcement?
Rumsfeld: You can be sure that we will be ready to do whatever the president requests.
Rumsfeld: Whenever he requests it.
Myers: Well, that's a fact. And it's not tied to any particular date. I mean, that date may come and go, the report -- you know, who knows about that? So we've just got to be ready.
Q: (Off mike) -- Latin America. Can I ask a question?
Rumsfeld: Sure. Why not? (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you, sir. My name is Nestor Ikeda. I am a reporter for the Associated Press covering Latin America. And I have a question on Colombia and Venezuela. What was the U.S. participation in the case that led to Colombian government to cancel the dialogue with Brazil for purchasing some fighters made in Brazil?
And the second question is --
Rumsfeld: Well, let's take them one at a time. I have absolutely no knowledge of that, and I suspect the role of the United States was nothing, except I can't speak for the whole United States; I can only speak for the secretary of Defense, and I know of no role at all.
(To General Myers.) Do you?
Myers: I know of no role either.
Rumsfeld: Torie, do you?
Clarke: No, sir.
Rumsfeld: It's a -- three strikes and you're out. (Laughter.)
Q: I'm sorry, sir. The second question on Venezuela.
Rumsfeld: Does everyone get three questions or two questions?
The Press: No!
Rumsfeld: You got a lot of hands up.
Q: Yeah, thank you, sir. Thank you, sir. On -- (laughter) -- on Venezuela.
And you mentioned in your statement that some countries in Latin America are similar in needs with the new countries who are going to be members of the NATO. And one concern was the consolidation of democracy. What is your opinion about what is going on in Venezuela in the democracy field at this time?
Rumsfeld: Venezuela is not a country that I met with during that meeting. And I think I'll leave that kind of a question to the Department of State to characterize. That isn't what the Department of Defense does, is get up every morning and calibrate the degree of democracy in countries. So I'm afraid I'll --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld. I'm Sandra with RCN-TV from Colombia. When you talked with the Colombian defense minister, did you talk about the negotiation between Colombian government and paramilitaries? And my second question is, even that -- (inaudible) -- Colombian government to try to capture those guys who were charged by United States Justice?
Rumsfeld: No, we did not talk about that. We talked about the program that she and the president have developed and are implementing, and we talked about our interaction with them, both the Department of Defense and Department of State. And it's a -- we have a lot of respect for the plan that they've developed, and we are pleased that we're able to cooperate and work with them, and we hope they are successful.
Yes? There she goes. Right here, this gentleman.
Q: Thank you, sir Just one question. My name is Nakano from Nippon Television of Japan. My question is, Charles Robert Jenkins, who is believed to have deserted to North Korea in 1965, is afraid of being arrested if he leaves North Korea for Japan or the United States. But is it true that the statute of limitations will run out in 2005? And if so, will he then be free to leave North Korea without the fear of prosecution?
Rumsfeld: I've heard of the case. And it's my understanding -- if the person you've mentioned is the person I've heard of, it's my understanding that there is currently a case against the individual, a legal case against the individual. When the statute of limitation might run out, I don't have the vaguest idea, nor does the general.
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: On Iraq --
Q: Didn't you have a question?
Rumsfeld: Yes? Right in the middle.
Q: Thomas Reuter, German television, ZDF. Could you please --
Rumsfeld: You want to know the thermometer? Seventy-eight degrees, 75 degrees. (Laughter.)
Q: Something like that.
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Good.
Q: You asked us to give him a hard time, so I'll try my very best --
Rumsfeld: No! Not a hard time, a hard question.
Q: Okay. What exactly have you asked from Germany, in case there is a war against Iraq? Because there have been an awful lot of rumors. And could you give us a couple of specifics, please?
Myers: I think I'm going to -- I think I'll start where the secretary left off, and that is that for Operation Enduring Freedom, we've gotten great support from Germany. I may remind people that Germany was one of the hubs as we started new humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan. We continue to use some of the infrastructure there for work down range in Afghanistan and the region.
I don't think it's proper that we characterize what future assistance we're going to get from Germany. That'll be up to the German government to do that. But I have every expectation that their support for Operation Enduring Freedom and the war on terrorism will continue at a very high level.
Q: Follow-up. Follow-up.
Rumsfeld: I can't see the face that goes with the voice. (Cross talk.) Oh, yes. Good. You're right next to the mike.
Q: Yvonne Esterhazy. I'm with the Financial Times Deutschland. The German government has received a request to provide some Patriot missiles to protect Israel, and I was wondering if the Pentagon or the U.S. government had made this request on behalf of Israel or in any other way facilitated this request.
Rumsfeld: I didn't know about the request. And it's not --
Myers: I don't know about it either, about --
Rumsfeld: So it may or may not be a fact. There's no question but that Israel is interested in Patriot and, I believe, already has some and may be interested in more.
Myers: That's correct.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Yes? (Inaudible.)
Q: Yes, sir. Alan Fryer from Canadian Television. I think it's hovering around 32, 33 degrees. (Laughter.)
U.S. displeasure with the level of Canadian defense spending was not lost on Canadian officials in Prague. In fact, the Canadian defense minister seemed a little ticked off about it. But isn't it true that Canada would have even less to contribute this time in any possible conflict with Iraq than it did during the last Gulf War?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I don't know that I would agree with your characterization of the relationship between the two countries. In fact, I think I wouldn't agree. I don't have any expectation of any kind from any country as to what they will or won't do. And my view is, every country ought to do what they darn well please.
They're sovereign nations; they have different circumstances. They ought to decide what it is that makes sense from their standpoint. And that is, I think, perfectly appropriate. And there isn't any ire or anger or displeasure on my part, or anyone else's part, about anything. And I have no idea what they'll decide to do.
We've had wonderful cooperation with Canada in the global war on terrorism. We've had assistance in Afghanistan. We have a very good relationship. I see the minister of defense. And I don't really know what you're talking about.
Myers: Can I help -- can I add to that a little bit?
Myers: I think in terms of Canadian military capabilities, that they're -- what they do have are very, very good, and we have relied on them, as the secretary said, in the war on terrorism. And I might remind folks, having some personal involvement in this, being the commander of the North American Air and Space Defense Command, that as we speak, for the North American continent, we have Americans and Canadians sitting side by side sharing the responsibility for the air and space defense and missile defense of the North American continent. We rely on each other, I mean, for our very lives. So it's a very rich and robust, as you know, relationship.
Rumsfeld: Right here.
Q: (Name inaudible) -- I am with Southeast Europe News Service. Mr. Secretary, a group of experts from your department is currently in Serbia investigating the reports about arms sales and other forms of illegal military cooperation between Yugoslavia and Saddam's regime in Baghdad. At the same time, the leaders from Belgrade are officially very keen to normalize their relations with the United States and to join the NATO program, Partnership for Peace.
So my question is, how is the first report from your people on the ground in Serbia, and what's your message for the leaders in Belgrade, in Bosnia as well, some other countries who allegedly are breaking the U.N. embargo regarding trade with Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well, our country cares a lot about certain things. And those of you who reside here and perform your work here know that. We care about the rule of law, we care about human rights, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We believe that the embargoes that exist in the world on weapons are there for a reason, and that it puts in danger innocent people to the extent of restrictions are ignored or broken. It happens in a lot of countries that those rules are broken; sometimes it's with the knowledge of the government, sometimes it's not with the knowledge of the government. Sometimes it's dual-use capabilities that get moved.
We've heard no report from the group that's there. I'm sure they'll have a report when they come back, but I've not heard anything.
Yes? Is this one for Dick Myers again?
Nope, this gentleman right here with the gray hair. That young fellow with the gray hair.
Q: The first time I've ever been happy to have gray hair. (Laughter.)
Mr. Secretary, my name is Paul Koring. I'm with the Globe and Mail of Canada. And I want to pick up where y colleague left off, because I'm sure the Canadian government will be pleased to hear what the two of you just said from this podium, but the ambassador -- that is, the U.S. ambassador to Canada -- said earlier this month, "I will continue to respectfully urge the leaders here in Canada to put more money into defense." Canada is currently spending well below the NATO average of all of America's NATO allies. Barring Luxembourg and Iceland, it spends less per capita than any of the others.
How important is it, given the new focus on continental defense and the war against international terrorism, that Canada picks up a greater share of the burden?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, that's the Department of State's job. That's what the ambassador's job is, is to deal with the government on a continuing basis and communicate the concerns or hopes or expectations or preferences of the United States, in the case of the United States, and other countries as well. Our military-to- military relationships is what Dick Myers and I were describing, and they're very good.
Now, do I believe that we live in a world that's dangerous and untidy? Do I believe that the 21st century security environment is notably different than the 20th century? You bet. Am I deeply concerned about the connection between weapons of mass destruction in terrorist states and terrorist networks and the danger that that poses, not to kill a few hundred or a few thousand, but tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people with chemical or biological or radiation or nuclear weapons? You bet I'm concerned.
Do I think other countries ought to share that concern? I do. I think it's -- the percentages of gross domestic product that the countries of this world are spending -- free countries, democratic countries, not the terrorist states, they're spending a very high percentage of their GDP -- but the United States is spending about 3 percent. NATO average is down around 2 percent, 2-1/2 or something like that. Some are as low as 1-1/2.
Q: Canada, (1.1 ?).
Rumsfeld: But who counts? (Laughter.) Now, do I go around the world and this country and say to people that all the things we value aren't possible if there is war; all the things we value aren't possible if it's an unstable world?
People don't have jobs, people don't have opportunity, people don't make investments, businesses -- money is a coward; money does not want to invest where there are uncertainties. And what we've got to do is create an environment that's hospitable to education, and to learning, and to investment, and to the kinds of opportunities that the people of the world want, or their circumstance is going to be terrible. And without peace and stability in the world, that's not possible. And there isn't a country on the face of the earth that can't afford to spend 2 or 3, 4 percent of their GDP to contribute to peace and stability in the world.
Now, do some countries sometimes do that and sometimes not? That's right. Sometimes -- you know, it's the easiest thing in the world to cut the defense budget because it doesn't hurt you a bit during your tenure. While -- the time you're in office, there's practically nothing that this president or this Congress or this country will be using that was developed and built during this period. I was secretary of Defense 26 years ago. I was the one who improved the M-1 tank. That's what we've got. I was the one who was at the flyaway for the F-16 aircraft. We're still flying F-16 aircraft. B- 52s are almost as old as I am -- not quite, about -- (laughter). Now, these things last a long time, and therefore, it's very easy for any administration to trim -- that's right, think of your own self. Think if you don't fix the roof one year, and then you don't seal the basement, and then you don't repair this, and you don't repair that. Pretty soon you've got to do all of it.
And you simply must be willing -- we, as free people, must be willing to make the kinds of investments over a period of time that will enable our respective free countries to contribute to peace and stability, or we're making a terrible mistake. That is not directed at any one country. To the extent it's directed at all, it's directed to the United States of America. We need to do that.
Q: Somebody who's not asked yet?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, somebody who is back there. I love it! Good for you!
Q: I'm -- (name inaudible) -- from Indian Public Broadcasting. Now, the U.S. media is full of reports of clandestine collaboration between North Korea and Pakistan on nuclear-related matters. So what's your comment on that? And what action are you contemplating?
Rumsfeld: The United States has -- Secretary Powell, I believe this morning or yesterday morning, spoke on the subject. He indicated that he's been in communication with officials in Pakistan and that they understand our concerns. And I wouldn't think of adding anything to that.
Q: Sir? Steven Irwin, with Canadian Broadcasting. There seems to be some --
Rumsfeld: Getting a little heavy --
Q: Sorry about that!
Rumsfeld: -- a little heavy on Canada here, isn't it? (Laughter.) Let's lighten up.
Q: There were some reports this morning that there may be some evidence that could exonerate the pilots who bombed the Canadians in Afghanistan.
I'm just wondering what you think -- how you think this may affect future proceedings.
Rumsfeld: You know, I dropped out of law school, so I'm not very expert on the law, but I keep getting told by the lawyers in the Department of Defense that the last thing I should do is ever comment on any legal matter, where there's somebody rights and circumstances could be affected because of the fact that it's conceivable that something could come up the chain of command and land on my desk. So I am without an opinion on that.
Q: (How about ?) the general? (Laughter.)
Myers: Well, I'm in the same predicament even though I'm not in the chain of command; the secretary might ask, you know, for my opinion on a certain matter. I've just -- we've just got to let the process -- process work.
Q: Are you aware of these reports, though?
Myers: I'm aware of them to the extent that I read in the paper today.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Yes, in the middle. The fellow with the long arm with a pencil at the end of it.
Q: Thank you. (Laughter.) Mike Levalley from Tokyo Broadcasting. To follow up on the North Korea-Pakistan question, these reports have been pretty significant in the press recently, particularly The New York Times article on Sunday. And how much do you think Pakistan has helped advance North Korea's nuclear program to the production stage? And secondly, are you also confident that Pakistan -- that North Korea is not receiving any more shipments or any more assistance from Pakistan on its uranium enrichment program?
And a quick follow-up for General Myers. In the next round of any potential situation with Iraq, would it be beneficial for Japan to contribute Aegis destroyers to any potential situation?
Rumsfeld: North Korea has been and remains the single biggest proliferation of ballistic-missile -- missiles and technologies relating to ballistic missiles. They have had interaction over many, many years with a great number of countries -- terrorist states and non-terrorist states. Originally they got in the business by a purchase -- I believe from Egypt -- of some Russian Scuds that they then reverse-engineered and have developed, and now peddle them around the globe.
I don't know what else one can say except what I've said.
It is something that -- it deeply concerns us. It's a danger to the world and it is -- there are some things we can know through various methods and friends around the world who talk to us, and there -- we are also, I think, wise enough at this stage to know there are things we don't know, and that is worrisome, because I've discovered over the years that every time -- I see things I know, I see things I know about that I know I don't know, and I see things that I don't even know I don't know. And each year that goes by, things start fitting in these baskets differently, and you discover something that started way back here and you didn't know it. And you find that -- you discover that it's here, but it was already going on for five or 10 years. And there are so many ways to deny and confuse people's understanding of what's taking place in the world that one has to be concerned about what you see because you've got to know of certain knowledge it's worse than that.
Rumsfeld: I'll leave that to the Department of State.
Myers: On the second part of your question in terms of Japanese contribution, of course on the Operation Enduring Freedom, the Japan government has provided support in many areas, to include ships, like you mentioned, as well as fuel for ships and planes. And they continue to do that.
I think in the future, any contribution will be -- you've got to ask the Japanese government that; we're not the right ones to ask. We have -- at least at my level, we have discussed the sorts of things they might provide, and they'll think about that and they'll come up with their own conclusion.
Rumsfeld: We're going to make this the last question, right there.
Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, can we talk about -- a bit about NATO enlargement --
Moderator: Would you identify yourself?
Q: -- Shafalk Mehorliva, Azerbaijani news agency, Azertadj. Now that the Prague summit is over and new invitees are identified, who does the U.S. see in -- will be next in the list of new invitees to NATO enlargement, and what kind of contribution do you think that countries bring to the alliance? I would appreciate the general's comments to that too.
Rumsfeld: The process of NATO enlargement, or considering countries for entry, has several steps. And what they do is they apply. And so there are some nations that have applied. There will be other nations, I suspect, that will be applying. And then there's a program they work on. And then at some point, they are far enough along in their program that the NATO nations collectively sit down and decide whether or not they want to issue an invitation.
It is something that in the case of most countries, including ours, has to be considered by the Congress, as well as by the executive branch.
And everything we do in NATO, we do on a consultative basis with everybody else, because we do things by consensus. So one country can prevent something from happening, and no one country can make things happen.
And I guess that's a way of answering that it's not knowable. What -- we've just done this. These countries are not even in NATO yet; they've just been invited. They now have to take the next step and complete certain steps so that they can become full members of NATO. Sometime, I believe, next year is the way it works.
So it's really not possible to know. There are a number of countries who have indicated a desire to become a part of NATO.
And the kinds of capabilities these countries bring in -- it's useful to mention that -- very few countries in the world today have 360-degree militaries. It's just too expensive. The ones that do tend to have been organized, trained and equipped for fighting armies, navies and air forces from other countries. There are very few big armies, navies or air forces from other countries, and indeed a number of the threats we see today don't come from armies, navies or air forces. They don't even come from countries. They come from terrorist networks, and they come from ungoverned areas, and they come from border regions where people are able to use the border to their advantage.
So if you think about it, some people have a tendency to look at the countries that just came in and say, "Well, what can they do? How can they add value?" Well, the fact is, they can add considerable value. They may add niche value. They may be excellent in human intelligence or in peacekeeping or in engineering or in de-mining, in field medicine, all kinds of things they can do, of great value.
They might not have any of those capabilities, but they might be able to pool their resources with three or four other countries and assist in air-to-air refueling; NATO AWACS, which flew over this country since September 11th, doing a wonderful job.
Myers: Strategic lift.
Rumsfeld: I think 12 countries were in the NATO AWACS.
The general reminds me of strategic lift, which -- a group of countries are now coming together, I believe, under Germany's leadership, to give a airlift capability to the country. So these countries each can bring something different and valuable, and the world that we're living in is going to need that. We're going to -- think that we still have forces in Bosnia and in Kosovo. We've got forces in Afghanistan. There are forces in East Timor and in Sinai, and we're doing some training in the Philippines.
And so all these countries can participate in those things and help make a more stable and safer and better world, so that people can enjoy the freedom that they have.
Thank you very much.
Q: General? Just a last question for the general?
Rumsfeld: I think I said that was the last one. (Cross talk, laughter.) Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you.