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Background Briefing on Secretary Rumsfeld's Forthcoming Trip

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
November 15, 2002 2:00 PM EDT

(Background Briefing on Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's forthcoming trip to Chile and NATO Summit)

Staff: All right, thanks for joining us this afternoon. This background briefing is to go over some of the details of the secretary's travel that's coming up starting this weekend to Chile, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

We are on background today. And I have two senior defense officials. And for ease of transcript purposes, and by no means ranking one above the other, the top one will be senior defense official one, and the second will be senior defense official two today, and they're both going to give you a quick overview of the region that they're responsible for, and then take a couple of questions. But we're going to keep this pretty short, too. Okay?

Senior Defense Official: Okay, good afternoon. The secretary starts off, as you know, on Sunday flying to Chile. And the forum he's attending is called the Defense Ministerial of the Americas. As you would suspect, it's a gathering of the defense ministers of the hemisphere, of the entire hemisphere. This is a relatively new institution. It's an important part of the inter-American system. But it began in 1995, that was the first session. Maybe some of you have been there, I have not. But the most recent one was in Brazil a couple of years ago, two years ago.

As I said, it's the whole hemisphere. Canada and Mexico will be there as participants, the Caribbeans, so it's the whole hemisphere aside from Cuba, I think. Mexico's participation is interesting. It has been there in the past as an observer, but this time it will be there as a participant. Chile is the host, and that's another tribute, I think, to Chile's leadership. Chile is a good friend and a success story economically. And so I think the secretary's particularly pleased to be able to visit and pay a courtesy call on the president of Chile, among other things.

Now the secretary was already committed a long time ago to go to Prague for the NATO summit, and there was an obvious schedule collision. But he recognized how important this forum was. It's the gathering of the defense ministers of this hemisphere. Given the importance that the president attaches to our relationships in the hemisphere, the secretary understood that he should go. He's going to stay for -- he's going to be at the opening plenary, deliver a presentation, and then he will have to leave and go off to Prague by way of a stop here. I'll go over this. I'll give you the schedule in a minute. But what I'm saying is this could have been a train wreck, but he understood that this was something very much worth his while. He'll be traveling, as I said, Sunday. He'll get there Sunday evening.

Monday he will spend with some -- a few bilateral meetings with some key friends. He will pay a courtesy call on the president of -- President Lagos of Chile. And Monday evening there's a welcoming reception that he will attend.

Tuesday is the opening plenary. He will make some remarks, a relatively short statement but a substantive one. And the U.S. will offer some -- he will offer some initiatives, some specific proposals that we will discuss with you a little later on or closer to the time of the event. And he will have to leave about midday on Monday, come back to stop at Andrews, and then change teams and head off to Prague.

I'll just say a little bit about, again, the president's policy, which is the framework of our Latin America policy. The president spoke at a Quebec summit, I think last year. He talked about his vision of Latin America. There are three elements of American policy. One is democracy, the second is prosperity, the third is security.

Now democracy, we know what he's talking about. There's been this extraordinary trend of democratization in this hemisphere over the last couple of decades. And this was enshrined about a year ago. It was September 11th, 2001. It was that day when Secretary Powell was in Lima, I think, and the OAS [Organization of American States] on that day adopted a charter of democracy, just sort of acknowledging the fact that democracy is the reigning doctrine of this hemisphere and making that part of the inter-American system.

Prosperity, this is embodied in the president's free trade initiative, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. which now is re-launched given that Congress gave the president the trade promotion authority earlier this year. And a number of Latin American countries, I think -- well, Chile is near the top of the list of countries that are eager and ready to, you know, to join us in that initiative.

The third component is security. And that's been the piece that is still developing. And I think that's why this ministerial is so important.

We have bilateral relations with just about every country in the hemisphere, bilateral security relations. Secretary Rumsfeld has received a number of visitors here, defense ministers from friendly countries in the hemisphere. But, you know, part of U.S. doctrine has always been to develop regional institutions, regional cooperation, and that's what this ministerial is a perfect opportunity to develop.

So let me stop there, turn it over to (the other briefer) -- well, do you want to do the questions afterward? Okay. Okay.

Senior Defense Official: Hi, I'm Defense official two.

We will -- the secretary, as Defense official one said, will touch down here. We'll pick up some additional folks and we'll be headed to Prague, I guess, early Wednesday morning. And the Prague summit, as you know, is going to be a venue that will focus -- the focus will be on heads of state. Not only will the heads of state, but foreign ministers and defense ministers from the member countries and many of the Partnership for Peace countries will be in attendance.

The Prague summit is really the -- a major watershed event in terms of securing allied agreement to an agenda that expands the frontiers of democracy piece -- security in Europe. And we also believe will begin to launch a transformation of NATO's military capabilities.

I'd like to kind of briefly review the secretary's schedule and what we see some of the activities at the summit to be.

We'll arrive late morning in Prague. Obviously, there will be a number of bilateral meetings that the president will be having. We're also going to be involved -- as you probably know, the United States is involved in the combat air patrols over Prague, and we'll be looking at -- the secretary will be involved in reviewing the operations there for that. In the evening, there's a ministers' reception.

The next day, on Thursday, will be the key meetings of the North Atlantic Council. The secretary will be involved. We'll have -- there will be a defense ministers' meeting in the afternoon over lunch, in which focus -- we expect the focus of discussion will be on command structure review and response force and perhaps some other issues.

Also, there will -- there's going to be a very interesting display area, which I suggest that all journalists who are in the traveling party who will be in Prague might want to visit, of the new initiatives that the alliance is taking in the NBC protection area. And I think there will be opportunities for press to go through that and work through that.

There will also be then a major dinner in the evening, on Thursday, that will include not only the NATO members and prospective members, but also the EAPC countries and others.

Friday will be a mixed day, followed up with an EAPC [Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council] meeting with all the partner countries also. And then the secretary will be moving on to visit two countries, one Friday afternoon, in Slovakia, and then on Saturday the plan is to go to Slovenia and then to return to the United States sometime after that.

In terms of the main activities, obviously a focal point for this alliance -- for this meeting is going to be enlargement. Heads of state are expected to issue invitations to individual aspirant countries. The president is not going to make his decisions public until Prague, although he made clear last June in Warsaw that the United States supports a robust round of enlargement for NATO.

On the capabilities side, we really see three main areas: the Prague capabilities commitments, in which allies will focus their efforts and direct and concentrate their spending in particular areas. We see those areas to include defending against chemical, biological, radiological threats; secure command, control, communication capabilities and interoperability; improving combat effectiveness; and improving deployability and particularly sustainability, both inside and outside the European theater.

The -- we've seen -- we expect to see some potential progress here, some good progress, in terms of possibly the development of consortiums to lease airlift capabilities; tankers -- development of a tanker capability, a consortium for tankers; possibly the purchase of more precision-guided munitions, and the like. And nations have also made -- are making commitments to invest in areas like UAVs, air defense, and NBC protective gear.

The second item in that capabilities dimension is the command structure reform. NATO's command structure is really -- the foundation of it is really based on the threat we faced during the Cold War. An example of that was the continuation of -- or the existence of SACLANT, in a way, the Supreme Allied Commander, or the ACLANT, Allied Command Atlantic, whose primary purpose was to secure the lines of communication against a very hostile naval environment in the Atlantic. Needless to say, we don't see that hostile naval environment today.

So heads of state are expected to approve the broad outline of a new command structure and to task the alliance to fill in the details over the next six months, for approval by ministers of defense in June 2003. Key features of that we expect to be the retention of two strategic commands, but now focusing one on operations, and one on transformation. And so this would be a new functional command, strategic command, that would be co-located with the U.S. Joint Forces Command, that would focus on the longer-term goal of reshaping allied forces and making sure that we can synchronize, to the extent possible, the transformation of all alliance capabilities.

The third item that I think will be part of that capabilities dimension will be the NATO response force. And again, heads of state will be looking at that issue, and we will hope that they will commit to creating a NATO response force; task the alliance then to develop that concept and the organizational structure for that so that it can be created expeditiously.

I think I briefed most of you last time, that force should be able to conduct very short-notice responses, all the way up to high-intensity conflict or forced-entry type missions in a hostile environment; should be self-sustaining and capable of fighting alone for at least 30 days. So -- and we expect that U.S. participation in that NATO response force will be -- that we will participate in that NATO response force and that our involvement in it will be consequent with allied interest in doing so.

On missile defense, we expect that NATO leaders to initiate a new missile defense feasibility study to examine options for how missile defense capabilities might be used to defend alliance territory and population centers against a full range of missile threats. This is an expansion beyond where NATO was where NATO was focused much more on so-called theater missile defenses against -- to primarily defend against deployed forces operating in theaters. So now we expect this feasibility study to be conducted by NATO to look at how population centers and alliance territory itself might be defended.

And finally, we've talked about this new members and new capabilities. We also -- the Prague summit will also focus on new relationships. We're planning to have a NATO-Russia Council meeting at the foreign minister level. The main objective of that will be to assess progress to date and discuss future cooperation between NATO and Russia. As you know, in May, there was a NATO-Russia summit in which all the heads of state participated. And so this will be done at the foreign minister level. And we're also hopeful there will be a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting of foreign ministers.

So I said, this is a broad agenda. It's an agenda that NATO has been working on intensively for the last year and a half, and we believe that it's an agenda that will assure NATO's relevance and strengthen NATO's importance in protecting America's vital interests.

Senior Defense Official: If I may just add a thought, an observation about something in common between the two segments of this trip. You know, the inter-American system as embodied, for example, in the Rio Treaty, is like the Atlantic alliance, an institution that was created in the aftermath of World War II and at the beginning of the Cold War. And I think one can safely say both these institutions are discovering in a new era that there are new threats and new issues that justify them, that make them very valuable.

I mean, NATO has gone through a decade in which, you know, defining what the new threats are. And I think it's pretty clearly a vital institution. But the inter-American system -- I could just mention one fact, that after September 11th, the Rio Treaty was invoked, that has a provision just like Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in which, you know, an attack on one is an attack on all. And it's pretty clear that terrorism, narcotics, arms trafficking, there's a whole set of new issues that, I think, provide a growing incentive for the inter- American system to adapt to these new threats and find ways of addressing these new threats in common. So anyway, it just occurred to me that this was a -- there is a theme in this pudding.

Okay. Please.

Q: Can I ask about what he's going to say? In this presentation you said you're going to detail probably what is on the plan, but I mean, is this going to be about terrorism, the war on terrorism, or what --

Senior Defense Official: Well, he'll have a couple of practical initiatives, proposals for enhancing cooperation in the hemisphere, initiatives where the U.S. will provide some support for some common endeavors. And as I say, we'll save it till, you know, a little closer to the event. But it's a substantive presentation.

And I'll add one other thing. The secretary does have to leave early, but the rest of us are going to stay behind, our delegation. Myself, General Hill, the commander of SOUTHCOM, and the team of people we have will stay through the duration of the ministerial. There will be meetings at different levels and colloquia on different subjects, and we intend to make substantive presentations in these forums as well. So there will be a lot of substance to this gathering.

Q: Excuse me. Just again, to press -- On this collective security, you're talking about the new threats, like terrorism, drugs and that kind of thing, aren't you?

Senior Defense Official: That's right. In the case of this hemisphere, that's what it is, narcotics, terrorism, as I said, trafficking. I mean, all these things are linked together, and there's a lot more that we could be doing.

Yes?

Q: What bilateral meetings is the secretary going to have in Chile?

Senior Defense Official: There will be about three or four of them. I think, again, we'll detail them as we get closer, but just -- a lot of the key -- the key countries in the region. And it's not totally finalized what they'll be, but there will be a few.

Yes?

Q: I am a reporter for Latin American affairs for the AP. And as you know, Mexico is quitting the Rio Treaty. And how is their situation affecting all this coordination between the U.S. and the other countries in Latin America?

Senior Defense Official: Well, I think that's part -- this is one of the issues that's going to be discussed. There's also a foreign ministers meeting coming up next May that's going to talk about security issues.

But I don't think -- we don't think that the Rio Treaty is obsolete. I mean, this is going to be an issue. And we think the inter-American system is important; it serves a very important purpose. The form that that takes is to be discussed and debated. And I think that's perfectly appropriate. Mexico is a sovereign country and it has a point of view. But we'll -- and there may be many forms that the inter-American system will continue to take. I mean, the ministerial I think is developing a life of its own, more, perhaps, than when it began.

And I think our position, the U.S. position, will be that there are real threats out there, that this is -- it calls for real -- talking about real security in a traditional sense. And that the inter-American system -- there's really no substitute for it. Now, we can adapt it -- I mean, this would -- will develop by consensus, inevitably. But I think our view is that these institutions have worked well and they are capable of adapting to very new conditions, just as NATO is showing.

Yes?

Q: On the NATO issue, if I could. At several of the recent ministers meetings, the topic of Western European defense spending is always an issue -- are they spending the same kind of percentages the U.S. is. As NATO looks to expand to the East, to countries with smaller economies, weaker economies, more backward militaries, how will NATO make this process an addition to alliance security, beyond just expanding territory? Are the niche military capabilities, the boutique aspects, enough to really help the alliance?

Senior Defense Official: Yeah, I mean, I think there's a number of -- one of the ways that we hope to do that is to have existing alliance members -- and we would expect new alliance members as well -- to focus their investments in areas that are -- we think are the most likely capabilities that the alliance will need.

I mean, to give you an example, investments in things that are oriented towards static defense in most countries, in most cases, the existing members of the alliance, are things that are probably not that useful. And so, that doesn't mean that you don't need to retain some of those capabilities. But if you're making judgments in your defense budget about whether you retain reserved armored components for a major land war in Central Europe -- (laughs) -- versus lighter, sustainable forces that can be deployed overseas and then have interoperable communications, you ought to be adjusting your budgets accordingly. So, spending more wisely in effect -- and I think that that's a perfect segue.

Now, on the new allies, you know, it runs the gamut. I mean, some of them are potentially -- are larger countries, potentially will have greater military weight to bring to the alliance. Others are smaller, and obviously, you know -- but I think that all of them can in fact contribute, and all of them have really received the message that came out of the June defense ministerial and that was echoed again in Warsaw that if they can drill down into particular niche expertise areas: combat service support, medical support, you know, search and rescue, NBC capabilities; things that they can bring to the table that often are these high-demand, low-density assets of the alliance, that they really can make a contribution.

So obviously, there will be a number of countries that will be invited. But we will be working with them -- invitation is not the same, you know, they're not in the alliance until they actually -- they're invited and then there will be a period, obviously, between now and when they actually -- their constitutional processes are worked and the NATO Treaty itself is amended, where we'll -- you know, we'll still be working with them to try to get them to focus in some of these niche areas.

But I feel that they really understood this, and I see a lot of interest in moving in that direction.

Q: Tanker consortium issue. Can you flush that out a bit? The German defense ministry apparently has been tasked by NATO to develop a plan for going forward, and they've received proposals from Boeing, apparently, and the Antonov Aircraft. Flush it out. Do you expect an announcement of a consortium, or the intent to move forward and develop one?

Senior Defense Official: Actually, you're thinking of the airlift consortium.

Q: I am.

Senior Defense Official: Okay. You said tankers, so I just --

Q: I did say tankers, yeah, I meant airlift.

Senior Defense Official: That's all right. Again, I don't want to characterize what the Germans are going to decide to do. But I think I can say that the Germans are taking the lead on this issue.

One of the areas that we think would really improve the deployability and sustainability of the alliance is to have some effective airlift capacity in the short term. And one way that countries have been able to do that -- for example, the British have a C-17 lease program of four C-17s -- exactly.

So what I think that the -- where I think that's headed is the Germans are trying to put together a group, a consortium, of like-minded countries who want to contribute to this, so that they can make it as a broad an effort -- but in terms of the actual details of it, to be honest with you, I think those are still being worked out, and I think we'd probably best hear from the Germans on that subject.

Q: (Inaudible) -- can you flesh that all out? I didn't know about that.

Senior Defense Official: It's in a similar state. There's a couple of countries who are exploring the idea of providing a small tanker capability. And again, the idea would be that individually these countries might not be able to afford or to have a tanker force, but collectively they could generate a small tanker force that could be used to sustain air operations.

Q: Do you expect hard initiatives coming out of this or more an intent to study an issue?

Senior Defense Official: I expect some hard initiatives. I expect some commitments to come out, out of Prague, in certain areas. And I expect -- I think it'll be a mixture of things -- some commitments and some -- with details to be filled in later, and some where there will be continued study. So I think it'll be a mixture of things.

Q: Yeah. The president, you said, has a desire for a robust enlargement, but what would that do to the NATO decision-making if you have 25 or 26 or 27 members, you know, compared with how difficult it was to get consensus on the Kosovo air war with just 19 members?

Senior Defense Official: Well, you know, I think that there is a, I guess, sort of an organizational theory, you might say, that when you expand the size of a group, it's harder to make a decision. But I tend to think that there's -- you know, normally consensuses form pretty -- can form pretty quickly, depending upon the issue and the -- you know, the -- in terms of the root sort of basis of the alliance, which is working off of consensus. I don't think this is going to change in a major way the way NATO works. I think that NATO has always galvanized behind strong leadership, and I think they'll continue to do that.

So while it's one of those things that I think NATO needs to look at, and I believe the secretary-general is looking at from the standpoint of, you know, committee structures and things like that, that is kind of an issue that needs to be dealt with because you've got so many more people involved. And I think there will be some reform in that sense.

I think the basic principle of requiring consensus will not, at 25, 24, 26, whatever it happens to be, that will not affect the alliance's ability to make decisions.

Staff: We've got time for about one more.

Q: Any particular reason for Mr. Secretary Rumsfeld to visit Slovenia? Because there are some indications that Slovenia hasn't met all U.S. expectations. And secondly, do you expect that new members of NATO, will anyhow participate in possible war against Iraq?

Senior Defense Official: The first question, the secretary, I think, has an interest in visiting countries, all the countries, eventually, in the region who might get invitations. But he's also been visiting a lot of other countries in the region. So there isn't any particular significance, except that we're going to be in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and we thought it was a convenient opportunity to also visit Slovakia and to visit Slovenia on the way back. So he's very much looking forward to his opportunities to meet with officials, his counterpart and officials in those countries.

As you know, the president and the U.N. Security Council and others have made no decisions on the question of any kind of military operation in Iraq. I'm certain that Iraq will be discussed by various officials there. And we're very hopeful that NATO will be very much supportive of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.

Q: Sir, will there be any discussion about reaction strike force in NATO Prague summit?

Senior Defense Official: The NATO response force.

Q: Yes.

Senior Defense Official: Yes. As I said in my briefing, I expect that there will be a discussion about that capability and about what it takes to do so. And I also am expecting heads of state to task NATO through the North Atlantic Council to create such a capability.

Q: Thank you.

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