(Press conference at the conclusion of the Nordic-Baltic defense ministerial meeting at the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Tallinn, Estonia.)
Estonian Ministry of Defense Spokesman Madis Mikko: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us today at this press conference. Our topics will be and we will give you some details after the meeting of five plus three plus one. Some technical details: we have a translation here.
We have approximately thirty minutes and for that reason the minister of defense of Estonia will give you a short introduction on what we discussed today and after that we will take your questions. Mr. Mikser, please.
Minister of Defense of Estonia Sven Mikser: Thank you, yes indeed this is the fifth conference, the fifth meeting of this forum -- the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries and the United States on level of minister of defense and indeed it has developed into a very good and very efficient forum. I would say and we've established very good working relations.
Today we are concentrating during two and half hours of discussion on three main topics. The first of those was fighting terrorism, which is probably the most important item on the agenda in the security of world today. This discussion was lead by Norwegian minister of defense.
Our second agenda point, which was led by Denmark, was military capabilities -- how to reach a more balanced and modern contributions to more efficient common forces, airlift and sealift capabilities, and how to sustain forces when they are deployed.
The third topic, which was led by the Lithuanian minister, was regional security cooperation in the Nordic and Baltic area. We concentrated on the projects that are going on in the field of security and military cooperation, and how to further these projects and take them to new and even to beyond the regional level.
So I hope that you'll have many questions for all the participants. It's a unique opportunity to have so many ministers of defense together here in Tallinn, and thank you very much. My colleagues and I will now answer your questions.
Q: I am Bob Burns from Associated Press. I'd like to ask Secretary Rumsfeld a question for starters. Could you bring us up to date on what the situation is on the ground between India and Pakistan in terms of disposition and alert levels of forces on either side, and also whether there has been any movement into or out of the Afghan border area by Pakistan troops?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld: I am going to be visiting with some folks later today to get me brought up to date on that, and I think I prefer to wait until after I've had those briefings.
Q: Jim Mannion, French Press Agency, with a question for Secretary Rumsfeld: would you say that the three Baltic States are sure bets for admission to NATO at the summit in November?
Rumsfeld: What I would say is that the general approach that's being taken by NATO countries with respect to the nations that are on the list as applicants to become NATO members is that the -- most of us, I believe favor a relatively robust round of nations coming into NATO, and that those decisions are going to be made by capitals later in the year, and that it's very helpful for all of those countries to be doing all the things that are necessary to make them fully qualified for membership in terms of the contributions they can bring.
Needless to say as being from one country from NATO, our president has indicated that the United States favors a good number coming in and certainly it's been a pleasure to be here and have a chance to meet with the ministers from the Baltic states and learn more about the progress they are making.
Q: I am Kaja Grunthal (Helsinkin Sanomat) from Finland and I would like to ask Mr. Rumsfeld --
Rumsfeld: Oh no, ask somebody else. (Laughs) All right.
Q: How do you see that strategy has changed in the area of Baltic? Do you see the Nordic countries as one entity and the Baltic states as one entity, or could there be a change, for example, so that Finland and Estonia would form one entity?
Rumsfeld: I am afraid I missed a section of the question. Could you ask it again?
Q: Is strategy being changed in the Baltic area? Do you see the Nordic states as one entity and Baltic states as one entity, or could there be a change in this area? For example, the most eastern of the Nordic countries, Finland, and the most Nordic of the Baltic states, Estonia, would form one entity of their own.
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, those are all thoughts and decisions and approaches that need to be taken by each of those countries.
From the standpoint of the United States, we look at each of those countries as independent, sovereign nations. And we also look at them as countries very much like the United States in the sense that we believe in free political systems and free economic systems, and we have no aspirations to take over the real estate of any nation on earth. Our interest is in providing for our defense and to be able to make contributions to peace and stability in the world. It happens that all of us, including the United States, find that we can do that better by working in very close cooperation with each other, and I've been impressed the way of Baltic states have worked together. I have been impressed the way the Nordic states have worked together. Certainly those of us that are in NATO have made a practice of working very closely with each other so that two and two does not make four, it makes five.
Q: Toby Zakaria from Reuters. This is for Secretary Rumsfeld. Do you have --
Rumsfeld: No, Toby, you can ask somebody else. (Laughter)
Q: I am sorry Mr. Secretary. Do you have any sort of initial indication as to how successful Deputy Secretary Armitage's meetings were in India and Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: I'll know better after I meet with him this afternoon.
Q: Anything initial though, that you can say?
Rumsfeld: No. I do not mean to say that I have no knowledge, it is that I have nothing that I want to say.
Q: (Brigg Qyvind, TV2 Norway) Secretary Rumsfeld, I am sorry I have to ask you this question because it is not very often I get a chance to ask you a question, or raise a question. I am with TV2 Norway, and I would like to ask you about the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] program which several NATO countries are getting ready to sign up on. Israel has an important stake in this program already. Do you understand that that might be a problem for several NATO countries, including my country Norway?
Rumsfeld: That is not an issue that has come to my attention.
Q: Are you aware of it?
Rumsfeld: I just said it's not an issue that has come to my attention.
Q: Marianne Mikko, Estonian Television. Mr. Rumsfeld could you confirm news from Russian TV on May 22nd that there will be an organized U.S.-Russian military political union on the basis of --
Rumsfeld: I am sorry, I am not getting it. I am awfully sorry. Could I, if you could stand up so that I could see you, maybe I could do a better job. Good.
Q: (Marianne Mikko) Could you confirm the news from May 22nd that there will be an organized U.S.-Russian military political union on the basis of the two countries' representatives of foreign affairs and ministers of defense affairs, and, to follow up, what kind of differences --
Rumsfeld: Wait a second, let me see if I can do that one.
Rumsfeld: May 22nd has already gone by.
Q: That's right.
Rumsfeld: And you are saying there was a meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and defense on May 22nd?
Q: No, that there will be organized a political union.
Rumsfeld: As part of the political declaration that was agreed upon by President Putin and President Bush, there was one section of it that indicated that at some point in the future, during probably more than one year, there would be a meeting of the defense ministers and the foreign ministers -- all four together -- somewhere in the world.
When I was with Sergey Ivanov, the minister of defense of Russia, in Brussels -- I think it was yesterday or the day before -- we agreed that we very likely will have the first meeting in close proximity to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and we very likely would meet in Washington, but it has not been set nor has an agenda.
Does that answer to your question? Good. Thank you.
Q: Liena Hietanen (Turun Sanomat) Finnish press. Question to the Finnish representative. If the Baltic States are going to join NATO, what is going to happen to the Finnish military cooperation or help with the Baltic States? As far as I understood, Finland is going to change something.
Finnish Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Matti Ahola: Just to answer very shortly to that. Nothing will be changed. The secretary of defense of Estonia visited Finland a couple of weeks ago and we had lot of discussions about this. As you probably know very well, Finland and Finnish MoD has changed the policy so that we have a Baltic program now going on instead of former Finnish-Estonia military program. And in the future, whether the Baltic states will be members of NATO or not, the relations between Finland and all Baltic states will continue in an even higher format and more intensive level. We will support in all levels of our military cooperation including military instructors and giving military equipment and so on. So I don't see, or we in Finland don't see any changes but positive changes in the relations between our neighboring countries.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, Nick Simeone. What do you see are the shortcomings for the three Baltic nations blocking their entrance to NATO at this point? What do they still need to do to qualify?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I see shortcomings. What I see is a lot of effort by three countries that are determined and interested and have worked closely with NATO countries to, during this map period, to take the appropriate steps necessary to be qualified applicants.
Q: Estonian daily newspaper "Postimees" Kaarel Kaas. Question to Secretary Rumsfeld. Secretary, what kind of contribution to NATO you are exactly expecting from the three Baltic States. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Each country in NATO makes contributions that are appropriate to them as countries. Sometimes they are made individually, sometimes they are made in cooperation with one, two or three other countries. The minister of defense of Norway and I yesterday, for example, visited Germany and had a chance to see an example of cooperation, where twelve or thirteen countries -- I think twelve -- are working together with respect to the AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] aircraft and we went -- I went there and Kristen [minister of defense of Norway] went there to say thank you to these troops -- men and women from twelve or thirteen countries -- who have flown hundreds and hundreds of sorties, thousands of hours over the United States so that our AWACS could be freed up to operate in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.
Now there's an example, it seems to me, of a cooperative arrangement, and each country can make judgments about what they particularly feel they can bring. In some cases it's special forces, in some cases it's mine-clearing activities, in some cases it's explosive ordinance destruction, in some cases it's ships. And all of it adds up to an improved capability for our countries collectively.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, Tammy Kupperman with NBC News. I was wondering what you could tell us about a raid that apparently took place within a last day in Afghanistan near Kandahar -- who was the target of the raid, and whether that person or people were in fact detained.
Rumsfeld: There was a raid, there were a number of people that were detained briefly, and I believe that some of those have since been released and there are still a handful that are still in detention. And they are sorting out precisely who they are.
Q: Priit Simson, Radio Free Europe. During the recent press conferences you referred frequently that the NATO member states should specify narrow fields of defense and each country should find its own field. What do you expect the NATO aspirants, like the Baltic States, to focus on considering their scant financial resources? Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Well, it's certainly not for me to decide, nor is it for NATO to decide what any single aspirant decides that they want to contribute to the alliance. It's clear that when you have an alliance of a large number of countries, currently nineteen, very likely to go up by some handful-plus -- that they are of different size, they are, they have different histories, they have different military experiences, and what they need to do is to work with the other countries in NATO and make an assessment as to which element of the needs that NATO has -- and they are broad, they run across the military spectrum -- that they feel that they can most usefully contribute to the alliance. And it may be specialized intelligence gathering, it may be, as I mentioned, the AWACS participation with twelve countries participating in AWACS, it may be that countries have -- as we have seen in Afghanistan -- countries of all different sizes have participated in the special forces activities that have been very successful. So it's up to those countries to decide, not us.
Q: Indrek Kiisler from Estonian Radio and my question is not for Mr. Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld: Way to go.
Q: I wonder if you could comment on yesterday's letter from Ukranian President Mr. Kuchma to the NATO secretary general in which he announced the wish of Ukraine to join NATO, and in which ways it changes the security situation in the Baltic area? Everybody is open to answer.
Estonian Minister of Defense Sven Mikser: Well, if I may make a start. I'd say that I have been asked many times about what happens if Finland or Sweden decide to apply for membership in NATO at some point in time. I have always said that it's up to each and every country to choose the security arrangements for themselves. And we believe, especially in case of Finland and Sweden, that whatever they choose that is best for their security will definitely not harm in any way our security, so we fully support whatever decision they make.
The same applies with certain reservations to Ukraine. They can make their own choices about the security arrangements but I expect that an alliance like NATO will actually ask each and every country who makes this request to join the same very tough questions concerning both military capabilities and the questions about the rule of law, democracy, the basic arrangement of how the country operates. And I believe -- as not yet a minister from not yet a NATO member country -- that basically the Article Five will be valid and Article Ten will be valid after Prague, and in some time in the future more countries will join. But it will take different period of preparation for each and every country depending on the starting point.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld and also Mr. Kristovskis, Latvian Television (Juris Kurseitis). I wanted to ask what could be the role of the Baltic states in joining the fight against terrorism?
Rumsfeld: The Baltic states have already made contributions to the war on terrorism. In fact, we had somewhat of a discussion on it.
They have all approved unconditional overflight and landing rights for both the United States and for all coalition partners in the war on terrorism. They've offered cargo handlers and to join coalition transport of resupply teams, and they have cooperated fully with respect to intelligence sharing and that type of thing.
There are some 68 countries across the globe that are participating in the global war on terrorism, and each country is participating in a way that is appropriate to them and that they are comfortable with. And from our standpoint, the total effort is greatly improved because countries are, in fact, so many countries are in fact able to participate -- and to participate in ways that fit their circumstance.
Minister of Defense of Latvia Girts Valdis Kristovskis: I would like to echo to that what was said by Secretary Rumsfeld.
From my point of view, first what we can do -- and what we did -- is to demonstrate that we represent the same values which represent Euro-Atlantic dimension states, and that democracy and stability is our aim and this is what we demonstrated. Also, speaking about the future, we want to be effective to develop those capabilities which really can be effective in the context of fighting terrorism, and these capabilities are such which are realistic for us. We must be realistic, we must be trustful, and with this may extend the stability zone over Europe. Thank you.
Q: This is for Minister Mikser. I am Wyatt Andrews, from CBS News. Could you help us understand why a nation like Estonia would try so hard to join a military alliance like this, when you would seem to be in this era at so little risk of external attack?
Sven Mikser: Well indeed, in the terms of traditional security risks and traditional military risks, we do not foresee an attack by any hostile nation. But there are so many new security risks appearing, and a small country like Estonia can never afford the whole spectrum of military capabilities to counter all those threats that are there in the world very much today. So we believe that, we very much believe in the validity of principles of specialization on one hand, and cooperation on the other hand. And we think that for these two principles NATO is a perfect military alliance. And we believe that a military -- a very strong military alliance like NATO -- is still very relevant and still very much needed in world today. We see this, as not as additional bonus to our security, but actually we see NATO as the Estonian security arrangement for the future. That's why we strive so hard to join the alliance. Thank you.
Q: Denis Trunof, Associated Press Television. Mr. Defense Secretary, how would you comment on the hostage rescue attempt done yesterday at the Philippines? Were there American servicemen involved, and would you say that now Philippine security forces have their hands untied to deal with Abu Sayyaf?
Rumsfeld: What was the last portion?
Q: Would you say that now the Philippine security forces have their hands untied to deal with Abu Sayyaf, now that there are no hostages left there? Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Well first, there are hostages taken across the globe every day or every week. The Burnhams, in the case of the Philippine situation, along with ten or twelve others were taken, I think, thirteen, fourteen months ago, more than a year ago. And you are quite right with the implication in your question that when there are hostages it does limit the ability of the Philippine army to aggressively go after the terrorist organization that took them hostage.
There are hostage rescues that occur every year somewhere in the world. They're difficult to do. They often end up in a situation where people die -- sometimes some hostages, sometimes they are people engaged in the rescue, and hopefully some of the people involved in -- who took the people hostage in the first place.
In this case, no U.S. military were involved. It was a Philippine army activity. In my view it was a tough task for them, and, unfortunately, one of the hostages died. But on the other hand, a number of the hostages had died previously. So it's unfortunate. Fortunately Mrs. Burnham is alive and apparently out of danger.
Mikko: Thank you very much. Thus far, we have here nine ministers. So my suggestion is maybe for those who haven't yet voiced their opinion about today's meeting. I am giving the floor to you, because we have a couple on minutes yet. Let's start with Norway, please.
Norway Minister of Defense Kristin Krohn Devold: Thank you. The reason why we're here is to try to help the three Baltic countries to become members of NATO -- that is one of the reasons. And the advice we give them is to cooperate closely because the only way that small countries like Norway and Denmark and the Baltic countries can bring something relevant into NATO is to cooperate. Denmark and Norway have long traditions to cooperate for instance when it comes to air fighters, where we have a good F-16 cooperation which makes us able to go to Afghanistan. Other Nordic countries have other good experience and this gives us opportunity to be relevant to NATO and to pay our contribution to a more modern NATO than what we have today. Thank you.
Lithuania Minister of Defense Linas Linkevicius: Briefly after all these enlargement processes when we hopefully will be part of both very important institutions, NATO and EU, we would like to enrich these organizations. We would like not to bring problems into them and what we are going to discuss later on also, we would like to review all our projects of cooperation in order to bring them into the future looking beyond Prague when we'll be members to add value to the efforts of these organizations. And we are really on good track. I believe have good plans and ideas that are backed by resources. We also have quite good streamlined thinking and I believe when time comes we will play dual role in this organization. We'll probably not be front liners of these organizations, probably but also we will not be free riders as well.
Swedish Minister of Defense Bjorn Von Sydow: The past months there have been some great international achievements regarding the overall security policy. The United States and Russia concluded their agreement. NATO, Russia and the European Union will also enhance the security relation cooperation with Russian Federation and I think time is right for us in this region enhance and deepen the bilateral and multilateral defense related neighbor cooperation between all of the countries with military capabilities in and around the Baltic Sea.
Denmark Minister of Defense Jan Trojberg: As you all know we have the chairmanship in EU for the next half year. We are working very hard to have an enlargement of NATO and EU and it is no secret that the Baltic countries are our heart -- close, so to say -- and we have since the beginning of the 1990's worked very closely with all the Baltic countries in military areas and other areas. We have seen all three countries have developed their forces and therefore we really feel that we have a future together in NATO and a future together in the fight against terrorism. We are facing a quiet new enemy -- nobody knows from where and when and how he comes but we have an enemy. We need together to fight against this dangerous situation.
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, ministers please.