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Backgrounder On Secretary Rumsfeld's Meeting With NATO Ministerials

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
September 20, 2002

Friday, Sept. 20, 2002

(Background Briefing on Secretary Rumsfeld's upcoming trip to the informal NATO ministerials in Warsaw)

Staff: Okay, this will be a background briefing by a senior defense official on the SECDEF's upcoming trip to the informal NATO ministerials in Warsaw.

At this time, I'll introduce the senior defense official.

Sr. Defense Official: Hello. Looking forward to traveling with you all again -- or many of you. I think this is the traveling team that's going with, is that right, pretty much?

Q: Not me! (Laughter.)

Sr. Defense Official: Not you? Oh, no. Did I do it again? Did I make another faux pas?

Q: (Off mike) -- who are not traveling with you.

Q: Right. (Off mike) -- are always getting shoved aside. (Laughs.)

Sr. Defense Official: (Laughs.)

Anyway, I wanted to give you some background, obviously, on this trip to Warsaw. The Secretary is going to be leaving. He will be, in addition to having a full day of meetings on Tuesday of NATO defense ministers, as well as Wednesday with the Russian minister of defense in the new Russia-NATO Council, he'll also be having some bilateral meetings on Monday with some of his colleagues and some of the members of the Polish -- senior members of the Polish government.

This is the -- Warsaw is really the last major ministerial-level NATO meeting to prepare for the Prague summit, which is coming up in November. The themes that we're focusing on for that Prague summit, as I think you know, are: enlargement, new members, new relationships, including our continued relationships with Russia, relationships with member of the EAPC, as well as our relationship with Ukraine; and new capabilities.

And it really falls on the defense ministers to focus on the last set of issues -- the new capabilities issues. And that really is focused around two major initiatives that were announced out of the June defense ministerial this year, and that is a new capabilities initiative, which will -- in which allies will join together and commit to specific times and dates for providing certain kinds of capabilities for the Alliance that we think are necessary to deal with the 21st century threats, including the ability to deploy forces and sustain them outside NATO's traditional area of operations.

The second component of that is the command structure review, which is ongoing. It's being done principally through NATO military channels. But the purpose of this command structure review is to streamline the command structure, not just for the sake of saving resources, although that's an important objective, but also for the purpose of making that command structure more agile and more able to sustain itself and deploy out of area. And as NATO foreign ministers said in their meeting -- what was it, last May, I think? -- that the alliance needs capabilities to be able to generate and deploy capabilities wherever the alliance may call on its members to do so.

In addition to that, the Secretary plans on introducing a new idea, which may well be taken up after this meeting in Prague, to develop a NATO response force. This would be a standing capability that NATO could develop over the next couple of years that would give it the ability on short notice to deploy a certain level of force, as yet undetermined, obviously, because it would be something that NATO would have to work out, on a very short-notice basis -- seven to 30 days, something like that; a capability that NATO does not today have.

And the real -- we think this idea has a lot of merit both because it's the kind of capabilities that we think we will be more useful for NATO in the future, it also will give NATO the ability to focus the capabilities initiative and the command structure review to produce this kind of a force. So in a way, we might think of the capabilities initiative and the command structure review as the input, and the output of this -- what does NATO get if they successfully do those things -- they will get a responsive force that can deal very quickly across the full spectrum of conflict with a variety of potential contingencies, ranging from small things, such as NEO-type operations, all the way up to high-intensity conflict.

Q: What is NEO?

Sr. Defense Official: NEO --

Q: NEO.

Q: What does that mean?

Sr. Defense Official: A noncombatant evacuation.

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: Yeah. Sorry. That's right. There's NEO and there's MIO and -- (laughs). Sorry.

Q: Are you talking about ground, air and naval force all together, or ground --

Sr. Defense Official: The idea would it would have components that would be tailorable to the mission. So it would be joint. It could be commanded by what's called a combined joint task force headquarters that would deploy forward to where the mission required it to deploy to. And it could have various levels of land, maritime or air capability, depending upon what the mission was. So it would have to be flexible enough to be, in effect, tailorable but also standing enough so that it can move quickly.

Yes?

Q: Do you have any idea -- excuse me. Would this -- do you envision this as being mainly European troops, as opposed to American?

Sr. Defense Official: No, what -- we would anticipate that this would be a NATO force, so that it would have both North American as well as European components to it. But I think it's also important to emphasize that NATO allies -- many of our European allies are going to have build capabilities to make this force a reality. And so it will in fact require a substantial refocusing of investment efforts to make this happen over the next couple of years.

Q: And was this sparked in large measure by 9/11? I mean, is this anti-terrorism, what we're talking about?

Sr. Defense Official: I think there's no question that 9/11 and the need for NATO to think about problems out of its traditional area of operations is one of the things that sparked this, yes. And in fact, as I said, the foreign ministers took a major decision in May when they said that NATO needed forces that were capable and sustainable wherever the alliance may need them to deal with terrorist threats and other kinds of threats.

So -- and as you know, traditionally, NATO has been rather reticent to deal with out-of-area operations, and I think that the foreign ministers' move really reflects a kind of a changing attitude among defense and foreign ministers and capitals that they need this kind of capability.

Yes?

Q: There's some concern in Europe that this will draw resources and energy away from the Europeans' Petersburg Rapid Reaction Force that they're trying to put together.

Could you talk a little bit about how those things dovetail or how separate they are?

Sr. Defense Official: We don't see this in any way as a competitor. In fact, forces that could be developed by nations for use in a European rapid reaction force could also be usable in this NATO force. So as far as we're concerned, we see them as complementary activities. The main thing is for NATO allies to develop the kinds of secure communications, airlift, and those things necessary to be able to deploy out of area.

Now, as I understand the European rapid reaction force, that maybe one difference between the two is that we would envision this force capable of dealing with problems at the high end of the conflict spectrum. So as I understand the European rapid reaction force, it is dealing more with peacekeeping operations and those kinds of activities. And that was a determination that I think the European Union made themselves.

Q: What kind of -- well, first of all, when you say that it's a standing force, can you give us a sense of how large a force is standing? And will it be just a standing headquarters? And also, what kind of capabilities will countries have to acquire in order to make this force a reality?

Sr. Defense Official: At this point, this is going to be a proposal, and there's going to have to be study done between now and Prague, and then if in fact heads of state decide to bless this, there will probably be further work that will have to be done after Prague.

You know, I don't think there's a set size or scope. That's something that NATO military authorities are going to have to work on and make recommendations to defense ministers on. But I think we're thinking about something that's large enough that it can sustain itself. You know, typically from an American military standpoint, that's been something that's at least been, at the land force level, sort of brigade-sized element and that could be used in initial entry operations and then backed up later with forces that were not quite as high a readiness state as that.

In terms of the kinds of capabilities -- secure, deployable communications; NBC protection; precision strike capabilities; airlift -- potentially tanker-type lift. These are the kinds of things that we think are necessary for the alliance to focus on to give it -- as well as a headquarters structure, as you rightly point out, that is able to deploy quickly -- deploy quickly forward.

Yes, I think you had one more.

Q: What percentage are you looking for, as far as the U.S. -- (inaudible) -- of it? Is it more than 50 percent, less than 50 percent?

Sr. Defense Official: That's something that we haven't really worked out. And it's something that I think will, in large measure, depend upon allied interest in the project.

Yes.

Q: Are there past contingencies or situations that you can offer to us that would explain how you would envision this being used with our situation -- like with Kosovo or something like that, where you thought this would've been really useful to have?

Sr. Defense Official: Potentially, this, yeah, could've been used in a Balkans-type operation. It might be -- and of course, Kosovo was a pretty high-intensity operation. But there might be other, much smaller operations in which it would be involved in. It could be, as I said, involved in a very small-type operation like a non-combatant evacuation operation. Or if NATO found it necessary to be involved in a more high-intensity conflict, it might be an initial- entry force. It might be available to go as NATO, or it might go along with other forces that were involved. This would depend largely, really, on what the North Atlantic Council decided it wanted to use the force for.

Q: May I follow up on that? If it might be -- and how did you phrase it? -- an "initial-entry force" -- in other words, could this be used -- say, in the off chance we might do something in Iraq, could this be the initial force that might be used for that?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, obviously, you know, that's a very theoretical question, and the idea that something would happen in Iraq -- but I think I'd have to say no, because we would not envision -- it's going to take several -- I think a couple of years, at least, to try to develop these capabilities.

So if you're talking about specific things that are going on --

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: If you're thinking about something going on right now, I doubt we're talking about something like that. But on the other hand, you know, the ability to contribute to high-intensity operations is -- would be a goal of the force. But I want to caveat that by simply saying that this is a proposal, and so if in fact the ministers want to proceed on with this, they're going to have to have some discussion about what they would see the uses of such a force.

Yes?

Q: A new topic, if I could. The Secretary on the Hill this week a couple times expressed his concern about the next leadership of the ISAF force. He said he hoped that the follow-on command team would take it for more than six months, a year or longer. Is that a topic of the NATO defense ministers? And have you gotten any indication that any of the NATO members other than Turkey are going to become the new commander after December?

Sr. Defense Official: We are talking with allies now about the possibility of a follow-on. And I think the Secretary's view is shared by a number of allies that it doesn't make sense to do this every six months; that if in fact you are going to expect to have some kind of an international force in Afghanistan, that it's necessary to have it for a longer period of time. And, you know, initially, you know, obviously I think it did make sense to do it on six-months rotations because we weren't really sure what the long-term prospects were going to be. I think now there's a sense that there's a role for a stabilizing force, at least in the Kabul area, and therefore, something longer, a year, 18 months, makes a lot of sense.

I would expect that as they review the general progress on the global war on terrorism, that this issue of a follow-on force and both who might lead such a force and whether or not NATO might in some way be able to support that capability would be a discussion that would come up.

Q: But you haven't gotten any early indications, Germany, France, anybody saying, "Well, we're interested"?

Sr. Defense Official: At this point, I mean, we don't have a -- we don't have a firm commitment from anybody. And it would be better, I think, for those countries that might be interested to kind of express their interest publicly rather than me characterizing what their interest would be.

Yes?

Q: The Secretary, on Monday, from the podium, was asked about giving an intelligence briefing to some of the defense ministers about Iraq. Is that to all of them, some of them? It is going to be done in bilats? And when is that going to happen?

Sr. Defense Official: I think there's probably going to be a general -- both a general discussion about Iraq as well as a review of the intelligence situation. My sense is that would be done with all the ministers.

Q: At one time?

Sr. Defense Official: Yeah.

Q: And when will that occur?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm not exactly sure when it is.

(To staff) Do you know?

Staff: Late afternoon. Sometime in the afternoon.

Q: Monday?

Q: Tuesday?

Q: Late afternoon when?

Staff: Tuesday.

Sr. Defense Official: Well, the only day they're meeting! (Laughs.)

Q: Oh! Okay.

Q: Do you have a list of the bilaterals that you could give us?

Sr. Defense Official: I think -- I think we should be able to do that eventually. I don't know that they're all nailed down at this point. I'd have to check on that. I think he's planning on meeting with -- what? -- his Dutch colleague and -- what? -- his Polish colleague, probably, and his Italian colleague. Off the top of my head, I think those are lined up.

Q: Monday?

Sr. Defense Official: They're going to be scattered throughout the two and a half days there. Remember, we have time on Monday; we'll also have time in between meetings on Tuesday, and then there will be some time on Wednesday around the NATO-Russia Council meeting.

Q: How about the French?

Sr. Defense Official: Actually, I think there isn't a meeting -- there isn't a meeting with the French. I believe that the Secretary of Defense will be meeting with his French counterpart later in the year. They already have a meeting set up for later in the year in the regular schedule. As you know, she's a new minister of defense.

Q: Can I take you basically back to the question that Tom raised about the ISAF? Is there any thought to the idea of NATO taking the lead role, as opposed to an individual country?

Sr. Defense Official: I think there's more interest in seeing how NATO might be able to support and facilitate another country, particularly if a country is going to take the lead and is going to sign up for more than six months, you know, they're probably going to be interested in, for example, how can we have a force-generation process where six months in, if a particular country that's helping them and needs to leave Afghanistan, where there's a process by which replacement forces could be generated. And NATO might be able to play a role in that context. So I think --

Q: It's not now, right?

Sr. Defense Official: Pardon me?

Q: It's not now?

Sr. Defense Official: No. No. And so I think that there is some discussion going on, but at this point, it's just that -- discussion.

Q: Aside from NATO -- I'm sorry.

Q: Can I go back to the deployment issues? How does this concept differ than NATO standing alliance rapid-reaction corps that they set up, you know, seven or eight years ago to do exactly the things you were talking about? You know -- the ARRC.

Sr. Defense Official: Yeah, this is different than -- the concept is different from the ARRC in the sense that this would be a very short-term, seven-to-30-day reaction capability. In other words, as opposed to -- I think the ARC is probably on a probably more like a 90-day.

Q: And a heavy armor --

Sr. Defense Official: And it's a very heavy force, right. And the other thing is -- is that it would -- you know, at least as we would propose it, that you'd have forces that were earmarked for this for a six-month period. So at any one time, you'd have, let's say, a group of forces getting ready to be on-call, another group of forces on-call and then another group standing down from that. And you could imagine that sort of -- people rotating their forces through that every couple of years.

Q: Like the Air Force is organized into Air Expeditionary Forces now, so that every nine months, a year, they rotate out guys on call. Is it kind of the same (concept ?)?

Sr. Defense Official: A little bit like that, yeah.

Q: Will they train together?

Q: Can I ask you about the new defensive capability --

Sr. Defense Official: The idea would be they would, yes. I mean, our concept -- again, I really want to -- before we get too detailed on this, I just want to say that we have -- we're going to be making a proposal on this, and so, obviously, NATO is going to have to review it and is going to have to determine both whether it has merit, on the one hand, and also, if it does have merit, how they would want to shape it.

Charlie, you have --

Q: Yeah. Aside from NATO overall, is the Secretary going to be discussing with individual ministers seeking their support for a possible -- if there is a conflict in Iraq, seeking everything from basing rights to overflight rights, perhaps forces -- is he going to be speaking with individual ministers about that kind of thing.

Sr. Defense Official: As far as I know, that would be premature, given where we are today. So I doubt it.

Yes.

Q: Will he be briefing the ministers on the new national security strategy? And -- (inaudible) -- the question of preemption policy and preemption?

Sr. Defense Official: There's no plan to do a briefing on the new national security strategy, no.

Q: Why is there a planned briefing -- oh, excuse me.

Sr. Defense Official: I'm sorry.

Q: Go ahead. I should have raised my hand.

Q: Given the various economic problems and budget problems that many of the European countries are having, how much -- how confident are you that they'll be able to build these new capabilities that you're calling for?

Sr. Defense Official: I think it's a very serious question. I think one of the things I am concerned about -- the Secretary's made comments about this before; Lord Robertson has certainly made comments about this before -- that countries need to focus their resources and they need to spend more money. Obviously, that's up for the -- these individual countries to decide what they want to spend money on.

What we've tried to do with the new capabilities initiative is say, "Here are some things that are more important than other things that you ought to be spending your resources on." And on the command structure review, we want to streamline that structure so that we are not wasting money on command elements that we don't need, that are not appropriate for the new kinds of threats we're dealing with.

The other thing that, as you will recall, came out of the June ministerial -- and I think a number of allies have really picked up on this -- is the idea of developing some niche capabilities, some role specialization, where they can kind of be experts in a particular area that could then be provided to NATO for all kinds of operations. So we are seeing quite a bit of interest in that idea.

But I have to say, you know, I think allies are going to still need an enormous amount of encouragement to move forward.

Yes?

Q: Is -- I was just wondering, is the German defense minister on the list for a bilateral meeting? (Soft laughter.)

Sr. Defense Official: I don't know. I don't think so. Right?

Staff: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: No. No, he's not.

Q: Is that because of Chancellor Schroeder's remarks and for this --

Sr. Defense Official: No. No. In fact, I think you probably know the German defense minister -- this is his first meeting, and obviously the -- they're -- we will just -- we're having elections coming up here. And I think that -- yeah, I think there's a general sense that we let those elections go by, let the politics sort themselves out, and then there will be opportunities for meetings.

Q: Has Secretary Rumsfeld briefed Secretary -- I mean Minister Ivanov on this rapid reaction proposal while he was here?

Sr. Defense Official: The focus of our discussions, both bilaterally and multilaterally, in terms of the meetings over at the State Department today, were really not focused on NATO issues. So no, he did not.

But I think we'll have an opportunity after NATO reacts to this to be able to do that. I think that we thought it might be more appropriate that, since this is an initiative for our allies, that we have a conversation with them about it and see whether there's interest at the allied level.

Q: Do you anticipate any talk about Air Force tankers and talk about of getting more Airbus tankers, or buying Airbuses instead of Boeing at all?

Sr. Defense Official: I -- there may -- I doubt it, let's put it this way, that it's certainly something that we're going to be bringing up.

Defense Official: Yes?

Q: Just housekeeping. Is he going to meet with Robertson on Monday? Are you trying to -- or --

Sr. Defense Official: (To staff) Do we have a--

Staff: Tuesday morning.

Sr. Defense Official: Tuesday.

Q: Tuesday morning? Would you be kind enough to brief us, or do you plan to brief us, on Monday afternoon?

Sr. Defense Official: I think that both Ambassador Burns and myself will brief you jointly.

Q: On Monday afternoon?

Sr. Defense Official: Right.

Q: Not too late.

Sr. Defense Official: Pardon me? On Monday.

Q: On Monday.

Sr. Defense Official: On Monday, yes.

Q: But not Monday night.

NOTE: Comments made here not transcribed in accordance with the ground rules.

Q: Is the Secretary going to hold press (inaudible) both on Tuesday and Wednesday or just on Wednesday, before he goes?

Sr. Defense Official: I think you better ask -- you better ask Torie that, if you don't mind, because I don't know.

Q: Okay.

Sr. Defense Official: I think she probably -- probably knows.

Q: Do you know what his plan is yet to go to anyplace other than Warsaw at this point?

Sr. Defense Official: I know of no plans to go anyplace other than Warsaw at this point. My expectation today is that we'll be back here on Wednesday night.

Staff: One more question, gang; then we've got to get (the senior defense official) out.

Q: Do you know -- will U.S. fighter jets be patrolling over Warsaw or will there be NATO fighter jets, any special security precautions being taken? I know that such precautions are being taken for Prague already.

Sr. Defense Official: Not that I'm aware of.

Staff: And that's "Mr. Senior Official" to you. (Laughter.)

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: No, no, that's fine.

Great. Thank you very much. Look forward to traveling with you.

Q: Thank you.

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