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Media Availability with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the NATO Informal Ministerial, Portoroz, Slovenia

Presenter: Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 29, 2006
SEC. RUMSFELD: Just a brief couple of comments -- The visit to Montenegro was a very good visit. The government, of course, is brand new – it’s the newest country, free and independent country in the world, and they are very cooperative with the United States and are anxious to assist in the struggle against violent extremists. The meeting – the SEDM meeting in Albania is, as I had mentioned to you, a useful thing, and it keeps growing in size. And it is pulling together a number of nations that are in NATO and nations that are not yet, or may never be in NATO, some, I’m trying to think, I'm not sure even all of them aspire to be the. Certainly the effect of those meetings is to bring them closer together, to have their -- eventually have them work together in military operations and become more interoperable and to be able to bring into NATO operations, numbers of countries that are not members of NATO which adds to the strength of NATO.

The -- this so-called informal NATO meeting here in Slovenia, I arranged the weather (laughter), and the only thing I did not do was arrange for us to be here for two weeks. But it is such a beautiful country. My goodness. And the host arrangements were fabulous, I thought.

Jaap – the – Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as the Secretary General, does an excellent job as secretary general, and he moves the important issues along. He’s got good priorities, and he manages 26 countries. When I was ambassador, I think we had 15 countries; 26 is a lot. And yet he does it with a great deal of skill and good humor and success.

The -- one of the things that came out of this was the success they’re having with respect to NATO airlift. It is an enabler that has been consistently lacking, missing, in terms of the NATO – as an institution -- and to most of the countries -- the few countries that have airlift have always been called on to assist. Sometimes it's been done by leasing aircraft. But they are very close to having four aircraft. They are a few hours short of having four wrapped up, which will, I think, be a good step forward for NATO.

A lot of the discussion yesterday and today involved the preparations for the Riga Summit and the kinds of things that need to be prepared -- the further development of the NATO response force, which the United States recommended, I don't know, three or four years ago in a Defense ministerial meeting. We proposed it. And we proposed it because NATO needed a way to become -- to transform into the 21st century. And the large number of NATO forces that existed, in a static defense mode, for the most part – just as ours were in a static defense mode – kind of downsized from the end of the Cold War, needed to have a reason to become expeditionary. And the world needs a deployable capability, particularly by the most important military alliance that exists. So the work that's gone into the NATO response forces was valuable and is valuable today, and I think will be successfully completed.

Interestingly, in the intervening period, Afghanistan evolved for NATO, and NATO took on a role and responsibility that is just truly historic and it never even contemplated undertaking as large and important as this so far from the NATO treaty area, so far from Europe. And they are fully engaged with it. They are facing the same kinds of issues that the United States and our coalition face, and that is the reality that the 21st-century challenges are not challenges that can be overcome with brute military strength. They just don't lend themselves to military victories. It requires that other things happen for success to be achieved. There has to be progress not only on the security side, there has to be progress on the governance and political side, there has to be progress on the economic side, and all of those things have to come along together.

And one of the elements of the discussion today was that reality, which, as I say, is something that we discuss inside of our government continuously, how do you get all of those things moving in reasonable synchronization? But all in all, I thought it was a very good meeting.

Q Mr. Secretary, you had a meeting this morning with your Russian counterpart.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I did.

Q Can you -- I know you probably don't want to get into detail about your discussion, but can you tell us whether there was any effort made to calm the relationship between Russia and Georgia, and whether or not you think there's been any progress today in that regard?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I wouldn't want to characterize the parties' progress, but it certainly is a subject that we discussed in my bilateral meeting and was discussed in the NATO-Russia Council meetings. It's something that is of concern to Russia. Obviously, they're very concerned about what's taking place. It's a subject of great interest and concern to the United States and to members of the NATO alliance. And the – I would say – the thread of those discussions clearly was for there to be calm and for those tensions to be eased down in a peaceful way. And that's about all I'd want to say about it.

Q Can you envision any scenario in which the U.S. or perhaps NATO would become involved in that at all?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I wouldn't want to even speculate about it. Except if the United States is involved, it's the president and the Department of State and not the Department of Defense.

Q What about the larger issue of tension between NATO and Russia, as NATO expands or contemplates expanding to countries like Georgia? Those tensions seem to be on the rise and --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm trying to think -- where's Victoria? -- I don't think that came up.

STAFF (?): (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: No.

What else?

Q But is tension with Russia something that's of, you know, concern to you, to the U.S. government?

SEC. RUMSFELD: The relationship between the United States and Russia, and between Russia and the NATO as an institution, and, I would say, Russia and the other countries individually, bilaterally, is multi-faceted. It's political, it's economic, it's military. It varies from country to country which is the more important. In some cases economics and energy is more important; in some cases the political issues are drivers; in some cases it's security issues. But the -- those things ebb and flow. There was some discussion that took place when the Baltics were invited into NATO -- you'll recall that. And that ebbed and flowed, and it’s disappeared. So life goes on. And each of our countries and Russia all evolve and adjust over time to the things that happen in the world.

NATO membership really is a decision for individual countries, not for countries other than the individual countries. They then make a decision to apply, and see if they want to do things that make them eligible for membership.

Q do you believe that it will obtain operational cooperational capabilities by October 1?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Is it by October 1? Why October 1? I've forgotten.

Q (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, I -- pardon me?

Q (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: October. Yeah, I'm not going to get tied to a date. But do I think they're going to make it? I do.

Q Can it be fully operational without common funding?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We did discuss that. And the secretary-general had some ideas about how that might be done, and is discussing them with people, and, I think, garnering some support for at least if not a trial basis, for a short period, a certain types of things, possibly to do it.

Q Are you concerned at all that France, and perhaps some other NATO allies, are raising questions about the C-17 project that we seem to be advocating fairly strongly? Apparently the French may want to use some of their own planes or something of that nature.

I'm not entirely sure on it. But are you concerned that there are allies who aren't fully supportive of this idea?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No.

Q Are you sure? Are you aware of that or --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess I am. But why would I be concerned? I mean, we're very close to having the target of four aircraft booked. I don't know how many countries subscribe – fourteen?

STAFF: Fourteen, and there will be another one coming on.

SEC. RUMSFELD: So and one stroke, as though they were leaning forward today. And as I say, out of -- they were only 300 hours short of the four airplanes, which is a very relatively small fraction left. So I am not concerned at all. I'm delighted with the progress.

Q One last question.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s terrific.

Q I had --

STAFF: Go ahead. Go --

Q Are you -- there's a new book coming out by Bob Woodward, who speaks about violence in Iraq being much worse than predicted by administration officials. He says he interviewed, and it will get much worse than it is next year as well. Do you have any reaction to that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't. I haven't seen the book. I haven't read his first two books yet either.

Q But do you disagree --

SEC. RUMSFELD: So I wouldn't hold your breath on this one. (Chuckles.)

Q He says you were interviewed for it. Were you not?

SEC. RUMSFELD: He came in and asked me some questions, and we released the transcript of it, or else we have a transcript.

When did we release the transcript?

STAFF: I don't know, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it's when he publishes. Generally you always transcribe things unless they're off the record, which they weren't. And so -- but that will be available.

Now, I -- you can find -- well, first of all, I haven't read it. Second, I don't know what you're referring to. And third, you can find somebody in government to say almost anything.

Q (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I mean, it just is a fact. It's a big government with lots of people, and I can't imagine how anyone thinks they would know that. So --

Q Well, what is your feeling, then, about the violence? Do you disagree with that assessment.

SEC. RUMSFELD: What I agree with is that the enemy has a brain and has a vote. And so any time there is an interaction between forces, the interaction can’t be determined by either side, because each side makes judgments and adapts and adjusts to what the other's doing. And it's entirely possible for those judgments to be made by, in this case, the other side, to try to increase a certain type of violence, a category. It may be that they could make a decision to lower the violence there and increase it somewhere else, because they make the same kinds of choices in terms of priorities as to where they want to do something, where they want to spend the money, the finite resources that they have. And they tend to adjust them in a way that they believe will maximize the press impact of them, so that they can raise more money and more recruits based on the actions they take and the effects they achieve from those actions.

They know they can't win anything militarily. They haven't won anything militarily yet anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan -- hasn't been a single platoon that's been defeated or destroyed.

They know every time they pool in Afghanistan they get killed. And they're quite careful, often, in Iraq to avoid the U.S. forces, except through indirect methods like IEDs, because the outcome isn't advantageous to them. What decisions they'll make depend partly on what we decide to do, how we do what we're doing. And it will be constantly different offenses, different defenses as you go along.

So I can't imagine how anyone who really is knowledgeable could -- I would think someone would have to -- for me to make a statement like that, I would have to have about six qualifiers, and say "if this or this or this occurred, that might occur." But a blanket statement like you cited, it seems to me, would be a very difficult one for a person who's cautious and conservative about what they say to utter.

Q Mr. Secretary --

SEC. RUMSFELD: All through. All through. That was the last one you just said. Who’s in charge here?

Q Sir, this is very --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I need a challenge. What’s your question?

Q Our AP photographer, Bilal Hussein is being detained in Iraq. Have you been briefed on that, and do you think he should be either charged or released?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Being held by who?

Q Being detained by US military.

SEC. RUMSFELD: By the U.S. military? I don't know anything about it. From time to time someone will get detained for various reasons, and there's a process where they sort through it. And obviously, the last thing in the world is for the U.S. military to want to hold anybody they don't have to hold. They have no desire to hold people that shouldn't be held. Is this an Iraqi national?

Q I believe so

SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay.

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