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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Russian Journalists

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 13, 2001

(Media availability with Russian journalists at the Grand Marriott Hotel)

Rumsfeld: Good morning. I'm Don Rumsfeld. My first visit to Russia was in 1974 when I went with President Ford to Vladivostok to meet with General Secretary Brezhnev and others. I've been back a number of times since. In recent years I've been participating in a Rand-sponsored U.S.-Russia Business Forum, and so I've had occasion to be in Moscow and St. Petersburg on a number of occasions over the past 10 years.

And I'm here at the request of President Bush and President Putin to meet with the minister of Defense of Russia as part of the continuing dialogue that's taking place between our foreign ministries and defense ministries, as well as the recent visit of the secretary of Treasury and secretary of Commerce, to say nothing of the fact that our two presidents have met twice already and have other meetings scheduled. And I'm looking forward to today, and I'd be delighted to respond to questions.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, well, almost three years ago your commission that you headed, the Rumsfeld Commission, issued a report on missile threats from rogue states, and I remember you also came to Moscow here with Congressman Weldon to brief the Duma and also met with journalists. And members of your commission were then saying that in five years time Iran will have ICBMs that can threaten and attack the United States, Korea will have in five years ICBMs to attack the United States, Iraq will have maybe in 10 years ICBMs to attack the United States. Well, at least more than half of that five-year term has already expired. Where are the ICBMs? And when will those rogues begin pouring concrete into their silos? And maybe now you will say that your report of your commission was a bit, well, panicky, to put it mildly, or maybe that those rogues got frightened by the commission report and maybe will not be building ICBMs after all.

Rumsfeld: I think, if you go back and read the report, you'll find that what we said was that, because of the extensive proliferation of technologies relating to ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, that it was our estimate that several states could have ballistic missiles capable of reaching Europe and the United States within a period of five years. It was not a prediction that somebody would fire a ballistic missile at Europe or the United States within five years. We pointed --

Q: No, I'm talking about having them, not --

Rumsfeld: Right, right. And, of course, North Korea has launched a three-stage ballistic missile within that time and demonstrated the very thing that people said that states like North Korea or Iran were not capable of doing; that is to say, taking SCUD technology and adapting it for multiple-stage ballistic missiles. That has been demonstrated. They are selling those weapons to other countries. And I think that the phraseology in that report will prove to be exactly accurate, and it was not in any way written in a manner that you characterized as being -- trying to scare people. It was a very factual, matter-of-fact explanation of what has, in fact, taken place and what I would say today in the year 2003 is proving to be the case. If you think about it, you can deliver a weapon of destruction from a ballistic missile that has intercontinental range. You can also deliver a weapon of mass destruction from a ballistic missile that has less than intercontinental range by using, as we said in our report, several techniques. One is to put it on a ship, peel back the cover, use a transporter-erector-launcher, and fire it from a distance shorter than ICBM range. That has been done. Still another is to sell --

Q: My problem -- sorry --

Rumsfeld: I'm calculating in my mind what is classified and what is not. (Laughter) Let me just leave it. A rogue state has done that.

Q: On sea they demonstrated the capability.

Rumsfeld: They have fired a ballistic missile from a ship simply by peeling back the top, erecting it, firing it off, launching it a good distance, and covering it back up and moving the ship away. Another way you can use something less than ICBM range is to sell a weapon to another country that happens to be in closer proximity. Another way you can develop ballistic missiles is to test ballistic missiles in another country. That is currently being done. Now, with respect to the warheads, ballistic missiles obviously can carry -- we know that ballistic missiles have been weaponized for nuclear weapons obviously, but also for chemical and biological weapons.

Q: Are there some proofs that there are some preparations to make such warheads?

Rumsfeld: Yes, there is proof that rogue states have demonstrated the use of chemical weapons on ballistic missiles.

Q: You include into these rogue states what countries, first of all?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's an imperfect phrase, rogue states. But certainly you would include in that category North Korea and Iraq and Iran and Libya -- and North Korea. The interesting thing about that report was that it was -- we were asked to look at the ballistic missiles. There's no question but cruise missiles also pose problems. And, of course, the numbers of countries in the five years -- in the three years since the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission that have ballistic missiles and have cruise missiles and the numbers of total missiles have gone up significantly in this period of time as we predicted it would.

Yes, sir?

Q: I am Viktor Litovkin from Obshchaya Gazeta. Mr. Secretary, could you say what specific proposals you brought to Russia for the Russian side and what response are you expecting? The reason why I'm asking this question is that after the last two consultations the Russian side says that they never really learned from the United States -- they never really got a response from the United States about what the U.S. does not like about the ABM Treaty.

Rumsfeld: Well, I've read a number of things in the press that seem not to be consistent with the conversations that have been held. Let me -- rather than trying to chase newspaper stories, let me just state what the facts are. I met with the minister of Defense of Russia in Brussels, and we had a good discussion on a broad range of issues, political and economic and security. We agreed that we would have senior-level meetings in the United States last week. Those meetings were held, and the United States offered our Russian interlocutors a great deal of information, a full briefing with respect to what our ballistic missile defense plans might be, as well as an extensive discussion about other elements of the relationship which I had discussed with the minister of Defense of Russia and which had been set forth in various documents that we've exchanged. The Russian participants in the meetings last week went away with I don't know how many pages of documentation, but something like this. (Transcriber note: estimates size with hands.)

Now, to answer your question directly -- "What is it that we don't like about the ABM Treaty?" -- it's quite simple. The ABM Treaty is designed to limit the ability of the United States and Russia to have ballistic missile defense capabilities, except in one location. Russia has decided that they'd like to have ballistic missile defense around Moscow, and they do. The United States has decided almost 30 years later that the world has changed dramatically and that what we need to do is to develop the capability to defend against ballistic missiles not just with respect to the United States, but also with respect to our friends and allies and deployed forces. The treaty prevents that. So here you have an agreement between two states that was developed in 1972 during the Cold War which has outlived its usefulness. It's now 2001. Any number of states now have ballistic missiles. Any number of states are developing weapons of mass destruction to use with those ballistic missiles. And yet we still have an agreement that we will remain vulnerable to ballistic missiles with weapons of mass destruction from other states. That's unacceptable. Our president has decided that that is not a responsible policy, to remain vulnerable to ballistic missiles from countries like North Korea or Iran or Iraq.

The other thing that's happened is that the ABM Treaty was written between two hostile powers. When I was secretary of Defense in the 1970s, each of our sides had thousands of ballistic missiles aimed at each other. Our relationship was one which was characterized by NATO and the Warsaw Pact poised to prevent attack. But those days are gone. When I go to sleep at night, I do not worry about an attack by the Soviet Union across Germany. When I go to sleep at night, I do not worry about a ballistic missile attack from Russia. I just don't. The relationship has changed. It is a different world in the 21st century, and an awful lot of people in government, in the press, who spent their lives living 50 years of the Cold War are having a terribly difficult time getting over it. We've got a whole set of agreements, have a mindset, a set of words and phrases that we've lived with for 50 years, and they keep being mouthed over and over and over, notwithstanding the fact that the world has gone on.

It strikes me that that's what these meetings are about. If you think about an American citizen, which I was until about a few months ago -- a private citizen -- you get impressions from newspapers, from television, from articles, from talking to people in this country, in other countries, and it all kind of comes together in your head, and it's an impression of another nation. And you don't have impressions of the political relationship between the United States and Russia or about the economic relationship or about the security relationship. It's all fused seamlessly into your mind. You end up with an impression of another country and how they behave and what they worry about and what they think about and how you feel about them. Is that a place where you want to invest? Is that a place where you want to travel?

And the world divides pretty neatly into countries that are doing well and countries that aren't doing well, and if you look down from Mars on this globe, you'll see that the countries that have relatively free political systems and relatively free economic systems and behave in a way that's rational with respect to their neighbors and don't try to impose their will on their neighbors and have a reasonable degree of transparency and a reasonable degree of certainty with respect to a return on investment, those are the nations that are doing well, and they're the nations where people want to invest and where there's grow and there's opportunity and civility. And it seems to me that, when you think of the relationships between countries like that, you find that they don't worry about attacking each other, they don't worry about nuclear exchanges with each other, they don't have treaties with each other trying to control behavior so that it's not hostile. I mean, we don't have treaties with Mexico that keep each other from bombing each other or attacking each other, and they're our neighbors. Or with Canada. Or with England.

So it's perfectly possible -- I mean, our hope is that we'll try to fashion a relationship with Russia that makes sense for the 21st century. That's a long answer to a short question. I apologize.

Yes?

Q: Vladimir Kiriyenko. I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, your position is mainly philosophical now? Your explanation is very moral and very interesting, but maybe politics change much more quickly and some day you can be afraid of a new Russia. For example, it was 30 years before you couldn't predict today's Russia of course.

Rumsfeld: That's right.

Q: A lot of people couldn't do it. And maybe in five or ten years -- but before that date, a lot of the nuclear weapons will be destroyed because of the -- and initially we will be not afraid of each other enough. Maybe this position also is in your calculation now. And why you don't talk about it, because Russia also can be changed in a few years and maybe 10 years? I don't think so. I hope that we will be free, liberal, and so on, but who knows? First question.

The second one is that, because of our mutual hostility in the last years, we are vulnerable before the third parties. For example, China has only several nuclear warheads -- not several, maybe 50, maybe 30, but not thousands like we have. And it's also a nuclear power, and it can behave like a nuclear power, but because of our lack of anti-missile defense. So maybe this question should be discussed also.

Rumsfeld: I think that's a good point. There's no question but people could be surprised. When I think back to -- take Iran under the shah of Iran. It had one orientation. In a matter of a year the ayatollah came in and had a very different orientation.

Q: Of course.

Rumsfeld: The ballistic missile defense that the United States is testing and doing research and development on is modest. Its purpose is to deal with handfuls of weapons, not hundreds of weapons, let alone thousands of weapons. It just isn't capable of coping with anything like that, and it's still in the developmental stage.

You're right. One of the problems I'm having as I've been referring our offensive nuclear weapons is you have to look at them from the standpoint of today, you have to look at them from the standpoint of mid- to longer-term and what kinds of arrangements among other countries might occur. Countries that were more friendly may be somewhat less friendly, or countries may be combined in a way that makes more complex your problem. The other problem you have is weapons can become unsafe and unreliable, as we know -- classes of weapons. And both Russia and the United States is faced with that problem. Particularly in the United States we don't have people who make weapons these days really. They're mostly retired, and we're many years away from being capable of actually producing nuclear weapons if we were told today that a category of our weapons were unreliable and unsafe. So that's a problem in terms of reconstitution is an issue.

The word "deterrent," of course, is terribly important, because the goal isn't to win a war. The goal is to be arranged so that there aren't wars and there aren't conflicts and that everyone's persuaded that it's not in their interest to do something like that. And it's not a science -- deterrence. It's an art. And things don't need to have mathematical certainty to work. They need to be generally right for people to say, "Well, that's not a good idea for me to do that." So when people are arguing in a country, should we do this -- interact, should we invade Kuwait for example, well, had there been better deterrence the arguments would have gone the other way conceivably, and that's kind of the way you want to be arranged.

We don't need to be arranged that way with Mexico or Canada, just as you have neighbors that you don't need to be arranged with that way. On the other hand, there are countries in the world where you do want to be arranged that way, and certainly North and South Korea are in the latter case. They are poised against each other with large numbers of forces, large numbers of ballistic missiles, and other military capabilities that are arranged to try to persuade the North from not thinking they can reoccupy the South. Now, they've got some very powerful weapons, and everyone knows they've had the materials to develop two, three, four, five, some number of nuclear weapons, and they've got plenty of ballistic missiles. And so that's an unhappy situation, unlike Mexico and the United States.

I personally think that your country has moved well down the road over the last 10 years. It's not for me to say how it should move or when it should move or what its steps should be. That's for Russia. But the argument that it is in so much in the interests of the United States of America that Russia turn to the West and have freer systems and do better for their people and create more jobs and more opportunity and a more energetic economic situation, that's in our interest just as it's, in my view, in the interests of the Russian people.

Q: Maybe not in the interests of the nuclear lobby in Russia.

Rumsfeld: That may be. And those decisions are going to be decided here. All we can do in the United States is say, "Look, we can reduce our nuclear weapons." We're going to. We've started. We've announced the Peacekeeper is going to go out. We've announced we're going to take some Trident submarines out. President Bush has announced that he wants to reduce our offensive forces to the lowest possible number. We're going to do. We're going to do it regardless of what Russia does.

Q: Do you think your nuclear lobby against President Bush, against his desire to destroy nuclear weapons now --

Rumsfeld: Not really.

Q: -- stopping your plants, nuclear plants and so on? Not really?

Rumsfeld: No, we --

Q: But they wouldn't fight against the administration?

Rumsfeld: No. No, what we have is -- we have people that lobby against closing military bases. We have people who lobby against canceling weapons systems, like airplanes or ships. But interestingly in the United States there's a very -- really not any lobby for nuclear weapons. Our military has never really been terribly interested in them. I say that -- it's almost unusual, but the strategic nuclear weapons have been kind of an orphan in the defense establishment in the United States. What the military in the United States likes are ships, guns, tanks, and planes. And what the people in Congress like are the contracts for ships, guns, tanks, and planes -- and the bases where they have them in their neighborhoods. But the short answer is we really don't have much of a lobby for nuclear weapons.

Q: Maybe you should discuss with our Defense Ministry the wages of Russian officers and so on until you've got bargaining over this question.

Rumsfeld: Of course, we --

Q: Excuse me, it's a lot.

Rumsfeld: I know. We all have that problem. I mean, there's no question but that, as the Cold War ended, we have not done as good a job of taking care of the housing for our military, we have not done as good a job of modernizing the forces, we've not done as good a job with pay and health care for our forces, and I know Russia's had a similar problem.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld?

Rumsfeld: Yes, sir?

Q: So what is your position? Is it necessary to change the ABM Treaty? Or is it necessary to forget about it? If it's necessary to change it, what would you like to change in it? If it's necessary to forget about it, what are you going to do with the documents which are based on this treaty?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's awfully hard to develop -- to test and develop and deploy a limited ballistic missile system while the ABM Treaty is in force. Its purpose was to prevent testing, developing, and deploying a ballistic missile defense. Therefore, trying to do it while that treaty sits there is next to impossible. The advantage -- it seems to me that anyone who suggests that the ballistic missile -- the ABM Treaty has a value today I think misunderstands the situation. It just doesn't. So many countries have ballistic missiles today and are developing those capabilities that have nothing to do with Russia and the United States. It would suggest that it's just fine for the two of us to not have any defense except the Moscow ABM system, to have not have any defense against those missiles, notwithstanding the fact that countries A, B, C, D, and E have those capabilities. I mean, that's not very wise, not very prudent.

These defense systems are not offensive. They don't hurt anybody. Your Moscow anti-ballistic missile defense system is not hurting anybody. It is not hurting us. It is not hurting you. It is not hurting your neighbors. And the idea that a limited ABM system would be -- ought to bother anybody is silly. The only one it's going to bother is someone who wants to lob a ballistic missile in on you. And we do not, as I said earlier, look at Russia as a country that has any desire to do that, nor do we have any desire to do it to Russia. So it ought to be a completely irrelevant thing from the standpoint of Russia.

Now, if there were not other countries that had those capabilities, we'd be living in a different world. But we're living in a world where not only other countries have them, but where there are more every year. So we have to get beyond this impediment that is inhibiting us from developing the kinds of a defensive capability that will enable us to defend against the kind of missile attack that happened in Saudi Arabia when we lost 28 Americans and 99 were wounded during the Gulf War.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, do you consider your trip rather as a bargaining trip or a negotiating process, or just an explanation mission just to explain to Russians what is your vision about the ABM Treaty future and so on and so forth? So if it is a bargaining treaty [sic], so what tradeoffs would be proposed to Russia in exchange for just putting back its position on the ABM Treaty?

Rumsfeld: I must say I'm a simple soul, and I look at it as two countries that have gone from a relationship that was hostile to a relationship that isn't. And we need to get rearranged. We need to get rearranged in many respects: politically, economically, and from a security standpoint. And that treaty is among the least important pieces of that new relationship. It is one small element of the security portion of the relationship between the United States and Russia. There are many other pieces of the security relationship. There are many more important economic elements and political elements, and my prior discussions with the minister of Defense have been up at that level in the broadest sense, and I suspect that they will be today. We have people who are perfectly capable here of talking about the micro pieces of all of that, and to the extent that -- and we've exchanged papers on those subjects and are happy to discuss them, but I don't really think about this as a negotiating meeting, and I think of it as a meeting where we each come away with a much better understanding of our respective perspectives and that the common effort is to say how do we mutually manage this relationship in a way that's healthy and satisfactory to the United States and to Russia.

And if serious, purposeful people aren't capable of doing that, that's too bad. If we are, good, all the better, because it's in our interest. I mean, our interest is to have this country healthy economically, orientated towards freer systems, freer press, freer political systems, freer economic systems, a population that is healthy, a population that's growing, a population that, like ours, can get up in the morning and go do what they want and think what they want and say what they want and work where they want. And that's a -- that is the formula for success. And to do that -- if that happens, the relationship between our two countries from a security standpoint isn't an issue. We don't have to worry about that. Now, what does all that mean today in the year 2001? Well, we'll find out. But we're ready to talk on any level, on any basis, but our purpose is clear. Our purpose is to -- we've got a relatively presidents in both countries. We have relatively new officials in the Cabinets of both countries. We have a long history of two countries that has changed. And this is a wonderful opportunity, it seems to me.

Q: May I ask one more question?

Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm.

Q: It was said already that the United States and Russia could become allies. Do you see any limitation for that definition of allies for the two countries?

Rumsfeld: It seems to me that -- I have avoided trying to find single words to characterize relationships that are evolving, and when I look at the strategic sense, it seems to me that the people of this country and the people of the United States have exactly the same interests, and that is for each other to succeed politically and economically and have a secure circumstance. That is a lot to start with. That gets you well down the road, it seems to me, in a relationship.

I used to be ambassador to NATO a lot of years ago, and in those days there were 15 countries in NATO, and what we thought about when we got up in the morning was the Warsaw Pact. I went to my first NATO meeting as minister of Defense of the United States in the year 2001 a few months ago, and sitting right there was Minister Ivanov. And a Partnership for Peace session, NATO had changed. Poland's a member of NATO. Here are these countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact. It's just an amazing change. Think of how we've changed in terms of our conventional forces. There isn't any reason we can't change in terms of our nuclear forces. And if we can do all that, there isn't any way we can't start changing the minds of some of the people who seem locked into the Cold War. They fell in love with it. They can't get over it. They want to keep talking about it. They want to have all the old structures that fit it and perpetuate it. Well, I don't. I think life's a lot simpler if we pick up and go on.

Moderator: Sir, can you take one more question?

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Could you please specify the exact number of warheads that the States are ready to reduce? I mean according to START III agreement or something like that. Could you quote the exact number of warheads?

Rumsfeld: We'll be able to do that. I'm so new in this post that I can't do it at the moment. We ought to be able to do that in the next month or two. We've had a nuclear posture review that was required by Congress that's been underway, and I have been trying to get my head wrapped around our current situation and the situation in the rest of the world: what other countries have what, what other countries have what programs, what other countries have relationship with what other countries, what's the safety and reliability of our stockpile, how much do I have to worry about categories of weapons not working, how long will it take us to be able to reconstitute a capability to start making a nuclear weapon in the event we did have a category of weapons go bad -- which happens as everyone here knows. But the numbers are not, you know, four, five, six, seven, eight thousand weapons. The numbers are much lower that it looks to me at first blush are reasonable. So I was very confident starting the process of coming down when we made our announcement with respect to the Peacekeeper missile and the Trident submarines. And there's just no doubt in my mind that we'll be able to go down to substantially lower numbers. But I'm old-fashioned and kind of conservative. Until I really understand it and have satisfied myself that I've been briefed on all the pieces that I need to be briefed on, I'm not going to go to the President and say, "Say, Mr. President, here's what my recommendation is." And I will be doing that some time in the next couple of months.

Moderator: Thank you very much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, folks.