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Handelsblatt Interview with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 03, 2006

Handelsblatt Interview with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld

HANDELSBLATT:  Mr. Secretary, we are very pleased to have you for the interview.  Thank you very much.  We have been trying for three years.  And as a matter of fact, I was about to board a plane to Istanbul for the NATO Summit in the summer of 2004 but that was unfortunately cancelled at the last moment.  So we are very glad that finally we are about to.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Pleased to be with you. Thank you.


HANDELSBLATT:  Let’s start with transatlantic relations and Germany.  With the new German chancellor, Angela Merkel, there is a realignment of the role of Germany within Europe, the chummy relationship toward Moscow, Russia and Paris has been scaled back, do you think that in the wake of this, transatlantic, German-American relations have become easier?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I don’t want to draw comparisons.  That’s for you people to do, but the new chancellor has just completed a very successful trip to the United States. I have talked to the President about the visit and he was very pleased with it.  And certainly we look forward to working with her and her new government.


HANDELSBLATT:  But she is coming actually from old Europe, a former Communist country, and she realized the collapse of Communism herself, so you could assume that she has a greater sense for freedom.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, you listen to her speeches and her remarks and her convictions, her values, there is no question that she is a supporter of freedom.  She understands it in every bone in her body, and how important it is, and how it is to be valued and protected.


HANDELSBLATT:  Do you think that the well-sounding transatlantic rhetoric that you hear from Berlin lately is enough for the Administration, or would you say that you wish or you expect a little more global engagement of Germany?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness, you know I am old-fashioned. I believe in democracy; and I think people vote and they put people in office, those people in office, make those decisions.  They make those decisions based on their values, on their history, on their circumstance, on the times; and I expect that to be the case.  I will be interested and watch with great interest, the decisions that are made as we go forward, but it is not for me to predict what particular vector the government of Germany is going to take at any given time but certainly we have a good relationship and we look forward to working with the government.


HANDELSBLATT:  You just reminded that some European governments that they are not spending enough on security.  Aren’t you disappointed that the new German government is not going to spend any more on the defense budget as the old one?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I don’t know that that is the case.  I look at the investment in defense and believe that it does create the kind of security that permits an environment that is hospitable to economic growth and prosperity and business values – with reasonable certainty and confidence about the security environment.


And I think that we all benefit in the world from the world economy and the world system, and that as stakeholders in that world, all of us ought to be attentive to what we can do to contribute to an environment that is hospitable for investment and economic progress and economic activity.


People’s lives are affected by that; they are affected beneficially.  I mean if you take out the United States from NATO, the NATO countries today, the last three years have been declining in investment as a percentage of gross domestic product from something like 1.9 down to 1.8 plus or something.  The United States is up around 3.7.  So obviously we are carrying our share -- and more -- of the investment that is necessary to have a reasonably stable and safe world.


HANDELSBLATT:  So what sort of (inaudible)


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it’s up to individual countries and they will make those judgments and like all of us, we will benefit or not benefit from decisions as we go forward.  We will just have to see what they decide to do.  They are all sovereign countries.  They can all make their own decisions and other people make decisions off that.


HANDELSBLATT:  A question regarding the renovation of the tanker fleet.  As you know, the RAND Corporation submitted a survey lately to the Pentagon pleading for open competition regarding the tanker fleet.  Do you think that the European company, EADS, has a chance of getting at least a partial share of the multi-billion dollar deal connected with that?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know I don’t know what the answer is to that. The tanker situation.  I don’t believe they have made final announcements, have they, Larry?


Mr. Di Rita:  No. It will be a competitive process.  They have announced that it will be a competitive process, and they have not announced the size or the approach. Although the RAND study is complete, as I understand it.


HANDELSBLATT: Who announced the competitive process?


Mr. Di Rita:  It was announced some time ago by the Department’s acquisition chief.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes, that it would be a competitive process but how that will work out, or how many tankers are going to be needed at some point is something that has not been definitively decided by the Department.


HANDELSBLATT: But if there is a competitive process, that means that EADS can bid?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If we have announced that there will be a competitive process -which we have - then it will be a competitive process, and people will have the opportunity to participate.


HANDELSBLATT:  So EADS can participate?  So EADS can also launch a bid?


Mr. Di Rita:   We’ll have more to say.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I am not going to say because I don’t know what the nature of the announcement will be with respect to that process.


Mr. Di Rita:  And the requirements.  We need to establish what the actual requirements are.




SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I know it is very interesting from your point of view.


HANDELSBLATT:   Of course, absolutely.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: And if I had something I could give you, I would.  But I do not.


HANDELSBLATT:   Yes, but I just thought because, you know, implicitly, if you say competitive, then it means --


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I am a conservative, cautious person.  And until I look at the recommendation that comes out and see what it says, I would not want to pre-judge it.




SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It’s just a caution on my part.


HANDELSBLATT: Alright, yes, unfortunately, yes.  Let’s move over to Iran, Mr. Secretary.  So far, there is no signal coming from Tehran that the government over there will forego what they call their right to uranium enrichment.  The question now is, what happens if Iran does not compromise until March when most likely the UN Security Council will deal with this matter?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know that this is a matter that the President of the United States is handling, not the Department of Defense.  We are on a diplomatic track and he is working closely with European countries that have been engaged in this.


Clearly the world is concerned about the direction that it is taking. If one travels around the Middle East, you hear a good deal of concern in the Gulf states. You travel in Europe or the United States.  It is a subject that comes up frequently because of the combination of the direction it appears to be going coupled with the new president’s public comments.


So I think appropriately, an awful lot of free nations are inserting themselves in it, first in the IAEA process and potentially in the UN process.  But it is not for me to get into.


HANDELSBLATT:  Is it harming to the efforts of the West to convince Iran that some governments have already said that there is no military option?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I haven’t thought about it.  I doubt it. I don’t know.  I don’t particularly know who has said what, and I wouldn’t want to.


HANDELSBLATT:  Mr. Steinmeier, foreign minister, for example.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah, well everybody says what they want.  And people will then make judgments about it.  But I think that it is important that the countries have an interest and that live in the neighborhood recognize the direction that it seems to be going. And they do recognize it.


And it is a direction that causes concern on the part of people, and understandably so.  Anyone, any country, that says they think that, any government that says that they believe it’s important to not have Israel exist or something to that effect is obviously making a statement about their possible or prospective behavior.  And that causes concern.  They have said the same thing about the United States.


HANDELSBLATT:  Senator John McCain said that there is only one worse option than a military strike against Iran - nuclear weapons in Iran.  Do you agree with this statement?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It’s not for me to agree or disagree.  We have 100 Senators and 435 Members of the House and they all have opinions.  And in the last analysis, the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief and makes judgments, and I work for him.


HANDELSBLATT:  And [inaudible] fine where the red line is where diplomatic means are exhausted?




HANDELSBLATT:  But you would not exclude that if all diplomatic means are exhausted, that there is?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I support the President’s position.


HANDELSBLATT: Which means that all options are on the table?




HANDELSBLATT:  The German Interior Minister said that one of the future threats to the Western world -


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  The German Interior Minister?


HANDELSBLATT:  Wolfgang Schauble.  – said one of the threats that exists is terrorists handling with dirty bombs.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: He said, one of the threats that exist?


HANDELSBLATT:  Yes, and the question is one of these attacks with some kind of a dirty bomb.  Can we ask, is it going to happen, or is it just a question of when it is going to happen?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, the reality is that the weapons available today are increasingly powerful and lethal and dangerous.  And they have the ability of killing not hundreds or thousands, but tens of thousands of human beings.


Biological weapons, chemical weapons, certainly radiological weapons.


If you think about it, Iran is the principle sponsor of Hizbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations.  Iran is a nation state, and in my view, the Iranian people do not want to be separated and isolated from the rest of the world.  So there is a pressure that is going to exist.


The women and the young people in that country know the benefit that accrues to the Iranian people, and Iran is a country with a proud history and intelligent population, they know the disadvantages that will accrue to their country to the extent they are separated from the rest of the world.


That’s not true of a terrorist organization.  A terrorist organization doesn’t have a nation; it doesn’t have a nation-state to protect.  It doesn’t have real estate to worry about.  There is little to lose.  And to the extent a nation state with those weapons provides those weapons to a terrorist organization, an organization that does not have a nation state to protect, the range of deterrence changes.  They change fairly dramatically.


You know if you think back to the deterrent posture of the West during the long period of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, we had a large country that we understood we could defer and dissuade from doing certain things, not everything.  It’s easier to deter a nation state than a terrorist organization.


And it takes different kinds of capabilities to do that.  I mention that because your question is a terribly important one.  We in the free world have to recognize that weapons are there.  The possibility of their falling into the hands of people who have demonstrated that they are willing to cut off peoples heads and blow up innocent men, women and children is real.


There is also no one nation that can prevent that.  It takes a cooperative arrangement from all free people whose very essence is denied, to the extent that they are terrorized, and that the terror alters their behavior.  We are what we are.  We get up in the morning and we go out, and we know our children are coming home from school and that we’ll be home to see them; and to the extent you are terrorized and cannot live like that, they have altered your behavior successfully.


And the risk of those weapons has caused substantial changes in how people live -- and the things we do.  I am not going to predict that this will happen or that it won’t happen but we know that there has rarely been weapons that have been developed that haven’t ultimately been used.


And we know that there are nation states that are actively sponsoring terrorists, and we know that terrorists are actively seeking those increasingly lethal weapons.  And that is a reality for the 21st century that all free people have to accept and understand and behave against.  We are on notice.  Free people are on notice that these risks exist and then how do we adjust our behavior in the 21st century to behave in a rational way, given that circumstance.


HANDELSBLATT: With regard to the Quadrennial Defense Review which you will announce this coming Monday, can you tell us in a nutshell what are the future threats the Pentagon is preparing for and also the potential terrorist attacks which the Pentagon is preparing for?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Given the capability of our armies, navies and air forces, the likelihood of our being attacked in that way in the period immediately ahead is low.  Partly because they exist, they dissuade people from trying to attack us in that way.


That means that you have to expect that they will put their pressure on in other ways, in asymmetric ways, in irregular ways that are not conventional methods, and since the threats from terrorist organizations are networks of individuals, not nation states, you can’t know where the threat is going to come from.


You cannot know the nature of the threat.  It could be any number of types because the terrorist has the freedom and the ability to attack at any time, in any place, using any technique and it is physically impossible to defend in every location, at every moment of the day or night, against every conceivable technique. It can’t be done.


Therefore the only thing that can be done is to have this large coalition of countries working together, trying to stop the proliferation of these dangerous technologies, trying to put pressure on the terrorists all across the world, sharing intelligence, sharing law enforcement cooperation, making it more difficult for them to raise money, more difficult for them to recruit people, more difficult for them to move and communicate, more difficult for them to train and plan, and making everything harder for them.


And that’s exactly what is being done.  And it’s probably the largest coalition in the history of mankind that exists today, sharing that type of information and putting that pressure on those networks.  And it has had a good degree of success.


We have seen that there have been any number of terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the Middle East and Asia -- notwithstanding the pressure that has been put on them.  And it is a very good thing because we are basically at war against an enemy that is hiding in countries that we are not at war with.  So the question is, we know how to fight a war in a country we are at war with, but how do you fight against an enemy that is in a country that you are not at war with -- in multiple countries?


HANDELSBLATT:  How do you do it?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It’s very hard.  One of the most important things we can do is to build partner capacity, in other words, take a country and assist them in developing their military capability and their law enforcement capability and their intelligence-gathering capability, so that they, on their own real estate, can do a much better job.  And we have been working with any number of countries to try to develop their capacity and capability to do that.


HANDELSBLATT:  Is this new military unit, which shall prevent that rogue states transfer weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, which you want to create.  Is this one of the new tools in fighting against this asymmetric threat?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t know what new unit you are referring to.


HANDELSBLATT:  You talk about the possibility of a joint task force (inaudible)


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We have been concerned of course about weapons of mass destruction being used in our country.  NATO has actually developed some units that can deal with chemical and biological things.  But I think looking at any single entity would be a mistake because it takes the broadest approach and it takes multiple activities to try to deal with this problem.


You know the old military phrase -- find, fix, finish?  You find the enemy.  You fix the location.  And then you finish.  It’s very easy when you were dealing with the Soviet Union.  You could find their armies, navies and air forces, and so forth.  We today have an enormous capacity to finish.  We can put lethal power on a target in a lot of ways, in a lot of different places very rapidly.  The problem is finding and fixing.


The central thing out of the Quadrennial Defense Review, if I were to say one thing, it is to shift our weight to increase the capability and the skill with which we can do the finding and the fixing; and how we can connect that knowledge, that information, that intelligence, if you will, with operations in real time, because it has to be.  It can’t be done in Washington.  It has got to be done very close to the operation and very rapidly because information perishes.


HANDELSBLATT:  Talking about the transformation on NATO, what do you think the direction should go?  Everybody is talking about transformation.  Should there be an increase of common military planning, an increase of common military funding, or would you say we need a global umbrella of NATO, transcending the transatlantic approach?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t think they are contradictory so let me address the first.  I think it is important for, if you think about it, NATO is clearly the -- I suppose the oldest but that is not what is important – the best, the most impressive international security organization on the face of the earth.


The world has shifted in the last 50 years and it is important that NATO shift its focus. I do believe that we are going to have to do more common funding.  I do think that we need common threat assessments and understandings of what the capabilities are that exist in the world and how they might pose threats to the NATO nations.  I do think you need more planning, common planning and working together so that you are prepared.


You know when you were dealing with problems that were relatively static, you could take your time.  Today the goal isn’t to get into a war and win it. The goal is to prevent it and the goal is to move rapidly and to act; and therefore we have to become, NATO has to become more expeditionary. It has to be more agile. It has to be capable of engaging and doing something in a relatively short period, as opposed to a relatively long period – because that is the nature of the world.


HANDELSBLATT:  Does it mean common financing of missions as well?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I guess that’s up to NATO, and I don’t want to pre-judge how NATO will decide it.  But it seems to me that if you have a NATO Response Force for example, and you don’t know when it needs to be used, you know you need to exercise it periodically, so you do that.


It kind of becomes an accident of who is in it – when it needs to be used, or it needs to be exercised.  It strikes me that that is not really a good idea because if you want people to participate, and you need them to participate, and the fact that they might be in it and they may not have for example the cost of using it for an exercise or for an activity, therefore they might be reluctant to participate if they haven’t got it in their budget.


Most of us have budgets that run over two years, or a year and a half. And you have to build them here, and it gets approved there.  And then all of a sudden, you are told by NATO -- and you agree that it is an important thing to do -- but it isn’t in your budget.  So what we do need to do, I think, and it falls on you, as opposed to the person who is going to be in the next [inaudible] for the NATO Response Force. That seems to be the only way to handle that is to have some kind of common funding, some kind of arrangement so that it falls evenly on the alliance because the alliance benefits. I don’t know what the formula should be for that.  I know that that is an issue that NATO thinks about and that Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is thinking about.


HANDELSBLATT:  We have about 5 minutes.  On the global umbrella question, how far should enlargement go?  Should it be that finally NATO is a global alliance?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, the problems are certainly increasing.


HANDELSBLATT: Including Japan. And Australia.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I see.  Well, increasingly the problems are global. If you think about it, narco-traffic and hostage taking, terrorism, the problem of proliferation, how do you deal with proliferation – it isn’t regional, it is global.  So NATO has to be attentive globally.


I don’t know quite what that means to its structure.  That’s an issue for NATO to seize and consider.  We have done that.  NATO, if you think about it, has decided, and it has been a very big thing, to undertake activities that are out of the NATO treaty area and out of Europe – in Afghanistan.  You’ve got all 26 countries participating in one way or another.  They are supporting the NATO Train and Equip and every country in NATO – in one way or another – is helping in the NATO Train and Equip in Iraq.


The Mediterranean Dialogue that is taking place.  We have the NATO Partnership for Peace activities where countries in Central Asia and so many others are participating in NATO activities.  So it is an organization that is quite different than when I served as Ambassador to NATO in 1972, 1973 and 1974.  It is a vastly different organization and, of course, for good reason.  The world is vastly different. Now would it be appropriate for NATO to consider relationships that we tend to be doing things with more frequent – such as Australia or a country like that?  It is possible that that would make sense.  It is something that hasn’t been discussed extensively in NATO; and I wouldn’t want to pre-judge it but…


HANDELSBLATT:  Let’s touch the last point: Iraq.  Could you give us a preview evaluation of the security forces of Iraq?   How fit are they?  How many, what is the percentage of forces which are able to operate independently from coalition forces?  What is the progress in this respect?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, the progress is excellent.  It’s better with the Ministry of Defense forces than it is with the Ministry of the Interior forces.  That’s going to take a lot of focus this year, the latter, the police forces.


But when we combine them all that are within those two ministries, the total is something I think like 227,000 Iraqi security forces that are trained and equipped.  Some of them have been out there for fighting for a year and a half or two years, and they are experienced and leaderships-tested.  Others arrived out last week.


So it varies, like any military varies.  Some are recruits that are coming in. One of the things that has dramatically improved their capability is the fact that we have been embedding our people in their organizations, their military organizations throughout and their police organizations at the top and increasingly moving down to the middle level of the police organization.


Now what really makes a big advantage is that they get a chance to work very closely with our forces, see how they do things.  Second, our people are there and if they can see a weakness, equipment shortfall or a poor relationship between the Ministry of Interior forces and the Ministry of Defense forces or a disconnect between the intelligence gatherers and the operators or weak leadership or something, then you call it in.


If there is a supply shortage or an equipment shortage or something like that, logistics, they can call it in. And it can get fixed in real time, in 24 hours. You can’t fix leadership that fast but you can fix a lot of things that fast.  We have much better visibility into where the weaknesses are and, as a result -- we have been doing it for many, many months now -- they have seen a dramatic increase in…


HANDELSBLATT:  Can you give a number to the progress?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We can.  It varies, between the police and the security forces.  Do you have that little pamphlet that we pass out?  The one that has got the precise number of units that are in the lead.  We’ll give it to you.


We have the precise number that are, at any given time, working closely with us.  And then we have the ones that are not ready to do combined operations or lead operations.  But I mean just for example, we turned over a hunk of real estate the size of Kentucky last week to the Iraqi security forces.  We have either closed or turned over to the Iraqis 29 military bases in the last 6 months, 7, 8 months.


So each week and month, they are getting better and, each week and month, they are assuming more responsibility. They took responsibility, for example, for the elections, security for the elections, and they did a very good job.  The terrorists tried to stop them from having a referendum on the constitution, and they failed.  They tried to stop them from having an election, December 15th, and they failed.


HANDELSBLATT:  If they are so successful, could you give us a vague timeline for withdrawal?  Not the exact date, but what do you think is feasible and realistic of U.S. troops…


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is conditions-based.  There are a lot of conditions.  One of the conditions is the speed with which the Iraqi forces can take over.  Another condition is the behavior of Iran.  Another is the behavior of Syria.  Another is the extent to which the neighboring states reach out and encourage the Sunni community to stop the insurgency and participate in the government. Another is the respect – or lack of respect – that the Iraqi people have for the governments that get formed sometime in the next month or two. There are a lot of factors involved; and to try to mechanically key it to the pace at which we are able to train and equip these forces, I think is a misunderstanding of the situation.


HANDELSBLATT:  Maybe one last question.  The fight against terror.  Can you give us a timeline?  Is it comparable to the Cold War, the fight against Communism?  Are we talking about …


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The global war on terror, this long war we are engaged in, has many, many differences from any other war.  But certainly one of the differences is it is not going to start and end like World War I or World War II – with a signing ceremony on the USS Missouri.


Will it be as long as the Cold War?  I don’t know.  Will it be long?  I think so.


I think the task is so far beyond military capability and kinetics. It involves the extent to which we are able to strengthen the moderate Muslims in the world, the overwhelming majority of them and have them ultimately prevail in the struggle to not have their religion hijacked by violent extremists.


We have had terrorists since the beginning of time.  We have had extremists since the beginning of time.  To an extent an extremist goes off in the corner and is extreme, that’s their business. To the extent, they are violent extremists and they go out and kill innocent men, women and children, that’s another thing, particularly in this era with the power of the weapons that exist.


So it’s a societal problem that has to be addressed by the world, by countries like this country, Germany, and by the United States, and by our friends and allies in NATO and elsewhere around the world, who have a big stake in freedom, a big stake in the global system that benefits all of our people.  And it’s going to take patience and determination – just as the Cold War took patience and determination.


HANDELSBLATT:  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.

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