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Media availability with Secretary Rumsfeld en route to Munich, Germany

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 03, 2001

Friday, February 2, 2001

(Media availability en route to Munich, Germany)

Q: Are you going to give the allies-- you know they are quite concerned about NMD [national missile defense] -- we realize, of course, that the defense ministers understand a lot more than the ordinary person. Are you going to give people some assurances that you are not going to move, hastily or precipitously on NMD without close consultation or cooperation from the allies?

Rumsfeld: Well, yes indeed. I mean that's been what I've said previously when the subject's come up. It is what the president said and it is what Secretary Powell has said. There is no question but that we are interested in and intend to consult very closely with our allies. That is what allies do.

Q: What kind of questions do you anticipate from them? Are you prepared to give them any specifics about how you will proceed on the NMD decision-making?

Rumsfeld: We are working that through now back home but we are not yet at that stage. I had my first meeting earlier this week. It seems it is all a blur. I am trying to think when that was on the subject. And they are working through some things for me now. We are going to be meeting again. We are not in a position to talk specifics.

Q: You are going to make a speech, I assume, or talk.

Rumsfeld: A little talk -- ten minutes maybe.

Q: Do you tend to outline to people what might happen if this is not done, if NMD is not done?

Rumsfeld: I am kind of old-fashioned, as everyone has been writing (laughter). I like to talk to people individually about things like this. When you consult and listen to them and hear what they have to say; I don't plan to make any pronouncements or anything like that --

Q: You have said pretty clearly that the danger is there and threat is there and isn't going to go away.

Rumsfeld: And it does not affect just us; it affects them every bit as much as it does us.

Q: How will you try to overcome their reservations about this and that seems to be across the board in Europe that NMD can start another arms race, it could increase tensions with the Russians, and you, yourself, have mentioned the concern that some Europeans are concerned about de-coupling of the United States from Europe.

Rumsfeld: As we would be. There ought not to be anything like that. And in my view there would not be and should not be. So I think that anything that ultimately is there has to be done in a way that people share risks and are able to feel that they are all in the same row boat and my impression is that that is perfectly manageable. You know, if you think about it, and we talk a lot about the risks of deployment and it kind of amuses me because if you think about it the issue of missile defense is an issue of a country that feels vulnerable, or countries plural, being able to reduce that vulnerability, that does not threaten anyone. It just doesn't. Russia has, over a period of time, suggested that they felt that it would create a concern for them, and they have expressed that in Europe and around the world. They know, and we know, and you know, that the systems that are being discussed are not in any way relevant to the Russians with their hundreds and thousands of things. We are talking about systems that are able to deal with handfuls of things, and it is, well, I want to be diplomatic now that I am back in government, but it is certainly not -- it's off the mark to suggest anything to the contrary. That is to say, the idea that a missile defense system that is capable of dealing with handfuls of things is going to change in any way the interaction between the United States and Russia, with respect to ballistic missiles, is just not correct. And anyone who looks at the situation knows that.

Q: There is the little matter of the ABM [antiballistic missile] treaty which, obviously, I am telling you what you know already, however you have expressed your view about the treaty, but how are you talking to the Russians about this?

Rumsfeld: As has been said, a president has the responsibility to understand what the nature of threats are, and under his constitutional responsibility, help to defend his people against those threats. And to the extent that that requires, as it will, discussions with Russia, the president and Secretary Powell have indicated that you obviously would engage in those kinds of discussions.

Q: To try to modify the treaty or suggest --

Rumsfeld: I think that's an open question as to what you do, obviously, you need to talk with them. You would need to talk with them whether there was a treaty or not.

Q: In your view is it preferable to modify the treaty or to --

Rumsfeld: I am inclined not to get into that. Until you determine what it is you think you ought to do, and how it fits with respect to things like that. I mean there is little doubt in my mind but that if you were seeking a system that was the earliest to deploy, the most cost-effective, technically the best, you would very likely come up with something other than if you sat down and tried to design a system that would fit within a treaty that was written 25 years ago when technology was notably different when we were in a Cold War, when the nature of the world, the threats of the world were vastly different. That is really a Cold War thing to elevate that treaty, in my view, to elevate that treaty as something that is central to a relationship today. In those days we were worried and concerned, as we properly should have been during the Cold War, about the need on our side to have sufficient capability that we felt there was a stable deterrent, and that meant you had to have a lot of weapons and each side had to be rather certain that you could in fact do a great deal of damage were you to use those capabilities and that is simply not the concern today. They can't be concerned and we aren't concerned that Russia is poised to use those weapons against the United States. The Soviet Union is gone. Russia is a different country. That period is over in our life. Why don't we get over it?

Q: When you were secretary the first time, right?

Rumsfeld: No. No. You know what happened? I met with a minister of defense from another country the other day, and I am not going to tell you who it is and you are not going to say who it is, but during lunch one time he said -- he was talking about something -- he said, you know that was in your era. I looked at him and he laughed when he realized what he had said. And I said, "You're right, but I kind of think this is my era too." (Laughter).

Q: How about peacekeeping. Are you going to give them any assurances that we are not going to yank the troops out of the Balkans?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think that Secretary Powell and the president have done that. But certainly the Balkans will come up, but there is no question but that the United States would again consult as a member of the alliance, as one of the participants in that process, and they have been consulting continuously. They will continue consulting continuously. They have drawn down troops over a period of time, in a process that exists to review things every six or eight months, and I am sure that process will continue. The president, as you know, indicated he is going to review that subject, but no one is suggesting that anything would be done unilaterally or precipitously or without consultation, and they know that.

Q: Is this defense review that's going on, is this the QDR [quadrennial defense review] or is this separate or when can we expect this review to be completed? Could you give us a little more on that.

Rumsfeld: Not days, not years.

Q: Okay. Has it begun?

Rumsfeld: Which one?

Q: Is this separate from the QDR or is this the QDR, or what is this?

Rumsfeld: No.

Q: We're obviously confused.

Rumsfeld: Well, don't be confused. The QDR process is, as I recall, mandated by law. It is in place and it is proceeding, and it has a long trail. It ends in September. A new president has come in. He has indicated that he wanted a review of defense strategy in a speech he made during the campaign in, I think, in July or something in Washington at the Press Club, maybe. In any event, he did. And he has asked us to do that and that is just beginning. I am now in my fourteenth day.

Q: Is that principally a Defense Department review?

Rumsfeld: Yes. That process is taking place. He's indicated a desire to review the quality of life issues and address that, and as part of the strategy review, you would look at offensive and defensive weapons, including missile defense. You would look at numbers of weapons, as he indicated in some of his speeches, and you would look at transformation issues, which he has indicated an interest in, as to how you transform this force into a force that is appropriate to the 21st century. We are also looking at a few other things in the process. I have got a group of people that are starting to look at financial management issues. You may recall Senator Byrd raised those questions in the hearing. And we are looking at quality of life issues with a different group of people. We are looking at defense strategy, transformation and missile defense, and acquisition reform. And we are just getting started on some of those.

Q: Does this take precedent over the QDR?

Rumsfeld: I think it is really different people, and I think as our thinking clears and as we get our brains wrapped around some of these things, very likely those inputs -- we would find a way in the QDR process to implant them down into that process so that you would not wait until the end and have a disconnect, but I expect that the things I am talking about, while they may not reach full flowering in 30 or 60 days, nonetheless, we are expecting that we want to get in a month or two or three depending on which one of these things they are, pretty well down the road so that we have some good idea of what we think about those things and then we would probably plug them into the QDR, some of them, for the kind of refinement of thought you get by engaging people who are really into the details of things.

Q: Mr. Secretary, in your confirmation hearing you talked about the dangers of cyber-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and I guess that this should be something that you will be talking about with the folks you will be meeting tomorrow. What kind of a message are you delivering to them? What do you want to accomplish with them?

Rumsfeld: It was one of the things that the president mentioned, as you will recall, during the campaign and subsequently. I do not plan to get into it in detail in my brief remarks. We are still messing with them, and they are too long. But what I have in mind is the reality that as you move out of the Cold War and you go into a relaxed environment and you see an acceleration in proliferation, and simultaneously, almost in the same time period, earlier in the last decade you had the Gulf War, which taught people that contesting Western armies, navies and air forces, is not a good idea. It is expensive and you would probably lose, which suggests that because of the proliferation that is taking place, and their interest in things other than armies, navies and air forces, and cheaper and easier ways to do things, that people look for so-called asymmetrical responses to dissuade people from attempting to have them not do what they would like to do in their neighborhoods to their neighbors. Obviously, those things include all across the spectrum from terrorism through cyber attacks to information warfare to cruise missiles to short-range ballistic missiles to longer range ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Now, those are the kinds of things that are increasingly attractive to various nations of the world. We know from watching them that they are taking steps to not just be interested in them, but to develop those capabilities. Now, what does that mean for this meeting? Nothing in particular, but for people to consult and have common approaches requires that you have reasonably common assessments of where you are. And so those kinds of discussions are important and useful it seems to me.

Q: President Bush has talked about drastic cuts in nuclear warheads and also in the past he has talked about cooperating with NATOon theater missile defense. President Bush has also talked about cuts in the nuclear arsenal and a missile defense system that could cover the allies. Is there some common ground that could move this forward?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. We have been in office a few days and we have not really engaged the Russians on those subjects. You are quite right in the way you characterize it. The president and Russia have talked about a number of things. I have read about them. I find that I do not know enough about the details that might exist underneath there to be able to really understand what he was talking about and that would be the kind of thing that would be explored down the road as what the meaning of the things he said at various times as you proceed.

Q: Do you think there is enough latitude to make deep cuts in nuclear weapons?

Rumsfeld: I would be reluctant to start prejudging, I mean, the world has changed. It is a different world, we know that. We know his situation and we know our situation. Those are the kinds of questions that properly get addressed in the defense review.

Q: Are you going to Moscow sometime soon to start the dialogue yourself?

Rumsfeld: I do not anticipate doing anything more than trying to bring some folks into the department to fill some of the vacancies that exist and press forward on the various reviews and studies we have underway.

Q: Will we hear about that soon; some of your...?

Rumsfeld: I doubt it.

Q: When will you start naming deputies?

Rumsfeld: Oh, that part.

Q: That part.

Rumsfeld: Oh, I thought you were talking about the results of these reviews. You never know. It is a complicated process. I had to fill out a thousand pages of papers. It is a process for which I have a minimum of high regard and one which I would think some efficiency experts could inject a modicum of sanity. It is sets of questions that are about five or ten degrees off from four different locations and you have to get answers that are different because the questions are marginally different. It is really something. We have some people who are going through that process now and of course that means that you do not announce people until that process is pretty well along, and the Senate has the papers and so forth. There will be, I suppose, a few people that are not going to be requiring presidential appointments. I spoke to one today and those may be made at a lower level.

Q: Like the Pentagon spokesman?

Rumsfeld: Is there something wrong with Craig that bothers you?

Q: No, we love Craig.

Rumsfeld: Is there something you want to tell me about the way that shop is functioning?

Q: No, Craig is doing a great job.

Rumsfeld: I see. That is what he tells me, but -- (laughter)

Q: Mr. Secretary, You are going to Spangdahlem tomorrow. What are you going to say to the airmen there?

Rumsfeld: I am not just here to talk to people; I am here to listen a little bit too. And I want to visit with folks and see what they think about the world and about their circumstance in the armed forces, and ask questions about the kinds of things that are of concern to me and the president about the morale and the quality of life they are living with, and reenlistment rates; things that affect decision-making and families.

Q: What do you have to say to the Europeans about ESDI [European security and defense identity]? Any reservations there?

Rumsfeld: I guess you can only have reservations depending on where you start. I am kind of uncomplicated on this issue at the moment. Number one, I am not fully informed. I have not had a chance to talk to any European defense ministers about what they have got in mind or how it would work. I begin at the beginning and that is that NATO is the most successful military alliance in history, probably. That it is enormously important to the United States and to Western Europe, and I would add, to the world. And that I believe we ought to do things to strengthen it, and we ought not to do things to weaken it. And, so the test for me would be the extent to which any suggestions that might come along conceivably could strengthen it, which would be fine, or weaken it, which would be not so fine. I suppose some of the questions I will be asking folks is this type of thing: I do not quite see exactly how it strengthens. Let me rephrase it: if I saw more dollars coming in, in budgets that would net increase the strength of NATO nations, that would be encouraging. I have not seen that. I am more interested in addition than subtraction. The second thing is that I think the planning process would be terribly important, to the extent it were separate. I think you could end up with the gears not meshing well, and to the extent it was common, I think that the gears conceivably would mesh better. But I am just not well enough along in my thinking that I would want to opine on that.

Thank you, sir.

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