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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability en route to Brussels

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 08, 2001

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

(Media availability en route to Brussels, Belgium.)

Q: What points will you be making with the allies during the upcoming NATO Defense Ministerial meeting?

Rumsfeld: Well clearly, the first point is our commitment to NATO and its importance to the United States and to Western Europe and to indeed to the world, and the contributions it makes to peace and stability. We are committed to NATO and engaged with it in a host of ways and it's important that a new administration underline that and emphasis it.

The second point I would make is that I will be talking about the changed circumstance in the world and our recognition that with those changes, it's important that the United States as well as the NATO alliance adjust to those changes. The Soviet Union is gone, the Cold War is over, the deterrence strategy does need to evolve so it is appropriate for the kinds of emerging threats that exist.

We may need to make sure that we're are not arranged for a major tank war in Europe or a strategic nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union because those threats have receded. Instead we need to recognize the kinds of instabilities that we've seen over the past decade, and the kinds of challenges and emerging threats that exist. And needless to say, with the end of the Cold War, and the relaxation of tension, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them is a very important part of it. There are any number of countries in the region that are aggressively developing chemical and biological capabilities and there are a number that are seeking to, or are in fact, developing nuclear capabilities.

The numbers of ballistic missiles have grown dramatically in the last three, four or five years. So that will be a part of the discussion including the consultations on missile defense, which will be continued both in the multinational forum as well as in the bilaterals that we'll have.

Q: I've noticed that NATO today put out a press release saying it had selected a couple of companies to do feasibility studies for what they call theatre missile defense -- for what you might just call missile defense. How does that tie into what the U.S. would like the NATO allies to understand about the U.S. position on missile defense.

Rumsfeld: Well, I have not seen the press release and I don't know that I am aware of what you are referring to. As you suggest, I don't draw a big distinction between national or theatre missile defense. It depends where you live.

Ballistic missiles are a problem in this period and to the extent we develop capabilities -- whether they are technically called theater or national -- to dissuade countries from developing these capabilities, we benefit our people. To the extent we remain vulnerable to those capabilities, we put our people in jeopardy. And I think it is perfectly logical that any number of countries in the world would be interested in individually developing -- or in cooperation with others developing -- those kinds of defensive capabilities.

Q: Are you prepared to go into details with the Russian defense minister on what cooperation the United States is prepared to give them to get together on missile defense? For instance, buying their missiles, the SA-10s, or --

Rumsfeld: The short answer is that we are certainly looking forward to continuing discussions with the Russians on the subject of missile defense and indeed on a broader subject of offensive and defensive capabilities, including our intention to be reducing our nuclear weapons and finding a framework that is appropriate for the period going forward. Until the United States has undertaken the kinds of research and development and testing activities that we currently are initiating and which had not previously been done, there is not such a thing as what one would characterize as a specific architecture or a set of architectures. That being the case, it's obviously difficult to know exactly how other countries would interact with them. But certainly, the president has indicated a cooperative approach and a desire to stay in close consultation with the Russians.

Q: Can you move forward on testing that would lead to a new architecture without changes in the ABM treaty?

Rumsfeld: It varies depending on the test that you are referring to when that point would be reached. And it also varies on which lawyer you talk to as to what is or is not a bumping up against some aspect of that treaty. The reality is, the president has indicated, that that treaty was designed decades ago to prevent ballistic missile defense. We're embarked on a course -- because of the totally changed circumstances in the world -- on an effort to test various types of technologies and approaches to provide ballistic missile defense. So it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to understand at some point you being to bump up against the provisions, regardless of which lawyer your talking to.

Q: The natural follow-up then is, are you going to be careful not to bump against that treaty until you have full consultations of the allies and the Russians?

Rumsfeld: We are engaged in those consultations and intend to continue them, but we are also beginning the process of initiating those research and development and testing activities with respect to missile defense.

Q: Where are you going to start on that? I've heard you say that before, you know, that you want to test a variety of technologies. Where will you begin and when?

Rumsfeld: Well, some are beginning.

Q: Some? Such as?

Rumsfeld: It depends on what you characterize as research and development or testing. It varies depending on which one of these particular areas that are being explored might be involved. So it would be wrong to say we've not begun, although we've not begun with respect to each of them. We have not at this point gotten to the point where we are bumping up against the treaty.

Q: Can you mention something specific? I mean we are talking about, for examples, the airborne laser. When are you going to move forward with that?

Rumsfeld: Well that exists. I suppose that, and I'm not a lawyer and I'm not quite at the point where I have an answer to your question. But it's my recollection that with respect to that specific technology, it makes a difference how you test it. While it has been tested in some modes it has not been tested in other modes.

Look., we're going to keep talking, to our allies. We're going to talk to our friends -- we're going to talk to Russia, talk to the People's Republic of China -- and we'll keep moving this along.

Q: Does the point at which you are not allowed to test depend on whether you define it as theatre missile defense or national missile defense?

Rumsfeld: Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe that's the case. I think it is partly the specifics of the treaty and it's partly intent and method of test.

Q: All right, thank you.

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