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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with CNN

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 18, 2001

Friday, June 15, 2001

(Interviewed by Jamie McIntyre, CNN)

McIntyre: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

McIntyre: Lots of angst up on the Hill about the decision to abandon Vieques as a training range after May of 2003. Were you surprised by the reaction from some conservative, pro-defense Republicans? You know these guys pretty well.

Rumsfeld: Sure, and they are terrific people. And there is very strong feeling on both sides of this issue. There are people up there on the Hill who have been strongly opposed to bombing, using Vieques as a bombing range. There have been people up on the Hill who have a very clear understanding that if we're going to send young men and young women over to the Gulf and be in danger, that they need to arrive there well-trained, and having experienced the kind of live fire that will prepare them to do the best possible job to protect themselves and to perform their taste. That's a dilemma, when you have very strong interests on both sides. The deputy secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, and the secretary of the Navy have made a decision, and I think that there's no question that they've balanced this properly, and we'll have to find ways over the coming period of two or three, four years, to find ways that we can see that we get the training that's needed in other ways. And we're aggressively looking for ways to do that.

McIntyre: I realize that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and the Navy secretary were the men intimately involved in this, in resolving this issue. But isn't it ultimately your responsibility, Mr. Defense Secretary, to provide the adequate training? How does this walking away from this referendum in November square with the idea that the U.S. troops have to be trained properly before they go into dangerous situations?

Rumsfeld: Well, the prior administration made an agreement with the government of Puerto Rico that there would be an referendum, and that they would leave the Vieques training range in 2003 if they lost to referendum. That's the arrangement that was made, and we have to live with that.

Now, the question as to whether or not there will be a referendum is up to the Congress. The Congress has a requirement that there be one. There may very well be one, there may not be one, and that's something that's been now teed up for others to decide.

McIntyre: Well, I'm going to move on, but I just want to clarify one thing. Are you saying that essentially the Clinton administration lost Vieques when they agreed to that settlement that included a referendum?

Rumsfeld: Who knows? All I know are the facts, and the facts are that that arrangement was made before this administration came into office, and there it is. You have to live with it. You have to live up to your word in life. I can assure you that we are going to find ways, one way or another, to see that the men and women who go to the Gulf have the same kind of training that we're giving the men and women who go out in the Pacific, for their deployments. And we simply must do that.

McIntyre: And you're not concerned that you may lose other training facilities in the United States or around the world because they'll take a page out of the book of the protesters in Vieques?

Rumsfeld: Oh, this is an issue that didn't start, or won't end, with Vieques. It started decades and decades ago. And, it's interesting, you know, they build an air station somewhere in America, and a lot of -- there's no one there, it's vacant land. Then all of a sudden, people move around it, and suddenly there's a lot of people living around it and they say, "What in the world do we have this air base here for?"

That's part of life, and we have to constantly look at that issue of encroachment. And -- but no, I think that this is an issue that's been going on for decades and decades.

McIntyre: U.S. relations with Europe: you just returned from travel to Europe. President Bush is in Europe now. The sense that I got when I was travelling with you to Europe was that many Europeans are skeptical about whether the threats that you talked about are real and immediate, and whether the missile defense that you talked about deploying is workable in any reasonable time frame. How do you bridge that gulf between the European perceptions and the U.S., in terms of making this alliance work?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, there is no Europe, in a sense. It's a piece of real estate with a number of nations that are there, some of which are in NATO, some aren't. Some are in the EU, European Union, some are not. Some are in neither. And so I've always been kind of bemused by the way the articles appear in the press, "Europe thinks this."

Not so. A large number of the countries that I met with are very positive on -- fully understand the nature of the threat. A large number of them support the idea of being able to have some capability to defend their populations from ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

McIntyre: The big concern seemed to be the ABM Treaty, and we hear from time to time -

Rumsfeld: True.

McIntyre: -- someone say that scrapping the ABM Treat or amending it would result in a new arms race. You don't buy that?

Rumsfeld: No. No, I don't at all. I mean, who's going to race? I mean, Russia is not going to race. Russia's economy is about the size of Holland's or Thailand's. It's a -- they do not have the economic capability to race. We have no intention to race with anybody.

The ballistic missile defense that we're talking about is designed to deal with small handfuls of these capabilities. Russia has thousands of ballistic missiles and warheads, I should say -- nuclear warheads. Now, that's just not a fact that it would lead to an arms race. It will not.

The problem is that you've got a treaty that was developed in the early 1970s, or 1970, that has as its sole purpose preventing the United States and the old Soviet Union from defending themselves against ballistic missiles. That made sense then. That was the Cold War. They were an enemy then. They're not an enemy today. We're not worried about Russia launching ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads at the United States.

When you go to sleep at night, you don't worry about it. When I go to sleep at night, I don't worry about it. The reality is, however, that these weapons are proliferating throughout the world and people unlike them are getting them, the Saddam Husseins of the world. And they aren't -- they don't behave according to the same sets of rules. And I think that a policy of vulnerability to ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of someone like Saddam Hussein is not a policy at all -- it's mindless. And we simply ought to recognize that, set aside that treaty, go beyond it, recognize the Cold War is over, get over it, change our language, change our approach, fashion a new construct that makes sense for the 21st century.