United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Fox News

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 30, 2001 9:00 AM EDT

Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 9:00 a.m.

(Interview with Brit Hume for Fox News Sunday.)

Hume: President Bush has promised to go it alone on a new missile defense system if talks with the Russians do not produce some compromise for withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. For more on all this, we're joined by the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Welcome, sir. Good morning.

Wolfowitz: It's nice to be here.

Hume: First of all, I want to ask you about how it is going in these discussions -- these nascent discussions with the Russians on this issue. On Friday, there was an interesting statement by a defense ministry or a foreign ministry spokesman, who said -- this was Alexander Yakovenko, "We have heard no new arguments that would convince us to reexamine our principled position toward the 1972 treaty." He's sounding as if they don't even want to reexamine it. Is that the case?

Wolfowitz: Well, I read the joint statement that came out in Genoa that was actually President Putin's suggestion as suggesting a different view. And frankly, in both this country and in Russia, and in Europe, for that matter, we still find a lot of people who just can't get out of the Cold War mindset that says that somehow security rests on the idea of massive mutual vulnerability. And I think in this era, it's much more appropriate to think of Russia not as a potential adversary with whom we have to carefully regulate every change in the nuclear balance, but actually a potential ally who shares our interest in a secure Europe and a secure Asia.

Hume: Well, let me ask you what you hope, then, will come out of this process. It has been said that these are not negotiations -- certainly nothing like the standard negotiations that went on for so many decades on disarmament. But these are discussions with any eye to mutual reductions in our missile defense -- I mean, our missile offense -- with the possibility still existing that the United States will go ahead and take its arsenal down anyway. So what exactly is it that the administration hopes will come out of these talks?

Wolfowitz: I think a whole different security relationship between our two countries. That we're not enemies or potential enemies any more. We actually have these powerful interests in common and need to work on them. So it doesn't just mean missile defense. Even if we weren't going to build missile defenses, it would be crazy to base our relationship on a treaty that guarantees our ability to destroy one another.

Hume: So, is it a premise of these discussions that the United States is going to withdraw from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and begin developing missile defense, and that the Russians can either come along or not. Is that the idea?

Wolfowitz: I would say the premise of these discussions is, "Yes, we are going to build missile defenses." And the constraints of the ABM Treaty somehow have to be gotten beyond. But that we believe it's in Russia's interest as well as ours to do it cooperatively. Not just in air missile defenses, but as you mentioned, we're talking about very significant reductions in offensive nuclear weapons, which I think should have probably taken place some years ago.

Hume: All right. Let's assume that the talks succeed. What would the Russians do -- what would come out of this with regard to the ABM Treaty that would be the mark of success?

Wolfowitz: I think a recognition that it's -- we need to have the freedom to develop effective missile defenses against a range -- not by the way, not against the kinds of nuclear forces that we and the Russians have, but against the much more limited, primitive nuclear forces that a number of hostile countries are developing. And that frankly, it's in their interest for us to reduce our vulnerability, and it would be in our interest for them to be less vulnerable to that kind of limited missile attack.

Hume: Now it has been suggested that the Russians might, in response to our efforts to construct a missile defense, go ahead and MIRV -- that is to say, expand the capacity of their current nuclear arsenal. I recognize that the administration doesn't intend missile defense to defend against Russia anyway. But do you take that possibility seriously that the Russians would do that?

Wolfowitz: You have to take every possibility seriously. But I think the Russians don't want to do that. They have a lot better uses for their defense dollars than to put it into a worthless Cold War system. And I think when they see what we're doing -- and we're already doing it. We're bringing down B-1s, we're bringing down Tridents, we're bringing -- removing the Peacekeeper MIRV missile from our force -- there's no need for them to do that. And you know, I mean, one of the things that I find very revealing is we were asked in a hearing, "Wouldn't you be nervous if the Russians had a limited defense against American missiles?" Well, the fact is, they have a limited defense already around Moscow. And my answer is no. The only way I could imagine us sending a missile at Russia would be by mistake. I'd like them to be able to shoot it down. It's a difference from the Cold War that a lot of people are still having trouble grasping.

Hume: Speaking of Cold War adversaries, let's turn to China for a moment. The president was very clear during the campaign that China is not, in the phrase of the previous administration, a strategic partner, but is indeed a strategic competitor. Secretary of State Powell in his current conversations with the Chinese over there referred to them as a friend. Now, where does the administration come out on this? You could make a pretty good case that we seem to have taken Mr. Clinton a step further in morphing these partners into friends now, when we who listened to the president during the campaign thought they were competitors. Where are we in all this?

Wolfowitz: We don't want to make an enemy out of China. There's no need for China to become an enemy. China is not an enemy. The president's been very clear on certain issues, like the security of Taiwan, that we're going to have a very clear, firm policy. And it's not enmity toward China. And I think that kind of clarity is in fact what friendship is built on. It's not built on just ignoring every difference that comes up between us. And I think particularly on the crucial issue of Taiwan this president has been clearer than any of his predecessors.

Hume: Well, nonetheless, it does seem to be a step to call them a friend. Isn't it?

Wolfowitz: I think we're into semantics. I think our goal is to have a friendly relationship with China, I believe. But it's got to be a relationship based on a very clear recognition that there are conflicting interests, and even some competing interests.

Hume: Let me ask you about something the Secretary of Defense said, and I'll let you hear it here. This was in answer to a question from Neil Cavuto of Fox News about the role the tax cut has played in your budgetary arithmetic. Let's listen to what the secretary said.

(Video clip of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, July 20, 2001)

Rumsfeld: When the Congress moved the tax cut forward, there's no question but that it made our efforts somewhat more difficult.

(End of video clip.)

Hume: Now, that's a rather mild statement. On the other hand, it does echo, with regard to defense, what Democrats on the Hill have been saying in criticism of the president's tax cut, that it was too big and it would crowd out or at least interfere with other important national priorities. It sounds as if the Secretary agrees.

Wolfowitz: I'm sorry. I think what I heard the secretary say very clearly is the tax cut as originally planned would have worked pretty well. A lot of it was moved forward into this year --

Hume: But the president supported that.

Wolfowitz: You compromise. I think we can get the resources that we need. We had the largest increase in defense spending this year in 15 years. It's a 7 percent real increase. Would we like more? Of course we'd like more. But I think we also have to look, within our own program, at ways to save money.

Hume: Well, that's an interesting question, because it is known that you asked for $35 billion. And you got 18 for 2002. That's a huge shortfall from what you originally demanded. How can you assure us that given the ambition of your plans to modernize this force, that it's enough?

Wolfowitz: Well, first of all, our real fight right now is to get the 18 billion. I mean, I wish I had more people saying to me, as you are, why don't you get more. I think the key is what the secretary's done, which is to be very honest about what we can do and what we can't do. And unfortunately -- I mean, 18 billion sounds like an awful lot of money. The problem is for 10 years we've been coasting on the investment of the Reagan defense buildup. And there are just a lot of bills to pay, a lot of old facilities to be repaired, and an enormous amount of old equipment that has to be replaced.

Hume: John McCain was saying that another 17 billion might be able to be found by the elimination of waste. Do you think you can find that much money?

Wolfowitz: In principle, yes. But I want to find the savings before I spend them rather than count on the savings and to have them not materialize.

Hume: It has been suggested that the Army would have to go down from -- what, 18 to 10 divisions, it would have to go to something like eight divisions under this budget. Is that a fair assumption?

Wolfowitz: I think -- you can't base it on one year. In fact, one of our problems is we are basing defense budgeting not on one year's revenues, but on next quarter's projection of one year's revenues. And we're talking about investments that last over 10 years. I think over 10 years we can get to what we need to have. Whether that's exactly 10 divisions, or nine divisions, or 11 divisions is one of the things we're looking at right now. But it is absolutely crucial that we identify what we need for our country's security. And we can afford to pay for it.

Hume: Let me turn to Vieques. There's a preliminary referendum this weekend down there. It's not expected to go well from the point of view of the Navy staying there, since the president's already asked or suggested that they promised that the Navy will be leaving in a couple of years. The question is, where do you go to find that testing, that training capacity? Have you found a place yet?

Wolfowitz: By the way, I'm glad you mentioned the referendum. A lot of the people think we're just leaving because we want to leave. We're leaving largely because a situation was created where we would have to leave in two years anyway, almost certainly. We're looking at a variety of things. We're looking at different locations. We're looking at ways of distributing the same training among multiple different locations. And in the long run, hopefully sooner rather than later, we would in any case have to find a very different way of training, because you can't -- the long-range weapons of the future need a different kind of training range. And we're going to have to take advantage of new technology to simulate the sort of environment in which we would operate.

Hume: What you're saying is that nothing quite like Vieques is likely to be found, isn't it?

Wolfowitz: Yes, but I'm also saying that Vieques, within a matter of five to 10 years, would be completely obsolete. You cannot train with modern weapons on a World War II training basis.

Hume: Mr. Secretary, a pleasure to have you. I hope you'll come back.

Wolfowitz: Thank you. It was nice to be here.

Hume: Thank you very much, sir.


Additional Links

Stay Connected