United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Secretary Rumsfeld Roundtable in Australia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 30, 2001

Sunday, July 29, 2001

(Media roundtable in Canberra, Australia. Also participating was Michael P. Owens, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra.)

Rumsfeld: I'm delighted to be here. The event is an important one, and 50 years is a long time. I know; I've been married 47. So 50 years is quite an impressive number of decades for this relationship and the two countries have been through a great many things. I have no idea what it will look like 50 years from now, and I doubt if I'll be here, but I suppose we'd be the host in the United States, anyway, wouldn't we, for the event. But if you think of all the things that have happened in the past 50 years the United States and Australia have been through together, it is absolutely beyond imagination what people 50 years from now will be thinking when they look back on this coming five decades.

There have been so many changes and things seem to happen so rapidly. People used to worry about their neighbors. Today with the range and reach and power of weapons, everyone is your neighbor, to a certain extent. I have been impressed that the Australian government have been attentive to, and interested in the revolution in military affairs and have recognized the changes that are taking place in the world, as indeed they are. We had a difficult job during the Cold War, when one thinks about it, of focussing on a single expansionist nation, where the task was to try to know what they had and what they were thinking of doing, and how many ships, guns, tanks, planes, and missiles they had.

Today the task of course is quite different. We need to be interested in a number of countries, and given the end of the Cold War and the relaxation of tension and the proliferation of technologies throughout the globe, to say nothing of the acceleration in the new generations of technologies, it makes it a distinctly different set of problems. We have been doing a defense planning review in the Unites States, and if one looks out over the very near term, one can reasonably imagine where threats conceivably could come from, and the kinds of defenses you need to deal with them. If one looks out even to the medium term, that's not so easy. I was interested having just gone through my confirmation hearings in January to note that, when Dick Cheney had his confirmation hearings in 1989, there wasn't a single mention of the word Iraq and within a year, we were engaged in a conflict in that part of the world.

So, it is never possible to know precisely what can happen next, but I think that looking forward, it's even more difficult to know. Although you can know the kinds of capabilities that are there, and the kinds of problems you might find, even though they conceivably could come from different locations. I think back just during my time, the dramatic shift from the shah of Iran to the new regime that took over there in a very short space of time.

In any event, I'm delighted to be here. Secretary Powell and I would not have come this distance -- I'm going straight back; I came straight here and am going back straight back -- if we didn't recognize the importance of Australia and the importance of this relationship. I'd be happy to respond to gentle questions -- I've had a long night.

Q: Well, secretary, perhaps I could start following up on your opening remarks. Your defense planning review, we've read quite a bit about it here. Clearly it's still a planning review in that there's nothing yet you have decided. Could you give us more insights into your thinking about why this review is necessary? Is it because, for instance, that you see that American defense posture in the past as being more Eurocentric or is it because the revolution in military affairs is forcing you to do other things? Could you just lead us through some of your thinking about why you need to review American military strategies?

Rumsfeld: Well, first, the two obvious ones: One is that Congress requires it. They passed a statute requiring that every four years there would be a Quadrennial Defense Review. The second obvious reason that people tend to forget that the president of United States campaigned -- one aspect of his campaign was that he intended that there be a defense policy review and he has asked me to do it. So I am without choice from either side, and I must say that I'm happy to be doing it. The other reasons -- going to your questions obviously -- are that there was a significant downsizing that took place at the end of the Cold War, and it's what's left over that counts, and one wants to then look at it and ask the question, "How do we feel about how we're arranged?" given the changes that have taken place in the world with the end of the Cold War, and the revolution in military affairs, as I mentioned.

Where do we see the needs for us to be rearranging ourselves? I think that it would not be right to say that our policies or our strategy in the past have been too Eurocentric and I don't think the fact that the defense planning studies have suggested that Asia is clearly important, suggests that life as a zero sum game. It isn't. If you look down from Mars on Earth, obviously there are a few handfuls of countries that believe in free economic principles and free political principles. A number of them are in Europe and a number of them are in Asia, and they are all important because they are central to the relationships of the United States with respect to the prosperity that we're all able to enjoy, and the fact that we can get up and go out of our doors in the morning and go about our business. And that's underpinned by peace and stability, underpinned by the kinds of capability that dissuade people from trying to impose their will on their neighbors, to the extent that's possible, and of course it's not perfectly possible, and it has never been in human history.

But, we believe it is important to rethink the subject of deterrence and what dissuades people. We know that no one thing dissuades all people. We've had overwhelming nuclear power in this world and yet we've seen the Korean War and the Vietnam War and lots of other conflicts, the Gulf War. So, we know that they don't deter everything. We see very powerful weapons falling into the hands of people who behave very differently than a democratic system would. Even differently than the old Soviet Union might, where you had a Politburo and a general staff and various things that might inhibit behavior. A number of counties that have access today to weapons of mass destruction are lead by people who don't have things that buffer them or moderate behavior.

Q: In terms of the revolution in military affairs, there have been some reports suggesting that one of the things being looked at is the option of pulling back from some of the forward bases between Japan and South Korea, to the continental U.S., given the technical ability to project firepower in the event that it's needed. Can you maybe expand a little bit on that? Is that an option for the U.S. to be able to pull back some of its forces currently forward-deployed because of technological changes?

Rumsfeld: Well, certainly the one thing that's different about Asia from Europe if you're positioned in the United States obviously, are the distances. We do not get up in the morning and worry about a strategic nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has gone. We don't worry about a tank battle across the north German plain. What you do have to be attentive to is the fact that we have significant interests both in the Atlantic and the Pacific regions, and in the Gulf. When one thinks about it, forward presence has its advantages. It has disadvantages as well. It can be somewhat more expensive. It also creates targets. We've had problems with Scud missiles killing people in barracks in Saudi Arabia ten years ago. But if the goal is to deter, I would think that one would have to say that forward presence has an advantage, and I would not think that it is an either-or situation. One does have to worry about access. If you are attempting to do something, you need the ability to do it and the denial of access given the nature of weapons today is something that people have to be attentive to.

Q: Sir, I'll ask about the political context of that question of forward bases in the U.S. itself. I know there's already been decisions to cut significant numbers of bases in the continental U.S.A.

Rumsfeld: Oh no there hasn't. There has been a decision to propose to the Congress that they consider a modest reduction in the base structure, which now exceeds our force structure by something like 20 to 25%. I don't want to be picky, but...

Q: I'm wondering whether it's going to be all that persuasive if you had 100,000 troops based off shore in Asia.

Rumsfeld: I don't know that there's a direct linkage there. I think there's a pretty clear understanding in the United States Congress about the value of our forces, for example in Japan and Korea. I think that clearly-- I shouldn't say this because it isn't clear to me yet-- one would have to look at Europe as well, for example, at base structure, given the changes that have taken place. There have already been a number of changes in the base structure in Europe. But I don't see that direct correlation that you're drawing there. I think members, people of the United States and members of the House and Senate, understand the value of forward presence.

Q: Just bringing you back, more directly to the Australia-U.S. relationship and its military dimension. The Australian government white paper last year proposed very clearly giving priority to a force structure which was based on the self-reliant defense of Australia; that's its aspiration anyway. Is the U.S. necessarily satisfied that an Australian force structure focussed primary on the self-reliant force of Australia would be particularly valuable to the alliance in the region, if basically we are concerned about the defense of Australia? Or would you prefer to see Australian forces structured to go further afield, perhaps in support of U.S., things that the U.S. might want to do?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think those are issues for Australia to decide. It seems to me that the white paper was a good piece of work. It focussed on the future, and certainly the military-to-military relationships between the United States and Australia have been longstanding and very constructive. Without question, to the extent that countries that share common values and have common interests work together and develop the ability to function interoperably, it strengthens the deterrent and it enhances the ability to defend in the event that deterrence fails. So I thought the focus of the White Paper was quite sound.

Q: Mr. Secretary, following up on that point, Australia spends about 1.9 percent of GNP of defense, a much lower percentage than the U.S. Are you concerned about interoperability? Are we falling behind in our ability to operate with U.S forces because of the RMA and the Australian Gap?

Rumsfeld: Oh gosh, I haven't been in this job long enough to respond to that knowledgeably. But I would say if you ranked countries, Australia clearly ranks very high in terms of its willingness to focus on capabilities that are going to be needed in the future, and in terms of its willingness to focus on the importance of defense capabilities generally. As long as I can remember there have always been differences in the way countries approach these matters, and that's understandable. People's circumstances are different, and I think that's perfectly understandable.

Q: Going back to an earlier question but also related to some of the other questions that have just been asked. A senior U.S. officer said recently -- I think his position was the head of U.S mobility command -- I've forgotten his name. But he said that at present, he used the word toehold, the U.S. toehold in terms of facilities in the region was extremely limited. He said that if the U.S. could no longer rely on some of its old Vietnam era facilities in the region it might look to increasing that toehold in places like Australia. He was making the point that you might want more access to facilities in Australia. I think the Australian defense minister said today that if that was to be proposed, he would be very open-minded to it, in an interview on television this morning. What's your view of that? In the future will the U.S., short term or medium term, need greater access in a place like Australia?

Rumsfeld: I think exactly how things will evolve is really an open question. We're not at that point where we've come to those kinds of conclusions. There are so many things that are changing. The range and reach of weapons today is so much greater than in earlier periods, the power of those weapons is greater, the use of space assets today in terms of intelligence gathering and communications is changed. Nothing has come out of a review at his stage that has lead me to suggest that we ought to alter our relationship with Australia.

Q: What about the increased traffic of heavy transport aircraft, for example, which is one of the points I think that maybe that officer was referring to?

Rumsfeld: Without seeing what that officer said or who he was or what his perspective was, it's hard for me to comment on it. The United States has a shortage of airlift and has had for some period, but I just don't know what he might have had in mind.

Q: Secretary, you'd be disappointed I'm sure, if we didn't ask you about missile defense. When your colleague Mr. Kelly was here a few months ago, he outlined America's thinking in this area. I'm wondering if you had an Australian response and if so what your view is on that response? And secondly, I'm wondering whether or not in the future of missile defense you would be looking for Pine Gap facilities here to do anything which they haven't done in the past, or to change their activities, which may mean some form of change to the agreements we've had with the Americans over the years in relation to Pine Gap?

Rumsfeld: We're certainly not at that stage at all. Where we are is that the prior administration for eight years had concluded that they did not want to alter the ABM Treaty. The ABM Treaty is designed to prohibit missile defense. Therefore if one is interested in having missile defense it's clear you need to do something about that treaty. Which is why President Bush and President Putin have been talking about this, and why Secretary Powell and I have been talking to our counterparts in Russia. And begun the process of looking to establish a framework for the relationship between the United States and Russia that is considerably broader than missile defense. That treaty was between two hostile nations one of them is gone and we're looking at a full range of things -- political, economic, reductions in offensive nuclear weapons and the like.

Where we are is that when we came into office the president asked that we look at a broader range of ways of reducing our vulnerability to ballistic missiles and to look at it unconstrained by the treaty. So we have been developing a research and development and testing program that will do that. We have not landed on an architecture or architectures plural with respect to missile defense at this stage, because those things had not been looked at previously and they require some testing and some development. When we moved down the road somewhat further one would assume before we need to do anything that would bump up against the constraints the treaty that we would have developed a framework with Russia that sets aside the treaty and enables us to go ahead and do that kind of testing and developing and ultimately deploying. If I had to take a guess, I would guess that what we'd end up with is some sort of a layered, so to speak, layered architecture, but it's too soon to tell what it would look like.

Q: Could I get you to touch on the question of alliance relationships not just with Australia but the region. Do you see that there is a need to reinvigorate your bilateral alliance relationships in East Asia and if you do, what practically does that mean in terms of changes? And the final part on my question is, what kind of response do you think that would likely evoke from China if you did sort of move down that path?

Rumsfeld: Well of course that question is probably better directed to Colin Powell who will be landing tonight, and I think that I'll leave it to him. China is evolving as other countries are, but somewhat more than most countries, and it's not exactly clear which path or paths it will take. It's obviously trying to knit itself into the world economy, which is a good thing. It has the potential for affecting other aspects of China's circumstance. They are also obviously still a dictatorship and don't practice the kinds of freedom of press or freedom of religion or various other things that Australia and the United States do. How that will affect their evolution over time is unclear. But I think that they are, and they're going to do what they're going to do. We can hope that they integrate with the world in a way that doesn't have a grinding of gears, that it's a smooth and successful interaction.

The United States has been a participant in this part of the world for an awfully long time. I don't know that our involvement changes much, but how it might take place or in what ways with respect to alliances I really would leave to Colin. I will say this: alliances are very important to the United States and we have a number of them. They're things that we care about. I used to be the ambassador to NATO for example. We recognize as a country the importance of those linkages. For myself, obviously the ones that have the greatest vitality are the ones that tend to link like-thinking nations. But others are important as well, because they provide other opportunities for people to come away with a better perspective of each other's circumstance.

Q: Mr. Secretary I wonder if I could get you to [inaudible] your attitude to multilateral security arms control agreements. I'm sure you're aware that there have been conversations recently between Australia and the U.S. over the Biological Weapons Convention verification regime, and I am aware that there is some unease in Australian circles about the U.S. continuing commitment to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. What is the U.S. attitude now to these sorts of agreements which, because of the different sizes of our two countries, have some security value to Australia that the U.S. clearly doesn't think they have for the U.S.?

Rumsfeld: Well, first it's not clear to me that the size of the country makes a lot of difference. Maybe I just haven't thought it through from that perspective. The president has indicated that we intend to abide by the test ban moratorium. So I don't know that that's an issue at all. With respect to the biological protocol, the United States of course has signed the treaty. We're a participant and we recognize the importance of attempting to avoid the spread of biological weapons. I see an awful lot of intelligence and I see a non-trivial number of countries that are actively engaged in weaponizing with respect to biological warfare.

If one goes back to the treaty, it was very clear when the treaty was drafted that the people participating were aware that just by it's nature it was not verifiable. I looked the other day at the treaty. The treaty is about that long and the protocol is about like this. It is something that is something that has been signed onto by countries like Syria, Iran, Iraq and various -- I could be wrong on one of those but a number of nations that have -- how do I say this? It's been signed onto by nations that are not noted for their restraint with respect to some of these activities.

Without trying to speak for the president of the United States, for myself, I think it's important to try to find ways that we can increasingly over time develop better confidence that we are doing what we can do to reduce the likelihood of those kinds of weapons. It would be a mistake I think to suggest that the United States, which is a party of the treaty, has any less interest in reducing the likelihood. Indeed, we spend a good deal of time and effort on trying to find ways to reduce the likelihood that those weapons may be used.

One thing to keep in mind about agreements is that something that seems to solve a problem but may not, could conceivably have the effect of lessening people's efforts to stop that problem. Because it kind of causes you to relax and say, "Gee, everything is going to be alright." In this case we all know that, unlike nuclear weapons, for example, that take a certain amount of infrastructure and a certain amount of hi-tech materials and a certain amount of intellectual and experienced technologists, biological weapons and these things can be done in relatively small places in very discreet ways with enormous lethality. So I guess what I would say is that we both agree, we all agree on the undesirability of allowing these things to run rampant. Many countries have agreed to the treaty. The real question is how do we develop greater confidence that we can achieve our goal.

Q: In relation to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, you're saying that the U.S. has given, the president has given assurances that the U.S. won't test, which is well and good. But the fact that the U.S. won't ratify the treaty, doesn't that give a wrong signal to other countries of the world who are trying to encourage not to develop nuclear weapons in terms of horizontal proliferation, quite apart from whether the U.S. tests or not?

Rumsfeld: Well of course the subject of nuclear weapons in the broadest sense seems to be considerably bigger and broader than that question. On one hand we ought to acknowledge something, that we've had nuclear weapons on the face of the earth since 1945 and they've not been fired in anger since that year. That's an amazing accomplishment for humanity when one thinks about it. I can't think of any other instance where there's been a very powerful weapon that's not been used for the long a time. Second, there are any number of countries that could have nuclear weapons in fifteen minutes and one of the reasons they don't is because they felt they were not needed. That is to say that they have felt that the so-called nuclear umbrella of the U.S. capability enabled them to not go down that road. That has been a good thing; it seems to me that the feeling of vulnerability by a country that has the capabilities of developing those weapons would be something that would encourage them to develop those weapons.

I would submit that missile defense, for example -- the ability to defend against a ballistic missile -- would be something that would help dissuade someone. It would be an anti-proliferation activity, if you will.

One of the things that you have to worry about if you do believe -- the fact that the United States has nuclear weapons has been an essentially a stabilizing factor in the world and we recognize that things don't last forever -- one has to look to the safety and reliability of that stockpile. It is not out of the realm of possibility that as the years go along and people retire who know how to do these things -- and other people don't come along who find that that's really the way they want to spend their lives, signing up to develop nuclear weapons when no one is developing nuclear weapons. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that at some point in the not too distant future someone will give you a phone call some day and say, "Gee I'm awful sorry to tell you Mr. Secretary but..." The stockpile is -- we have enough indications that a category of our weapons have aged sufficiently that they're not reliable or they're not safe, either one. In which case then what does one do if you still believe that it has been generally a stabilizing factor in the world? There are many complications to issues like this and a President of the United States needs to take all of those into account it seems to me.

Q: Mr. Secretary how important is space to the new U.S. defense technology, and how do you respond to suggestions of some folks that there's a danger that the way the U.S. is going now is to militarize space?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's important in your life everyday in terms of the signals you receive from space, whether it's pagers or video signals or radio signals or all types of telecommunications. Space has been of considerable importance and enormously helpful since the Eisenhower administration in the United States when the first Corona satellite went up. We were, after eleven straight failures, finally able to succeed with the one that worked and could look down and actually begin counting the numbers of ICBMs that the Soviet Union had, and disabuse ourselves of the impression that was rampant in the country at the time that they had many more than they actually had.

We use it today for verification, for arms control agreements. One of the problems with space is that the more advanced a country and the greater their dependence on space, it logically follows that the greater their vulnerability. To the extent that you have that dependence -- and I say that word it's almost a bad word, it sounds negative. To the extent you have all of the advantages of using space to see and to hear and to know things that can be enormously helpful in terms of stabilizing the world and contributing to prosperity -- to the extent you have all of those advantages you tend to not have redundant systems anymore and you therefore tend to have a certain degree of vulnerability. One has to think about those vulnerabilities.

In Kosovo the United States armed forces had about 10 percent of the people they did in the Gulf War just a few years before, and they used one hundred times the bandwidth. Now, it wasn't all from space but it is important now.

With respect to the second part of your question, we haven't changed our policies at all from the prior administration's, our space policy remains the same. I chaired a commission on space that looked at the organization, how we arranged to deal with these things and we made some organizational changes, but nothing dramatic.

Q: Could I pursue this question of strategic vulnerabilities? One of the things that I've noticed is a sort of shift of focus if you like in the U.S. about defense of the homeland and including against asymmetric threats, some of which you have just discussed. I was wondering whether you could comment on the whole issue of protection of critical national infrastructure from, in particular, computer-based attacks because that's something that increasingly Western countries, developed countries are facing together, including Australia.

Rumsfeld: The Gulf War clearly told people that it's not a good idea to compete with Western armies, navies or air forces. That drives one logically to find some other way. If you want to go and lob ballistic missiles at somebody, or you want to invade Kuwait, or you want to do something harmful to your neighbors, and you don't want anyone to interfere with you, then obviously what you would look for is something other than competing with armies, navies, and air forces. And they run the spectrum, the gamut, across this spectrum of asymmetrical threats from terrorism to cruise missiles to ballistic missiles, various types of weapons of mass destruction, and including cyber attacks.

You know there are some countries you could attack -- make a cyber attack -- and they wouldn't realize you'd done it. Not true of your country, or our country, or a number of other countries. It is a fact of life today that we are being interfered with in various ways. I used to be involved in an electronics company. The electronics companies today hire high school kids to sit down and go in a room and figure out how to defeat what they are doing. It is what it is, and it's going to be there, and we have to learn to live with it, and we can live with it with that kind of a world. We just have to know that those kinds of threats are there.

In the United States we've got an awkward situation in that, clearly, Australia and the United States have had a wonderful benefit. We've been a long way from the threat of someone coming across our borders. We haven't had to worry about that really. Today you do have to worry about it because the borders are kind of disappearing and the reach of weapons and the things people can do change that.

Homeland defense for the United States is important because we are visible as a nation. We have seen terrorists attack things and we know the reach of weapons today. We know today, for example, ballistic missiles can be launched from relatively unimpressive surface ships where you can peel back a cargo cover and with a transport or electro launcher can launch a less than intercontinental range ballistic missile and do a whale of a lot of damage, relatively easily. Biological weapons, chemical weapons, we know what is going on in that sphere.

So the question is, what do you do about it? Well, we clearly in our defense planning review have to elevate that issue to a level that hadn't been there before, because we don't get up in the morning and worry about Canada and Mexico invading. They're good neighbors. The Defense Department, however, sounds like it's the place to deal with that. Why else would you say Department of Defense? And yet we have a law that prohibits our military from really engaging in the kinds of things domestically that a number of other countries' militaries are engaged in all the time. We have a Posse Comitatus law that inhibits us in that regard. The first responders, for example, with a weapon of mass destruction, or a real serious terrorist attack in the United States, are the local sheriff, and the county commissioner, the mayor, and eventually the state government, and the state police.

Of course, the first phone call that anyone's going to make is to the Department of Defense, which is the institution of size that has the kinds of assets that could assist with major management of that type of a problem. So we're in the United States kind of ruminating about how we deal with that and the president has asked the vice president to sort through that with him, and the Congress has passed statutes that suggest the need for some reorganization. We do have an organization called FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a significant central role in that.

But the Department of Defense -- if there were a major event in the United States, there would be mass movement of people. There would be a need to manage hospitals, and food, and quarantine, and all of that type of thing. There isn't any institution, besides the Pentagon, that even begins to have the kinds of capabilities to do that, and yet we thus far have been inhibited from thinking those kinds of things through. I don't know if that was your question, but it is something that we clearly have to think about a little better than we have.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if I can bring you right back to this bilateral alliance between Australia and the U.S. You have mentioned that it's now 50 years old. The fact that it is 50 years old doesn't necessarily mean that it will become 100 years old. I am just wondering that if the world has changed so much since it was signed in '51 -- Cold War has finished as you've noted, given the changes in the world, it's much more multi-polar in nature -- what does the U.S. now expect of Australia in order that this relationship would maintain its vitality into the future? You know, the simple clear threat has gone, and it's a much more complex world, as you now find, what does the U.S. now expect of Australia to keep that alliance vital and relevant?

Rumsfeld: Well, you're right. I mean, age alone doesn't give value. I think what gives value to this alliance is our common values, our common interests, our economic and political relationships, and the fact that we basically get up in the morning and hope for the same thing for the world; a peaceful world, a stable world where people can go about their business. I don't think of it as 'what does the United States expect of Australia?' I think of it as, what do the two countries and other like-thinking countries in the world want this world to be like, and how can we as a single country, or two countries in this case, or other countries, work to help create an environment that's hospitable to the things we believe in.

Now, the behavior pattern to do that, unquestionably, changes as the world changes, and just like a marriage doesn't stay static -- an alliance doesn't stay static. Think of the changes in NATO, just in my adult lifetime. There have been enormous differences. I went to a NATO meeting not too long ago and sat next to the Russian minister of Defense. On the other side was a Ukrainian minister of Defense and the last time I'd been there, why we were getting up every day and thinking different thoughts - 25 years before. So, I would change the construct of the question here.

Staff: Sir, we've time for one more here?

Rumsfeld: But then I've got a request. I want everyone to go around and tell me what I've said that's going to get me in trouble, and then and I'll clean it up before you get out of this building.

Q: We couldn't let you go without asking about Indonesia. Just wondering if you have a reaction to the events there recently, and would the U.S. be looking to reengage military-to-military relations with Indonesia anytime soon?

Rumsfeld: Well, the DCM here is an expert of Indonesia, as I recall. Isn't that right?

Owens: I don't know if I'd go that far, Mr. Secretary. I lived there for a while.

Rumsfeld: My deputy Paul Wolfowitz is a former ambassador to Indonesia who lived there as well, and it is a large and important country, and I think that the United States has wisely worked with Australia and in many instances, taken their lead. I am anxious to reestablish military-to-military relationships with Indonesia. We have some Congressional limitations at the moment, which I would hope we'd be able to work through over the coming period. It's a difficult thing. One of the first things that happens when a country has some difficulties is there is a tendency for countries to want to disconnect. Military-to-military first and then ultimately other things, and those are tough calls.

I was at Nasser's funeral, and walked in the Department of State said that there's a vice president named Sadat who's acting president -- Nasser used to change his vice presidents all the time because he didn't want anyone getting too strong -- and this fellow would last about 15 minutes they said; and we came out of that meeting, and he told us that he had been trained in the U.S. Army school in the United States, and had a wonderful feeling for the United States. Had no issue with us at all except Israel. Here he had Russians, Soviets all over his country at the time -- 1970, and those linkages between professionals in country after country after country have been enormously helpful.

You know that because you've had those exchanges. I was a navy flight instructor for a period, and trained people -- pilots -- from all kinds of different countries around the world -- Japan, Germany, Australia. I even had a Cuban, if you can believe that -- that's how old I am -- that was before your time. I think that we ought to be slower to nip those things because, in some countries that are evolving and changing the military can be a stabilizing influence. Notwithstanding the fact that their culture or their background, or their experience, may lead people to look at some of the behavior that takes place and say, gee it's not consonant with the way we treat people. And that's true, and it's not admirable, but it doesn't mean that we should shoot ourselves in the foot.

Q: Should there be any preconditions, for example, in relation to the prosecution of senior members of the Indonesian military accused of rights violations in East Timor, and not put too fine a word on it, a massacre in East Timor following the vote in 1998. Should the prosecution of those people be a precondition for any renewal of those big-city talks?

Rumsfeld: Those are the kinds of issues that Secretary Powell, and the president, and the members of Congress, clearly have to address, and weigh as they give consideration to this.

Q: The question that I wanted to ask, you know in finalizing is that, a lot of the stuff that you spend your time on day-to-day is all about maintaining the peace, globally. It's big picture stuff, you concern yourself about war fighting capabilities, war between states and so on. In this part of the world we are much more focused on small 's' security issues: internal security of problems spilling over into developing states and affecting our regional security environment. East Timor is an example of that. So, I'm just wondering whether, when you're sitting in your desk in Washington thinking about the big picture, you're sensitive to the slightly different security concerns about this part of the world. When I say this part of the world, I am really talking about South East Asia and the South Pacific. Can I ask that question?

Rumsfeld: The macro view is something you have to keep trying to get your eyes up to. It is not something where you start every day. You start every day down in the micro pieces. I mean there is no question. I mean, right now we're wrestling with the problems in Macedonia and they're not modest -- they're serious. A lot of the people don't like each other and they have weapons, and we've got troops that are in those countries, and we have constant connections and interactions with countries in this part of the world. We have hostages in the Philippines. There are portions of the world today that are not being governed. There are portions of countries that are not being governed. I am not going to say they're ungovernable because that judgmental. There are big chunks of Colombia where we have hostages taken and problems.

Our relationships in all of these key countries in this part of the world is something that we think about -- you know, if not everyday, almost everyday. They're part of the fabric. They're what create the broader context that we live in, and you can't just look at things generally. You have to look at things in the specifics, because that's what makes up the general picture. I mean, the fact that Australia is a long distance from Washington, D.C. does not mean that it's out of sight, out of mind. It isn't at all. Certainly Indonesia and the difficulties that your countries face, and other countries in the region face when you have internal eruptions and difficulties and uncertainties are things that we're attending to, as well.

Q: One area I wasn't quite clear about is interoperability and joint operations. If there was, for example, to be the U.S., as President Bush said very early on in his presidency, the U.S. would defend Taiwan against China, did you expect Australia to be part of such a joint operation?

Rumsfeld: First of all, I would not presume it's going to happen. My hope and wish, and certainly the president's and our country's [view] is that we will see a peaceful resolution of those issues. They tend to ebb and flow in terms of levels of concern over the decades and so the fact that they rise in importance in the press on one occasion doesn't mean that they're not going to see the pendulum move back, and I suspect that will be the case. I think that Taiwan recognizes the importance of managing its affairs in a way that moves towards a peaceful solution, and I think that the People's Republic of China recognizes the advantages that accrue to them by managing that relationship in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution.

So taking and answering that hypothetical case, I think, could lead to a headline that I would be uncomfortable with. So instead of responding directly to it, I would say that what Australia does with respect to anything is for Australia to decide. Apparently we more often than not come out looking at the world and the problems similarly, and I think that's a reflection of the kinds of people we are. We both have representative systems, and we elect our leadership. Leadership in our respective countries seems to frequently find their way to reasonably right decisions, more often than not, similar decisions.

Staff: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected