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Wolfowitz Interview with Charles Jaco, KMOX News Radio

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
August 07, 2001

Monday, August 6, 2001

(Interview with Charles Jaco, KMOX News Radio, St. Louis, MO)

Mr. Jaco: Joining us now on KMOX Newsmakers, and it's a real pleasure, is Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, who is going to talk to us about a number of things including missile defense, weapons in space, and we may touch on proposed base closings as well.

Dr. Wolfowitz, it's a real pleasure. Thank you for joining us.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: It's nice to be here.

Mr. Jaco: So I know that you are one of those who is in favor of missile defense, but we have two separate topics here. We have missile defense, and then we have something brought up by the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Michael Ryan last week, where he said it may be necessary for the United States eventually to put weapons in space. Not just ground-based, but weapons in space to deal with threats to our various strategic assets.

Is that the Administration position? That eventually space, like everything else, is going to have to become militarized?

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: No. I think General Ryan was really speculating.

The fact is, we make very, very heavy use of space, obviously, for communications purposes, the sort of dramatic capabilities we demonstrated in Desert Storm and in Kosovo would not have been possible without extensive use of space communications. So we have to keep a careful eye on what other countries might be doing to deny us those capabilities.

But you're absolutely right to distinguish.

When we're talking about missile defense we're talking about something entire different, which is a real plan, on the books. We're asking Congress this year to add $3 billion to the original Clinton request to accelerate our efforts to provide missile defense for ourselves, for our allies, and for our forces deployed abroad against a range of ballistic missile threats.

Mr. Jaco: But again, Dr. Wolfowitz, to bifurcate the two, while you're in favor of missile defense it sounds to me, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that you're not necessarily in favor of employing offensive or even defensive weapons in space itself.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: I certainly haven't seen a plan yet that I would say I support. It involves a lot of difficult issues about how other countries might respond to things that we do or how we need to respond to things that other countries are doing. So there is no program yet that I would say I endorse, whereas I strongly endorse the need for a missile defense program. That's a very clear need, and I think we've thought through very carefully what the reactions of other countries would be.

In that department we're working very closely with the Russians to try to reassure them that this is part of a new strategic framework where we approach one another's potential partners.

But with respect to hostile countries like North Korea or Iran or Iraq or some other potential candidates, we're trying to convince them that all this money they're pouring into developing their own ballistic missile capabilities is a wasted effort because we will eventually be able to defeat it.

Mr. Jaco: Dr. Wolfowitz, who is missile defense aimed to protect against? Is it the Chinese? Is it the so-called rogue states like Iraq, Iran, North Korea? Is it a free-lance terrorist like Osama bin Laden who might have an ICBM? Who is this particularly a defense against?

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: Well, we're talking about defenses against missiles of a variety of ranges and I'll give you a real example that's out of history, in fact I think you were in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm yourself and you saw what even those limited Iraqi SCUD missiles were able to do. They almost succeeded in dragging Israel into the war actively, which would have changed the whole character of the war. The single worst hit we took during the war was when a single SCUD missile hit a barracks in Dhahran.

That's a real world threat from ten years ago that today is much worse in the Korean Peninsula than anything we encountered in the Gulf. Hopefully we have Saddam Hussein lower down now, but it's a threat we could face in the future in the Gulf either from Iraq or Iran.

Then there's a sort of intermediate range threat which begins to target the capitals of our key allies and some of our bases in places like Japan or Turkey or Europe.

Finally, there's the longer-range threat which could attack the United States.

And hostile countries like North Korea are working at all ranges. The North Koreans have already deployed a lot of missiles of the short range, SCUD type, and a pretty large number we think of the intermediate range. And we think they're working, and within five to ten years will have a capability to target the United States.

We're trying to get our ability to defend against those threats out in front of the threats, and we aren't yet there. We're still just a year away from deploying an answer to that SCUD missile that we dealt with ten years ago.

But with this acceleration of the program that President Bush has directed, I think we can catch up.

Mr. Jaco: Given that missile defense is of a limited variety, this would not be designed to defend the United States or indeed any of our allies against wave upon wave of ICBM, correct? This would be aimed at the one or two or three maybe rogue missiles that might be launched?

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: You've made an absolutely fundamental point, and not to flatter you, but it's a point that gets lost so often in the general debate.

There was a caricature of what President Reagan proposed 15 years ago, that we would somehow be able to shoot down 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 Soviet missiles in a short space of time. That is not in this program. I doubt if it could be achieved. It's certainly not the goal.

The goal here is defense against limited missile attacks which would most seriously and likely come from a hostile country, but might conceivably be an accident coming from somewhere else.

Just a few years ago the Norwegians launched a weather rocket and the Russians misinterpreted that weather rocket, and for about 15 minutes they were scurrying around with their classified communications gear thinking about how to respond to this potential American attack.

We would have been so much better off if they could have said well, if it is an American missile we'll shoot it down. And we should be in a position if something comes by accident or we think it's coming by accident that we shoot it down instead of gearing up our whole Cold War deterrent structure because of it.

Mr. Jaco: You talked about reassuring the Russians and others, but yet since we have announced that we intend to go ahead with this, the Russians have re-embraced the Chinese. Indeed, in Russia Vladmir Putin has warned that this could reignite an arms race as other countries took a look at U.S. defenses and tried to generate ways to overcome them.

It doesn't sound like in the best of all worlds Russia's exactly on-board yet.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: I wouldn't say they're on-board yet, but there are a lot of very positive developments in addition to the ones you mentioned.

When Putin met with President Bush in Genoa just last month, he suggested that a joint statement which they agreed on pretty quickly, picking up on the President's idea that we're not just talking about limited missile defenses, and to go back to our earlier point, limited meaning they're really not a problem, they shouldn't be a problem for the Russian missile force at any level.

But we're talking about significantly reducing our own offensive forces and encouraging the Russians to do likewise. And frankly, I think the Russians are very interested in that package of going to lower levels of offensive nuclear forces. And I think they will understand that our limited missile defense capability is no obstacle to doing that.

So it's too early to say where we're coming out, and obviously the Russians are going to use the Chinese for all the bargaining leverage they can find with us. But I think there's a way forward here that is based on the fact that it's not the Cold War anymore, Russia is not a potential enemy. It's much closer to being a potential partner, and we need to address issues with them that way.

Mr. Jaco: A final question for you, Dr. Wolfowitz, off the subject of missile defense and onto the subject of potential base closings.

The Pentagon announced last week plans for shutting down a significant portion of the 398 domestic military bases in the United States, saving an additional 3.5 billion a year by the end of the decade.

That is like fingernails across a blackboard to a lot of places including the St. Louis area, where we're worried not only about Scott Air Force Base, but Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Any idea if there is another round of base realignment and closing, specifically what the Defense Department is going to be looking at and not looking at when it comes to deciding which bases stay and which ones go?

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: No, and in fact we have, what we've proposed, and I should emphasize, this is a very painful process for us as well as all the communities around the country, and if there were any alternative we wouldn't do it. But there's no way to pay for the kind of military that this country needs to have with the budgets we're going to have if we continue to sustain a base structure that derives from the Cold War.

We have a smaller force. We have to have a smaller base structure or we're going to just be throwing money away that we badly need for warfighting, I mean for military capability.

But the process, what we've introduced to the Congress as a proposal for a process that will allow this whole determination to proceed in a way that removes political biases, removes the judgment of any one individual, puts it into an organized commission that will review all the possible alternatives carefully and fairly and objectively so that when some of these painful decisions come out at the end, people can have confidence that it wasn't the arbitrary decision of some general in the Pentagon, or the political interference of some very powerful political figure in Washington.

Mr. Jaco: But no specific parameters yet.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: Not yet. Those will be worked out after the commission is formed.

Mr. Jaco: Dr. Paul Wolfowitz. He is America's Deputy Secretary of Defense, good enough to spend a few minuets with us this afternoon.

Dr. Wolfowitz, a real pleasure. Thank you for being with us.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

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