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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Rome

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 06, 2003

Rumsfeld: Let me just make a couple of comments. One month after I took office I came over here to this conference, in Munich, back in 2001 in February. I did so because its an because its an important conference. I've been attending it off and on since the '70's. It used to be essentially a European conference. It's now expanded. There are people there from India and various countries in Asia. And it is a very fine opportunity to be able to visit with a lot of people. And I am looking forward to it. Last year after 9-11 I was not able to come and Paul Wolfowitz came.

This is a critical time. And needless to say anyone who looks at what's taking place can see that momentum is building with respect to the effort to get Iraq to disarm.

The letter by 8 nations was a courageous thing, an example of leadership. The letter that followed it from 10 nations the so-called Vilnius 10 suggests that momentum is building.

My stop in Italy for example gives me an opportunity to recognize the strong leadership the (inaudible) government has provided in this regard. Its also a chance to do what I really enjoy doing that's to shake hands with the troops we have there in Aviano. We also have men and women serving in Vincenze and we have other places in Italy where the Italians have provided assistance to us. And we appreciate that.

In Munich I plan to have a number of bilaterals. I'll be meeting with the Russian minister of defense, the ministers of defense from a number of other countries including Georgia, Ukraine, Germany, Norway, India, possibly others that I missed. I'm sure I'll be meeting with others as well at the margins of the meeting. And look forward to it.

[Q: What is your main objective relative to moving the argument forward with an attack on Iraq?]

Rumsfeld: Well, this trip of course follows on the heels of Secretary Powell's excellent presentation to the UN security council. And it does make me available to meet with people and answer questions, and make some remarks at the conference -- I believe, the first morning of the conference.

The one thing that needs to be put into better focus is the issue of time. One could make a very strong case that time is desirable if in fact Iraq were cooperating, but the idea that it takes a long time to determine if Iraq is cooperating is obviously -- it answers itself. It doesn't take a long time to determine that.

And to the extent the international community makes a decision to not give Iraq one final opportunity as they said in resolution 1441 but to give him another final opportunity and still another final opportunity and add to the 12 years where the community has worked through diplomatic efforts, economic efforts and various types of military activity in the southern and northern no fly zones. Why, it will adversely affect the international community and its credibility.

[Q: Is alliance fracturing and a new one being built?]

Rumsfeld: No I think that's what's happening ... NATO when I was there, when it was 15 countries, 14 in the military command and France (inaudible).

Today it's 19, or 18 and one, it's growing to I believe 26 soon and if all of the progress continues. Now the center of gravity is shifting in the alliance and the energy and vitality and interest and enthusiasm that the countries that had lived under repressive regimes previously is a good thing for NATO. And I think every member of NATO believes that or we wouldn't have expanded the way we have. Every time there is an issue about someone not agreeing with somebody, people kind of tend to believe 'well my goodness is this something major happening'. This has been going on since the beginning of the alliance.

I don't think there has been a five-year period during the course of the alliance where there haven't been issues. Jimmy Carter and the neutron bomb, and Germany was quite unhappy because they felt offered and then retrieved. When Michel Jobert was MOD in France back in the 70s, the so-called Year of Europe, there was the same type of thing. There were back in the McNamara era major issues over a weapons system. This is not unusual.

I think when you have that many nations in Europe the fact that one or two, as seems to be the case here, have different views, they are sovereign nations an have any views they want. I think that to over dramatize it probably is not historically correct.

[Q: As the center of gravity shifts have you considered moving bases out of Germany?]

Rumsfeld: Oh gosh, I wouldn't put it that way. If you'll recall President Bush's speech when he was Governor Bush asked us to do a review of the defense establishment and we do have those studies going on, just as we have a review of bases in the United States. You can't very well go into the Congress and talk about bases without having looked at the entire world. That's just a normal part of the reviews and processes we have underway. Where they might shift I have no idea.

Some might stay, some might shift to other countries some might go back to the United States. You know at the end of the cold war. The purpose of our forces around the world was to deter and defend from the Soviet Union. Today threats are quite different and just as everything else in the department has to be looked at needless to say we have to look at how we're organized and arranged to deal with these new threats. That's one of the reasons we changed our command structure and why we are working with NATO to review the NATO command structure. NATO has the same issues we do. We are reviewing our bases, NATO is reviewing their bases.

[Q: You've been asked about an attack on Iraq numerous times.]

Rumsfeld: I've been asked that question twice.

Press: Okay

Rumsfeld: Really get this straight: What has happened is I make myself available to the press. I get asked a question. And they say 'Well who's not supporting you' and they say 'Well Europe's against you' and I said 'Well wait a minute, There's a couple of countries in Europe that are not in favor of what the president has proposed, but there are eight, now 18 countries that are.' I tried to put it in perspective is all.

[Q: do you think Fr and Germany will come around? Is there a hard sell ...]

Rumsfeld: No, no, no. There's no hard sell. They are going to have to make up their own minds and they have. Germany certainly has. Germany ran an election on that issue. And I would assume would stick with it, I just don't know. My impression is that they would and we would expect that. I don't know what France will do.

[Q: What are you going to talk about with Mr. Stroup?]

Rumsfeld: Well there's lots of issues. I mean they're in the process of beginning to with the Dutch with Netherlands become head up ISAF in Afghanistan. There are any number of things on a bilateral basis, NATO basis to discuss.

[Q: Will you talk about Iraq?]

Rumsfeld: I don't intend to. They have been very explicit. There hasn't been any other country that has defined their position. They have defined their position. And that's fair. That's what they do. That's what we do.

[Q: Will North Korea come up]

Rumsfeld: I am sure it will come up. It's a very important issue for the world community.

[Q. (inaudible)]

Rumsfeld: Well President Bush has put it well. It is an issue between NK and the international community. The four agreements that NK has violated or rejected or withdrawn from, depending on which one you are thinking of, are a matter of concern for the world community. The problems of their proliferation of missile tech is a problem, the problem of the potential proliferation of nuclear material, weapons uh, grade material is an issue for the international community. The President's hope is to follow the diplomatic path and see if we can't get anything from the United Nations. And we are working particularly with Japan and South Korea. But also with Russia and China. And it's important that the world recognize the seriousness of the problem and come together to deal with it. I would say one other thing. I think that what is taking place in North Korea is not only a problem for the world with respect to NK and the Korean peninsula, it's a problem because of proliferation. But it's even a bigger problem. It is, I think, will prove in a year or two or three to be the example, the leading example, that many of the non-proliferation efforts that the world community has engaged in -- and which have had a degree of success over a period of time, may be in need of review and attention.

A world with many more nuclear powers, a world with a continued proliferation of missile technologies is going to be a very different world from the one we've been living in. When you marry that with the terrorist states that have relationships with terrorist networks you have the potential for very serious circumstance for the world.

[Q: Sounds to me like you are resigned to a nuclear NK? Is that true?]

I am putting forth and repeating the President's policy with respect to NK. What he said was he felt the first things that should be done are to follow a diplomatic path and attempt to get the world community to focus on what is a very new and very difficult and very dangerous problem. Now, I don't think he has done anything other than that and I think that your statement is a conclusion that would not be accurate.

[Q: (inaudible) -- at what point have they crossed the line?]

Those are calls for the international community and the president. I don't know that they did say what you said. It may be that they said they were going to start up a plant but not necessarily start up reprocessing. I think the translation of things are important and reading the full text, and its not clear to me that what you said is necessarily correct.

[Q: Would that be where they cross the line?]

Rumsfeld: I've said where the lines are, other people draw lines, (inaudible) the same people make the same judgments, not me, not I.

[Q: What non-proliferation stuff changed?]

You've been around me for a long time and you've heard me talk about the problems. I rank the problems we're facing with the proliferation of these technologies, enormously lethal technologies, vastly more lethal than anything the world has known, to be a problem of the first order. If one looks at the acceleration of that proliferation and the pervasiveness of that proliferation since the end of cold war, one has to say, responsible states in the world community have to say, ' what does that mean for us, do we want to live in a world like that, and what is it we ought to be doing if in fact we think that world is a bit too dangerous for our best interests.'

One of the first thing one looks at is what is the fabric of the international understandings and agreements and treaties and provisions that we've been relying on. Why is it that not withstanding the fact that they worked for some period but they seem not to be working now, and that we might be on the cusp of an acceleration of the number of nuclear states --

[Q: (inaudible)]

I'm not advocating anything. What I am doing is acting as an interested observer of the world and opining that I think the world ought to take notice of this.

[Q: (inaudible)-- what is it we ought to be doing?

I think that people that are interested in these types of things are for the most part from states that are democratic and I think the beginning of right-minded behavior by democratic states is information and knowledge and facts. And I think it's the job of leadership to bring those facts before people and to begin to make them aware of exactly what it would be like living in a world like that. So that's a first necessary step. I think a second step is to try to see that interested nations are working off the same set of facts, they tend to come to roughly the same decisions if we are working off the same set of facts. To the extent we are not, it's not surprising that we go off in different directions. If I know anything I know that this is a problem that cannot be dealt with unless nations are pulling together, and working together. One nation, two nations, five nations, 10 nations seriously working on this problem won't do it.

It's going to take an enormous effort across the globe for countries to really focus on this and then cooperate and take steps together, Political steps, economic step and if necessary military steps to see the problem is addressed in a responsible and an orderly way. How's that?