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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Press Conference in Brussels

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
September 27, 2001

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

(Press conference at Luns Press Theatre, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium)

Thank you. We've just completed two very valuable sessions of the informal defense ministers meeting. I'm here representing Secretary Rumsfeld, who would otherwise have been here, but for obvious reasons, has had to stay in Washington. I also had bilaterals with the Turkish defense minister, the British defense minister, and the French defense minister. Later on this evening, I'll be meeting with the Russian defense minister and the Italian defense minister. Let me just summarize what I think are some of the main points that have emerged in our discussions today, and then I'll be glad to take a few questions.

First, it's obvious from this morning's discussions that NATO is unified in solidarity with the U.S. in the war against global terrorism. We are very appreciative of the way our NATO allies have stepped up and supported us, and particularly that they have invoked Article Five for the first time in NATO's history, and we are all together on what needs to be done.

Secondly, on what needs to be done, I think we all agree that what is needed is a global campaign. One that is multinational, one that is multifaceted -- not just military -- but includes all the available instruments to achieve results, including economic instruments, diplomatic instruments, law enforcement, intelligence, and as appropriate, the military. But it has to be a sustained effort, and one that will be made up of many and different coalitions for different purposes in different parts of the world. Not as we had ten years ago, a single grand coalition for a very focused objective.

Third, I think we all agree now that counter-terrorism has to be a major alliance priority. This is recognized as a newly important mission. It's one we've been arguing for for a long time. And I'd say, too, we believe the events of two weeks ago demonstrate very clearly that if it's a mater of spending money -- we were debating ten billion dollar differences in our defense budget -- if it's a matter of spending money to forestall the horrible surprises that we saw two weeks ago, that when we think about affordability, we should think about the thousands of people who died. We should think about the hundreds of billions, even trillions, of dollars of economic losses that we've suffered already. It doesn't mean that you can solve all these problems by throwing money at them, but we shouldn't say that we can't afford to do what we need to do.

Fourth, very importantly, there was broad and emphatic agreement that this is not, and must not be allowed to be perceived as, a campaign against Islam. That some of the terrorists are Muslim extremists, who claim to be acting in the name of religion, does not mean that is what the religion teaches. And it is not what hundreds of millions of Muslims believe. We have millions of Muslim citizens in the United States. That's true of many of our Allies in Europe. There were hundreds of Muslims of various countries killed in the World Trade Center.

And I think it's important to emphasize that five times in the last ten years, the United States military has engaged with our NATO allies in defense of Muslims who were victims of aggression, or who were victims of war-induced famine. Starting with the defense of Kuwait in 1990-1991, the operation in Somalia, the operation in Northern Iraq called "Provide Comfort," and then, of course, the two operations conducted under NATO mandate in Bosnia and in Kosovo. I think our record is very clear: that we welcome Muslims into the modern world; that one of our most valuable allies, Turkey, is a Muslim majority country, that in important ways can be a model for what hundreds of millions of Muslims aspire to. And we should be very clear and careful that this is not a war against a religion.

And finally, a personal observation. I remember going, ten years ago, to the first post-Cold War NATO summit, in London. And I remember, this was when I worked for then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, thinking at the time -- and many of us thought at the time -- maybe NATO won't survive. Maybe those Americans who say that there aren't any threats any more now that the Soviet Union has gone away, maybe they're right. Maybe those Europeans who say, "We don't need the United States, we can take care of ourselves," maybe they're right. Ten years later, we find NATO is the indispensable instrument in dealing with a crisis in the Balkans in Macedonia, and we find -- to everyone's astonishment -- that Article Five of the NATO Treaty has been invoked for the first time in NATO history because of an attack on the United States. I think it is extraordinary and impressive, but actually not surprising, that this alliance of many of the world's greatest democracies, built on common interests and common values, remains applicable in vastly different circumstances. And we are deeply grateful to be a member of the NATO alliance, and deeply grateful for the support we're receiving from our Allies.

With that, I'll be happy to try to take some questions. Yes, sir.

Q: The secretary general said that you didn't ask anything specific of NATO at this time. Why not, and will you be asking specific things, and when?

A: Well, we got something very important when NATO invoked Article Five, and this gives us a very powerful basis for a variety of individual requests we're making of individual countries. Many of those are the kinds of requests that take place in intelligence channels or military channels and we're not going to discuss them publicly. But what we got from this meeting was very important -- reaffirmation, not just of the commitment to common defense, but the commitment to a common strategy. A strategy, as I said, is not based on some single spectacular action or spectacular series of actions but has to be a very broad campaign over a very long period of time. And in this campaign I think it's worth emphasizing that one of the most important things is to acquire more information about an enemy, one of whose principal means of operation is to hide and conceal. And that is one of the reasons why it not so simple to lay out a very specific campaign plan and lots of specific actions, and why many of the most important things that we're doing are being done in intelligence channels. But, we are getting great support from our Allies, and I would say the meeting today was a very successful one.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what did you stress upon the allies that they needed to do? Was it to spend more money or implement DCI further? Second of all, did you inform them that the U.S. might not participate as heavily in the Balkans in the future because of this war on terrorism?

A: I'd say, first of all, we weren't here urging the allies to do lots of things because they've stepped up to the plate rather voluntarily. I do think that -- and I made the point just now to you and I made it in our meeting -- we all need to look at the issue of how we invest in defense and look at issues of affordability in a different light. We need to put counter-terrorism at the top of national security priorities. I'm sorry, the second part of your question?

Q: About the need for troops in the Balkans . . .

A: Oh yes, right. It's a fact of life that when we start to deploy forces around the world as we're doing today, we begin to strain some of those things that they call in the Pentagon "low-density, high-demand assets." That is to say the things that everybody asks for when there is a crisis. It starts with reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, specialized units that do intelligence or medical support or civil affairs. Many of those are the same units that are important in our role in the Balkans, and indeed some of those are the kind of units we're providing in support of Operation Essential Harvest. And those are going to be in higher demand and the density isn't going to increase rapidly. So we told the allies that we need to plan on the possibility that some of those are going to be less available.

But I think the important point to keep in mind is what the president has said, and various cabinet officials have said, over and over again. We came into the Balkans with NATO; we will leave with NATO. We believe that what has been achieved in the Balkans is a great success that demonstrates the invaluable role that this alliance has played and I think the new role it has played in hopefully bringing about a peaceful settlement in Macedonia is just one more affirmation of that. So we want to see NATO succeed. I think that's the most important point.

Q: If you could specify a bit, Lord Robertson just predicted that the U.S. is going to ask for collective NATO action. When are you actually going to do that?

A: We think we had a collective affirmation of support with what they said with Article Five, and if we need collective action we'll ask for it. We don't anticipate that at the moment.

Q: Sir, two weeks into the crisis, is the United States incapable of telling its allies precisely what the findings are in regard to evidence related to Osama bin Laden or other terrorists that you might think were behind the attack? And have you considered, sir, how that inability or the lack of that information may influence the ability of the allies to hold popular support together in aiding the United States, when it may appear that the evidence isn't there?

A: I think the evidence is there for the whole world to see. I think many of the people in this room watched it live on television, watched the two towers of the World Trade Center coming down. If you want evidence I'll be happy to -- oh, I can't, I guess. The FBI controls it. You can come and look at the Pentagon, as well, and think about how small that is in comparison to what happened at the World Trade Center.

There's no question what happened. There's no question the al Qaeda organization has been convicted in courts of law for acts of terrorism including the bombing of our embassies in East Africa. They've been implicated in the millennium bombings that were headed off at the Canadian border a year and a half ago. They're implicated in the Cole disaster. It is absolutely clear that terrorism against Americans, specifically against Americans, is at the top of their agenda, that their leader has publicly called for killing Americans and there is no question that some of the people involved in the horrible events of September 11th are connected to al Qaeda. There's no question about any of that.

It's also important to emphasize that there are things we don't know about the events of September 11th and things that we don't know about al Qaeda. The essence of this organization, as I've said before, is to hide. A big part of our challenge is to find out that information, not so that we can make our case -- our case is clear -- it is so that we can find these people and so that we can hunt them down. As we do that, it is important to keep in mind -- in part because there is so much that we don't know -- that this has to be a broad effort. As the president has said over and over again, it's not about one man or one organization. It's about a network of terrorist organizations. It's about the support and sanctuary and harboring they receive from some states. And while we are going to try to find every snake in the swamp that we can, the essence of the strategy is to try to drain the swamp.

Q: Could you elaborate a bit on the concept you outlined today of shifting flexible coalitions? What types of coalitions are you envisioning, and have you worked out countries might participate in those coalitions?

A: I'm happy to state the general principle, which is that this is a worldwide problem. It's not focused in one country. It's not a single organization. It's multiple organizations. There are some countries that will be very active with us, we think, in going after problems that affect them more directly, and perhaps less willing to help us with problems that are more remote. We'll take that help. There'll be some countries that will be willing to help us privately and secretly and not willing to acknowledge it publicly. We'll take that help. There will be some countries that will be willing to join with other countries openly and some that will say "Not on your life if we have to be identified with someone else." So to be effective, we have to be flexible. We have to be adaptable. We need cooperation from many countries but we need to take it in appropriately flexible ways.

Q: You said "some states" in the plural. Can you give us an idea whether Iraq is in the frame too, or are we just talking about Afghanistan or other states as well? And also, is there a lot more work that needs to be done before any kind of real military action can happen?

A: Let me take the second part first. I think it can't be stressed enough that everyone that's waiting for a military action, because they think that's the definition of a campaign, needs to rethink this and understand. I keep saying, we keep saying, a broad campaign. We've taken actions already, including an action the president announced on Monday, of going after freezing financial assets and getting other countries to freeze financial assets. We've been taking action since September 12th in running down these networks in the United States and overseas. And yes, we contemplate that our military will be called on to take action as well. But since generating information about targets is a crucial part of it, we don't believe in just demonstrating that our military is capable of bombing things. The whole world knows that. What we want to do is be effective.

Q: And concerning the first part of my question?

A: The president's been clear about this. All of us have been clear about this. There is a list, and the State Department can give it to you, of states that are on the list for supporting terrorism. I think the basic point is that the penalties for that kind of behavior in the past were serious, but they were modest in light of what happened on September 11th. Things that were viewed as bad, but in some way tolerable, I think have ceased to be tolerable. And we have to take a whole new approach to that. But fortunately, I think there are also signs that some of those countries are viewing their own actions in a different light now that they see what they lead to, and what kinds of consequences it might draw them into. So we're hoping that September 11th was a wake-up call for some of the bad guys as well.

Thank you very much.

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