Secretary Rumsfeld Roundtable with European Journalists
Rumsfeld: I’ve had a couple of bilateral meetings already, one with the German Minister of Defense and one with the Canadian Minister of Defense. I have a good many more scheduled, and we will have our informal meeting, the first meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, this afternoon starting about 1:30.
Q: Is he any good?
Rumsfeld: He seems to be. I’ve met him two or three times now. He was in Washington earlier and he was engaging. Has a lot of knowledge from his experience, and he seems very much in tune with the approach that Lord Robertson took. I thought Lord Robertson did a particularly good job and I feel good about the new Secretary General. He is going to serve the Alliance well.
Q: What is the most important point of your coming here and the most important point in NATO just now?
Rumsfeld: NATO has probably changed as much in the last twelve months as it has in any 10-year period that I can think of. It has undertaken a responsibility outside of Europe and outside of the treaty area -- in Afghanistan, which is a significant decision on the part of that Alliance. A good decision, a correct decision. It is performing well as head of the International Security Assistance Force. NATO is now in the process of taking a decision to expand its activities to include a number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the country, and talking about how it might over time, not this year but possibly over the following year, take on still greater responsibility in Afghanistan. That is a good thing for the Alliance.
It is a good thing for a lot of reasons. The threat inside the NATO treaty area has changed in the 21st century, and of course NATO doesn’t have to worry about the Soviet Union coming over the fence, and yet the world is not a stable, tidy place. It has problems, and NATO as a military alliance could play an important role in things like that. There are other things that it is doing -- the support for the Polish/Spanish division in Iraq, which is important. The fact that they are involved in creating a NATO Response Force, which is the first time that they had anything quite like this, suggest that they will (Inaudible.). The concepts of that quick Response Force will be backed in the militaries of the NATO countries in ways that will transform them and make them take the steps that will lead to a much more usable military rather than a static defense type military. And the 21st century is going to call for our militaries to be more agile and more rapidly deployable and interoperable. The Transformation Command that has been stood up in NATO is enormously important so that as we adjust our militaries to fit the 21st century, we do it together in ways that assure that we can operate in a joint and combined way.
The efforts that were put forward by Lord Robertson and which are being continued by the new Secretary General on the usability of forces is a part of this transformation. We have had a pattern over the decades of having our militaries, of whatever size, have a relatively small fraction that are actually deployable, that are usable, if you will, absent a total mobilization and World War III, which is not something that is likely. And therefore you need to be able to use a higher percentage of your forces. We have been working on that in the United States, and Lord Robertson has been working on it in NATO, and the changes that are taking place, it seems to me, all are helpful there.
Q: Do missions still determine coalitions?
Rumsfeld: I think they probably in history always have. The mission determines the coalition because various countries have different perspectives of histories and circumstances, and right now, however, if one asks oneself how is it going -- the 24 of the 26 NATO or prospective NATO countries have forces in either Afghanistan or Iraq. One of the two that doesn’t [have forces in those places], doesn’t have a military. So it’s very broad, I forget what the number is. I think there may be 17 of the 26 that are in both of the countries.
Q: Let me rephrase. Is NATO a toolbox for U.S. military operation plans?
Rumsfeld: I’m sorry, I don’t follow you.
Q: Would NATO be a toolbox if the U.S. chooses to engage in military operations?
Rumsfeld: I don’t know what that might mean. I just don’t understand.
Senior Defense Official: It is a derogatory [term] that is used -- that we just pick out of our toolbox what we think we need.
Senior Defense Official: It is a commonly used description that you might use the Alliance as a toolbox.
Q: When you see 10 people here in Munich or defense ministers of member countries, about Iraq, what do you need them to do?
Rumsfeld: Okay, let’s take Afghanistan because that…
Q: Afghanistan -- everybody was happy to go there or eager to go there to help you, which is not the case in Iraq.
Rumsfeld: With Afghanistan and Iraq, we went to NATO in each case and we came and said, "Here is a coalition of countries who are doing this. It would be helpful and important for NATO to decide how NATO wants to involve itself," and ask NATO to do that. And that’s what happened on Afghanistan. That's what happened on Iraq. Obviously these are our closest allies in the world -- the first place one would go in the event there is a problem in the world. Well, not always. We are concerned about Liberia and we did not go to NATO on that. We got the UN involved and ECOWAS involved. But in most things, one would go clearly first to NATO, and then NATO would make a judgment.
Q: (Inaudible.) to Europe and the NATO presence -- troops in Europe. In the last years I’ve heard some concepts about what will happen to NATO bases in Eastern Europe. Two days ago I have heard about a new thinking, a new reform that you are doing, I mean in Hungary for example -- you have NATO bases -- and I have heard some ideas about that in Poland and Romania and Bulgaria you will have, and not NATO, will have some bases. What is the concept to go toward East and the presence of the NATO in the Eastern part of Europe?
Rumsfeld: Let me talk about it broadly because that’s the phase we are in. The President has asked us to look at how our forces were arranged around the world and how they ought to be positioned for the 21st century. So for about two and a half years, we’ve been engaged in looking at that and talking to our friends and allies around the world and to Congress, which has to pay for any adjustments. We've gotten to the point where we have our combatant commands, the European Command, the Pacific Command, the Central Command, they have pretty well thought through their pieces of it and made recommendations back to us in Washington.
We have to look at the totality of that and the kinds of things we need to look at are, given the changes in transportation and communications: Do we need as many forces outside the United States? Or can some of the forces outside of the United States be brought back to the United States and be every bit as usable, and indeed in some instances more usable and more flexible, as to where they go? We are kind of moving from a static defense, which is leaving people where they were at the end of the Cold War, towards a more dynamic or active defense having the ability to use those forces for something other than where they may be positioned at any given moment.
The United States taxpayers obviously are not going to pay to have one military to protect one place and another military to protect another place, if there are no problems in those places. They have to have the ability to move their forces wherever there is a problem -- just as NATO does, which is the concept behind the quick Reaction Force.
A second thing is the usability of the forces. You have to have forces in places that will allow you to use them where you can actually move them to do what you need to do, and to the extent that some country or neighboring country says you cannot move across our country if you’re going to do A or B but only if you do C or D, that makes a problem. So you have to get them positioned.
Third, you have to have them in places where people want them. We don’t want our forces in places where people don’t want us. It is not enjoyable for the troops, it is not enjoyable for their families. We want those forces to be in places where that arte hospitable and where it is a good experience for them.
This is an important subject, and let me just work my way through where we are.
Anything we ultimately decide would then be worked through with the countries either where some forces are leaving or some forces might go in. We don’t plan many new bases, and we may have bases in places where people want us, where it is a warm base, where we can exercise or use it periodically, but we’re doing a lot of things that enable us to do more reach-back. That is to say, we can have, instead of deploying a hundred people today with the transportation and communications we have, we can deploy 60 people, and have the other 40 that need to do the work back in the United States on a reach-back basis. That may be intelligence. That may be personnel systems. That may be various types of logistics.
The other thing we are doing -- we are no longer looking at numbers of things only. We are looking at capabilities. So if you’re looking at pre-positioned stocks, for example, where do you want to pre-position them? And what do you want to be in there? If you have -- in the old days you used dumb bombs, and if today a smart bomb is worth eight dumb bombs, obviously you don’t need eight smart bombs to do what eight dumb bombs did. You need one. That’s also true of aircraft. It’s also true of tanks. It’s also true of people. So we are looking more at capability than we are numbers of things, and it is going to be a tough transition because an awful lot of people are hung up in their heads from the 20th century about thinking about numbers of things.
Now, what is going to happen next? At some point, we will develop conviction about what we think, and we then will talk in earnest with the countries involved, do site surveys, and the next step would be to go to Congress and look through what the cost is in terms of military construction and that type of thing. Then when decisions are made, we have to kind of delay because we have a base closing exercise going on in the United States called BRAC, and we cannot start bringing anyone back to there until the whole thing has been reviewed, which means all of 2005. And then once you start rolling these things out so that you don’t do things in a way that is disruptive in people's lives, you probably would roll it out over a period of two or three years, four years or even five years, depending on the costs thereafter. So it is the kind of thing that is going to run through the decade, one would think.
Q: Mr. Secretary, (Inaudible.).
Rumsfeld: Does anyone want to say thank you for that very, very comprehensive, thoughtful answer. (Laughter.) I mean that has the benefit of being exactly true. As it happens, it is not newsworthy, and for that I apologize. But the truth has a certain virtue here.
Q: I would like to ask you, what does it mean when you were talking about German bases, not only American bases. This is also a highly political question. (Inaudible.) whether the American army stays…(Inaudible.) talk about punishment for Schroeder’s (Inaudible.) failure to support in Iraq (Inaudible.).
Rumsfeld: Let me see if I can take some of those things. You heard my answer, so you know this has nothing to do with the past. It has only to do with the future. That’s a fact. What does it mean for Germany? It means that we have a lot of troops in Germany and we have lot of troops in Korea and we have a lot of troops in a lot of places. They will clearly be involved in this re-positioning of our forces. In what ways -- I had a nice meeting with Defense Minister Struck this morning and we talked some about this. The ways that it will work out are yet to unfold, but clearly the countries that have the most substantial numbers of forces are going to be affected. That’s obvious.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you recently made a highly visible visit to Georgia. Are you concerned by the fact that Russia isn’t fulfilling its commitment to withdraw its troops from Georgia -- that they seem to be supporting separatists there?
Q: What are the consequences of that for Russia?
Rumsfeld: Colin Powell was just there for the inauguration of the new president and I think he said it well -- that the world is interested in seeing that Georgia’s sovereignty is respected and that it has the opportunity to make judgments about its future and its direction. And that’s in our interest, and I think it is in the interest of all NATO countries. We are pleased that Georgia has been a participant in the Partnership for Peace and has oriented itself towards the West in a way that's constructive. Russia has a problem with terrorists. They have a common border, and we are concerned about that and that’s understandable. We are pleased with the orientation of the new government and hope that everyone will fulfill their commitments.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask how many American bases you will establish in Romania (Inaudible.)? We've heard that Pentagon planners already set a deadline for establishing bases (Inaudible.) Romania.
Rumsfeld: "I don’t know" to the first question. And the second question is "no." I don’t know of any deadlines.
Q: What are the consequences of the establishment of such bases for security (Inaudible.) or economy on Bulgaria (Inaudible.) situation and economy for (Inaudible.)?
Rumsfeld: I can’t say, because the decisions have not been made. These are things we are sorting through and talking to them about. But it would be wonderful if it were simple. It is complex. It is enormously complex what we are doing.
The changes we will be making will be the biggest changes in U.S. force structures in the world since the end of WWII, and they are significant. And they are going to reflect the new technologies that exist, they are going to reflect our interest in capabilities as opposed to numbers of things, and so they are complicated. It's just going to take some time to work it through and do it in a way that is responsible and makes sense for NATO and makes sense for the future. Everyone keeps writing stuff and saying that they have decided this and that. If you have got junior level people running around whispering in your ear that X,Y or Z has been decided, all I can tell you is it may have been decided by some combatant commander, or it may have been decided by some person down here, but it has not been decided by the President or me. Because we are the ones who have got the job to pull those threads through the needle. So I would listen and look askance at people who would give you high certainty.
Q: It would be interesting to hear something about how you see the legal basis of the NATO intervention in the future -- outside of the NATO countries? What is the international legal basis?
Rumsfeld: I am not a lawyer. The legal basis is in international law, and it is, clearly, before countries undertake the movement of NATO assets to some locations. In the case of Afghanistan, the legal basis is clear from a NATO standpoint. The transitional Afghan government invited NATO to come in and take over responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Q: (Inaudible.) the main discussion they did (Inaudible.).
Rumsfeld: It was not a transitional government when the United States decided to go in with the coalition and ask the Taliban and Al Qaeda to leave. That was under the normal right of self-defense, which is part of the UN charter.
Q: In your discussion with the German Defense Minister, did you talk about the chance of Germany helping out in Iraq?
Q: Was it your wish to discuss this thing?
Rumsfeld: Had it been my wish, I would have. What NATO’s role has been in Iraq is to support the Polish/Spanish multinational division that has some 17 countries in it now, and how that will evolve as we go forward, I don’t know. I suppose one could look at a pact where they could continue to be supportive of that multinational division. They could take it over at same point like they took over ISAF in Afghanistan. They could talk to the Brits about their sector and take over that, I suppose, at some point, NATO could. But that has not been discussed; it is down the road. NATO has their feet wet in Iraq in terms of supporting the multinational division, but no decisions have been taken beyond that. They consider, properly in my view, Afghanistan as their first priority at this point.
Q: Would you be able to back this new Afghanistan engagement if you had five additional PRTs, for example, that would need American help -- basically "first aid" if a conflict situation arose? Would your forces be able to provide that?
Rumsfeld: What we did was when the Brits decided to run ISAF at the outset in Afghanistan, we established a Memorandum of Understanding with them as to what we would do. My recollection of it is that we wrote it very carefully -- we provided intel, we provided some quick reaction capability as available, and then the Turks took it over, and we refashioned it to fit that. And the German/Dutch team took over, and we refashioned it to fit that. NATO took it over, and we refashioned it again to fit that. Obviously as NATO takes over the PRTs, we would refashion that Memorandum of Understanding to fit that new circumstance. And it needs to be tweaked and adjusted each time because the needs are different.
Q: Would it be helpful to melt ISAF and Enduring Freedom into one command?
Rumsfeld: It could, at some point. What could happen -- let’s say you end up with twelve to fifteen PRTs, and they are kind of fanning out from Kabul. And the U.S. is assisting NATO with a Memorandum of Understanding for the totality of that. A next step might be that NATO would say, "look, we'll take over the North and the West sectors in Afghanistan," and then you would have to get a new Memorandum of Understanding, and then at some point NATO could say, "we take over the more difficult areas of the East and the South," where the coalition forces are currently doing most of their activities looking for the Taliban and the al Qaeda. The last step could be, you could merge OEF into NATO and have NATO take over the whole country.
Q: The easiest part would be to put it all under EUCOM (Inaudible.) hats so you would have basically the same commander heading two operations. Or a NATO command that would be SACEUR, and you would have EUCOM basically in charge of Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: It could be done that way.
Q: How long will you stay in Iraq, and can you define what you’ve done there as a victory, although the WMD haven’t been found?
Rumsfeld: How do you define what has happened? Well, major military conflict ended in May, and since then, we’ve been in what most experts seem to want to call a low-intensity conflict, where there are terrorists and remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that are using a variety of terrorist-type activities and explosive devices and assassinations and the kinds of things at that low level that occur. And that has been running, you know, it was kind of low, it went up, and it tapered down, and then more recently, in connection with some of the religious holidays, it spiked back up some. It’s a dangerous place. The progress is enormous what’s taken place there. The schools are open. The hospitals are open. The clinics are open. They’re sending a wrestling team to the Olympics. They’ve sent Fulbright scholars out to countries. The Iraqi Governing Council has traveled around the world and met in Davos and in the UN doing things. There are a lot of tough issues left. They’re going to have to figure out how sovereignty gets transferred, and you’re going to see different people within ethnic groups and different ethnic groups having different opinions, and we’re seeing that. The UN is, fortunately, sending in some folks to take a look at the situation, and see how they might be helpful. Increasingly, refugees are coming back, voting with their feet, saying we’d rather be there than elsewhere. It is untidy. It's noisy. They have, you know, decades with no experience of political compromise and [they're] scarred by living in a vicious dictatorship and a command economic situation. So how do you get entrepreneurs doing things, and how do you get people developing political compromise and accepting the fact that the task of writing this basic law, to be followed by a constitution? It has to go through a lot of clanging and noise in the system, just like it did in our country and it has in some of the Eastern European countries who have gone through this more recently. It’s not an easy process; it’s an untidy process.
Q: Am I right in thinking that you deliberately want us to believe that you are not disappointed with the degree [to which] some NATO members did or did not help you in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I don’t know that -- first of all, any conclusion that I am being deliberately trying to lead you to believe something is wrong. I am answering questions exactly the way they’re being asked. My attitude about life is simple. I think countries ought to do what they want. I really do. It is up to them. Every country is different. They are sovereign and (Inaudible.)
Q: Is there nothing that binds you as a country in an international system? A legal framework or code of conduct?
Rumsfeld: I honestly believe that every country ought to do what it wants to do, and it has to live with the consequences. It either is proud of itself afterwards, or it is less proud of itself. Every country has a different history. They have a different perspective. They have a different political situation. They may be in a very fragile political circumstance at some moment. And we’re all human beings, and we all make our own decisions. And does it bother me? No. I get up in the morning and take the world as I find it.
I’m not trying to deliberately have you believe anything. It’s just a fact that, on any given day, if you ask a lot of different countries what their position is -- just like if you ask a lot of different people what their view is -- you’re going to have people across the spectrum, and why fight that? That’s reality.
You folks are sitting here in one meeting. You’re all going to go out and write something different. I don’t know why you do that, but you will. You will all go out and write something that fits where you grew up, or what you thought when you came into this meeting, and what your personal perspective is, or what you think your editors want, or what you think your readers want. And you’ll cherry-pick it. And I’ll bet you if we took the stories out of this meeting, they would be all over the lot. That’s the way countries are. That’s the way people are.
Q: So you can be satisfied with some stories of us, and you will be delighted (Inaudible.) --
Rumsfeld: I won’t even be able to read them! (Said with humor.)
Q: My country [Poland] supported you in Iraq --
Rumsfeld: Right. And we appreciate it.
Q: And there are others who didn’t.
Q: I’m trying to ask you whether you are somehow disappointed with those who didn’t?
Rumsfeld: You know what I do? I value the political courage and the personal courage of people who put their troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, and who are helping in the global war on terror. I value that a great deal. And if I were in Poland, and someone from Poland asked me what I thought about it, I would say, by golly, good for you. We agree with the way you think. And if I’m in a country where for whatever reason they weren’t able, or didn’t, or decided, I won’t do this -- they’re sovereign, that’s their choice.
Q: There was a reason you gave to people to go to Iraq. The main reason -- I remember last year I was sitting here, there were about 10 reasons floating around, but in the end we decided to have it be weapons of mass destruction. Now the investigations are out, there are some verdicts out. I want to ask you, whether you changed your view on that issue in the light of those recent inside developments.
Rumsfeld: I made a rather good statement.
Q: That’s all? (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: I say that humorously. I don’t want someone to go out and say I was serious (Inaudible.). I made an extensive statement, as opposed to a good statement, which I’d be happy to give you a copy of. I testified before the House and Senate yesterday -- the day before -- and discussed the subject. Director Tenet made some remarks yesterday and you’ll find David Kay’s testimony and my remarks and George Tenet’s remarks all very much of a kind, and they basically say that we have run a good distance with the Iraqi Survey Group and its work looking for stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. They have found a good many things about what was going on; they have not found large stockpiles of weapons, and they are going to proceed and continue their work.
The second thing that is happening, as you point out, is that the President is appointing -- I guess today -- a commission to look at intelligence and ask the question of what were we particularly good at -- and we have had some wonderful successes -- what might we not have been particularly good at, and how does that fit for the 21st century threats. George Tenet used the word "provisional." He came to provisional conclusions about the quality of the intelligence with respect to about six or eight things, which I thought, if you read his paper, that he did a good job.
Q: How long do you expect that an international presence will be necessary in Afghanistan and in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: You always just hope and pray that it won't be long. It is such an unnatural thing. And you also hope and pray that you have the patience and the good judgment to have it be long enough -- so you don’t do all of that and then have it fail. It is like when you teach your youngster how to ride a bike, and you put your hand on the back of the seat and you run down the street, and you know if you let go they might fall, but if you don’t let go you have a four-year-old that can’t ride a bike. You do not want to create a dependency by keeping foreign forces in there forever. You have to keep doing that. We are close in Bosnia. We are there a lot longer than anybody anticipated, but it could be considered a success at the end of this year.
Afghanistan is making good progress. And they have had this (Inaudible.) Loya Jirga and elections this summer, the good Lord willing. And the army is being developed. We would like to see the police forces and border control get developed more rapidly than currently is the case, but they are coming along, and they are getting good marks. Their army is getting good marks and doing patrols with ours.
In Iraq, we created some 600, correction, 200,000 Iraqi security forces since May. Enormous numbers and uneven quality, to be sure, and uneven levels of training and uneven equipping, but nonetheless, 200,000 is not enough. They are the largest security forces in the country now. We are down to 110,000 and the coalition is maybe about 20,000.
Q: What is the most important experience in the war against terrorism? You are going inside this war. Are you seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or is this a long, long, very complicated process? Especially from the military point of view.
Rumsfeld: I am afraid that I can give one military answer, but it would be incomplete, because it is not a military problem. It is a problem that has got to engage all aspects of our society and our governments. It is an intelligence problem; it is a financial problem; it is a battle of ideas and it is a problem of dealing with ungoverned areas. It is a problem of countries providing haven. The global war on terror, I regret to say, is going to be long and difficult.
Q: Do you have a rationale to the (Inaudible.)?
Rumsfeld: The intake in creating terrorists continues. That is to say these radical views -- narrow radical views that it is a good idea to go out to kill innocent men, women and children. It is narrow, but it is real. And it is funded, and it's financed and it is functional. And people are being trained to do that. And they have access to very high-level technology and potentially they are going to have access to weapons of mass destruction. And the threat that they pose, while not large in numbers, the threat they pose is substantial and serious, and it is the militaries of the world that are arranged to go out and fight armies, navies and air forces. They are not arranged to go out and find individuals, they are not arranged to help to reduce the flow of young people into these madrassas [schools] that are teaching them to conduct terrorist attacks. The sophistication that it takes to share intelligence worldwide -- we now have 90 countries in the global war on terrorism, the biggest coalition in the history of mankind. And they're sharing intelligence, and we’re doing what I’m going to guess is probably an imperfect job of stopping the funding (Inaudible.).
Q: How do you see the European (Inaudible.) structure (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: How do I feel about it?
Q: Yes. About this after this couple of months (Inaudible.) the Europeans are establishing (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: Are you thinking it’s clear that they are?
Q: I had (Inaudible.)
Remark from another journalist: They want to take over Bosnia soon, you better take them seriously. (Said with humor.)
Rumsfeld: Well, they are not going to take over Bosnia. The Bosnia activity will end, and NATO will have a success, and the Bosnian people will have a success, and it is not a situation where the EU comes in and takes over and does what NATO is doing. The EU is going to come in and take over a distinctly different function, because it’s a totally different period in the light of Bosnia, one would hope.
We were talking before we came in and there was a, if you think about it, there was a big debate in -- the debates occur sometimes across the Atlantic and a lot of times within Europe, and we just wrote down a few of them. There was the question over German rearmament back in the fifties -- a big debate. There was the Suez crisis, where the U.S. decided to do something other than France and the UK -- I was a young Navy pilot at the time. There was the Skybolt Affair when I worked in Washington (Inaudible.) a Congressman under the Kennedy administration and that was a big issue. Then there was the Vietnam War, and my goodness gracious, there were all kinds of issues between Europe and the United States in there. Then there was, when I was Ambassador to NATO, there was -- Michel Jobert was foreign minister in France and Kissinger was the Secretary of State, there was a clash that was going on there. Then there was the neutron bomb -- the Carter administration and that issue, where [he] said you ought to have a neutron bomb, and then Helmut Schmidt stepped up and said, gee, that’s a good idea, and then Jimmy Carter said, gee, I think maybe I've changed my mind, and everyone was unhappy. Then there was the -- what was it -- the Pershing 2 issue, and that was a big issue in Europe, and then there was the oil gas pipeline and that was a big flap, and then you had the Bosnia issue in the Clinton administration, Kosovo issue in the Clinton administration, and then Iraq in the Bush administration.
And to a certain extent, every time there is a change in the security situation, something burbles up as a problem either within Europe or between Europe and North America, and then it recedes and comes down, and that’s what’s been going on my entire adult lifetime.
If it were perfectly placid the entire time, one of two things would be happening -- both of which would be surprising. One surprising and one unfortunate. One would be that the world wasn’t changing. Now, we know that’s not true. The world is changing, and so as these changes occur, institutions have to adjust to them and what you -- all this noise you see in the system is just that. You see institutions that get all arranged to deal with one set of problems suddenly are faced to deal with a new set of problems and you hear the creaking and the groaning as they rise up and begin to try to deal with it.
The other thing that could be the case if you don’t hear any noise in the system would be its stagnation -- an institution that’s dying. It just doesn’t care -- because the world is changing. And if you don’t hear any noise in the system, it’s because that institution doesn’t get it and isn’t seeing the changes, and therefore you don’t hear the creaking and the groaning.
Q: So, you’re saying in the end America and Europe always kiss and make up?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn’t use that phrase. I think what you’re seeing is what I said, and I’m saying what I said I said, which is better than what you said. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the Powell issue, the credibility question broadly has never been that much out front as it has during the Iraq crisis. Your colleague from the State Department (Inaudible.) the appropriate people there met with (Inaudible.) who measure U.S. credibility have come to conclusions that it’s never been that low for a long time. Does that worry you at one point? How do you want to heal that gap which is obviously opened over the Iraq crisis (Inaudible.) of September 11th?
Rumsfeld: I’ve heard that phrase that you’ve cited and heard about polls three or four times, exactly like that in my long life, and I think that I would go back to what I said. I think that life is going to go on. People are going to sort through, and we’re going to know more as we go along, and I’ve seen these things go up and down and ebb and flow over time. And the reality is, if responsible people look down from Mars on Earth, they are going to find that the countries of western Europe and eastern Europe and North America are the countries on the face of the earth that have essentially the same values and essentially the same orientation and essentially the same kinds of economic interests for people to have opportunities and to have political freedom and to not impose their will on others.
Q: So why did you say at one moment this famous phrase about old and new Europe? Do you regret it now?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I’m too old to have regrets. (Laughter.) No, I don’t regret it. I’ll tell you how it happened, it happened very simply. I was at the Foreign Press Club. They were saying to me, "Europe is against you! Europe is this, Europe is that!” And my Lord, it was France and Germany, it wasn’t Europe. It was France and Germany, was all. So I stood up there and started thinking, my goodness, these people are confused. They think that because one country in Europe is saying something, that that’s Europe, and that therefore Europe thinks this or Europe thinks that. (Inaudible.) we saw the letter from the seven, the letter from the ten --
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-- and we have a bunch of people running around saying, why don’t you internationalize it? We’ve got a 90-nation global war on terror coalition and so -- when I was in NATO, Ambassador to NATO, we had 15 countries, and we had just had meetings when I made this now famous comment, about all the new invitees. We had 19 with another six coming in. And I was thinking, that’s "old" NATO, and the new NATO which -- the seven and the ten and all the countries that were writing these letters supporting us -- and I used -- instead of saying old NATO and new NATO, which is the center of gravity that shifted within NATO -- and instead of saying old NATO and new NATO, I said old Europe and new Europe -- and I ended up becoming a folk hero for all the wrong reasons.
I mean, life goes on. But NATO is a different institution with all those new members and quite honestly, Europe will be a different institution with all of those new members, and that is different. Maybe you don’t want to call it new, but it’s different. We should have said "undifferent" and "different." (Laughter) Undifferent Europe and different Europe.
(Said with humor.) All of that was off the record!! (Laughter.) I don’t want to hear any more of that! All of that was off the record! (Said with humor.)
Q: How does the United States see the presence of (Inaudible.) Romania. Is (Inaudible.) presence a problem or no?
Rumsfeld: I didn’t understand.
Q: (Inaudible.) former Securitate still are in the intelligence service in Romania.
Rumsfeld: I’m told that the Department of State has looked into that and they have (Looks toward Ambassador Burns).
(Ambassador Burns: They have determined there are some people who made a transition from the old system to the new system in Romania, but the Romanian government has met all the qualifications that NATO asked in protecting our classified information.)
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think the President made the correct decision. Yes, I do.
Q: Did you expect that it would change after Saddam was captured, (Inaudible.) that Libya agreed to close its nuclear program? (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: Clearly, Saddam Hussein was given every chance in the world to open up and instead, through 17 UN resolutions, he (Inaudible.). He refused to open up his country. He was given a final opportunity in the 17th resolution. Then the coalition said, you have a final, final opportunity to leave the country, and he chose unwisely. Obviously Libya is choosing wisely. Libya is opening up and giving the free world the opportunity to do what they did in South Africa and the Ukraine and Kazakhstan. This is not a new concept, and it was Saddam Hussein’s decision to file what everyone knew was a fraudulent declaration and which David Kay’s research has proven to have been a fraudulent declaration.
Q: North Korea (Inaudible.)?
Rumsfeld: Well, we’re on track there. The track is a diplomatic track, trying to get China and Russia, as well as South Korea and Japan and the United States to work on seeing that that regime would orient itself in a way that could be considered appropriate in a civilized world. They’re engaged in counterfeiting, they’re engaged in illegal drug trafficking, they’re listed as a terrorist state. They have made a series of announcements as to their nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. They’re engaged in ballistic missile technology trading around the world, as we’ve been reading in recent weeks. It’s a country that is starving its own people. There are concentration camps. It is a country where they have lowered the height requirement to go into the military to 4 feet 10 inches -- as they are not feeding their people enough food -- and under 100 pounds. It’s a tragic situation. The food that the world gives -- the United States is the biggest donor of food by an enormous margin in the world, and North Korea is probably the largest recipient of that food -- and it rarely gets to the right people. It is a very sad situation.
Rumsfeld: I never said imminent threat, and I don’t know anyone who did say imminent threat, but there are a lot of people running around saying that word, but it was not used by the people in the Administration except, I’m told, by one assistant press officer who used it. The President of the United States used the phrase a gathering threat. But it has become folklore.
Q: Did you change your mind about (Inaudible.) Iraq and Saddam (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: I will get you a copy of my remarks. I don’t want to start ad-libbing on this. My remarks are very much in tune with what Director Tenet said, and you can get a transcript of his remarks, and they’re very much in line with what David Kay said, and if everyone starts ad-libbing off of those remarks, it strikes me that it just gives people -- mischief-makers (Said with humor.) -- the opportunity to do their thing. How’s that, Charlie? No comment? Charlie’s with the traveling press.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions.
Q: I think this question must be asked. We are all here from countries, which were all former satellites of the Soviet Union.
Rumsfeld: What country are you from?
Q: Well, from West Germany, so (Inaudible.). (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: I thought so. I just want to get the record straight here.
Q: The great majority [of us] was deliberately chosen from this, say, "New Europe."
Rumsfeld: Was it deliberately? Who did it?
Q: Either satellites -- or even parts of the former Soviet Union. It is therefore very important for us to know how you assess your relations with today’s Russia? And how do you see the future of those relations?
Rumsfeld: That is a very good question. It is a question that should be addressed to the Department of State or the President of the United States. I can say that Secretary Powell was just in Russia. He made some public comments about things that he believed were going well and some things that he had questions about, as I recall. Did he not? And I thought he said it well. I meet with the defense minister. We talk about military-military relations, and the President meets with President Putin. It’s a big country, it’s an important country and it’s a country that we have multifaceted relationships with -- economic, political and military -- and not surprisingly, there are things we agree on and things that over time we probably don’t agree on, as Secretary Powell indicated.
Q: You mentioned (Inaudible.) are relations (Inaudible.) United States and Germany (Inaudible.) friends (Inaudible.) stabilizing, getting better after the Iraq war and the second question, what do you think about rising anti-Americanism in Europe?
Rumsfeld: Present company excepted. The Ambassador, driving in last night, told me that there is some analytical work that’s been done that suggests that, for example, just by way of illustration, one western European country -- its press -- is noted for -- television -- is noted for its bias. Its continuous bias, its repeated bias, its bias that, on a scale, ranks it more biased than even Al Jazeera on coverage of Iraq.
So what do I think about it? I think I think this. Number one, I don’t read the European press in the languages that they are printed in, obviously. I read translations and excerpts, so I would not characterize myself as an expert on what the European press generally does. But if the Ambassador’s information is correct, and I find him to be a highly reliable individual, it should come as no surprise to anybody that if they’re constantly bombarded with inaccuracies that, over time, they begin to believe the inaccuracies. And the other thing that’s also true is that over time truth comes out, and if some media or element of communications, is consistently inaccurate and biased, over time people begin to get that and they turn it off, and that’s a good thing. People aren’t stupid, people have a good center of gravity and eventually they’ll sift out the truth from the non-truth.
We are being hurt by Al Jazeera in the Arab world, there is no question about it, and the quality of the journalism is so outrageous, inexcusably biased, and there is nothing you can do about it, except try to counteract it. And it is happening in that part of the world, and it’s a steady drumbeat, and it’s hurting. It’s causing more people to be against what we’re doing, what the coalition is doing. In fact, you could say it causes loss of life. It’s causing Iraqi people to be killed.
Q: Have you thought you might have done something wrong on your side, you think?
Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness gracious, that question is so, so unsurprising. We do this all the time. We spend an enormous amount of time looking at lessons learned and what’s been done right, and what's not been done right, and we’re so busy self examining to see what we’ve done and what we could do better, that it takes an enormous amount of time. And obviously, no one wants to get up in the morning and do something that’s unwise or unhelpful, unless you’ve got that bias and you decide that’s what you want to do for a living, and clearly that’s what Al Jazeera is doing. There is just no question about it.