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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 14, 2004

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov

Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov:  Good afternoon.  We've started our negotiations with  U.S. Secretary of Defense Mr. Rumsfeld.  They will go on all today.  I would like to note  as an intermediate point the growing intensity of our bilateral contacts between our defense departments in the recent times.  It's enough to say, that this year, just bilaterally, I emphasize this, not within the NATO-Russia framework, we've held more than 20 mutual events.  And not only on the high level, though this is our 15th meeting with Mr. Secretary over the past three years, but also on the level of the General Staffs, Joint Chiefs of Staffs within the armed services, our military people in the first place.

 

You know in the Norwegian Sea this coming September we are going to have joint combat practice, naval exercises. Preparation for this serious event is going on in full, we are planning to involve quite serious forces from the Northern Fleet, and I believe this training will go on at a good level.  The chief outcome of this exercise hopefully will be enhanced interoperability of the fleets of Russia and the U.S. Navy.  We've discussed in details and are going to discuss more the so-called Camp David checklist as assigned by the two Presidents of the two countries, that is, the short list of taskings for cooperation to be taken, steps forward in the military-military and technical and defense technology- related spheres.

 

We of course have discussed in details questions of bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- issues that have been getting more acute, and objectively dictate the necessity of our close cooperation.  One of the most promising topics here is cooperation in the field of joint control and restriction, interdiction of portable missile defense systems.  Of course, we've discussed various regional problems and conflicts. 

 

Besides that, I have in detail briefed Mr. Rumsfeld on the results of the recently held "Accident 2004" exercises, which related to nuclear facilities of Russia, means of securing their defense, during transportation of nuclear weapons, and battles against the consequences of potential accidents.  Mr. Rumsfeld in detail and openly briefed me on U.S. planning in terms of the reconfiguration of its military posture.  Thank you.

 

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld:  Thank you, Mr. Minister.  The Minister advised me earlier today that we've met some 15 times in the last three and half years, but in lots of different cities in his country, our country, as well as in various other locations around the world -- but never in a city more beautiful than this.  And we have had a wonderful opportunity to see it today; and I am old enough to remember this heroic city and the terrible loss of human life as it successfully resisted the Nazi blockade during World War II.  It's wonderful to be here and to be able to see some of the important historic sites.  As well as have the meetings that we've been having.

 

The relationship between our two countries when I was Secretary of Defense back in the 1970s, needless to say, was notably different.  When one thinks of the way the  relationship has evolved over the past 15 years, and is continuing to evolve, it's clear that it has increasingly developed into one of cooperativeness, greater openness and predictability.  And that's true for a variety of reasons: the world's changed in this new century, and as the Minister indicated, we have talked about a great many subjects of mutual interest already today, and will be this afternoon and tomorrow as well.  And what is clear is that the security interests of our two countries have over the period of time clearly converged in many important respects. 

 

Not least of which is the reality of the nexus between terrorism and the proliferation of increasingly more powerful weapons, weapons of mass destruction that have the capability of killing, not simply thousands, but tens of thousands of people.  So it's rather clear to me that our security cooperation promises to broaden and deepen over the coming years, and certainly that is the interest and goal of the United States.  Thank you.

 

Q1:  Question (Tom Shanker, New York Times):  Mr. Minister, we spoke in Colorado Springs, at the NATO Defense Ministers Summit.  You expressed serious concerns about the NATO expansion to the Baltics, you know, that NATO jet fighters would be three minutes from St. Petersburg.  Well, here we are now in beautiful St. Petersburg, the Baltics are members of NATO.  I'm curious whether this discussion came up today, whether your concerns have been relieved at all.  And Mr. Secretary, do you think this is a valid source of friction between our two countries? 

 

Ivanov:  Mr. Shanker, I'm ready to give you an honest answer to your question.  The problem is not only about aircraft, although one can't change the geography, and in theory, the aircraft have a flight time about two or three minutes to St. Petersburg from the Baltics.  I have been asked more than once what my attitude is towards NATO expansion eastwards, and I have more than once answered that my attitude is reserved and negative.  I think you will agree with me, that since the Baltic countries joined NATO, NATO's security has not increased as a result of this.  After all, these countries are consumers of security, rather than producers of security.  Of course, it is not our business to speculate about how effectively NATO country taxpayers use their resources.  Of course, the issue is not these four aircraft.  From the military point of view, these four aircraft do not represent any military threat to Russia.  In the military respect, there is only one problem. 

 

We do not have any kind of bilateral agreements with those states on limitations on dangerous military activities.  We do have these kind of agreements with the USA, China, Norway, and a number of other countries, but nothing with the Baltic countries.  We do not want any additional incidents.  But, the most important thing is, we do not understand what these four planes can actually intercept -- Al-Qaeda, Taliban, or something else? -- in this part of the world.  The only thing they can actually intercept is the mythical Soviet threat.  The problem lies elsewhere.  I have already said this, to be more precise, from our point of view, not everything is going well in the Baltic countries with the human rights, at least from the standpoint of general European and EU standards.  As far as the glorification and worshipping for the SS divisions, which used to be stationed out there and the erection of monuments to ss Waffen division, this is something, as we say in Russian, not in any normal paradigm.  Thank you.

 

Rumsfeld: You asked if I thought there was any reason that there ought to be any friction between the Baltic states, or the United States and NATO and Russia, and the answer is no, I don't.  The relationship between NATO and Russia is one that has been initiated, has been growing, and has been constructive.  Representatives from Russia meet with NATO Secretary-Generals, and with the Council from time to time, on a fairly regular basis.  There are various activities that have been engaged in.  With respect to this particular issue, it seems to me that this is relatively new issue.  And I quite agree that neighboring states need to have arrangements whereby they can engage in activities that they in their sovereign interests believe appropriate, but that avoid any kinds of unnecessary incidents, just as we have relationships with your country and other countries, to try to avoid unnecessary incidents between various types of military, whether it be land, sea or air. 

 

Q2:  [Itar-TASS]  The question is how does the U.S. plan to modernize the Greenland-based U.S. radar, how do those plans correlate with rather uneasy dialogue Russia and the U.S. have on ABM issues? 

 

Rumsfeld:  The U.S. has had a radar on Greenland for a some period.  We recently have come to an understanding with Denmark and Greenland with respect to some upgrades to that radar.  This has all been announced, it's very transparent, and it very likely will take a period of some years for that to occur.  It would be part of a capability that will evolve over the years to deal with the possible threat of a rogue nation ballistic missile attack against the U.S. or our friends or allies.  A radar of that type obviously doesn't threaten anybody. 

 

Ivanov:  It is more difficult for me to answer this question, though I can admit that we are also very much interested in the development of this kind of radar.  We can look at this from a broader perspective.   I think, that in the course of our developing cooperation, questions like these will start to naturally fall aside.  At least, I hope this will be the case.  Theoretically, Russia has never excluded cooperation with the U.S. in the area of ABMs.  But under one very important condition: such cooperation should fall under total governmental control.   This is a very sensitive area, and the governmental control should be ensured 100%.  By the way, Mr. Secretary and myself gave instructions to our experts to speed up the elaboration of agreements in the sphere of high-tech defense technologies.   We're not blaming our subordinates, they have accomplished notable work in recent times, but we would like it to move even faster.

 

Q3.  Question (Toby Zakaria, Reuters):  Mr. Secretary, given what you've said yesterday, that people who use violence to derail the democratic process in Iraq would be stopped, does the United States support this new round of negotiations with Sadr in Najaf?  And, what are you hoping they will accomplish?  And Mr. Minister, if I may, did Iraq come up in your discussions today with the Secretary?  And what is your view on the situation there?  Thank you.

 

Rumsfeld:  Iraq is a sovereign country; the Prime Minister and the government of that country is engaged in attempting to move towards elections next year.  Part of their task is to work with Coalition countries and attempt to see that there is order and a reasonably lawful environment where the government can proceed and elections can take place.  Clearly, the behavior of Sadr and his supporters in Najaf have been unlawful and harmful to peace and order in the community.  We have confident military Coalition officials working with the Iraqi government; I've been in meetings -- and I'm not following it from hour to hour -- but they certainly understand that it's important that they not allow independent militias to kill innocent men, women and children in that country.  How they go about that on any particular moment of the day is for them to decide.

 

Ivanov:  Well, the issue of Iraq has not so far been taken up in our work, but at the forthcoming talks -- which are going to continue into this day -- we are sure to take up this issue.  Our attitudes towards this whole issue of Iraq, well, our national leadership has more often than not voiced its attitudes there, too.  We're advocating a peaceful settlement of this whole situation, in particular under the aegis of the United Nations.  You may recall that Russia was the first country to launch the idea of convening an international conference on Iraq, with the involvement of all the belligerent parties of the neighboring states to Iraq; and I believe that the need for such a conference has only increased.

 

Q4:  Question for the Russian Defense Minister: What is your attitude towards the United States rendering assistance and aid, including military assistance, to Georgia -- a state with precisely which we have rather complicated, uneasy relations?

 

A:  Ivanov:  We discussed this subject. I have spoken about some apprehensions and certain worries of the Russian Federation on this -- I do not want to spell them out.  The situation in Georgia -- I underline, in Georgia -- is developing into a very dangerous scenario, a very dangerous spiral.  At the same time, it was also a relief to learn that last night there was no heavy crossfire.  You know our position well: we believe that as a first step, all unlawful armed formations in the zone of conflict must pull out.  As far as the often cited accusation by Georgia against Russian peacekeepers to the effect that they   are allegedly not objective, that they allegedly support just one part of this conflict, that's complete rubbish.  Even from the viewpoint of common logic: for the past ten years, the situation has been fine, no one blamed anyone, and then just in a matter of one hour for some reason a conflict has flared up, and the peacekeepers are somehow guilty -- that's like calling a healthy head sick.

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