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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Press Conference with Romanian Defense Minister Pascu

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 19, 2003

Pascu: Good day. Thank you for your presence here. I want to tell you that Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense has been visiting Romania since yesterday afternoon. We had a meeting with the President, with Mr. (Foreign Minister) Geoana, and also with Mr. Talpes, the Advisor, yesterday evening. Early today, we had the office call at the Ministry of National Defense, followed by an office call with the Prime Minister. We then had a roundtable with a number of experts belonging to different political areas, talking about the Romanian experience after the Revolution, in its transition from a totalitarian state to a democratic state, from a totalitarian economy to a market economy. Generally speaking, the topics that we have tackled are about our bilateral relationship in the military field. We also have reviewed the status and the level of this bilateral military relationship. And both parties consider them to be very good. So we are in a very important and difficult stage now. We are in a ratification, and in the progress of the ratification process of our country, and we do hope that in the spring of the next year, we are going to join NATO. We have also talked about the Romanian participation in the Iraqi stabilization force, and also the participation in other missions and operations, such as in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. I would like to tell you that roughly and very generally speaking, of course Mr. Wolfowitz will tell you his own opinion about that, but we personally are very satisfied with the outcome of this short, yet very dense and intense meeting that we had.

Wolfowitz: Thank you very much Mr. Minister. I came here to thank the Government of Romania for the outstanding cooperation that we've had in the defense field over the last few years, and particularly since the terrible events of September 11, 2001. Romania's made important contributions to fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan. Romanian troops have performed with great professionalism and bravery and been involved in combat operations, and indeed it's Romanian troops that have captured the largest single cache of arms that we've captured in Afghanistan. We also appreciate very much the support that Romania has given to the operation to liberate the Iraqi people. That support has been both political and material and it's been very valuable. Having won the war in Iraq, we now have the much bigger challenge of winning the peace, and we look forward to Romanian support and participation in that struggle as well. This visit was also an opportunity to review the further progress in Romania's defense reforms, which have been outstanding under the leadership of Minister Pascu. The seriousness of Romania's defense reform has been one of the key factors in Romania being invited to membership in NATO, and I'm pleased to be here shortly after the U.S. Senate has ratified the protocols to the NATO treaty that would make Romania and six other countries of central Europe members of that great alliance. I also took advantage of the opportunity of being here to learn more, firsthand, about Romania's experience in the transition from totalitarianism to democracy. That's a subject that is obviously very much on our minds as we seek to win the peace in Iraq, and to help that country transform from what is one of the worst totalitarian regimes of recent decades, to what can hopefully be one of the first democracies in the Arab world. I must say, I think I'm more impressed by the differences between Romania and Iraq than the similarities. But I do think that Romania's example in overcoming the evils of totalitarianism and the progress that Romania has made is an inspiring example for the Iraqi people today. In saying that, I don't mean to suggest that that passage, that that transformation is complete. There are big challenges in front of Romania and we had a frank discussion of many of those subjects with the most senior officials of the Romanian Government. But as President Bush indicated when he was here last November, we see Romania playing a key role in the future of democracy and stability in central and eastern Europe. Romania's progress obviously is the responsibility of Romanians. But my country has a great stake in Romania's success, and we will do what we can to support you. Finally, let me just say, on a personal note, our sympathies to Colonel Epaure, who was the Romanian liaison to Central Command in Tampa, and, who as I think some people know, suffered a severe heart attack. We're pleased to have been able to cooperate with Minister Pascu in providing the best possible medical care to him, and appreciate the assistance from the Romanian Government, and happy to say, that at least as of today, he looks to be on the way to a good recovery.

We'd be happy to take your questions. I think I'll let the Minister answer the hard ones.

Radu Dobritoiu, Radio Romania Broadcasting Corporation: Sir, for both ministers, how do you see the future of relations between Romania and the United States? The military relations.

Wolfowitz: I think it is progressing in a very healthy way. I think there are obvious advantages that accrue to Romania from being a member of an alliance with the United States. But there are also great advantages that accrue to us from having a country that is willing to step up to its responsibilities the way Romania has done, and a country that brings real professionalism to the military task. I believe you spent some time in Afghanistan, so I hope you got a chance to see firsthand the great performance of Romanian soldiers there. We're very much looking forward to Romania's contribution to the stability forces in Iraq. And I think also that the kinds of civil military issues that we encounter in Iraq, are probably issues on which Romanian soldiers will bring a special perspective that will be very valuable, in addition to just helping us with the military requirement.

Pascu: I can only say good words about the level and the status of the bilateral military relationship between Romania and the U.S. That would mean that our membership in the alliance would be a very important thing to us, meaning that we can strengthen our security. Meaning that we can focus our attention and also our efforts to the development and to the modernization of our country. I would like to emphasize and to remark on the open support that we have acquired, that we have got at all levels, and anytime we need it, from our American partner, and particularly speaking in the Afghanistan operation. And I would like to emphasize also that the modernization process of the Romanian armed forces to the NATO standards, is part of the modernization of the overall modernization process that our country is experiencing.

Marina (last name unintelligible) from Adevarul (daily newspaper). I have two questions for Mr. Wolfowitz if that's possible. The first one refers to the remark that the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made on the "new Europe." What is the U.S. strategy for this "new Europe." And the second one is, you are quoted in Kosovo as saying that we are looking for more flexible options than the traditional military bases for the deployment of our troops. What are the more flexible options that you envisage?

Wolfowitz: I don't think I want to try to interpret my boss' remarks. I think what is important, and it's I think what he really meant to refer to, is that the new members of NATO bring a certain fresh spirit to the organization. And I think it's a spirit that comes from the unfortunate experience of only recently having lived under totalitarianism. And therefore, in understanding that the gains that have been made are not completely secure, and that one has to work hard to stabilize them. And I think also a greater appreciation of the value of extending democracy and freedom to other people who suffer under totalitarianism as the Iraqi people have done for so long. On the question of how we arrange and deploy our forces in the future, the experiences of the last couple of years, starting with the war in Afghanistan, have brought home very forcefully that we live in a world where threats can come from completely unpredictable directions, and that we need to be able to respond flexibly and quickly when those kinds of threats emerge. But at the same time, the kinds of threats that we faced in the Cold War, particularly in central Europe, that required large fixed military installations, have largely disappeared--hopefully for a long time to come. I guess I should say with the important exception of the Korean peninsula, where we continue to have that traditional problem. So in the context of this new world and new threats and new requirements on our forces, we're taking a very fundamental look at how we base and deploy our forces. The fact that Romanian facilities were so useful during both "Iraqi Freedom" and "Enduring Freedom," and the fact that we've gotten such great support from the Romanian Government, are clearly factors in our thinking. But I'd like to emphasize since there's so much speculation, that there haven't yet been any decisions made. And before we make any decisions, we would be consulting closely with our affected allies, including Romania.

I'm George Mihata from B1TV: Dr. Wolfowitz, you were among the people, who for many years, predicted the eruption of terrorism. And at the same time you stood for tough retaliation, tough measures of retaliation. Which are the possibilities now after the Iraqi war to stop this phenomenon, or long term, having in mind the fact that, for example, Al Qaeda struck again only a few days before. Thank you.

Wolfowitz: The war against terrorism is going to be a long struggle. But I think the lesson from September 11, is that we can't simply wait until terrorists strike us and then retaliate. We need to search them out and find them before they have a chance to act. And we need to dry up their sources of support. I think we made some important, indeed outstanding progress in that regard, including not only with the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but with very important cooperation with intelligence services around the world. But no one should be under any illusions that the problem has been solved yet.

Alina ....Evenimentul Zilei: You said that there was no final decision on deploying U.S. troops to Romania. Did you, however, discuss this with Minister Pascu, and did he offer any Romanian facilities that could be used in the future for such bases? And the second question. And what is your personal opinion on the NATO rapid reaction force versus the EU rapid reaction force? Will they be complimentary, or will they compete against one another?

Wolfowitz: On the second question, it's absolutely essential they be complimentary. We can't have competing forces that interfere with one another. And on the first question, the subject was mentioned essentially in the terms that I just told you. We've had excellent exchanges at a technical level with the Romanian Defense Department, and they've provided us with a great deal of information. But as I said, we're not yet at a stage of even discussing preliminary decisions.

Cristian Moga, Prima TV: For Mr. Wolfowitz. You said you were more impressed by the differences between Romania and the Iraqis, and I would like to know what are these differences that you were so impressed about? And the second one, you said there are a few more progresses that Romania should do for what, and what are these?

Wolfowitz: I think the differences are, many of them obvious, starting with the fact that Romania liberated itself, and Iraq, unfortunately, had to be liberated by a coalition of friendly foreign forces. I could make a longer list, but I think I'll just stop with that one. But on the second part of your question, which I think is very important, and it's a little presumptuous of me having not even spent a full day here to be offering you advice. But I think I'm representing a consensus of both American experts on Romania and also officials of the Government with whom I had the privilege to speak here, that the most important task confronting Romania right now is to construct solid foundations of a market economy. And I think, as I believe President Iliescu said recently, that means overcoming the obstacles of bureaucracy and corruption.

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