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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Availability

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 30, 2003 4:15 PM EDT
Rumsfeld:  Welcome to Brussels.  We had an excellent meeting in Colorado Springs, and indeed we've had a lot of progress since the Prague Summit. 

 

            We've got seven new members to NATO.  We've got the NATO Response Force that's now been partially stood up -- I guess it's accurate to say.  We have a Chemical and Biological Battalion that now exists. We've established the Alliance's Transformation Command.  We have streamlined the command structure from whatever it was -- 19 or 20 -- now down to 11. That's an impressive accomplishment.  We're now in the process of reducing headquarters staffing at NATO by a goal of 30 percent, and I understand they now have identified headquarters reductions up to 26 or 27 percent which is getting very close to the target, which I find impressive.  ISAF and the NATO decision for the first time in its history to go outside of the NATO treaty are and support the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is a big step.  The support for Poland in Iraq, the Polish-Spanish Division has been helpful.  As an institution we're evolving towards the new threats that exist in the world and certainly the NATO countries are deeply involved in the global war on terror in its various elements or manifestations.

 

            Since the last meeting of course there have been terrorist attacks in Turkey and elsewhere in the world.  Some of our friends and allies have suffered losses in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So NATO is in the process of to some extent transforming itself to deal with counterterrorism.

           

            We've got a real squeaky table here.  Does that cost extra, Kenny?   [Laughter]

 

            Look at these chairs.  They're designed to tip over, be careful.  All right.

 

            We'll be discussing the next discussion of the concepts with respect to the U.S. global force posture in our footprint with our folks here, and as a matter of fact I think it's next week that State and Defense teams of -- probably in this part of the world Grossman and Feith -- will be discussing the concepts that we've developed and beginning that process which is going to take some time but is an important one.

 

            Here we'll be also discussing something that Lord Robertson's been very active on which is the usability of forces, the deployability of forces.  Whether or not the military force structures that exist in the NATO countries are actually capable of deploying and being used effectively on behalf of NATO in the event that there is a need for that.  The NATO Response Force is one of the action force and events that we hope will not only produce an effective, agile, quick response force, but in addition will help to transform the militaries of the nations that make contributions to the NATO Response Force by dramatizing the importance of agility and the importance of speed and being capable of being deployed and having that degree of flexibility.

 

            Another subject that will be up is the relationship between NATO and the EU which has been under discussion.  Obviously the discussions ended earlier this year with the Berlin-Plus understandings and agreements, and discussions now have been reopened more recently.  We believe, needless to say, that NATO is -- Berlin-Plus concluded and we agree that NATO is the premier defense alliance and we think that it's important that it be strengthened because it is playing an increasing role in the world.

 

            With that I'll stop and respond to questions.

 

            Q:  I was going to ask you about the global force posture that you referred to.  Could you tell us more specifically at all what aspect of that you expect to be discussing?  Will it be a bilateral discussion or just in NATO? 

 

            And one more thing, it's narrowly defined in terms of conventional forces and so forth, but does it also include or will it include at some point a discussion about changing the nuclear posture of the U.S. forces in Europe?

 

            Rumsfeld:  NATO, of course, has a nuclear planning committee or group and we meet every time there's a formal meeting of the Alliance at the Defense Ministerial level, and we will be having a meeting again tomorrow or the next day.  That subject gets discussed there, within NATO, so the answer is yes.  All capabilities get discussed.  Those things will be discussed in the nuclear planning group meeting.  The Defense planning group will discuss other defense issues including that.

 

            But I think the way to think about it is that we've spent the better part of two years recognizing that the security environment of the 21st Century has changed, and our country and our allies and friends need to acknowledge that fact, and then together talk through how we can best be organized and arranged and equipped to best deter and defend against the more likely threats of the 21st Century.  And how can we best be arranged to do that.

 

            So we developed some concepts which we're now in the process of discussing with the Congress and among ourselves, interagency, as well as with our friends and allies, that will be a back and forth process for many months, is my guess.

 

            Then once conviction develops as to what's the best way to do things, then of course it's not something that the United States can or should or even could do unilaterally.  It's the kind of thing that you need to have your friends and allies working with you so that all those changes and transformations take place together.  So those types of discussions will be going on.

 

            Then there will be the question of working simultaneously with the Congress because it will require some shifts in budgeting, in funding, as to how you do things, and therefore it will very likely play out over a period of a number of years thereafter.

 

            When it's over, say sometime at the end of a decade or whenever, it will represent a fairly significant, I would think, I can't pre-judge it, but I would think it would represent a fairly significant adjustment in how we deal with ourselves.

 

            I was meeting with a group of businessmen in Korea and they raised the question about troop reduction.  I made the point, I forget quite how I said it but I think I said something to the effect of look, let's say you have ten things -- ships, tanks, planes, people, whatever. Some military assets.  You've got ten of them and you reduce them by five.  Now superficially one would look at it and say well you've cut your capability by 50 percent.  On the other hand if the five remaining have four times the capability of any of the ten, you've not cut your capability by 50 percent, you've increased it by two.  You’ve doubled it.

 

            That's going to be hard for people to understand.  It's going to be hard for anyone to get their head wrapped around the realities of where we are.

 

            I think the best example most recently was the example in Iraq or Afghanistan, the use of a single precision-guided smart weapon can put lethal power on targets at eight or ten times what dumb bombs could do.

 

            You look at the capability of different kinds of ships or different kinds of forces, and the same thing is true with aircraft.

 

            It's even going to be an issue with our combatant commanders who had a process of asking for X numbers of ships or X numbers of forces or X numbers of somethings, whatever, planes, and they're going to have to be thinking about not numbers of things but in fact capabilities and the ability to do things with it and what it is you really want to do.

 

            So it's going to take a period of years, I would think, for all of us to adjust to the new way of looking at the world.

 

            Q:  Do you have concerns as one of the British papers reported over the weekend that an enhanced European-only defense capability will be a Trojan horse that will undermine NATO?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I certainly think that NATO has a fabulous record-- over most of my adult-lifetime of contributing to defense and deterrence, and a more peaceful world.  Therefore I would say anything that puts at risk that institution would be, you'd have to have a very good reason for wanting to do it.   I think there's no reason for something else to be competitive with NATO, myself.

            But I think most of the people in NATO and who benefit from NATO would share that and not want something that would inject instability into it.  I doubt that anything will, myself.  I'm aware of these discussions taking place and there are people of different views, but my guess is that things will get sorted out.

 

            Q:  You'll be seeing some of these Ministers during the time you're in Brussels.  Will you be speaking with them specifically about the European Union Military Planning Cell?  Or how will you hope to manage their thinking or to explain to them your views as they move forward with their decisionmaking?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We've discussed it at some length at Colorado Springs, and it's being discussed bilaterally through the Department of State, and Presidents and Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers are all discussing those things.  I'm sure they likely will come up, but I don't believe it's an agenda item is it?  I don't think so.

 

            Q:  Is it your view, sir, that the actions taken last week by the European Defense Alliance was undercut in any way, any of the understandings of the Berlin-Plus agreement?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't know that any decisions were taken last week.  I read press speculation about discussions and positions, but to my knowledge decisions haven't been taken.

 

            Q:  How about [inaudible]?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I've not read it.  My view is that Berlin-Plus took a lot of effort and a lot of time and it came out with a formulation which seemed to me to be sound, and a useful approach.  But I don't know of any decisions that have been taken to move away from it.  Although then there were different views and I'm sure today there are different views and I'm aware of their discussions.

 

            Q:  Seven Spanish intelligence agents and two Japanese diplomats were killed.  Previous acts have targeted other forces allied to the United States and the coalition.  The Italians.  There were some images as well of the Spaniard bodies being abused.

 

            What effect do you think these incidents and these images will have on coalition partners, the ability to keep the coalition together and the ability to attract additional non-American and non-Iraqi forces to help?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, when people are killed are wounded it's a tragedy and one has to feel a great deal of feeling for their families and their loved ones.

 

            In terms of changing policy, I don't think it will.  I think that the countries who have forces there recognize that it's a dangerous place and there are terrorists who are killing people and wounding people.  Not just coalition forces, but Iraqis in increasing numbers.  And the task that's before us, as the President has said, is a worthwhile one, an important one, and he and our country and the coalition intend to see it through.

 

            Q:  I'd like to ask a question about Afghanistan.  I know you said that one of the difficulties of an ISAF force beyond Kabul was the countries that have put up troops, then NATO assumed responsibility for them.  Are they having any more success in getting the troops [inaudible] beyond Kabul?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think the way to think of it is the first task was for NATO to step forward and agree to undertake the first out of area, out of the NATO treaty area responsibility and they did that by taking over ISAF. To do that they needed to get commitments of various capabilities.  My understanding is that within the last week those capabilities have been committed.  Right Nick [Burns]?

 

            Ambassador Burns:  Almost there.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Almost there. Not quite.  So there are a few pieces yet to be made in that commitment.  All the things you need to undertake that responsibility to be in charge of ISAF, whatever it is -- helicopters, people, medical assistance, logistics, all the things you need.  Whatever the requirements were, they now, as Nick says, are very close to having them for the ISAF-Kabul responsibility.

 

            There have been those who have suggested that it would be good if ISAF would assume responsibilities for activities outside of Kabul in one way or another, and one of the ways was for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.  And that's been proposed by one or more members of NATO.

 

            To do that, obviously, will require some additional capabilities and that certainly will be a subject that we'll be discussing this week.  I think it's a good thing, as you know.  I've been encouraging international forces to step up and take more responsibility for portions of the Afghan activities.  So I think it's a good thing and my guess is it will happen.

 

            What it will take or how long or at what rate I think is yet to be seen.  I wouldn't be surprised at some point to see it extend even beyond that where NATO took a still larger role in Afghanistan.  But those are the kinds of things that take some time.  But it's on the right track and the right trajectory.

 

            Q:  What could they do beyond expanding ISAF?  Do you have something in the mind in the future for NATO in Afghanistan?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, all the way from ISAF to one Provincial Reconstruction Team to all existing Provincial Reconstruction Teams to additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and I understand that there are at least three or maybe four countries or groups of countries that are thinking about stepping forward with respect to a PRT which would be a good thing.  Who knows, at some point the task may mature to the point where NATO would want to take on a still larger responsibility for it.  We have to think about how it works over time in other situations.   They could do that, but I wouldn't want to project that.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible] more forces or [inaudible]?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't know that I'd use that word, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out.  And I wouldn't say replacing U.S. forces either.  We're part of NATO.  A larger portion of the responsibility could move from the existing coalition -- which a large number of NATO countries are in the existing coalition in Afghanistan, if you think about it -- to NATO having that responsibility as opposed to the coalition.

 

            Now whether that will happen ever, I have no idea.  How many NATO countries are already involved?  I think there's 25 or 30 countries involved in Afghanistan.  I bet you there's 16 or 17 NATO countries…?

 

            Amb. Burns: I think the number is up to 20 if you count the seven new countries.

 

            Rumsfeld:  If you include the seven new countries.  So 20 of them are already involved there in the coalition, the PRTs or one way or another. But I'm not predicting anything.  But we certainly have favored that over time.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.  I shouldn't say no.  Will I be suggesting it?  Might it come up?  It might come up.  Are we making a proposal or a request?  No.  Not in that calculus.  We're [leaving].  We encourage NATO to take over ISAF.  We're encouraging NATO to expand ISAF beyond Kabul.  And we've encouraged individual countries to undertake responsibilities for Provincial Reconstruction Teams and they have done it.  They're stepping forward.  We believe there are three or four more that are ready to step forward, thinking about stepping forward.  I shouldn't say ready to.  And we'll keep doing things at that pace.  So far we've been met with a good response, feel good about it.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible] encouragement for NATO to do more in Iraq?  You mentioned the help they provided to the Polish and Spanish Divisions, is there encouragement or discussion about NATO doing something more to help?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure.  How many NATO countries are in Iraq?  Who knows that?  Eighteen out of 26 have forces there now, out of a total of 33 or 34.

 

            The NATO countries have in addition committed funds in the donor conferences and we've encouraged that.  Early on we encouraged NATO to support the Turkish government in terms of defense during the conflict.  We have encouraged the force generation assistance that NATO has provided, as I said, to the Polish and Spanish Division.

 

            To the extent that that can be done we encourage it and recommend it.  We think that's a good thing.

 

            Q:  What is obviously [inaudible] said that NATO may have enough to do already in Afghanistan considering the possible expansion.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That's a fair comment.  If you think about it, NATO stepped forward and did something very large when they stepped into Afghanistan.  For the first time in the history of the Alliance.  Lord Robertson deserves a great deal of credit for the leadership he provided there.  And it's true, you don't do everything at once in life.  You do them in increments, which is why I characterized it the way I characterized it in answer to your question, Ken, and others.  We're not out there making requests for things.  We're out there encouraging countries to do things that they feel comfortable doing and NATO to do things that it feels comfortable in doing.  Those are the kinds of things that tend to evolve over some period of time, rather than being in giant steps.

 

            Q:  Are there any long-term [inaudible] reductions in that mission during your visit here?

 

            Rumsfeld:  There will certainly be discussions.  And whether announcements will come now or at the Istanbul Summit, I don't know.  But there are a growing number of people who feel that the situation in Bosnia is such that troop levels can continue to decline and that it is evolving in a way that it is less of a military challenge and increasingly will become more of a police challenge.  And we've always believed that foreign forces in a country are unnatural and they ought not to be there on a permanent basis.  They ought to be migrating downward so that you don't create a dependency, if you will, but rather you allow the local institutions and capabilities to evolve in a way that they assume those responsibilities for their own sovereignty.  In the last analysis, what is sovereignty without the ability to defend it.

 

            So they have to fill those gaps over time and a steady reduction, as has occurred over recent years.  I was told coming up in the elevator that it was what, seven years ago or -- Eight years ago today maybe that the decision was made to go into Bosnia and it's been a successful effort.  The countries involved I think deserve a lot of credit.  I think it's a good thing when one looks at that and says that sometime next year we can see that role potentially changing and becoming more of a police activity.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, [inaudible] for a second?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I'd rather not.  [Laughter]  I've been up a long time.

 

            Q:  You've got families of six soldiers in Iraq going to Iraq to visit with Iraqis and they're trying to move the process along and get perhaps U.S. forces out and U.N. forces in in their place.  One, this seems strange.  I wonder if you agree that it's somewhat strange.

 

            Number two is, is this something that's even on your radar screen?  Is it dangerous for these folks?  They're not going to be allowed to visit with their relatives who are serving in the military.  Is this possibly a complication that the U.S. doesn't need right now?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm just not sufficiently knowledgeable to have an opinion on it at the moment.

 

            This is some news report you've read?

 

            Q:  The LA Times has been following it for the last couple of days.  A half a dozen out of California.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Hmm.  At any given time I'm sure there are people doing things like that.

 

            Q:  Since you didn't answer that can we have one more?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure.  I did answer it.  [Laughter]  I confessed I didn't know.

 

            Q:  The colonel from Guantanamo Bay who was arrested, do you have any details on his activities, what he's accused of, any background?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't.  I've seen the press reports and I get briefed periodically about things like that, but I haven't seen anything on that for a week I don't think.

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