Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Poland's Minister of Defense Jerzy Szmajdzinski
(NOTE: The Defense Minister's remarks are through interpreter.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, good afternoon. It's a real privilege for me to welcome Poland's minister of defense to the Pentagon again. The American and the Polish people have been friends and allies from our republic's earliest days, and a great many Polish-Americans continue to enrich our society. I should add, we are particularly blessed with a large and vibrant Polish community in my hometown of Chicago. There was a little debate between the minister and me as to whether Chicago has a larger Polish population than Warsaw. But being a gracious host, I acquiesced in his conclusion that Warsaw has the largest.
The American people have greatly appreciated Poland's support in the global struggle against extremists. The Polish people know well the difference between free societies and those societies dominated by dictators and tyranny. They have coped with invasion and occupation and partition. But today Poland is achieving its rightful place among free nations and is increasingly a leader in the fight for freedom elsewhere.
For example, Polish engineers were among the first coalition units deployed in the global struggle against extremists, aiding in de-mining efforts and the reconstruction of Baghram Air Force Base to support combat operations in Afghanistan. A Polish warship was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And as you all know, Poland has led the Multinational Division in Iraq since September 2003.
Mr. Minister, Poland's contributions to the coalition are deeply appreciated by the American people and indeed by our coalition friends and allies throughout the world. And in the years ahead, history will remember the contribution of the Polish troops and honor them for the contributions they've made, and which they've richly earned.
So welcome, Mr. Minister.
MIN. SZMAJDZINSKI: (In English.) Thank you very much.
(Through interpreter.) Thank you very much for the warm reception and having the possibility to pay an official visit. Our relations have been excellent for centuries, but recent years is very intensive military cooperation. Three years ago, under initiative of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, the strategic transformation cooperation was established, and it brings great results for the Polish armed forces. We are changing our armed forces. We are building units that are more mobile, more capable for different operations.
We gather our experiences in close cooperation with the troops of the United States. The joint operations that we have in Iraq and in Afghanistan are a great experience for us, and we can participate in them thanks to the conditions that were created by the U.S. government. We are grateful for the support that was provided for the establishment of the Joint Force Training Center in Bydgoszcz in Poland as an element of ACT, Allied Transformation Command. The Polish-American working group on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and defense against WMD is very active. We consult on a MD system. We implement a great program of F-16s. That is important for the Polish armed forces, for the Polish air force, but also for the Polish economy.
The American assistance from the aid funds is increasing, and we are grateful for the decision on the solidarity fund. Thanks to 100 million U.S. dollars, that will be the American assistance for the year 2005-2006, we will be able to implement some of the important objectives of our transformation. We will be able to train 24 pilots for F-16s. We will be able to get two UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, of tactical level. We will be able to get another pool of humvees. We will be able to get the resources for the Strategic Defense Review.
In such a short address it's not possible to say about all the benefits that we can draw from Polish-American cooperation, but they are really vast.
And in relation to the fact that I'm now coming to the end of my tenure as minister of National Defense of Poland, I moved a motion to the president of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, to decorate Donald Rumsfeld with a medal. And a moment ago I had the honor to decorate Donald Rumsfeld with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Merit of the Republic of Poland in the recognition of the merit he has in the establishment and strengthening of Polish-American cooperation.
(In English) Thank you very much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, sir.
We'll take some questions from -- are there some members of the Polish press? We'd be happy to call on them as well.
Charlie, we'll start with you.
Q Mr. Secretary, I wonder if I might briefly ask you about the China report. We know it's going up today and that you don't want to get out too far ahead of it. We know these reports over the years have signaled that China has moved vastly beyond its human-wave attacks of the Korean War. But will this report reflect any rapid recent movement by China toward not only gaining major weaponry, but downsizing its military and making it more mobile, making it more technical in terms of projecting their own power, I guess in the mold of the United States. What would you say the report will mainly show on that direction, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The report has been widely worked within the interagency with the CIA analysts, with the Department of State and the National Security Council staff. What it will reflect is a very factual presentation of what's taken place in the People's Republic of China. And the points you mentioned are all there. It is clear that they have been -- their economy has been growing at a good clip, their defense budgets have been growing at a good clip, and they have been purchasing substantial numbers of modern weapons from a variety of countries, including Russia. They have been deploying additional capabilities.
And it's simply a requirement by U.S. statute that the Department of Defense supply this report; we are doing so. It -- I believe it's being briefed on Capitol Hill today and should be available tomorrow, I think.
STAFF: We'll release it today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It will be released today after the briefings up on Capitol Hill.
It clearly points up the reason that the president and the United States government have been urging the EU to not lift the arms embargo on the People's Republic of China and with -- I'll just let the report speak for itself.
Q In terms of downsizing, sir, and making the military more mobile -- not just more powerful, but more agile and mobile, like that -- is China moving quickly and rapidly to do that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The report will be out this afternoon. It will speak for itself. You're quite right, the PLA have been downsizing. A number of the people being downsized, as I recall, have been moving into various types of other security activities in various parts of the country. But it'll be available.
Q Mr. Secretary, I would like to come back to this $100 million of military assistance to Poland. It was promised by President Bush early this year as an increased aid for this year, 2005. Now we are seeing that this is 2005 and 2006. My question is what part of this will be distributed -- released in 2006?
And another question, is the administration --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Let's do that one. Let's do one at a time.
The -- I'll let the minister speak to the specific numbers he used. As you know, in the United States this is a matter that's handled by the Department of State, and it requires that the Department of State then notify Congress. So we're at that stage where, from the standpoint of the Department of Defense, we have approved and recommended to the Department of State and the Congress, and the next steps will take place in the weeks ahead.
(To the defense minister) Possibly you'd want to comment.
MIN. SZMAJDZINSKI: I wouldn't want to say more than I have already said because we have agreed the set of the necessary expenditures from the perspective of the transformation of the Polish armed forces, and this is the most essential point. And the most important thing that this is 100 million U.S. dollars, and this sum can be spent this year and next year. And this sum is 57 million (dollars) out of 230 million (dollars) of Solidarity Funds. But we are playing exactly the same role as Secretary Rumsfeld; we are partners of the Department of State and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And I do not want to reveal any other details until the Congress concerns the -- I mean the appendix in which all the expenditures are presented. The experts say that in a few week's time, the projects can be already initiated.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes?
Q Back on the China report, not asking you the contents, but the context. This report over the years has come out and there's been a hysterical review -- reaction by the Chinese government and a lot of others who want to see China in the most bleak terms.
Mr. Secretary, can you give us some context about the political- military relationship with the Pentagon and China right now? I mean, do you view them as Germany was viewed in the mid- -- you know, late 1930s there before the Second World War or what? I mean, "gathering clouds" or how do we view it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess the short answer is no. The report will be factual, straightforward, and we believe is accurate as a fully coordinated, interagency product can be.
I guess the way I would characterize the situation with China is it started out very badly, with the EP-3, as you'll recall, and they held hostage our crew for a period of time. And it has been improving since. We now have port calls with China. We do a variety of things. There are bumps in the road, as was indicated last week when some general opined on some things that I don't know whether they represented the views of the People's Republic of China's government or his personal views.
But as I see it, China is on a path where they're determined to increase their economy, the opportunities for their people, and to enter the world community. They want the Olympics to go well. They've been doing a number of things to try to leave the world with the impression that they're a good place for investment and a good economic partner.
My personal view is that that path requires that there be an increasing degree of openness on their part. I don't think you can succeed from an economic standpoint over a long, sustained period of time without having an awful lot of people in your country, coming in, going out, computers, information, the kinds of things that would make you successful in competing and participating in the world economy.
Their political system, however, is not a free political system, and that suggests to me that as we go through the coming years, there will be a tension between the two, and something will give. To the extent the political system does not give, it will inhibit the growth of their economy and ultimately the growth of their military capabilities. To the extent the political system gives and they take a path that increasingly reflects the reality that a country that's going to participate fully in the world is going to be most successful if they have a relatively free political and a relatively free economic system, then that would be a good thing for the world. And time will tell.
Q The report, then, I mean, should we view this through those eyes, through that lens; the relationship's improved since '01, but this is a warning or at least a cautionary about their military prowess developing?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it's a very accurate characterization of behavior.
Q The report will be.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Reflects the behavior of and the collective decisions that are being made in that country with respect to military investment and acquisitions.
Q Mr. Secretary, what in particular concerns you about China's military expansion? And what does the department need to do -- or what has the department done to meet those challenges?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll let the report speak for itself.
Q Non-China question, sir. I wanted to ask you --
SEC. RUMSFELD: That would be nice.
Q Well, I don't know. (Laughter.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Inaudible], we'll go over here.
Q I wanted to ask you a question of history. It's just a little odd to me that so far today, no one in the administration has commented officially on the passing of General Westmoreland. And of course, you were here in that general timeframe. I'd like to ask you -- I mean, in all candor, is some of this because the sensitivity of Vietnam? And as you look back, do you have any view about his military legacy to the United States?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's been a two weeks where our country has lost several senior military figures. I attended the funeral service for General Bernard Schriever last week, a giant and an enormous talent who contributed so much to the Air Force and the development of ICBMs back in the Cold War period and the space programs. This morning I attended the funeral of General Lou Wilson, who was commandant of the Marine Corps when I was secretary of Defense 30 years ago. Lou was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, a superb leader, and a courageous warrior. I knew both of them quite well. I did not know General Westmoreland well, and I'll leave to the historians the task of placing each of them in their proper place.
Q I have a question for Minister Smajdzinski. Could you give us any details of the idea of sending Polish troops to Israel and Gaza Strip border?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You knew that was coming.
MIN. SMAJDZINKSI: It is nice that it is being said that Polish troops can be deployed to the borderline between Gaza Strip and Israel. It means that we enjoy a good opinion in the world. That means that our troops are valued, and that means that our presence in the Golan Heights is also very well evaluated. And we have been present there for dozens of years.
And it is also good that our capability to establish cooperation with indigenous population is also well evaluated. And that is all I can say about it now.
SEC. RUMSFELD: One last question. Bob?
Q Mr. Secretary, the report that -- actually, the overdue report to the Congress on measuring stability and security in Iraq -- will it include quantification of your estimate for the requirement of troops in Iraq next year, as was requested by Congress?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is due out, I think, soon. I've finished with it, and --
STAFF: Later this week --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's being coordinated around with the appropriate people. It responds as fully as is humanly possible to the statutory request or the conference report request. I suppose beauty's in the eye of the beholder.
The -- what we have to do and all we can do is to repeat the truth. And the truth is that the situation in Iraq and our force levels are going to depend on a variety of variables. And the decisions as to the size of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq will be a function of the conditions on the ground. And the conditions on the ground are going to be a function of the intensity of the insurgency; the political progress that's being made, which is excellent; the success or -- that we expect in terms of the crafting of a constitution and a referendum, and then ultimately elections, which we think will give added legitimacy to the Iraqi government as we go into next year.
The U.S. and coalition forces anticipate being able to draw down as the conditions on the ground permit. And so what we do is, we work with our coalition partners so that they can adjust their force levels to fit their political and security circumstances, military circumstances. We still have, I think, 30 countries that have been participating in one way or another.
The other thing we do is, we plan for increases as necessary, level, as necessary, or decreases of U.S. forces, and we know Iraqi security forces are coming up underneath. So the total security competence in the country has been growing as the Iraqi security forces now are something in excess of 171,000, trained and equipped.
The Polish division, multinational force there, has trained a lot of Iraqis. They have been working with them and in terms of the training and equipping, with the anticipation that at some point in that area and other areas of the country we'll begin to pass off responsibility to the Iraqis for their own security.
It'll happen not all at once. It'll happen in different parts of the country, depending on the security situation on the ground. And how it will all add up is not something that someone could put into a report and say, "Voila! This is what's going to happen," because you can't know the answers to all of those questions.
Q Can you quantify the troop levels, then, in other words?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure, we can quantify them, but the numbers that will be appropriate will be purely a function of the conditions on the ground. It'll be condition-based. And that's essentially, in major part, a fact of what takes place politically -- I mean, the fact that the Sunnis are participating in the constitution drafting, the fact that the Shi'a invited them in and want them in, and the fact that that process is going forward and should be completed sometime next month, and that then engages people in a political process.
And increasingly people will see that the coalition forces are not as up front as they have been. Increasingly they will see that they have participated in their -- the Iraqi people will see that they have participated in their own political process. And increasingly they will become angered and not willing to tolerate the number of deaths of Iraqi people who (sic) are being caused by the insurgents and the terrorists. And a lot of them have been killed by the insurgents and the terrorists, and at some point they're going to be -- that will tip in a way that I believe Iraq will move forward on a path towards a representative system.
And we thank you all.