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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with Slovenian Prime Minister

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 23, 2002

(Joint media availability with Slovenian Prime Minister Drnovsek.)

Drnovsek: Welcome. We have just concluded talks with -- between the Government Delegation of Slovenia and the delegation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Our talks were very intense, they were very friendly and also very useful, I believe. I thank Secretary Rumsfeld, as I already did in Prague, for U.S. support to Slovenia's membership in NATO. What happened in Prague was a historic event for Slovenia. I myself already attended the Summits in Madrid and in Washington, and now at this third Summit an invitation was issued. I believe this is a milestone event for Slovenia and also that today's talks were held in light of this and were very friendly and very useful.

Rumsfeld: Mr. Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege for me to be here in Slovenia and to have an opportunity to personally say how pleased I am -- the United States is -- with the invitation issued to Slovenia to join NATO and the six associate countries. The meetings we have had here have been excellent. I met with the prime minister and the national security team, the minister of defense, the foreign minister. And had a good visit with the president. Meetings in Prague were important meetings, they were historic and, certainly from my standpoint, I feel very fortunate to have been able to be a participant and then to personally be here and have a chance to discuss the process that's going to take place between now and the time that Slovenia becomes part, a formal part, of NATO. NATO's role, of course, is to contribute to peace and stability in the world. It is an alliance of like-thinking nations, nations that have values, that believe in the rule of law, that respect freedom and that reject extremism and fanaticism. I mentioned to the Prime Minister the fact that we value the partnership and work in the coalition for global war against terrorism, that this country has provided equipment for the Afghan National Army, and has in many other ways supported the global war on terrorism. Many of you had a chance today to see the field exercise. I must say it was excellent. The forces here looked to be exceedingly well trained, well equipped, and I know that when some of the forces we saw today leave for Bosnia in January to work alongside of U.S. forces, that it will be a good partnership there as well. So, I thank you Mr. Prime Minister. It's a pleasure to be here. And I appreciate it.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, might I ask -- I am Charlie Aldinger of Reuters. Your country seems a perfect candidate for NATO, it is democratic, prosperous, sophisticated and very beautiful -- might I ask, Sir, the polls show, however, that many Slovenians do not show great enthusiasm for joining NATO. Might I ask why? Is that prosperity and you expect Slovenia to vote next year to join NATO, anyway.

Drnovsek: Well, these public opinion polls do exhibit positive results. We expect that now the invitation has been issued, support will only increase. There was also some uncertainty because of the events in the past, there was some fear, that the same thing would happen that happened in Madrid, when we were expecting an invitation, but it then turned out that we did not receive an invitation. Perhaps one of the reasons is also the belief that people have in Slovenia that we are already so safe that we do not need to be a part of this military Alliance. But I always try to explain that the security that we are enjoying today is also a result of NATO's and the U.S.'s intervention in the Balkans. So, I believe myself that this alliance is a useful one and that it is beneficial for Slovenia and for the future, in general.

Q: AFP. Did you discuss during today's meetings the role Slovenia is to play in NATO, considering the fact that it is a very small country and, secondly, it has a very low percentage of expenditures for defense. Can you discuss this? (Inaudible.)

Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) Every country in NATO, or coming into NATO, is perfectly capable of making significant and highly relevant 21st century contributions to the alliance and to the security and the peace in the world. In the case of Slovenia, obviously, they have indicated their interest and capabilities in a variety of fields, including mountain training, peace keeping, military police, field medicine, ordinance disposal. I am trying to think, Mr. Minister of Defense, did I leave anything out? All of these areas are skills and disciplines that are needed in NATO and valued by NATO. With respect to the other portion of the question, every country, of course, makes a set of decisions, their own decisions, as to the level of their defense investment, and the prime minister and I discussed that today, and I'll leave it to him to characterize it. But my impression is that the country is on a good track.

Drnovsek: Well. If I can say a few words about this. Slovenia does have a program of defense reform, also of modernization of its armed forces, including a transition into a professional army. So we are adjusting our financial plans to this. We are gradually increasing defense spending, but we are looking at maintaining a financial balance and at creating an efficient system, which would not be too large, but an efficient and successful one.

Q: Marjeta Dragolic of TV Slovenia. Did you discuss the question of Iraq and what is the U.S. position on Iraq.

Rumsfeld: The decision by the United States was that the development of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq posed a danger to the world and was in violation of some 16 U.N. resolutions. So the President made a decision to go first to our Congress and he received overwhelming support and went to the United Nations and asked the United Nations to address the problem that the world community faces. Sixteen resolutions being ignored by Iraq is something that raises questions about the United Nations seriousness of purpose and put in question other resolutions that the institution raises. So the president suggested that they address the problem, rather than drift along for another three or four or five years allowing those weapons to more fully mature. And the United Nations responded with a unanimous vote. And the president has said that he believes the use of force ought to be the last choice, not the first choice. And so the United Nations made the first decision. The second decision is for Saddam Hussein and he has some choices. He can decide to leave the country that he is unwilling to disarm and leave the country and go live someplace else. That's a choice he has. He also has a choice that he can decide to disarm. That would be an interesting one for him because he has been willing to give up billions of dollars over recent years because he was so determined to have those weapons that he would not allow inspectors in and he was willing to ignore these U.N. resolutions. He also has a choice that he might do what he has done before and that's think that he can play the U.N. along some more and play the world along. So either he decides the game is up and he leaves, or he disarms or else he decides he's going to try to play the U.N. along again, in which case the U.N. would be faced with the decision. And either the U.N. will decide to authorize the use of appropriate force to disarm the Iraqi regime or the President has indicated that he would lead a coalition of willing countries to do that. And we're now in the period where we'll just have to wait and see what decision are made by the Iraqi regime.

Q: Marjeta Dragolic, TV Slovenia. How long will you wait?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's not for me to make those decisions. I'm -- my task is to see that the United States is prepared and is coordinating closely with other nations of the world, so that in the event that the coalition of countries decides that force has to be used, that we're ready and capable of doing it in an effective and efficient way.