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Joint Press Conference with British Secretary of State for Defence Hoon

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 05, 2002 12:00 PM EDT

(Joint press conference with British Secretary of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon in London, England)

Hoon: Good afternoon. We have spent some time today discussing how NATO can adapt and modernize its structures to meet new challenges particularly the challenge of a future enlargement. As you would expect we have also compared notes on the tensions between India and Pakistan and we will continue to work closely together to try and reduce those tensions. Finally, of course, we've also discussed the close cooperation between our forces in Afghanistan. Donald.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much Mr. Minister. I will not repeat the topics of discussion that Minister Hoon has just outlined, but I do want to say that it is a real pleasure for me to be here in London and to be able to meet with Prime Minister Blair and Minister Hoon and tell them personally, how grateful we are for their superb cooperation in the global war on terrorism and the fact that we work so closely together in Afghanistan as well as other places around the world. We had good discussions and I would be happy to respond to questions with The Minister.

Q: Michael Evans from The Times. President Bush the other day said the war on terrorists should now go to 60 other countries I think he said, did you...

Rumsfeld: Sorry I missed that.

Q: President Bush said in a speech that other day that 60 other countries where Al Qaeda are supposed to be hibernating or being harbored, did you see or have you asked the British government to supply military assistance to help in the war on terror in a lot of other countries?

Rumsfeld: Well I'm not sure I got every word that you said, but I think that President Bush did not say that the war should go to 60 countries. I think what he pointed out was that there are Al Qaeda cells in 50 or 60 countries around the world, which is what the best intelligence suggests. And the global war on terrorism as a task, has to be to try to persuade those nations, and of course some of those nations include the United States of America where Al Qaeda are operating, to do everything possible to put pressure on the terrorist networks and on the nations that are actively harboring or are providing assistance to the terrorist networks.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Jon Snow from Channel 4 News. President Putin has said that this is the most dangerous crisis, the Indo-Pak threat of nuclear war, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, would you agree with that or would you go further?

Rumsfeld: There's no question that when you have two nations that have nuclear weapons and the situation is as it is between India and Pakistan today, it is a dangerous situation. I think fortunately that people across the globe recognize that and there are a great many nations, including this country, and the activity that Prime Minister Blair has been engaged in with respect to India and Pakistan as well as President Putin in Russia and certainly the United States, all recognize the seriousness of the situation and are anxious to work with those two countries so that in fact the tensions are some what relieved rather than made worse.

Q: Shouldn't you be going there sooner?

Rumsfeld: Well, clearly I don't think so. I would be here. There are, as I say, a great many people that are talking to the people in India and in Pakistan. President Bush has been involved, Secretary Powell's involved, Deputy Secretary Armitage, I believe, is going in today or tomorrow and be there. And I think that all of that is helpful and useful and my guess is the timing of my visit will not be inappropriate.

Hoon: Can I just emphasize that the US administration and the UK government have been coordinating their efforts to try and reduce tensions on both sides. We have a complimentary role to play in ensuring that both sides are aware of our concerns and a great deal of effort is being made at all levels in both governments to ensure that Pakistan and India are fully aware of our concern.

Q: How would you characterize your contribution to this when you do reach India and Pakistan? You've said that you are not going there to mediate; you are not going there with a bag of goodies, with a bag of incentives for the two sides. What is it you hope to bring yourself?

Rumsfeld: Well, I have met on a number of occasions with the senior officials from both countries and my instinct is in matters like this is to talk to them rather than to talk to the press about what I will talk about to them. Maybe that's kind of a idiosyncratic behavior on my part and it seems quite rational to me. I think I will stick with it.

Q: Wyatt Andrews CBS, for both the Minister and for you Mr. Secretary, is there anything even approaching a plan, a step by step plan, that is being forwarded, for example by Minister Straw, by Mr. Armitage, by you, by which both these nations are being asked or given some sort of formula on a step by step basis to back away from the brink.

Hoon: The first step is to back away from the brink. I don't think that we can possibly plan out what happens there after, both sides clearly have to see as we see real advantage in stepping back from the brink and preparing to discuss the issues of Kashmir and the issues that divide them that there is not a formula because there cannot be a formula in what is a rapidly changing situation. What we do have are arguments that we can put to both sides to prevent that first step from which we are concerned there can be very significant escalation.

Rumsfeld: I just want to add, that these are two sovereign nations, they have histories and have experience and to the extent that they are going to make judgments about what is in their best interests. It seems to me that there are a great many countries in this world who recognize that conflict between those two countries is not in their best interest and certainly not in the best interests of the world.

We have, 55 or 57 years since nuclear weapons have been fired in anger and that's an impressive accomplishment on the part of humanity I would say. I don't know of any other time in history where there has been a significant weapon that has not been used for that long a period and these are not just larger weapons they are distinctively different weapons and war being what it can be it can be unpredictable. And therefore I think that it's important that we all recognize that they recognize and may very well be looking for ways to tamp things down rather than see things escalate.

Q: Both of you gentlemen to follow up on that point about possibly tamping down, what is the assessment that you both have of the statements from Mr. Vajpayee today or in the last 24 hours about India possibly accepting joint patrols looking for some verification along the line of control. Do you think things are now tamping down or do you think that this is a heavily conditioned proposal that isn't terribly realistic? For both gentlemen please.

Rumsfeld: I haven't had the chance to read it.

Hoon: I have only seen newspaper accounts of it but it's certainly encouraging. It's a sign that the Indians are looking for if you like the first step back from the brink, which is certainly something we will encourage. We want to look in more detail at precisely at what are the conditions and whether they can be sensibly satisfied.

Q: Russian Information Agency, I would like to ask you both about their assessment on the results of Almaty meeting with President Putin and the leaders of Pakistan and India. Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Myself, I think it was a useful thing that the meetings took place and a useful thing that President Putin met with the two leaders even those meetings may have been separate, I think that all of that contributes to a better understanding of the interest of the world community in what's taking place in South Asia.

Hoon: We very much welcome what has taken place and we want to see as much international pressure as possible from every quarter brought to bear on India and Pakistan to recognize that they must step back from the brink.

Q: Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian. Can I ask Secretary Rumsfeld if he thinks that the Kashmir crisis and how dangerous it is for distracting from distraction from the war against terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan? And can I ask a second questions, whether to both of you did you discuss Iraq at all this morning?

Rumsfeld: With respect to the first question, there's no question that the Pakistan has been enormously helpful in the war on terrorism being a neighbor of Afghanistan and our being able to cooperate so fully with the Pakistani government. They have had forces and do today along the Afghan border. We have been able to use their airfields, it has been a significant advantage for the success that has been achieved thus far in Afghanistan.

There's no question but that to the extent the tension on the Indian Afghan border continues to go up that at some point those troops that along the Afghan border are going to be moved. Fortunately thus far only very small elements have been moved, so it has not had a notably harmful affect thus far to the extent that it goes on much longer it could, and that would be most unfortunate.

Hoon: As far as Iraq is concerned we've certainly had discussions about Iraq we both have forces patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq, risking their lives to protect people on the ground there. There is no doubt that the threat to those forces has been increasing in recent times and we have to ensure that we can take appropriate action to deal with that threat and certainly we both believe that Iraq will be a much better place, not only for the region and for its own people if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power in Baghdad.

Q: I would like to ask Secretary Rumsfeld whether you agree with that statement that the threat from Iraq is in fact increasing recently. What evidence is there of an increased threat?

Rumsfeld: We know that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq has had a sizeable appetite for weapons of mass destruction. We know the borders into that country are quite porous and we know dual use capabilities have been flowing in as well as illicit materials that are helpful in their programs for weapons of mass destruction. There is not a doubt in the world but that every month that goes by their programs mature by a month and that is not something that is a happy prospect for that region. This is an individual that has used chemical weapons on his own people, so there is not any great debate as to what he and his regime would be willing to do with weapons of mass destruction.

Q: Associated Press of Pakistan. I would just like to know now that General Musharraf has accepted Mr. Putin's invitation to visit Moscow, would you like or expect Indian Leader to go to Moscow for a reduction of tension?

Hoon: I think it would be helpful if there were discussions continuing for as long as they possibly can continue to avoid steps being taking to war and therefore we would like to see conversations taking place wherever and whenever they can.

Q: Kim Sengupta of The Independent. In light of what you just said Mr. Rumsfeld about every month that goes by the situation getting potentially and intrinsically more dangerous, can we then expect possible military action to prevent this sooner rather than later?

Rumsfeld: That is a matter for the heads of governments not for ministers of defense. And as the Minster has said I think that there is a very widely held recognition that the world would be a better place if that regime were not in power and in fact it has been the policy of our country, our Congress that the regime change, that regime change would be in the best interests of the world. There are a variety of ways for that to be achieved and certainly it's not for me to make any announcements.

Q: National Public Radio. Sir, are you inclined at the moment Mr. Rumsfeld, are you inclined at the moment to back off of action in Iraq right now because of what's happening in India and Pakistan and although you say that you would prefer to deal directly with the heads of state rather than to telegraph things to the President, I wonder more broadly if you could help us understand how you plan to impress upon India and Pakistan, what's in their own interests given the fact that in this kind of fog people may forget what's in their own best interests? And for example, would you be bringing estimates that the Defense department has given on the kinds of destruction and devastation and death tolls that could take place if there were an exchange?

Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the first part, your question says are you backing off because of the India Pakistan situation with respect to Iraq and the answer is to back off you have to have been some place, and I would think that that would not be a correct characterization. The second thing with respect to India and Pakistan, the United States has important relationships with each of those countries we have political and economic and military relationships that have been growing and developing in the past period. They are important to us and clearly we have a stake in those two countries not setting themselves back whatever number of years one wants to pick. The world has an interest in those two countries and I must say that I think that each of those two countries have an interest in not in allowing the situation there to escalate into a conflict. The circumstances of the people in each country given the possibility of a conflict would clearly be dramatically adversely affected. And, if the leaders of those countries are sophisticated and knowledgeable people, they know that they are aware of their circumstance and I think they are aware of the circumstance that they would be in in the event that things deteriorated.

Q: George Pascoe Watson from The Sun. Secretary, can I ask you have you been impressed or how impressed have you been by Britain's Royal Marines operating in Afghanistan and second of all can I ask you how worried are you by other European nations reluctance or seeming reluctance to increase their defense budgets?

Rumsfeld: The answer to the first question with the respect to the Royal Marines and the contributions of the United Kingdom, they have done a superb job. There is just no question but that the relationship between our two countries not only politically and economically but militarily is an unusual one, a distinctive relationship, and a very valued one. I am sure if General Franks were here he would go into great detail as to how valuable the contribution of the Royal Marines has been.

What was the second question? Oh the defense budgets. I hate to you know fuss at folks, well I really don't. We live in a dangerous and untidy world, this is not an easy time for the world. We have a series of threats that exist. They are, to use the fancy word, so called asymmetric threats. They are less threats against armies, navies and air forces than they are threats of terrorism, cyber attacks, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles. They are a series of things that advantage the attacker and disadvantage the defender and the militaries of the NATO nations clearly have to recognize that that calls for several things.

It calls in some cases for a number of countries to increase their defense budgets and to see that they are putting the resources in that will enable NATO and our countries individually and collectively to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the period ahead. Second, it's going to call for some transformation in our capabilities and how we spend our money and how we are organized and trained and equipped to do the job, because it is not that the old tasks have all gone away, but it is that some new tasks have arrived that require investment, that require different organizations, that require a greater greater precision and certainly now better inoperability among the Nato countries and, I would add, an improved tooth to tail ratio. I think we need to lean down some of our headquarters and beef up some of our front line swiftly deployable capabilities. Thank you.

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