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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 06, 2002

(Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be back in Brussels and at NATO. We had good meetings today. Among other things I thanked our allies for their broad and prompt and effective support in the Global War on Terrorism.

I would say it has been a particularly productive NATO meeting in that we agreed that at Prague our leaders will decide on specific new military capabilities to meet the new military threats that face us.

From the decision to invoke Article 5 for the first time in Alliance history to the NATO AWACS crews that patrolled the U.S. skies after September 11th to the forces of NATO nations that are at this moment serving on the seas and in the air and on the ground in the Afghanistan theater, the NATO Alliance has been critical to our success in the war thus far. Indeed tomorrow I will visit with some of the NATO AWACS crews in Germany to personally thank them for their wonderful assistance in helping to defend the United States these past many months.

I'm not done, but how is this going to be done? ... Just explain this to me ... just in English ... Oh, I was asking if there was going to be a translation. There's not. Fair enough. I'll have to do it particularly well then. (laughter) I always sound so much better in French.

Operation Enduring Freedom is being facilitated greatly by our relationships in NATO. Our coalition activities in Afghanistan and in other regions in the world today are really made possible, in major part, by the decades of joint planning and joint training that have taken place within NATO.

Today we discussed the way ahead in the War on Terrorism and how the Alliance must further transform to meet the threat facing all of our countries in the 21st century -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction into the hands terrorist states. This threat is not theoretical; it is real. It is dangerous. If we do not prepare promptly to counter it, we could well experience attacks in our countries that could make the events of September 11 seem modest by comparison.

President Bush recently said in Berlin that "those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent. Those who seek missiles and terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe." That is why dealing with these threats in the 21st Century must be central to the NATO Alliance, just as dealing with the Soviet threat was central in the 20th Century.

Ministers have tasked the NATO military authorities to identify a specific set of capabilities that the allies will commit to fulfill. As we look to the Prague summit, where undoubtedly some new members will be invited to join the alliance, we discussed the idea of asking new members -- in addition to maintaining certain core military capabilities -- to choose areas of special emphasis for their militaries to take on and to be responsible for delivering those capabilities for the alliance.

We also discussed reform of the NATO command, military command structure and the force structures. Finally, we discussed the NATO planned reductions in SFOR and KFOR. These reductions are a sign not of retreat in our view but of success. And we're very pleased with the progress that's being shown.

I should add that I've had a number of bilateral meetings during my visit here. Besides the secretary general, and I've met with the minister for Defense of France and I will shortly meet with the minister of Defense of Ukraine.

It has also been a pleasure to see the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergei Ivanov. This is the first time we have had a bilateral meeting among our many bilateral meetings that we haven't spent most the time talking about arms control. So that is a, I think, a reflection of the change in that relationship.

We discussed the way ahead in the war on terrorism. I thanked the minister for their continuing contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom. We visited about the situation in South Asia, which is a concern of course to both of our countries, and indeed all the countries of the world. Mr. Ivanov is going to meet with me again shortly after the NATO at 20 meeting where he will provide me with a debriefing of the meetings that President Putin had with both the leaders, Pakistan as well as India. And we certainly agreed on the need for both of our countries to stay in close touch as we both continue to work with India and Pakistan and encourage them in their efforts to find a peaceful solution.

Finally, I should make a - well, just a personal comment. The last time I was here, six months ago in December, I visited Andre Destark who had been the Belgian Ambassador to NATO when I was Ambassador to NATO back in 1973 and 4. And within days thereafter Andre died and he was the - one of the founding ambassadors to the alliance - he served, I think, longer than any permanent representative to NATO has ever served, some 22 or 3 years -- I think it was 23 -- and was the dean of the North Atlantic Council. He wrote probably the best book on NATO and was someone who really made significant contributions in how this alliance has evolved over the decades.

And with that I would be happy to respond to questions.

Q: Regarding terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, you said something to the effect that the real situation is worse than the facts show. I wonder if you could tell us what is worse than is generally understood.

Rumsfeld: Sure. All of us in this business read intelligence information. And we read it daily and we think about it and it becomes, in our minds, essentially what exists. And that's wrong. It is not what exists.

I say that because I have had experiences where I have gone back and done a great deal of work and analysis on intelligence information and looked at important countries, target countries, looked at important subject matters with respect to those target countries and asked, probed deeper and deeper and kept probing until I found out what it is we knew, and when we learned it, and when it actually had existed. And I found that, not to my surprise, but I think anytime you look at it that way what you find is that there are very important pieces of intelligence information that countries, that spend a lot of money, and a lot of time with a lot of wonderful people trying to learn more about what's going in the world, did not know some significant event for two years after it happened, for four years after it happened, for six years after it happened, in some cases 11 and 12 and 13 years after it happened.

Now what is the message there? The message is that there are no "knowns." There are thing we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.

It sounds like a riddle. It isn't a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.

There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist. And yet almost always, when we make our threat assessments, when we look at the world, we end up basing it on the first two pieces of that puzzle, rather than all three.

Yes, sir.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, how confident are you that your European partners will deliver on the capabilities front in Prague? And what is the consequence for NATO as an alliance if they don't deliver?

Rumsfeld: I must say I have confidence that reasonable people find their way to reasonably right decisions. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes there are circumstances that require some countries to take somewhat longer than another. But personally, I think that if reasonable people, publics, if publics look at the world and look at the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which is pervasive - people who want those weapons can get them. The terrorist states have them - one or more of the various types of weapons of mass destruction. The terrorist states have intimate relationships with terrorist networks - global networks. We all know that. They're all public. You know this. It does not take a genius to figure out that global terrorist networks are going to have their hands on weapons of mass destruction in the period ahead. No one can say if it's a week, or a month, or a year, or two years. All we do know of certain knowledge is that they are aggressively trying to get them.

That says to me that - let's take a number. I forget what the NATO number is. Two percent, two and a half percent of gross national product as a reasonable number for defense investment. In the United States we're at about 3.3 percent, I think, for this year as a budget proposal by the president.

There isn't a doubt in my mind but that the publics of the NATO nations, when confronted with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of the kinds of people who flew those airplanes, passenger airplanes, into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon, who obviously would be perfectly willing to use weapons of mass destruction, let there be no doubt, that the publics of the NATO countries would willingly provide a relatively modest fraction of our gross domestic products to provide the kinds of investments that will enable the NATO countries, individually and collectively, to contribute to peace and stability in the world, and to provide a degree of safety for their people which they clearly will need. We are in a new security environment as a people. And I have every confidence that political leadership can persuade people of that fact.

So I don't look at what it would mean for the alliance, because I think the alliance has demonstrated impressive durability over a period of decades in notably different security environments. And I suspect that the alliance will do so again.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said we are in a new security environment. So the present world is very much different from the world in which the Washington Treaty, on which NATO is based, was signed directly after the second World War. Is NATO not in need for an update of the Washington Treaty?

Rumsfeld: Goodness. I shouldn't say I don't think so, although that's what I think. What I should say is that I haven't thought about that carefully. I should do some research and see if I think it might be in need of an update. But I doubt that I'll do it.

My impression is that changing some words might or might not be useful. What really needs to be done is for the people in this alliance to recognize how enormously valuable it is in the world, that there are such common values and common interests on the part of the nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We are countries that have no interest in taking over other peoples' real estate. We are countries that have an abiding interest in peace and prosperity. We are countries that want to above all be capable of and smart enough to invest so that we can contribute to peace and stability in the world and that our people or populations or citizens can have the benefits of free political and free economic systems.

Those fundamental values and those common interests are critically important to this alliance. We have a lot at stake; all of us do, each member of this Alliance. Our publics have a lot at stake in the success of the alliance.

Q: In light of the short warning time that you have with weapons of mass destruction, should NATO be prepared to take preemptive military action against terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction and that have indicated that they're ready to use them?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question. Let me answer it slightly off to the side. What NATO ought to have is really up to all the NATO countries and not this one individual.

I will say this - I think that every country that is living in this period, this new security environment, has to recognize that historically we have organized and trained and equipped ourselves to contest aggressive, hostile armies, navies and air forces. The situation today is that opponents of free people - terrorists who go around killing innocent men, women and children regardless of race or religion or nationality - are not competing against our armies, navies and air forces.

They are using so-called asymmetrical techniques: terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction potentially, cyber-attacks potentially, cruise missiles to be sure, ballistic missiles to be sure. And it is our task to see that we acknowledge that change that has taken place and transform not just the United States military, as we're trying to do, but the NATO institution and the NATO militaries, as well.

Because if we're not able to use, for example, precision guided munitions, and are stuck with dumb bombs -- dumb bombs are fine when you're dealing with armies, navies and air forces. They're not fine when you've got the much more difficult task of trying to track down and deal with terrorist networks and nations that harbor terrorists, as one example of the difference.

Second, as you pointed out we do have to be a much more readily deployable -- our capabilities do. Ours do and other NATO nations do. So there are things we've got to do to get ourselves rearranged. And we're hard at it.

Q: Sir, if I could just follow up on that previous question. In his last statement, Lord Robertson said that in its nature, NATO remains a defensive alliance and that we're not going out looking for problems to solve. But on that point, how can these new threats be addressed if you don't necessarily take either preemptive or offensive action, in order to deal with weapons of mass destruction and not just be reacting to things after they happen?

Rumsfeld: Sure. Well that ties in, of course, to Jim's question. Let me go back and worry that a bit.

If a terrorist can attack at any time, in any place, and using any technique, and it's physically impossible to defend in every place, at every time against every technique, then one needs to calibrate the definition of "defensive." Because literally, the only way to defend against individuals or groups or organizations or countries that have weapons of mass destruction and are bent on using them against you, for example - and you know you can't defend at every place at every time against every technique - then the only defense is to take the effort to find those global networks and to deal with them as the United States did in Afghanistan.

Now is that defensive or is it offensive? I personally think of it as defensive. We had no interest in doing anything in Afghanistan. It was not on the radarscope. And the terrorists that had been trained there in that global network attacked the United States.

All one has to do is read the intelligence information to know that there are a good number of people who have been well trained. They are well financed. They are located in 40 or 50 countries. And they are determined to attack the values and the interests and the peace and the way of life of the people that are represented in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations.

I don't find this task notably different. It's different in the sense that we're not dealing armies, navies and air forces. But, clearly, every nation has the right of self-defense and this is the only, only conceivable way for us to defend ourselves against those kinds of threats.

Yes.

Q: Sir, due to the military capabilities the technological gap is always mentioned and the U.S. and European companies are always complaining about the U.S. Customs restrictions. How far is the U.S. government now worked to minimize this restriction in the kind of better cooperation?

Rumsfeld: Well we've got a high degree of cooperation on technological matters with most NATO countries.

It seems to me the issue on technology is a gap of investment as the basic problem. The United States has been investing in technologies and a number of countries have invested less in technologies. That is part of the problem.

The degree of interaction from a technological standpoint is extensive. The gap in military capabilities between some countries and other countries however, it seems to me, is in the first instance a gap of investment, and in the second instance it is a set of -- a relationship of teeth to tail -- how much support and how much overhead do we have relative to how many people you would characterize as the teeth part of the teeth-to-tail effort. And third, I would say it is -- I don't know quite how to put this -- there have been a number of ministers today who have, I think quite properly, pointed up the importance of recognizing that not every country in the alliance is the same size or has the same security needs or is likely to want to have exactly the same kind of military. And therefore, it makes a lot of sense to do as some ministers are already doing and have indicated that they plan to do, and that is to look at a specific area, and develop a high degree of competence in that either as an individual nation or with one, two, three or four nations, or in the case of AWACS with the entire alliance.

It is that kind of rational approach to expensive businesses like defense with the serious threats that need to be dealt that reflect to me a very forward looking, rational, sensible way to approach the problem.

We'll make this the next to the last question and that's the last question.

Q: I am just wondering if you the opportunity today to talk with NATO defense ministers about Iraq, specifically about Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Did I talk with whom?

Q: With all the defense ministry, the ministers of defense.

Rumfeld: The subject of Iraq came up. It came up in the context that I brought it up here -- as one of those states that's a terrorist state -- it's on the terrorist list, everyone knows that, it's all public. It's one of those states that has had relationships with terrorist networks, and it is a state that has had an enormous aggressive appetite for weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, it has liked that subject so much that it actually used chemical weapons on their own people. They have had a very serious nuclear weapons effort underway, goodness, going back what, of certain knowledge a decade and a half or two decades. They have without question a biological weapon program. But so did several other terrorist states come up and it tended to be in that context.

There's the last question.

Q: This is a question asked by a couple of my colleagues while the plan of attacks is related to Iraq. Is there any consensus or did you feel that there is a consensus...

Rumfeld: I'm sorry, this is a sensitive subject and you're going to have to repeat your question very slowly so that I can understand and not answer improperly.

Q: Okay, I think. My colleagues, two of my colleagues asked about offensive or defensive and preemptive attacks...

Rumfeld: Ah yes, yes...

Q: So, that I concede. My question is on the context of Iraq, is there any consensus among the NATO nations...

Rumsfeld: I think I answered that, that subject did not come up in this meeting. The subject of Iraq and other terrorist states came up in exactly the context that I described.

Thank you very much.