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Secretary Rumsfeld Roundtable with NATO Foreign Journalist

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 07, 2003
           Rumsfeld:  We are delighted to be here.  It is a beautiful setting and we have I guess 19 members of NATO and 7 invitees and Seriga (inaudible) coming from Russia for I guess a total of 27 if my math works out right.  And we’re pleased that they’re going to have a chance to see Colorado.  And we of course have a great deal of military activity in this area with the Air Force Academy in Ft. Carson and Schreever the base there and other facilities.

 

            The meeting, I guess you’ve all met Nick Burns here who’s the permanent representative to NATO.  And that’s Mark Keason down there looking thoughtful.  {Laughter}.  That’s Amb. Dan Galbraith sitting behind there and I’m not going to even mention these two guys.  But it is an important time for the Alliance.

 

            I’ve been in office now I guess pushing 3 years 2 1/2, 2/3 year and if you think of what’s happened just in the last year, year in a half, two years we’ve had the proposal for the NATO Response Force and it is moving along smartly.  It is critically important to the Alliance that we have capabilities that can move in hours and weeks and days not months or years.

 

            The advantage I believe may ultimately prove to be not simply the existence of a NATO capability that has the ability to go do something useful in the world but also the fact that in developing it and working with it and exercising it and making it responsive, we will back those transformational aspects into their respective militaries of the NATO countries just as we’re trying to do in the United States.

 

            A second thing that’s happened which I think is amazing is it’s hard enough to change one country but to have 19 countries agree to a change in their command structure from something like what, 19 to 11 elements is that roughly right?

 

            He’s the fellow who did it, J.D. Crouch.  What we go from 19 to 11.

 

            Voice:  Yeah it’s probably 20.

 

            Rumsfeld:  20 to 11.

 

            And that’s really an important thing because it says that people do believe in the Alliance and that it does have a value prospectively, which we certainly are convinced of.

 

            The other things that are happening we’ve seen NATO during this period take on the responsibility for the first time in its history of the International Security Assistance Force outside of Europe.  Never before in all those decades has that institution done that.  I’ve met with the NATO Commander there in Kabul and that is a good thing and an important thing for the institution.

 

            With respect to Iraq it’s interesting to me that there again NATO stepped forward and has been supporting the Polish Division.  We now have 11 of 19 NATO nations have forces in Iraq and Turkey announced today in the press that their Cabinet has recommended it to the Parliament I believe.  I just saw the headline I didn’t have a chance to read the article.  And 6 of the 7 of the invitee countries so we’ve got something like 17 or 18 out of 26 that are involved there in addition to the support that the Poles are giving.  With that I’ll stop and be happy to respond to questions.

 

            Q:  It’s a non-NATO question.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure.

 

            Q:  The announcement by President yesterday on the restructuring of the Iraq’s rebuilding effort headed by Dr. Rice.  Rightly or wrongly I guess it’s being perceived as shunting the Pentagon a bit aside on the restructuring and rebuilding effort in Iraq.  Can you comment a bit on that perception at least coming out of Washington and that was the intention of the President to sort of take leadership away from the Pentagon and give it to the NSC and inter-governmental process?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think the way to think about it is.  First of all I don’t think your question is correct, the President didn’t make an announcement.  Condi Rice apparently background of the New York Times is what took place.  But the way to think about it is that that’s the job of the National Security Council is to coordinate among different departments and agencies.  That’s why it’s there.  That’s what its charter is.

 

            Q:  Why did you need a special committee for that – to do that?   And why do you introduce another level of democracy?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think you have to ask Condi that question.  I think it’s yet to be determined exactly how those elements will operate.  They’ve been there basically the way I think she back grounded it for a year, year in a half pretty much the same I’d say.  So I don’t know quite what the purpose of the back grounding was but those same elements.

 

            Q:  4 departments have been there all the time already?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well they’re not departments they are little committees with an NSC person and the people from the other departments and agencies and they’ve been working on these things since before the war.

 

            Q:  Do you personally perceive that as some sort of oversight they tried to exercise over you and Mr. Bremer?

 

            Rumsfeld:  My personal view is we’ll just have to see how it evolves but my impression of it is that is what is the charter of the National Security Council and I haven’t been able to detect any difference in the memo.  Unfortunately it’s a classified memo, it shouldn’t be there’s nothing in it that’s classified and it’s really very clear what it is and what it is, is what it’s always been.  That is to say that the NSC’s task is to try to coordinate among the departments and agencies.

 

            Q:  They’re trying to do better?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Pardon me?

 

            Q:  They’re trying to do better now?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No I think they’ve always been trying to do better.  Certainly everyone tries to do better.

 

            Q:  It was certainly perception part of this that the NSC had not in performing it’s traditional role of the inter-governmental, inter-agency process and that the Pentagon had sort of dominated the rebuilding.  If I could get back to this issue of the perception at least and the Pentagon is being if not shunted aside at least subsumed into this because of some of the problems.  Can you react to that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I really can’t because I haven’t a chance to see how it’s going to evolve but my impression is that, that – no point in me making impressions.  I think she gave a background, she said what she said and the way I read the memorandum is that, that it is basically what the responsibility of the NSC is and always has been, which is what’s been going on.  We have regular National Security Council meetings with the President, we have regular principals meetings, we have regular deputies meeting, they have regular PCC meetings and the people named in those – in that memorandum are her staff members, so I don’t quite know how to respond.

 

            Q:  Not to belay with the point but it sounds from your respond there that you had not been briefed about this prior to Dr. Rice’s briefing of the Times in memo.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s true.

 

            Q:  Okay.  Did you talk to the President about this beforehand?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Have I talked to him about it?

 

            Q:  Yeah?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.

 

            Q:  Did it come as a surprise to you then?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No that’s what the NSC’s charter is.  It’s just kind of– the only thing unusual about it is the attention and I kind of wish they’d just released the memorandum.

 

            Q:  But if they are already working for one year in debate you said – told us why then is it necessary to make a memorandum?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know.

 

            Q:  (Inaudible).

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know you have to ask them, I don’t know.

 

            Q:  What’s your perception?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’ve already responded to that.

 

            Q:  It’s not clear why?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Pardon me?

 

            Q:  It’s not quite clear to me why?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I said I don’t know.  Isn’t that clear?  You don’t understand English?  I was not there for the back grounding.

 

            Q:  But one might think you talk about it with Condoleezza and with others in the National Security Council when you’re sitting together, the 5 or 6 of you.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah, we talk about everything.

 

            Q:  And she doesn’t announce I’m writing a memo by the way, to you?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I happened not to know that she was going to write a memo but that’s true everyday that someone on the NSC writes a memorandum or someone in one of the principal departments.  I mean I write memorandums all the time that people don’t know I’m writing until they receive it.  I think that you’re looking for something that’s not there.

 

            Q:  Can I go into the Iraq thing while we have time?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure.

 

            Q:  You were mentioning the NATO countries that participated already.  Germany is not one of them.  Fortunately I made it into this briefing I don’t know why!  Are we now part of the Coalition law, because it’s Spanish, English and German media, so . . . So what exactly is it you expect from Germany?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Whatever Germany wants to do it’s up to them; it’s a sovereign country.  We have no expectations at all.

 

            Q:  Yeah, but you probably hoped for something don’t you?

 

            Rumsfeld: No.

 

            Q:   No?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, every country – from the very beginning we have said that we think each country is a sovereign country.  They ought to think through how they would like to participate if at all, and then consult as their constitutions and procedures suggest with their Parliaments and their Cabinets depending on the country.  And then what we do is we go out to some thing like 150 countries and say here’s the kinds of things we’re interested in.  We’d like force protection in your countries, if you could help us with that.  We’d like combat support in the Gulf States neighboring by, we’d like actual assistance inside of Afghanistan or Iraq or both.  We’d like it as part of the Coalition, part of ISAF or otherwise, humanitarian assistance.  And Germany has stepped forward in taking on the responsibility for the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which is a good thing.   And they have very recently I don’t know if it’s public so I’ll rephrase that opening comment and say they have expressed and interest in participating with respect to provisional reconstruction teams an discussions are taking place as to how that might or might not happen.  There again, I try to avoid speaking for other countries.  I just think it’s better for them to characterize what it is they think they should do.

 

            Q:  On Iraq what do you expect of the debate tomorrow evening and did this include a NATO major involvement in Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  What debate tomorrow evening?

 

            Q:  Tomorrow you are going to talk to your colleagues in Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh here.

 

            Q:  Yeah here on the NATO.

 

            Rumsfeld:  There’s so many debates going on I thought you meant in the Senate over the $87 billion dollars.

 

            This is an informal meeting.  We’re going to have dinners and lunches and sessions and we’ll be talking about a whole range of things including the NATO Response Force.  Obviously we’ll be talking about Afghanistan and Iraq as so many of the countries are involved.  We’ll be talking about the future, transformation of the Alliance, we’ll be talking about the kinds of threats that the Alliance is going to conceivably face in the 21st Century and how the Alliance can best be arranged to deal with those things.  We’ve got a good agenda I think.

 

            Q:  On NATO my second question was if you exclude innate to major involvement in Iraq . . .  I mean, do you think that the involvement of NATO will be to not give logistics support to Poland or was it at any time the possibility . . .

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well I guess that depends on how you describe NATO.  We’ve got 11 NATO countries out of 19 in there with force.  We’ve got 6 out of 7 of the invitees.

 

            Q:  But it’s not a NATO force?

 

            Rumsfeld:   We have the NATO supporting Poland.  Now, what else NATO might do is certainly something that could be (inaudible).

 

            Q:  Do you expect a similar role as it has been evolving in Afghanistan?  At first supporting them, and then afterwards taking over the lead?

 

            Rumsfeld:  In life things do tend to evolve, they tend not to arrive fully formed and so you’re suggestion, you making the suggestion is better than me.  I don’t think I should be looking into the future and saying what other countries might or might not do.

 

            Q:  But officials are working together in NATO brings the future to the organization.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right.

 

            Q:  Concerning for example Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Maybe, maybe not.

 

            Q:  (Inaudible) proposals.

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, I’m not going to make proposals for other countries to defend (inaudible).

 

            Q:  No, no for the NATO role.

 

            Q:  Are you actually hoping for them to propose to you that they could be a major involvement?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We went to NATO I guess in December of last year and spoke to the NATO countries and invited them to assist.  Tom Franks at the Central Command has liaison with all or most – I should say most if not all of the NATO countries in Tampa.  And he made those requests at the military level so we went to both the military and the civilian level and they all know the kinds of things we would value and benefit from in both of those circumstances.  Three circumstances really, there’s global war on terror, Afghanistan and Iraq.  And we have participation of 90 countries in the overall global war on terror.  And so they all know and it’s not for me then to go them and say, gee we asked for this and you didn’t respond with that.  I just don’t do that.

 

            Q:  So you’re not going to ask NATO again?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.   But I wouldn’t say it that way.  Excuse me I would not want to say it that way that Rumsfeld said he’s not going to ask NATO.  We have asked.

 

            Q:  And you were rejected basically in a way?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, not at all.

 

            Q:  Not quite.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Not even not quite, that would be flat wrong.  I’ll go back to it.  11 of 19 countries not counting Turkey, 6 of 7 invitees, are not a rejection.

 

            Q:   But it’s not a NATO operation it’s an operation of . . .

 

            Rumsfeld:  In Afghanistan it is a NATO operation that evolved over time and – just a minute, just a minute, and they did support Poland in Iraq.  So your characterization is racing over to a hard negative position in something that is A) much more nuanced and B) evolving over a period of time.  And it would be a misrepresentation to characterize it the way you do.

 

            Q:  Can I ask about the Balkans real quickly because obviously if NATO organization if it’s S4 and K4.  There have been some suggestions that the Army and the Joint Staff is enthusiastic about pulling U.S. Peacekeepers out to help some of the in-strength issue that are going on in Iraq right now.  I think General Myers said it’s on the table.  Is that something that you will raise here?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh we always discuss the Balkans.

 

            Q:  Okay but is the issue of withdrawing U.S. Forces there a viable one at this point you think?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think that the way that I would characterize it is that during the past 2-½ years the NATO Alliance under the leadership of the SACEUR and the Secretary General have been successful in both Kosovo and Bosnia.  In fashioning a trajectory where all the participating countries could on an evolutionary basis, adjust their troop levels downward to fit the facts on the ground.  They do it on I think a six month cycle – collaborate me if I get off base here.  And they have been very successful at it, they’ve been doing a very good job at it and the direction is in that way.  Now, it requires someone stopping each time and looking and not pre-judging but making a judgment at the time.  What does it look like on the ground?  How are things going?  And what can we do?  And we’ve had the in together, out together approach and that’s where it’s been going.  Now, we’ve also said to countries – other countries that if you would like to help in Iraq fine, if you would like to help in Afghanistan fine, if you’d like to help us in a different way like backfilling in some instances.  In Kuwait where we’ve had for example – oh I’m not going to get the country right, but we’ve had one or two countries provide various niche capabilities for us so that we didn’t have to do that in Kuwait, out of the combat zone if you will.  But that certainly will be the discussed.

 

            Staff:  I’m afraid we’re almost out of time we really are.

 

            Q:  So Matellia wasn’t completely wrong when he said on Saturday; he wrote that the EU might take over Bosnia this time next year?

 

            Rumsfeld:  U?

 

            Q:  EU.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh EU.  I thought you were talking me.

 

            Q:  No.  {Laughter}.

 

            Q:  Would you accept that idea that they take over next year?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That would be something that would be discussed among the NATO nations and they’d look at the situation and have to make a judgment as to what makes sense.  That’s basically stuff that the Department of State does.  I don’t have a personal view.

 

            Staff:  Thank you folks, thank you very kindly.

 

            Q:  Thank Mr. Secretary.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Hey you bet.

 

            Q:  One last word to the seminar tomorrow?

 

            Rumsfeld:  To what?

 

            Q:  Seminar tomorrow.  The exercise tomorrow morning?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes, yes, yes.

 

            Q:  What do you expect from it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I always benefit and learn from those things I really do.  I find that you can sit around with papers and write theory but if you get into an exercise or a seminar like that where someone external injects an idea and then you have to deal with it, it is a very valuable helpful thing.  I use to do it when I was Ambassador to NATO thirty years ago.  We would look at what would happen when Yugoslavia, when Marshall Tito would die – this is off the record.  And looking at the centrifugal force that would exist and of course sure enough and you have to sit there and think about those things is a useful thing to do.  Not that anything ever happens the way any exercise is planned out, but it’s helpful.  I benefit from it.

 

            Q:  All right.  Thanks a lot.

 

            Q:  Thank you.

 

            Q:  See you tomorrow.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Good, good, nice to see you.

 

            Q:  Thank you very much.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Thank you.

 

            Q:  Thank you very much, good to see you.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And you. 

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