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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Poland

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

Sunday, September 22, 2002

(Media Availability En Route to Poland)

Q: Why did you bring us here?

Rumsfeld: Let me just think. This of course is a quote informal NATO Ministerial meeting. Does it have to be that close? So it will be distinctly different than the general twice a year meetings in June and December, there will be fewer people and the discussions will be somewhat less formal.

Part of it is in anticipation of the Prague Summit when the Presidents and Heads of Government meet; oh I guess every three, four or five years for summit meetings.

The big issues coming up are NATO enlargement, which at this point seems not contentious, broadly agreed I think the question of NATO capabilities and the Secretary General and others concern about the fact that many of the other NATO countries have been reducing their defense budgets with the inevitable fact that the overall capabilities of NATO tend to decline.

We have several initiatives before the group. One involves capabilities and improving capabilities, which the NATO countries had agreed upon and had been a major NATO initiative and the capabilities are falling short of commitments. Second is a NATO response force, which really all of you are familiar with in the sense that it involves transforming NATO.

It is very much what we're interested in doing and that is seeing if we can have more of our capabilities available in days or weeks rather than months or years. If we can have a larger fraction of our capabilities agile and able to get in and out of places and move around in places with a smaller footprint. This is something that NATO countries are perfectly capable of doing if they decided to do it and to bring those kinds of mixed capabilities together so that in the event that there's a problem that occurs in the world in or out of the NATO area that NATO will have a responsive capability that's real, and has functioned together, that's interoperable trained and exercised with our capabilities and with ours as a part of it so we feel that that would be a good way for NATO to assure it's relevance going forward.

The third issue that we have involves the NATO command structure and headquarters, just as we are looking at our base structure, we have to look at base structures in NATO just as we're looking at our unified and specified command structures we need to look at the command structures at NATO and see that they're organized and staffed in ways that are relevant to the 21st century and the kinds of problems we face and the reality is that they tend not to be there's always a need for these things to evolve and change, you've witnessed the impediments to change in the United States and you can imagine when you've got 19 countries you can multiply it by 19, there are always going to be impediments to changing what is.

I don't find it hard to change but some people seem to and some countries seem to and some institutions seem to but it is particularly important at a time when a lot a number of NATO countries budgets are declining but whatever it is they are spending that those funds be spent on those things that are in fact relevant and needed and important to the kinds of capabilities that NATO's going to have to have in the period ahead.

Now, if you wanted me to say something I just said something.

Q: [Do you plan to use this occasion to continue to impress our NATO countries to the need to disarm Iraq and perhaps topple Saddam?]

Rumsfeld: Well I don't know about the latter because the President hasn't made a judgment on that so...

Q: Perhaps?

Rumsfeld: Even with perhaps, the first part of your question the answer is yes and the second part of your question the answer is no because the President hasn't made that decision.

But there's no question but that the United States, JD Crouch and I briefed NATO at the last meeting which was in June and we provided a weapons of mass destruction and terrorist, terrorist state, terrorist network briefing in June for them. We have briefed ambassadors to NATO countries at the Pentagon and we will be discussing the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and terrorists states and networks, including Iraq at this meeting.

Q: Do you plan to give a briefing on Tuesday about the war on Iraq? And generally on countries that have weapons of mass destruction?

Rumsfeld: I would have to look at the schedule to know the date but without pinning me down on which day it is there is no question but that we'll be giving a brief and the United States will be giving a briefing on...that will focus very much on Iraq.

Q: Inaudible

Rumsfeld: We just like to add illumination to a complicated subject for people and to share intelligence information and to just have a chance to discuss in an informal way the President's speech to the United Nations.

Q: [Are you looking to find votes of support from NATO?]

Rumsfeld: No we're not looking, this is an informal meeting, we're not looking for votes or unanimity, you don't find unanimity in our world, so don't expect it.

Q: [What is the prospect of finding NATO relevance in Iraq?]

Rumsfeld: You folks are fixed on that subject.

Q: What is the prospect of NATO as an institution being involved in military action against Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I can't imagine it, it doesn't...I have no idea, it hasn't crossed my mind, we've not proposed it.

Q: NATO wasn't involved as an institution in Afghanistan

Rumsfeld: Nor was it in Iraq in 1990

Q: But it was in Kosovo?

Rumsfeld: NATO after a period in Kosovo and Bosnia had a role, very different circumstances in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Q: [What is to say that NATO's relevance in the war on terrorism?]

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd connect it like that, I think that any institution has to evolve and change as circumstances change just as the United States are in the process of transformation, trying to change.

As I've said to the people in the United States military the worse thing that can happen is that the United States to be threatened or attacked and the phone not ring for elements of the armed forces.

They spend their lives preparing and training and are willing and ready to do something and so we've got to see what it is our armed forces are capable of doing is what it is this country needs to have done and NATO will have to do the same thing.

NATO is a consensus organization, it's a large organization it is not the kind of an organization that, if you think of the global war on terror they responded within a matter of days and provided AWACS for the United States and demonstrated a capability that was needed and that they were ready to provide and that they were able to fashion a consensus to provide.

Q: [Sources say the President has a war plan on his desk about attacking Iraq? What types of options were provided to the President?]

Rumsfeld: Of course I could and I won't I must say I find the people that are talking to the media about war plans are so far out of line and so disgracefully misbehaving that I find it stunning and a weak effort.

First of all I can tell you that anyone who knows anything isn't talking and anyone with any sense isn't talking therefore the people that are talking to the media by definition people who don't know anything and people who don't have a hell of a lot of sense.

It is disgraceful for them to be out taking elements of what they think might be possible by way of a war plan and parading them for the world and for Saddam Hussein.

I don't know what the President's going to decided to do but I think it's unhelpful and dangerous to the lives of American men and women in uniform. But I am very glad you asked the question.

Q: There is actually a plan on the President's desk?

Rumsfeld: The White House did not discuss any element of any plan that has even been considered with anyone in the press, so don't confuse that...

Q: Can you confirm a White House plan?

Rumsfeld: First of all I don't need to confirm or deny things that the White House says, the White House they tend to be able to say what they want to say and they said what they wanted to say.

I'm kind of old fashioned I begin with a couple of principles, one is the job of the Pentagon to prepare for contingencies we do that all across the globe, we have all kinds of contingency plans that we've prepared.

And as a matter of fact I think I've mentioned to some of you that we've issued some new contingency planning guidance which is classified and we are significantly changing the process for contingency planning the speed of the cycle for contingency planning is going to be accelerated and they are going to be less stale and more current than they have been in the past which I think is critically important for this country.

And we are going to do a good job on contingency plans and we'll do them for all kinds of things noncombatant evacuations from places and possible other contingencies we'll do that, and we do do that, and we are doing that and we're going to do that on a continuing basis and people who talk about them are way out of line.

Q: Are you developing a plan for not for an attack on Iraq but an attack on Iraq's government?

Rumsfeld: I have said and the President has said that the small group of people that run Iraq and have done so for a good many years have repressed the people and in a very real sense the people in that country are hostages to a small group of dictatorial and repressive government officials.

And it's not a large group. The United States hasn't and never had a problem or issue with the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people have been punished on a daily basis just as their neighbors have been punished by the behavior of their country. So you are quoting some person, low level, doesn't know what's going on, doesn't have very good sense, or he wouldn't be talking. And what is he saying? He's saying the obvious. Obviously no one would want to harm the people of that country, we favor the people of that country. And what the President will decide to do is entirely in the future and no such decisions have been made. Bob you asked a question.

Q: Will you talk about Iraq military capabilities?

Rumsfeld: No it will be on the subject of weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist state and the terrorist network that nexus that we talked about.

Q: Inaudible

Rumsfeld: I think this constant quest for new information for smoking guns is misguided and what the President is trying to do and the Secretary of State is at the United Nations and what we will be doing at NATO is trying to help people connect the dots before something happens rather than afterwards.

Q: Like the same thing you did on capital hill?

Rumsfeld: This will be a classified meeting.

Thank You.