Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Minister of Defense Herve Morin from the Ministry of Defense, Paris, France
(Note: Minister Morin's remarks are through interpreter.)
MIN. MORIN: I would like to welcome Secretary Gates -- (off mike) -- Normandy. To me -- (inaudible) -- the America graveyard has a great and deep significance. And I told Secretary Gates my father used to be -- (inaudible) -- and he would also remind me how much we owe to all the allied soldiers, especially the young Americans who came and died on our beaches -- (off mike). And the fact that I -- (inaudible) -- first reception of the foreign minister of Defense here, the minister of Defense, -- the fact that -- (inaudible) -- here, the secretary of State -- (inaudible) -- American secretary of State, is of big significance and a great honor.
(Inaudible) -- before I give my microphone to my colleague. (Off mike) – note we have almost on every issue the same views -- (inaudible) -- and we want to work together to collaborate on a certain number issues. And I emphasize how France is attached to -- (inaudible) – participation, contribution to re-establish peace and security -- (inaudible) – Afghanistan, and in Kosovo and in Darfur.
SEC. GATES: I want to thank Minister Morin for allowing me to come so early in his time as minister of defense. As best I can tell, I am -- this is the first visit by an American secretary of Defense to Paris in the last seven or eight years, and I'm pleased to be here. As the minister indicated, we talked about a wide range of issues. It was a good introductory conversation, and I look forward to working closely with him.
I'm especially looking forward to being with him in Normandy tomorrow, where at the same time we will memorialize those who gave their lives on D-Day, we will also acknowledge and celebrate the long ties that have bound both the United States and France.
Q Mr. Minister, does France plan or desire to reduce the size of its forces in Afghanistan? Or conversely, would it consider increasing those who meet an unmet requirement for training?
MIN. MORIN: The president of the republic -- (inaudible) -- foreign minister -- (inaudible) -- to elaborate on that. What I will say is that we don't -- our role is not to remain forever in Afghanistan. Our intention first and foremost is that Afghanistan, with its own assets, through the development and reinforcement of its institutions, Afghanistan should be a sovereign state that can guarantee itself the conditions of its independence and sovereignty.
We want to do -- to make everything possible to recall this message. I want to remind that we have both two -- (off mike) – conduct operations to rebuild Afghanistan. And we also have to provide training in individual periods so that the Afghan army can provide by itself the security and independence of the country.
So the will of France is to prioritize these missions first.
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) Yesterday President Putin had very harsh words against America and some countries in Europe -- (off mike). Do you have any suggestion about the statement that President Putin and the question of the anti-ballistic missile shield in Europe, or do you have anything to say -- (off mike)?
SEC. GATES: We actually did talk about Russia and some of the public statements coming out of Russia recently, especially by President Putin. I -- (inaudible) -- to Minister Morin that perhaps for the only time in our history both the American secretary of State and secretary of Defense have doctoral degrees in Russian and Soviet studies. And we are both puzzled by what the Russians are doing.
We think it's important -- (inaudible) -- be flexible in addressing their concerns on a number of different issues. At the same time, we should not be in the position of allowing them to obstruct further progress in a number of areas. But above all, we would prefer that they partner with us and be our ally in pursuing a number of these initiatives.
Q (Off mike.)
MIN. MORIN: We used the same word. We want to establish a firm dialogue -- (inaudible) flexibility. (Inaudible) – our interests to create conditions that we call -- (inaudible). We wish to have a constructive dialogue with our Russian friends, and I'm thinking more particularly on the Kosovo issue. (Inaudible) -- from Kosovo where I could see that the situation is much more peaceful -- (inaudible) -- talk to each other again. All this is still very fragile.
But on this issue, like on many others, we have to find another -- we have to establish a dialogue -- (inaudible) -- to go further down other issues as well that we have to talk about, especially the missile -- the anti-missile shield that the Americans want to deploy -- (off mike).
Q Mr. Secretary, on Afghanistan again, and following your meeting with General McNeill, what adjustments do you think might be needed in Afghanistan with the force -- either the posture or structure to address the need for 3,000 additional forces that NATO has been unable to muster?
SEC. GATES: What we are looking at, at this point, and what General Durbin is looking at is a combination of two things: first, trying to see if there are some trainers that can be made available who have been working with the Afghan National Army to help with -- at the training of the Afghan National Police. And the second is to continue our efforts, both here in Europe and in Asia, as I discussed in Singapore, to see if we can find other countries that are willing to send additional trainers to help us with the -- or help the Afghan government train the national police. The problem is principally with the national police.
Q How long can you wait for that to filled?
SEC. GATES: I'm sorry?
Q How long can you wait for that to filled?
SEC. GATES: We're obviously trying to do it as quickly as possible. And it partly will depend, I suppose, on the progress we're making on the Afghan National Army.
STAFF: Please, the last question.
Q (In French.)
INTERPRETER: He says he wants -- (off mike) -- between China and the United States.
SEC. GATES: Okay. Well, we are in the process of trying to strengthen our military-to-military relationships.
As I've said previously and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, there is a difference between capacity and intent. And so we are trying to persuade the Chinese to be more transparent about what their strategic intentions are with their modernized military. And I have been invited to Beijing and expect to take up that invitation within the final part of the year or early next year. But this is one of these areas where continuing dialogue, I think, is very important.
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