Updated: 02-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


1 Dec. 2003

Press Conference

by Donald Rumsfeld
US Secretary of Defense
following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the Level of NATO Defence Ministers

Good afternoon. I'm Don Rumsfeld and this is General Pete Pace, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.

In the 12 months since the Prague Summit, NATO has experienced probably more positive change than in perhaps any ten-year period in its history. Seven new members have been invited to join the Alliance. NATO made the decision to stand up a NATO Response Force, an important decision given the challenges of the 21st century. NATO has reformed its command structure, which will lead to a reduction in the number of commands from 22 to 11. That's a tough enough thing to do in one country, but to have an alliance of 19 countries do it, is indeed impressive, and establish a new command to help drive Allied Transformation which is so important.

NATO has taken over the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, the first NATO mission outside the North Atlantic Treaty area. This is the first time in the history of the Alliance that NATO has done that. It was an enormous decision and it's going well.

In addition, NATO has helped Poland and Spain, as they lead the 17-nation multinational division in South Central Iraq. The U.S., I should add, is open to an expanded NATO role in both countries.

Twelve of the 19 current NATO allies and six of the seven invitees have sent troops to serve in Iraq. We are deeply grateful to them for their steadfastness and their political courage. And today, NATO stood up the initial rotation of its new chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear battalion, as I believe you were all briefed. Some 15 allies and two invitees have agreed to contribute forces to that battalion.

That's a remarkable set of accomplishments and as the security environment is changing, NATO's mission understandably is changing. And the Alliance, needless to say, has to change with it.

As Lord Robertson has made clear, the very low number of deployable NATO forces is a problem, particularly at a moment when NATO is discussing taking on still additional missions.

As we prepare for the Istanbul Summit, there's a need to address the problem by eliminating unusable forces and seeing that the savings are reinvested into needed allied capabilities. And to take on new missions, we also have to continue to wrap up some old missions. We discussed the progress in Afghanistan on the implementation of the Alliance decision to expand ISAF beyond Kabul by creating additional, provincial reconstruction teams. If this proves successful, we also discussed the possibility that NATO might take over military operations in Afghanistan sometime in the future, although that remains to be seen.

In Bosnia, indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic remain at large. SFOR has launched a crackdown on the criminal networks that support them and U.S. Forces will assist SFOR to take measures to help arrest him and other indicted war criminals.

Finally, this is Lord Robertson's last defence ministerial as NATO Secretary General. Needless to say, I join our colleagues in thanking him for his truly remarkable leadership. He's presided over NATO at a time of unprecedented change, from invoking Article 5 for the first time in history to NATO's first mission out of the area in Afghanistan. Through it all, he has been a very steady hand and a force for positive change. We'll miss his guidance, his vision, and as I'm sure all of you are aware, his excellent sense of humour.

General Pete Pace.

General Pete Pace (Vice-Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): Thank you Mr. Secretary. I just completed a trip last week that included visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. It was my great privilege to observe firsthand the tremendous stabilizing influence that the NATO-led ISAF force is having in Afghanistan. People in Kabul have got shops open and it looks like business as usual and they just are making tremendous progress inside of that security environment being provided by NATO.

In Iraq, I had the chance to visit the Polish-led Spanish contribution division that is being supported by NATO and they too are doing a fabulous job in their area near An-Najaf, making the people's lives better and providing security. With that, sir, I'll stop.

Questions and answers

Rumsfeld: We'd be happy to respond to some questions. We do have the... I guess it's the NATO-Russia meeting at 5:30, so we'll have to limit it.


Q: Secretary, I'd like to ask you a... Bob Burns of Associated Press, a question about Iraq. In light of the multiple ambushes of U.S. Forces in Samara yesterday and the recent deadly attacks against Spanish and South Korean, Japanese, other coalition personnel in Iraq, how do you respond to people who say that there's actually a deepening cycle of violence in Iraq, rather than a trend toward the positive?

Rumsfeld: What you have in Iraq -- and Pete just came from there and he might want to comment -- but what you have is a contradiction. You have both going on. There's no question that there are periodic incidents where people are being killed and wounded; we know that.

We also know that there's... that the schools are open, that the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, that people are engaged in economic activity throughout the country, and that the vast majority of the country is not in conflict. It is in a relatively stable circumstance.

I think the answer is both things are taking place. There are a limited number of people who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children, who are connected to the coalition or who are coalition participants or who are innocent Iraqis, and that's taking place. Those people are also being rounded up, captured, killed, wounded and interrogated, and that process is taking place. Indeed, very recently, there was a quite successful effort on the part of coalition forces to capture and deal with a number of those folks.

Pace: Sir, I was in Baghdad and Al-Ramadi, Faluja, Tikrit, An-Najaf last week. There's no doubt in my mind that exactly what the Secretary said is true, that you have those who are bent on preventing the Iraqi people from experiencing freedom, those who look and see that tremendous progress has been made and are afraid that there, a thuggery, their way of intimidation is in fact being overcome by the coalition forces that are there and the will of the Iraqi people to have their own government and live their own lives.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Secretary, I'm (inaudible) from Danish Television. Secretary, there's been all sorts of reports about your reaction to the EU meeting in Italy this weekend. Would you like to state clearly what is your attitude to the plans of the European Union to establish military planning capacity outside of NATO?

Rumsfeld: There have been some reports. Someone showed me something off the Internet that was pure fiction. I'm sure no one in this room participated in that.

Our policy is very clear that we strongly support NATO as the primary forum for Trans-Atlantic defence. We support ESDP that is NATO-friendly, therefore we work hard. Our Alliance did, I think, for four and a half years to fashion Berlin Plus which we support and we stand by them.

And you're quite right, there are discussions and consultations taking place at the defence ministerial level, at the foreign ministerial level and at the prime ministerial level. And I'm confident and hopeful that things will sort through in a way that we end up with an arrangement that is not duplicative or competitive.


Q: Augustin (inaudible) from Koha Ditore in Kosovo. Secretary Rumsfeld, if you are interested to keep your presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina after EU takes the mission there, how are you going to do that, in what form? And second question: Is United States going to remain...

Rumsfeld: With all these people, why don't we do them one question per person.

Q: It's linked, it's... with Kosovo...

Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm sure.

Q: How will you keep your promises to help troops in Kosovo if you need them elsewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Rumsfeld: The NATO forces in Bosnia and Kosovo had an understanding that we would go in together and out together. That's been the case for the most part. There have been some exceptions I think. And those forces have been in the process of being drawn down as the circumstance in, for example, Bosnia as you mentioned, has improved.

What will take place after NATO's formal role ends is open for discussion and would be something that obviously would be a result of consultations with Bosnia and among the NATO countries.

The second question. I guess what you're talking about is a... relatively limited numbers of people in Bosnia on terms of U.S. Forces... and... our forces are 1.4 million active and some 700 plus thousand reserves, and it seems to me that we certainly have the ability to do what we're doing, as well as to continue to participate in an orderly way with the draw down in Bosnia.

Way in the back. Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary and also General Pace, could you tell us what you think this attack in Iraq says about the changing tactics there and also the intelligence gathering capabilities of the insurgents since there were so many involved in this and it was clearly co-ordinated?

Rumsfeld: Go ahead.

Pace: It's hard to tell on the basis of one attack exactly what tactics may or may not be changing. The fact is that in this particular case, about 50 or so of the enemy did collect together for whatever reason they thought was appropriate. They attacked and they were killed. So I think it'll be instructive to them for future analysis, when they are thinking about what they're going to do next.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, the fact that Lord Robertson virtually has to (inaudible) for troops and helicopters for ISAF in Afghanistan, doesn't it worry you about future (inaudible) of NATO in other regions or for instance Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I think Lord Robertson's done an excellent job and my estimate is that, within a reasonable period of time, he'll be able to encourage, persuade -- whatever word you want to use -- NATO nations to provide the forces necessary to fulfil the ISAF mission.

Clearly, to the extent that activities are agreed to, that go beyond that, that requires them, that NATO countries step forward and supply the capabilities to execute those functions. And we have to see that there's a close connection between what we decide to do and what we're willing to offer up to do. And I think that we'll keep that quite tight. So I'm not concerned about it.

I think that each country has to make a judgement as to what they can offer up. And if you think about it, I mentioned in my opening remarks the large number of NATO countries and invitees that are already participating in both Iraq and Afghanistan is impressive.


Q: Mr. Secretary, Will (inaudible) with Reuters. You mentioned that NATO might take over military operations in Afghanistan in the... eventually. Can you say would that involve the absorption of the roughly 11,500 U.S.-led troops and the mission they are currently undertaking there and what kind of timetable are we looking at?

Rumsfeld: We're not at this stage. It's just... We always have, from the outset, have desired to have the maximum number of countries and organizations participating both in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've got, as I mentioned, a very large number in Afghanistan. We've got 34 countries participating in Iraq.

At what pace they may assume additional responsibilities remains to be seen, but we're certainly open to it, encouraging it, and we'll see what evolves. But it is, you know, entirely possible that at some point that could happen, although I wouldn't want to predict it because it's some distance out. And I also wouldn't want to put a time frame on it. I just think that that sets a hurdle that doesn't need to be set.


Q: Dieter Miller from Europe-Asia (inaudible). Mr. Rumsfeld, how was(?) your decision-making process to deploy U.S. troops in the new NATO member countries?

Rumsfeld: We are... have spent a couple of years thinking through the challenges of the 21st century and addressing the question as to how we can best work with our friends and allies and partners around the world to deter and defend and deal with some of these 21st century threats.

We think we have some good concepts and we're at the initial stage of discussing them with our allies and with our Congress. And my guess is what will take place, I think there's actually a team that's coming over next week... people from the State Department and the Defence Department to talk about things here.

I was in Asia last week talking to our friends there in Northeast Asia and this will kind of roll out over a not-rushed pace because these are important issues and they'll take discussions and we don't have firm conclusions about where or what numbers.

Once we develop conviction, having talked to our friends and allies and partners, we then have to look at how you might roll that out over a period of years. It might be five, six, seven years, depending on funding and circumstances, to get yourself rearranged properly.

The... We have... in direct answer to your question, we don't have specifics of the type you're looking for. I would say that one thing interesting thing to me anyway is that the more the United States has looked at our circumstance and the more NATO has looked at NATO's circumstance, we have tended to move towards a capabilities-based approach. And capabilities are different than numbers of things. And we've got a whole past, all of us have grown up in a period when we looked at numbers of troops, or numbers of tanks, or numbers of aircraft, or numbers of ships, and began to make judgements about capabilities based on numbers.

And of course, the real world today is a single precision bomb can do what six, eight or ten dumb bombs can do. So, the idea that if you have ten dumb bombs and you reduce them by five and you replace them with smart bombs, the idea that you've cut your capability in half is non-sense. You've actually vastly increased your capability.

And we're all going to have to get our heads thinking that way about the future and it's going to take us all some time. For example, in the past, when a combat and commander wanted to deal with the Pentagon and they would think in terms of battalions, or they would think in terms of aircraft, or they'd think in terms of ships, and in the future, they're not going to be doing that. They're going to be thinking in terms of the ability to put power on a target in a precise way. And speed becomes more important than mass sometimes and flexibility becomes more important than mass.

You wanted to add a comment on this?

Pace: Sir, you did a great job on that.


Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Alain Franco, RTL et Radio Suisse Romande, you just mentioned that the fact that the United States is going to help SFOR to arrest criminals of war, what kind of measure do you think of? And do you agree with Mme del Ponte when she says that she will not close the doors of the tribunal for Yugoslavia until Karadzic and Mladic are put on trial?

Rumsfeld: I think it is important that indicted war criminals be brought to justice. And when you say what kind of methods, clearly, it's a matter of the interested countries putting assets against that set of problems. And I think that that part of the world will be vastly better off if and when those folks are off the streets.

Yes? Young lady there. Good. Everyone's young to me, right?


Q: (inaudible) BBC World Service. Thank you for that compliment by the way. Mr. Secretary, do you think that if the Europeans set up their own planning cell and their military staff away from NATO, is that duplicative or not?

Rumsfeld: I think I'm going to let the ministers and foreign ministers and the prime ministers sort through that and characterize... I don't think, first of all, that's a hypothetical question. We don't know what's going to evolve and I've kind of set out my views here earlier. And I don't know that I can add to it usefully.

The discussions are going on -- that's a good thing -- and we've indicated our views I think fairly clearly, notwithstanding the fact that in some reports, they've been imperfectly conveyed.

Okay, why don't we take one last question. The lady way in the back.

Q: Defence Secretary, Judy Dempsey, Financial Times. I mean, this is rare that... and you're quite reluctant to give an answer because normally when we do ask you very direct questions, you're very quick to give very direct and entertaining answers.

Rumsfeld: You're egging me on.

Q: No!


Rumsfeld: Yes, you are. You're trying to get me in trouble!

Q: No, no! However...

Rumsfeld: I know your organization.


Q: However...

Rumsfeld: I'm plucky, but I'm not stupid.


Q: I never said you were. However, can I go back to the EU defence headquarters and this debate is nothing new for you, you were personally involved in Berlin Plus negotiations that took a long time. Can I ask you a very direct question? Regardless of what has come out or not come out of the (inaudible) meeting of the EU foreign ministers, do the EU need an independent operational planning cell?


Rumsfeld: Like I said, the other was the last question. (Laughs) We're out of here! Thank you!

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