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Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Holds Press Conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels

Aired December 18, 2001 - 10:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to take you now to Brussels, Belgium, NATO headquarters there. As you see, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld beginning his briefing of the press there.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thirty years ago, when I was ambassador to NATO, I've seen a lot of NATO meetings, and I must say that the meetings today have been very good.

There's no question but that there is a broad area of agreement among the countries and the ministers, and the discussions and conversations have been very constructive and useful.

Needless to say, I thanked all of our allies for their very strong support in the wake of the September 11th attacks in the United States. It is deeply appreciated by the American people.

Needless to say, you're all aware that thousands of people from dozens of countries were killed, including many NATO nations, people of all races, religions and walks of life. The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., are a vivid reminder to us all that the world remains a dangerous place.

RUMSFELD: Far from becoming less valuable, one would have to note that NATO, in the post-Cold War period, is taking on increasing importance as western democracies face deadly new threats in the 21st century.

We discussed a variety of ways to strengthen NATO for the challenges ahead by improving the capabilities that members bring to the alliance by bringing in new members and by addressing older missions so that we can take on new ones in the war on terrorism.

We discussed the need to prepare for a full range of asymmetric threats, including terrorism, cyber attacks, advanced conventional weapons, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and certainly weapons of mass destruction. Each of these pose a threat to the alliance and to the members of the alliance, and none can be ignored.

In particular, I emphasize the threat posed by terrorist movements in terrorist states that are seeking weapons of mass destruction. I expressed our concern with the overlap between the listed states that sponsor terrorism and terrorist networks, given the fact that a large number of the so-called terrorist states have active chemical, biological and/or nuclear programs.

The nexus between states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks raises the danger that September 11 could be a preview of what could come if the enemies of freedom gain ability to strike our nations with weapons of increasingly greater power.

I discussed the ways in which the ABM Treaty is beginning to constrain our research and development, with respect to missile defense, causing cancellation of several tests thus far this year and, of course, why the president felt that it was time to announce the withdrawal by the United States from that treaty and his intention to continue working with Russia, as we begin last evening in my meeting with Minister Ivanov to continue working to find a framework for our relationship going forward, one that emphasizes mutual cooperation, as opposed to mutual assured destruction.

RUMSFELD: I emphasized that President Bush and President Putin have both agreed that our differences over the treaty would not affect our other areas of cooperation.

We discussed the progress that they have made -- the two presidents -- in forging a new security relationship that puts the Cold War animosities and hostilities behind us and embraces 21st century cooperation.

Russia and the United States are working together to combat terrorism, and as I'm sure you're aware, each of our countries has announced dramatic reductions of strategic offensive deployed nuclear weapons.

Last, I expressed the president's strong support for building a new NATO-Russia relationship and for finding ways to encourage political cooperation between Russia and NATO while preserving the integrity of the alliance's decision-making process and its ability to take independent action.

In closing, I would just say that there is no question but that the events of September 11th have had a significant effect on the world in the sense that, as I travel around and visit with leaders of many countries, I can sense a different perspective on their part and indeed different priorities. And I suspect we'll look back in five years and sense that a good deal has shifted on this globe and that people will be fashioning new relationships. They will be rearranging their orientations in the world, and that NATO as well as all of our countries individually will have many opportunities to try to shape a considerably safer and more stable world.

I'd be happy to respond to questions.

QUESTION: You warned your allies today that this could happen almost anywhere -- London, Paris, Rome, Berlin. Have you a commitment from the allies to provide military support no matter where the hunt for terror might take you, be it Iraq or Somalia or Sudan or anywhere else?

RUMSFELD: What we've decided in the United States was that, every country is different, every alliance is different, and each nation and certainly the alliance have to think through their circumstance and decide in what ways it's appropriate for them to provide assistance.

RUMSFELD: President Bush and the United States have asked for the help of all nations on the face of the Earth to try to deal with this problem of terrorism. Some nations are helping in one way; another nation may be helping in still another way. Some nations do it publicly; some nations do it privately.

Our attitude is that we need to deal with terrorists and terrorism and states that harbor terrorism, and we need all the help we can get. And we're delighted to have people give us the help they feel is appropriate given the task that we have ahead of us.

I've said before that I really believe that the mission determines the coalition, and the coalition does not determine the mission.

QUESTION: Are you confident that you would receive what every military help you needed from Europe no matter where you went in this war on terrorism?

RUMSFELD: I think I've answered that. I think that every country has to look at a situation and make their own judgment as to what ways they feel they can be helpful given a specific task, and every country has a somewhat different circumstance. And we've delighted to have the help of, literally, dozens and dozens and dozens of nations.

The fact that NATO, for example, in this instance, for the first time in its history invoked Article V, and that the countries have stepped forward and offered troops an offered lift and offered ships and offered intelligence and have been participating in freezing bank accounts and increasing law enforcement, all of that has contributed greatly to applying pressure on the Al Qaeda and on the Taliban and is leading to the progress that we're achieving in Afghanistan, and we're deeply grateful for it.

QUESTION: You talked this morning about the asymmetric threat from NATO which the alliance should address. Does that require a total new focus of NATO and, perhaps, even a rewriting of strategic concept?

RUMSFELD: No, I think not. I think that the reason that we are not attacked by armies, navies and air forces is because we have effective armies, navies and air forces.

RUMSFELD: It's perfectly logical that we are going to be attacked, therefore, by people who will look for vulnerabilities. They'll look for vulnerabilities, for example, in our dependency on various types of communications. They'll look for vulnerabilities by using cruise missiles or ballistic missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

That requires that we address those threats that run across that so-called asymmetrical spectrum, but it does not suggest that allows one to simply forget more basic threats. It requires that NATO and each country, I think, recognize that we do face different technologies and different capabilities. And we need to see that we're arranged to deal with that full spectrum of capabilities, regardless of where they come from -- the threat comes from.

QUESTION: You seem to have come here today delivering a wake-up call of sorts. Your theme seems to be that NATO is unprepared to face the growing threat of terrorism. To what extent do you think that's true, and what concrete things would you like to see the alliance do to compensate for that or to correct that? For instance, increase spending on military or whatever.

RUMSFELD: Well, I would say it would not be an accurate characterization of our meetings at all that I came to deliver a wake- up call. These are thoughtful people. They know what's going on in the world. They recognize the threats. They know what happened on September 11th. They know how they're arranged individually and collectively to deal with those, and it didn't require my calling all of these things to their attention.

We had discussions about various ways to deal with it. You're quite right, one of the points of discussion was the so-called DCI initiative here at NATO and the need for additional funding, so that the NATO nations increase their defense budgets in a way that will enable our countries, individually and collectively, to contribute to the kind of deterrence that will contribute to a peaceful and stable world.

Without a peaceful and stable world, none of our economies will prosper, our people will not prosper. And it is that -- it is the defense capability of our countries and our alliance that creates that stable world and is the underpinning of our economic opportunities.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, at the end of the last century, the out-of-area discussion was going on; now, in this century, we should look for a global goal. My question is now, how far, in your opinion, is NATO able to go global?

RUMSFELD: It's an interesting question. I well remember all the talk of NATO not doing anything out of area for a good many years. And it is also quite true that a problem like terrorism is global, and we face that in the United States when we receive those attacks and recognize the reality that it is not possible to defend against terrorism in every place, in every location against every conceivable technique of terrorist activity. That means that you have no choice but to take the battle to the terrorist wherever they may be.

And so I think the answer to your question is, it really isn't out of area, if you will. The only way to deal with the terrorist network that's global is to go after it where it is. The only alternative choice is to sit there and think you're going to take the blows, one after another, and given the increasing power of weapons and the reach of weapons today, that would be foolhardy and dangerous and self-defeating.

So I think that the definition of what is in or out of area has really been changed, because of the reach and power of weapons today.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give us an update on the war in Afghanistan? Over the weekend, we saw some of the heaviest bombing to date in Tora Bora; that has lightened a bit. What has changed, and are we any closer to getting Osama bin Laden?

RUMSFELD: The effort continues. Neither he nor Omar -- or several of the other senior Taliban or Al Qaeda leadership -- have been located.

We have reduced the number of areas within in Afghanistan where they're likely to be. Those areas are being attacked from the ground by Afghan forces with the support of coalition forces. They are being attacked from the air.

RUMSFELD: And additional prisoners have been taken today. Additional ground has been covered, and progress continues to be made, but the task is still ahead of us, and it should not be considered that it will be accomplished in a short period of time.

It's going to be tough, dirty, hard work.

QUESTION: What elements do you think should constitute a strategic framework with Russia in the future, that you are going to negotiate with them?

RUMSFELD: Well, for one thing, we both -- Russia and the United States -- as well as all of the countries that have been interested in arms control over the years are interested in transparency and predictability.

Each of our countries has said that we're going to go from thousands of thousands of strategic deployed offensive nuclear weapons, in our case, down to 1,700 to 2,200, and in the case of Russia, I believe they said from 1,500 to 2,200 over a period of a decade.

Now, as you do that, it's in both of our interests that we do it in a way that we have transparency and predictability, that we communicate with each other. For example, there are several ways the United States could reduce those weapons. We may start down one path, thinking that it's the most efficient, cost-effective and the most efficient way to do it, and then at some point, two or three years down the road, we may get a phone call saying that one of our weapon categories is no longer safe or reliable, in which case -- and we had planned, say, for the sake of argument, to rely on that -- in which case, you would shift gears, and you would take that less reliable or less safe weapon out and leave one of the other ones that you might have planned to take out.

Now that's the kind of thing you'd want to know about the other party. And so we certainly want to be talking about those types of things.

And I think one other thing, since our missile defense system is clearly not designed to be capable of dealing with the kinds of numbers of weapons that Russia has, I think, as we go along, we would very likely have ways that we would continue to communicate with them about the nature of our limited missile defense system as we get to the point where we fashion one and begin to deploy it, which, of course, we're not at that stage at the present time.

RUMSFELD: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: I would like to ask you the question about the issue of expanding the military campaign and security. Would you need a new Security Council resolution, or if you have to conduct the operation you can do it without, based on the previous Security Council resolution? And if you can...

RUMSFELD: Are you referring to the United Nations Security Council?

QUESTION: Yes.

RUMSFELD: The short answer is that every provision of the United Nations provides for self-defense, so nothing is needed, by way of additional authority. Every nation has the right to defend itself.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about the level of cooperation? We are looking at the Yemen authorities, the authorities of Sudan, are conducting operation against activist, suspected people of Al Qaeda. Are you cooperating with these governments? Are you happy with them?

RUMSFELD: Well, there are, obviously, a number of countries that have active Al Qaeda cells, and Yemen is one. Sudan is, obviously, one. Somalia used to be a location where senior Al Qaeda officials spent time. There are a number of other locations around the world where that's the case.

There's no question but that the coalition forces across the globe that have decided that terrorism is bad and evil and dangerous and has the potential of killing tens of thousands of human beings -- innocent human beings -- have cooperated by trying to freeze bank accounts, by trying to improve exchanges of intelligence by increasing their law enforcement, by arresting people, by interrogating those people, by gaining more knowledge and more information that leads us to arrest still additional people, and that is taking place across the globe. And the effect of that is to put pressure on these networks.

Now, am I happy with it? We're doing a lot better than we were before September 11. Would I like to see more bank accounts frozen? You bet. Would I like to see more countries get more energy into their law enforcement? You bet I would.

I would like to create a world that is inhospitable for terrorist and for nations that harbor terrorists.

STAFF: Sir, last question.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are U.S. troops in Pakistan hunting for Osama bin Laden?

QUESTION: And if so, what is their role there? You've said the U.S. will chase down bin Laden wherever he goes.

RUMSFELD: The government of Pakistan has been -- I have a practice of trying not to characterize precisely what other governments are doing because, it seems to me, it's for them to characterize what they're doing, and there are sensitivities.

So I can say this, that the government of Pakistan has been enormously cooperative. They have been a terrific help in this effort. There is no question but that the president of Pakistan has deployed a large number of Pakistan army forces along the Pakistan- Afghan border.

The reason, obviously, is because those borders are porous, and we are putting a great deal of pressure on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, which is causing them to move and flee and run and hide. And one of the places they can flee to is Pakistan.

And needless to say, the president of Pakistan has a minimum of high regard for that possibility. He does not want those forces coming into his country, and therefore, he is doing a good job.

Getting a little closer to your specific question, there's no question but that there's a good deal of communication between his army forces along the border and our forces in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: So you have troops in Pakistan?

RUMSFELD: I think I'll leave that to the Pakistanis to handle.

Thank you very much.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld there, wrapping up his comments to the press, at the end of the semiannual meeting at NATO headquarters, with NATO ministers. Quite a menu of topics discussed there.

Let's check in with our Bob Franken, who is standing by in Washington; he's been listening in as well -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was the same questions, same answers, different venue, this one the NATO defense ministers' meeting, in Brussels. Rumsfeld came out and talked about the discussions that they had all had. And, of course, one of the understatements that Secretary Rumsfeld uttered during the news conference was that there's no question that the events of September 11 have had a significant effect on the world, and that's going to continue, that the events of September 11 and the aftermath will continue to have significant effects on the world.

And one of them is going to be after Afghanistan, what?

There is quite a bit of discussion about the debate within this administration about what to do about Iraq. And that would not be so easy; we know that the president of Russia, Mr. Putin, has already told the United States, in a variety of ways, public and private, that it would not look favorably on any attack on Iraq. The United States is debating that within the administration.

When he was asked about something like that during the news conference, the defense secretary said what he always says about these things, that Afghanistan is a specific situation; different countries, different alliances, are different. The secretary went on, by which he meant they will cross that bridge when we come to it.

And as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned, another understatement: We're doing a lot better since September 11.

There was also a discussion about weapons of mass destruction. The secretary said he and the other defense ministers talked about that, and the United States, of course, is advocating a very aggressive stance about containing weapons of mass destruction, meaning the biological weapons, the chemical weapons, and the nuclear weapons. And one of the most chilling things he said is that if, in fact, that doesn't happen, then the events of September 11 are merely a preview -- Leon.

HARRIS: That about does it. You ticked off everything on my list here too. Bob Franken, at the Pentagon, thanks much.

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