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23 April 2002

Rumsfeld, Polish Defense Minister Discuss NATO, Terrorism

(April 23 press briefing following meeting, honor cordon at Pentagon)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Polish Defense Minister Jerzy
Szmajdzinski told reporters at the Pentagon April 23 that their
discussions had focused on NATO issues -- enlargement, military
capabilities, NATO's relationships with Russia and with Ukraine -- as
well as the war on terrorism and U.S.-Polish military relations.
" Poland is a valued and helpful member of NATO, as well as a partner
in Operation Enduring Freedom," Rumsfeld said. "I had the opportunity
to particularly thank the minister and his country for the role
they're playing with respect to mine clearing in and around the Bagram
airport in Afghanistan and the assistance they're providing with
Special Forces in connection with maritime interdiction."
Szmajdzinski, speaking through an interpreter, noted that the informal
defense ministers meeting in Warsaw this September will present "a
good opportunity to talk about new capabilities" for the Alliance in
advance of the NATO summit in Prague in November.
And while NATO looks forward to increasing its cooperation and
discussions with Russia, he said in response to a question about the
Warsaw meeting, "the discussion about the increased military
capabilities of the alliance will be conducted within the ministers of
the alliance and not with Russia."
Rumsfeld also responded to questions about al Qaeda's capacity to
build and smuggle into the United States a "dirty" bomb, and the
planned investigation into the friendly fire incident involving
Canadian soldiers.
Following is a DOD transcript of the media availability:
(begin transcript)
United States Department of Defense
News Transcript            
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Tuesday, April 23,
2002 - 1:45 p.m. EDT
(Media Availability with Polish Minister of National Defense Jerzy
Szmajdzinski. Note: The minister's remarks are provided through
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I am delighted to have just welcomed the
minister of defense of Poland to the Department of Defense. We have
met previously at NATO meetings, and needless to say, Poland is a
valued and helpful member of NATO, as well as a partner in Operation
Enduring Freedom.
I had the opportunity to particularly thank the minister and his
country for the role they're playing with respect to mine clearing in
and around the Bagram airport in Afghanistan and the assistance
they're providing with Special Forces in connection with maritime
The -- we had a good discussion. We talked about NATO. We talked about
NATO enlargement. We talked about the NATO-Russia relationship, the
NATO-Ukraine relationship, and the U.S.-Poland relationship. And it's
-- I want you all to know that I arranged this lovely sunny afternoon
for his visit.
Szmajdzinski: (Chuckles.)
Rumsfeld: Mr. Minister, welcome.
Szmajdzinski: I have to say that these talks were really very good. We
talked about the military relations. We talked about political
relations. We talked also about the war on terrorism.
We talked about the recently the Poland unit in the operation of -- in
the Operation Enduring Freedom. We talked about the enlargement of
NATO, about what relations between NATO and Russia would be -- should
be like in the future. We talked about what is important for Poland
and United States, about the relations between NATO and Ukraine, which
are important for both our countries. We talked about the military
cooperation and about the necessity to shape new capabilities of the
alliance. And we are convinced that both of us -- both our countries
can play an important role in the discussion about the new
capabilities of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
This decision will be made during the summit meeting of NATO in
Prague, but we also decided that the informal ministerial meeting, of
the ministers of defense, which is going to be hold in Warsaw in
September, may be also a good opportunity to talk about new
Rumsfeld: Charlie.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you both mentioned the war on terrorism. U.S. Marine
F-18s recently arrived in Kyrgyzstan last week, I believe, and now
based near Bishkek to launch raids into Afghanistan. Does this --
Rumsfeld: To do what?
Q: To launch raids into Afghanistan. Does this signal increasing
cooperation by Central Asian states for the war on terrorism? And do
you, perhaps, plan to go back there anytime soon for a visit, as you
did in December?
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that any number of Central Asian
countries have been very cooperative and helpful in the global war on
terrorism. We have valued that support and that cooperation.
The short answer is yes, I do intend to go back and visit Afghanistan
and some of the neighboring countries in the period ahead. And I
suppose we'll be announcing something at some point on that. But I
look forward to it.
Q: Could you tell us, sir, when you might be planning to do it?
Rumsfeld: I guess it's not quite set yet. We'll -- when we get close
when it's to occur, why, we'll make an announcement. It may very well
be that I have to do something before I go, and therefore, when I go
is kind of open at the moment.
Q: Mr. Secretary, given what we've --
Rumsfeld: Should we alternate, maybe, and have the Polish press --
Jamie, you're not from Poland, are you?
Q: No. No, no.
Rumsfeld: Okay.
Yes, sir.
Q: I'm from Poland. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Go ahead.
Q: My name is Marigo Koski (ph). I'm from Polish Public Radio. Let me
ask in Polish, because you have to hear our minister.
(Through Sec. Rumsfeld's off-mike interpreter.) How do you see the
necessary (inaudible) relationship between the United States and
Ukraine, that (inaudible) defense minister mentioned, and what would
(inaudible) in the relationship?
(Same question, through Min. Szmajdzinski's interpreter.) What do you
think about the relations of Unite States and Ukraine, which was
mentioned here by the Polish defense minister? And that is the role
for Poland in shaping these relations?
Rumsfeld: Well, first let me say that, needless to say, Poland and
Ukraine have a close relationship, and Ukraine is part of the
Partnerships for Peace in the NATO -- under the NATO umbrella. It is a
country that has had a special relationship to NATO. And we have --
just in the time I've been back here as secretary of Defense, I've met
-- goodness, it must be three or four or five times with the NATO
ministers, with the Ukraine minister, I think, at NATO meetings and
other meetings. I think it's important that the relationship between
NATO and Ukraine continue to evolve and develop, as has been the case
with other countries, and we look forward to that.
Q: I think he wanted an answer from the Polish -- didn't you want an
answer from your minister? You're okay. Well, can I ask my question,
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, given what we've heard from other U.S. officials,
not you, but other U.S. government officials about what Abu Zubaydah
has claimed in terms of al Qaeda's capability to develop a so-called
"dirty" bomb, how concerned should Americans be about the threat of
the remaining remnants of al Qaeda being able to smuggle such a device
into the United States? Where would you put that on the concern meter
for the average American? Hearing these stories, how worried should
they be about that?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I'm the best person to comment on
that. It seems to me that the intelligence community and the law
enforcement community are addressing a full range of potential threats
that come across the radar screen every day. For myself, I'll simply
say that we as a -- as people in the world have to recognize that
we're living in a time when exceedingly powerful weapons exist, and
the -- (interrupted by loud noise of airplanes flying overhead) --
(pause) -- you want to give a little respect for the airplanes flying
over? (Laughter.) (Pause.)
We live in a time -- free people all over the world live at a time
when weapons of mass destruction exist. Their power and their range
grow from year to year. And we know that there are a number of
terrorist states that are on the state terrorist list, and have been
for many years, that have those weapons. We also know that those
states have relationships with global terrorist networks. And what
that means is that the impetus, the urgency of the global war on
terrorism is underlined and punctuated with each of those various
threats that occur from day to day.
We have a task, we have an important responsibility. Our margin for
error as people has been shrinking. With two big oceans and friends to
the north and the south, over the centuries the United States could be
fairly relaxed. Today, with the power and reach of those weapons, one
cannot be relaxed. We need to be attentive, we need to -- as the
president has said, exist in a state of heightened awareness. And we
need to take the steps that are appropriate to see that we do
everything humanly possible to put pressure on terrorists all across
the globe, and that we find ways to root out the individuals and the
networks and the countries that harbor them.
Q: Do you believe Abu Zubaydah, that al Qaeda could build such a
weapon if they had the materials, sir?
Rumsfeld: I don't want to get into specifics. What I will say is that
we have seen that terrorists are willing to wrap explosives around
themselves and blow up shopping malls. We've seen that they're willing
to put explosives in their shoes and try to blow up airplanes. We've
seen that they're willing to fly airplanes into buildings, tall
buildings, and kill thousands of people. It doesn't take much of a
leap of imagination to recognize that there are people on this earth
who are perfectly willing to go about the world trying to kill
thousands, and more than thousands, of innocent men, women and
I think what we'll do is take a couple of more questions. And the
minister is getting a nice suntan and he's ready for another question.
Szmajdzinski: (Chuckles.)
Rumsfeld: Yes, sir?
Q: Polish Radio, RMF FM. My name is -- (inaudible). I would like to
ask both of you, Mr. Secretary, if you could tell us more about the
plans for the informal meeting of ministry of secretaries of defense
of NATO countries in Warsaw, and if it is a new way of discussing the
problems inside NATO when NATO is closer cooperating with Russia. So
as far as I understand, the Russian minister will not participate in
the meeting in Warsaw.
Rumsfeld: That's my understanding as well.
I'll let the minister respond.
Szmajdzinski: The meeting in September will be the meeting of the
North Atlantic Council. We do not exclude the possibility of having
the minister of defense of Russia during this meeting.
But the discussion about the increased military capabilities of the
alliance will be conducted within the ministers of the alliance and
not with Russia.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a two-part question. The Canadian defense
minister said --
Rumsfeld: And then two follow-ups with that. Yeah.
Q: -- yeah -- (chuckles) -- says that Brigadier General Marc Dumais is
going to be the co-chairman of the inquiry into last week's friendly
fire incident. And I want to know if that's your understanding, if
that is going to be his role, as well as will the American
investigator -- or American investigators be able to question the
Canadian troops?
Rumsfeld: I -- this is a matter that is going to be handled through
the administrative chain in the Department of Defense. There are
well-established procedures for how these things are done. When more
than one country is involved, obviously, those procedures are adapted.
And the last I heard was -- and I'm not involved in it, needless to
say, and I should not be considered the authority on the subject --
but the last piece of paper I saw this morning, earlier, was that that
is correct, that there is to be a U.S. and a Canadian co-chair of the
investigation. And who will be able to ask what of whom, I think, is a
matter for the respective countries. But I know, from our standpoint,
we expect that there will be full transparency for the Canadian
Q: Do you know if there's any desire upon the part of the American
pilot to offer any condolences to the families of the victims?
Rumsfeld: You would have to ask down through the administrative chain.
I'm sure that the Public Affairs Office can -- could answer that
question. I can't.
Q: Okay. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Okay. Thank you very much, folks.
Szmajdzinski: (In English.) Thank you very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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