15 July 2002
Bush Promises Consultations Before Terror Battle Front Shifts
(Discusses war on terror, NATO expansion, trade, Russia, Middle East)
The United States will continue to communicate and consult with
friends and allies at every stage of the war on terrorism "as the
battle front shifts," President Bush said in a July 15 roundtable
interview at the White House with Polish journalists.
"The battle front isn't shifting out of Afghanistan," he continued.
"We'll remain there. We've got a lot of work to do there."
But "we'll need to continue to have deliberations with our friends and
allies, and we'll have them for future theaters and different
operations," he said.
He also expressed deep concern bout the development of weapons of mass
destruction in some countries. "And what we cannot allow happen is
these nations to develop these weapons and then blackmail us, and/or
use them," he said.
Regarding NATO, he said that the enemy and the battlefield have
changed, and therefore, while the mission of mutual defense remains
the same, NATO's "tactics must change."
"NATO is very relevant and we will be an active and engaged partner in
NATO," he added.
Regarding the Middle East, Bush reiterated that an "incredibly
important step toward the vision of two states living side by side is
for the international community, including the Arab world, to work
with us to develop the institutions necessary for the emergence of a
Palestinian state that will be transparent, it will respect rule of
law, it will have a constitution that will allow for a sharing of
power arrangement, that will have institutions that outlast -- are far
more important than any single one person."
As security improves, Israel "is going to have to ... pull her troops
back ... within the geographic boundaries of September 2000. They're
going to have to deal with settlements. In other words, all parties
have got responsibilities," he said.
Asked about the U.S. economy, Bush expressed optimism that "things are
going to get better," adding that the foundation for long-term growth
"is in place."
Bush characterized Polish-American relations as "great" and said he
was looking forward to hosting Polish President Aleksander
Kwasniewski, who will visit Washington July 17-18.
Following is the White House transcript of the roundtable:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 15, 2002
ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT BY POLISH JOURNALISTS
The Roosevelt Room
10:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I'm looking forward to our State Dinner. It's a chance
for me to, on a personal level, repay the favor of my friend,
Aleksander, for his great hospitality to Laura and me when we visited
he and Jolanta there in Warsaw. Secondly, it's a chance to say to our
country and the world how important our relations are with Poland. We
really think -- respect the Polish people. We've got great numbers of
Polish-Americans who still love the Motherland. And it's going to be a
wonderful occasion to build on a great relationship, make it even
We will discuss a lot of topics. We'll talk about the war on terror.
Poland has been a great friend and supporter, member of the coalition
on the war against terror. We've got troops in the -- on ships off the
Indian Ocean, we've got engineers in Bagram, shared intelligence.
Aleksander has been a strong friend and supporter. I'm confident he'll
want to talk about NATO expansion. Perhaps I'll leave that for a
But all in all, we've got great relations, and I look forward to
having a good conversation with a leader I respect. And I respect
Why don't we start with you, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. President, about your talks with President
Kwasniewski next week. Poland has been viewed by your administration
as one of the most successful examples of democratic transformation.
However, the current Polish government is taking some steps and
adopting some laws which would obviously limit independence of media
and central bank, which are the pillars of democracy. So are you going
to raise these issues with the President?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I've got faith that a democracy
will work. And I am confident that the Polish government and the
Polish people will come up with the right answers to issues relating
to any law. I will -- of course, if he asks my opinion, I will remind
him that an independent media is a very important part of democracy.
It's one of the pillars of democracy. I value our media, as an aside,
saying that of course to pander to the people here that cover me on a
daily basis. (Laughter.)
But I do value a free and open media. And I think it's an incredibly
important part. But your opening statement was true. We value the
progress that Poland has made, and the example Poland has set, in a
neighborhood that was a pretty tough neighborhood for a while. And I
was most impressed when I went to Warsaw to see the spirit of the
people and the optimism. I understand the country is going through
tough times, but all countries go through tough times.
Q: Mr. President, you're taking Aleksander Kwasniewski, it was your
decision to go to Troy, Michigan, to meet with Polish-Americans.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we are.
Q: What is the reason for that meeting, and if you could tell us, what
is your message to Polish Americans?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the message to Polish Americans is,
I respect and honor the Polish traditions and Polish heritage.
Actually, there was a -- even in my own state of Texas, there is a
community or two that Polish Americans have settled in Texas, and
still retains many of the great traditions and heritages.
It also reminds people that even though they have got a Polish
heritage, and embraced Polish traditions, they're Americans. It's a
great part of the American experience. We envelope and welcome people
from all walks of life. That in itself is an important statement to
constantly make in our country. It reminds people of the strength of
I've decided to go to Troy, Michigan because it's going to be a -- I
hope it's a fun trip for Aleksander. I mean, I think it's important --
I understand what a State Dinner is like. It's formal. You'll see,
it's going to be a grand day. They arrive on the South Lawn, the
military will be there, there's a lot of pomp and circumstance. It's
an exciting ceremony, it really is. And then there will be the formal
dinners, and the black tie, and the people will come, and the
entertainment, and the food. It's going to be great.
But there's more to a good American experience than just a formal
dinner. I try to wear a tuxedo as little as possible, I want you to
know. But flying out there to Michigan, the heartland of the country,
with our friend, is going to be great. And he's going to see a big,
enthusiastic crowd. It will give him a chance to say some things. And
I think that's important to provide him a forum, so that he can not
only be seen in a tuxedo, but be seen speaking his mind about whatever
issue he wants to talk about to an American audience that is made up
of people from his homeland that have now settled in our country. I
think it's going to be a great event. To me it helps complete the
State Dinner aspect of the trip.
Q: Mr. President, I talked to Mr. Kwasniewski just before yesterday.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, how is he doing?
Q: Great. He looks good, in good shape.
THE PRESIDENT: Looking forward to a three mile run? (Laughter.)
Q: He told me that one of the topics he would like to touch on is the
recent financial scandals in the U.S., because they are a kind of
backlash on Central Europe, and the recovery is difficult. And there's
this feeling outgoing that the U.S. government is not doing enough to
change its own rules to really prevent the backlash for a Central
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'll explain to him we are doing things. And I
will be glad to lay out the initiative I talked about -- and have been
talking about, by the way, since March -- February and March. And then
the speech I gave in New York. And of course our House has acted --
the House of Representatives acted and the Senate has acted. And if he
looks at what I proposed and what the Senate has proposed and what the
House proposed, there's not much difference. And in other words, the
point is that a bill will come out that will hold people accountable
for accounting error -- accounting fraud, and as we go forward,
hopefully set an example -- make it clear to people, there will be a
consequence if they continue to do that.
There are markets -- three things affect our markets, I'll explain to
Aleksander. One of course is confidence, and the numbers. And we're
addressing that. Secondly, is the war on terror. People are still --
you know, realize that America is still a target. And the American
people know that we're doing everything we can to protect the
homeland, and run down these killers, wherever they try to hide. And
that's all they are, by the way, just nothing but a bunch of
And, thirdly, the corporate sector, the profits are beginning to
improve, but the price-earnings multiples, in other words the price of
a share relative to its earnings was very high, and the market is
adjusting. So all three of those factors are important.
And obviously we -- that's not the whole picture of our economy, and
that's what Aleksander has got to understand. The market reflects part
of it, but our unemployment rate is -- looks like it's steady. It has
stopped rising. As a matter of fact, it had a drop, and it's level.
Our consumer spending numbers are up, our manufacturing orders are
increasing. In other words, the recovery is beginning to show some
strength. So therefore what I'm going to ask him is to look at the
Finally, we've got good monetary policy and good fiscal policy here in
Washington, and that in itself is part of long-term recovery. And so
he'll hear a man who is -- recognizes that we're making some progress.
We've got to do more. But I'm pleased to report to him that I think
things are going to get better. The foundation for long-term growth
has been -- is in place.
Q: Mr. President, I wanted to ask you a question about the war against
terrorism. The Europeans seem to less and less support the war against
terrorism. And I wonder if you could explain to us why do you think
it's happening, and if you are ready to go alone on this next phase of
the war, whatever the phase is?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't feel that the support from Europe is
lessening. As a matter of fact, I've just come from a G8 meeting in
Canada where, to a person, they were very supportive of our war on
terror, because the Europeans recognize that the terrorists could
strike them just as easy as they could strike us. We've still got
great intelligence sharing amongst our nations, we've got good police
action. We have hauled in -- "we" being the coalition -- has hauled in
-- that means arrest -- 2,400, more than 2,400 terrorists. So we're
picking them off one by one. This is a different kind of war.
I use every chance I get when I speak to the American people to
explain why this is different. And so -- as opposed to destroying
lines of tanks, or shooting down airplanes, success is measured by one
by one, one person at a time. And the European leaders understand
that, and they've been very supportive. They still -- I think we've
got about 8,000 troops in Afghanistan -- we do, in the Afghan theater,
and there's another 8,000 troops from other nations there as well. So
it's a firm commitment.
I will continue to communicate and consult with our friends and allies
as to every stage of the war, as the battle front shifts. By the way,
the battle front isn't shifting out of Afghanistan, we're there. We'll
remain there. We've got a lot of work to do there. There's still al
Qaeda killers there. And of course we'll need to continue to have
deliberations with our friends and allies, and we'll have them for
future theaters and different operations. We talk to them all the
Q: Speaking of war, Mr. President, Poland is going to buy new fighter
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I understand that's the case.
Q: Yes. And the F-16s are one of the --
THE PRESIDENT: I've got a suggestion for them. (Laughter.)
Q: However, President Kwasniewski just two days ago you kind of -- was
kind of complaining that maybe the American offer is not meeting
enough -- expectations. So is --
THE PRESIDENT: He's negotiating in public. (Laughter.)
Q: Is your administration in any way going to support U.S. companies
to win the standard --
THE PRESIDENT: We will offer a fabulous product.
Q: Fabulous product.
THE PRESIDENT: Called the F-16. And we will work with our friends to
make -- you know, to compete on an above-board basis, totally
above-board. And, you know, we hope the Polish government picks
quality. If they do they will, of course, come our way. But that's up
to the government. Aleksander will be, and the government of Poland
will -- you know, we will respect the process and respect the country,
and appreciate it's a tough decision, and hope they make the right
decision as far as we're concerned. But that --
Q: Mr. President, do you think that the NATO will play as important
role for the United States in the present century as it played in the
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: And do you think it is possible that Russia one day will become
THE PRESIDENT: Interesting question. First, I do think NATO is very
important. It's obviously a different role. NATO served as kind of a
bulwark in defense against Russian tanks storming across the European
continent. Those days are over. Russia is no longer the enemy.
I witnessed the fact that not only have we got good relations with
Russia, but the very same trip that I -- when I went to Moscow to sign
this treaty that literally redefined our relationship from one of
distrust and -- like it was during the Cold War, to a new
relationship, shortly thereafter we went to Italy and welcomed a new
relationship between NATO and Russia. So the whole relationship has
changed for the better.
NATO has -- and I think it's going to be very hard -- very important
to work that relationship with Russia, to allow for the -- the new
relationship to develop and mature. And I think it will in a very
The new relationship -- the new role of NATO is -- really needs to
adjust to the new realities of the 21st century, and that is how to
best fight the war on terror. And that means a different configuration
of the use of our forces and the use of assets. Our forces need to be
lighter and quicker to strike and elite units need to be prepared to
move at a moment's notice.
The enemy has changed. And the battlefield, the nature of the
battlefield has changed. And therefore, the NATO mission must remain
the same, mutual defense. But its tactics must change. And I think
NATO is very relevant and we will be an active and engaged partner in
Let me just -- I'll ask myself, well, Mr. President, do you think we
ought to expand? (Laughter.) I gave a very important speech in Warsaw.
It's interesting, I hope the people in the world that are interested
in our opinion on subjects noted that the speech was in Warsaw. And
the speech was about a Europe that's whole, free and at peace. And I
talked about the expansion of NATO, and I said that I am interested
more rather than less. And at the same time, I urged the applicant
countries to take nothing for granted, to work very hard up until the
last minute to show those of us in NATO that they'll be willing and
active and capable partners.
And I look forward to our meeting in Prague. I fully understand the
position of the Polish government. I've had long discussions with
Aleksander on the subject of NATO expansion, and I think people know
that I'm forward-leaning, depending -- if the member countries, you
know, meet their MAP requirements.
Q: I want to go back to the finances and the limit. There is an
attempt in Poland to limit independence of central bank, so it would
be more -- be manipulated more by government, so government would have
more influence over central bank. In the current situation, what's
your feeling about this?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I don't know all the facts about
how the Polish democracy is handling this particular situation. I can
tell you, however, from my experience that a central bank should be
independent. And the independence of our central bank gives Chairman
Greenspan and the other governors of the Federal Reserve great
credibility in our country, to know that decisions are being made
apart from politics. And our central bank is a part of -- is a very
important part of our -- has been and will continue to be a very
important part of the economic vitality of our country. It also gives
investors who look at our country great confidence to know that the
monetary supplies be not based upon politics, but the decisions on
monetary supplies will be based upon the vision of some very wise
I think when people look at how capital moves into countries, the
independence of a central bank is an important part of attracting
capital. And Poland needs to attract capital investment. If anybody
were to ask me my advice on the central bank, that's what I would
Q: I'd like to ask you about different subject. According to the
latest polls, you are the most popular foreign politician leader in
THE PRESIDENT: Really? I usually say I don't believe in polls, but I
may have to change my mind. (Laughter).
Q: With the same approval rate as President Kwasniewski. And I want to
ask you to comment on this, and --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, how high is it?
Q: Would you be willing to visit Poland again?
THE PRESIDENT: Seventy-three?
Q: Why don't you go to Poland?
THE PRESIDENT: Again?
Q: On holiday?
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. I don't know what to say. I appreciate that.
Q: Are you willing to spend a vacation in Poland? With your parents,
THE PRESIDENT: With my parents? I don't know if my mother could stand
that, but, listen, when I vacation, just kind of know about me, I like
to be with my family and I like to be in Texas.
I just recently went to Maine. I'd love to go to Maine, too, to be
with my mother and dad. But my favorite vacation spot is my own ranch
in the state I love. And I like to get out and fool around on the
land. And it doesn't matter how hot it is or how cold it is. How hot
it is and cold it is matters to those who have to follow me. For me,
there is no day hot enough or cold enough. (Laughter.) These poor
souls -- Crawford in August. That's my idea of vacation.
Although I must say, I had a great time up with Mother and Dad this
weekend, and I love to be around them, as well. But this August, I'm
going to go down to Texas and actually work out of Texas. I'm going to
travel quite a bit. After all, we're getting into the political season
here in America. We've got our elections in November of 2002.
Q: Mr. President, we talk a lot about how September 11th changed the
world, changed America. Has it changed you?
THE PRESIDENT: Changed me?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think a single event can change anybody's basic
values. It obviously changed the fact that I knew that my time as the
President would be dedicated to winning the war on terror and
protecting our homeland.
This is -- I keep telling people this, it's just a different type of
war, because much of the movement of the enemy is invisible to the
American people and/or to the world. And yet we know they're there.
The killers on September the 11th had been in our country for a period
of time. They behaved normally. They looked normal. They, you know,
were non-threatening. It was hard to tell that they were part of this
unbelievably evil plot.
And it -- we're concerned that another group are here or somewhere.
Not only here, but in other countries in Europe. And so the task is an
all-consuming task of protecting our homeland and making sure we do
everything we can here to find out if anybody is here and who they are
and disrupt their plans and, at the same time, hunt down their
The wars of the past had known battlefields and it was clear that
such-and-such had to happen. There had to be an invasion in order to
achieve this or that. This is a hunt for individuals. We're chasing
down one person at a time. They were foolishly collected up at one
point in time in the Sha-i-kot Mountains, and it was a tough chore.
But our brave soldiers, along with coalition soldiers, were able to go
in and score great success at bringing them to justice, as I like to
They're wise to our ways. They realize we're a heck of a lot tougher
than they thought. They assumed America was a weak country, that we
didn't really believe anything. And they're finding out that's not the
way we think. And so I realized after 9/11, after I got over the
grief, along with everybody else in our country, that this was a long,
very important struggle.
And the struggle goes beyond just fighting an al Qaeda-type network. I
have deep concerns about the development and deployment of weapons of
mass destruction and so should you, so should anybody who loves
freedom, because there are nations in the world developing these
weapons who hate freedom, leaders hate freedom. And what we cannot
allow happen is these nations to develop these weapons and then
blackmail us, and/or use them.
We will have -- a judgment will have missed history's call to freedom.
And so I realize that this war is going to consume a lot of my time.
On the other hand, these members of the press know that I am an
optimistic person, who truly believes that we can achieve some
positive things out of the evil done to the country, and to the world.
So when I talk to our friends, like Aleksander and others, I remind
them of this call. We're leaders in a significant moment in history,
and we can't blink and we can't -- we must be determined and focused
to achieve this important objective, which is peace for our children,
is what we're really fighting for, civilization.
Q: Mr. President, you always said that you are supporter of removing
the trade barriers.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: Why do you think there are so many of them still exist?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know because I think the temptation is to be
protectionist. And it's easier to mollify constituencies with
protectionist rhetoric. Poland suffers from protectionist policies in
parts of Europe, as you know. I'm a strong believer in free trade. I
want the Congress to give me what's called trade promotion authority.
I will exercise that diligently, to open up markets.
On the other hand, I have an obligation to enforce law. And so I
recently said that the -- I listened to an International Trade
Commission ruling on steel. The ITC ruled that excessive steel imports
were affecting our industry in a negative way. I put a temporary
measure in place -- which exempted, by the way, Poland. And that was a
chance for the steel industry, our own steel industry to get on its
feet. But, nevertheless, as I reminded members of the European Union,
this only represents a very small portion of the $2 trillion of trade
we have each year.
But protectionism, for some, is a viable economic remedy. And in my
judgment, protectionism would be bad for the world and bad for our
country. We're opening up -- we sent our man to Doha, to commit to the
next round of the World Trade Organization. And unlike Seattle, where
it all fell apart, we were able to -- "we" being those of us in the
world who support free trade -- were able to move the process farther
down the line. And I will continue to work for free trade. It's in our
nation's interests and the world's interests that we trade. It's in
the developing world's interest that there be trade.
And our country is -- we've got what's called AGOA, agreement with the
African countries. I'm working on a free trade agreement with Central
Americans. I'd like to see a free trade agreement from Canada all the
way down to Argentina. As I say, there's protectionist tendencies that
occasionally rise up. We've just got to convince our respective people
that trade is in their interests.
Q: There is another President you have such a good relationship, it's
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: Very good working relationship, on terrorism, on oil. But there is
this feeling also this is in cost of some human rights, human rights
in Chechnya, press freedom in Russia, it's overlooked now, and
probably some freedom of some other Russian republics. Don't you worry
that this close relationship is putting your -- raising other
THE PRESIDENT: No, a close relationship with Putin allows me to make
the case that -- on media freedom, for example. As a matter of fact,
on my last trip there, I urged him to interface with media
entrepreneurs from America to understand how free press actually
works, something that they're not very used to in Russia. And so there
have been dialogue interchanges now with some of our media executives.
And I do push Vladimir Putin on the need to have open media, and open
And, secondly, in terms of Chechnya, I'm constantly talking to
Vladimir Putin about relations with Chechnya and understanding and
supporting minority rights. The other issue that is very important, to
which we do not turn a blind eye, and which I'm deeply concerned, not
only about minority rights, is proliferation, matters of
proliferation. I think we're making some progress there.
The immediate concern was proliferation to Iran. And I brought that up
with Vladimir every time I visited with him. It's a very important
issue that he understand that a armed Iran could be very dangerous to
his own country, much less to our friends the Israelis or America,
itself. And we've had some very important exchanges on that.
In terms of helping make Russia a more secure place, we're working on
what they call 10 plus 10 over 10, $10 billion from the U.S., $10
billion from Europe over 10 years to help secure some weapons
stockpiles. Vladimir is very interested in working with us to
decommission some of his nuclear submarines, to make Russia and the
world more safe.
In other words, my only point to you is, is that by being closer to
Russia, we're able to deal more directly with some of the thorny
issues that could separate us, and could in fact make the West less
likely to deal with Russia.
And we've got another issues at home here that has upset a lot of our
people, and that's chickens. Fortunately, we're arguing over chickens,
and not over war, over chickens and not over missiles, like we used
to. But a lot of people here feel like there was a commitment made to
let U.S. chickens into Russia. And they started moving into Russia,
and all of a sudden they stopped moving into Russia. And so I've been
-- so whether it be trade or minority rights or press, our relations
are such that we're able to bring those up in a very frank and
forthright way, and yet still moved a very important relationship
Look, friends don't always agree. But friends are more likely to be
able to work things out than enemies. As a matter of fact, in the old
days, if there was a disagreement between enemies, that could lead to
war. And there won't be a war between Russia and the United States.
Q: Mr. President, a question on another very easy subject, the Middle
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: What solution do you see to the crisis, and what compromise do you
expect from both sides?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's a very good question. First, I do believe
that we can achieve a vision of two states living side by side at
peace with each other. And that's the vision. And that's what all
policy must aim toward. It starts with understanding that it's going
to be impossible to achieve that vision if terrorists are allowed to
have a free run and blow up the process.
An incredibly important step toward the vision of two states living
side by side is for the international community, including the Arab
world, to work with us to develop the institutions necessary for the
emergence of a Palestinian state that will be transparent, it will
respect rule of law, it will have a constitution that will allow for a
sharing of power arrangement, that will have institutions that outlast
-- are far more important than any single one person.
And we're in the process of working toward that end. Colin Powell will
be meeting with what they call the Quad in New York. Foreign Ministers
from the Arab world will be coming as well, later on, to work on the
step by step process toward the emergence of a Palestinian state. And
I repeat, that requires a constitution, a judiciary, transparency when
it comes to financial conditions. And I believe there's financial aid
available, I know there is.
(Tape machine stops.) Something just ground to a halt. That thing had,
what do we call it, a skidding halt. Sounded like it needs some new
Anyway, the international community wants to help with aid, but
they're not going to help with aid if it's going to be stolen. Let's
put it very bluntly. And so the -- (tape machine stops) -- the press
conference has clearly gone too long. (Laughter.)
So we're working to get these institutions in place. Obviously as
security improves, Israel is going to have to, as I said, pull her
troops back to September of 2001 -- 2000 levels. In other words -- not
levels, but geographic, within geographic boundaries of September
2000. They're going to have to deal with the settlements. In other
words, all parties have got responsibilities. The Arab world has got
responsibilities, by the way, as well, to help on the development of a
security force necessary -- a security force, by the way, which must
exist to enforce security, not enhance the status of a single person.
So we're making progress. It requires a international commitment and a
focus on a positive end, which is two states, living side by side in
peace. As I said, I'm an optimistic fellow, and believe that if we
stay at it and keep working hard, we can get there. But there's no
question in my mind, as I said in my speech in the Rose Garden
recently, that there's going to be some setbacks. But our nation is
committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
All right, well thank you all.
END 11:25 A.M. EDT
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