10 June 2003
Rumsfeld Discusses NATO, Iraq During Stop in Portugal
(Joint press conference with Portuguese Minister Paolo Portas) (2860)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Portugal June 10 for a
meeting with Portuguese Minister of State and Defense Paolo Portas and
discussions regarding the future of NATO and Portugal's participation
in Iraq peacekeeping.
At a joint media availability after their talks, Rumsfeld said "it's
clearly necessary" to make NATO command adjustments because of "a
series of threats that are notably different from those of the 20th
century. We are hopeful that at this NATO meeting [NATO defense
ministerial June 12-13 in Brussels] we will be able to come to closure
on a whole set of adjustments and changes that have been proposed and
will be considered by the ministers."
Asked whether the United States might be interested in having a
military base in Portugal, Rumsfeld answered,"[A]t the moment, I know
of no changes or plans for changes that are specific."
Rumsfeld rejected the notion that until foreign governments start
sending in military forces in September, the United States will not
have any help in stabilizing the security situation in Iraq.
"[T]he idea that there won't be any help until the coalition countries
arrive in the fall is exactly false, because the security situation in
the country is improving as we proceed," Rumsfeld said. "When I said
that the bulk of [non-U.S. forces] were not likely until early
September, that is correct -- but it is not to say that nothing is
happening between now and then." He said that there are currently
146,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, plus 12,000 to 15,000 forces of Coalition
Asked whether he still held to his characterization of an "old" and
"new" Europe, Rumsfeld replied, to laughter, "That's a troublemaking
question. Why do you do that on a lovely sunny day?" He said his
remarks were made in reference to NATO, which for a long time had a
membership of 15 European nations, but now has 19 and will soon have
"I was really referring to the old NATO and the new NATO and that
change that had taken place, and that one or two countries' views are
interesting and important, but they don't represent the whole of
continental Europe. And indeed, I was right," Rumsfeld said.
The transcript of Rumsfeld's and Portas' remarks follows:
United States Department of Defense News Transcript
June 10, 2003
Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with the Portuguese
Minister of State and Defense Paulo Portas
Fort São Julião da Barra
Portas: [In Portuguese.] Good day. On Portugal Day, we welcome with
great pleasure Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense of one
of Portugal's oldest and strongest allies.
[In English.] Welcome, Donald. We all know your fascination on all
Europe (Chuckle.); welcome to the very old Europe, and to the very
first piece of land, friendly piece of land in the other side of the
Atlantic, to the Western country of Europe. Between Portugal and the
United States we don't need go-betweens. We are very good friends,
very good allies; sometimes we have opinions, but in the toughest
moments we are side-on-side. Thank you very much for your visit, to
the acceptation of our invitation.
[In Portuguese.] We spoke basically about the international security
situation, we touched on issues like the review of the Atlantic
Alliance command structure that will take place this week. We
expressed gratitude for American support for a position that Portugal
has always called for regarding what would be best for the Alliance,
capable of facing threats, capable of reducing risks, and where the
position of the regional command in Oeiras would be relevant for us.
On the other hand, we discussed aspects having to do with Iraq, where
Portugal will be present in the reconstruction work with a corps that
has provided excellent proof of its competence all across the board,
and aspects regarding countries and regions of interest to all of us
for the protection of peace, security and freedom. We were also able
to touch on aspects having to do with re-equipping the Portuguese
Rumsfeld: Mr. Minister, ladies and gentlemen. It's a real pleasure for
me to be here on Portugal's National Day and to particularly be in
this lovely setting and to have your hospitality. We very much value
our friendship as nations and our personal friendship and particularly
Portugal's steadfastness and assistance in the global war on
terrorism. We have worked together with respect to aspects of
Afghanistan and Iraq, and we appreciate that a great deal. I must say
I also had a good meeting with your Prime Minister when I was in
Washington, he was there late last week, and was able to discuss some
matters of mutual interest there as well. So I thank you for your
hospitality and welcome this opportunity to be with you.
Portas: [In Portuguese.] First question?
Q: [In Portuguese.] Mr. Minister, Martin Cabral from SIC [TV]. Do you
feel to a certain extent that you are hosting a person who might have
lied in getting Portugal to support a war in Iraq where there were
allegedly weapons of mass destruction that would be dangerous, and
that have still not shown up?
Portas: [In Portuguese.] The only thing that the international
community knows is that Saddam Hussein lied to the United Nations and
to civilized countries for a decade. I would like to call attention to
the fact that the weapons of mass destruction are not an assertion,
they are a real problem. For 10 years Iraq deceived the United
Nations, first hiding them, then showing incomplete lists, then saying
they had destroyed them, then moving them to systematically evade the
international rules for containing this weaponry. Iraq is a country
the size of France. A weapon of mass destruction might be the size of
this podium. Finding something the size of this podium in a country
the size of France is not something you can do in either a day or a
month. But obviously Iraq today is no longer the threat to either the
region or to the world that it was when Saddam Hussein was in power.
Q: [In Portuguese.] Rute Peixinho from Lusa [wire service] Agency. The
question is for both. I would like to know if it has been decided that
Portugal will have NATO's third operational command in Europe. I would
also like to know if the United States supported this possible
decision, and how you might characterize this command (Inaudible.).
Will Portugal be at exactly the same level as the other two that
already exist? Thank you.
Portas: [In Portuguese.] Just to put the question in context. It is
the NATO meeting this week that will approve the new command
structure. Countries don't have a command -- it is the Alliance that
has commands, in various countries. Portugal always considered it to
be extremely important, from the national viewpoint and from the
Atlantic viewpoint of reinforcing the link between Europe and the
United States, that the Oeiras command was given heightened value in
this intelligent review of Alliance structures to which we all belong.
I believe that we are in good shape to be able to say to the
Portuguese that the Oeiras command will have important functions
within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, and will be one of the
regional commands -- one of the three -- that the new structure will
contain. We are grateful for American support.
Rumsfeld: I'm being asked to respond, and I'll simply say that the
NATO ministers and the senior-level review group have spent many, many
months working on refashioning the headquarters and command structure
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The United States has been
going through that process as well; and it's clearly necessary to make
those kinds of adjustments as we move into the 21st century, and face
a series of threats that are notably different from those of the 20th
century. We are hopeful that at this NATO meeting we will be able to
come to closure on a whole set of adjustments and changes that have
been proposed and will be considered by the ministers.
Q: A question for both of the Secretaries from Jamie McIntyre at CNN.
Given the close relationship between the United States and Portugal,
would Portugal be interested in hosting and would the United States be
interested in having bases for U.S. military forces in Portugal?
Rumsfeld: Well, I can respond by saying that you're correct: the
United States and Portugal [do] have a very long and warm
relationship. It's political, it's economic and it's been military
through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. From the standpoint of
the United States, we have been reviewing our presence around the
world, in every portion of the globe, and we've looked at it
regionally and we are now in the process of starting to look at it
globally. And we have not come to conclusions as to how we might best
be rearranged to fit the 21st century. But at the moment, I know of no
changes or plans for changes that are specific.
Q: Mr. Minister?
Portas: Just a simple answer: look at the Azores. (Chuckles.)
Q: [In Portuguese.] Teresa de Sousa, Público newspaper. A question for
the American Secretary of Defense. Mr. Rumsfeld, I believe you are
supporting the Norwegian candidate for the position of NATO
Secretary-General. Taking into account the fact that the decision
about this position is made through consensus, and also taking into
account the fact that Norway is one of the rare European allies not a
member of the European Union, would you be in a position to consider
supporting the Portuguese candidate António Vitorino?
Rumsfeld: I have a -- first of all, you are incorrect. The United
States has not taken a position in support of anybody with respect to
the successor to Lord Robinson. It is a question that is being
discussed inside the United States government, and by the United
States government, with the other countries of NATO. And therefore the
premise of your question should be revised.
Second, the prime minister asked, and I agreed to meet Mr. Vitorino in
Brussels, and we're in the process of attempting to arrange an
appointment for me when I arrive there sometime later this week and
will be there for the NATO ministerial meetings, and I look forward to
meeting him. But I think Lord Robinson indicated he will be departing
in December; it's now June, we have a little time for NATO to work its
will and to arrive at a consensus, and there are a number of
interesting candidates who are being considered.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, from Esther Schrader at the Los Angeles Times.
There have been a spate of recent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq,
most recently yesterday. You said that help from coalition countries
is not coming until September. Can you tell us what you are doing
until then to improve the security situation in Iraq, and how some of
your allies in Europe that you're talking to might be able to help the
Rumsfeld: I noticed that after our visit on the aircraft coming over
that report went out the way you stated it, and I would have to say
that it would not be a correct interpretation of what I said on the
aircraft. The implication that there won't be help in Iraq until the
fall when allied countries' forces are likely to begin coming in is a
misunderstanding of what was said.
We have a substantial number of forces in the country. The United
States has something in excess of 146,000 troops in Iraq. Our
coalition allies currently have, I'm going to guess, somewhere between
12- and 15,000 at the present time. The United States is adding
forces. We are altering the mix of our forces so that their increased
presence will be seen and felt in the country. In addition, we are
bringing onboard continuously hundreds and most recently thousands of
Iraqis who are participating in joint patrols.
So the idea that there won't be any help until the coalition countries
arrive in the fall is exactly false, because the security situation in
the country is improving as we proceed. The discussions that are
taking place with some 41 countries are going forward, and additional
countries are already putting forces into Iraq. When I said that the
bulk of them were not likely until early September, that is correct --
but it is not to say that nothing is happening between now and then.
Second, the security situation there is this: We have a country the
size of California. The prisons were emptied during the war by the
Iraqis. There were something in the neighborhood of 100,000 criminals
who were released out onto the streets, and there has been some crime
and wrongdoing. That also occurs in the metropolitan areas of Europe
and the United States and Asia on a regular basis, as well.
[Next], I would say that the remnants of the Iraqi regime, the
Fedayeen Saddam, the Ba'athists and some very likely Special
Republican Guards and folks are still there. And they are the ones
that are periodically attacking coalition forces, sometimes
successfully. Do I think that's going to disappear in the next month
or two or three? No. Will it disappear when some two or three
divisions of coalition forces arrive in the country? No. It will take
time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we
intend to do it.
Q: [In Portuguese.] Mariana de Vale Passos, TSF [Radio]. This question
is for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld, you once
used the classification of "old" and "new" Europe. In the meanwhile,
the war in Iraq has ended, and in Évian the divergences between
President Bush and President Chirac seem to have been overcome to a
certain extent, including with President Bush making an appeal for
transatlantic unity. Do you still think it is justified to use a
concept that divides Europe into an "old" and "new" Europe?
Rumsfeld: That's a troublemaking question. (Laughter.) Why do you do
that on a lovely sunny day? I just had a long flight over, and there
you go -- you just lobbed that one right into the middle of the road.
(Laughter.) Well, I suppose the truth has a certain virtue.
I was the ambassador to NATO a long time ago, more than a quarter of a
century; I guess it's 30 years ago. And when I was there, there were
15 countries; today there are 19 nations, and we've invited additional
nations in, and we're going to be going to 26. When you go from 15 to
19 to 26 nations in an alliance like this, it alters its make-up, it
is shifting its weight from Central Europe towards Eastern Europe
somewhat. It shifts in other ways besides the center of gravity. It
shifts in the sense of countries that have recently been repressed by
dictatorships, and they bring in a fresh respect for freedom. And when
I was asked a question, I've forgotten what the context was, but I was
asked something about "Europe doesn't agree with President Bush" on
something. As I could recall, the only country -- one or two countries
weren't agreeing. And about, first, eight, and then about 10 were
signing letters agreeing. And I made a reference to what you said,
which I shall not repeat (Laughter.) because I'm prudent and
diplomatic, careful and measured. I was really referring to the old
NATO and the new NATO and that change that had taken place, and that
one or two countries' views are interesting and important, but they
don't represent the whole of continental Europe. And indeed, I was
Portas: [In Portuguese.] Let me just add one thing. In Europe, which
is transforming itself into a union, into a continent, there are
countries that with the help of the United States have gone on to
prosperity following the Second World War. And there are countries
that communism robbed of 50 years of history, and that are now on
their way to freedom, to competitiveness and to progress. The
transatlantic link is important to everyone in Europe. I think that
this is the most virtuous outcome of certain discussions.
Ministry spokesman: That was the last question. Thank you.
Portas: [In Portuguese.] Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to say
farewell to Secretary Rumsfeld.
[In English.] I'll just tell you one thing, Donald. You said in
Washington that we have two things in common. You were elected to
Congress [when] 30 years old; I was, too. You were Secretary of
Defense [when] 40 years old, the first time; I was, too. But there's a
third thing in common: after Iraq, we're still in job. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Very good, very good!
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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