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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and German Minister of Defense Franz Josef Jung April 25, 2007

Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Gates and Minister of Defense Jung from Berlin, Germany

(Note: Minister Jung's remarks are through interpreter.)

MIN. JUNG: Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that we have met here in a very friendly, trustful atmosphere to discuss the main issues of our defense and security policy. As you know, we have excellent bilateral relations between Germany and the U.S. The issue of missile shield -- missile -- (audio break) -- was on the agenda and -- (audio break). (In progress following audio break) -- start by saying -- (audio break) -- America in building up this protective defensive system for our population, that we are prepared not only to inform and be informed, but that we also intend to actively pursue this in the NATO framework to have a protective function for all of Europe, for the entire European territory.

My counterpart, Mr. Gates, informed me that his talks in Moscow came to the conclusion that a team of experts should be set up to discuss the details of this program. And as you know, that we have also discussed this with NATO foreign ministers, and will discuss it with NATO defense ministers. It was mentioned at the -- (audio break) -- and we will have the next ministerial meeting, defense ministers of NATO, in June, where we will try to maybe link up, combine these two projects in order to realize the protective program, the defensive program for both.

We also talked about the issue of disarmament and denuclearization. As you know, I've just returned from a trip to China, and I can inform you that it was my impression that China and Russia to undertake a joint effort to cooperate with the United States, with Europe to achieve denuclearization in North Korea. The six-party talks are running quite smoothly, and we undertake all efforts, all diplomatic efforts in order to achieve this denuclearization.

As far as our joint commitment for Afghanistan is concerned, I would like to underline once again how grateful we are that we jointly have taken on this undertaking of providing security on the one hand and reconstruction on the other hand, that we are now gradually implementing our ideas into practice.

We have established -- (off mike) -- where we also operate with 20 Afghan security forces, 20,000. And I believe that this effort can already be called a success. It is an immediate link between providing security and reconstruction, and it helps us to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population and to guarantee peace and stability in the long run.

We also addressed the issue of self-sustained stability in Afghanistan. We said -- (off mike) -- train security forces, military up to 70,000. That is the target number right now. We have so far also provided police training. We are now providing additional support with -- (off mike) -- upcoming EU mission in Afghanistan with an additional 160 police trainers.

Our discussions have been held in a very positive -- (off mike) -- glad about the good -- (off mike) -- and also the very personal relationship -- (off mike).

SEC. GATES: I welcome the opportunity to come to Berlin and brief Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Defense Minister Jung on my talks in Moscow and, as Minister Jung has suggested, discuss a wide range of subjects. Chancellor Merkel some while ago encouraged President Bush to intensify our dialogue with the Russians, especially on missile defense. Subsequently, Assistant Secretary of State Rood met in Moscow with his counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak. A team of Americans briefed NATO and Russia last week in Brussels, and obviously I just got back from Russia.

When President Putin invited me to visit Russia after his speech in Munich, we had thought that that might be next fall.

However, he and President Putin and President Bush talked about two weeks ago, and I think, mindful of the counsel of Chancellor Merkel, President Bush agreed with President Putin that I should go to Moscow right away. And so I did.

I will simply say that we will continue to consult with the Russians on missile defense, as well as consult closely with our allies. In this respect, Secretary Rice will meet with or see Foreign Minister Lavrov at a NATO ministerial, I think tomorrow. The president will see President Putin at the G-8, and President Putin has asked me to return to Russia.

Thank you.

STAFF: (Through interpreter.) If there are any questions, please.


Q Bob Burns from Associated Press. Mr. Secretary, in the short time since you have left Moscow, there have been a number of seemingly increasingly harsh comments made by senior Russian government officials, including the Foreign minister and the chief of the General Staff. I'm wondering what you make of that. And also, if this opposition remains, do you intend to proceed anyway? Thank you.

SEC. GATES: Well, I think that it'll perhaps take a while for the Russians to consider what we discussed. I think it's worth noting that the Foreign minister did not sit in on any of my meetings, and the chief of the General Staff did not sit in on my -- on several of the meetings that I was involved in.

I think that there clearly have to be divisions in Moscow on how to respond, frankly. We've made a very forthcoming offer to partner with the Russians. We've invited them to come see our interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska. We've asked -- invited them to come see our radar in California. We've even offered, if appropriate, to co-locate radars with them and share data. So we've made some very far-reaching proposals, and I have no doubt that there's some debate in Moscow about how to respond under the circumstances.

I think it's important that we have initiated this dialogue on missiles defense over the last few weeks. We've been talking to the Russians about this for several years. I think that they've considered it fairly pro forma. I hope that they understand the intensification of this effort and an effort to try and enrich the potential partnership through the dialogue that we've had in Moscow earlier this week and with them at NATO last week.

So it doesn't surprise me that there are different points of view, and maybe they thought I characterized the talks too warmly.

Q (Through interpreter.) Do you think that Germany should give up its restriction concerning its mission in Afghanistan and allow its troops to be deployed wherever necessary or wherever we believe it may be necessary?

SEC. GATES: Obviously, we would prefer and the commander of ISAF would prefer that all of the countries contributing forces in Afghanistan remove as many of the national caveats as possible to give the maximum possible flexibility. At the same time, we understand that there are in some countries legal restrictions about what they can do, constitutional restrictions about what they can do, and political restrictions about what they can do or limitations.

And so while our preference is that there be no national caveats and we urge all countries to remove their caveats, at the same time we're realistic.

Q Mr. Gates, this is Kristin Roberts with Reuters. The attack on U.S. troops in Diyala yesterday. What do you think that attack says about the current U.S. strategy? And is the surge not simply pushing the problem outside of Baghdad into other areas of Iraq?

And as for the larger strategy, the more comprehensive strategy, in Iraq, are you sure that Mr. Maliki is the right person to implement all of the other elements, the non-military elements of that strategy?

SEC. GATES: One of the central themes of my visits to Jordan and Egypt last week was to encourage them to support Prime Minister Maliki and his government, to encourage the Sunnis in Iraq to support that government, and to encourage Sunni governments throughout the Middle East to do so; that this government is the one we have to work with. It is the elected government of Iraq, and it deserves their support. I would not have made those trips and made that case if I did not believe Prime Minister Maliki could do the job. In terms of what happened in Diyala, from the very beginning, General Petraeus has anticipated and has said that he expected that as pressure was brought to bear in Baghdad on the various killers, that they would squirt out to other parts of Iraq in the vicinity of Baghdad. So, as tragic as that attack was, and as tragic as the vehicle-borne IED that killed several hundred -- a couple of hundred Iraqis a few days ago, this increased level of violence I think, as we bring the force to bear in Baghdad as part of the Baghdad security plan, is something that General Petraeus anticipated.

It's tragic. We wish to God it hadn't happened. But at the same time, I think that it is not unexpected that we will see these kinds of attacks as they try to prevent the Baghdad security plan from being successful, and as they try and prevent political reconciliation in Iraq.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name off mike) -- German Public Radio, ARD. Are you confident that in the NATO-Russia Council something will go on with regard to the rather reluctant reaction to Secretary Gates' visit to Moscow?

(In English) (Off mike) -- firstly, the proposal of ElBaradei, the IAEA boss, for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Is it just illusion? And isn't it worth it to talk about that rather than building up missile defense systems and wait for other countries to develop new long-range missiles?

MIN. JUNG: Well, I remain confident, and Secretary Gates also underlined that his talks and the experts' talks will be continued. And one thing is quite clear, that we are talking about a defensive system to defend and protect the population. And the fears voiced by Russia are completely unfounded. For this reason, I am confident that within NATO we will reach a consensus, but that within the NATO-Russia Council we will also be able to make progress in the interest of the protection of our population.

We are now talking about the threat situation.

We are looking at a period of 10 years' time, and it's very difficult to assess the security situation in 10 years' time.

In the white paper, we described -- as that was adopted by the federal cabinet -- we said that we need to reconsider all the threats, also by non-state actors, and for this reason, we are all interested in this protective function. And we need to underline this point quite explicitly vis-a-vis to Russia, and I think if the expert talks go along this line, then I think we will reach a good solution for all of us.

Q (Off mike.)

SEC. GATES: I'm sorry. What was the --

Q (Off mike) – why is that nobody takes seriously the proposal of ElBaradei, talking about a nuclear-free zone, rather than talking about -- than -- rather than developing missile defense systems and wait for countries that might develop long-range missiles like Iran or so.

SEC. GATES: I think the only -- that nuclear weapons are not the only danger that is posed by the development of ballistic missiles. After all, you can have radiological, chemical and biological weapons on a ballistic missile as well. So I think that that's the reason why defense against ballistic missiles is so important.

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