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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 June 12, 2008

Media Availability with Secretary Gates and Traveling Press from Brussels, Belgium

STAFF: We just got a few minutes before he goes into dinner, but we wanted to re-touch base with you.

SEC. GATES: I really don't have much to say about the meetings today. We had good meetings on Kosovo and KFOR and, you know, alliance responsibilities in Afghanistan. We're going to talk a lot more about that tonight at dinner. I would have to say that I made my usual speech about the importance of alliance members meeting their defense commitments and the importance of making sure that they were spending what they needed to on defense. The fact that a majority of the alliance is spending less than a percent and a half of GDP on defense compared to a 2 percent commitment by the ministers and heads of government, that was kind of same old song, but -- (chuckles) --

Q Would you comment on the Supreme Court ruling today on the Guantanamo Bay?

SEC. GATES: Well, I haven't read it. Obviously we're going to have to take a look at it and see what the implications are --

Q The upshot --

SEC. GATES: -- but the ruling of the court is the law of the land, and we will have to look at what the implications are for us.

Q The upshot of it -- but you're aware of, of course -- does it give you reason to think that it would make sense to renew your interest or your push for closing the facility?

SEC. GATES: Well, without having -- without any knowledge about what's in the decision, I think it would be premature to make a comment like that. I would just have to take a look at it.

Q On Afghanistan, do you -- do you think the incident on the border between Pakistani forces will raise concerns among the allies? And do you think that it might help put a new emphasis for allies to contribute the battalion for the border security that's one of the outstanding requirements?

SEC. GATES: It didn't come up at all today, so I don't know whether that will be the case. I would just say that the president and I have -- well, we agree that we need to investigate this incident. We've invited the Afghans and the Pakistanis to be a part of the investigation, to join us in the investigation. And we think all the procedures were followed, but that will be for the investigation to decide. And if we need to make changes, we will.

Pakistan is an incredibly important partner for us in this war on terror, and personally, I regret that we've had something that has created a problem. We've had an incident that has created a problem between us and the government of Pakistan, and I hope they will participate in this investigation. And if we need to make changes in procedures, we will do so.

Q Have you spoken to anyone in Pakistan or conveyed any of those thoughts to a representative of the Pakistani military?

SEC. GATES: No, but our military has been in touch with their military.

Q Sir, on Afghanistan and knowing that you're going into the dinner to actually discuss these issues, did you specifically ask for more troop commitments? And did you get a feel from France and the other states that promised troops during Bucharest -- of their timeline for getting those troops into the war zone?

SEC. GATES: Yes, I did raise it. I think that the commitments that were made at Bucharest will happen on the timelines that they indicated to us. The French have indicated all along that they would be there this fall, come in this fall. So I think that the commitments that were made will be met.

Q Was there any specificity to that fall deadline?

SEC. GATES: Well, we -- to be honest, we didn't discuss it.

Q On missile defense, were there discussions today about the NATO architecture to cover the remaining members? And if so, any movement forward on what that architecture will look like?

SEC. GATES: No discussion of missile defense at all at this point. Maybe tomorrow, I don't know, not yet.

Q What's tomorrow's subject?

Q What's the best case scenario that would come out of that -- those discussions -- in your view?

SEC. GATES: Reaffirmation of Bucharest and implementation -- getting on with it.

STAFF: Anybody else?

Q Well, do you think the -- back on the Gitmo -- I know you don't really talk about that --

Q He's the --

Q No, no, no, no. I've got a very sly question here.

Q A sly question.

Q A sly question. (Laughter.) As opposed to all the others. (Laughter.)

Q I mean, do you feel in the least that this -- I mean -- reinforced your position? You were outspoken in this administration about the need to move past Guantanamo. The Supreme Court has backed your position. Did that thought cross your mind at all?

SEC. GATES: I haven't read the opinion. I actually don't know what it says. And so I think it would be kind of dumb to say anything about it.

Q Sly answer. (Laughs, laughter.)

SEC. GATES: But an honest one. (Laughter.)

Q On the nuclear -- the nuclear session today, you spoke very forthrightly earlier this week on the need for the U.S. to look at deterrence policy. It's dated. It's dusty. In the NATO context today, was that discussed? And any thoughts about what the alliance should do for deterrence?

SEC. GATES: It was. And there was talk about modernization of both policies and capabilities. And I think there was basically unanimous support for moving forward.

Q Does that include reducing the number of nuclear weapons and --

SEC. GATES: Well, I talked to them about the -- I mean, we -- I told them that we'd reduced our tactical nuclear weapons by 90 percent over the last 15 years. And so, you know, there really wasn't discussion of modernization per se, but there was no dissent from the fact that we needed a nuclear deterrent in NATO and needed to keep it modern.

Q Can I ask a Kosovo question? Given --

STAFF: I'm afraid this is the last one.

Q Given the Russians' objection to the implementation of an EU transition force there, how is that going to be resolved?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think that it's basically a negotiation between the U.N. and the EU. And the point that I made today is that there can't be a gap between UNMIK and EULEX, to use terms familiar to every single American. (Laughter.) But that KFOR has to remain in the framework of the mission that it was originally given and not be the first responder to a security problem. So there needs to be continuity in terms of the police issue in Kosovo, and that means the U.N. and the EU need to work out the transition.

Q With NATO sort of playing the role of a broker?

SEC. GATES: They're in the background. I don't think NATO's the broker. (Inaudible) -- it's really a U.N. function transitioning to a EU rule of law function. And KFOR, under NATO auspices, is playing a different kind of role. And I just want to make sure that we don't start changing the nature of the mission of KFOR in a way that we, frankly, think is unacceptable.

Q But how important is the Russia factor? I mean, is it to be considered?

SEC. GATES: My recollection is it never came up in the discussions today.

STAFF: Thank you all.


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