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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Tuesday, January 11, 2005 1:28 p.m. EST

Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay.  Good afternoon.

 

            I want to welcome the minister of defense of Russia, Sergey Ivanov, back to Washington, D.C.  We've had some good meetings this morning and this noon, as always.

 

            I know the minister joins me in expressing the deepest regret and sympathy to the loved ones who -- of those missing and killed in the tsunami in South Asia and the millions that are still struggling to recover from the disaster.  From this catastrophe, we've seen the worst of nature, and we've seen some of the very best of humanity. Americans, Russians and folks from all across the world, really, are working throughout the region in recovery efforts.  The American people can be extremely proud of the professionalism and skillful assistance that's being provided by America's uniformed service men and women.  Admiral Fargo and General Blackman and their superb teams are doing a truly outstanding job.

 

            In other parts of the world, we've seen the evil, not of nature, but the evil designs of men.  One month before September 11th, 2001, Minister Ivanov spoke about the dangers of terrorism.  In the last three years, we've seen extremists behead workers in Iraq, slit the throats of women hoping to vote in the Afghan elections, shoot Russian children in the backs on their very first day of school.  The United States and Russia share a continuing commitment to wage a global struggle against extremism.  These are times of really great consequence for the entire civilized world.

 

            If I may, Mr. Minister, I want to add a brief note about the Iraqi elections that are coming up, about three weeks away.  On January 30th, the Iraqis will finally have an opportunity to choose their own leadership and to take charge of their own future.  This has been the coalition's goal -- an Iraq run by Iraqis and secured by Iraqi security forces.  The Iraqi people and their interim government are making progress in that direction, although there is still a distance to go.

 

            The entire civilized world has a stake in these elections.  Following the elections in Afghanistan and the elections recently in the Palestinian Authority, the Iraqi vote will mark still another success for democracy and a defeat for the pro-dictatorship and extremist elements in that region.

 

            Mr. Minister, welcome.

 

            (Note:  The minister's remarks are through interpreter, unless indicated otherwise.)

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  (In English.)  Thank you.  But I will speak Russian.

 

            INTERPRETER:  Do I need to interpret?

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- please.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, are there --

 

            Q     We need interpretation, please.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Are there folks who need everything I said translated?

 

            Q     Yes.

 

            INTERPRETER:  Yes or no?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Are there members of the press who need it? (Laughter.)  Let's -- let's -- (chuckles) -- let's put it that way.

 

            INTERPRETER:  Is there a chance I can get those notes, or --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure, but you've got to do it as well as I did it.  (Laughter.)  It's not clear to me that I should let you do that, but -- what if you did it better than I did?  (Laughter.)

 

            INTERPRETER:  Maybe I can get a job with you!  (Laughs.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            (Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks are translated into Russian.)

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have just completed yet another meeting, which has proceeded in a rather meaningful,  constructive and fruitful manner with the secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld.  That's our 18th meeting in a row, I believe, in the recent four years.

 

            Well, we have just discussed the issues relative to U.S.-Russian bilateral relations.  As for the Camp David checklist as assigned to us by the presidents of both nations, President Bush and President Putin, the issues which relate in particular to better military cooperation, to more cooperation on security, defense and nonproliferation.

 

            Well, we have more cooperation, more confidence and better transparency in the very sensitive areas of our collaboration.  And a clear evidence, graphic evidence for that is served by an invitation just extended to our delegation by the U.S. partners to take part in the April U.S.-based military exercise to handle the nuclear safety issues while transporting nuclear munitions.  We are pleased to take up this invitation to take part in this -- exactly in this exercise so that the experts of both of the militaries of the two nations could be trained up in a proper way.

 

            Well, you know full well that we have been having a rather continued state of dialogue on strategic stability issues, on the reductions in offensive potentials on the missile defenses as well. Of late, we have also been in discussions on further limitations of other arms in the very odd areas, and I can briefly here that we have already completed the work between the two defense establishments, we have done up the ends of work which have belonged to us, so that an agreement on the exchange of information on MANPADS could well be signed.  And this agreement is sure to be signed pretty soon.

 

            Well, I believe this issue to be overriding -- to be fundamentally important not exactly only for the United States-Russia relationship, but also for global security as a whole, because you know full well that terrorists of all hues and stripes try to get access to MANPADS elsewhere.

 

            Well, we have also in detail tackled nonproliferation.  You know full well that this sphere of our cooperation has long been within the field of vision between the two defense establishments.  The fight against real-world threats of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, I believe, is the most conflict-free, clear and apparent area of our cooperation, in which we do not have any contradictions whatsoever.

 

            (In English.)  That's all.  (Scattered laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

            Q     Yeah.  A question for Secretary Rumsfeld.  Mr. Secretary, why was an agreement reached now to transfer the last four British detainees and one of the two Australian detainees out of Guantanamo? And is this decision an admission that the United States has no firm evidence of illegal conduct by any of these five men?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The -- these discussions go on with -- between the United States and other countries on a continuing basis.  At that point where a decision's made by the United States interagency process and by the other country that they have an arrangement that they're satisfied with, then it's announced, and it occurs.

 

            It ought not to leave anyone with any particular impression as to the nature of the individuals, because in every instance, the discussions include an arrangement with the other countries as to how they will manage those individuals once they arrive in their country.

 

            I should add one thing, and then the minister wants to make a comment.  It isn't easy to make those judgments.  And indeed the United States government has made poor judgments in some instances, where people have been released and ended up back on the battlefield and had to be captured or killed.  Of that, we -- as I recall, there's something like five or 10 of them that have been identified as people we've released and turned up back on the battlefield, trying to kill coalition and Afghan people.

 

            Excuse me, go ahead.

 

            (To interpreter.)  Oh.

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  Well, I agree with Mr. Secretary Rumsfeld in full on this and I share with him the same position on the issue.  A good many years ago we have been in negotiations to release the six Russian nationals from Guantanamo, where they were captives or held in captivity.  Those were brought back to Russia, being under strict control so far.  The likelihood of being erroneous on that is also quite high.

 

            Well, I can actually confirm what Mr. Rumsfeld has just said on that.  We also have recorded cases of persons detained and then released at large who later on will be killed or taken into captivity who would also be made to grand warlords later in the time, especially in Afghanistan.  There was also one case of a Danish subject, a Danish national, who, the other day, after his release from prison, would go on air on the state TV channel to say that the very next day, tomorrow, he would go out down to Chechnya to kill the innocent civilians.

 

            STAFF:  Is there a question from a member of the Russian press? Yeah.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Well, I have a question to both of the ministers.  What kind of assistance and how is this assistance, this relief effort, being routed to parts of the world struck with the tsunami of late, in Southeast Asia?  What concrete aid is being provided to the --

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  Well, if I may, I would probably start with this question, for Donald has already put out his view on this.  In his opening remarks, he said about their governmental, federal governmental and their Defense Department's efforts on that.  Russia has naturally not been keeping aloof from this colossal tragedy and colossal catastrophe.  Along the lines of the specialized United Nations agencies, along the lines of UNICEF, of the foods agency of the United Nations, we have already earmarked the appropriate funds for that.  Wheat and -- (word inaudible) -- have also been provided by the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia.  Starting the 27th of October the Ministry for Emergency Situations of Russia dispatched the first plane down there -- plane-loads full of physical assistance to those struck regions.

 

            Given the universal nature of this calamity, we have also put the Defense Ministry efforts on line for that, pretty much as our principal -- well, major NATO partners did.  Well, the Russian Defense Ministry has been rendering assistance exactly down through the zone of calamity, of this catastrophe in Indonesia to the island of Sumatra.  We have been flying down there military field hospitals complete with doctors, the requisite equipment and the medicines.  We have flown, roughly, 10 flights already down there, including utilizing the super-heavy Ministry of Defense Ruslan Antonov An-124 aircraft, which can take up aboard more than 100 tons of cargo at a time.  We have been taking those articles of provision exactly from the storage sites of the Defense Ministry -- the first place the portable water purification installations, the tents, the blanketing, the medicines -- well, all of the things, all of the articles, items which are indispensably a must for the survivors.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, can I ask the minister a question, please, sir?

 

            Minister, again, welcome.  Do you feel at all claustrophobic that many of the countries of the former Soviet Union either have joined or wish to join NATO?  And even Russia has a relationship with NATO.  As you view historically the relationship between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, do you believe NATO should be disbanded and is no longer relevant?

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  Well, above all I'm not feeling -- we're not sensing any claustrophobia at all.  Well I'm apprehensive that some of our neighbors can actually experience this kind of feeling, exactly not we.  Well, as for NATO expansion, even of itself, I have already pronounced my stance on that more often than not -- our stance on that more often than not.  It goes back to the times of the Warsaw Pact, of NATO, of that period back in history.  It goes back to the Cold War standoff we have been engaged in.  But it's already a thing of the past.  Certainly it's at the discretion of this or that sovereign state to decide on exactly how to ensure one's own national security.

 

            We cooperate really closely with NATO as a whole, especially with some individual NATO states.  Especially we have close ties to those inside NATO who share our approaches towards counterterrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, given that they not apply any double standards practices.  And we also cooperate in the first line for those countries who have the armed forces comparable and commensurate to those we have, not so much in terms of their size, of their numerical strengths, as in terms of their technical equipment.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We're going to take a question from the Russian press, if there is one?  Yes?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, Mr. Ivanov told that the nonproliferation issue is one of the less controversial issues of U.S.-Russian cooperation.  Could you name, please, the most controversial issues of your cooperation?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  What are you, a troublemaker?  (Laughter.)

 

            You know, I think the most difficult issues that we've had are issues that are really almost -- not cultural, but procedural.  The way their government is -- the Russian government's organized requires that things be done nationally, in some instances, where we do things through the private sector; or the way their government's organized is sometimes the things that our Defense Department does or vice versa is done by a different department in the Russian government.  I remember we had one issue on the transportation department that -- it's those types of things that tend not to get solved in a reasonable period of time.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll take -- we'll take one last question.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, yesterday Prime Minister Allawi said it's clear that Iraqi and coalition forces are not going to be able to protect all of the polling centers throughout Iraq.  He said voting is going to be extremely difficult in some places.  Some Sunni groups have said they're not going to take part.  What metric will you use to judge whether the election in Iraq is a success and valid?

 

            And Mr. Minister, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the upcoming election as well.

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  (In English.)  Another troublemaker.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay.

 

            First, just having elections in Iraq is an enormous success and a victory.

 

            The U.N. has done a very good job, and their representative there has been pressing forward, as has the Iraqi interim government.

 

            People from all of the various diverse groups are represented on the 200-plus lists that exist, so whatever government evolves will be a broadly representative government.

 

            All the polls indicate that the people across the country, including the Sunnis, want to vote and intend to vote.

 

            The only thing I'd add is that I've been reading a lot of stuff about the general -- the retired general named Gary Luck's mission out there, which is fanciful.  I mean, the fact of the matter is that we have had assessments going on almost continuously ever since the involvement in Iraq.  We've had -- Luck himself has been out there five or six times, I'm told.  We had the Eikenberry mission.  And the task is very clear.  The task is to look at the security situation and assess it against the circumstances on the ground and to make recommendations.  And the hyperventilation about it has been missing the mark, it strikes me.

 

            Let me add one other thing, Sergey.

 

            MIN. IVANOV (?):  (In English.)  Sorry.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The -- on the subject of Iraq, I also have been reading and hearing about this so-called Salvatore -- Salvador option, I think it's called.  And I looked all through Newsweek, which apparently was the place it supposedly had appeared.  I couldn't find it.  But everyone's talking about it, and it's nonsense.

 

            The reality is that the responsibility of the commanders there in the coalition and the Iraqi government is to see that the Iraqis are trained up to provide security for that country.  And somebody has been reading too many spy novels and went off in flights of fancy, which I hope have been put to rest.

 

            Q     No hit squads?

 

            (Pause for interpretation.)

 

            (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It sounds a lot like "nonsense."  (Laughter.)

 

            INTERPRETER (?):  It is.  (Interpretation continues.)

 

            Q     What's the nonsense part?  I mean, you mentioned just very broadly this story was nonsense, but what particularly is wrong about that?

 

            Q     Plus, you didn't read the story, it sounds like?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I couldn't find the story.  All I've seen is the reporting on the story.  And I said it clearly -- there's nothing like that taking place.

 

            Q     Like what?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Like what's in the story.

 

            Q     But you didn't read the story!  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, what's the story supposedly that so many of you are hyperventilating about.

 

            Q     Just to be clear, Mr. Secretary, are you ruling out that U.S. Special Forces would ever go into Syria in pursuit of insurgents? Which is one thing that the story did say.  Are you ruling that out?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Where did you see the story?  I couldn't find it --

 

            Q     We'll provide you a copy, sir, right after the briefing. We'll make sure you get a copy.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Where did you see it?

 

            Q     It's on the Web.

 

            Q     It's on the Web.  It was e-mailed to me.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, they didn't even put it in the magazine?

 

            Q     No.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I buy the magazine!

 

            Q     (?):  Maybe it's a virtual story.

 

            Q     Well, sir -- (inaudible) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'll answer a question.

 

            Q     Please.  Are you ruling that out?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  First of all, the Pentagon doesn't do things like are described in the reporting on the story -- since I've not seen the story.  Second, the task of training the Iraqis is to train them to do the things they need to do to provide security for their country, and it does not involve the kinds of things that are characterized in that story at all.  It just doesn't.

 

            Q     With respect, sir, the story said that there was consideration of U.S. Special Forces going into Syria as an option to pursue insurgents.  You say you're not -- you're not looking at anything in that --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We're not training people to do that, if that's what question is.

 

            Q     Yes, sir.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, we're not.

 

            Q     No, no.  The question is U.S. Special Forces, not training Iraqis to do that.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  U.S. Special Forces are not going into Syria.

 

            Q     And you're not considering it?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why would I even talk about something like that? I mean --

 

            Q     You said, sir, that the article wasn't true.  You --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It isn't true.

 

            Q     Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I shouldn't say the article isn't true, your reporting on things that are not happening.  It may not be of interest to anybody that that's the case, but I'd love to have somebody take that aboard.  It is simply fanciful.

 

            Q     Something that is happening is this MANPADS agreement. Could you guys talk a little bit more in detail about that, because Russian-built MANPADS are a big threat in Iraq.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll let him comment, and then we'll depart.

 

            Q     What kind of information are you exchanging, and how will it benefit both sides?

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  Well, first of all, I have to take up the part of the question you have put me.  Well, what are the metrics, what are the yardsticks to go by in this?  First of all, point number one is   the widest possible involvement of the widest sections of the population in this whole process, while being full aware of the fact that terrorists would do whatever they can to downplay the turnout or to stage acts of terror exactly in the run-up to the election and even in the midst of it.  And the third criterion to apply here is I believe the overriding one, that's the need for the government to be elected to really enjoy the support, the countenance of at least 50 percent or even, desirably, more than 50 percent of their population.

 

            Now back to question number two, on the MANPADS.  You say that Russian Man-Portable Air Defense Systems roam about the whole of the world.  This is not exactly right.  That's not really the point. (Laughter.)

 

            Well, it's true, regrettably enough, Soviet MANPADS really went about the world.  Well, first of all, each of the independent CIS states got, as an inheritance from the Soviet Union, a Soviet-made set of MANPADS.  Well, and secondly, I admit that as well negligible amounts of such MANPADS as well as Stingers do stay in Afghanistan. Third, Soviet-made MANPADS also included into the inventories of the militaries, many of the Central and Eastern European states.

 

            Well, as for the Russian MANPADS, again, I assure you that their production and their related storage under rigid as possible controls. And back to the issue.  On the nonproliferation, we have taken up early in the day, I can tell you that the newly compiled checklists for export controls back in Russia are even more rigid, more stringent than the relevant related checklists of the Australian control group.

 

            Russia has already signed the relevant agreements on the movements of the MANPADS systems with all of the CIS states.  The draft U.S.-Russian agreement on MANPADS also stipulates what MANPADS is, how often, how much, information through what channels, especially information that would be exchanged between the two states.

 

            Well, I can assure you that the completion of this agreement has been done up in as short a time as possible as compared drastically to the Soviet Union back at the time as their military negotiations would be drawn out for quite a good long period of time.  This time it took, well, as little as just a couple of months for these because it was in the best interests of both states to maximally constrain the movements globally of MANPADS.  And being monopolists on this as we are, we also are interested in washing that out throughout the world.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much.

 

            MIN. IVANOV:  (In English.)  Thank you.  Thank you. 

 

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