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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 28, 2002
Press Briefing by Secretary of State Colin Powell
Practica Di Mare Air Force Base
1:00 P.M. (L)
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. President Bush is this afternoon finishing up what we believe has been a most successful and historic trip to Europe. In Berlin and Moscow and Paris, and now here in Rome, we have made common cause against the grave threats to our liberty, to the safety of our people, and to civilization itself.
In his meetings, the President consulted with Chancellor Schroeder, Presidents Putin and Chirac and Prime Minister Berlusconi on our mutual security agenda. President Bush always values this time with America's close friends and allies.
We agreed that we must all work together to defeat terrorism, to build peace in the Middle East and calm tensions in South Asia. Above all, we agreed we must continue to expand and deepen security relationships among the members of the community of free nations.
Last Thursday in Berlin, the President paid tribute to German solidarity with the United States. He acknowledged Chancellor Schroeder's leadership and the Bundestag's courage in making German participation in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and also the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, making that participation possible, a breakthrough for Germany.
In Moscow, Presidents Bush and Putin signed the most dramatic nuclear arms reduction agreement in decades. The President also had the opportunity to see the sweep of Russian culture in St. Petersburg, and watched the brilliance of Russia's future reflected in the faces of St. Petersburg University students.
In Paris, the President's meeting with President Chirac ran the gamut of global and transatlantic topics and yesterday, in a very moving ceremony in Normandy, President Bush, with President Chirac in attendance, honored soldiers, Americans, Europeans and others, who fell defending freedom so many years ago. And as the President noted, today's soldiers and today's citizens continue to draw inspiration from that sacrifice.
And then today in the Eternal City, the heads of state and government of the NATO Russia Council met in session for the first time. I'm sure you all were watching the last couple of hours of that first meeting, where leader after leader took note of the historic character of today's action. All of them pledged to work with Russia and this grouping, now At-20, to build greater stability within Europe and to make Europe an inspiration for the rest of the world as to how Europe can work together not only with themselves but with their North Atlantic partners, the United States, Canada and Iceland, in this new grouping At-20, that I think will be a grouping that has important issues already placed before it, important agenda items to work on as determined at a ministerial meeting in Reykjavik two weeks ago.
And I can assure you that President Bush intends for the United States to participate fully in the NATO Russia Council, to make sure it is not just a grouping where people can talk, but it is a grouping where people can analyze the issues of importance to the 20 and act on those issues. It will be a very action-oriented council, and I look forward to playing my own role in it, as well.
With that, I'll stop and take whatever questions you may have.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have another group of journalists downtown, so we're going to go back and forth from one question here to one question down there, via audio feed.
Q On the Middle East, are you now talking about offering a time table for Middle East peace, as a way to chart the way forward?
SECRETARY POWELL: Did everybody hear the question? I don't think we're getting it piped in.
The question was, is the United States prepared to offer a time table for peace in the Middle East?
What we're doing is executing the strategy the President laid out in his April 4th speech, where he talked about two states living side by side in peace -- a Jewish state, Israel, and a Palestinian state, Palestine -- living in peace and harmony with one another.
He talked about the end of terror, the end of violence, and he talked about the end of occupation and the end of settlement activities. And he also welcomed in that speech the active participation of the other Arab nations of the world who can play a role in helping the Palestinians to move forward.
We have been acting on that vision that the President put down on April 4th ever since. My trip to the region and consultations we have subsequently had with the Saudi Arabians, with the Israelis and a number of other leaders who have come to Washington and we have consulted with by telephone or by other means, and we are continuing with that work with Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Bill Burns heading to the region from Washington tonight, where he will consult with more leaders on a political way forward.
He will talk to them about transformation activities taking place within the Palestinian Authority. Activities are already being generated from within the Palestinian Authority, as you may have noticed from today's newspapers. And later this week, I think perhaps Friday, Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, will be heading over to undertake security discussions with parties in the region.
When we get reports back from Mr. Tenet and from Ambassador Burns, and we consult with a lot of other people, we will start to integrate all this information and see what next steps should be taken, keeping in mind that we are committed to a meeting sometime in the summer. We will bring these threads together -- humanitarian economic development, humanitarian relief, economic development, restructuring of the Palestinian Authority, working with the Palestinians, the role of the moderate Arabs.
We will also look at political options to see what the two parties believe is possible at this time, and we'll see where that takes us. But we are not at this point prepared to table an American plan with specific deadlines of the kind that was just mentioned by the questioner.
Q Secretary Powell, it's David Sanger from the Times.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hi, David.
Q Hi. Early in the trip, Secretary Powell, the President said that one of the reasons we still keep some nuclear weapons -- 2,000 of them or so under the agreement -- is that you never know how things are going to change with Russia or with other countries.
Similarly with NATO, what have been the discussions internally and what is your vision of how NATO should respond if Russia turns in a different direction at some point in the future and becomes less of a partner and again a power that needs to be contained. And how does that fit into your new arrangement?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I really don't expect that to happen. I don't think we're going to see a rerun of this movie. The movie didn't play well the first time, and I see no reason why any future Russian leader with a state that is only, oh, roughly 55 percent of the size of the old Soviet Union would find it in its interest in any way to try to act in an aggressive manner. And, in fact, the experience of the last 10 years is that slowly but surely Russia is coming to the realization that its future lies to the West, and the West coming to the realization that its future lies also with Russia.
And so I am looking toward a bright future, and I think what we saw here today gives every indication that that bright future is achievable, it's not a dream.
At the same time, NATO was originally created for a political purpose, but also for a security purpose -- to defend the interests of the members of NATO, the charter members and those who have been added over the years. And NATO will be expanded, more members will be coming into it.
So the self-defense aspects of NATO will always be there, increasingly the capabilities that we have within the Alliance for its collective self-defense can be used for out of area activities, and that surely will be part of our discussion in the future.
We'll always have a hedge against uncertainty in the future, in our military forces and in the nuclear weapons that the United States will continue to retain. It is a hedge against the future, because there are other nations that possess nuclear weapons or might come to possess nuclear weapons.
I have been studying and training and dealing with nuclear weapons for a large part of my adult life, and I've seen the United States arsenal go from 29,000, when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 13 years ago, when I first took over, now heading down to a strategic arsenal that will only have 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads. That is an enormous achievement and it reflects a far more secure, a far better world than the world that existed when all of these weapons were on a hair-trigger ready to go back and forth against one another.
And so it is prudent for us to do this downloading, this restructuring of our military forces in a sensible way, patiently, over time, making sure that we keep a hedge against uncertainty.
I've also seen the size of our conventional forces go down significantly in the last 10 years because of the change in the strategic situation, the end of the Cold War. And we should, nevertheless, remember that there is always uncertainty in the future and it is appropriate for NATO as an alliance, the United States as a nation -- Russia as a nation -- to keep a hedge for that kind of uncertainty -- but not looking for conflict. Rather, the contrary, moving in an entirely new direction.
And I think you heard some of the former members of the Soviet Union speak to that, who are now members of NATO and welcome Russia into the NATO-Russia Council today. Mr. Havel, was I think particularly moving in his comments -- the Polish leader, the Hungarian leader, all took note of this remarkable change, a change that I think will continue to go in a positive direction.
Q (Inaudible) -- presence in Central Asia and Caspian area and Greece in the future?
SECRETARY POWELL: In Central Asia?
Q -- Asia.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, our presence in Afghanistan will continue as long as our mission is not yet completed to search out al Qaeda and the Taliban. And we are examining what present requirements we might have in Central Asia. But the United States is not looking for bases. We think it serves our interest to work with the nations of Central Asia, to have access agreements, to be able to go into their nations at their invitation, to train with them and, perhaps if necessary, to help them in their own self-defense efforts, or for a mission that might come up.
And so those are the kinds of arrangements we're looking for. But the United States is not interested in creating bases in order to have a significant military presence in the region. But to have access into the region, and to be able to work with those nations of Central Asia that wish to work with us, that seems to be us -- to us to be a very stabilizing thing.
And the enemy is quite different than the enemy we were facing so many years ago. It's now terrorism, it's now smuggling, it's now illegal immigration, it's now drug trafficking. Those are common enemies that we all now have. And to the extent that our ability to have access into that region helps all of us defeat those kinds of enemies, then those kinds of access agreements are useful.
Q But do you prefer -- (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are certainly in discussion with the Russians over the utility of having multiple pipelines coming out of this region -- the Caspian Basin, particularly -- and I'm sure we'll continue those discussions, but I'm not here this afternoon to talk about any specific pipeline or contract arrangement.
Q Mr. Secretary, can you tell us, sir, what type of issues the United States does not want NATO to discuss with Russia? And also, sir, to what extent do you see this new arrangement as a prelude to possible Russian membership?
SECRETARY POWELL: The issues we do want to discuss with Russia will include such items as counter-terrorism activities, nonproliferation activities, civil emergencies, air space management, crisis management, arms control and confidence building measures, search and air rescue activities, civil emergencies -- those kinds of things that are common to all 20 nations.
I hope that list will grow, grow significantly in the months ahead, as confidence is built up, as we understand how this council works, and as we have had some success with these initial items that we have decided upon.
With respect to NATO's responsibilities to its own members, members of NATO, Article 5 collective security arrangements, those kinds of issues, then obviously Russia would not be included, nor would Russia wish to be included. And Russia finds this arrangement, the NATO-Russia Council, to serve its security interest, and its interest in becoming a more active member of the Euro-Atlantic community. The NRC serves that purpose, and I don't think Russia is considering at the moment applying for membership in NATO. But I will let that question remain with my Russian colleagues.
Q Two questions, if I may. Firstly, yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its opposition to NATO enlargement. How is the Alliance going to react to this continuing opposition?
And, secondly, if I may ask you, how do you now characterize the war in Chechnya? Is that the final act of the Cold War, or a new front in the war against terrorism?
SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the first one, I did see a statement that the Russian Foreign Ministry put out, saying that it continues to oppose enlargement of NATO. That does not surprise or shock me. It's been the Russian position for some time. But there is also no doubt that NATO will be inviting other nations to become members at the Prague summit, later this year.
As we have said all along, and as we've discussed with the Russians quite candidly, Russia cannot have a veto over who becomes a member of NATO or not. I also believe that because we have had this series of successes in dealing with Russia -- the NRC today, the treaty that the President signed a few days ago, the Treaty of Moscow, the political statement that the two Presidents signed in Moscow the other day, to go along with the treaty -- I think we have succeeded in making the enlargement of NATO once again less of a problem for the Russians, and less of an irritant in our relations. Russia knows that these invitations will be extended at Prague and, nonetheless, Russia is here today to participate in the signing of the NATO-Russia Council. And so I don't think it will be a major problem when the time comes to extend the invitations at Prague.
With respect to Chechnya, Chechnya is an area of enormous interest to the international community. Russia is fighting terrorists in Chechnya, there's no question about that, and we understand that. But at the same time, we believe that a political solution is really what Russia also needs to find a way to achieve. And we have always said to the Russians that in their prosecution of this campaign against terrorism, they have to make sure that the troops participating in it and other elements of the Russian armed forces and security forces have to meet the highest standards of human rights that one would expect from a civilized country.
And so that is what we discussed with the Russians. And in return, they let us know how serious they view this terrorist threat in their country.
Q Mr. Secretary, this is the President's first trip to Europe since you said that you'd have a word with some of your European allies about their concerns over U.S. policy in Europe. What's the administration learned during this trip of the state of those concerns?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we've learned a lot on this trip. We've learned that the President has very solid relations with all the countries we visited, and I think for that matter, with all the countries we didn't visit, but who are represented here today.
That does not mean that there are not disagreements. There are disagreements over such issues as the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court; and there have been other disagreements, as well. But I think we have been very, very forthcoming in our efforts to discuss with our friends in Europe, either in the NATO setting or in the European Union setting, what our positions are, why we feel the way we do about some of these very controversial issues.
With respect to the ICC, for example, everybody has known for years that the United States had problems with the International Criminal Court, and even if it was signed, it would probably not be sent for ratification. And President Clinton made that clear when he signed it.
And so I don't think one should view an issue like that as an example of the United States essentially turning its back on its friends in Europe. Quite the contrary. We listened, we heard, we explained back to our European friends why we could not move in that direction to go along with them on the ICC. And so where we believe that we have a principle we must hold dear to, and as long as we are in discussions with our European friends, that should not be viewed as unilateralism or just going our way; we have a disagreement. And just because we are part of a great alliance and we are part of the Euro-Atlantic community does not mean that every issue we can join the consensus on.
If one looks at what we did with the Treaty of Moscow, the strategic reductions that we entered into the other day with Moscow, and go back a year or so when everybody said the United States was going off on its own and if we abandoned the ABM treaty, we were going to start an arms race, we took 10 months to discuss that issue with the Russians, discuss that issue with our European friends. We made the case, some people agreed with the case, some people did not. But it wasn't a case of the United States not sharing, not talking, not listening. And we listened, and tried to convince everybody that the ABM treaty was an anachronism and it would not destroy strategic stability.
And as a result, we left the ABM treaty. It will become formal next month, the leaving of it, but we announced it in December. And at that same day that we announced it, Mr. Putin said he would cut his strategic forces. So rather than causing an arms race, it's going the other way. I see no indication that the Chinese are going to break out in an arms race because we've left the ABM treaty.
And so where we have a principle position, what we will do is explain that principle position to our friends, try to see if we can find compromises, so we can join consensus. But where we can't join consensus, because of our own beliefs, or because we believe a particular issue and the direction it's going with others does not serve the purpose intended by that action, the United States will stick to its principle position.
And I think we go home from Europe with everybody having a better understanding of this way that we will do business: consult, talk, meet. I spent a lot of time with my European colleagues -- Don Rumsfeld does the same thing, Dr. Rice does the same thing. We'll continue to do that.
But we'll also continue to stick with those positions that we believe are the right positions and the principles positions. And the President is that kind of a leader. And he speaks clearly, he speaks directly, and he makes sure people knows what he believes in. And then he tries to persuade others why that is the correct position. When it does not work, then we will take the position we believe is correct. Where it does work, and we can join consensus with the rest of our friends and allies, that's what we'd like to do. And I think we come home with a better understanding of that, and I hope the Europeans are left with a better understanding of the way in which we want to do business.
END 1:20 P.M. (L)