For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 15, 2002
Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Dr. Rice on the President's Trip to NATO Summit
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:30 A.M. EST
DR. RICE: I'm going to open with a brief overview of the
President's upcoming trip to Europe for the NATO summit and for other
meetings, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.
There are three major items on the agenda at the NATO summit in
Prague. First, NATO will, for the second time since the end of the
Cold War, welcome new members. This is an historic event for Europe
and for the Transatlantic Alliance, as Europe continues to move closer
to realizing the vision of a continent that is whole, free, and at
President Bush has long maintained America's commitment to a strong
NATO alliance and to a robust expansion of NATO, a point that he made
dramatically in his speech at Warsaw when he said that the Alliance
should do as much as possible, not as little. And I think you will see
that at the NATO summit that charge has been taken up.
Second, NATO members will work to advance the task of transforming
NATO. The end of the Cold War has meant the end of the Cold War threat
of massive armies contending for the Central European plains. And all
NATO members today face common threats from terrorists and the states
that sponsor them. These threats require a different kind of military
force to defend against, a force that is lighter, more agile, and more
flexible. NATO members are working to transform their forces to meet
new threats and to increase the ability of our forces to work
Third, we will make further progress in building a new relationship
with Russia. This summit and this round of expansion will be further
evidence of America's and Europe's new strategic relationship with
Russia, which is formalized in agreements such as the Moscow Treaty and
the NATO-Russia Council. An alliance founded to wage the Cold War will
once again show how far it has come since that task was completed.
The President and Mrs. Bush will depart Washington on Tuesday
morning, arriving in Prague that evening. On Wednesday, the President
will hold five bilateral meetings with Czech President Havel, Czech
Prime Minister Spidla, with President Sezer of Turkey, President Chirac
of France, and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. At each of the
meetings the President will discuss NATO issues, Iraq, the war on
terrorism, and bilateral matters.
Later that afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at the
Prague Atlantic Students Summit, where he will discuss his vision of a
Europe whole, free and at peace.
On Thursday, the President will attend several working sessions of
the NATO summit, and an announcement of the countries to be invited
into NATO will be made on Thursday.
On Friday, the President travels to St. Petersburg, Russia, where
he will meet with President Putin. The two Presidents will discuss a
host of issues, including Russia's emerging relationship with NATO.
President Bush will leave Russia for Vilnius, Lithuania on Friday
evening. And on Saturday, the President will hold a bilateral meeting
with the President of Lithuania, as well as a joint meeting with the
Presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The President will then travel to Bucharest, Romania, where he will
meet with Romanian President Iliescu, and make remarks to the Romanian
people at a square in central Bucharest. President and Mrs. Bush will
return to Washington on Saturday evening.
And now I'm happy to take your questions. Ron.
Q As the President prepares to head overseas, Americans are
being warned again about potential threats at this time by the FBI,
saying that al Qaeda is planing a spectacular attack that could involve
massive casualties. Just for the record, what could Americans do about
this, and is there any intelligence pointing to a specific time, place
DR. RICE: The warnings that have gone out recently really are a
summary of intelligence, not a new warning. This is a summary of
intelligence as we know it.
It is important that Americans know when this sort of thing comes
to the attention of the administration. We would ask Americans to do
what the President has asked them a number of times to do, which is
remain vigilant, because the American people are, in many ways, the
first line of defense. There have been many cases in which Americans
who were alert to suspicious circumstances around them have been able
to tip law enforcement officials.
I will say that a lot is being done to bring additional protective
measures, particularly to critical infrastructure locations around the
United States. There is a very active now program of coordination on
this particular period of time with both public and private entities,
and at the federal, state and local areas -- local levels. And we
are raising protective measures in a number of placed around the
country. But there are not specifics, Ron, as to time, date or, for
that matter, very much about how this might carry out. So we think
this is what we need to do at this point.
Q Dr. Rice, because of these warnings, critics have suggested
that the administration is focused too much on the war, or possibility
of war against Iraq, and not enough on the terrorism threat at home.
And ordinary citizens continue to ask, why go after Iraq now if we have
this unfinished problem right here at home?
DR. RICE: Well, let me start by saying that the President begins
his day at 8:00 a.m. in the morning with the Director of the Central
Intelligence Agency, joined shortly after that by my colleague Tom
Ridge, and the FBI Director, and his counterterrorism person to review
the counter -- the terrorism threats to the United States. He does
not begin his day on Iraq. He begins his day on the war on terrorism
and the threat levels, and the threat information that we have about
the United States. This is a central focus of this administration.
And the war on terrorism, as the President said back on September
20th when he addressed the Congress, is being fought on many fronts.
It is a war that is many times being fought in the shadows, so that
it's not always on television screens. Yes, it is different than the
early phases of the war when we were in a large-scale military
operation in Afghanistan. But we should focus our attention also on
how much disruption of al Qaeda there has been.
There have been a number of -- numerous senior leaders of al
Qaeda that have either been eliminated, incarcerated, or detained
someplace. One of the reasons that we have different sources of
information that we did not have is that we have some of those people
in custody who are informing us about how al Qaeda operates, about what
various things might mean. This is a war on terrorism that is going to
be ongoing for a long time, but that is being fought very aggressively
and will continue to be fought very aggressively.
That said, it is also the case that the worst nightmare that we
would face is the combination of extremism with a hostile regime armed
with weapons of mass destruction. And the President has made very
clear that he believes the Iraqi regime is a regime that, both through
its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and its long-known
support for terrorism, is a potential threat for exactly that nexus.
And so Iraq is a part of the war on terrorism. But the part of the war
on terrorism that is going after al Qaeda and disrupting and trying to
protect the country is fought aggressively every day, every hour by
this administration and that's how the President begins his day.
Q Dr. Rice, are you looking for a statement of support from the
NATO meeting on Iraq? And are you looking for a military commitment?
If not, why not?
DR. RICE: This is a summit that is going to celebrate an historic
moment for NATO, which is the expansion of NATO into territories that I
think nobody ever thought NATO would expand into. And that is really
the central purpose of this summit. It is also the central purpose of
this summit to talk about how to improve NATO's capabilities to deal
with the threats that we face today.
Now, of course, we expect that Iraq will be discussed and, of
course, the President will discuss Iraq in bilaterals and probably in
the NATO Council, as well. But there is a lot of work that has already
gone on and is already going on in terms of coalition building for
Iraq. We now have a U.N. Security Council resolution that is 15 to 0,
so it's not just NATO that is united about what to do about Saddam
Hussein, it's the entire world that is united.
I suspect that we will hear from NATO partners what they are
prepared to do and what they can do, but that's not the purpose of this
summit. The purpose of this summit is to invite new members in, to
celebrate NATO's future, and to talk about how far NATO has come and
how it remains a vital and viable alliance some 11 years after the end
of the Cold War.
Q So you're not expecting some sort of statement of support?
DR. RICE: Well, there will undoubtedly be discussion of this and
there probably will be statements about it. But that's not the central
purpose of this meeting. But I assume that there will be some kind of
statement from NATO about this.
Q Dr. Rice, why is it necessary for the United States Air Force
to control the airspace above Prague, to secure Prague during the
summit? What does that say about the capabilities gap within NATO?
And in what way will that gap be addressed at this summit?
DR. RICE: Let's remember that the United States is, of course, a
member of NATO. And so whatever assets the United States can lend to
protection of NATO during the NATO summit, it's perfectly appropriate
for the United States to do that. One of the things that we will
discuss at the summit is how to think about getting new capabilities
for NATO members. You will have very -- a lot of small members of
NATO, for instance, for the first time. And they cannot -- across
the entire range of military capabilities -- contribute. But they
can contribute in specific ways, in niche ways to the overall military
capability of NATO. So that will be discussed.
The truth of the matter is that everybody is having to reassess
capabilities at this time. Everybody is having to make a
transformation. This isn't just something that NATO and the Europeans
are having to do. The United States, itself, is having to make a
transformation and having to assess capabilities. And I think you
will see that this is an issue that the NATO Alliance takes seriously,
that member states take seriously, and that we will make some progress
on exactly this.
Q -- the question of financial commitment?
DR. RICE: Some of it is certainly a question of financial
commitment. But it's also a question of getting the mission right and
determining what capabilities you really need.
Q Dr. Rice, what can you say about what you and your colleagues
have learned about how al Qaeda is operating now? And if the
presumption is that Osama bin Laden is still alive, is he playing the
same role that he's played in the past as sort of the brains and the
person who sets into motion any plots?
DR. RICE: David, I don't think that we can be certain of what role
Osama bin Laden is or is not playing. What we have to assume is that
whatever al Qaeda is doing in terms of command and control has to be
different than what it was doing before because they don't have the
home base in Afghanistan. And that is a good thing.
We, obviously, also are working harder in an international fashion
to disrupt their activities than we were prior to 9/11. We just simply
have a much more -- a much larger umbrella of intelligence and law
enforcement, a much more coordinated effort of law enforcement and
intelligence than the world has seen ever on any target. And so that
is another factor in disrupting and making it hard to operate. But, of
course, it is adaptable. It's an adaptable organization. We have to
assume that it's trying to adapt.
Our goal has to be to, every day with our partners around the
world, take as much information as we possibly can, assess it and try
to respond to it. And that is what we do on a daily basis. The al
Qaeda operations in Afghanistan were destroyed. Another piece of this
is to make sure that there are not other places that they can puddle,
or other places that they can gain the kind of foothold that they did
in Afghanistan. And that's why you see us working with countries like
Yemen or with Philippines or Indonesia to try and keep that from
Q Can I just follow on one point? Assuming that people you
have in custody may provide some sort of guidance on plots that may
have been discussed at some point in the past, isn't it difficult
because the organization seems to become more decentralized now, to
fight it? Are you working on the assumption that where it can puddle
together, then plots that were discussed before might ultimately come
DR. RICE: Well, David, without getting into too great a detail
here, what you have to do is to recognize that there are going to be
adaptations that they will make and there are adaptations that we will
make, and that we do have the advantage of having in custody people who
can talk about the operation, who can talk about how various people
were involved in various operations. That's all very helpful to all of
But in many places in the world, law enforcement and intelligence
are working together in ways that they have not in the past. And I
would just emphasize to you the importance of having this as a kind of
worldwide activity, not just one that the United States is loosely
Q Dr. Rice, some of us had been told by people here that the
President would actually make a speech on Iraq during this meeting, and
that it would probably be the Wednesday speech. Has that now been
changed? Do you expect --
DR. RICE: The Wednesday speech? In Prague?
DR. RICE: The President is going to talk about NATO in Prague, and
about Europe's future.
Q He's not going to make a pitch -- about Iraq?
DR. RICE: The President will have an opportunity, when he's with
his colleagues, to talk about a number of challenges, one of which is
Iraq. But the plan for the President's major address is to talk about
the future of Europe.
Q Could you just talk about what you expect -- what course
you expect conversations with Putin to take and what role you think
Chechnya will play in those conversations, where -- what the
DR. RICE: Let me just -- going back to the point about Iraq, let
me put it in context. Iraq is typical or the most important example of
the kind of threat that NATO will face in the future. So it would be
odd if this were not an issue at the summit. But it is not the reason
for this summit.
In terms of the discussions with President Putin, I think you will
-- obviously, we expect to discuss Chechnya in the following way --
recognizing that terrorism can never be a legitimate method for any
cause. And the President has said that to President Putin. He said it
to him when the Moscow events took place.
We still believe that the best way to resolve this situation is
through a political solution that can take care of legitimate
aspirations of the Chechen people, recognizing that Chechnya is a part
of Russia, but recognizing that this is a part of Russia in which there
are ethnic groups that have particular aspirations and cultural ties.
And so I think they will talk about that during their meetings. I
would be surprised if they did not.
Yes, a follow-up?
Q A follow-up. You once suggested that the difference about
the situation in Chechnya is that because this underlying political
problem, where you don't have that underlying political problem with al
Qaeda or with other terrorist groups. First off, President Putin does
not agree with that. He says -- he reminds that -- did pose
political demands. But even in a broader sense, in Afghanistan, you
used force for a political change of regime. In Iraq you are using
blunt force for a political change in regime. So why the double
DR. RICE: There's not a double standard here. Terrorism is wrong,
wherever it is. Whether it is practiced in Chechnya or in the streets
of Moscow or in New York or in Berlin, terrorism is wrong. And the
President has been clearer about that than anyone. He's also been
clear in trying to help, for instance, the Georgians to deal with
terrorist elements in their country that could be contributing to this
That said, political circumstances need to be dealt with, and I
believe President Putin himself has said from time to time that, of
course, Moscow would like to find a political solution to the Chechen
circumstances. And so it is a particular history, it's different than
a lot of other histories, but it does need a political solution. That
does not excuse the fact that terrorism cannot be used in any cause.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's make this the last question.
Q Could we make the last two? I have a couple. (Laughter.)
First of all, what can you point to to show the American people success
in the war against terrorism, given constant warnings of threat and
warnings by very senior administration officials that we could face an
attack with casualties of a scale much larger than we saw on September
And, second, how can you show the American people that the threat
-- the description of Iraq as part of the war against terrorism is not
a simple convenience, given that the war against terrorism is
politically popular, and it is very difficult for people to see a
connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that even senior
intelligence officials question?
DR. RICE: We know one thing about bad guys -- they tend to
travel in packs. They do tend to help each other, they do tend to
coalesce around issues. Saddam Hussein has a long terrorist past.
Whether it is in support of Palestinian rejectionists or the Abu Nidal
organization, or helping some al Qaeda operatives gain training in
CBRN, or having meetings with -- between Iraqis and al Qaeda in
various parts of the world, there's a relationship here.
Nobody has said that he has operational control of al Qaeda or that
he caused September 11th, that's not the point. But the point is, if
you look at a regime like Iraq, with a growing -- growing
capabilities in terms of weapons of mass destruction and with an
extreme animus toward the United States, and you look at the potential
for that to link up with terrorist organizations, including with al
Qaeda, you have to be concerned about that. And it is important to
take account of what the Iraqi regime is doing and to deal with it,
both because of that, and because you do not want Saddam Hussein, who
is a homicidal dictator, armed with a nuclear weapon in the Middle
East, which is the most volatile region of the world.
So the President has been very clear about his reasons for
insisting on action toward Saddam Hussein. Terrorism is a piece of it,
but so is the ambition and behavior of Saddam Hussein, because sooner
or later the ambitions of Saddam Hussein and the interests of the
United States are going to clash. And let's remember that this is
somebody who isn't a status quo power; he is active in his policy.
In terms of the first question, I would just remind the American
people that it took a while for al Qaeda to become the organization
that it is; it took a while for them to lodge themselves in 60
countries around the world, including the United States; it took a
while for them to become an effective organization. It's going to take
a while to break them up.
We have a lot going for us and we've mobilized a great deal. You
have now what you have never had before, which is the attention of
intelligence and law enforcement organizations all over the world on
these extremist activities of organizations like al Qaeda and their
brethren. You have constant coordination and reporting and integration
of everything that -- of what is know worldwide about them and
activities to disrupt them. We didn't have that prior to September
11th; we have that in place now.
We have locked up or detained or eliminated important al Qaeda
leaders. We have eliminated their base in Afghanistan so they cannot
operate in the way that they have in the past. We have strengthened
the resolve and the capacity of countries like Yemen and the
Philippines and countries in Africa to deal with this threat. A lot
has been done.
But I would also remind people that on September 20th, the
President told everyone that this was going to be a long struggle, not
a short one, that a lot of the victories would be won in the shadows.
And victories are won every day. When a cell is disrupted in Buffalo,
or when something is broken up in Singapore, or broken up in Germany,
those are victories in the war on terrorism.
But the President has been very clear that he is going to lead this
country in a way that shows perseverance and tirelessness and resolve,
which is what you have to do when you're dealing with an organization
that has been around for a while and that has managed to penetrate into
a lot of places -- going to take time.
Q One NATO question?
DR. RICE: Yes, a NATO question. (Laughter.) There's a concept.
Q If the U.S.-German relationship is central to NATO, as many
people believe, what plans are there, if any, for the President and
Mr. Schroeder to meet and talk?
DR. RICE: I'm sure they will see each other at NATO. As you know,
they talked by phone about a week ago. Look, the relationship with
Germany is very important and it will work and continue to work to the
benefit of both countries. The Germans are preparing to try to become
the next lead nation in the International Security Assistance Force in
Afghanistan. That's extremely important. And so we are working with
the Germans and will continue to.
We have very good counterterrorism cooperation, for instance, with
the Germans -- that every day is important to our efforts to disrupt
al Qaeda and to disrupt organizations around the world. So, yes, it's
an important relationship, and it's going to continue to work. And I'm
sure that the Chancellor and the President will see each other at the
summit, though they won't -- there's no formal meeting planned.
Q But why is there no scheduled bilateral meeting with the
DR. RICE: There are scheduled bilaterals with very few people at
the NATO summit, and --
Q If Germany is so important?
DR. RICE: There are a lot of very important countries with which
we're not having bilaterals at the NATO summit.
Q Yes, and on Germany, can I ask your assessment -- Germany
has, in its recent elections, essentially taken it out of any
participation in any military action in Iraq, even one sanctioned under
Chapter 7 by the United Nations. What is your assessment of what that
does to Germany's credibility in a defensive alliance, military
alliance like NATO, when it won't assume its responsibilities, even
under the U.N. Charter and Chapter 7?
DR. RICE: Well, this is for Germans to decide and for the German
government to decide, what role Germany can play. I would note that
this is a U.N. Security Council resolution that has the backing of
everybody in the world, including Syria. And I'm quite certain that
the members of NATO, all of them, are supportive of trying to work to
make sure that the U.N. Security Council resolution is carried out.
But let's be realistic; the Germans have done a lot in Afghanistan,
in the war on terrorism there, in counterterrorism. We appreciate that
very much. As I said, they're preparing to take leadership of the
ISAF. That's going to be a tremendous contribution. But Germany will
have to decide what role it can and cannot play to enforce U.N.
Security Council resolutions if that's necessary.
Thank you very much.
END 10:58 A.M. EST