For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2002
Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Prague, Czech Republic
5:00 P.M. (Local)
DR. RICE: Hi. I'm happy to take a few questions. Unfortunately, we
don't have very much time. But let me just say that it was an historic
summit today, really the most historic summit since NATO's founding in
1949. It as extraordinary to see around that table the new entrants, the
seven new countries. It was remarkable to do this in Prague, which, of course, has been a site of one of the pitched battles of the Cold War, when
Soviet tanks invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to set aside or to end the
attempt to find socialism with a human face, and eventually leading, over
time, then to the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the dissolution of
communism in East Central Europe and ultimately in the Soviet Union,
The remarkable thing about this is that it has been done in a
framework that allowed not just the entry of the seven new states into
NATO, but the reconciliation of NATO with Russia in the new Russia-NATO
Council, and of course, a long discussion today of the transformation of
NATO to deal with the threats of the 21st century -- an important discussion of capabilities; the importance of a rapid reaction force, which
was an American proposal that was adopted by NATO today; a very strong statement about one of the first threats of the 21st century to deal with a
hostile state like Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction and
attempting to further that arming of weapons with weapons of mass
destruction -- a very strong statement on Iraq, supporting the U.N.
Security Council resolution, supporting effective action against Iraq
should Iraq fail to disarm.
So, all in all, a very important summit, historic summit. And I think when the President said that not only did today add to the military capability of the Alliance, but it refreshed the spirit of this great democratic Alliance. I can tell you that you certainly felt that in that room this afternoon.
Q Two quick ones. Number one, what does it mean, the mission shift for NATO, what does it actually mean, that NATO is going to be taking on this anti-terror role?
And, second, the President said yesterday that if -- that there will be a reduced chance of a war with Iraq if there is the assurance that NATO is willing to step up and play its part, should military action be required. Does the President leave here assured that his NATO partners would play their role if it comes to that? And if so, in what way did he receive that assurance?
DR. RICE: What the President said -- and I think it was echoed by several leaders in the room and certainly during other sessions -- is that Iraq is only going to be convinced to disarm, and therefore create us a possibility of a peaceful resolution to this crisis if Iraq believes that the world is united in insisting on disarmament of Iraq. And what you saw in the NATO summit statement was an insistence by the world that Iraq disarm.
Many people talked about the importance of a strength of that statement, of the unity of that statement as a signal to Iraq that it doesn't have any other option, that no one will support Iraq's lack of compliance or the kind of behavior in which Iraq has been engaged over the last several years.
The alliance made this very powerful statement. It is really too early to talk about what military action will be needed or what military contributions might be needed. The important thing right now is that this is, along with the U.N. Security Council resolution, a strong statement to the Iraqis that the world is united in the demand that Iraq disarm.
And as to the transformation of NATO for the future, obviously September 11th -- many of the speakers today spoke about September 11th as a new watershed, a new chapter in understanding the threats of the post-Cold War period; understanding that any nation that loves freedom could have sustained the kind of attack that the United States did on September 11th; and that the countries that love freedom -- and NATO, as an alliance, of course, is dedicated to those values of freedom and liberty -- any nation that loves freedom has to be committed to dealing with terrorist threats, to dealing with threats of weapons of mass destruction.
The rapid reaction force rapid deployment force, is for specifically the purpose of being able to be flexible, to be facile. You will hear, I think, a lot more about the transformation of NATO's capabilities. And, of course, intelligence is an important part of that. But NATO began this transformation today. It was a strong statement of support for that, but it has a ways to go.
Q Could have a quick follow? Can I follow?
DR. RICE: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Q You said that it was too early to talk about military capability. Can you comment for us or provide us any information on the half-dozen or so countries that are confirmed receiving a letter from the United States asking for specific military assistance?
DR. RICE: The United States is at this point talking to countries, consulting about what might be necessary, what capabilities might be necessary if military action takes place. But, as the President said, military action is not his first choice and we are trying very hard to send a strong signal to the Iraqis that there is only one way out of this, and that is to disarm fully.
Q The December 8th deadline will be very important as the President discussed it. To what extent are you worried that Saddam Hussein may try to file something of a misleading report, that he may put a lot in there in terms of declarations, may make a public display of destroying some weapons in an attempt to -- world opinion. How do you anticipate it, how do you deal with it if it happens?
DR. RICE: Well, the U.N. resolution is very clear that this is to be a full and complete declaration. Now, we've had experience with Saddam Hussein in declarations before, and it is true that he's not tended to file ones that are anywhere that one could concern or one could call fair and full and complete. But he has an opportunity to do that.
There are many sources for evaluating that declaration and we would expect that we will -- that the inspectors and others will take a look at what he files. But the first test clearly is that he should not as the President said, he should not begin this with a lie; he should begin this with a full and complete declaration of what he has.
Q Could I just follow up on one point? If there are omissions or half-statements in that declaration, is this government prepared to prove that lie today, or will we have to rely on the work of weapons inspectors on the ground?
DR. RICE: I think, David, it's not the time to get into hypotheticals. There's a whole range here of what could happen with this declaration. But the best thing that could happen with this declaration is that Saddam Hussein could finally demonstrate that he's prepared to cooperate. What this declaration does is it starts to set the stage for whether or not he's prepared to cooperate. Because we have said several times, we do not expect the burden of proof to be on Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei to go and hunt and peck all over Iraq looking for weapons. We expect Saddam Hussein to give a full and complete declaration -- that's the demand in the U.N. resolution -- and to therefore demonstrate that he's prepared to cooperate. Because if he's not prepared to cooperate, we have to be careful about wasting the time in the world and hunting and pecking all over the country. We will take our time and see what he does on December 8th.
Q Can you tell us a little bit about the President's agenda tomorrow with President Putin and specifically on the subject of Chechnya?
DR. RICE: The President will discuss a range of issues with President Putin. Obviously, he is going, first and foremost, to St. Petersburg to demonstrate that what happened today is a new chapter, and it is a new chapter that is favorable for Russia and favorable for its people. Because to have stable democracies at the door of Russia as it transitions to a stable democracy can only be for the good. So that's the primary reason for the trip.
He'll also talk about they'll talk about the war on terrorism and Iraq. And I'm certain that they will talk about Chechnya. The President has been very clear that he understands and he and President Putin both understand the need to take on terrorism wherever it's found. The President has said that what happened in the Moscow theater should be blamed on the terrorists because they are the ones who put innocent life at risk. The Russians were faced with a difficult situation.
He will encourage the Russians to work toward a political solution with the Chechen people, because there are aspirations there that need to be understood and need to be met. He will ask the Russians to work to make certain that human rights are upheld and that humanitarian conditions in Chechnya are addressed, and he'll say that terrorism in the service of any cause -- cannot be in the service of any cause. Terrorism is always, by its definition, wrong. He will ask President Putin to consider the road to a political solution, because ultimately, that's the way to resolve this conflict.
Q The President and Chancellor Schroeder have had a couple of opportunities to get together. Have they gotten over this bad spot in the relationship?
DR. RICE: They shook hands last night. The President described it to everyone as a cordial discussion. And the work of U.S.-German relations goes on and will continue to go on. It's an important relationship. We have important work to do. As you know, the Chancellor and the President talked on the phone before he came to discuss the role of Germany in the ISAF and ISAF III, and appreciates that contribution very much.
Q Have you seen any difference, any change in the German position on Iraq during this meeting?
DR. RICE: I'll have to let the Germans speak for themselves, but there is a U.N. Security Council resolution, and there is a NATO statement. And since NATO works by consensus, the Germans are, of course, a part of that consensus that produced the statement.
Q These consultations with 50 or 52 nations -- are any of them turning us down? Have any of them said, we really don't want to be a part of this? And can you further quantify the ones that have given us support?
DR. RICE: I'm not able to do that at this point. We are in the process of talking with a number of countries. I think you will find that, as the President says, that you will find a coalition of willing nations that want very much, but we all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way; understand that there will have to be consequences for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime if they decide not to carry through this time.
One of the very important themes that emerged from this meeting is that everybody understands that this is a test of Saddam's willingness to cooperate, but it's also a test of the credibility of the international community, of the U.N., to be able to act and to have that action taken seriously. It's an important signal to a lot of other states around the world that might want to go the route that Saddam Hussein has gone.
Q But so far, no one said no?
DR. RICE: I really can't report to you on it. We've just been out discussing with states, and I believe we're getting very great interest on the part of a number of states.
Q Could you talk about the President's meetings today with Tony Blair and Chirac? And, also, if you could answer a larger question about if you -- this is now the President's third trip to Europe, and if you think there is a difference in the way he is perceived here or received here since his first trip in 2001?
On the latter, the last point, of course, they now know this President in ways that they did not know in the first trip. They know that he is a thoughtful, resourceful, tough-minded colleague and ally who has strong views and strong principles and is prepared to lead from them. We have now experienced how he dealt with September 11th and Afghanistan. A couple of people said today that the measured pace of the U.S. response to Afghanistan, even after sustaining the horrible attack, was a demonstration of the way that America intends to lead.
I think everybody was very complimentary, and probably found it remarkable how well the U.N. coalition was built to get a 15-0 resolution telling Saddam Hussein that it was time to disarm. And everybody understands that that began with the President's September 12th challenge to the United Nations, but that he did work the diplomacy and he worked very hard at it, and we got a good resolution out of the U.N. So I think that there is -- they know him better, they respect him, they still know him as somebody who is going to lead from principle and is going to do what he needs to do.
But the leadership that the President has demonstrated after September 11th on the U.N. resolution, and I might add at the Warsaw speech, going all the way back to that first trip when the President laid out a vision of Europe whole and free and at peace not just with itself, but also with Russia -- that has come to fruition. The President at that time said the Alliance, when it came to expansion, needed to do as much as it could, not as little. And bringing seven countries into the Alliance today was doing as much as it could, not as little as it could.
The Russia-NATO Council was doing the work of bringing Russia into reconciliation with Europe. I think the President's leadership agenda has been out there and I -- we got a lot of comments that it's much admired.
Q And Chirac and Tony Blair
DR. RICE: Oh, Chirac and Blair, both excellent meetings. Both meetings discussed Iraq to a certain extent; quite a bit about the Middle East; the importance of trying to move forward with Palestinian reform and with the road map and understanding that that is difficult, but that the President remains fundamentally committed to a two-state solution. They talked about the horrible events in Jerusalem and the fact that this clearly shows that there are those who do not want peace, but that terrorism has to be fought and fought resolutely by everybody in the region; yet the vision for peace has to be kept out in front, and they had an opportunity to talk about that. They also talked about Afghanistan and the importance of continuing the reconstruction efforts there.
Q What is your understanding of the phrase "effective action" in the NATO statement, and why shouldn't we view that as being deliberately ambiguous?
DR. RICE: Well, "effective action" means action that will be effective -- (laughter) and what's going to be effective is to do whatever it takes to make sure that Saddam Hussein is disarmed. It's in that context that one has to understand "effective action."
I think that we have to realize that we're not yet at the stage of talking about military action. The President has clearly said and stated all the way back on September 12th, that there are really only two ways that this ends. Either Saddam Hussein cooperates and thereby voluntarily disarms, or we're going to have to disarm him. And so you keep your eye on the goal here, which will be to disarm Saddam Hussein. This is a statement, I think, that we will need to do what we need to do to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Q Is it still the view that in order to disarm him, you have to remove him from power? And was that discussed today? And is that definition of disarmament, removing him from power, is that something that the NATO statement endorsed today or that it falls short
DR. RICE: The NATO statement endorsed the U.N. Security Council resolution. And you know what the terms are of the U.N. Security Council resolution. The policy of the United States has been regime change for one important reason, which is that it has the United States, going back to '98 -- and I think this administration certainly agrees with the statements that were made in '98 -- has been skeptical that it is possible to get disarmament and compliance with the U.N. resolutions with this regime in power.
We're going to have several tests of that. The first thing that needs to happen is Saddam Hussein needs to make up his mind that the world is united against him, and if he is going to take advantage of this last chance, it's time to do so, and it's time to do so in a way that doesn't try to drag this out, play cat-and-mouse and play the kinds of games that he has in the past. But I don't think there's any -- we've tried to make a secret of the fact that we're deeply skeptical that this regime is ever going to fully live up to the U.N. Security Council resolutions to which it signed.
I've got to take two more quick questions.
Q A senior American official briefed right after the President's U.N. address, asking whether you really thought whether -- anyone thought he would really disarm. Has that estimate changed or modified?
DR. RICE: We haven't seen anything yet which suggests that Iraq -- that this is a leopard that's changing its spots. We will know because there are several opportunities for the Iraqis to cooperate and cooperate fully. But I want to be very clear: If Iraq tries to shift the burden of proof on to the inspectors, that would be a great mistake, because the burden of proof is not on the inspectors, the burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein to show the world that he not possessing programs for weapons of mass destruction, that he's destroyed everything that we know that he has had and pursued, and that he doesn't ever intend to pursue them again.
That's a pretty tall order. I might mention that there are other U.N. resolutions to which he also signed on, and none of us should forget, as we sit here today to celebrate the spread of freedom across this European continent, we should not forget that there are people in the world who still live in tyranny and despotism, and of course, the people of Iraq are among those people.
I think I have to go. Sorry, I've got another engagement. Thanks very much. There are, however, other officials coming who will be glad to take the remainder of the questions.
END 5:25 P.M. (Local)