|The White House
President George W. Bush
|Print this document|
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 29, 2006
Press Gaggle by Dan Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, State Department
Aboard Air Force One
En route Amman, Jordan
4:53 P.M. (Local)
MR. FRIED: Well, we have had a very productive NATO Summit, which marks another step in NATO's transformation from being the Cold War instrument of mostly European security against the Soviet Union, to being a 21st century organization with increasingly global missions, global capabilities, and global partners.
This evolution did not start with the Riga summit. It doesn't end with the Riga summit, but this was a big step forward. Afghanistan is NATO's biggest combat mission ever. It's one that on September 10, 2001, no one would even conceive of writing about, even as a fanciful scenario -- now it is reality.
A couple of people have asked me how NATO is doing, and whether or not the United States is satisfied. The fact is, looked at one way, if NATO were not in Afghanistan, the United States might be there with very, very few allies. Coalitions of the willing have their drawbacks and their limitations. NATO allies are doing fighting in some of the rough -- in some of the hottest places in that country. And of course, I mean the south.
I'm very happy that we have NATO allies with us. Looked at another way, NATO does need to increase both its capabilities for that kind of expeditionary and counterinsurgency warfare. And there are some NATO allies which need to keep removing the restrictions.
We got a good deal the last couple of days in Riga. That is, some allies brought more commitments to the table. Other allies said that they would, in fact, even if they kept on some of the caveats on their missions, would respond to other allies if they needed help in extremis. And I don't want to sneer at that. I'd like to remove all the caveats. I think it's important that NATO allies do. But it's also good that NATO allies understand that solidarity is critical.
Q What about Germany? Did the United States get what it wanted in terms of Germany, because they've been sort of resistant to moving forces into the south?
MR. FRIED: We'll see how the debate goes in Germany. There is a debate in Germany. And let's understand how difficult it is for Germany, given its own history and its national reluctance to engage in war-fighting, again, given its history. Germany has come a long way. To send troops into difficult -- into potentially dangerous situations, even in the north of Afghanistan where they are, is a big step. And these troops are doing a good job in the north. So I don't want to be critical of Germany. I don't want to belittle the contribution, or suggest that it isn't valuable. Yes, we'd like all NATO countries involved in Afghanistan to be without caveats. Let's see what leaders come back with, and let's see, in particular, how the debate in Germany develops.
Q Dan, can you talk a little bit about the defense spending aspect of it, the pledges? There has been a decline in Europe, for example. And I guess, now it's more of a freeze --
MR. FRIED: The issue of defense spending has been going on for decades. This goes back -- the burden-sharing debate goes back at least to the 1970s, so it's hardly new.
Q Was there nothing significant?
MR. FRIED: Nothing significant at all?
Q Today, at Riga?
MR. FRIED: I think it was important that allies rededicated themselves to the Alliance, and to the purposes of the Alliance. You had -- especially last night in the informal sessions, where you don't have scripted speeches -- allies one after another getting up to say how important it was that the alliance not fail in Afghanistan, even in Iraq, important that the Alliance do well. Well, the Alliance isn't in Afghanistan -- but nations do well -- and coalition partners do well in Iraq, even considering the difficulties.
That's a good thing, and it's important that since -- that's important because defense spending will follow the development of political will. And this Alliance generated significant political will, which leaders can now take back for themselves. This is an alliance which is ultimately rooted in common values. And to get members' minds around the fact that our common values, and the Alliance's collective values are at stake in Afghanistan and in the world is a difficult issue. And it's difficult because it's thousands of kilometers away from Europe, thousands of miles away, in an area that only a decade ago, or even six years ago, the Alliance did not consider its business.
And this was in some sense -- one of my colleagues called this a rededication ceremony for the Alliance, but a rededication ceremony with genuine meaning, where allies understood that a great deal is at stake. And they are going to come away from Riga understanding that the debates about Iraq that have gone on in the United States, and have gone on between the United States and some European countries should not be allowed to spill over into a larger debate about the purpose of the Alliance. Although this wasn't on any particular script, it was one of the underlying political facts of the past couple of days, that you had a strengthening of allied solidarity in the face of the debates about Iraq. And that's no small matter.
And then, of course, in the last couple of days, you've seen real progress on specific initiatives -- whether it's increasing the Alliance's capabilities to fight expeditionary warfare -- and I mean the C-17 strategic lift initiative, the special forces initiative -- whether it's the partnership outreach initiative, you know, the global partnership initiative that was launched -- the Alliance has done a lot to give itself the physical and political capabilities to do what I was talking about in a theoretical sense.
Q Dan, back to the caveats for a second, it sounds like you asked allies to lift their restrictions, but didn't necessarily receive any specific assurances that any one or multiple allies would actually do that. Can you tell us whether any ally agreed to lift any of these caveats?
MR. FRIED: I think all allies agreed to the principle of solidarity, meaning that they will -- no matter what their caveats -- help another ally in extremis, which is important. I think all allies have agreed to listen carefully if the NATO commander asks them to move troops inside Afghanistan. Some allies didn't have caveats. Other allies, I think, in the past few weeks have started to remove them. Other allies are going to go home and see how they interpret their caveats. And in some cases, and I mean in Germany, there is ongoing a national debate. So I think we've made some progress here.
Q Let me ask you a broader question. Was there a conscious decision by President Bush as he went to this NATO Summit, having been beaten in the elections, having been called by some already in his second term, a lame duck, was there a conscious decision by him to assert a very muscular tone, where he said, don't count me out yet, we're going to move forward in a very strong way?
MR. FRIED: Look, my business is not to comment on American politics, so I won't do so. And I'm not going to comment on what was the motive behind a particular speech. But I will say that that speech yesterday was a strong affirmation of America's commitment to the freedom agenda, America's commitment to an outward-looking role working with Europe, not in isolation from Europe, not a coalition of the willing, but working with Europe.
One of the great -- and the Transatlantic Alliance does constitute the great center of democratic strength in the world, working with Europe on an outward-looking agenda, focused on freedom. The way the President wove together NATO, its missions and the defense of freedom in a place like Riga, which is a demonstration that democracies had better be careful in limiting their defense of freedom, was a powerful speech. And I think it echoed -- you felt echoes of it today. I think that that was an important signal for the Alliance. A lot of people came up to me afterwards and said that they either appreciated the President's reaffirmation of America's commitment, or they were impressed by it. And the people in that latter category are critics who understood and even appreciated that the United States is going to stand for the Transatlantic Alliance in action with an outward-looking agenda.
Q Dan, going into the summit, the calls for more troops and resources by NATO officials and commanders were pretty urgent. Is there time for these leaders to go back to their capitals? Is there time to do that? Or isn't there more urgency to get action more quickly than that?
MR. FRIED: Well, to be fair, during the fighting, Jones asked for some immediate new contributions, and he asked for other pledges. We got quite a few. I think the largest single pledge was the Polish battalion. That will be assigned to the east, not the south. But it's assigned to a hot area; this is a tough assignment. The Poles stepped up to it. A number of other countries pledged support. We heard new pledges -- we heard new pledges last night, so I think the commanders have a great deal to work with. The fighting season, so to speak, is going to end with the coming of winter. The NATO forces in the south did a very good job. Now you're going to see NATO trying to consolidate its battlefield gains, and the Alliance working not just on the military side, but on a comprehensive approach in Afghanistan -- because in the end, security gives you the time and space you need for the strengthening of Afghan governance, the strengthening of the economy, the building of infrastructure, which is, of course, the long-term key to success in that country.
Q They didn't offer any numbers on troops, though, right? They just pledged -- like the Poles, for example, they just pledged an increase and then they'll go back and --
MR. FRIED: Well, the Polish pledge of some weeks ago was quite specific. Other countries made specific pledges. Our mission in NATO is putting together a matrix, and I missed that by about a half an hour, because they were pulling everything together. But your folks on the ground will be able to get -- we'll be able to pull that together. But I'm impressed by the way the allies have responded in recent weeks to what is, after all, a very difficult task.
As de Hoop Scheffer and Jim Jones have said, look, it's their job, and our job, too, to keep pushing for the maximum. It's also a fact that we appreciate what we're getting, and we have gotten quite a bit.
Q Was there any talk about, say, training missions in Iraq? Or any role for NATO in Iraq, beyond what they're doing now, which is very little?
MR. FRIED: There has actually been quite a bit of talk about that. A number of -- while I don't want to get too specific, a couple of countries last night said that they did want to do more in training. They wanted to expand the mandate of the training mission, because, obviously, if the Iraqi forces are better trained and more capable, they're going to do a better job. And everyone knows that in the long run, it's Iraqis that will have to do the job. So there was a discussion about that, and we'll see how this plays out.
Q Dan, the President seemed to relish being in the Baltics and made a number of references to the fact that they still remember tyranny, and therefore are much more onboard with us in our pro-democracy policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does he essentially agree with that famous comment by Rumsfeld, that Old Europe is the western countries, and that New Europe are the former Soviet-bloc countries in the east, because they are more of a mind with us on liberating places like Iraq and Afghanistan?
MR. FRIED: That's so many years ago I can't even remember. Look, that analogy doesn't -- it doesn't quite fit, and I think my colleagues in the Defense Department understand that given the way the Dutch and the British have stepped up in the south and are doing a lot of the fighting, it doesn't make any sense to talk about the west versus the east.
But it is certainly true that when you're in capitals like Tallinn and Riga, you do draw a lesson -- both about what is possible in the long run for freedom, in terms of freedom's advance, and an appreciation for these countries determination to help others. What we heard yesterday from the leaders was, you helped us - you, Americans, helped us and the nations of the West helped us when many considered our cause utterly lost and foolhardy. And we have not forgotten. And as we were helped, so we must help others.
I'm paraphrasing what we heard. And they meant it. Whether this is --
Q The Estonian President's toast basically said that.
MR. FRIED: That's right. That's right. This is deeply moving for anybody who remembers what these places were like during the Cold War. And I think one of the President's messages is -- to use my words, not his, though his words speak for themselves well - is, don't sell freedom short. What looks impossible today may become taken for granted in a number of years.
I remember during the 1980s the thought that the Baltics would be free was considered so improbable that serious people didn't discuss it. It was considered irresponsible, ideological, extremist, or simply fanciful to even talk about the Baltics being independent, much less NATO members. That didn't enter into polite conversation in Washington through the 1980s, into the 1990s.
Now, what's the lesson? The lesson is we often overestimate what we can achieve in the short run. But we often underestimate what we can achieve in the long run. And the long run sometimes isn't as long as you think.
The President's message -- the President was quite explicit in his speech when he said, look where we were only a few years ago; look where we are today. Look at the difficulties that America encountered in the first years after World War II. We look back on the Truman administration and think they were giants. They were present at the creation. They were foreign policy geniuses. But at the time, the Truman administration was beset by one disaster after another, and the President cited some of them. So what we think is happening if we read the newspapers -- not disrespect intended -- every day is not always what turns out to be historically significant. And that was the President's message of the speech, or one of them. And that came through.
I think last night a lot of the allies around the table, both in the President's dinner and Secretary Rice's dinner made the point that we should not fail. I don't want to be specific, because this is on the record and those dinners were closed. But the sense we had is that a lot of the allies understand very well what is at stake and are not importing the debate about Iraq -- which is an important debate -- but not importing that into the Alliance and not extending that to all things the Alliance is doing, that we are in this in a serious struggle, and we take this seriously.
Q Related to that, in the President's interactions with allies -- either at the dinner, or in some of the bilateral meetings that he had, is there any sense of "I told you so" among allies who opposed the war, European countries that opposed the war in Iraq?
MR. FRIED: A fair question, but in fact, I didn't hear any of it. I think rather there is a universal understanding that Iraq is difficult, that there is a serious struggle underway. And the sense I got is, yes, it's difficult, but we really don't want this to fail. We really don't want this to fail.
I understand your point, and I've heard that from -- I've heard the kind of, "yes, we told you so" from some Europeans on occasion. But not so much in the policy world, not so much in the policy world. From the policy world, people in government, I get a sense, we really need to find a way forward. And we hope that the Iraqis work this out, we, w hope that you Americans help theme hope that the coalition partners do succeed. And so there's -- I think there's a difference between the debate in public, with which we are all familiar, and what we're hearing from policy people.
Q The sections of the final document that deal with North Korea and Iran, were those pushed specifically by the United States? Or is that kind of -- were several countries behind that? Because that hasn't been dealt with --
MR. FRIED: If 26 countries didn't agree to it, it wouldn't be there. This was -- I think a few years ago, you could not have had language even remotely like this in a NATO communiqué. As I recall, the Istanbul communiqué was much vaguer. It had nonproliferation language, but nothing quite as specific, if memory serves. So I think -- of course, the United States wanted strong language, but the fact that the NATO Alliance debated and adopted this language is a sign that NATO understands that its mission cannot be confined to Europe, that just as the transatlantic relationship must be outwardly focused in the 21st century, the NATO Alliance, as such, needs to be outwardly focused because that's where the dangers are --therefore, that's where our job is.
Now, I did not say NATO undertook some special mission with North Korea and Iran; I didn't say that -- that would simply be inaccurate. But we did undertake to send a political signal to those countries and we did agree that that is of concern. That's a big step. And I think it's helpful that NATO was able to send this kind of a message.
Q What's the status of the President's push to bring Georgia into NATO? And are there concerns among some of the NATO members about Russia's objections to that?
MR. FRIED: I wouldn't put the question - I wouldn't put the issue of Georgia and NATO in just the way you did. Our view is that NATO's open door must be real, not just theoretical, and that countries that are ready for NATO should be allowed to come in. But notice how I phrased that. NATO is a performance-based organization. It is up to Georgia to do what it needs to do to be ready for NATO, and among those things are not just the strengthening of its democratic institutions and its economy, but peaceful settlements of the territorial disputes inside Georgia. And it is Georgia that has to do the work -- we want to help; "we" the United States want to help - but it's Georgia's responsibility. So it's wrong to say that President Bush is trying to jam Georgia into the Alliance. Rather, our position is that Georgia should have an opportunity to do the work it needs to do, just like all of the other post-1989 NATO members have done the work that they needed to do -- which is a different way of putting this.
Q Except that the President has publicly pushed for Georgia's incorporation.
MR. FRIED: No, I would say that the President has pushed for Georgia to be given the chance to do what it needs to do. And there is a difference. The President has said that he thinks Croatia is going to be ready in 2008 for an invitation. He said that publicly after meeting with the Croatian Prime Minister. With respect to Georgia and Ukraine, he said -- well, his words speak for themselves, that Georgia needs to be given this opportunity, but it's Georgia that needs to do the work. Now, this is nothing new; this is exactly what we've said all along in the NATO enlargement process. Some countries have made it -- in fact, all countries so far that have made it have been ones that have earned this, that earned NATO membership through their performance. So that's where we are.
And, no, I think the Alliance clearly recognizes that Georgia has a lot of work to do, but recognizes the door has to be open. And the NATO communiqué has said that the door being open means Georgia as well. But that said, there is I think agreement in the Alliance that Georgia has a lot of work to do.
Q I can't remember all the countries, but there was wording about at least Moldova and some other countries in regards to their borders, I guess. What was the message --
MR. FRIED: There was language in the NATO communiqué that supports the territorial integrity of the countries of the South Caucuses and Moldova. That's the first time NATO has said this; this is an important message to those countries. Which means that, yes, you have work to do, but we do support your sovereignty, we do support your territorial integrity -- and to those countries, that is an important signal. But it doesn't mean that they have a blank check, and it also means that there are only peaceful solutions to these frozen conflicts that we will contemplate. This is -- you know, support for territorial integrity doesn't mean, you know, go re-arm and start some war. It means look for political solutions, reach out to the people and the authorities in the territory of the frozen conflicts, and we'll help with the diplomacy. But it also means that NATO is not indifferent to this. That's an important message.
Q Did Russia's concerns about Georgia joining NATO come up in the discussions?
MR. FRIED: We're all aware of Russia's concerns. But Russia does not have a veto and has never had a veto over NATO membership. We're all aware of Russia's concerns. The fact is, NATO enlargement is not a threat to Russia, it has never been a threat to Russia, and, in fact, it's probably good for Russia that the countries to its west, or many of the countries to its west are in NATO, because this makes for a peaceful, more stable neighborhood. The Russians disagree, but I think in the end and on some level even they understand that it is better to have a Europe whole, free and at peace than a Europe that is divided, mistrustful and prone to extremist ideologies.
Q Thank you very much for doing this. What are your hopes for Amman?
MR. FRIED: Oh, I'm not going to get into that; there will be others. I have great hopes, I'm sure. Thanks.
Q Thank you for doing this.
END 5:23 P.M. (Local)