Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz
Luns Press Theatre, NATO Headquarters
September 26, 2001
Thank you. We've just completed two very valuable sessions of the informal defense
ministers meeting. I'm here representing Secretary Rumsfeld, who would otherwise
have been here, but for obvious reasons, has had to stay in Washington. I also
had bilaterals with the Turkish defense minister, the British defense minister,
and the French defense minister. Later on this evening, I'll be meeting with
the Russian defense minister and the Italian defense minister. Let me just summarize
what I think are some of the main points that have emerged in our discussions
today, and then I'll be glad to take a few questions.
First, it's obvious from this morning's discussions that NATO is unified in
solidarity with the U.S. in the war against global terrorism. We are very appreciative
of the way our NATO allies have stepped up and supported us, and particularly
that they have invoked Article Five for the first time in NATO's history, and
we are all together on what needs to be done.
Secondly, on what needs to be done, I think we all agree that what is needed
is a global campaign. One that is multinational, one that is multifaceted --
not just military -- but includes all the available instruments to achieve results,
including economic instruments, diplomatic instruments, law enforcement, intelligence,
and as appropriate, the military. But it has to be a sustained effort, and one
that will be made up of many and different coalitions for different purposes
in different parts of the world. Not as we had ten years ago, a single grand
coalition for a very focused objective.
Third, I think we all agree now that counter-terrorism has to be a major alliance
priority. This is recognized as a newly important mission. It's one we've been
arguing for for a long time. And I'd say, too, we believe the events of two
weeks ago demonstrate very clearly that if it's a mater of spending money --
we were debating ten billion dollar differences in our defense budget -- if
it's a matter of spending money to forestall the horrible surprises that we
saw two weeks ago, that when we think about affordability, we should think about
the thousands of people who died. We should think about the hundreds of billions,
even trillions, of dollars of economic losses that we've suffered already. It
doesn't mean that you can solve all these problems by throwing money at them,
but we shouldn't say that we can't afford to do what we need to do.
Fourth, very importantly, there was broad and emphatic agreement that this is
not, and must not be allowed to be perceived as, a campaign against Islam. That
some of the terrorists are Muslim extremists, who claim to be acting in the
name of religion, does not mean that is what the religion teaches. And it is
not what hundreds of millions of Muslims believe. We have millions of Muslim
citizens in the United States. That's true of many of our Allies in Europe.
There were hundreds of Muslims of various countries killed in the World Trade
And I think it's important to emphasize that five times in the last ten years,
the United States military has engaged with our NATO allies in defense of Muslims
who were victims of aggression, or who were victims of war-induced famine. Starting
with the defense of Kuwait in 1990-1991, the operation in Somalia, the operation
in Northern Iraq called "Provide Comfort," and then, of course, the
two operations conducted under NATO mandate in Bosnia and in Kosovo. I think
our record is very clear: that we welcome Muslims into the modern world; that
one of our most valuable allies, Turkey, is a Muslim majority country, that
in important ways can be a model for what hundreds of millions of Muslims aspire
to. And we should be very clear and careful that this is not a war against a
And finally, a personal observation. I remember going, ten years ago, to the
first post-Cold War NATO summit, in London. And I remember, this was when I
worked for then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, thinking at the time --
and many of us thought at the time -- maybe NATO won't survive. Maybe those
Americans who say that there aren't any threats any more now that the Soviet
Union has gone away, maybe they're right. Maybe those Europeans who say, "We
don't need the United States, we can take care of ourselves," maybe they're
right. Ten years later, we find NATO is the indispensable instrument in dealing
with a crisis in the Balkans in Macedonia, and we find -- to everyone's astonishment
-- that Article Five of the NATO Treaty has been invoked for the first time
in NATO history because of an attack on the United States. I think it is extraordinary
and impressive, but actually not surprising, that this alliance of many of the
world's greatest democracies, built on common interests and common values, remains
applicable in vastly different circumstances. And we are deeply grateful to
be a member of the NATO alliance, and deeply grateful for the support we're
receiving from our Allies.
With that, I'll be happy to try to take some questions. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: The secretary general said that you didn't ask anything specific of NATO
at this time. Why not, and will you be asking specific things, and when?
ANSWER: Well, we got something very important when NATO invoked Article Five, and
this gives us a very powerful basis for a variety of individual requests we're
making of individual countries. Many of those are the kinds of requests that
take place in intelligence channels or military channels and we're not going
to discuss them publicly. But what we got from this meeting was very important
-- reaffirmation, not just of the commitment to common defense, but the commitment
to a common strategy. A strategy, as I said, is not based on some single spectacular
action or spectacular series of actions but has to be a very broad campaign
over a very long period of time. And in this campaign I think it's worth emphasizing
that one of the most important things is to acquire more information about an
enemy, one of whose principal means of operation is to hide and conceal. And
that is one of the reasons why it not so simple to lay out a very specific campaign
plan and lots of specific actions, and why many of the most important things
that we're doing are being done in intelligence channels. But, we are getting
great support from our Allies, and I would say the meeting today was a very
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what did you stress upon the allies that they needed to do?
Was it to spend more money or implement DCI further? Second of all, did you
inform them that the U.S. might not participate as heavily in the Balkans in
the future because of this war on terrorism?
ANSWER: I'd say, first of all, we weren't here urging the allies to do lots of things
because they've stepped up to the plate rather voluntarily. I do think that
-- and I made the point just now to you and I made it in our meeting -- we all
need to look at the issue of how we invest in defense and look at issues of
affordability in a different light. We need to put counter-terrorism at the
top of national security priorities. I'm sorry, the second part of your question?
QUESTION: About the need for troops in the Balkans . . .
ANSWER: Oh yes, right. It's a fact of life that when we start to deploy forces around
the world as we're doing today, we begin to strain some of those things that
they call in the Pentagon "low-density, high-demand assets." That
is to say the things that everybody asks for when there is a crisis. It starts
with reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, specialized units that do
intelligence or medical support or civil affairs. Many of those are the same
units that are important in our role in the Balkans, and indeed some of those
are the kind of units we're providing in support of Operation Essential Harvest.
And those are going to be in higher demand and the density isn't going to increase
rapidly. So we told the allies that we need to plan on the possibility that
some of those are going to be less available.
But I think the important point to keep in mind is what the president has said,
and various cabinet officials have said, over and over again. We came into the
Balkans with NATO; we will leave with NATO. We believe that what has been achieved
in the Balkans is a great success that demonstrates the invaluable role that
this alliance has played and I think the new role it has played in hopefully
bringing about a peaceful settlement in Macedonia is just one more affirmation
of that. So we want to see NATO succeed. I think that's the most important point.
QUESTION: If you could specify a bit, Lord Robertson just predicted that the U.S. is
going to ask for collective NATO action. When are you actually going to do that?
ANSWER: We think we had a collective affirmation of support with what they said with
Article Five, and if we need collective action we'll ask for it. We don't anticipate
that at the moment.
QUESTION: Sir, two weeks into the crisis, is the United States incapable of telling
its allies precisely what the findings are in regard to evidence related to
Osama bin Laden or other terrorists that you might think were behind the attack?
And have you considered, sir, how that inability or the lack of that information
may influence the ability of the allies to hold popular support together in
aiding the United States, when it may appear that the evidence isn't there?
ANSWER: I think the evidence is there for the whole world to see. I think many of
the people in this room watched it live on television, watched the two towers
of the World Trade Center coming down. If you want evidence I'll be happy to
-- oh, I can't, I guess. The FBI controls it. You can come and look at the Pentagon,
as well, and think about how small that is in comparison to what happened at
the World Trade Center.
There's no question what happened. There's no question the al Qaeda organization
has been convicted in courts of law for acts of terrorism including the bombing
of our embassies in East Africa. They've been implicated in the millennium bombings
that were headed off at the Canadian border a year and a half ago. They're implicated
in the Cole disaster. It is absolutely clear that terrorism against Americans,
specifically against Americans, is at the top of their agenda, that their leader
has publicly called for killing Americans and there is no question that some
of the people involved in the horrible events of September 11th are connected
to al Qaeda. There's no question about any of that.
It's also important to emphasize that there are things we don't know about the
events of September 11th and things that we don't know about al Qaeda. The essence
of this organization, as I've said before, is to hide. A big part of our challenge
is to find out that information, not so that we can make our case -- our case
is clear -- it is so that we can find these people and so that we can hunt them
down. As we do that, it is important to keep in mind -- in part because there
is so much that we don't know -- that this has to be a broad effort. As the
president has said over and over again, it's not about one man or one organization.
It's about a network of terrorist organizations. It's about the support and
sanctuary and harboring they receive from some states. And while we are going
to try to find every snake in the swamp that we can, the essence of the strategy
is to try to drain the swamp.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate a bit on the concept you outlined today of shifting flexible
coalitions? What types of coalitions are you envisioning, and have you worked
out countries might participate in those coalitions?
ANSWER: I'm happy to state the general principle, which is that this is a worldwide
problem. It's not focused in one country. It's not a single organization. It's
multiple organizations. There are some countries that will be very active with
us, we think, in going after problems that affect them more directly, and perhaps
less willing to help us with problems that are more remote. We'll take that
help. There'll be some countries that will be willing to help us privately and
secretly and not willing to acknowledge it publicly. We'll take that help. There
will be some countries that will be willing to join with other countries openly
and some that will say "Not on your life if we have to be identified with
someone else." So to be effective, we have to be flexible. We have to be
adaptable. We need cooperation from many countries but we need to take it in
appropriately flexible ways.
QUESTION: You said "some states" in the plural. Can you give us an idea whether
Iraq is in the frame too, or are we just talking about Afghanistan or other
states as well? And also, is there a lot more work that needs to be done before
any kind of real military action can happen?
ANSWER: Let me take the second part first. I think it can't be stressed enough that
everyone that's waiting for a military action, because they think that's the
definition of a campaign, needs to rethink this and understand. I keep saying,
we keep saying, a broad campaign. We've taken actions already, including an
action the president announced on Monday, of going after freezing financial
assets and getting other countries to freeze financial assets. We've been taking
action since September 12th in running down these networks in the United States
and overseas. And yes, we contemplate that our military will be called on to
take action as well. But since generating information about targets is a crucial
part of it, we don't believe in just demonstrating that our military is capable
of bombing things. The whole world knows that. What we want to do is be effective.
QUESTION: And concerning the first part of my question?
ANSWER: The president's been clear about this. All of us have been clear about this.
There is a list, and the State Department can give it to you, of states that
are on the list for supporting terrorism. I think the basic point is that the
penalties for that kind of behavior in the past were serious, but they were
modest in light of what happened on September 11th. Things that were viewed
as bad, but in some way tolerable, I think have ceased to be tolerable. And
we have to take a whole new approach to that. But fortunately, I think there
are also signs that some of those countries are viewing their own actions in
a different light now that they see what they lead to, and what kinds of consequences
it might draw them into. So we're hoping that September 11th was a wake-up call
for some of the bad guys as well.