Rumsfeld: Relations Between Americans and Germans are Excellent | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 10.02.2003
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Rumsfeld: Relations Between Americans and Germans are Excellent

In an interview with German public television, the U.S. Defense Secretary suggests people have overreacted to a quote placing Germany alongside Libya and Cuba in its Iraq policy.


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Sabine Christiansen: Mr. Secretary, You put Germany in one category with Cuba and Libya in remarks this week that have outraged many Germans. What's the point of such blunt characterization of one of your allies?

United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: Well, I didn't put Germany there. I was testifying before a congressional committee and I was asked the question as to which countries are opposed to the President's position with respect to Iraq and I answered the question.

I heard the question.

Yeah, and the answer to the question was that those countries are the ones that have been publicly indicating their opposition. Each of those countries are sovereign countries. Each of those countries are perfectly able to make up their decision. The German government made a decision and those governments have made a decision. All I was doing was accurately representing what they have said publicly. I can't imagine why someone would be so sensitive to be concerned about it.

We are very sensitive, I think, as a democratic state and as an ally of the American people, that we are standing in one line suddenly with Libya or Cuba, with totalitarian states.

Obviously, the German people are wonderful people. My relatives came from here. I still have relatives in this country. I love to come to this country. But the German government made a decision on this issue, which is their right. And they are a sovereign state. They were elected. They can do that. And that's the decision they made. It isn't for me to suggest that what they say publicly is not their position. It is their position.

But it was and seemed to be-sounded to us very hard-and what were you trying to achieve when you said that?

I was trying to answer the Congressman's question. He asked me the question: What are the countries? I said, look, there are a lot of countries that are for the President's position on Iraq. They believe that Iraq should be disarmed. Indeed you saw the letter of eight European countries. You've seen the letter from ten more European countries. That's eighteen European countries who have taken that position. I mentioned those. I then said there are a group of countries that have indicated they would like to help, but only if there is a second resolution in the United Nations. I then said there were a group of countries that have said they would prefer only to help after Saddam Hussein was gone, in a coalition of the willing on a multinational basis. And then I said there is a group of countries who have opposed the President's position. And they said, "who are they?" And I said this is who they are.

But you know that we are helping already quite a lot. We have about 2,600 soldiers that are taking care here on U.S. bases .

There's been no question. Indeed, and Germany has been excellent with respect to the Operation Enduring Freedom and the global war on terrorism. Germany has been participating in the ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

It seems to me that if you are asked a question and you answer it before a congressional committee, that that's a very reasonable thing to do.

Would you say Germany is a really reliable ally to the United States?

Well, my goodness. Germany has been a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for many, many years. We've had a long-standing relationship. It's been a good relationship. There have been many times, however, in the NATO environment where one or another country has not agreed with each other. And that's fair enough. That happens. I think each country, each sovereign nation, can make those decisions for themselves; and they do. And I understand that. I don't expect every country to agree with every other country on every issue.

Is that all in the moment, that you say we are just not agreeing with each other? I mean, how would you describe the relationships, America and Germany, in the moment? Our foreign minister, Mr. Fischer, says, well, the relationship is excellent. Would you describe it the same way? Or is it not so excellent?

Oh, I'm not going to get into these adjectives about the relationship. The relationship has been over the decades, a very strong relationship and at this particular moment, obviously in the United Nations, the German government has taken a position that is different from the United States government. And has that ever happened before? Sure. Has it happened with most every country on the face of the earth at one time or another? Sure. Is it likely to happen again sometime? Sure. Can we live with that? You bet.

But if you listen to every word which is exchanged in the moment, then it seemed that the relationship is not really good at the moment.

Well, there are a lot of people in the media who like a good fight and they want to stir it up and they keep pressing this and pressing that. Well, you know, that's what sells newspapers. They like to look for some difference and highlight it and emphasize it.

Okay, President Bush is pressing the Security Council to force Iraq to disarm and to agree on a second resolution authorizing to use force. When can we expect a second resolution?

I didn't know that President Bush was doing that. Since I left the United States has a decision been made to announce, I should say, to put forward a second resolution?

No, he said he would like to have a second, he would like to, um, he did that last night.

I'm just not knowledgeable about it. I've been on an airplane flying across the ocean and so I'm not in a position to comment on that. There may very well be any number of countries who would offer a second resolution, and they could vary considerably, some could suggest the use of appropriate force; others might just simply validate what the world has found, namely, that the declaration was false and that the inspectors have not been cooperated with by Iraq, and leave it there.

But you would favor...

Or you may not have one at all. I mean - Kosovo - there was no resolution for example.

But you would favor a second resolution...

No, it is not for me...

...because Germany, Russia and France already reacted on that and said that they don't see the need for a second resolution.

I didn't know that. I'm without an opinion on it. That's a matter for the President to decide as to whether or not he wants to have a second resolution. And I just don't know what his decision will be.

If there would be a second resolution, would you count on support from France then for that resolution? Would you count on the majority on the Security Council?

I just don't know. France will decide what it wants to decide. And it not only has a vote like all the other members, but it has a veto and I have no idea what they might finally decide to do. They've clearly been associated with the German government as opposed to the U.S. government on this, and they've been the two countries that have taken the strongest position against the U.S. position. Where they will end up, I suppose, is a function of what kind of a resolution seems to be moving along, and then they will make their judgments, and I just can't predict the outcome.

The Pope is just one of many who say we haven't exhausted all means for a peaceful solution. But President Bush seems convinced that it is now time to act. Do you still give diplomatic efforts a chance?

Well, certainly the President has made that conscious decision. He has said that he wanted to go to the Congress and he wanted to go to the United Nations, and as we have seen, what's been taking place is the momentum supporting his position has been growing. There are countries that are opposed, to be sure. On the other hand, there are dozens of countries that are supporting the President's decision.

Now, what does time do? If time is meant to provide more opportunity for the inspectors to go in and try to find things that Saddam Hussein doesn't want them to find, then there is no amount of time that one could have. Because he has got a country the size of France; he has all kinds of people hiding things. As Secretary Powell presented, he has got people who are actively deceiving and denying. So you could have years and not accomplish anything. On the other hand, if time is to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein wants to cooperate with the United Nations, that doesn't take very long. We've had 12 years. We've had 17 resolutions that he has violated. We've tried diplomatic efforts. We've tried economic sanctions. We've tried limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones. So, each person is going to have to make a judgment on that, and say how much time? Do you want another 12 years, or is one more year, or one more month, and what makes sense? And I think that's something that people are wrestling with in the world. And I think that's a legitimate question.

How much time does Saddam still have?

Well that's a call for the President and the United Nations. It's not for me to say. The President has asked us and others to flow forces and to try to demonstrate to the Iraqi regime that the string has run out and that they should cooperate, and clearly they wouldn't even have inspectors in there if there hadn't been the threat of force. They've been diddling the United Nations along for years. But if you think back what's been done-a great many things, diplomatic, economic. The effort has been significant by the international community to get them to cooperate. ´

Monday morning is the deadline at the NATO in Brussels. Do you expect Germany to contribute in the defense efforts for Turkey and for further NATO measures concerning Iraq?

I don't know what Germany will do. Turkey is a valued member of NATO. The issue before the house is: should NATO engage in planning to think about the possibility of providing Turkey with Patriot missile defense capability, with, I believe, NATO AWACS, and possibly one or two other things. I can't imagine any country in this circumstance with a NATO ally, with that neighbor not allowing planning to go forward, so that Turkey, a member of NATO, would conceivably...that NATO would be prepared in the event it was necessary to provide Patriots.

Now, if it is blocked in NATO, I am sure the countries will do it bilaterally. But it would be an amazing thing to me that a country would carefully consider the matter and then oppose that. I just can't imagine a country doing that.

Can you think of German-American relations getting back to where they were with this government? With this German...

Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not going to make a comment about this government or that government. The German people vote and it is a democratic country and they elect who they want. And it is not for another country to opine what they think about this government or that government. I've been around so long that I think back-right now people are dramatizing what's going on in the Alliance. But I remember back ...

Are they dramatizing?

Sure, I remember going back to the Kennedy and Johnson era, President Kennedy and President Johnson. And there was an issue over the Sky Bolt. And it tore everything apart and the Alliance was in shatters and so forth, and we walked our way through it. There was the Mansfield Amendment when I was in Congress in the 60's and 70's. And it was going to withdraw forces from Europe and what's it mean - a disengagement, and so forth - and we managed our way through it. There was Michel Jobert the foreign minister of France and Henry Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State, and they were at each other every day and we worked our way through it. There was the gas line from Russia that was being proposed and that was a big issue. There has been an enormous issue like that practically every four or five or six years of my adult life. And I think that people who are looking at this and thinking, oh my goodness the sky is falling, don't understand history. You are never going to have that many nations finding themselves in full agreement all the time. That's the nature of life.

We hope so, that German-American relations will get back to where they were. Thank you so much.

I think the relationship between Germans and Americans as people is excellent.

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Thank you.