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NATO Support Was Immediate, Overwhelming

NATO Support Was Immediate, Overwhelming

Remarks as delivered by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, at NATO Air Base, Geilenkirchen, Germany, June 7, 2002.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I would say sit down, but it would be a mess. So those that can, be seated; and those that can’t stay standing. We apologize for being a few minutes late. I asked my folks – I said, "Where could we go thank those people who did such a wonderful job on the AWACS?" And they said the best place was here, and that’s why we’re here. We’re here to say thank you. (applause)

And as a special bonus we have the Minister of Defense of Norway. We’ve just come from a NATO meeting, and we’re en route to Estonia. And in a few minutes I’m going to ask her to come up here and make a few remarks also because I know she wants to say thank you as well.

General Winterberger and General Dora, Commodore Horwood, Colonel Van Dam, men and women in uniform, ladies and gentlemen.

Without question, one of the best parts of my job is having the opportunity to say thank you to the American troops that serve all across the world, and today that privilege is even greater by the opportunity to be able to say thank you to the folks from so many countries. I guess it’s what, twelve – other countries – a total of thirteen, gathered here who helped to defend our country after the attack of September 11th. The very next day NATO made its historic decision to invoke Article V. And how fitting that Article V – which had been during the cold war – a promise of US helping Europe. How fitting that it would be – that it would be first invoked not for that purpose but so that Europe could assist the United States.

And that support was immediate, was overwhelming. Within a week many of you had reached our shores controlling the skies, fully operational. Seamlessly – I doubt it – but maybe close to seamlessly. Certainly because of the training, the joint training within NATO that you had had for so many years. And you and your colleagues did it. You did it every day for more than seven months, logging in well over 4,300 flight hours, some 367 operational sorties and we are grateful. We’re grateful to the aircrews. We’re grateful to those on the ground who supported the effort at Tinker and here in Germany, as well as all of those from Forward Operating Bases who overcame shortages at home to ensure that you could conduct your important mission – on behalf of NATO and to the great benefit of the people of the United States. As a result of your efforts, Operation Eagle Assist was a remarkable success. It not only provided valuable assistance to NORAD and freed up U.S. AWACS for duty in Afghanistan, where I can assure you they were needed, but it stands as a symbol of the strong commitment of NATO in the global war on terrorism.

General Winterberger, on behalf of the President of the United States and the Department of Defense, it is a pleasure to present you and this unit – all the men and women in this unit – with this Joint Meritorious Unit Award in recognition of the exemplary performance and dedication to duty that the men and women from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I congratulate you and I thank each one of you.


The presence of NATO aircrews flying missions over the skies of the United States to help defend against terrorist attacks tells us a great deal about the new security environment that all of our countries face. An environment where dangers, once only in distant regions, can now threaten people in their homes and places at work of all of our countries. The challenge of this new security environment is why President Bush yesterday proposed the creation of a new kind of homeland security for the United States. The times require new priorities, a new focus and certainly a new sense of urgency.

The new security environment also underscores the continuing importance of the NATO alliance. A little less than 2 months ago we celebrated the 53rd anniversary of the founding of NATO. On that day, five decades ago, in Washington, D.C., a handful of nations came together to create a common defense against a common threat. Today the principles of freedom, democracy, rule of law have again come under attack, so it is as no surprise that this alliance of democracies is in the vanguard in the war on terrorism. And each of you are playing a critical role. On behalf of the American people, I thank each of you for your courage, your dedication – which you demonstrate every day – but especially for your contributions to America’s defense in a time of need. You are allies in the truest sense of the word and the American people are grateful to each one of you.

Now, what I’d like to do is have the Minister of Defense of Norway, Kristin Krohn Devold, join me up here so that she will have an opportunity to express her thanks as well.

Who was it arranged for all that noise out there? (referring to noise of his aircraft)


Devold: Secretary Rumsfeld, ladies and gentlemen, Norway is a very small country. We have always known that if we were attacked, we would depend on the help from our allies and from the United States. This made it a great honor for us to be able to actually give some assistance to the United States when they needed us. I am proud of the cooperation we have experienced with a crew here from Geilenkirchen and am proud for once to have been able to do something for our largest ally.

My first challenge, as a minister of defense, was to fly an F-16 from the back seat. We had an exercise above north of Norway, and from Geilenkirchen an AWACS airplane came to our assistance. The pilot was General Gary Winterberger, and he brought his crew with him from here. It gave me an opportunity to see the wonderful cooperation between all the different nations who is the crew in an AWACS airplane. And it made it quite clear that the AWACS cooperation within NATO is the most successful one among all the NATO members.

Congratulations to you all and Norway is proud to be able to work together with you. Thank you.


Rumsfeld: Let me ask you a question. Can you hear me in the back there? You can. Can you hear me over there? No. Can you hear me way back there? Some of you need to get your hearing checked.

I was told that at this point, we should answer some questions. Now the problem with that is that if only half of you can hear, then only half of you will hear. On the other hand, if I should go ahead and do this, I’m happy to do it. Torie Clarke says I should go ahead and do it. Are there microphones? How do I hear them? There it is! I think the people in the back aren’t going to get to the microphone, but if there are any questions in the front row, right in here somewhere, we’ve got a microphone. Don’t be shy. I’m going to answer the easy questions and Kristin – oh, she left – I was going to have her answer the hard questions. Yes Sir.

Question: Sir, I am Staff Sgt. Escoto. I work for the 470th Network Support Shop. The award that you just gave – out of curiosity – is that also for the 470th?

Rumsfeld: I could not hear the first part of your question. I think they had to turn up the volume.

Question: The award that you just gave. Does that include the 470th Unit?

Rumsfeld: I’ll have to get it and re-read it.

Major General Winterberger: We just received the award. Let me work on that one.

Question: Thank you Sir.

Admiral Giambastiani: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: Admiral Giambastiani says yes, it does. So we just worked on it.

Who’s next? Right here.

Question: Mr Rumsfeld, my name is Tech Sgt. Shaun Reiley, and I work in the NATO Finance Office.

My question to you is: What role do you foresee for NATO in the future as far as the war on terror now that the Eagle Assist has been completed?

Rumsfeld: The question is what role do we see for NATO in the war on terror. In the present time there are some 69 countries that are involved in the global war on terror, and every one of the NATO countries is included in that number. There are some 16,000 troops deployed in and around Afghanistan.

(applause – aircraft engine noise stopped)

Rumsfeld: That’s very good. It only took a half-hour.

NATO is deeply involved. We’ve got, for example, in the waters south of Pakistan something like 101 ships, of which less than half are U.S. The NATO nations are those – for the most part – those countries on earth that have the same values as we do in North America and are interested in free speech and freedom of religion and free press and the opportunity for people to do what they wish, when they wish and where they wish. The linkage between North America and Europe through that alliance has stood the test of time. And what we have today is a group of countries that are not fully interoperable, as all of you know, but have to get more interoperable.

But we do do joint training. We do do joint exercises. And that alliance – there is no doubt in my mind but that the nations in that alliance will continue to be critically important to the success that we have in dealing with this new national security and this new security and world-wide security environment that we’re facing. It is a notably different one than NATO was originally formed to deal with. But that’s equally true of the United States.

If you think of it, we spent most of our history defending against external threats. And we now need to recognize that given the pervasiveness of proliferation and the technologies that are available to people, that despite those two big oceans, and despite the friends to the north and the south, that there is not a country on the face of the earth that is not vulnerable to these so-called a-symmetrical threats. And it’s as true for Norway or Germany or France or any other countries in NATO as it is for the United States. So I think NATO is clearly an alliance. It is of great value today and importance, and we’re very fortunate that it’s there.

Question: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: The Question is "How do we see the component here as a unique institution in NATO".

NATO has historically – I was ambassador to NATO back in the early 1970s, in 73 and 74, that’s a long time ago. Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Let me start over. Some time back, I was ambassador to NATO, and in those days the national forces were not chopped to NATO. They remained for the most part national forces, and the process was that an attack against one was an attack against all, and they would then be used in a way under NATO command. But there were really not – this type of an activity did not exist. And my guess is that this example or this model will be something that will be encouraged, and we will see other replications of this. It may not be all NATO nations, but of course this is not. This is twelve of nineteen – thirteen of nineteen.

Already a number of countries that have come in quite recently have decided that it makes no sense for them to try to have 360-degree military and what they need to do is work with their neighbors and several other countries. And so you’re beginning to see battalions made up, for example, of three nations. And I would suspect that we will see that as a pattern as we go forward, particularly in view of the possibility of NATO enlargement, where we’re going to end up maybe with a handful plus of additional countries on top of the nineteen.

Question. He’s got the mic(rophone) right here.

Question: Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Werner from the German Air Force. My question is the following: considering the tremendous efforts the United States is undertaking in defense policy – especially in increasing technology and increasing budget – I am afraid that several European countries might be uncoupled from the United States. Do you share this view?

Rumsfeld: There is an investment gap. Some people call it a technology gap; I call it an investment gap. It is true that to the extend a country does not invest in defense – their defense, NATO’s defense – and other countries do, that there will become a disparity of some type. On the other hand, I think that what that will cause is that countries will do what I just indicated. They will end up specializing. They will take a niche. They will decide that rather than thinking they need to have a full Army, a full Air Force and a full Navy, what they’ll do is they’ll select areas that will be of great value to NATO and to the entire alliance and focus on those specialties. And therefore, they will – the technology gap will not exist because their value will be very, very high.

Right now we have units in Afghanistan – indeed, I think a unit from Germany – doing de-mining and doing a terrific job. And there are Special Forces from countries that are doing a superb job also in Afghanistan. Countries are able – who are ocean going countries – have supplied ships, as I’ve indicated, and I think that the idea that every country that originally felt its national security depended on their being able to defend their specific piece of real estate, that that time has gone. And that in fact all of us are dependent on each other because we see the advantage of doing that. And so I don’t worry quite as much about that as I hear it talked about in the press. I do think, however – and I said so to my NATO colleagues today – that the people of our respective countries are thoughtful. They understand the dangers that exist in the world, and there is not a doubt in my mind but that they’re going to be willing to make an investment of some relatively modest fraction of their Gross National Product for defense.

The risks that face the world because of weapons of mass destruction and their availability to terrorists and terrorist networks through terrorist states is a significant risk. It is a risk of a different order than we have experienced previously with conventional weapons, and it seems to me that that reality is something that will suggest to the populations of our respective countries that spending 2 ½ or 3 percent of our Gross National Product before the fact – to be able to deter and defend and prevent those kinds of attacks – is not much when one thinks about it. And allowing those kinds of attacks to take place – where, rather than 3,000 people being killed as was the case in New York and Washington, you’re talking with a weapon of mass destruction of tens of thousands or potentially hundreds of thousands of people, 2 ½ or 3 percent of a Gross National Product doesn’t sound like very much. If one thinks about it.


Question: Captain Kammer, German Air Force, and I work at the Base Support Wing. Sir, my question is, I would like to know about the view you have on the future expansion of NATO.

Rumsfeld: What view does the United States or Don Rumsfeld have on the expansion? I’m for it. I think that – I am hopeful that in the months ahead, we will see a relatively robust number of countries entering NATO. They’ve got – a number of them – have a lot of work to do. They have to jump over some hurdles to make sure that they are meeting the standards and the goals that NATO insists on, and it’s not a free pass. It’s important that they bring a security value to a security alliance. And I think that everything doesn’t have to happen at once.

It may take some time for some of those countries. But I think, overall, NATO is advantaged by adding nations that want to be in, that are willing to make those kinds of investments, that recognize the threats that exist in the world. And I must say that some of the newer members of NATO have a lot of energy and a lot of focus and a lot of determination and appreciation for being a part of that institution, and I think it makes NATO a better institution to have that energy and that new contribution.

I now just got the wrap-up signal. Really I’m just a piece of meat. They just move me from here to there. So I’ll take some more questions.

Question: Sir, first off I’d like to say, I’m sure everybody here appreciates you being out here from the Component side.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, I appreciate being here, let me tell you.

Question: My name is Dennis Owens, I work for the NATO Program Management Agency and one of the things we are trying to do is modernize all the aircraft. All the different modifications that happen to it, we try to fund that. We get funded through all the different nations, and I was wondering, with the use of the AWACS over there in America, have you guys from your level on down, started pushing for what can we do to keep that fleet together because it looks really tight right now with the money. I was wondering, what do you guys see in the support for modernization?

Rumsfeld: I am trying to think. I’m not even sure I know how the NATO/AWACS is funded. Is it funded through an entire NATO mechanism on the same proportion of every other country, all the other NATO expenses? It is. So it is not funded by the twelve or thirteen countries that are involved. Just the ones involved are funding it. Is that right? Why isn’t it funded by all nineteen?

What the heck!


I’ll have to look into that. Thank you. Last question. Way in the back. Nobody? I don’t see a hand back there. Right here.

Question: Sergeant Kirkpatrick from the Mission Support Wing, Sir. Got a question. If the tensions between Pakistan and India escalate to nuclear, what possible role could you see for us in that?

Rumsfeld: Like I said, that’s the last question. (applause) Thank you very much, good to see you all. We appreciate what you’re doing. We really do, we thank all of you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).