|Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on NATO Mission in Macedonia |
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on NATO Mission in Macedonia
The United States is participating in the NATO effort to collect and destroy the weapons of Albanian rebels in Macedonia by offering logistical assistance, medical facilities, intelligence gathering and other types of support, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Washington Post Editorial Board August 22. (Excerpt). Source: Washington File (EUR403). U.S. Department of State. Washington D.C., August 22, 2001.
"We have agreed to use U.S. forces in Kosovo at the border as collection points. We have agreed to use the back office to Kosovo which is already in Macedonia for intelligence gathering, which is a very helpful -- we have capabilities there, unmanned aircraft. We're assisting with logistics in and out of the area. We're assisting with logistics within the area. We offered to assist with respect to medevac in case that becomes necessary. We've offered Camp Bondsteel [in Kosovo] facilities in the event they become necessary," Rumsfeld said, adding: "I think we're doing a lot."
"The kinds of things we're doing other people can't do," he pointed out.
Asked whether the mission could be completed in 30 days, Rumsfeld responded: "If it happens that the forces go in, and weapons are collected, there's no reason in the world not to think that 30 days would be ample."
Rumsfeld also rejected criticism that NATO's goal was too limited. "NATO has not been invited in to take over the country. They [Macedonians] have a government. They have a structure. They have not asked NATO to come in and occupy it," he said.
Following is an excerpt from the Defense Department transcript of the meeting: (begin excerpt)
Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., August 22, 2001
Secretary Rumsfeld meets with Washington Post Editorial Board
(Meeting at the Pentagon with the editorial board of the Washington Post. Portions of the meeting were off the record and have been deleted from this transcript.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you convinced that the NATO force will be out of Macedonia or finish its job in 30 days?
Rumsfeld: [Portion deleted.] The deadline, as I understand it, was set by NATO with the explicit, narrow purpose of collecting weapons in a peaceful environment. Where an agreement had been agreed, and both sides had accepted that, and a plan was agreed to, a security plan, for the collection points.
If it happens that the forces go in, and weapons are collected, there's no reason in the world not to think that 30 days would be ample. It could be you could do it in a week or two. We have forces in Kosovo along the border, ours and others, that could serve as collection points. You could have some other collection points. And it doesn't take a genius to pick it up and get them out of there.
So the short answer to your question is sure.
If the job is that, there isn't any reason -- and if you don't start it until the environment's correct for starting it. And if you agree that you will stop the process in the event the environment's not hospitable to it, then there isn't any reason it couldn't be completed in that period of time.
Q: So based on what you know about the parties to the conflict, how confident are you that the weapons will be collected?
Rumsfeld: If it starts, I suspect that some weapons will be collected. What percentage of the total weapons that conceivably could be available for collection I wouldn't even want to guess.
Q: If it starts and the environment degrades, is NATO now in a position to be able to pull out and say sorry, guys, you're on your own.
Rumsfeld: I think so. It isn't that you're on your own. What you say is look, here was the drill. [Portion deleted.] The purpose of the effort is to go in and collect the weapons. If the parties decide they don't want the weapons collected, that's their choice. They have to live there.
Q: And you're willing to live with whatever risk in Kosovo and --
Rumsfeld: Presumably NATO weapon collectors, which is the kinds of people that are being sent in -- It's not like you're sending in a major (inaudible), are not appropriate to do anything else.
Q: Doesn't this put NATO in a kind of Chapter 6 environment where they're just working with the consent of the parties and the parties can manipulate the process depending on their view of their tactical advantage on any given day?
Rumsfeld: That is -- there's no question but that in any unsettled situation where parties are competing and contesting, that they do try to advantage themselves. And the only thing that one can hope is that at some point they decide that they're, each of them decides that the advantage is best by ending the hostilities. Whether they will or not, I don't know. Nor does NATO.
Q: Why are we not participating more directly in this deployment?
Rumsfeld: Well, we are participating, in my view, rather fulsomely. We have agreed to use U.S. forces in Kosovo at the border as collection points. We have agreed to use the back office to Kosovo which is already in Macedonia for intelligence gathering, which is a very helpful -- we have capabilities there, unmanned aircraft. We're assisting with logistics in and out of the area. We're assisting with logistics within the area. We offered to assist with respect to medevac in case that becomes necessary. We've offered Camp Bondsteel facilities in the event they become necessary.
So we have hundreds of people already in Macedonia. And I would -- the implication -- simply because we didn't in addition add some people to go out and collect in the interior of the country it seems to me, is misplaced. I think we're doing a lot.
Q: Do you fully support the sort of, in addition to this deployment, do you think it's a sound program despite the 30-day deadline and the uncertainty about the parties' willingness to participate?
Rumsfeld: Well, I supported the idea and agreed to the kinds of support that I've just outlined. I think it's appropriate and I think it's enormously helpful, the kinds of things we're doing other people can't do. Whether it will work or not is an open question, but do I think it's worth a try? Sure.
Q: There's been some criticism of it, for example, by (inaudible) on (inaudible) last week that said by setting such a limited goal and kind of leaving it up to the parties, if they're willing, will participate, if not --
Rumsfeld: Uh huh.
Q: You're sort of hostage to them. And in fact if they're not willing and the Macedonia, the conflict became larger, it would be very damaging to our effort in Kosovo and in the Balkans and therefore --
Rumsfeld: Mort's a smart guy. I know him. I like him. And there's no question but that if you do not -- NATO has not been invited in to take over the country. They have a government. They have a structure. They have not asked NATO to come in and occupy it, if that's what the alternative is, to take up broader mandate.
Second, with respect to the interaction between what happens in Macedonia and the neighboring countries, you're quite right. Instability in Macedonia is unhealthful for the neighbors.
On the other hand, it's unhealthful now. Our forces are at risk now. People can go across that border now, and our folks are doing a lot in Kosovo to try to make that border less porous, but it's very difficult to do, and it's being done unevenly in various parts of the border.
So there's no question but that there is some transfer of people between Kosovo and Macedonia, and that makes it difficult both places.
But because this effort that NATO decided to do is not everything, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything unless you're going to do everything. In my view.
So I mean I'm not an expert on the region and I'm not over in the Department of State which is involved in the kinds of things you're asking about, but it seems to me that from the Pentagon standpoint we are doing the right things that are the most helpful. And the effort has a chance to succeed, and it might not. But there's lots of mights or might nots in that part of the world. There have been all my life.