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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Interview by Krzystof Darewicz of Rzeczpiospolita (Polish Newspaper)

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Washington, DC
August 29, 2002

(12:30 p.m. EDT)

MR. DAREWICZ: We've been told so many times since September 11 last year about how America has changed and how the world has changed. So what do you see these changes? I mean where? What are the most substantial, if any, in your opinion? I mean international politics, diplomacy of course.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First of all, thank you very much for this opportunity, and before I answer any specific questions let me just say how much we appreciate all of the support and the solidarity that Poland has showed to the United States and to the international community since last September 11th. I think it's a very important thing and I want to be very clear that this is something we noticed and we care about and we won't forget. So I thank you and through you, your readers for this.

When you asked me what's changed since the 11th of September of last year, what I answer is that there is a commitment around the world to ending terrorism, to ending excuses for terrorism, to ending the financing of terrorism, to ending people who used to support terrorism with their weapons and look the other way. And I believe that those things have changed. And when you see what work has been done in the United Nations, what work has been done in NATO, what work has been done bilaterally, for example, between the United States and Poland, you can see that commitment. I would say that your President was a great leader in that by calling the conference together against terrorism in November of last year. Think how soon that was. There's a commitment all around the world to doing something about this problem.

And this has reminded me of the importance of our fundamental security institutions like NATO. Poland is a new NATO member, and I would imagine that in 1999 when people, when Poland joined, other than Kosovo people said, "Well, what's this alliance going to be for? Is it going to be a very interesting thing to be in the future?" What NATO has done since the 11th of September, invoking Article 5, working together for AWACS here in the United States, the deployment of Polish forces to Bagram Air Base are very important things. So I believe people are unified around the world -- and it has reminded me of our fundamental values and our fundamental security institutions.

MR. DAREWICZ: Well, unfortunately, that was the only nice question I was going to ask.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well bring on the rest of them, then.

MR. DAREWICZ: Speaking of united people and so on, and of changes, if you are in Europe you read the European press, you listen to European politicians, you don't have an impression we are so united and the change is of such, there is such a positive change. On the contrary, you know? It seems like over last year the gap between European and American politics, especially concerning some international or even war on terrorism is growing. So how do you address this issue, you know, Europeans criticizing America almost everyday about almost everything? Are you worried?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think it's important to recognize that the US-European relationship is not the Politburo. These are democratic countries. Poland is a democratic country. Germany is a democratic country, as America is a democratic country. I would be worried if there was no debate and no conversation and that the charge to us was that somehow one or the other side of the Atlantic was dictating to the other. And so you pick your problem here. I would much rather have a problem of democracy, where people have a voice, people participate, people have their say.

These are hard problems. Terrorism is a very difficult problem. What to do about Iraq is not an easy issue.

How to organize ourselves economically in the future, these are not easy issues. So if there's a debate about this, it seems to me not surprising at all. I would say, though, that sometimes this debate obscures the fundamentals. Is NATO stronger than ever? Yes, I believe it is. Is the US-European relationship, when in comes to counterterrorism, strong? I believe it is. If you compare this year to last year, what we're doing together with the European Union, for example, in terms of interior ministries, justice ministries, law enforcement cooperation, counterterrorism -- these connections are as close and as tight as they have ever been. And if you look at the press day after day after day, we're doing things with our European allies in the counterterrorism area.

I think the same thing in the United Nations. If you look at what the United Nations has accomplished this past year in the areas of terrorist financing, for example, these are things that were, in a way, unthinkable before.

MR. DAREWICZ: So you don't have the feeling that there is kind of disappointment in Europe with American diplomacy of last year?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We run our own diplomacy and Europeans run their diplomacy. That’s not to say there haven’t been some disagreements over Kyoto or the International Criminal Court. If Europeans are disappointed that we did not join the International Criminal Court, for example, there's really nothing I can do about that except explain to you our position on the International Criminal Court. If Europeans are disappointed that we are not signatories to Kyoto, we have our policy on Kyoto and we don't believe that we ought to participate in that. So when you say, "Are people disappointed?" -- people may be disappointed on some issues, but, again, when you look at the fundamentals, are people disappointed about NATO? No. Are people disappointed about the European Union and the United States? I don't think so. Are people disappointed about the work we've been doing against terrorism in the United Nations? No. Bilaterally between Poland and the United States? I don't think so.

MR. DAREWICZ: Again, in the context of 9/11, Afghanistan. I read American newspapers everyday. I never saw anything like victory, we won -- what about this? I mean there was a war. Usama is still somewhere, obviously alive. Afghan, new Afghan regime, you know, is protected by the United States -- is going to be now protected by the State Department, feeling obviously very unsafe. Was it a victorious war, I mean? How do you address this? I mean, because, you know, according to every textbook, there is a war and there is a victory or you are defeated. And here we are in a state of God knows what.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: As President Bush said in his address to the American people last year, and as we have said consistently, and as I'm sure was one of the outcomes of your President's conference last November, this war on terrorism is not going to be over for a very, very long time.

MR. DAREWICZ: Yeah, but I'm speaking about Afghanistan.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: And so am I. Don't forget, the reason that we went into Afghanistan together with our friends and allies is that Afghanistan was being used as a base for terror attacks on the United States and its friends and its allies. Our objective in going to Afghanistan was to make sure that Afghanistan could never again be used as a base for attacks against America, its friends and its allies. Al-Qaida is smashed to bits and is spread all over the place. The Taliban is gone. It is no longer the government in Afghanistan. But is the fight over there? No, it is not. And I think anyone who would stand up today and say "victory," or "complete," or "finished," I think would be fooling themselves.

There's still a lot of security to be brought to Afghanistan. There are still al-Qaida forces working in Afghanistan, Taliban forces working in Afghanistan, and as you rightly point out, there's a big job to do for the international community to rebuild this country so that it doesn't again become a base for terrorism. It is part of a long-term and very difficult effort against terrorism.

The civilized world is going to have to unite -- Poland, the United States, other countries -- against terrorism. This isn't going to be over tomorrow or the next day. There was a wonderful quotation last September or October where Secretary Rumsfeld says that the war on terrorism wouldn't begin with a declaration of war, and more importantly, wouldn't end with a signing ceremony on the battleship Missouri. And I believe that to be true.

MR. DAREWICZ: Yeah, but I hope you understand why I'm asking this question, because let's say most of, many Europeans' perception that war in Afghanistan is still unfinished business and still we are talking already about Iraq. And you know what are Europeans saying -- Germans, Britons, Poland -- fortunately, Poles, they I think, most would still offer, you know, support. But you know how skeptical are Germans. Latest polls -- Britons -- how do you feel about it -- that the closest allies of United States has so many reservations?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Let's stick with Afghanistan for a moment. That Europeans feel that Afghanistan is unfinished business is absolutely correct. There is unfinished business there for the United States and there's military unfinished business there, and there's also reconstruction and humanitarian unfinished business there. The Germans, for example, are trying to reinvigorate Afghanistan's police forces. The Italians are trying to reinvigorate the justice system. You have troops at Bagram Air Base to provide stability in Afghanistan. There is a huge job to do there. But the world does not work in such a way that you finish this before you do something else. The world is more complicated than that. One of the great things I think about a big democracy like Poland or the United States is that we can do more than one thing at one time. And that's what we're doing.

We are very focused on Afghanistan, but we're also focused on the global war on terror. And if you lead me to the question of Iraq my answer to your question is, again, we live in democratic countries. The people can debate how this goes forward.

What we would hope to do is continue to try to convince people in Europe that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the international community. One of the challenges in this conversation is that people tend to think of it as a debate between Iraq and America. It's only between Iraq and the United States. But it is a challenge between Iraq and the international community.

Iraq signed up to United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 and 688 11 years ago. 687 calls for Iraq to be disarmed. No one would accept that Iraq is disarmed. It's not. 688 talks about Iraq treating properly its own people. No one would believe that Iraq treats its own people decently. This is not a challenge to America, alone. It is a challenge to the entire international community. I think our European friends and our friends around the world, as they think through this, will recognize that this isn't only about the United States.

(End Side A – question on Iraq not recorded.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: -- and in Europe the best policy to make Saddam meet his obligations to the international community. President Bush has said the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein. We believe that because he doesn't live up to his obligations. But our President has said repeatedly that he has not decided for the United States what policy we ought to pursue. He's said he's a patient man, he wants to consult to his friends, he wants to consult his allies, he wants to consult the Congress -- so this debate is on. It's a matter of information, perception, strategic thinking and conversation.

Again, I go back to my very first answer to you, which is that we have the privilege, all of us, of living in an alliance of democracies. And no policy, no foreign policy, no domestic policy is a good policy in a democracy unless it's supported by the people and debated, because that's how it has to be.

MR. DAREWICZ: Okay. Aren't you disappointed with Europeans' attitude -- that they are so openly saying, "No, we don't want this military invasion. We want proof. We want a case. We want evidence."

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think everybody wants a case. Everybody wants evidence. That's what we've been trying to put out. That's what the Vice President was doing day-before-yesterday in speaking in Tennessee. The challenge here, in writing about this is there is no proposition on the table for a military action. Because our President has, as he has said on a number of occasions, not made that decision yet for the United States. So I'm not so concerned about it in the sense that there's no proposition out there. And we'll see. If, if, if the President were to ever decide on a military proposition, then we'll see what happens. If he decides to do something else, we'll see what happens. But that is his decision and then, obviously here in the United States we will support it, and then we'll see how the rest of the world reacts.

MR. DAREWICZ: Two more minutes? Russia and NATO, you know, suppose it's crucial. So let me ask the last question. There is going to be NATO summit, enlargment -- obviously, you're not going to tell me which – but how many countries will be admitted? All of them?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I won't tell you how many. But very importantly, for your -- especially for Poland -- our policy is set by President Bush's speech in Warsaw last year. What did he say? He said we should go for as robust an enlargement as possible. The important line in his speech was that we shouldn't try to find out how little we can do, we should find out how much we can do. And so we are following our President's lead in that.

In Prague I hope three things will come. First, I hope there will be new capabilities for NATO so that when we fight these terrorism questions, we fight weapons of mass destruction, that we can do more in terms of NATO military. Second, I hope there will be a robust round of expansion, and you're right, I can't tell you what countries because our President hasn't made that decision yet. And third, very importantly as you say, is a new relationship between Russia and NATO. And I think the new partnership that has been, the new NATO-Russia Council that's been established, the NATO summit that was held in Rome earlier this year and what we're going to do there will show the world that there's a new way of doing business between Russia and NATO. And that's not to dilute NATO and it's not to give Russia a veto power over NATO. It's not a back door to Russian membership in NATO, but we think there's a new way that NATO and Russia can do business and that's a good thing.

MR. DAREWICZ: If you could address some kind of worries, of people like Poles, for example, that perhaps by the enlargement of NATO the alliance would be kind of not stranded by kind of diluted -- that instead of focusing on very particular aims, having used to be, you know, the so called common security or so -- is a lack of, lack of particular aim actually. And so again, whether it's -- NATO is going to be stranded or maybe weakened. If you could address, because people, they do really worry.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The NATO alliance started out as an alliance of 12. It's now an alliance of 19 including Poland. I think it's stronger today.

The strategic concept of NATO was revised in 1999 at the first summit that Poland attended as a new member. It said that our threats now come from weapons of mass destruction, from terrorism, from ethnic conflict. So I think that the people who have led this alliance over the past few years, from the strategic concept of 1991 to the strategic concept of 1999, have seen quite clearly what new threats are.

I think the fact that the alliance recognized those threats in 1999 and then acted on them in 2001, who knew it would be an attack on the United States, but acted to invoke Article 5 in 2001 was a very powerful statement about this alliance, and I think Poland and the Polish people joined a going concern. I don't think they joined anything that is going to diminish and --

MR. DAREWICZ: Well you know what Poles are worried most, you know, that the closer NATO and Russia are, then there is this very question about whether we would need NATO.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: But Poland joined NATO to be part of a community of values. Poland joined NATO for defense. Poland joined NATO to be part of a collective security arrangement. And all of that remains true. I don't think NATO needs to go looking for enemies. We've got one as defined by the 1999 strategic concept -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, instability --

MR. DAREWICZ: We're not talking about enemies, we are talking about some kind of lines. We would like to see them clear, you know. People are not very sure, you know, what's going to come out of this.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Poland as a NATO ally, agreed to the NATO Russia Council. I believe the NATO Russia Council will turn out to be a very positive thing for NATO and a positive thing for Russia. Thank you.



Released on September 11, 2002

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