Interview by the Vina (Greek Newspaper)Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
October 3, 2002
QUESTION: My first question is last March -- on March 25th -- the Greek Independence Day, in the White House the President gave a speech during the ceremony to recognize the Independence Day of Greece, and he characterized Greece for the first time as a strategic partner. Can you elaborate a little bit? What's that mean for Greece and its relationship with the US?
MR. GROSSMAN: First I think it's important to step back and recognize that Greece and the United States are partners in so many things around the world. We're NATO partners; you, as a member of the European Union, are also partners with the United States in economic transatlantic peace and cooperation; and Greece has been a consistent ally with the United States in the war on terrorism. We would consider Greece to be one of our great partners around the world.
QUESTION: But when the President says, strategic partner and international relations between states, that means something more strong. Strategic partner means that the two countries see eye-to-eye on many things. So this is something new because it's the first time that an American president said "strategic partner" for Greece. They said it before for Turkey and for other countries. This is something important and I want to make sure that everyone understands how important it is.
MR. GROSSMAN: It is very important, and the relationship between Greece and the United States is one of the most important relationships the United States has anywhere in the world. And you have put your finger on it yourself. Being a strategic partner, being a partner of the United States means that the two governments -- and very importantly, the two peoples -- see eye-to-eye on most every issue. And if you list all of the issues on which Greece and the United States work together -- politically, economically, strategically -- all around the world, I think you’ve got the perfect definition of why this is important.
QUESTION: In January we assume the Presidency of the European Union. Can we say that this is one very good opportunity to exercise this strategic partnership, since the Foreign Minister recently, when he was here in Washington and you met with him -- he said that one of his priorities during the presidency will be the strengthening of transatlantic relations, which in the last few weeks there is a turbulence there because of Iraq and other things. So do you consider that as an opportunity to exercise in full this strategic partnership?
MR. GROSSMAN: Greece certainly is getting ready for its Presidency of the European Union and Greeks should be very proud at that time to be the Presidency of the European Union. And when we talk about a strategic partnership -- the work the United States and the European Union does around the world, across the Atlantic -- it is gigantic. It's a trillion dollar trading relationship. It's a relationship of values. It's among the most fundamental relationships we have, so for Greece to be in the Presidency for those six months is extremely important. When the Foreign Minister was here, he and I had a chance to talk about Greece's plans and your Prime Minister's plans for moving forward in the area and we look forward to it. You will find us absolutely committed to cooperation with the Presidency country.
QUESTION: As I said, during the past few weeks, we have a rocky mountain, let's say, period with Europe -- problems with Germany, some tough words there back and forth, disagreements with other countries. You traveled to France and Russia recently, mainly because of Iraq. Do you see at all for Greece to help bridge some of this difference and turn the tone down a little bit and work positively to move ahead?
MR. GROSSMAN: That's up to Greece. Journalists write about problems. And journalists write about disagreements, but I really would urge you and your readers to recognize that the vast majority of the things that the United States and the European Union, the United States and European allies, the United States and NATO are doing together are so successful. Whether that's the war on terrorism, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, or other work we do together around the world -- I believe this relationship is truly fundamentally sound. I hope that you reported on – and that your readers may have seen, a remarkable poll that was recently done by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund. What did it show? It showed that Americans and Europeans see international challenges and the international response to those challenges in very much the same way.
The relationship between the United States and Europe, it's not the Politburo;we're all democracies, and democracies have things to say. That's good. We shouldn't be afraid of that or think that it's a negative. It's a great positive. This is an alliance and a union of democratic countries. If you believe in democracy, you've got to believe in democracy -- and I do, so this doesn't worry me. Are we going to be able to work our way through all of these issues? Yes, absolutely. Of course we will.
QUESTION: My next question, one of the big issues with Europe right now is their approach towards Iraq. Can you tell me for our readers in Greece and the Greek people why -- the rationale why Iraq is -- has to be dealt with, Saddam Hussein has to be dealt with? Why is this important for the international community and the security of the world?
MR. GROSSMAN: I really can't do better than President Bush's statement on the 12th of September to the UN General Assembly. The President of the United States went to the United Nations General Assembly and said, " I want to work with the international community. I want to support the United Nations."
And what has happened since 1990 or 1991? Resolution after resolution after resolution of the United Nations Security Council, in which we all believe, have been ignored by Iraq. Iraq is supposed to have disarmed. Iraq has not disarmed. Iraq is supposed to have changed the way it treats its own people. It has certainly not done that. Iraq is supposed to be living at peace with its neighbors. It has not done that. Iraq is supposed to have returned Kuwaiti prisoners and Kuwaiti property. It has done none of those things.
So our President went to the United Nations and said, it is time for the international community to say, this far and no farther. It is time that Iraq live up to its obligations to the Security Council -- not to the United States and not to Greece and not to the European Union, but to the United Nations Security Council. And that's what he did. He challenged Iraq and he challenged the United Nations to come to grips with this problem. And if all of us -- Greek people and Americans-- expect to have an international system that is going to work over the years, then that international system has to step up for itself. And I think President Bush has been saying since his speech that the United Nations now is either going to be the League of Nations or the United Nations. And we want it to be the United Nations.
QUESTION: Are you optimistic that the United States and Great Britain will succeed to have a resolution -- a new, clear and tough resolution from the United States Security Council on Iraq?
MR. GROSSMAN: We're working very hard on this. And we believe that a resolution has to have three parts. Part one, to declare the Iraqis in material breach of their obligations. That's a fact. Part two is to have a very much tougher inspections regime -- no more of these carve-outs for presidential sites and other sensitive places that the Iraqis say, oh, no, you can't go in there. And third, a resolution has to have consequences. And our belief, and what I would present to you and to your readers is, the tougher the resolution, the more likely it is that we will be able to avoid armed conflict.
President Bush said yesterday in the Rose Garden at the White House that we don't want a war. We want Iraq to disarm. And we believe the only way that Iraq will disarm is if the United Nations Security Council passes the fiercest resolution possible, with consequences.
QUESTION: Let me come back to the EU Presidency by Greece. Can you describe to me briefly the agenda between the United States and Greece as EU President, a few issues that will be high on the agenda?
MR. GROSSMAN: Of course, first and foremost will be the continuing war on terrorism and the fantastic support that the European Union has provided to this war on terrorism -- more information sharing, more intelligence sharing, more work with Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Ministries.
Second will be the continuing work that the United States and the European Union are doing together to stop the financing of terrorism. The success story between the United States and the European Union on this over the past year has been remarkable. I know that under the Greek Presidency that will continue.
Third will be the question of the International Criminal Court, which is something that is a difference right now between Americans and Europeans. But the recent decision by the European Union to allow the United States and individual European countries to talk about the ICC is important.
Fourth will be trade. We tend to think sometimes about the European Union as a political organization with the United States, but as I say, we have over a trillion dollars in trade with the European Union. So Europe and America ought to be big supporters of free trade around the world and move forward with the Doha round of trade talks.
And then finally will be in the area of common security. We hope that during the time Greece is the president of the European Union, the European Union's headline goal of having 60,000 forces ready to deploy in 60 days, sustainable for a year, will come to pass. And the ESDI and the ESDP will become a reality because we believe that the European Union needs to be stronger in its defense -- as we've always said though, of course, in support of NATO and connected to NATO and connected to NATO.
QUESTION: On this final point, are you optimistic that we will get further difficulties with non-EU member countries for the ESDP?
MR. GROSSMAN: Well, of course the United States is a non-EU member-country. This isn't just a matter of Turkey; it's a matter for many of us. And yes, I'm optimistic because I believe that the European Union wants to have a more balanced defense between Europe and America. The only way that's going to happen is to spend more money on defense, to spend money smarter on defense, and to that that I hope the European Union and Turkey will come to some agreement.
QUESTION: I know that you follow the issues in Turkey very closely because of your past as an ambassador there and the area in general. Recently, in the last few days there is an opinion expressed in Turkey that if something happened with Iraq, let's say, that Turkey should ask the United States to accommodate her with Cyprus and with the day for accession talks with the European Union. Do you see the relationship with Turkey as a quid pro quo -- you should give something to Turkey in order to help in Iraq, let's say? Or the US position remains that since you are not an EU-member, you cannot dictate to the European Union what it will do with Cyprus and Turkey?
MR. GROSSMAN: We are not members of the European Union. We do not dictate to the European Union. But we have a view, and our view is that we have long supported Turkey's eventual membership in the European Union. We think that would be good for Turkey, it would be good for the European Union and it would be good for the United States, as well.
We have, over the years, supported that position and we will continue to support that position. And I would say to your readers that I believe that some of the things that have happened in Turkey, especially these very important reforms that parliament passed in early August, are obviously done for the Turkish people and by the Turkish people, but the incentive of the European Union helps focus people's minds on the need to change. And that's an important thing and I hope that your readers would recognize that.
In terms of Cyprus, the United States supports the efforts of the United Nations, the United Nations Secretary General to bring about a solution to that problem. In fact, on the day we are speaking, the United Nations Secretary General is meeting with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash, and that's a very important session and we support that.
We have always believed that Cyprus should be a member of the European Union and that Cyprus's accession to the European Union ought to be an incentive for people to solve this problem. And that is still very much what we believe, so we wish the Secretary General well, we support his efforts, he will continue to work on these things and as much work as he can do and as much support as we can give the United Nations, that is what we will do.
QUESTION: So there is no credibility to some people who say there is a small chance, at least, for the US to intervene if we don't have a solution until December, and say it's not a good idea for Cyprus to become a member of the European Union?
MR. GROSSMAN: We think that it's a positive thing for Cyprus to be a member of the European Union. We think that it is an incentive for everyone to solve this problem. And we are great supporters of the efforts of the United Nations.
QUESTION: And finally, next year you will travel to Greece. Can you say a few words about your travels there and what do you expect to --
MR. GROSSMAN: Simply I look forward to it and I've been offered the opportunity to give a speech in November to the Chamber of Commerce.
QUESTION: You will have any meetings with government officials or you will just go there for the event?
MR. GROSSMAN: Primarily I'm going there for the event. If anyone would like to visit, I would be glad to do that, too.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on October 16, 2002