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

Press Conference

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
U.S. Embassy
The Hague, Netherlands
April 19, 2002

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much. First of all, I just want to give you a report of what I have done here in the Netherlands this afternoon. Then I will be glad to answer any questions that anyone might have. Since this is on the record, I want to thank our hosts, here, and the Embassy here. We’re extremely well represented in the Netherlands by Ambassador Sobel and his team. I want to thank everybody who has been involved in making these arrangements.

I came here to consult with our Dutch allies about a range of subjects. But what I focused on was the Prague summit. I thought it was time to talk about that, and maybe we can come back to that. But we talked about a number of issues; I had a chance to talk about the Middle East, for example, with the foreign minister. But, as I say, the three main reasons for coming here were: first, to thank the government of the Netherlands; to thank the people of the Netherlands, for their continuing help in the war on terrorism. You know the story: the frigates, the airplanes, the tankers; the two hundred troops that are in Afghanistan. And not just the things on the military side, but the hundred million dollars in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan as well; the whole package. I think of what else the government and the people of the Netherlands have done: helping the Balkans; working around the world: all the things we do together, as NATO allies.

The second thing I wanted to accomplish here today is to reiterate to our friends in the government and to you as well, a continuing, strong, U.S. support for NATO. NATO is the key to the security policy of the Netherlands; it is certainly the key also to the security policy of the United States. And then, third, I wanted to come and consult with our Dutch allies about what themes we ought to be using for the Prague summit. Some people were saying, ‘No, it’s too soon to consult about Prague’. But we thought, ‘no, we have some ideas; we want to hear what other people ideas were’. And we are proposing three themes to define the Prague summit.

Theme number one: new capabilities. We think that the NATO alliance needs new military capabilities to meet new threats: the threat of weapons of mass destruction; the threat of terrorism. And our European allies need to do more—we need to do more—in terms of new capabilities. That needs to be a theme at the Prague summit.

Second: new members. I think if we’d have all had this press conference fifteen months ago, we’d have all said that the Prague summit was going to be about enlargement; maybe about enlargement alone. But in fact, it will only be partially about enlargement; however, enlargement will still be very important. I was explaining to Dutch colleagues, and consulting with them, about the kind of enlargement we ought to be looking for. What kind of standards we ought to be setting; what kind of countries ought to be new members of the alliance. We are taking as our guidance the speech President Bush gave in Warsaw a year ago or so where he said; do as much as you can; not as little as you can. NATO ought to be open to all of the democracies from the Baltic to the Black Sea that are prepared to take on the responsibilities of NATO membership.

And, finally, new relationships. That is: can we find a new way to do business with Russia, and maybe some of the other countries, such as Ukraine and those of Central Asia? But I think, primarily we should focus on getting the new NATO-Russia council lined up, getting it moving. So we think that if in Prague, the alliance can deal with new capabilities, new members, and new relationships, then we will have done something to put this alliance on the path of being a useful one for the twenty-first century.

I was glad to have the consultation today. I saw the Foreign Minister. Members of my team also saw a number of people from the foreign ministry and the defense ministry. I think, by and large, we see eye-to-eye on this thing. Obviously, it is a consultation that will have to continue now up until Prague. Thank you very much; that is what I did.

Q. Guido van der Kreeke, (foreign editor, De Telegraaf): What is Reykjavik going to be in this process?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think Reykjavik will be as follows. Foreign ministers, when they met last December, made a promise to themselves that they would, by Reykjavik, have a new NATO-Russia council, or have created a new Russia-NATO body. I am actually quite optimistic that they will make that deadline, and that, when they all get together in May, there will actually be something new: a new way for NATO and for Russia to do business.

Q. And if not, then Reykjavik is nothing.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, Reykjavik is a meeting of NATO foreign minister. But, as I say, I am quite optimistic that they will make it.

Q. Frank Kools, (journalist, Trouw): Recently it has been said that NATO would enlarge: Romania, and Bulgaria: Are you in favor of that, after September 11, that you would like to have a stepping-stone out of Europe to the Middle East or even further?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, I do not think that is part of our consideration at all. Let me just make sure that I am very clear in answer to your question. We have not named any names. The United States has not named any names of who we support or don’t support for NATO membership. What we want to do is make sure that the door is as open as it possibly can be to all of those countries in Europe that want to be NATO members and meet the criteria: And so—Romania and Bulgaria are both aspirants for NATO membership. They know what they have to do, which is to work on their membership action plan and then NATO governments, heads of state and governments, will decide what the next round of NATO membership is. NATO membership is just that; it is not about some plan by the United States to do something else. It’s about NATO. I will say, though, that both Romania and Bulgaria—actually all of the aspirants – have acted like allies since the eleventh of September. And that is a very great sense of support and solidarity, not only to the United States, but to the rest of the alliance as well.

Q. Kools: Is there any contact with the European Union about its enlargement. It looks like Romania and Bulgaria are complaining that they are stuck between the demands of NATO and the EU and they can’t meet them both at the same time.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, you know, they have to make their own decisions. The NATO alliance has put down a set of criteria and the membership action plan, and countries have to decide for themselves what they want to do. But I don’t think there is any linkage or connection. The European Union will make its decision; NATO will make its decision.

Q. Are there contacts with the EU about this?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: On enlargement? No, I don’t think so. I know that there are contacts with the European Union on military matters, and . . .(inaudible). But I don’t think that there are formal contacts on enlargement. Each institution has to make its own decision.

Q. Willem Post (commentator on Dutch public television): You talk about the growing capabilities gap. Can you describe this a bit more?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, of course. The gap really has to do with what we call getting forces to the fight in the first place. Transportation, airlift, sea lift; the ability to move troops from one place to another. Second, it has to do with sustaining these troops once they get there; the right kind of food, and medical care, and all the things that are required for troops to be deployed abroad. And then, third, communications. Once they get to the fight, how is it that they all communicate with one another? The two hundred Dutch soldiers communicating with American soldiers; communicating with French or Norwegian forces. We ought to be able to do that. Then, finally, it has to do with precision-guided munitions. That is the place where there is a sort of technological gap. But the first three of these areas: transportation, sustainability, and communication—we don’t think these are technological issues. They’re issues of: where do you spend your money. And we’d like people to spend their money on issues of getting their troops to the fight, sustaining them at the fight, and then communicating at the fight.

Q. And what you heard from the Dutch government today—are you optimistic about the Dutch government?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I think the Dutch government has been on this path of this kind of transformation for some time. I think the Dutch government, as far as I can tell—clearly, it would have to speak for itself—understands that, for the whole alliance, there needs to done more in terms of capabilities.

Q. Post: Your president talked about success on Secretary Powell’s return. Can you explain a bit why he called it a success?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Sure. I think first of all, you’re dealing here with the Middle East. It takes time, and it is very difficult. But I think if you read the transcript of what the president and the secretary said yesterday, embedded in there are four or five points that we think are successful. First: as the secretary said, he was able to really put on the table the fact that the United States has a vision for the future of the Middle East of two states living peacefully side by side. Second, he also did a very good job, I think, in bringing people, as close as he could come in the time that he was there to recognizing that there needs to be some kind of political conversation toward a solution; an international conference or regional conference; some kind of conversation or negotiation. He was able to highlight the fact that Palestinians need to deal with the question of terrorism. Yassir Arafat did finally make a very clear statement, opposing the killing of Israeli civilians. I think that is an important step forward. Next, he brought to the table the need for substantial humanitarian aid in that area, especially the Palestinian area, also for reconstruction. Next, I think he feels that he had some effect in lowering tensions on Israel’s northern border. Finally, I think, if he were sitting here, he would say that he had some effect in bringing some of the neighboring states—Jordan, Egypt—into this in a more positive way. So, I think it was successful in that way. Did it meet everyone’s expectations? No. Bill Burns is still there; George Tennet might go back; I think General Zinni might go back. Maybe some time in the future the secretary will go back. As the president said, we’ve got to keep working on this.

Q. Kools. The British foreign minister called for an immediate investigation into Jenin. Does your country support that?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I know the secretary said that we need to find out what happened in Jenin and he has asked our consulate-general in Jerusalem when it is possible to go look at that town.

Q. This weekend there is a conference going on at the OPCW. The American government is said to have some ideas as to how to go on with the secretary-general. Could you explain what your government wants, and does it have to happen this weekend?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We want that organization, which is an extremely important organization, to be successful. We want it to run efficiently and successfully, because the control of chemical weapons is an extremely important issue for all of us. And as we have said publicly, we think that there needs to be different leadership in that organization. That’s what this meeting is about, and yes, we think the sooner this happens, the better.

Q. What was wrong with the leadership?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We’ve spoken a lot about this.

Q. "Did you discuss it here?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No. I did not. I believe Under Secretary Bolton, who is responsible for that area, is arriving here on Monday. And Ambassador Mahley.

Q. Is the OPCW leadership a very important point for the Americans?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It is. We would like there to be a vote, and we would like there to be a change in leadership.

Q. Guido van der Kreeke: The Ambassador to NATO in Brussels said it is increasingly more complex effort to build a Europe-whole free stable and at peace.

What is the complexity in your view?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: That’s our Ambassador to NATO?

I don’t know, I would have to see his quotation. We are working to build a Europe whole free at peace. It is more complex now that are more countries involved, it is more complex because there are more threats involved, it is more complex because of the 11th of September.

I will take two more and then I will leave it at that.

Q. Frank Kools: in light of enlargement - are we trying to turn NATO into more of a political organization than a military organization.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, NATO has always been a political organization. At the same time it has always been a military organization. These two things go hand in hand. I think we have to step back. NATO didn’t start out as large as sixteen. NATO has expanded a number of times over the past - it took in Spain, it took in Greece and Turkey. The expansion of a couple of three years ago has been very successful. So I don’t think why we can’t find a way to manage this. And then the flip side is that here you have countries who were put on the other side of the line drawn by Stalin and you have in your capacity to use your time toerase that line and I think it is a very exciting prospect to do just that.

Q. Guido van der Kreeke: There is a big gulf of misunderstanding between the United States and Europe. That is the general discussion at the moment. Was your trip coming here partly to make that waves…

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don’t think so. No. I don’t think there is such a big gulf of misunderstanding. I know it is a good thing to talk about it to write about. But I find that in all the countries that I have visited one after the other after the other strong support for NATO, strong support for the United States continuing its involvement in NATO, strong support for what we are trying to accomplish in Prague so….

Q. Frank Kools: Nobody talked about steel?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Nobody, not once. You are the first one.

Q. Frank Kools: were you surprised by that?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, I was not surprised by that because I came here to talk about NATO. I came to talk about Prague.

Q. Frank Kools: And no results of economic problems only U.S./European relations,

Willem Post: … or Joint Strike Fighter??

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I didn’t come here to talk about that. I came here to talk about NATO. On JSF, we did talk about that. I got a report from the foreign minister. As you know, I mean it is obvious, we support Dutch participation.

(laughter) We understand. . .

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: And his report to me was that the Dutch government has decided to support this and now it is up to the Dutch parliament..

Willem Post: It will decide later on.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: All I know is that this is a matter now for Dutch parliament. And that is where I am going to stay.

Q. Guido van der Kreeke: You did not have a message for the situation in which the Dutch parliament would say no.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I did not, I did not. I took this report from the foreign minister and I was glad to have it.

Okay? Thanks a lot.

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