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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > January

Remarks With NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
January 29, 2004

(3:33 p.m. EST)

Secretary Powell with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following their Bilateral. State Department photo by Michael Gross. SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to welcome the new Secretary General of NATO to the State Department for the first time. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is new Secretary General, but not really new to the State Department, because I have gotten to know him very well during the time he served as the distinguished Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, and we got a lot of work done.

And so, Jaap, I congratulate you on assumption of office of the greatest alliance the world has ever known, NATO, an alliance that is continuing to grow, as we will see later this year with the accession of more members of the alliance, an alliance that has found a new mission, a new vision.

And in our conversation today, we talked about what the alliance is doing in Afghanistan, which is a major priority for the alliance, and which we all are working hard to make sure we get it right and serve the needs of the Afghan people. But NATO is doing many other things: looking at Mediterranean dialogue with nations along the Mediterranean, following our efforts in Afghanistan closely to see if perhaps there might be -- excuse me -- in Iraq, to see if there might be an area of cooperation there later in the year.

And so the Secretary General is most welcome here. He'll be seeing the President tomorrow. And, Jaap, it's a pleasure to receive you this afternoon. I would invite you to say a word or two.

SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP: Thank you, Colin. It was a pleasure to be here again now in my new capacity, indeed, as Secretary General of an alliance which is second to none, which is the unique political and also security organization in the world, at the moment, expanding and enlarging its responsibility in Afghanistan.

So we discussed the ambition NATO has to have the responsibility for more so-called provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, which I have labeled priority number one for the alliance. We'll soon see the operational plans being prepared by the military now. So that's what we discussed.

We touched upon the takeover by the European Union of SFOR, the stabilization force, on the Balkans; discussed, of course, extensively the summit, the most important event for NATO this year at the end of June; NATO-Russia relationships.

So we have had -- and I have a full plate -- and I'm looking very much forward to, after Secretary Powell, Colin Powell, to see many other people, leading people in the U.S. Administration, and then go back to Brussels and continue my work in NATO.

So thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Cold War is over. Is it time to reduce American bases in Germany? And should the troops be brought home or sent to other bases in Germany?

SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP: Cold --

QUESTION: I welcome, of course, opinions of both of you, but I was asking the Secretary now.

Secretary Powell with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following their Bilateral. State Department photo by Michael Gross. SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP: Thank you.

QUESTION: No problem.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don't want to lose his though.

QUESTION: You can answer yourself, Barry.

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the Cold War came to an end and under the leadership of then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, we withdrew almost 200,000 troops from Europe, many of whom came out of Germany, of course, and England and many other places. And now another eight or nine years, ten years have gone by and it's appropriate to take another look at our force structure and that's what Secretary Rumsfeld is doing.

It's important to take note of the fact that most of the reductions that will take place, the realignments that will take place will be bringing troops back to the United States so our overall troop level in Europe will go down. And how the rest of those troops are distributed and what -- where they might be located is what Secretary Rumsfeld is doing and doing it in full consultation with our NATO colleagues, with our European Union colleagues, with the Russian Federation.

And it is a sensible analysis of the situation and we are not looking to move bases, per se, of the kind we used to have during the Cold War, closer to Russia just to put a base closer to Russia. What we're interested in are, perhaps, forward operating locations that we could train at temporarily or we can have access agreements at particular airfields that make it easier for us to deploy to particular areas of potential crisis. That's what this is about.

But it's important to remember that this will result in a net reduction in the number of troops in Europe and the number of bases that we have in Europe.

I don't know if you'd like to add anything, Jaap.

SECRETARY GENERAL SCHEFFER: No, I think -- I think -- I fully agree. Of course, we have to realize in NATO that the drive for more capabilities and deployability and usability of forces is of enormous importance. And as I've understand and support the U.S. plans that exactly, that is exactly the ambition the United States has and it's the ambition all of NATO should have because we need more readily deployable, quickly deployable, usable forces.

And we'll certainly discuss this as well next Friday in Munich where there is an informal meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, my first opportunity to get to know the Defense Ministers, and we'll certainly discuss this issue there as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a question on NATO.

SECRETARY POWELL: (inaudible)

QUESTION: How urgent is an active role of NATO in Iraq, sir?

Secretary Powell with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following their Bilateral. State Department photo by Michael Gross. SECRETARY POWELL: As the Secretary General said, first priority, I think, for NATO in this out of area work is Afghanistan. NATO is there now. They are looking at other things that they can do and that should be first priority. But as the Secretary General, Foreign Minister and I discussed a few moments ago, NATO has many responsibilities and I'm pleased that we're also examining what might be done in Iraq. But we've come to no conclusions yet as to what NATO might or might not do in Iraq. It's still a subject of study and consultation. Afghanistan right now is number one.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, question on --

SECRETARY POWELL: I owe you one from earlier.

QUESTION: Could I ask about al-Qaida in Iraq? Recently, there was an al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul who was picked up in Iraq. What does this tell you about the state of al-Qaida infrastructure and fingerprints in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's one individual. I don't know that it is definitive, in and of itself, but we have always said that we had a concern about al-Qaida presence in Iraq. As you've heard me say before, we don't want to overplay this information, we don't want to overstate what we know, but I think his apprehension substantiates the kind of statements that we've made, the kinds of statements that I made in my 5 February presentation that there was this potential connection between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. What was he doing in Iraq now? Did he still have remaining contacts in Iraq? These are the kind of things we'll be looking into. The question remains open. So I don't want to overplay or overstate what we know.

I'm afraid we have to go now because the Minister has to be somewhere.

(The Secretary escorts Secretary General Scheffer to his car.)

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about your commitment to AIDS you laid out in a New York Times article on foreign affairs that this year you're going to have a renewed commitment to AIDS? Can you talk a little bit about that?

And also, sir, there are some AIDS advocacy groups are accusing the Administration of robbing Peter to pay Paul, donating less to the Global Fund and less -- and more to your own fund. Can you talk a little bit about that, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me just say that sometime in the near future, maybe next week, we will let you know what we are doing with the new HIV/AIDS program that the Congress has now approved, and you'll see that it will be a significant commitment of funds, new funds for new programs, as well as a continuation of our efforts with our bilateral programs and our support of the Global Health Fund.

And so the President has a strong commitment to HIV/AIDS, and when you see how the money is going to be flowing out rather quickly in the near future, the commitment the President has made will be quite evident, and I think the American people will be proud of what we are doing.


Released on January 29, 2004

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