Remarks With Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh RasmussenSecretary Condoleezza Rice
December 5, 2008
PRIME MINISTER RASMUSSEN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this press conference. I have had a very fruitful meeting with Secretary Rice. Secretary, your decision to visit Copenhagen is an illustration of the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Denmark. We have cooperated closely on a wide range of international issues, and we have had a high frequency of constructive visits and meetings.
Allow me to commend you personally, Secretary Rice, for your important contribution to the strong relationship between the United States and Denmark, and for your contribution to international politics (inaudible). Especially, the challenge to make progress on the peace process in the Middle East has been a personal priority for you. Your efforts to bring peace to the region deserve much praise.
During today’s meeting, Secretary Rice and I had the opportunity to discuss some of the important global challenges facing us. Firstly, we touched upon the situation in Afghanistan and our combined efforts to bring peace and stability to the Afghan people. It is a long and hard struggle. Regrettably, yesterday, Denmark once again suffered casualties. It is an unbearable loss for all of us, and I send my warm and sincere condolences to the bereaved families.
But I would like to stress that we remain committed to Afghanistan. We cannot allow Afghanistan once again to become a safe haven for terrorists. Denmark has recently launched a new five-year strategy on Afghanistan that combines our military, political and civilian efforts. The strategy has broad political backing in Denmark.
Secondly, we discussed the heinous terrorist attacks in India. Secretary Rice informed me about her recent talks in the region, the attacks underline the continued need to stand together in the fight against terrorism. And finally, we exchanged views on European issues including the relationship between Russia and its neighbors. The European Union and NATO need Russia as an active partner in international cooperation, and Russia needs us. We share common challenges that we can only serve by joining forces. At the same time, we reconfirmed that the United States and Denmark are strong supporters of the – Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the countries in Eastern Europe.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister, and let me first express the deep regret of the United States for the loss of life yesterday of the two Danish soldiers. I had an opportunity last night to say that the United States, of course, extends condolences to the families and to friends and to the Danish people.
No loss can ever be repaid. No life can ever be brought back. Yet we all know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. And therefore, these people have not died in vain, but in the noble cause of trying to help the Afghan people to fight off terrorism, to build a decent life for themselves a democratic way, and in doing so, to strengthen the security for all of us. As you said, Afghanistan must never be allowed again to become a safe haven for terrorism. And that is the fight in which we are engaged.
Prime Minister, I want to say too that coming here has been an opportunity just to underline and underscore what a good friend Denmark has been to the United States, and I know will continue to be because we do share common values. And in sharing that set of common values, that common perspective, we know that our work will never be done as long as any man, woman or child has to live in tyranny. And it really is a noble cause to promote democracy, and in doing so, to make ourselves safer.
I also want to thank you, Prime Minister, for your personal good friendship to the President and to me. I had a chance to tell Foreign Minister Per Stig last night that I value his friendship. We’ve been very close friends throughout this whole time. It’s great to have friends as countries. It’s even better to have friends as people. So thank you very much.
We did have a very good discussion of the situation in India and Pakistan, and I said to the Prime Minister what I have been saying, which is that this is a terrible attack, a sophisticated attack. It raises questions about the importance of making certain that everything is done to bring the perpetrators to justice, but also to prevent follow-on attacks. And in that regard, Pakistan has a special responsibility to act. And I was assured that they will act, but they need to act urgently and transparently. And the Indian people who suffered a great loss also are acting through their government to improve their capabilities on the counterterrorism side. And the United States is going to be very active in helping them to do so.
We did have a very good discussion of European issues and a kind of around the world tour, but let me just say one thing about the European issues. I was just at NATO for the last time as Secretary of State, and as I sat at this table with countries, now 12 of them who were former captive nations, it just shows how extraordinary history is. It shows that something that one day seemed impossible, within a few years, can just seem inevitable. I don’t think that any of us just a few years ago would have believed that we would have been sitting at the NATO table with Estonia and with Albania and with the Czech Republic.
Perhaps even less would we have believed that you and the President would have had the pleasure to be together at a NATO summit in Latvia. What an extraordinary thing that this alliance, which has been devoted for so long to freedom and to the security of democratic peoples, has evolved in this way. And, Prime Minister, Denmark, of course, has been a stalwart in recognizing that NATO’s true mission is indeed the collective security of democratic states, and that means not just strong militaries, but also a strong commitment to values. So thank you very much for that.
PRIME MINISTER RASMUSSEN: Thank you. We are prepared to answer a couple of questions. Yes.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, a recent investigation by the Danish Government was unable to conclude whether Danish airspace was used by the CIA as part of a prisoner rendition program. And the investigation said that it was due to insufficient response from the U.S. Government. Would you care to comment on that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I will comment. We have respected Danish sovereignty and we will continue to do so. And I have given to the Foreign Minister guarantees and assurances about how we will deal with this issue in the future, and that is the commitment of the United States to do so.
QUESTION: So is that an answer that Danish airspace wasn’t used as a part of the program?
SECRETARY RICE: I have given a commitment to the Foreign Minister about the future, and I have said that we have respected Danish sovereignty.
QUESTION: Just a question about Afghanistan. There has been a great deal of discussion throughout the time whether there were sufficient troops in this mission to start with. Looking back, anything you regret about the Afghanistan mission?
SECRETARY RICE: I think you have to divide Afghanistan into two periods. In that initial period, the strategy was very much to rely on coalition support for Afghan forces. We have to remember that the footprint of foreign forces on Afghan soil is an issue. The Soviet Union at one point, I think, had 140,000 - 150,000 troops on Afghan soil. And there was a reaction against that.
And I think in the initial stages and really going for a very long time, building the Afghan forces, using support to the Afghan forces has been important – we’re still going to need to build a larger number of Afghan army forces. And indeed, there has been an increase authorized for the building of those forces.
What has really happened in recent times is that quite frankly, the safe haven across the border has become a place that the Taliban has been able to regroup and to operate in ways that they couldn’t just a couple of years ago. And in that world, in that regard, it is clear that we do need more forces. The United States is committed to doing that. Europe is committing and NATO is committing to that.
But I want to underscore something that the Prime Minister said. It’s not just military forces. Counterterrorism work, counterinsurgency work is the union of military force to clear the terrorists, but also to build governance and to reconstruct in the areas that you cleared. And so that, and pulling ourselves closer to the Afghan people, I think, will ultimately bring success in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, President-elect Obama is going to ask for more troops from the other European countries. Do you think he’s going to get them?
And Madame Secretary, how far is the Administration on the review on Afghanistan, and when will it be published?
PRIME MINISTER RASMUSSEN: Well, in my opinion, we need more troops in Afghanistan. We have to make sure that the mission will be a success. We must prevail. And we need more troops. This is the reason why Denmark has already decided, last year, to increase the number of troops by 50 percent, which brings Denmark among the major troop-contributing countries.
SECRETARY RICE: As to the review, it is underway. It’s really, frankly, almost complete. It’s being reviewed by the principals of the National Security Council, and it is going to be discussed with our friends. And at that point, I expect that some elements of it will be made public in some way. We haven’t determined what can and what cannot. Part of it is that one has to deny to enemies a sense of how you intend to fight them. But we will obviously want to make some elements of it public, and that review is coming to a close.
SECRETARY RICE: I can’t say, Sylvie, but we’re close to having reviewed its findings and we are starting to review them with our friends and allies and with – most importantly, with the Afghans.
QUESTION: This is Sue Pleming from Reuters. Zimbabwe is suffering from a cholera outbreak and the government has actually appealed for international assistance. Separately, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Mugabe to be forced out of power and says that if he does not quit, then he should face war crimes at the international tribunal in The Hague.
What do you think should happen? Do you think it’s time now for the international community to push Mr. Mugabe out? And how can you resolve this humanitarian crisis which seems to be deteriorating daily?
SECRETARY RICE: It’s well past time for Robert Mugabe to leave. I think that’s now obvious. The fact is that there was a sham election. There then has been a sham process of power-sharing talks. And now, we are seeing not only the political and economic toll that is being taken on the people of Zimbabwe, but the toll in the humanitarian dimension as this cholera epidemic has broken out.
The United States will always do anything and everything that it can to help innocent people who are suffering. And we are not going to deny assistance to people in need because of their government. But if this is not evidence to the international community that it’s time to stand up for what is right, I don’t know what will be. And frankly, the nations of the region have to lead it.
The United States and Europe have been united on this, and it is frankly – many African states have spoken up in this way about the need for change in Zimbabwe. But many others have been silent. And it is really time for the people of Zimbabwe to have a better future. And this has the potential, we now see, to be not just a problem for Zimbabwe, but for all of southern Africa. And so I sincerely hope that this is going to spur the states of the region to stronger action.
QUESTION: But you don’t think it’s up to America and the Europeans to take action to force him out?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, without help in the region, it’s very difficult to have the tools that will bring about a just resolution in Zimbabwe. The United States and Europe can’t do everything alone. Other states are responsible too. And the southern African states should be the most responsible at this point, because they have the most at risk. And the people of Zimbabwe have suffered long enough.
PRIME MINISTER RASMUSSEN: I fully agree with the Secretary of State. We share this analysis. The European Union as such stands ready to assist the Zimbabwean people. But we need to see a clear implementation of the power-sharing agreement. And I fully agree with the Secretary of State that Africa must take the lead. So we would encourage the African Union and regional organizations like SADC to take the lead, put pressure on President Mugabe and his regime. We need speedy progress.
One final question. Yeah?
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you also discussed NATO.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: When will a new NATO secretary general be appointed? And do you think our Prime Minister would make a good candidate?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) Well, first of all, a new NATO secretary general would be appointed long after I’m back at Stanford. And so it will be up to NATO. The current Secretary General serves until the summer, and so it’s premature to have those discussions.
I will just say that the Prime Minister has been a real leader in NATO, and whatever role he plays or does not play in the future, I know that when we have strong leaders at the head of state level, this is an alliance that’s going to prosper. And I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done together in NATO, and I frankly couldn’t be more proud of the alliance. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER RASMUSSEN: Thank you very much.
Released on December 5, 2008