You have reached a collection of archived material.

The content available is no longer being updated and may no longer be applicable as a result of changes in law, regulation and/or administration. If you wish to see the latest content, please visit the current version of the site.

For persons with disabilities experiencing difficulties accessing content on, please use the DoD Section 508 Form. In this form, please indicate the nature of your accessibility issue/problem and your contact information so we can address your issue or question.

United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Media Roundtable with USD (P) Feith

Presenters: Mr. Douglas J. Feith, USD (Policy)
September 05, 2001

Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001 - 4:33 p.m. EDT

Taylor: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is the next in our series of roundtables with important officials of the secretary of Defense. I'd like to introduce Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith -- served here in the Reagan administration; graduate of Harvard College, Georgetown Law School; and been with us now a short time. And sir --

Feith: Good afternoon. I assume that you have questions, and -- which would probably be of greater interest to you than any speech that I would otherwise give. So I'll be happy to answer the questions.

Q: Oh. Where do things stand now with the Russians on missile defense and the talks?

Feith: I am heading out Sunday for Moscow, to continue the discussions with the Russian team headed by General Baluyevsky. As I think many of you know, in August we had General Baluyevsky here with a mostly military team for two days of talks here at the Pentagon. And then about a week later I went with Secretary Rumsfeld on the visit with some of you to Moscow, to continue the talks. And there the -- it was agreed that there would be a return visit by the team that I will head, to continue what we're calling the senior advisers group discussions with the Russians.

And so we expect to meet with them -- we've been working out the schedule. We'll be meeting with them, I think, on Tuesday, and then possibly also we were trying to work something out for like a Monday night dinner. The schedule's a little bit up in the air, but for sure all day Tuesday of next week we'll be having meetings in Moscow.

Q: Is this is a chance for them to explain what they can provide for missile defense, what they propose?

Feith: Well, we gave them, when they were here, quite a bit of information, briefings about our missile defense program and about our concept of a framework for a new relationship with Russia. And we also provided a threat briefing, and we provided, oh, a briefing on our offensive force reduction -- nuclear force reductions. And then the visit that Secretary Rumsfeld made to Moscow was only a few days after the two days of meetings here, so there wasn't a lot of time for the Russian side to absorb what we gave them. And I would expect that one of the things we'll be doing next week is getting some reactions from the Russian side to the information and ideas that we presented here.

Q: Yeah. Bill Gertz of the Washington Times. In light of reports that the administration is not going to oppose China's strategic nuclear buildup, I wondered if you could give us your assessment. I know Torie mentioned some things earlier. [ Transcript ] How do you see China's strategic modernization program? And what's the Pentagon's position on this program?

Feith: I'm glad you raised it, because the premise of the -- I'm glad to have the opportunity to say that the premise of the question is not correct.

Q: (Off mike) -- the report.

Feith: I understand. I understand. It is not correct that the U.S. government has any idea of withholding objections to China's nuclear modernization program in return for China's withholding objections to the U.S. missile defense program. That is not correct. There's nothing to it. It's just -- that's not U.S. policy, it's not our attitude. And --

Q: What is the policy?

Feith: Well, we have -- we have concerns about the Chinese developments of their long-range nuclear capabilities, and the development of their shorter-range missile capabilities have not contributed to stability in the region. And then, as you know, we have concerns about the proliferation activities of the Chinese government. And the U.S. government over the weekend imposed sanctions on China for the provision of missile technology to Pakistan.

Q: Can I ask a question about Iraq? The recent -- the increasing number of attacks on Iraq in the no-fly zone, is that a reflection of any change in policy or approach toward Iraq, or is it simply a reactive response to events that's going on over there? Can you characterize that for us at all or explain that at all?

Feith: Iraq has been challenging the U.S. and U.K. aircraft that have been patrolling the no-fly zones, and the coalition forces are responding. And we're not going to just absorb passively these challenges to crews who are enforcing a U.N. policy. They're performing an important function, and the Iraqi government has no right to be shooting at them.

Q: What is the enforcement of the -- the continued enforcement of the no-fly zones accomplishing, given the risk, the continued risk to pilots?

Feith: The purposes of the no-fly zones are to protect the Kurdish populations that have been victims of Saddam's oppressive policies and to protect Iraq's neighbors, who have also been victims of Saddam's policies, his challenge to -- one of the purposes of the policy is to protect Kuwait.

And as I said, this is a -- these no-fly zones are created to fulfill a UN policy, a UN mandate, and we are not going to -- we're not going to allow Saddam to shoot at those pilots without responding.

Q: Just one last thing. Iraq says it's at war with the United States. Does the United States consider itself to be in a state of war with Iraq? Or if not, how would you describe the continuing combat situation that's going on over there?

Feith: What we're doing is we're patrolling the no-fly zones.

Q: What is the U.S. --

Q: A follow-up. Doug, can you help us with what the administration's Iraq policy is? When President -- when candidate Bush was campaigning, he said we're going to come in with a new policy, it's going to be tougher, it's going to be this, it's going to be that. As best I can determine, there is no new policy yet; it is a continuation of the previous administration's policy. Sort of tell us where the deliberations are, or if there is a new policy, what is it?

Feith: I am not -- I'm not now going to elaborate a new policy. This isn't the forum to make a major policy announcement. What I would say, though, is we note that the Saddam Hussein regime is continuing to pursue weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities. It continues to pose a threat to neighboring states. It is engaged in subversive activities throughout the region. It's working to aggravate our Israeli problems, for example. And it's seeking to undo the no-fly zone policy by continually attacking the coalition aircraft. The Saddam Hussein regime is a serious threat to its neighbors and the well being of its own people, and we will be taking all of this into account. That's all I want to say at the moment.

Q: Can I follow Jack's question? Can you describe for us at least what the pressures or problems are in formulating the policy? Is there disagreement within the administration? Is it because of the hot situation on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian areas? Is it sensitivities among our Arab allies in the Middle East? Why is there no policy yet?

Feith: I don't think it's fair to say there's no policy yet.

Q: No new policy formulation that has been announced --

Feith: I don't think I want to say more than I've said.

Q: What is the policy, then, if you don't think there's no policy?

Feith: Our policy is to protect our interests in the area and those of our allies and friends, and we're doing it through various means.

And enforcing the no-fly zones is one of the ways we're doing it.

Q: A follow-up. Two questions. One, does the United States have any evidence to back up reports that Iraq has deployed troops actually in Syria, sent troops into Syria as part of, perhaps, some kind of preparation vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, A? And B, the administration over the weekend slapped sanctions on a Chinese firm for providing, allegedly, missile technology to Pakistan. The secretary of Defense himself has talked about the Iraqis improving their air defense capabilities. We've heard that the Chinese have been involved in that. Is the administration prepared to take any active measures against China vis-a-vis their assistance to Iraq and the improvement of its air defense capabilities that are continuing to threaten coalition aircraft?

Feith: On your first point, I don't know anything about that. I mean, what you said about Iraqis in Syria, I just have no information on that at all. On the -- I don't believe that there's any issue of sanctions that I know of. I mean, I just may not be up to speed on that particular issue, but I don't believe there's any --

Q: (Off mike) -- there's a sanctions question. However, the fact is that the administration was prepared to sanction Pakistan vis- a-vis the transfer of Chinese -- was prepared to sanction the Chinese entity vis-a-vis the transfer of missile technology to Pakistan. The administration has said that China has been assisting Iraq in improving its air defenses, and I'm wondering why there hasn't been some kind of reaction from the United States.

Feith: Well, there are special rules applicable to the provision of missile technology.

Q: But China is not a member of the MTCR, as far as I know.

Feith: No, but the United States has understandings with China about proliferation of missile technology. And I don't off-hand know of any such arrangements regarding air defense technologies.

Q: Let me step back, then. Has the United States had any conversations or is it prepared to raise the issue with China, given the fact that the president's going, about its allegations that China has been assisting Iraq in improving its air defenses?

Feith: All I would say about that is, the issue of sales of military items and technology is on the agenda of the U.S.-Chinese dialogue. And I'm not going to comment on specific cases. But when we talk with the Chinese in, you know, official discussions, we do raise proliferation issues.

Q: Is China still providing fiber optic help to the Iraqis, as it was earlier in the year when the raid was conducted --

Feith: I don't know the answer to that right now. I just -- I don't have that off the top of my head.

Q: And is that fiber optic cable being paid for by UN money? And is it okay? I think it was being paid for oil that Iraq was selling. The UN controlled the funds and it was to supposedly improve their phone systems.

Feith: That may be. That's more than I know, but that -- (laughs) -- I don't know the answer to that. I'm sorry.

Q: Back to Russia. When General Baluyevsky was here, you said one of the briefings was on U.S. offensive nuclear force reductions. These are presumably future reductions, since, after all, the Russians know about the reductions that have been taken pursuant to treaties. Can you elaborate what you were able to tell the Russians about U.S. plans for nuclear force reductions?

Feith: Actually, the particular briefing that we gave reviewed the reductions that we have announced and proposed in -- that are part of, I believe, the FY '02 defense budget -- you know, the retirement of the Peacekeeper and the B-1 and Trident-related reductions.

Q: Have you broached with them any further reductions?

Feith: We have told them that we are working on our Nuclear Posture Review, and we would -- and we anticipate further reductions in our nuclear offensive forces. They know that President Bush has said that we are in intent on reducing our offensive nuclear forces to, you know, lower levels and that we have no interest in retaining nuclear weapons that we don't need, and that we're going to proceed to do this and that we intend to do it quickly, in the sense that we're not planning to tie up reductions -- once we've identified that a reduction is justified, we're not looking to tie up the reduction process in protracted negotiations. When we identify nuclear weapons that we don't need, we will eliminate them. And we hope that the Russians will take a similar attitude. And it's clear that they're on a path to offensive nuclear force reductions also.

Q: Even without a treaty -- and the president has indicated he doesn't want another treaty -- do you anticipate having to reach some form of political agreement with the Russians? Because the Senate, after all, is going to want verification of any reductions on the Russian side, and that's going to demand some cooperative measures from the Russians.

Feith: Well, as I said, we're not interested in protracted negotiations aiming at a Cold War-style arms control agreement. We would be very happy to reach various types of agreements with the Russians to create a better relationship with them, agreements that could provide for the kind of openness, dialogue, transparency, and other benefits that have traditionally been viewed as the benefits of the arms control process. We think that those kinds of benefits could be available through agreements between the United States and Russia, but we don't have to create the same types of agreements that we had, you know, balancing offensive force numbers or agreeing to foreswear missile defenses. The kinds of agreements that we made with the Soviet Union in the Cold War are just not necessary, in our view, between the United States and Russia, which are countries that are not hostile to one another.

We don't need to try to preserve a balance of nuclear terror.

Q: I have a follow-up to that, real quick -- two questions. First, if you plan to reduce the offensive nuclear forces even below the Peacekeeper, Trident, B-1, do you also plan to modernize those forces? And question number two: How do you plan to verify if the modernized forces work, particularly the warheads, or the old forces work, particularly the warheads, if you're going to be relying on less weapons?

Feith: Those are questions that are related to our Nuclear Posture Review, which is still under way. And I'm not in a position to respond directly to the question until we complete the review, but you've identified a number of questions that are, I think, part of the responsibility of the department to address as we think about what kind of nuclear forces we want to have in the future.

Q: When you talk about the kind of nuclear forces you want to have in the future, do you think that the U.S. will need to have small nuclear weapons?

Feith: Again, I don't want to try to preempt the Nuclear Posture Review. The issue of what type of force we have, what types of weapons and in what quantities is something that we'll be making announcements about as we complete our work on the review.

Q: When?

Feith: I believe we have a deadline of December 31st in the statute. Now there are going to be elements of the review that may get completed before then, but if I'm not mistaken, the date on which the review is due to Congress is the end of the calendar year.

Q: You said you don't want to have the text of agreements with Russia that were characteristic of the Cold War period. On the other hand, how important is it to you to have an agreement with them to move beyond the ABM Treaty or, to put it in other words, what would be the downside of having to move away from that treaty unilaterally?

Feith: We would prefer, when we move beyond the treaty, to do so jointly with Russia. I think that would be more desirable. I think it would be more desirable for them and for us. It's not absolutely required.

We are intent on creating a cooperative, non-hostile, one hopes, eventually, even quite thoroughly friendly relationship with Russia. And we will do that whether they -- we will pursue that and hope to achieve that whether Russia agrees to withdraw jointly from the ABM Treaty with us or not. I mean, in talking with the Russians, we've -- both sides have said when the United States withdraws from the ABM Treaty, it will not be the end of the world, and it will not be the end of the relationship with Russia, and it will not be the end of this dialogue that we are conducting with them. Cooperation is better, and we'd rather cooperate with them.

But it's -- we have said and we believe that it's pretty widely agreed, even on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, that Russia should not have a veto over U.S. missile defense plans.

So we're not -- nobody wants to suggest that we would not proceed with our missile defense plans, we would not move beyond the ABM Treaty unless Russia consents.

At the same time, we're happy to talk with them, and we're happy to propose the kinds of arrangements that might make it possible for us to move beyond the ABM Treaty together, and that's what we would like to do. And as I said, I think it is in the interest of both sides, and that's part of what the dialogue addresses when we get together.

Q: Russia has said that you can't look at the ABM Treaty without looking also at the START talks. So if you want to get rid of the ABM Treaty, then why not just throw away the START talks? And the U.S. has said, well, we're not interested in leaving START I. It's a treaty in force. But if START I is part of this thing that you call a balance of nuclear terror of that era, would you be opposed to the Russians leaving START I? I mean forgetting even the force levels -- they can't maintain that -- but for instance the type of warheads. I mean, would you be opposed if Russia simply said, "We're leaving START I."?

Feith: Let me suggest a way of looking at this that is -- I think tracks with the approach that the administration is taking. We see a lot of the agreements that were negotiated and achieved during the Cold War as having a certain -- reflecting a certain concept, the concept being that there were two superpowers, that international stability was fundamentally about balancing the nuclear forces of those two superpowers who were locked in a relationship so hostile that the threat to annihilate each other was considered to be fundamental to the relationship.

Now, when we look at Russia now, that simply doesn't apply. We don't -- we don't think about annihilating Russia. We don't think that Russia thinks about annihilating us. We don't think that counting the nuclear weapons that they have and balancing them against the nuclear weapons we have is the basis for international stability.

We're going to adhere to our treaty obligations. And so there's no issue that -- about violating any treaties. We're not going to violate any of our treaties. We have said that we are going to move beyond the ABM Treaty, and if we do it, we will do it by giving the notice provided for in the terms of the treaty. We're not going to violate the ABM Treaty in any event. We're certainly not going to violate any other treaties either. But if we can achieve the kind of relationship with Russia that we aim to achieve, then there will be much greater international stability, much greater security that flows from a friendly relationship between the United States and Russia without reference to arms control treaties than there would be if the United States and Russia had a hostile relationship with arms control treaties.

So our goal is to transform the relationship. It is not to preserve hostility and then try to add some new Cold War-style arms control agreement to somehow compensate for the hostility. We really think that there's an opportunity to create a better relationship with Russia that is entirely different from the relationship that the United States had with the Soviet Union.

Q: Then why do you need the START I Treaty if you -- I mean, it's irrelevant.

Feith: As long as it's a law, we're going to comply with it. I didn't say whether -- you know, I wasn't commenting on whether we need it or not. I'm simply saying if it's a treaty we're going to comply with it. And that's a separate point. But I just want to say that getting people to think about strategic stability from the point of view of relationships between the United States and key countries around the world rather than from the Cold War construct of arms control agreements is a difficult challenge. And it's difficult for people on the Russian side and it's difficult for many people on the American side.

I mean, what we're proposing is changing the way people think about strategic stability. And we keep bumping into people, both in the United States, in Russia, in Europe and elsewhere, who have a hard time thinking about strategic stability in any terms other than the terms that were established in the Cold War. And we sometimes get teased by people saying that, oh, well the Bush administration has just announced that the Cold War is over, but, you know, this is the eighth time that somebody has announced that the Cold War is over. The reason we keep saying it is that, while everybody is willing to acknowledge that the Cold War is over, the inertia of Cold War thinking is very strong, and I believe we have to overcome it if we're going to create a better world, because the Cold War thinking creates -- is based on the idea that the United States and Russia are locked in this profoundly, dangerously hostile relationship.

Q: How do you respond to the argument, which you hear from Europeans, that while it may be true the particular treaties that are being cited are indeed Cold War relics, the new vision of strategic stability which others and you have just outlined is essentially a relational one? It's dependent upon the relations of the U.S. to other great nations, which is really a modern way of saying benign American hegemony. How do you respond to that?

Feith: We're not interested in hegemony.

Q: But the form of strategic stability you're laying out seems to depend upon the American presence at each point as the keystone of whatever stability there is. You just said the relationship between America and other major countries.

Feith: I don't see where hegemony comes into it. We're not interested in telling anybody what to do. We're not interested in functioning as a hegemon. We're interested in not having a nuclear balance of terror. We're interested in not being hostile to other powers. Hegemony just doesn't have anything to do with it.

Q: But the simple fact of the matter is, no matter what you're interested in, what everybody seems to understand is the United States is dealing from a position of strength here, economically, militarily and every other way, and Russia sees it as, "Not only are we losing our nuclear weapons or cutting our nuclear weapons, but the other guy is developing better defenses against them, which leaves us even more vulnerable." I mean, isn't that true? Whether you're interested in that or not, those are the facts.

Feith: There are many countries around the world that don't have an ability to threaten other countries with nuclear weapons. It doesn't mean that they're vulnerable.

I mean, if you have -- in other words, the -- I mean, again, there's a Cold War assumption that if you don't have a nuclear balance of terror, you're vulnerable. I mean, we're not threatening anybody and we're not interested in making anybody vulnerable.

Q: Doug, one of the problem areas with Russia, in addition to the ABM Treaty, is Iran. The Russians announced in December that they were giving up the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement on arms sales. Iran's defense minister is due in Moscow in the next week or so, and they're talking about additional arms sales. What are your concerns about Moscow supplying missile technology and other armaments to Iraq -- nuclear as well?

Feith: That's a serious issue and we are discussing -- we're discussing these proliferation issues with Russia also. And it is -- there are certain things that certain countries are doing and selling around the world that we think are dangerous for international security, and in some cases, even dangerous for the countries that are selling the items themselves. I mean, countries sometimes don't act in their own best interests, and I think some of this proliferation activity is a serious problem, including for the countries making the sales.

Q: Like what country?

Feith: Well, I don't want to get more specific than that, but -- (laughter) --

Q: Why not? I mean, I asked you about Russia and Iran.

Feith: Well, Russia and Iran is a good example.

Q: China and Iran?

Feith: China's farther away from Iran. I mean, Russia is right next -- practically right next door. But the -- I don't think it would serve Russia's interests for Iran to have nuclear weapons and a missile capability.

Q: Doing away with the whole construct of arms control agreements, wouldn't that allow the United States, if it deems necessary, to build up in the future? I mean, you're telling the Russians right now, we're going to reduce. What's to prevent the United States in the future from building up? And what's to give Russia, China and other countries assurance that we're not going to do so, if you remove the pact?

Feith: I want to be clear; I didn't talk about doing away with all arms control agreements. What I said is we are not aiming to achieve Cold War-style arms control agreements with Russia right now. But I also said that the agreements that are on the books, we're going to comply with.

And as far as constraining the United States, what we think contributes to international stability and what contributes to U.S. security is our ability to respond to threats to our interests and the interests of our allies and friends, if and when those threats arise. And one of the things that you've all heard Secretary Rumsfeld stress repeatedly is it's very difficult to predict what threats are going to arise. You know, the story I believe that he likes to tell is that when Dick Cheney was nominated for secretary of Defense at the beginning of 1989, in his confirmation hearings not a single question was asked about Iraq. And yet, a year and a half later, that became the focus of American defense policy and has remained a key focus of American defense policy for 10 years. And yet 18 months beforehand, nobody even spotted it as an issue worth questioning the incoming secretary of Defense on.

So we should all be modest about our ability to predict the future and predict what threats we're going to have to deal with. And so what does one do in recognition of that, of the unpredictability of the future? What one does is one preserves one's flexibility. And part of the problem with some of the proposals for certain Cold War- style arms control arrangements is that they are premised on the idea that you can take a strategic picture, freeze it, lock stability in in an agreement by limiting yourself in certain ways, and we think that moves one in the opposite direction from where you want to move, which is toward greater adaptability and flexibility to deal with threats as they arise. Because if we have the ability to deal with threats as they arise, we will have greater security and we believe there will be generally greater international stability. So when you say the United States is free to do this or that, I consider that a good thing.

Q: But doesn't that sow further discomfort with the direction the United States is now going among other powers? And that seems to be a very key issue now in all of the talks that you're participating in, not just with Russia, but with the NATO allies, China, and other countries.

Feith: I go back to the point that I started with, which is that ultimately, if we have friendly and cooperative relations with these countries, if we have non-hostile relationships, they have nothing to fear from our ability to deal with threats that arise from hostile powers. And, I mean, look at America's track record. We're not a threat to countries that don't threaten us.

Q: A couple of questions. If you reach an accord of some sort with Russia on reductions, is that something that would be submitted to the Senate for approval?

And if it is tantamount to "Trust, but don't bother to verify," would it fare well in the Senate?

Secondly, on the ABM modifications, or -- or however you want to characterize it, would something that allows you to use any basing mode you want but would restrict the number of interceptors, because the administration has said repeatedly it wants a limited system, be acceptable to the administration?

Feith: Whether we can achieve some kind of an agreement with Russia is an open question. And we're working on it. We're trying to. We'd like to. But it's unclear, and it is unclear what type of agreement it would be. I guess the answer to your first question about whether it would be an agreement that we would submit to the Senate for approval would hinge on its terms. I mean, there's a very interesting but vague body of law on exactly, you know, what kinds of agreements are executive agreements versus treaties that require Senate action. So, I mean, I can't give you that answer until we see what kind of agreement might emerge. And I forget the second part of your question.

Q: It sounds like if it's relational-based and doesn't have the whole framework that the cold war treaties did it would -- one could characterize it as "Trust, but don't bother to verify." How would that sail through the Senate?

Feith: Well, it depends what you're trusting them to do. Again, it hinges on what the terms are. And -- as I said, I can't answer that without knowing what it is we would actually agree to. There are certain things that one would agree to that I imagine nobody would want us to agree to unless you could verify it. But there may be lots of other things that you could agree to that wouldn't require that type of, you know, inspection regime that was typical in the cold war agreements.

Q: What about the ABM? Would it be acceptable to have no restrictions on basing mode, but restrictions on the number of interceptors? I mean, as essentially a quid pro quo.

Feith: We are not trying to limit our missile defense program or stretch the ABM Treaty through, you know, creative lawyering to make the program fit within the treaty.

That's just not what we're doing. We are -- as I said, we're -- as long as the treaty is the law, we're going to comply with the terms of the treaty, and when the time comes to move beyond the treaty, we will move beyond the treaty without violating it, just by giving the notice that its terms provide for. And we're not interested in playing those kinds of games with, you know, pulling and tugging and trimming and cutting.

Q: So the point is, you're not willing to accept -- you don't want any kind of limitations, any restrictions on your freedom of movement, whether it be the technologies, the basing, or the number of interceptors. I mean, this is an important point, because some people have suggested that a way out of this is to accept some limits, like perhaps on interceptors, to get the system that would work, that would fit your needs, and still have some kind of a legal restraint or framework with the Russians.

Feith: I can't say precisely what the framework will be, what kind of arrangement we might make with the Russians. We're very -- we're approaching this very open-minded about many things. There are certain things that are -- we basically decided -- for example, that we're going to build a missile defense system that's going to protect against limited threat. So certain things have been decided. But on many issues, we're open-minded, and we're interested in talking with the Russians, and we'll see what -- you know, what kind of arrangements we can come up with.

But as I said, we're not interested in approaching the subject the way the subject was approached when we were trying to preserve a balance of terror. And you know, the idea of limiting their systems in relation to our systems and assuring vulnerability and all the rest of that is just not what we think is the best way to take advantage of the happy circumstance that the Cold War ended 10 years ago.

Q: Then why not serve notice now, instead of the next six months, before you do formally get out of the ABM Treaty? Why not spend that time talking to the Russians as to how you're going to go about cooperating with them? Why not --

Feith: Well, we haven't yet notified withdrawal, but we're having that dialogue with the Russians. At some point we are either going to jointly agree with the Russians to move beyond the treaty, or we're going to notify anyway, and then, as -- exactly as your question suggests, we're going to continue the dialogue with Russia.

Q: So basically you're telling the Russians, "Don't look at our capabilities; look at our intentions, because we're not enemies anymore, and we're not going to attack you. Don't look at our capabilities and our force structure."

Feith: They can look at them, I mean, and you can't stop them from looking. But fundamentally, their security, as is the case with our security, comes from the fact that we have no interest or intention to attack each other.

Q: If you're a war-planner, you looked at intent as you looked at capabilities.

Feith: No, I don't think that's quite right.

Q: That's how your SIOP is designed. What do you mean that's not right? That's the whole purpose of the nuclear review. You count their weapons, they count ours. And you've just said there's no purpose in counting, but that's exactly what the war planners do in Omaha.

Q: That's what the Russians do.

Feith: We don't take -- it is simply not the case that you look at capabilities divorced from intentions. It's just not the case.

Q: You do count their weapons, right, just like they count ours. And whatever the number of weapons that you end up with in your revised nuclear stockpile will be a direct result of counting their weapons and what their capability is. Certainly you will take into account the fact that relations are better. But you will still look at those hard numbers, and Admiral Meis and his successor will argue vehemently that you would be idiotic not to count their weapons. I mean, that's a part of the game still.

Feith: If we -- we would like to get to the point -- let's put it this way. We would like to get to the point where Russia's nuclear weapons are not anymore a driving factor in our force structure than, you know, British nuclear weapons are.

Q: But they have so many more of them.

Feith: Okay. But we'll see. I mean, the point is, intentions matter, and there's a lot more security that comes from having good relations than comes from having hostile relations with arms control agreements on top of it. And that's -- I mean, it's a general point. I'm not disputing that you take lots of things into account, but how much weight you give something and what direction you're heading and what the trends are has a lot to do with the quality of relations.

Q: I'm sorry, all of this seems so -- and I don't mean to be insulting, but both naive and paternalistic. (Laughter.) The suggestion is that --

Feith: (Inaudible.) (More laughter.)

Q: On the one hand you're saying we don't intend to be a hegemonic, but at the same time, we want to preserve the power to be able to strike anywhere on Earth at anyone who threatens our interests or our allies' interests. That seems to me the very definition of a hegemon. I mean, you might not be like a Roman conqueror marching down someone's streets, but the United States' intention, and I think its capabilities right now seem to suggest that.

So to the outside world -- maybe not to you; I see the puzzled look on your face, but to the outside world, people see that kind of power as hegemonic. No, we're not going to go in and tell them to change their constitutions and rule them, but they see this as a threat. And for you to suggest that they shouldn't because you don't intend to do anything with it feels naive. It's --

Feith: I'd be very interested in what policy prescription that one might infer from what you said that could possibly be the policy of the U.S. Defense Department.

Q: Well, just, it's --


Feith: I just --

Q: The -- what I have been hearing you say is that we should be allowed to do whatever we want because we don't mean ill to anyone.

Feith: I -- wait a minute now, first of all, I never said we should be able to do whatever we want. I said, we should be in a position to respond to any threat to our interests.

Q: And because the United States doesn't want to take over any other countries, that's out of it. But if we want to be able to respond to any threats to our interests, why do we think it's not in someone else's interests to want to be able to respond to the United States in that same way? Just because we're not enemies now doesn't mean we wouldn't be enemies later.

Feith: You seem to like the balance of terror. I mean, some people like it. As I said, it's very hard to --

Q: I'm not suggesting --

Feith: It's very hard to ()

Q: Sir, I'm not -- sir, I'm not suggesting I like it. I'm suggesting that there is a huge part of the world that does think this way, and just assuring them that the United States has no intentions of ever doing anything bad to them as long as they don't threaten us is -- that's the naive part. It just doesn't seem like it's going to fly.

Q: Can I tackle this another way? We've all of us, you and all of us in this room grew in the Cold War is a global structure which was defined by a central enmity but large alliances and a series of treaties. And the treaties both governed relationships within the alliances but also governed relationship between the two opposing factions. I think what we're trying to get at is what do you see as being the basis of the future security architecture? If the Cold War treaties are not adequate, are any treaties going to be adequate, or is it entirely -- is it going to be entirely relational? Because, you know, the question arises of, we're dealing with architectures here for 20 years, 25 years. So what are the building blocks of this architecture? Is it just American good will and the ever-present American military, or is it something more stable in international (law ?)?

Feith: I was addressing myself mainly to the, you know, particular questions that arose out of this U.S.-Russian dialogue. But when you raise the point about alliance structures, then I would say that we attach high value to our alliance structures. I mean, the treaties that have created security communities, principally NATO, but there are others, have been valuable, have been useful for all the parties and have been a major contributions to world peace. So there's no -- I don't think there's any -- there's any discounting at all in our thinking of the value of these -- of the alliances that we've created. The idea that we have security arrangements with friendly countries and have used those as a basis for dealing with all kinds of international problems, that's -- I mean, that's very positive, and it's a major part of our national interest, I believe. There are a number of treaties that we've entered into. And there are also treaties that we've entered into in the arms control field that I think have made valuable contributions to international security.

I mean, I think that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and other arrangements that we've had on controlling the proliferation of different technologies -- chemical, missiles and others -- have been very positive. And there's certainly a role for agreements of that kind.

I mean, I'm glad to have a chance to say that. I must say, since it never occurs to me that by moving beyond the ABM Treaty you have to therefore oppose every agreement that's ever been achieved between any two nations, I normally don't protest that, you know, we like those. But, I mean, since you mentioned it, I'm glad to have the opportunity to point out that because we don't think the ABM Treaty is a good idea any longer, that it doesn't follow from that that we're against all treaties and all alliances and, you know, any contact with any foreigners. I mean, it just doesn't follow. But I'm glad to have the chance to point that out in case anybody was wondering.

(Cross talk.)

Q: But it raises the question that you will tomorrow decide that you no longer will be part of the Biological Weapons Protocol, or the day after tomorrow you will no longer be part of START II, or -- that -- the actions, or the recent actions of the administration involving a number of treaties raise that question.

Feith: I think it's fair to say that the policy of this administration is that our view of particular treaties has to do with whether they are a good idea or not, whether they accomplish their purposes or not, whether they contribute to our security, international stability or not. We're discriminating. And there are some that are good and that we favor. There are some that are mere ideas that we will pursue and try to develop. And there are others that have either outlived their purpose or are just bad ideas, and we're not for those. And, I mean, it's -- as I said, it strikes me as fairly basic that you don't have to be for everything labeled a treaty or against everything labeled a treaty. We're for the good ones, and we're against the bad ones.

Q: I've got one specific --

Q: CTBT, you don't seem to have a position either way. You seem to say, okay, we're not going to ratify the treaty, but we're not going to test. And it seems you're trying to walk some kind of line right now until perhaps at some point in the future or the near future that you say, Okay, well, we've decided that that's not a good treaty, either. I mean, could you talk about CTBT?

Feith: The administration hasn't said ultimately what it's thinking is about the CTBT. But as Secretary Powell said and Secretary Rumsfeld said in congressional testimony, the -- they have serious concerns about whether the treaty would serve U.S. interests, that -- they have concerns about whether we could preserve a safe, reliable nuclear stockpile if we became a party, and they have concerns about the verifiability of the provisions of the treaty.

So there's a -- there were serious criticisms offered by leading administration officials about the treaty, but the administration hasn't definitively said what it's going to do with it.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld has said more than that. Secretary Rumsfeld has said we shouldn't sign this treaty, we need to test, we need to be able to verify aging warheads are still working properly. He signed a letter with, I think, five other former defense secretaries to that effect. Beyond that, one of those other signatories was Vice President Cheney. So I'm trying to figure out why you have this circumstance where you have a definitive judgment that ABM is no longer good, you have two of the very senior members of the administration saying, before coming into the administration, that CTBT isn't any good, but yet we haven't had that same determination.

Feith: I think I'm going to be saved by the bell. (Laughter.)

Staff: Answer him, and then Mr. -- (off mike).

(Off-mike cross-talk and laughter.)

Feith: We haven't said -- we haven't made the ultimate definitive statement on the CTBT yet. Stay tuned.

Q: I have a question about a more sort of forward-looking way to look at this same issue. And that is, this administration feels quite strongly about vulnerability of U.S. assets in space; satellites, for example. Now, this is a vulnerabiity that other countries, presumably, share along with the United States. Philosophically, how do you see moving ahead on that? Does that argue for some kind of new convention regarding the ways in which space could be militarized in order to defend these interests, or would the United States just move ahead unilaterally? I'm sure you know China is circulating already some language at the United Nations just in this regard.

Feith: I don't know that. I have to say I'm just not thoroughly up on that. Sorry.

Q: I mean, is this -- do you see the United States moving unilaterally in this direction, or is that an example of an arena in which the United States should move multilaterally, diplomatically, with other nations, so that there is a coordinated effort to reduce vulnerability in space?

Feith: I don't -- I just haven't thought through whether there are sensible diplomatic initiatives that we can make in that area. I -- you know, I've been on the job for more or less six, seven weeks and can't do everything all at once. So I'm sorry; I just can't address that.

Q: Can I just --

Q: Can you tell us what arms control treaties you do support? (Laughter.)

Feith: I -- the transcript of my confirmation hearings deals with that at some length. (Chuckles.)

Q: Can I just ask one more thing? You say you don't -- you have no intention of raising objection to Chinese modernization or multiplication of their warheads, addition to their warheads.

Feith: I didn't say that.

Q: Well, I think you said --

Feith: I think that story is completely false.

Q: Yes, that you have no intention of dropping objections to Chinese nuclear modernization. Do you plan to discuss with the Chinese, in the upcoming talks to better explain missile defense, the possibility of resuming underground testing, the possibility of doing that? (Inaudible) -- resuming underground nuclear testing in order to --

Feith: I know of -- I am not aware of any intention to do that. I mean, I know the story you're referring to, but I see no basis for that.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you.

Feith: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected