FT. HOOD, Texas – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that if Russia decides to do business with countries like Iraq, businesses around the world may shy away from Russia.
"To the extent that Russia decides that it wants to parade its relationships with countries like Iraq and Libya and Syria and Cuba and North Korea, it sends a signal out across the globe that that is what Russia thinks is a good thing to do, to deal with the terrorist states, to have them as their relationship developers,'' Rumsfeld told about 1,000 soldiers in a town hall meeting Wednesday.
"It's almost like it is self-executing,'' he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed Monday that the country was in talks with Iraq about a 10-year trade agreement involving new cooperation in oil, irrigation, agriculture, transportation, railroads and electrical energy.
Iraq's ambassador to Russia, Abbas Khalaf, said it was a $40 billion agreement, but Moscow refused to confirm that figure.
Rumsfeld spoke at Fort Hood after meeting with President Bush and other top military advisers at Bush's Crawford ranch for a military summit.
The administration has faced broadening doubt about Bush's Iraq policy, including concerns from fellow Republicans Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to Bush's father; House Majority Leader Dick Armey; and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Iraqi relations have also been on the minds of many troops at Fort Hood, soldiers said. The post, the country's largest with 41,000 troops, has had little role in the war in Afghanistan, but during the Gulf War, about 25,000 troops were deployed.
"All I can do is try to make sure my soldiers are as ready as they can be,'' said 1st Sgt. Scott Reed.
Before fielding questions, Rumsfeld told the soldiers that the country is facing an evil that cannot be appeased.
"You are serving at a unique time. It is a momentous mission. Your role is critically important,'' he said.
Rumsfeld also told the soldiers that anyone who leaks classified war information ought to go to jail.
"It is serious,'' he said. "It is dangerous and it is beyond my comprehension how a person who has been cleared for the handling of classified information can be so irresponsible and callous to the lives that can be lost.''
The visit was Rumsfeld's first to Fort Hood and it energized the troops, Reed said. "It just makes them feel like they are being noticed,'' he said.