Monthly press briefing

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • Last updated: 06 Sep. 2011 17:38

NATO Secretary General  Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Good afternoon.

It is two months since I last met you all. And it has been a busy time for our main operations.

In Libya, our operation to protect civilians has moved significantly closer to success – but we’re not there yet.

In Afghanistan, transition has begun. Afghan forces are now providing lead security for one quarter of the Afghan population. That is a very good start. And I expect the next stage to be announced in the coming month.

In Kosovo, our mission played a vital role in stopping a crisis escalating. NATO-led forces did what was needed, and I thank them.

LIBYA

Two months ago, some of you asked me if there was any chance of progress in the Libyan operation in August. And some asked whether NATO had the resources to keep going.

Those questions have now been answered.

Our operation is not yet over, but the direction is clear. The Libyan people have taken their future into their own hands. They have made history. And so has the international community.

This operation has an unprecedented United Nations mandate. The responsibility to protect. That is historic.

NATO has been implementing the mandate with unprecedented precision. No comparable air operation in history has been so accurate, and so careful in avoiding harm to civilians.

And our operation has had an unprecedented effect. In five months, we have degraded a war machine which was built up over more than 40 years – to stop Qadhafi murdering his own people.

We set out to protect civilians. And we will see this through. NATO and our partners will be there as long as we are needed - but not one minute longer.

When we assess that the threat is over for good, we will conclude Operation Unified Protector. I cannot give a precise date – but I believe it will come soon.

It is now for the Libyan people to shape their future. The National Transitional Council at the Paris meeting impressed us all with their plan for this future. And the United Nations reaffirmed that it will play the leading role in supporting the Libyan people. NATO stands ready to help, if we are needed and requested to do so.

But Operation Unified Protector will end as soon as our mission is completed.

LESSONS LEARNED

And we can already start drawing the first lessons.

Most of those lessons are positive. All will play an important role as we start to prepare our summit in Chicago next May.

First, the crisis shows NATO’s flexibility. Nobody saw it coming. But NATO decided to act within 6 days. We set up the operation. And we adjusted it when we needed to.

Second, it shows NATO’s openness. We were joined by partners old and new. From the Middle East and Northern Europe. We agreed what needed to be done. We agreed how to do it. And we did it.

Because our partners know us, they trust us, and they are ready to work with us.

Third, it shows NATO’s strength. This was the first Alliance operation where European Allies and Canada took the lead. And the Alliance got the job done.

European Allies and Canada led the effort. But this mission could not have been done without capabilities which only the United States can offer. For example: drones, intelligence and refuelling aircraft.

Let me put it bluntly: those capabilities are vital for all of us. More Allies should be willing to obtain them.

That is a real challenge. And we will have to find the solutions at the next NATO Summit in Chicago.

LE SOMMET DE CHICAGO

L’an dernier, au sommet de Lisbonne, nous avons adopté un nouveau concept stratégique, qui esquisse ce que l’Alliance doit pouvoir faire.

À Chicago, nous devrons prendre les décisions qui nous en donneront les moyens.

Voici quelques exemples.

À Lisbonne, nous sommes convenus que les missiles balistiques constituent une menace. À Chicago, je voudrais que la capacité opérationnelle initiale de la défense antimissile territoriale de l’OTAN soit officialisée.

Et j’espère que nous pourrons décider avec la Russie de coopérer sur la défense antimissile pour faire face aux nouvelles menaces et lever les soupçons du passé.

À Lisbonne, nous avons approuvé un partenariat durable avec le gouvernement afghan. À Chicago, j’aimerais que nous adoptions un paquet concret de mesures de soutien – pour que les capacités de sécurité de l’Afghanistan continuent à se développer.

À Lisbonne, nous avons aussi décidé que l’OTAN doit disposer de tout l’éventail des capacités pour assurer la dissuasion et la défense contre les menaces. À Chicago, j’aimerais que nous prenions les décisions qui nous permettront de nous doter de ces capacités.

Dans le contexte économique difficile que nous connaissons, peu de pays peuvent financer seuls ces capacités.

Si nous ne pouvons pas dépenser plus, dépensons mieux. Nous devons définir des priorités. Nous spécialiser. Encourager la coopération. C’est ce que j’appelle la défense intelligente- ‘Smart Defence’.

From now to Chicago, we must identify the areas where Smart Defence can deliver the capabilities we need. And in Chicago, we must ask NATO heads of state and government for a smart commitment: real and tangible support for more multinational approaches.

Because, as Libya showed, we can never tell where the next crisis will come from – but we know that it will probably come. And once it does, it may be too late to start shopping.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): NTV, Turkish Television. Please don't forget to introduce yourself.

Q: Yes, it's Sonomut(ph) from NTV. Sorry, Sonomut from NTV Turkey. I have two questions. The first is regarding Libya. What is the point where you will think that Operation should end? Is it, for example, catching Qadhafi or when will you decide when the operation will end? At which situation? And now you're already planning the after-Qadhafi or the aftermath.

And my second question is with regard to missile defence. There was lots of harsh criticism today from Iran towards Turkey because Turkey has decided to deploy and allow radar, et cetera, et cetera, so do you have a comment on that bearing in mind that your headline goal is initial capabilities in Chicago. Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you. First, on the end state of our operation in Libya. The possible capture of Qadhafi is not the decisive factor. Of course, it's an element, but let me stress that individuals, including Qadhafi, is not a target of our operation.

What will play a crucial role is the capability of the National Transitional Council to actually ensure effective protection of the civilian population, because that's the key in our UN mandate, to protect civilians. So, of course, in our assessment we will attach very strong importance to the capability of the NTC to actually protect the civilian population.

The NATO Council will take its decision based on an overall comprehensive political, military assessment, including what I have already said, the capacity of the NTC, but of course also our own military assessment as well as which decisions might be taken by the UN Security Council.

So the NATO Council will take its decision based on this broad evaluation.

Second question, as regards the agreement to deploy certain missile defence facilities in Turkey. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Turkish government on that agreement. I consider that agreement a crucial element in the development of the NATO-based missile defence system that we approved at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. And let me stress that our missile defence, the NATO missile defence system is a purely defensive system. It's not an offensive system directed against anyone, except for those who might have an intention to attack NATO territory. So it's a missile defence, and I stress the word defence.

Oana Lungescu: Egyptian TV.

Q: Thank you very much. I'm Magdy Youssef(ph), from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Secretary General, like you said, according to the Resolution 1973, your aim is protecting the civilians in Libya and now your strike is still on. Here I'm wondering, you are protecting the civilians from whom since Qadhafi has no control anywhere in Libya?

And the second, do you have any conversation or dealing with the Libyan authority now to help in finding Qadhafi or you are not doing anything on this? Thank you very much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me once again stress that individuals, including Qadhafi, are not targets for our operation in Libya. We are in Libya to protect civilians against any attack. Unfortunately, we have seen that Qadhafi forces still constitute a threat to the civilian population in Libya and this is the reason why we have to continue our operation until these threats do not exist any longer.

And that leads me to the first part of your question. Who are you protecting? We are protecting civilians against all attacks, and as I said, we have, unfortunately, seen that this threat still exists and this is the reason why we are continuing our operation.

Oana Lungescu: AP.

Q: Yes, Secretary General, at the start of this campaign you made a big deal about the need for regional cooperation for the Arab League and the Organization of African... or the African Union to support you in this campaign. I notice now you've completely left them out. Is this because the African Union has been actually quite hostile to the campaign and has said that your unrelenting bombing has actually detracted from efforts to achieve a peaceful solution?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I didn't quite catch the question, but let me stress that we have not sidelined the African Union. On the contrary, I attended the meeting in Paris on Libya and the African Union was represented. And so was a number of African countries, and we still attach a strong importance to a regional engagement from the Arab League, from the African Union, from individual countries in the region.

And I'm very pleased to see a still stronger support for the National Transitional Council, also from the region.

Oana Lungescu: We can take a couple of questions in French: RFI.

Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, Pierre Bénazet de Radio-France au niveau international. Vous dites que l'opération n'est pas terminée, que vous restez jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus de menace. Vous ne resterez pas une minute de plus quand cette menace aura disparu. Est-ce que depuis la chute de Tripoli, cette opération en elle-même a déjà changé sur le terrain? Est-ce que vous avez réorienté les frappes vers des régions particulières? Je pense à Sirte et Bani Walid. Qu'en est-il aujourd'hui de la géométrie de l'Opération Protecteur unifié. Où est-ce que vous êtes? Sur quoi êtes-vous concentré actuellement? Et est-ce que le nombre de sorties aériennes a changé, diminué, augmenté? Où est-ce qu'on en est actuellement dans l'opération elle-même?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Peut-être que vous pouvez répéter le sens de la question?

Q: Civiquement, oui, voilà. Est-ce que l'Opération Protecteur unifié, aujourd'hui, est différente de ce qu'elle était il y a 10 jours? Quelles sont les priorités militaires aujourd'hui de l'opération? Comment décrirez-vous ça?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Naturellement, nous avons adapté les opérations en considérant la situation sur place. Mais l'objectif le plus important restera le même: de protéger la population civile contre toutes les attaques.

Oana Lungescu: RTL, at the back.

Q: Oui, Alain Franco, RTL et Radio Télévision Suisse. Je suis ici, bonjour. Ce week-end, le journal canadien Globe & Mail a rapporté être en possession de documents indiquant que la Chine était en négociation avec le Colonel Qadhafi au mois de juillet pour lui livrer des armes malgré l'embargo, et notamment des missiles sol-air visant donc à pouvoir abattre des avions de la coalition pendant leurs opérations. Je voudrais savoir si vous avez des informations en ce sens. Et ce que... si cela se confirmait, quelle serait votre analyse et votre commentaire si la Chine donc essayait de vendre effectivement à Qadhafi des armes pour abattre les avions de l'OTAN merci?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Je n'ai aucune information en ce qui concerne la position chinoise. Mais j'ai compris que la Chine a refusé... a issu un démenti. Mais je n'ai aucune information.

Oana Lungescu: Okay, German Television. You've got the microphone next to your seat.

Q: I finally found it. Kai Niklasch, German Television ZDF. Secretary General, at the same time when there were reports that China supplied...

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Could you speak a bit louder, please?

Q: Yes, is it better that way? When China was supposed to try to deliver weapons to the pro-Qadhafi forces there were news that France delivered weapons to the anti-Qadhafi forces. What part of the NATO mission was the arms embargo? Did NATO know anything about France delivering weapons to the anti-Qadhafi forces? This is my question number one.

And then we had the rebels ask for a cease-fire, or for the other side to give their weapons, hand over their weapons to end this war, but at the same time NATO was bombing three cities in the southeast of Tripoli, so was it part of the tactics to go on with bombs and at the same time offer a cease-fire, or handing over the weapons? I don't understand the strategy behind that.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Well, first, as far as France is concerned NATO has not been informed about such deliveries of weapons. We got information afterwards when this issue was discussed in the media and in the public. And I understand that the purpose of this operation was to actually protect civilians against attacks from the Qadhafi forces.

But let me stress once again it has not been part of the NATO operation.

Oana Lungescu: Wall Street Journal. Can you repeat the question, it wasn't very clear, actually, what the question was.

Q: I will try to make it a little bit more clear. The rebels offered a cease-fire, or offered the other side to hand over the weapons, Sirte, and wherever it was. But at the same time we got the report from NATO that NATO was bombing in the southeast of Tripoli, so I wonder myself what is the strategy behind that? If you are bombing at the same time and offering a cease-fire. Normally at first you say there won't be any shooting anymore and then you have the chance to hand over your weapons or do I see that incorrectly?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me stress that we appreciate all efforts to find a peaceful solution to what might be left of this conflict. And I think the NTC has demonstrated a very responsible approach to solving this conflict by offering the remnants of the Qadhafi regime, or the Qadhafi forces a peaceful solution. So that's my first point.

Secondly, as far as NATO operations are concerned we continue as long as we believe there is a threat against the civilian population. So we're very careful in conducting our operation in strict conformity with the UN mandate and as long as a threat against the civilian population exists we will continue our operation and there's no contradiction between the protection of civilians according to the UN mandate and the NTC efforts to find a peaceful solution on the ground.

Oana Lungescu: Wall Street Journal.

Q: Good afternoon. (Inaudible...) and it seems like in (inaudible) Chicago there'll be a sort of report card on European advances and you commented on (inaudible...) smart defence. You mentioned refuelling and drones, intelligence as three areas where perhaps European allies will look (inaudible...) and it's so secret that this effort has exposed holes elsewhere.

Can you give us as far as possible in telling us about your own report card, and maybe list some areas where European allies are particularly strong and where they're perhaps weaker in terms of the three of them and how the process and the kind of thinking will go into the meeting in Chicago and then like what your report card right now looks like?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: To the list, I mentioned... I could add transport capacity. That's not directly related to the Libya operation, but a more general challenge to make sure that also European forces become more mobile.

I really personally I think it's one of the weaknesses of European armed forces that we lack the strategic airlift capacity. So I could add that to the list I've already outlined.

And all these issues will be dealt with within the concept of smart defence. The NATO Command Transformation... Allied Command Transformation, which is located in Norfolk in the U.S., is currently working on a paper where they identify a number of areas that could potentially be subject to multinational cooperation.

So what we would try from now until May next year is to identify a number of areas in which a group of countries could pool and share resources, and hopefully at the NATO Summit in Chicago we could identify a number of lead nations that would carry forward these projects.

So this initiative will build on what we decided in Lisbon last year. As you may recall we adopted a paper on critical capabilities. We had identified 11 priority areas where we will focus our defence investments in the coming years, including missile defence, cyber defence, counter roadside bombs, et cetera, et cetera.

So all in all it will be a comprehensive defence packet that will contribute to make more efficient use of our resources, but also aim at narrowing the economic and technological gap between the United States and Europe. That's my ambition.

Q: And where does Europe (inaudible...) in Libya?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, but I think the Libya operation has demonstrated that despite the period of economic austerity, despite defence cuts in a number of countries, maybe all countries, it was possible for European allies and Canada to provide the majority of assets for our Libya operation, aircraft, strike aircrafts and also the maritime assets. All maritime assets were provided by Canada and European allies and aircrafts, including the strike aircraft, were provided by Canada, European allies and partners in the region.

So there is absolutely a positive lesson to be learned, but the whole operation has also made it visible that there are some gaps to be filled and that will be a focal point from now on until Chicago.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: EU Observer.

Q: (Inaudible...) from EU Observer. Mr. Rasmussen, to what extent are you in contact with the EU envoys in Libya and how do you see the role, or is there sort of a plan to transition and to hand over once you will decide that the mission is over, sort of to help further the EU presence there?

And the second question, if I may, just briefly, on the 9/11 commemoration this week sort of what are the lessons learned and what you still feel the need for Europe to do in fighting against terrorism?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Firstly, I have had a regular contact with the European Union during this Libya crisis, with all institutions including, of course, High Representative Ashton. So we have closely coordinated. We have also had close staff-to-staff contacts to make sure that we work with each other in a complementary way.

I expect that coordination to continue, and I would strongly appreciate if the European Union could take on a major role in assisting the National Transitional Council and the Libyan people in the reconstruction of Libya. Maybe the term reconstruction is not appropriate because for the new authorities in Libya it's really to build from scratch what has been demolished by the former regime.

It's for the Libyan people, it's for the National Transitional Council to share the future of Libya, but if they request assistance from abroad I do believe that the European Union could and should play an important role. And also in that respect I'm pleased to see how closely we have coordinated through this whole crisis.

As regards the 11th of September, I think we all agree that what happened ten years ago really changed the perception of security. Very important steps were taken in the wake of this horrific attack on the United States. As far as NATO is concerned, we evoked Article 5 for the first time in the history of our Alliance. European allies and Canada agreed that the attack on the United States should be considered an attack on all, as it stated in Article 5 and this is basically also the reason why we are engaged in Afghanistan today, and will continue with the aim to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. And now we're in the process of handing over the responsibility to the Afghan Security Forces.

But of course, a number of other measures have been taken. It is also part of this story that many countries have introduced, I would say, heavy control measures to make sure that they can protect their populations effectively. And of course, this is all the time a delicate balance to protect the freedom we believe in and at the same time to make sure that people in our countries can continue to live their lives in security and safety.

So in many ways what happened ten years ago has changed our lives, but the bottom line is that I do believe that today we have a safer world than we had ten years ago. Though we have seen terrorist attacks since 9/11 the overall picture is that the international terror networks have been significantly degraded since 2001 and that's the good news.

Oana Lungescu: We have only a few minutes left. Frankfurter Algemeine.

Q: Nikolas Busse from Frankfurter Allgemeine. It now seems that there will be no international peacekeeping mission in Libya, mostly because the Transitional Council doesn't want one. Do you think this is a good development? Will the country be stable enough without an international presence?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, I do believe that it is the new authorities in Libya that have the major responsibility to shape the future of the country, including secure the Libyan people.

So it's also my firm belief that any international presence under UN leadership in Libya should be based on a clear request from the new authorities in Libya.

And I'm confident that the National Transitional Council will be able to ensure that the transition to democracy in Libya can take place in a peaceful manner and based on a spirit of reconciliation and I'm confident that the National Transitional Council will respect the basic principles of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. And I do believe they have a sincere desire to see the development of a true democracy in Libya.

Having said that, I would reiterate that the international community has clearly stated its preparedness to assist the NTC and the Libyan people in this transformation if requested, and that statement was reiterated at the Paris meeting last week.

But first and foremost it's for the NTC to take the lead.

Oana Lungescu: One final question that goes to the BBC.

Q: Secretary General, Chris Morris, BBC. I know you've answered questions many times before about whether you have exceeded your mandate to protect civilians in Libya, and you have a well-rehearsed answer to it, so perhaps I could ask you something specific.

Given the current balance of forces can you explain how a tank or a rocket launcher in a place like Sirte or Bani Walid operated by pro-Qadhafi forces is more of a threat to civilians than a tank or a rocket launcher operated by opposition forces who may be about to attack either of those places?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The fact is that the NTC forces have been very, very careful to avoid civilian casualties. We have no reason to believe whatsoever that the NTC forces constitute a threat to the civilian population in Libya. And I think they're reasoned initiative to find peaceful solutions to the remaining conflict testifies to that cautiousness.

So that's my clear point of departure, that the NTC forces do not constitute such a threat to the civilian population. Contrary to what we have seen from Qadhafi forces and the remnants of the regime. Not long ago they actually fired a Scud missile from one of their strongholds.

So as long as we consider these Qadhafi forces to constitute a threat towards the civilian population we will continue our operation. Of course, we will be very, very careful in identifying legitimate military targets, but now and then we see such movements that could constitute a threat to the civilian population. In that case it is in full accordance with the UN mandate to hit such targets.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much.