Monthly press briefing

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • Last updated: 02 Jul. 2012 14:29

Good Afternoon.

At the Chicago NATO Summit, two weeks’ ago, we set ourselves three clear goals: to shape the next stages of our engagement in Afghanistan; to ensure NATO invests smartly in future capabilities, even in times of austerity; and to strengthen our relationship with our partners.

We achieved those goals. Now we are taking the next steps.

On Afghanistan, we set out a clear path from now until 2014 and beyond. And we sent out a clear signal to the Afghan people and the region that we will stay committed.

Afghan army and police are taking the lead for the security of 75 percent of the population. In the coming weeks, more than 100 districts and cities in Afghanistan will begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility. That is a challenge. But the Afghan forces are ready for it.

Already, more than one third of a million Afghan soldiers and police are trained and ready to keep their country secure. 18 Afghan army battalions, and 65 police units, have been certified as capable of operating independently, with advisors from ISAF.

At the same time, more and more former insurgents are choosing to come back into society. Right now, around 4,400 former fighters have entered re-integration programmes. That is an increase of 40% since December.

Nous faisons donc des progrès.  Et nous allons continuer de fournir aux forces afghanes le soutien et la formation dont elles ont besoin pour que ces progrès soient irréversibles. 

C'est pourquoi nous avons décidé que l'OTAN et le gouvernement afghan travailleraient à la mise en place d'une nouvelle mission dirigée par l'OTAN pour la période qui suivra la transition.

Nous entamons le processus de planification de notre nouvelle mission pour l'Afghanistan. Ce ne sera pas une mission de combat. La nouvelle mission aura pour objectif d'entraîner, de conseiller et d'aider les forces de sécurité afghanes.

Nous avons également pris un engagement politique clair : nous assumerons notre part du futur financement de ces forces.  De son côté, le président Karzaï nous a redit que les autorités afghanes s'engageaient à assumer leurs responsabilités pour ce qui concerne la bonne gouvernance et la protection des droits de l'homme.

We also reached agreement on reverse transit from Afghanistan with three Central Asian partners: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need. I thank all three partner countries for their support. And NATO will continue to actively engage with Afghanistan’s neighbours to build wider support for the country’s stability.  

We are also making progress on implementing summit decisions on the other two key areas. 

In Chicago, we signed the contract to acquire an Alliance Ground Surveillance capability – unarmed drones which will allow our commanders to see what is happening over the horizon at any time, and in any weather.

I am pleased to note that Denmark has decided to join the acquisition phase of the project. This is a valuable signal of solidarity, and of commitment to keeping our Alliance strong and capable.

We also declared an Interim Missile Defence Capability. That capability has now been formally handed over to our NATO Headquarters in Ramstein, in Germany. So our preparations are completed. This is a first, but significant step towards our  longer-term goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces.

I know Russia’s concerns on this issue. So let me be quite clear: those concerns are groundless. NATO missile defence is not directed against Russia, and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent.

NATO wants to build a strategic partnership with Russia. Last week marked two important anniversaries in our relationship. On 27 May, it was the 15th anniversary of the signature of the NATO-Russia Founding Act – the document which sets out the framework of our relationship.

And on 28 May, we marked the 10th anniversary of the creation of the NATO-Russia Council – the forum where we meet as equals to discuss all topics.

We have come a long way since those two agreements. We are building practical cooperation in many areas where we have common interests. Afghanistan. Counter-terrorism. And the fight against piracy, to name just three.

Our goal is to take that cooperation to the next stage – to make NATO and Russia true strategic partners.

But to do that, we need to improve the level of trust, transparency and predictability in our relationship.

We welcome our cooperation with Russia, and we want to strengthen it. But we are concerned by some recent Russian statements, including on military deployments close to NATO borders.

So we intend to raise this with Russia. We have pledged to discuss the areas where we disagree, as well as the areas where we agree. And that is what we will do. 

Finally, at Chicago, there was a strong message that partnerships are essential to NATO’s success.  Our meetings were a recognition of that reality. And an opportunity to discuss with our partners how we work together, and how we can improve our cooperation.

We have built up a powerful momentum. Now it is vital to keep going.

That is why, later today, I will meet the Prime Minister of New Zealand. And next week, I will visit Australia. Both countries are making a real difference to our mission in Afghanistan. I particularly welcome Australia’s recent announcement that it will take the main mentoring role in Uruzgan province. This demonstrates that countries such as Australia and New Zealand may be far away geographically, but they are very close to us in terms of values and commitment. Together, we will discuss how we can come even closer together. 

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Okay, we'll start in the first row here. Geo TV.

Q: Geo Television, Pakistan. Khalid Hameed Farooqi. Secretary General, President of Pakistan visited... attended NATO Summit in Chicago, but since, according to our information, nothing was solved. Neither supply route was opened, nor you had meeting with him and with Pakistani... the Pakistani perspective this visit of the President of Pakistan was no more than... it was useless to go to Chicago for him. Can you comment on that?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Secretary General): First of all, I appreciate that President Zardari attended our meeting in Chicago. I called him and invited him to participate in the meeting because we want a positive dialogue with Pakistan.

It was definitely not useless. On the contrary, President Zardari confirmed that it is his clear intention, it is the intention of Pakistan, to engage positively in finding solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan.

As you all know, we still have an unsolved problem as regards transit routes through Pakistan. I still hope to see a solution to that problem in the very near future.

Oana Lungescu: German TV.

Q: Maybe a follow-up to the Pakistani question of before. How far are the talks now? Is there any progress? Have you just agreed that you can use Pakistan transit routes to bring the troops home? Is it just a matter of money, or what is the question you have to deal with here?

That's the first question. The second one would be: Hollande was in Chicago and he was in Afghanistan now. Is the figure more clear now, how many soldiers will he take back now from Afghanistan? Will this be 1,000, or 2,000 or is this still to be figured out?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, on Pakistan. I'm not going to comment on details in negotiations with Pakistan. I'll just reiterate that I still hope that a solution can be found in the very near future. At the same time, let me stress that we actually concluded a number of very important transit agreements at the Chicago Summit, and of course that will contribute in a very positive way to our operation in Afghanistan as we gradually wind down our combat operation towards the end of 2014.

As regards France, I would leave it to the French authorities to comment on concrete figures. I have taken note of the very clear statement from President Hollande, also expressed in clear terms at the Chicago Summit that France will stay committed to the ISAF operation and continue to contribute to our training mission throughout the transition period, towards the end of 2014. And I highly appreciate that.

Oana Lungescu: German Radio.

Q: My name is Christoph Prössl, German Public Radio. Two questions. The first one, you mentioned the reverse transit, three contracts. Does NATO pay for the reverse transit? And the second question is, on Smart Defence, the next steps, probably you can give me the next steps for the Smart Defence initiative in regard to the fact that some countries, for example, Germany, always have to give green light when they would like to participate or send troops somewhere, or if they would like to participate in a mission.

Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, I do not comment on details in the transit arrangements, but it goes without saying that we have concluded agreements that are of mutual satisfaction of the involved partners.

As regards to the next steps, as far as Smart Defence is concerned, we decided at the Chicago Summit to initiate some follow-up work. First of all, we will continue to develop multinational projects, and secondly, of course, we'll have to find solutions to a number of issues. One of them is the topic you mentioned, how we can presume the availability of multinational capabilities.

But based on what I heard at the Chicago Summit I'm quite optimistic that there is a strong political commitment to actually use and deploy multinational capabilities when it is needed.

Obviously, and that goes without saying, it is at the end of the day, a national decision whether a country wants to participate in a military operation and deploy military assets and how. But I think all nations realize that if, in the future, we will rely increasingly on multinational capabilities, we also have to enhance the presumption that such multinational capabilities will actually be available. If we don't enhance that presumption then, of course, some countries will be reluctant to actually invest their resources in multinational capabilities.

All nations are very much aware of that aspect, and all 28 Allies endorsed the concept of Smart Defence at the Chicago Summit, knowing that this is a challenge and based on that I'm sure there is a strong political commitment to actually deploy assets, also multinational assets when needed.

Oana Lungescu: AP.

Q: Secretary General, could you elaborate on what exactly has been done on the follow-up mission in Afghanistan since the Chicago Summit? And what's the timeframe for coming up with a definitive proposal?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We have started preparations already. It's work in progress. I would be reluctant to present any exact deadline. Ultimately, of course, the deadline is by the end of 2014, but for planning reasons, understandable planning reasons, we need clarification sometime before that.

But having said that, it's also a fact that the exact profile of the post-2014 mission will very much depend on the actual security situation on the ground, as we approach the end of 2014. And this is the reason why I would be reluctant to present to you any exact deadline.

But I can assure you that we have started preparations already, and as you know, the core of that post-2014 mission will be a training mission with the aim to train, assist, give advice, to the Afghan Security Forces.

Oana Lungescu: (Inaudible).

Q: Oui, Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, j'ai deux questions concernant l'intention de retirer de quelques forces de vos Alliés de l'Afghanistan. Et le nombre ne fait qu'augmenter. On a cinq ou six pays maintenant qui formulent l'intention de retirer leurs troupes. Certains disent que cela est dû primordialement à la question de sécurité et la vie de leurs soldats. Mais d'autres évoquent aussi la question du budget de l'OTAN. Il semble qu'il y ait une crise quelque part, financière de l'OTAN. Comment expliquez-vous cela?

Deuxième question. Quelques mois après la chute du régime de Kadhafi, on attend toujours le rapport final des opérations de l'OTAN en Libye. Qu'est-ce qu'il en est?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Il n'y a pas une crise financière au sein de l'OTAN. Évidemment, il y a un défi économique. Mais je pense que nous avons trouvé une réponse à cette question au Sommet de Chicago. Et cette solution s'appelle la défense intelligente. Nous allons promouvoir la coopération multilatérale. Et nous avons, comme vous le savez, nous avons adopté un nombre... des projets concrets multinationaux. Et c'est une réponse très convaincante. C'est la voie à suivre pour éviter que la crise financière sera une crise de sécurité. Donc, il n'y a pas une crise financière au sein de l'OTAN; mais un défi économique. Et nous avons trouvé une solution. Et pourriez-vous répéter la question en Libye?

Q: Après quelques mois, voilà des mois que le régime de Kadhafi a chuté, on n'a pas encore eu le rapport final des opérations de l'OTAN en Libye, pourquoi?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Oui, mais nous avons reporté à l'ONU selon les règles.

Oana Lungescu: Jane's.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence. Yes, Secretary General, a question about the common funding. The purchase of the AGS, as we all know, was achieved with some political difficulty, a financial mechanism. And that is a group of 17, now 18 nations, are buying the equipment, and a large part of the operating costs will come out of NATO's common funding. However, this model is not a rule, it's an exception so far to the way SIP works. So my question to you is, for Smart Defence to move ahead, if you're going to pursue more of these multinational models, don't you need to reform... do the 28 intend to reform the way that funding is used within the common... the SIP fund? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, definitely. And that's also one of the follow-up works we adopted in Chicago. We will look closer into how our funding mechanisms work to make sure that they are fit for purpose, that they work efficiently, that we make the most efficient use of resources, that they are completely transparent.

So yes, in order to promote multinational projects we also need to reform our funding mechanisms so that all Allies feel confident that multinational projects and common funding are efficient ways of doing defence business.

Q: That does mean a loosening of the rules, in a word?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, you might well argue that it's also strengthening rules to make sure that things work transparently and efficiently.

Oana Lungescu: (Inaudible...) at the back.

Q: Thank you. I'm here. Yes, now it's okay. Last week KFOR started operations in the north to remove the barricades and the KFOR soldiers were attacked by local Serbs, or whoever they were. The statements coming from the Serbian officials was that by this KFOR is endangering peace and provoking situation there. And that for each barricade KFOR removes Serbs can build two new. So is KFOR going to continue the game removing barricades in order to see the new ones or this time really KFOR is … [inaudible] in mind to ensure freedom of movement in the north of Kosovo?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Three points. Firstly, our troops acted in self-defence. Secondly, I would commend the way in which our soldiers handled the situation. And thirdly, I can assure you that KFOR will continue to implement the United Nations mandate to maintain a secure environment and ensure the freedom of movement.

And KFOR conducts its operations in a status neutral and impartial way. I strongly regret that we saw violence in recent... during recent days. I urge all parties to do their utmost to stop violence and ensure a peaceful solution to the problems in the region, but I can assure you that KFOR will continue to implement fully the United Nations mandate.

Oana Lungescu: We have another question, also from Kosovo media.

Q: Yes, a newly-elected Serbian president is sending very dubious signals to the region, telling Croats that there are a few towns there that belong to Serbs, denying genocide in Srebrenica, telling Montenegros that they are the same as the Serbs, and he's a person who considered NATO as a criminal organization during the air strikes in 1999.

From the perspective of having a mission in Kosovo what do you think? Should you be more cautious now that there's a new political elite in Belgrade?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, on Srebrenica, I think it's for the International Tribunal in The Hague to make the legal judgment; what they have done already.

In general, of course, we monitor the situation closely. For my part I will not rely on... with all respects on media reports of a statement from the newly-elected Serbian president. I hope we can continue the positive dialogue we have had with Serbia.

My vision, as regards to Western Balkans is very clear. I would like to see all countries in the region integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures, the European Union and NATO, and I also hope, in that respect, to see improvement in the relationship between Serbia and NATO.

Oana Lungescu: Belgium News Agency.

Q: Yes, Gérard Gaudin, Belgium News Agency. I have two questions concerning the reverse transit. The first, is, now you have an agreement with three neighbouring countries of Afghanistan. What with further north, have you also an agreement for the reverse transit with Russia? First. And secondly, are there some limitations, restrictions, for instance, non-lethal equipment and so on?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, in general let me say that we do not comment on the concrete content of these transit arrangements. With Russia we have a transit arrangement, a reverse transit arrangement already, and the fact that we have now concluded a transit arrangement, three concrete transit arrangements with Central Asian countries at the Chicago Summit, will make the use of the Russian transit arrangement even more effective.

Oana Lungescu: Japanese media.

Q: Thank you very much. Japanese daily, Mainichi. My question is concerning nuclear weapons. In Chicago you declared (inaudible...) task appropriate committee to develop a concept including the case to reduce the reliance on non-strategic nuclear weapons. Could you elaborate this idea? Is there any concrete agenda, or is there any deadline? Or what is the relationship that this committee, the discussion and the negotiation between the U.S. and the Russia?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: There's no hidden agenda. You have seen everything clearly expressed in the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review that was published. It was adopted and published at the Chicago Summit. The general principles are very clear.

We have reiterated what NATO countries signed already in 1970 in a non-proliferation treaty that the grand vision is a world without nuclear weapons.

But we also clearly state that as long as nuclear weapons exist NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance. We have indicated in the Defence Posture Review that we would very much like to see a reduction in the tactical nuclear weapons, but we have added that in that case we also have to ensure the right balance; that such reductions take place in a balanced way. And the fact is that NATO nuclear powers have reduced their stockpiles of nuclear weapons significantly since the end of the Cold War, while we still have quite a number of Russian nuclear weapons.

So that disparity has to be taken into account. So in case we could reach agreement on a balanced reduction in the number of nuclear weapons, yes, we are in favour on that. We have clearly indicated that in the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review, but you can read everything in the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review; there is no hidden agenda.

Oana Lungescu: We have time for one last question. AFP.

Q: Yes, but Russia, do you still hope to meet Mr. Putin in the next few weeks? Or do you think he doesn't plan or want to meet you right now?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We have not discussed the concrete calendar issues. As you may recall I called him and congratulated him on his election a few days after the presidential elections, and we agreed to meet bilaterally in the not-too-distant future. But of course, at the end of the day it's also a calendar question and no date has been fixed yet.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much.