Press briefing

by the NATO Spokesperson and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation- Full transcript

  • Last updated: 09 May. 2012 08:59

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good afternoon. And good morning in Norfolk, Virginia, from where I think we'll soon see joining us the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Stéphane Abrial, who will be joining us by video-teleconference from his headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. We can't see him yet. But I think he will be there very soon. So before General Abrial appears on screen, let me say a few words on elections this weekend.

The Secretary-General is planning to speak to President Elect François Hollande to congratulate him very soon. The Secretary General looks forward to discussing the full range of issues on NATO's agenda, including Afghanistan with the new French President. And of course, he looks forward to meeting him at the Chicago Summit. France, as we all know is a staunch Ally. NATO counts on France and France can count on NATO.

Second, we welcome the calm and peaceful voting process in Kosovo in the Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections and the responsible behaviour of leaders both in Priština and Belgrade in this critical period. We congratulate the OSCE for the outstanding work as a facilitator in the voting process and all local and international actors who contributed to good security environment this weekend. And finally, we commend KFOR for the outstanding job in maintaining the safe and secure environment in Kosovo and the excellent coordination of Camp KFOR General Drevs and his troops with EULEX and all relevant organizations on the ground.

I can see a lot of our colleagues in Norfolk making signs. Can we just check that General Abrial is there? I can see his top staff. So no doubt he will be there. Jerome, can you press a button and tell us if it will work?

Yes, can you just find out if it works? Thank you. OK. So they're doing a test with white for the cameras. That's what that is. I'm sure as you all know. It looks great as far as I can tell.

UNIDENTIFIED: It looks white.

OANA LUNGESCU: It looks white which is what it should do... That's a problem. It's quite early in the morning in Norfolk, Virginia. I think it's just before 8:00 o'clock. So obviously, everybody has been working very hard to make it happen. And so I'll just carry on by introducing General Abrial who I hope will be up there on screen very soon.

Nous sommes comme vous savez....

(INTERPRETATION THROUGHOUT)

As you know we're almost two weeks away from the Chicago Summit. The agenda is a very heavy one. I will explain briefly what's happened over the last couple of weeks after the statement by General Abrial and after your questions to him.

Of course one of the three major topics will be how to maintain strong defence in times of economic austerity. As you know, General Abrial is ideally placed to answer this question as the Secretary General's Special Representative for SMART Defence and with the Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

If General Abrial is there as I hope it will be the case, I'll give him the floor. And I'd like to thank him for having accepted this invitation so early in the morning in the US. General if you're there, please take the floor. If not, I can continue....

OANA LUNGESCU: We are having a slight technical problem for which I apologize. I think everybody is making great efforts to make it happen. So as they do, let me update you on the rest of NATO's agenda as we countdown to the summit.

As you know, the Secretary General has started his pre-summit visits after his trips to Madrid and Rome. Last week, he went to London and Berlin. In London, he met Prime Minister Cameron; Foreign Secretary William Hague. In Berlin, he held talks with Chancellor Merkel and her team. Overall, there is agreement that the summit will focus on three main goals: 1) Afghanistan, completing transition and defining our commitment after 2014; 2) capabilities, building security in a time of austerity; and 3) partnerships, strengthening our global network of partners at what will be the biggest NATO Summit in history with over 60 countries and organizations represented.

There's also agreement that we're sticking to the timetable for transition in Afghanistan. We're sticking to the principal of in-together out-together. And we're sticking to our pledge of an enduring commitment to Afghanistan after transition is completed by the end of 2014.

I can now see General Abrial who's joining us from Norfolk. So I will brief you on what will happen after today, after we hear from General Abrial.

Comme je disais le General Abrial est...

And as I said, General Abrial is ideally placed to answer your questions on Smart Defence because he is the Secretary General's Special Representative for Smart Defence. And I shall pay... We'll give him the floor. General, please.

UNIDENTIFIED: Voilà, français ou anglais...

OANA LUNGESCU: He'll do both. I think General Abrial, once we hear him, will be able... will address you both in English and in French.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL (General, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation): Vous m'entendez maintenant?

UNIDENTIFIED: Oui.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Est-ce que vous m'entendez?

OANA LUNGESCU: General, I think we can hear you...

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Good, well thanks you Oana. And good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. The last time we met we have decided that we should meet as often as possible. Unfortunately, it hasn't been possible given hectic events. But I'd like to thank Oana for the possibility she's given us of having this discussion. And I hope that in future we'll be able to have more VTCs because it's a very practical arrangement.

Now this meeting today is very important because we're barely two weeks away from the Chicago Summit. And I think that this summit like the Lisbon Summit will be extremely important in terms of its content and in terms of the symbolism it represents.

And on that point, it's only the third summit ever held on American soil. And it's the first one since the one in 1999 so over 10 years ago. And it's the first one that will be held in the American heartland, outside Washington.

But first and foremost, today, I'd like to concentrate on Smart Defence which will be one of the main issues, and which is at the heart of my mission as the Secretary General Special Representative for Smart Defence. I know that you understand what this concept is all about. So I'm not going to dwell on its history. But I would like to give you my vision in two directions: the signal sent and the substance.

Now, the main message sent by Smart Defence is the nations' wish to preserve their military capabilities by acting together with the NATO support to face up to the pressures on all defence budgets. And it's also the translation on the fundamental aspects of the Alliance that is solidarity between its members.

Now, following on from the new strategic concept adopted in Lisbon, this message strengthens the perception of the desire the nations have to commit within NATO. And it's an optimistic message which is shared by all of us and which has to be translated into deeds.

As a mutual commander, my primary focus will of course be on substance. Smart Defence is part of the defence package for Chicago which regroups all transformation initiatives... sorry which regroups all transformation initiatives to improve the Alliance's capabilities.

I am confident that the summit will give us a strong mandate in this area, and out of a promising list, first list of projects will be agreed and formalized. The key to putting together this package was a tremendous work done with the nations over this past year to force all multinational approaches.

For then, we collected many good ideas for cooperation projects. The response was fabulous in areas ranging from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to logistics and maintenance and from force protection to training. The truth is endless. Then work suggesting developing a framework which allows better, multinational sharing of munitions, especially precision ones. And as you know, this comes in a response to one of the main lessons from our recent operation in Libya. And this last point is characteristic of the package that is being assembled. A great number of these projects now taking off are really about helping fill a key capability requirement.

Another illustration is a momentum given to a development of joint intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. Also, Italy, to take one more example has taken the lead in sitting up a cooperation project around a remote control, route clearance capability which will be crucial for freedom of movement in areas polluted by these roadside bombs.

Yet, a momentum should not stop there. In my mind, the first wave of projects has always aimed at fostering others. And we would then encourage nations to continue examining promising proposals. But also making the most of Smart Defence after Chicago will not only be about developing such projects. Smart Defence would also commit Allies to a long-term strategic initiative of the business multinational cooperation, privatization and with appropriate specialization.

As Secretary General Rasmussen reminds us, Smart Defence is not one of summit slogan. In fact, it is a change of mindset and now a way to do business that will continue to unfold well into the future. Even when better times are with us again.

It will require relying on lasting mechanisms. But we'll translate today's momentum into something enduring. The NATO-EU cooperation could also be a powerful outcome of the Chicago Summit, not least in light of what has been done in relation to Smart Defence and the EU's pooling and sharing initiative.

We, in NATO, in an incentive particular, are working intensively start to start with our EU counterparts, not only to avoid duplication. But also to make sure that the projects promoted by both organizations are complimentary. To reserve this is said to be most encouraging as I'm sure will be apparent in fields such as training of military aircraft, flying personnel and ground crews of many supporting operations. This shows the potential of the NATO-EU relationship still grows as we move forward.

I also would like to mention the importance of associating industry to our Smart Defence Air Force. Of course, this initiative is not only about procurement. But it is obvious that a real change of mindset must be reflected in that, of our industrial counterparts.

It is not heresy to suggest they may be proactive in discerning areas of potential cooperation. This is a spirit behind a framework for cooperative... collaborative interaction which my command launched in October 2009, in which I'm now expanding to small and medium size businesses.

And finally, Smart Defence will be complimented by the benefits of a Connected Forces Initiative which also calls for further development of more cooperation where Smart Defence aims at ensuring that the Alliance has immediate capabilities to fulfill its missions, connected forces through an enhanced education training, reinforce the sizes and its focus on technology. We'll see to it that these capabilities can work together. The keyword here is very clearly interoperability.

So as you see a lot of perspectives. And indeed in this field, the Chicago Summit will not only be about fulfilling the promises of Lisbon but will open really new chapters outright. Thank you.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much and we could hear you loud and clear. We managed to get a smart connection in the end. And I'll now open the floor to questions. And I'll start with Jane's. Brooks, please introduce yourself as well.

Q: Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence Weekly. General, I have a question about security of supply. Indeed, as you alluded to earlier, we are looking probably at some specialization among the member States of NATO. Already, certain countries have eliminated whole sections of their capability. I'm thinking of the Dutch with their armored main battle tanks. Norway and the UK are getting rid of their maritime patrol aircrafts. How is the Alliance going to address that? Or will the supply and security only remain bilaterally between those countries who choose to share with others? Shouldn't this be addressed collectively? Thank you.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Actually, we do address all these issues collectively since as you know we are.... NATO has a very strong process called the Defence Planning Process in which we analyze what are our shortfalls and how to compensate for them.

Now, part of Smart Defence is a plea to the nation to consult more with each other when they make heavy decisions on their own defence institutions. So add globally the capabilities which are available to the Alliance are a coherent pool which enables us that address all the missions which are exercises government decide to give us.

The notion of specialization is one of three pillars of Smart Defence as you might mention. What we see today is what we call a specialization by default. What we aim for tomorrow is a specialization by design where there will be more consultation and the global coherent capability landscape for the Alliance will be taken into consideration before a big decision is made.

OANA LUNGESCU: DFT Deutschland (?).

Q: I'm Benjamin Dex (?) from DFG (?) Deutschland. General, you've just mentioned in some of your last remarks, working together, cooperating with the industry. Hum, I reckon that for most politicians it's even... when you talk about Smart Defence tempting to... you know, give procurement, you know give jobs to the national company so are you already preparing those companies that... you know the procurement market might not be as national anymore as it used to be and how are you preparing these companies for the new challenges?

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Well, my answer is very easy: I have no responsibility in procurement. And NATO has no responsibility in organizing the industrial landscape of the market per se. What we do is we try to make sure that we address the interest of any individual nation. And this is I think one of the main characteristics and the beauty of Smart Defence: we match the global needs that (inaudible) of the Alliance and the coherent vision we have for the Alliance as a whole which the individual interest of every single nation. This was a call of our discussions when I travelled through all the capitals in the past months. Every time, the notion of industry has been addressed to me by the ministries of the political side in every nation.

This is the reason why, as I mentioned, we continue in SACT. We have a strong engagement with the industry. We are now launching a few initiatives together with ASGEI (?). We had a sitting held in London a few weeks ago. We are going to hold our industry together in September which will be a whole of NATO Industrial Day. We think... But what we need to do is to give everybody a fair chance. The principles behind our FFCI framework for collaborative interaction is that it's fair, it's transparent, it's ordered.

The difficulty we have so far is that we have mainly addressed major companies because we know them; because they know us; and because they have, I could say enough surface and volume to be able to invest in some projects with no prospect for short-term return.

The next phase which I launched in the industry, in September last year is now addressing small and medium size businesses. Because with a host of innovation in these companies and also because if we are successfully identifying and addressing these SMEs, then we will also to be interest of every nation whatever the size. This is the vision.

OANA LUNGESCU: National Public Radio.

Q: Thank you, I think these are for you, unless the General wants to jump in and I don't think he will. Question on Russia. First, we have Vladimir Putin being inaugurated as president again. And on the same day, the Russian Chief-of-Staff General Makarov is saying once again that NATO placing its missile defence installations in Eastern Europe could again be cause for targeting. He made that statement today.

And the second unrelated question, there's also a story today in Washington about NATO releasing Afghan detainees, something like 20 former insurgents, because they were deemed to possibly be helpful in reconciliation talks with the Taliban. I'm wondering if you could confirm and elaborate on that. Thank you.

OANA LUNGESCU: I haven't seen the statement from General Makarov today. Obviously, we've seen the inauguration of President Putin which I think we can say is a sign of the continuity in the leadership of Russia and in the policies of Russia. You must remember that it was President Putin who after all agreed with NATO Allies, the creation of the NATO-Russia Council back in 2002. And we can see that we've had real progress through the NATO-Russia Council in that period of time. And we agreed the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon in 2010 that we will continue to engage with the aim of creating strategic partnership with Russia. And that remains our goal.

We've made important progress in a range of areas in the last few years for example on Afghanistan; on counter-terrorism; on counter-narcotics; on piracy. And we continue our commitment to build the strategic partnership. We haven't made as much progress as we were hoping for in the area of missile defence. But clearly our system is neither designed nor directed against Russia. We have no intention to attack Russia. And we hope that NATO (sic) has no intention of attacking us because that is the spirit of the NATO-Russia founding act of 15 years ago and of the Lisbon Summit in 2010.

And that's the spirit in which NATO will continue to work with Russia and with the Russian political leadership. On former insurgents, I don't have any information. And I think it's probably better if you talk to ISAF in Kabul on that specific subject. Agence France-Presse.

Q: Oui, je peux vous poser une question en français.

Thank you, I'd like to ask a question in French. Smart Defence is only at its beginnings. Could you give us more information about the schedule? When do you think the project could be considered a success? And could you be more precise regarding its long-term objectives?

SÉBASTIEN ABRIAL: Thank you very much. It's bit strange for me because you speak in French. But what I receive is the translation in English. So I'm just going to keep on speaking in French and I hope that everybody will have a translation.

The first step is very important and that would be Chicago. It will be a summit during which the heads of State and government will not only make decisions at a political level for this initiative, they will approve it. They will launch it officially. And they will formally endorse it.

And secondly, this political commitment will be supported by a sequence of very pragmatic projects that will be finalized, that will be formalized during that summit. I can tell you that we are looking at between 20 and 25 projects going from teaching to logistics at a multinational level from medical to force protection and so on.

All these projects are relatively simple projects that could be implemented rather quickly. That was... that were the terms of reference that the countries gave us when they started asking questions about Smart Defence in March last year. The objective is to prove the validity of the concept and to implement as soon as possible for that point of departure with a political commitment and the support given through agreed projects will be able to work on civil objectives: four several... four objectives.

First of all, we need to fine-tune the concept further. We need to work with the nations in order to see what are the main important points to them. We need to keep on going in-depth into this.

Secondly, we need to implement. Projects will be endorsed in Chicago. As I told you there will 20 to 25 projects in 45 categories.

Thirdly, we will need to tackle the more or less 200 ideas that we have on the table now. And we need to identify those that could belong to the first category i.e. ideas that could be implemented rather quickly. First category for us are projects that were proposed by one or several nations was endorsed by us as it satisfies capability requirement from NATO and for which one nation agreed to take the lead. So this ensures a nice momentum and it sort of guarantees that such projects could be implemented.

Then, we need to look for new ideas. But we will not stop here. We need new ideas. We will use Chicago as a springboard for long-term commitment and dynamic in order to change the frame of mind in the field of dealing with requirements not only in procurement but also in doctrine organization, training, education and so on.

It will be very difficult to give you a very precise schedule. But among those 20 to 25 scheduled projects that will be formalized in Chicago, some of those projects will be implemented in the next coming months. What is important to remember is that we need to start the work and on that basis we will be able to tackle more ambitious projects that will be more complex, that will be more long-term. That will require a more substantial budget and which will be closer to our priorities.

OANA LUNGESCU: Le Monde.

Q: Bonjour, Jean-Pierre...

Jean-Pierre Stroobants from Le Monde. General, the European defence ministers have talked about the European Defence Agency initiatives which are presented as other Smart Defence initiatives. How will this be combined with NATO's work? Is there going to be a European Smart Defence within NATO Smart Defence. From the outset, we had the green light from the nations to avoid duplication between NATO Smart Defence and Pooling and Sharing of the European Union. So what we've done is carry out intense contact between both military staffs with our partners in the European Union. And we have made sure that there is no redundancy or duplication in the projects.

Obviously, there's a certain amount, natural amount of duplication. Because the countries present the same sort of ideas to both institutions. And so we looked at lists and we compare them. And then the nation said: "Now, why are you trying to duplicate some things between the two organizations." And we decided that we've got to avoid this. And I think we've got to a point where I can talk about non-duplication, but much more complementarity of the two initiatives.

For example, in terms of medical support to our operations, there were two very similar initiatives: one within NATO and one within the EU proposed by two different countries, when we coordinated these two ideas so that they are now fully complement... complimentary to each other.

And NATO, we're going to trying to establish norms, standards to try and guarantee interoperability. And on the EU side, they are going to look at the ways and means to try and find the modules which can be brought together to have a better support for our soldiers in operations if there are major casualties.

There's another example that I can give you is that of in-flight refueling. Everyone said, in Libya, we had lessons to learn there. Now, from NATO side, we can't really say there's any major problem in terms of in-flight refueling. But there's an imbalance on both sides of the Atlantic.

And so looking at both points of view, it has been decided... that the EU should take on board a specific project for in-flight refueling from procurement to implementation. There's going to be an exchange of fuel and so on. And this is for example what the Air Command in Europe is doing. But this is going to be an initiative carried on within the European Union to try and reinforce existing capabilities that can be made available according to the circumstances for an EU operation or for a NATO operation. So once again, this, the NATO... sorry, this notion of complimentary, of mutual reinforcement.

OANA LUNGESCU: Jane's, a follow-up?

Q: Jane's... General, I have to come back to supply and security. You mentioned the DPP, the Defence Planning Process. With all due respect, this is largely a paper consultative exercise which is not binding and which the member States have largely ignored for decades. And it does not deal with security of supply. Therefore, if we are looking at some degree of specialization among the Member States, I repeat my question: Do the Allies need to address collectively security of supply issues or not? It's a straightforward question. Yes or No, thank you.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: I may think that my English is not good enough to understand exactly. Could you give me your definition of security of supply?

Q: I have the tanks. You have the ammunition in another country. I need the ammunition. Are you going to give them to me or not? And should this be done collectively or just between the two Allies concerned, thank you.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Right, this is part of what we're addressing in Smart Defence also. But there is, of course, a whole lot of bilateral issues. But we do address it collectively or at least multinationally. And I gave you the example of this initiative led by Denmark on managing munitions. The idea was born in view of one lesson from Libya. Some nations have difficulties replenishing their stock, and having... this determination to fulfill the nation.

Now, the vision would be about nations that do contribute together. The group of nations... of nations contributes together in all or some aspects of the life cycle of ammunition. It can start the procurement; but it can also start after procurement when you put everything in a depot, manage them together. And then maintain them together. Other nations will have the right to use these ammunitions; I would say we have to define the criteria. But it could be for example the percentage of contribution to a project. I think this is a good example of how to make sure that we do not face shortages in the future.

Another good example is an initiative which is currently led by Canada where Canada is working with other nations on a universal interface for remediation for our aircraft, which will enable any... or as any many as possible aircraft to carry and to use... to deliver any type of ammunition and not only those which have been foreseen at the beginning when the airports was designed on paper or computer. So these are examples of the fact that we do address this security of supply together.

OANA LUNGESCU: OK, AP...

Q: General, Slobolek from the AP. Now, NATO has been trying to achieve interoperability in many areas that you mentioned for about 60 years. And it still hasn't done it. What's...? Are you confident that Smart Defence will finally actually achieve results? Or is that just one more step in this futile quest for interoperability?

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: First of all, I would challenge your initial statement that we did not have been successful in addressing the interoperability in the last 60 years. We have. But interoperability is continuously moving target. We need to address it every day. And we will continue to address it in the future. It may be news to you that interoperability is at the heart of what we do here in NATO, and specifically in Allied Commander Transformation. NATO is about interoperability.

So my vision is that Smart Defence we contribute to it, so we encourage the nations to do as many things as they think they can together. But not at 28 because one of the things we have accessed when we studied the multinational cooperation from the past is that the numbers can be an important criteria. So we encourage in the framework of Smart Defence multinational projects in groups of I would... three to seven, eight nations. And the more nations who think together, of course, the more interoperability is ensured from the outside.

The second aspect is the other initiative which is a complement to Smart Defence which is the Connected Forces Initiative. And Connected Forces Initiative, we will work on education and training. We will work on big exercising. And we will work on the technological aspects of interoperability.

So Smart Defence will again make sure that the nation... that the Alliance does have the capabilities needed to fulfill the missions. And in so doing.... Since in Smart Defence, it's done multinationally, we inject an additional level of interoperability. And then connected forces initiatives will ensure that all these capabilities do work together. So interoperability again is at the heart of our whole work. And we will continue working out of it.

Currently, we... For instance, one part of our job we have in the ACT is to make sure, especially when we work with the industry and free procurement work to make sure that interoperability is still at the outset of any projects.

And another part is to make sure that we can add layers of interoperability on existing pieces of equipment for example. So there are many strands of work. And we continue working... I would not accept the statement that we are not successful. But I will share with you a fact that we always make progress. And we are making progress.

OANA LUNGESCU: Europa Press.

Q: Well, thank you. I think it's more for you, Oana. But I don't know if General Abrial wants to say something given his French nationality; maybe he has some extra information. It's concerning after the victory of Hollande, are you worried that he will pull out all French troops this year? So earlier than even President Sarkozy was planning on doing. Do you... do you think it's still possible to maintain the concept of in...together-out together? And is Secretary General hoping that this incognita will be resolved in the bilateral conversation that he will have? So does he expect today an announcement from Hollande about his plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan? Thank you.

OANA LUNGESCU: I think first we need to wait until President Hollande is sworn in. So we will not interfere with that process in France which is part of the democratic process and it's not for us to prejudge it. But I think what I can say very clearly is that France makes a very valued contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. It's being committed to our mission in Afghanistan from the start and it continues to remain committed to Afghanistan.

France is making an important contribution to ensuring that transition is on track to be completed by the end of 2014 as all NATO leaders agreed with President Karzai at the Lisbon Summit in 2010. That timetable will be reaffirmed in Chicago. And Mr. Hollande made clear during the election campaign that any decisions on the next stage will be taken in consultation with NATO Allies. And that is exactly why all NATO leaders are meeting in Chicago where we expect that they will have a thorough discussion on all the issues on the agenda, including on Afghanistan and will take decisions together as always happens in NATO.

France has also made clear its commitment to the future of Afghanistan. Remember France has already signed a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan which includes trainers after 2014. So throughout France has made clear its very strong and continued commitment to training Afghan forces and to supporting Afghanistan through and beyond 2014.

Over here.

Q: Bonjour, mon Général. Yan

Yan Cordisev (?) from European Diplomacy Defence. Two questions. First on the specific Smart Defence project. You sort of mentioned figures 20 to 25 projects. I assume that this means there are twenty that in the last category and therefore mature and can be presented. But that would mean that there are five that are not quite ready.

Could you give us some details on these five outstanding projects? What are the problems? Why can't you wrap them up? And do you think that in two weeks, you'll be able to move them into the last category?

And my second question is the modules for medical support. You said that this was a good example of complimentary with the Pooling and Sharing Initiative at the EU. One of the EU's aims is to deploy these modules in military operations theaters but also during humanitarian crises or natural disasters. Do you think that NATO is the best organization for this sort of standard setting for these modules? If these modules are going to be deployed to a non-military theater, a much more humanitarian assistance? Thank you very much.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: I may express myself badly because I don't speak French very often. When I said 20 to 25...it's not that we've reached 20 and we're going to get to 25... it's we're about 22 or 23. There is no major specific projects that have major stumbling blocks. We are continuing to work on these. But on a day-to-day basis, nations can change their viewpoints. But we do act on a permanent basis with all the nations concerned. Because once again this initiative is for the nations, by the nations. And our work is the work as facilitator here.

So as when the nations take their decisions we take stock of this and we can actually finalize their projects. So I can't... I think we're actually 23... 23 to be quite specific. We'll see if there's another two projects that can be improved between now and Chicago. But I still think it's a good example of the validation of the concepts, the projects in Smart Defence.

Now, in the field of Smart Defence, I don't... sorry the modules... I don't think there will any real problem. Because we set the standards which allow the modules to interact.

We're not going to define exactly what the medical requirements are in each type of operation. That is not a subject for Smart Defence. Smart Defence is to help nations do things together. And so interoperability for us in terms of standardization allows nations to have their modules, to make sure that these modules can actually work together.

Then it's up to the nations, because the nations are always the owners of the assets to deploy modules as and when they see fit. And it means so we can set up a military... sorry medical operation in a military operation or in some other type of operation, humanitarian assistance all that... But at least we have a medical facilitator that would work. But it's... we're not going to decide on the type of operation. That's not what we do. And we want to be able to correspond to all spectrums of missions.

Q: Oui. One last question. Agence Bulgare. General, could you give us a few figures in terms of percentage the economies, the savings that you generated regarding the separated acquisition or separated procurement strategies.

STÉPHANE ABRIAL: It's a bit early to tell. We're only at the beginning of those projects. No project was implemented yet. And each and every nation contributing to these projects need to carry out some kind of study in order to see what's going on. What I can say, in principle, is the fact that we work together is beneficial for two reasons. First of all, it's interoperability. That's obvious with everybody.

And secondly, the fact that we are controlling the cost, keeping them down at any rate. So this allows certain nations to continue dealing with a wider range of capabilities. And it enables other nations to simply access those capabilities that they would not be able to fund if they were alone dealing with such projects. The analysis of the savings will be carried out later, I think. But this is a very strong message; is at the heart of Smart Defence. Smart Defence aims at maintaining or creating capabilities all necessary for the missions that we are entrusted with. And Smart Defence can in no way be seen as a means to save money in the field of defence. On the contrary.

OANA LUNGESCU: (Merci) beaucoup, mon Général. Merci d'avoir pris...

Thank you General. Thank you for having taken the time and trouble to come or to be in contact with us from Norfolk. Good day.

This was General Stéphane Abrial. As you can see, the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation who joined us from Norfolk Virginia. And he spoke on the record.

I just have two other points that I didn't manage to mention at the start. Tomorrow, the Secretary General is heading to Washington where he'll be meeting President Obama to discuss the final preparations for the Chicago Summit. And on Friday, he'll be holding his monthly press conference here in Brussels at which he will outline in greater detail what he expects for the summit.

As I'm sure you've already seen, last week, the Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Vershbow was in Moscow where he took part in the missile defence conference organized by the Russian Ministry of Defence. And in his speech, that is on the website, he stressed that NATO-Russia cooperation on missile defence could transform bilateral ties into a true strategic partnership. He also made clear as did the Secretary-General in Berlin last week that our missile defence system is not directed against Russia and that cooperation between NATO and Russia would strengthen strategic stability and build confidence and trust.

And as I'm sure you know, in Chicago, we expect NATO leaders to announce an interim missile defence capability for NATO. And of course, our dialogue with Russia on cooperating on missile defence will continue beyond Chicago. So that's it for me. If you have any other questions...?

Q: Next briefing on Friday?

OANA LUNGESCU: The briefing on Friday?

UNIDENTIFIED: Downtown.

OANA LUNGESCU: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED:At Residence.

OANA LUNGESCU: At Residence Palace.

Q: Two o'clock?

OANA LUNGESCU: I'm not quite sure about the time. We will let you know in good time.

UNIDENTIFIED:It's downtown.

OANA LUNGESCU: It will be downtown. And Gérard.

Q: Well, coming to Russia....

OANA LUNGESCU: Yes.

Q: There was an invitation I think sent to Russia to be present in Chicago for the ISAF meeting. Do you have any answer from the Russians?

OANA LUNGESCU: I'm not sure if there is an answer. But absolutely that invitation was sent out to a Russian delegation to join us for the ISAF meeting in Chicago.

Q: Speaking of invitations, Oana, can you confirm whether (inaudible) were invited?

OANA LUNGESCU: My expectation is that there will be a significant participation from the European Union as indeed there is for practically all high-level NATO meetings.

Q: But together whether it will be General (Inaudible...) …. Paddy Ashdown.

OANA LUNGESCU: I think that all three of them have been invited. But it's... I can't go into details. Because again, there's the invitations are all in different phases. But my understanding is that they have been invited. Brooks.

Q: Yes, there was a point on the partnerships that are part of the trilogy of things on the agenda in Chicago. Is the idea just to expand the range of activities with existing partners or to establish formal partnerships with new countries?

OANA LUNGESCU: I don't expect the Chicago Summit to establish any new format in terms of partnership. The intention is rather to broaden and deepen and strengthen the existing partnerships that we have. Because NATO does have a unique network of partners that spans the globe. And we can see those partnerships in action every day. We see them in Afghanistan where ISAF, of course, is made up not only of the 28 NATO Allies but also 22 partners. In Kosovo, where we have seven partners. And of course, we saw that very recently in Libya where our partners from Western Europe to the Gulf and North Africa played a major political and operational role.

Q: So basically it's just... if it's just strengthening what exists, that means partnership for peace? Or just more diplomatic ties strengthening ties with Japan or the UAE or what? And what do we talk...?

OANA LUNGESCU: It means strengthening existing ties with a whole range of partners that make very specific contributions whether those contributions are operational or political or financial.

Q: No change for PFP program?

OANA LUNGESCU: There's no change to the PFP program. I can confirm that. I can also confirm that the ISAF meeting will be the biggest on record.

Q: Didn't confirm?

OANA LUNGESCU: Damien tells me that the briefing by the Secretary General will be at 10 o'clock on Friday at Residence Palace.

Q: Do you know how many head of States and government will be present in Chicago?

OANA LUNGESCU: I don't know how many will be present because obviously they have to confirm and make all the travel arrangements. And these things as you know take some time. But our expectation is that they will be around 60 heads of State, governments and representatives of international organizations represented around the table in Chicago. So we expect this to be the biggest summit in NATO history. Heft (?) Deutschland.

Q: Can you confirm that the EU will be taking part in the partnership meeting?

OANA LUNGESCU: I'm not going to confirm any participation in any particular meeting because the program is still being finalized as we speak. But I can confirm as I have already that the European Union has been invited at the highest level to take part in the summit.

OK, thank you very much indeed. Sorry about the slide technical itches early on.