Pre-Summit Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Residence Palace, Brussels

  • 01 Sep. 2014
  • |
  • Last updated: 01 Sep. 2014 19:59

Good afternoon.

Our Summit in Wales this week will take place in a changed world.  It will address the challenges of a changed world. And so I expect it to be a crucial summit in NATO’s history.

This is a time of multiple crises on several fronts. To the east, Russia is intervening overtly in Ukraine.    To the south, we see growing instability, with fragile states, the rise of extremism, and sectarian strife.

These crises can erupt with little warning. Move at great speed. And they all affect our security in different ways.

NATO's greatest responsibility remains to protect and defend our populations and our territories. We also need the capacity to manage crises. And to work with partners to help build stability.

So at the Summit, we will ensure that the Alliance remains ready, able and willing to defend all Allies against any attack.

We will agree a Readiness Action Plan to make NATO more agile than ever.

The Readiness Action Plan responds to Russia’s aggressive behavior – but it equips the Alliance to respond to all security challenges, wherever they may arise.

We already have a NATO Response Force. This is a multinational force, which brings together land, air, maritime and special operation forces. It can be deployed anywhere in the world, for collective defence or crisis management.

We will now significantly enhance the responsiveness of our NATO Response Force. We will develop what I would call a spearhead within our Response Force – a very high readiness force able to deploy at very short notice. This spearhead would be provided by Allies in rotation, and could include several thousand troops, ready to respond where needed with air, sea and Special Forces support.

This will require reception facilities on NATO territory and pre-positioned equipment and supplies, command and control and logistics experts. So this force can travel light, but strike hard if needed.

We will also look at possible upgrades to national infrastructure. That could include airfields and ports to support reinforcements, if the need arises.

And we will improve our early warning through an upgrade of our intelligence gathering and sharing. We will update our defence plans; and enhance our training schedule with more exercises, of more types, in more places, more often.

The Readiness Action Plan will ensure that we have the right forces and the right equipment in the right place, at the right time. That also means more visible NATO presence in the East for as long as required. And it will make NATO fitter, faster and more flexible to adjust to all kinds of security challenges.

Not because NATO wants to attack anyone. But because the dangers and the threats are more present and more visible. And we will do what it takes to defend our Allies.  

But readiness requires resources.

So in Wales, I expect a commitment to increase defence investments as our economies recover. To spend the right amount of money on the right things – deployable forces, well trained and with modern equipment. So that we share the responsibility of collective defence as we share the benefits.

At the summit, we will meet with President Poroshenko of Ukraine and make clear our support for Ukraine, as it is confronted by Russia’s aggression. We will discuss his reform priorities. And take concrete steps to help Ukraine.

The crises we face reach far beyond our borders. That is why our approach to security reaches beyond our borders too.

We have an unparalleled network of partners around the world.  In Afghanistan we built the largest coalition in recent history, with one quarter of the world’s nations.  And  through  our operations, we have become better at working together than ever before.

In Wales, we will further improve the way we train, cooperate and consult with our partners. And strengthen and streamline the way we support countries which seek our help to develop their security institutions.  So that we can project stability without always projecting large numbers of troops.

We will also prepare a new chapter in our relationship with Afghanistan, as our combat mission draws to a close.

We have done what we set out to do. We have denied safe haven to international terrorists. We have built up capable Afghan forces of 350,000 troops and police. So our nations are safer, and Afghanistan is stronger.

We have planned a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces from next year and it will be launched once we have the legal arrangements in place.

So it is vital to see a conclusion to the electoral process in Afghanistan – a conclusion which is accepted by both candidates, and the Afghan people. 

So, there is still a lot of work to do.

The security landscape can change rapidly, but I am confident that NATO will go forward from the Wales Summit ready to rise to every challenge.     

And with that, I look forward to your questions.

 

MYANG (Ukrainian News Agency):  I have actually two questions for you. We saw already reports that some NATO members would like to see a break of the basic agreement between NATO and Russia. What is your personal opinion on this and do you see it coming at the Summit? The second question is will it be possible for Ukraine to become a member of NATO in the case if this conflict what we have right now will be frozen?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): First of all, I think the first part of your question refers to the so-called NATO-Russia Founding Act from 1997. NATO sticks to the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and all the measures that we’re going to take to enhance our collective defense will be in full accordance with the NATO-Russia Founding Act. What we have seen unfortunately is that Russia is in a blatant breach of the fundamental principles of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and we urge Russia to comply with the provisions of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. NATO sticks to the Founding Act. Next you asked me about Ukraine’s possible membership perspectives. As you will recall NATO made a clear statement on that at the NATO Summit in Bucharest 2008. We declared that Ukraine will become a member of NATO provided of course Ukraine so wishes and provided Ukraine fulfills the necessary criteria. In the meantime Ukraine has decided to pursue a so-called non-alliance policy. We fully respect that because we adhere to the principle that each and every nation has the right to decide on its security policies including alliance affiliation without an external interference. So we fully respect the choice of Ukraine, the same goes if Ukraine were to change its current policies of non-alliance position. In that case we will discuss with Ukraine how to move forward.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Jane’s Defence.

BROOKS (Jane’s Defence Review): Russia is undeniably an adversary of NATO and the West now, I think few observers would dispute that so I have a question for you and it’s a long one but I’ll read it slowly. Without naming names and without using the alibis that NATO does not comment on the defense decisions of individual allies because after all this is a matter of collective defense against a very aggressive country, my question to you, do you think as outgoing Secretary General that it is a good idea for individual allies to sell major weapon systems, such as for instance helicopter carriers to Russia which is clearly hostile to the alliance today? Your thoughts on that issue I’m sure would be greatly appreciated in allied capitals. Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: And I think you will appreciate that I stick to my line namely this is and it remains a national decision. It is not for NATO as an alliance to interfere with such national decisions. Questions regarding delivery of military equipment are national issues, and that’s why. Having said that, I am confident that each and every allied government will take such decisions mindful of the overall security situation and concerns expressed by fellow allies.

JIM NUGER (Bloomberg News): A question on the readiness action plan. As NATO troops rotate through the Eastern European frontlines states, how many do you expect to be on the ground at any given time and how many of the twenty eight allies do you expect to provide troops for these rotations?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: It’s a bit too early to speak about exact figures because the details will be worked out after the Summit. The Summit will take a decision on the plan as such provides the political framework but it will be quite detailed framework.  However as regards exact figures that will be decided at a later stage also based on military advice. For the same reason I am not able to answer the second part of your question how many allies will provide concrete troop contributions or concrete contributions of another kind. That remains to be seen but I can tell you that all twenty eight allies contribute to the current reassurance message one way or the other, one way or the other. Maybe not all of them with troop contributions but then they provide other contributions. So this is a truly collective alliance effort in which all twenty-eight allies contribute one way or other.

STEPHEN FIDLER (Wall Street Journal): You mentioned the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 which NATO will abide by. Is this one reason why one of the plans to respond to what the Russians have done in Ukraine is not permanent basing? In other words is this what prevents a permanent base with troops on the ground in Eastern Europe? And on the rapid, on the NATO response force you say very short notice, what is very short notice? Can you be more precise in terms of days and also when can we expect this force to be operational, this enhanced force to be operational?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on this question about permanent, the words permanent, personally I do believe that what matters is not words but real presence on the ground and actually very few things in life are permanent. Furthermore we are actually faced with a very volatile security situation an evolving security situation. So what matters is an ability to adjust and adapt to that evolving security situation very rapidly. So what matters is that we have what we need for as long as necessary. And that is exactly the essence of the readiness action plan. And I know that our Eastern allies that for many good reasons are very much concerned about the current security situation will be very pleased with this readiness action plan. The bottom line is you will see more visible NATO presence in the East. Now short notice, what is short notice. Now we are into all the military technical details that will be worked out after the Summit but I can assure you that it will be at very very short notice. So we are speaking about a very few days.

NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Since the Ukrainian government announced as you were meeting last weekend in the emergency NAC that it does plan to submit to parliament a request to change its non-alliance status and to seek new membership in NATO. After that you were interpreted on some media outlets as being encouraging towards that move and saying yes of course Ukraine has the right to do this but what kind of timeframe would you be talking about if in fact the new Ukrainian parliament did pass this? Ukraine seems to think that perhaps it would be a short time frame but if you look at the examples of Georgia and Moldova of course you know it’s probably not a short time frame. Have those discussions with the Ukrainian government begun at all after Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that? And secondly there was some surprise seemingly on social media that Russia was not invited to the Summit. Should Russia have been surprised that it did not get an invitation?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, I don’t think so. On Ukraine, what will happen is the following; I understand the current political leadership in Kiev envisages that the new parliament after parliamentary elections in Ukraine will change the legislation on non-alliance status. Now, we have to wait for elections, we have to wait for legislative procedure in the new Ukrainian parliament. If the parliament passes a legislation that removes the non-alliance provision then I would expect Ukraine to raise the issue with NATO within the NATO-Ukraine Commission and based on that Ukraine and NATO would then work out a plan for further development of the NATO-Ukraine partnership. As you indicated yourself, time lines here can be very difficult to predict because very much will depend on Ukraine, herself and Ukraine’s ability to actually carry through the necessary forms back to NATO standards and eventually fulfill the necessary criteria. So, it is very very difficult at this early stage of such a process to say anything about time lines.

GEORGIA MEDIA: Secretary General, Georgian delegation has come to Wales with the hopes that the package which NATO will offer Georgia will make the country more secure. Unfortunately is not membership action plan, but still can you tell us more about this package? How it will make country more secure, how it will prepare for membership as our main aim is membership of NATO? And also will a final document say more than in Bucharest. Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The Georgia package will definitely bring Georgia closer to NATO. Without going into too many details I can mention some of the headlines. We will establish what we call a defense capacity building mission in Georgia with a particular focus on the Ministry of Defense and assist Georgia in continued reforms and modernization of the defense and security sector. Next we will step up our efforts to improve the ability of Georgian armed forces to work and operate together with NATO forces including through more Georgian participation in NATO exercises. Thirdly, occasionally military exercises might also be organized in Georgia, in particular with a view to engaging NATO partners in such exercises. Fourth, we are also considering the establishment of a military training centre in Georgia again with a particular view to engaging NATO partners. There might also be a regional dimension in such a training centre. And finally we also are considering an expansion of the NATO liaison office in Tblisi. So, all in all you will see very concrete measures that will bring Georgia closer to NATO.

QUESTION IN FRENCH:

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on the NATO response force and the spearhead I described the purpose of this is of course to make sure that any potential aggressor knows that we are prepared to respond rapidly if needed. So it is to emphasize our collected offense according to Article 5 it is improved ability to act fast through reinforcement if needed. The spearhead force will be the first step, but of course it will be followed by more force if needed. But we do believe that there is a very strong deterrent effect of having such a response force at very high alert so that any potential aggressor knows that if they even started to think about attacking a NATO ally they would  meet not only national troops from that specific NATO ally but they would meet NATO troops. That is the purpose of this spearhead force. Now how to describe our relationship with Russia, honestly speaking, since the end of the Cold War we have spent a lot of efforts to develop a constructive partnership, a partnership with Russia and I think the peak of that was the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon November 2010. At that Summit we decided that we would develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. However, today we must face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner. We can see in Russian military documents, we can listen to statements from Russian political leaders that they consider NATO an adversary. I strongly regret that because I do believe that the right thing for Europe-Atlantic security would be to develop a strong partnership with Russia. But of course we can’t afford to be naïve, we don’t have any illusions we are faced with the reality that Russia considers us an adversary and we will adapt to that situation.

THE TIMES: The U.K. threat level, security level has been increased last week and U.K. police have warned of potential threats to the Summit potentially from even an Islamic state. I was wondering if you are worried that could happen and the Summit could be targeted? And also what kind of measures are going to be made by NATO countries potentially to respond to Islamic state in Syria and Iraq? Could you join with this coalition of the willing the U.S. are trying to get together?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on the terrorist threat I am not aware of a direct threat at the Summit as such but of course taking into account the security situation around us and of course not least the security situation in Syria and Iraq and the fact that fighters originating from our countries are travelling to Syria and Iraq and could potentially return and carry out terrorist attacks of course that general situation necessitates high alert. I have full confidence that the British authorities will address this issue in a very professional and efficient manner. On Iraq, I welcome that individual allies have taken steps to help the Iraqi government in different ways. I welcome the U.S. military engagement that is needed to stop the Islamic state from advancing further and eventually defeat the Islamic state. I also welcome that other allies have contributed in different ways but of course it’s for individual allies to take those decisions NATO as an alliance hasn’t received any requests for engagement.

AUSTRIAN RADIO/TV: A question on Afghanistan linked with Iraq. When the IS success in Iraq has been interpreted by many as a consequence of the fact that the American’s left to early, I wonder what kind of lessons do you draw for Afghanistan from that? From the experience of IS in Iraq, are there any that you see? Thanks.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all I would like to stress that as I see it there is a clear difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan we have helped build a very capable security force of 350,000 soldiers and police and we have seen them take the lead of our security operations during the last year and they have done so in a very professional manner. So we are confident that they will be able to take full responsibility for the security by the end of this year as planned. Having said that, obviously there are lessons to be learned from what we have seen in Iraq and I think Iraq is an example that it may be needed to continue defense capacity building and training activities to assist, to give advice to local security forces. Actually that was what we did in NATO until 2011. We had a NATO training mission in Iraq until 2011 but of course we had to withdraw because the Iraqi authorities did not prolong our security arrangements. I regret that but of course that was an Iraqi decision and we had to respect that. But I think it sends a signal that such training activities can be needed and that is exactly why we have offered to establish a training mission in Afghanistan after we complete our combat  mission. I am encouraged by the fact that both Presidential candidates have declared that they are ready to sign the necessary legal arrangements soon after taking office. So I am still confident that we will be able to deploy a training mission to Afghanistan from the first of January 2015 as planned.

MODERATOR: We only have a few minutes left. I will go with the BBC.

JONATHAN MARKS (BBC): Back to the question of the French and the mistral if you may. From NATO’s perspective everything in this Summit is about sending signals and determination and resolve to Moscow. It might seem strange therefore to many people that one ally at least is re-enforcing Russia’s dispositions at the present time. Can you tell us whether NATO has considered seriously that perhaps the alliance should take over the order for two landing ships from France and if you haven’t considered that why not?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: It has not been considered because the issue has not been raised and as I said in my previous answer this is for the French government to make that decision. Should the French government raise such an issue I’m sure allies would have a discussion on that but I’m not going to pre-judge the outcome of that discussion.

REUTERS: Can you comment on President Putin’s comment over the weekend that he wants media talks on statehood for the Southern and Eastern Ukraine? And second on the readiness action plan, how many forward operating bases do you expect there to be in Eastern Europe and the Baltics and who will pay for these infrastructure improvements you say will be needed?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on President Putin’s statement, well I think first and foremost it is for the Ukrainian’s to decide what should be the future of their country and I have noted that President Poroshenko has announced that he is willing to carry forward reforms that would take into account views expressed by representatives of the Eastern regions of Ukraine. I think the Ukrainian’s should discuss this, I think Ukrainian’s should take decisions without outside interference. Ukraine is a sovereign nation and it is for the Ukrainian people to decide the future of their country. On the readiness action plan, today I am not able to give an exact figure as to how many forward operating bases we will see. This is part of the military details that will be worked out after the Summit. And finally who will pay, well we know that this will be a joint effort so all allies will one way or the other will participate in paying for this and this is the reason why I argued that we will have to increase defense investments in the coming years. In more specific terms I know and I also appreciate that host nations that are nations that may receive such re-enforcements are willing to provide what we call host nation support. So this will be a true collective effort in the spirit of solidarity.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I know there are many other questions that we don’t have time to answer now. We hope to see you all in Wales. Hopefully we’ll see some of you at our technical briefing later on this afternoon at NATO Headquarters. Thank you.