Press conference by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers session

  • Last updated: 23 Oct. 2013 09:35

Good evening.

We have had very productive meetings today and Ministers have addressed several key issues.  Let me point to three:

First, we have just taken a significant step forward in our Connected Forces Initiative.

An even more rigorous and systematic approach to our training and exercises is key in reaching our goal of NATO Forces 2020: modern, tightly connected forces equipped, trained, exercised, and commanded so that they can operate together, and with partners, in any environment.

This is how we will ensure that the hard-won experience of 20 years of operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere is retained.

We have agreed on the key elements of that programme. And we have agreed that our experts will now work on it as a matter of priority, ahead of next year’s NATO Summit in the United Kingdom.

We will hold a major live exercise in 2015. This exercise will involve a significant number of deployed forces on land, at sea and in the air.

Spain, Portugal and Italy have offered to host and I thank them for their commitment.

From 2016 onwards, we will conduct such major live exercises on a regular basis, with a broader scope and covering the full range of Alliance missions. To make sure our troops are prepared to deal with the challenges on the horizon.

We have also agreed today to draw up a broader concept for training and exercises up to 2020 – to make sure that everything we do is coherent and connected, within the Alliance and with partner countries.

Secondly, we also discussed cyber defence.

NATO’s first priority is, of course, to defend our own networks.  Today we concluded that we are on track in upgrading our ability to protect NATO’s networks against this fast-evolving threat.

Cyber defence is a national responsibility. But we all agree that NATO can, and NATO should, play a useful role to facilitate the development of strong national cyber defence capabilities.

For example, by setting out what capabilities nations need. Promoting the ability to work, operate and communicate together through training, education and exercises. Sharing information, intelligence and best practices amongst Allies. And by helping nations to come together to develop capabilities in joint projects. This is the way to make sure that every link in the chain of our cyber defences is strong.

Finally, we discussed missile defence, and our programme to defend our populations, territory and forces against missile attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Last year, at the Chicago NATO Summit, we declared what we call the interim capability in our missile defences.

As a next step in our U.S.-led missile defence in Europe, a groundbreaking for the land-based Aegis system will take place in Romania by the end of October.  This is complex work, and we are making steady progress.

All of these issues addressed today by Ministers are vital to NATO’s mission to provide security for the future. 

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General):  (...) And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We'll go to Teri Schultz, NPR.

Q: Mister Secretary General, Teri Schultz with NPR and CBS.  Hum, looking ahead to tomorrow where you will hear from General Dunford and talk about your capabilities in Afghanistan, do you get the sense that Allies have been eased...that their impatience has been eased somewhat by the Kerry-Karzai talks in Kabul, even though this means the Loya Jirga will not make this decision on jurisdiction until the end of November upon which NATO’s own SOFA is dependent. 

And are you confident that Afghanistan will come through on this and agree to the US demands?  Thanks. And what happens if not...?  We still face the possible zero option. Thanks.

 ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Of course, in political processes, you never know what might be the outcome.  But you ask me if I'm confident. And I have to say yes.  I am confident that we will conclude security agreements with Afghanistan, a bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan and... as far as NATO is concerned... a so-called stages-of-forces agreement.

I'm confident that we will reach agreement because the Afghans know that such agreements are a prerequisite for our deployment of trainers after 2014.  We stand ready to train, advise, assist the Afghan security forces.  But of course, we need a proper legal framework, in this case, a status of forces agreement that covers NATO deployment to Afghanistan. 

And I do believe that the Afghans would like to see us continue training, advising, assisting the Afghan security forces.  And this is the reason why I'm confident that we will also reach a conclusion.

OANA LUNGESCU: Turkish media, over there.

Q:  Yes, Secretary-General, two questions.  There were concerns from the NATO site on the Chinese missile system that Turkey is willing to make an agreement to have from the Chinese government.  What kind of arguments did you had in the meetings to persuade Turkey?  And did those arguments include any of these arguments were about the transformation of technology could be done from an Allied country that can be given to Turkey, not from China; but from any Allied country? 

And my second question would be:  Wouldn't it be also a point of advantage to have actually Chinese systems by Turkey so that NATO can see what Chinese systems look like?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me stress that we have not... And I stress: "We have not discussed this issue at... in the meetings this afternoon."  Our position is very clear:  It is a national decision to decide which equipment to purchase.  It remains a national decision. 

However, seen from a NATO perspective, of course, it is of utmost importance that the systems nations plan to acquire can work and operate together with similar systems in other allied nations.  That's what we call interoperability. 

Of course, that is of utmost importance. And I feel confident that Turkey is aware of this NATO position.  I'm also confident that Turkey's authorities will take that into account; before taking the final decision.  And I understand that no final decision has been made yet. 

Q:  You see it as an the opportunity to see the Chinese systems?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  I'm not a technical expert.  I don't know anything about the technical configuration of Chinese systems.  And as I said, it is a national decision. But of course from a NATO perspective it is of utmost importance that systems nations acquire can work and operate together with systems in other Allied nations. 

OANA LUNGESCU:  And... So Polish radio in the front row.

Q:  (Inaudible) Polish Radio.  Secretary General, I would like to ask about the Steadfast Jazz exercises which will be held next month in Poland.  I know that you will be observing the exercise in Poland. So what's your assessment? What's your expectation on the exercises?  And tomorrow on the NATO-Russia Council, will the question of these exercises Steadfast Jazz will be raised by you or our partners?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  In which meeting?

Q:  Tomorrow...

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Yes, OK, yes.  First of all, I look very much forward to the Steadfast Jazz exercise.  Actually, I see that exercise as one example of what I would call "Future NATO".  "Future NATO" is a NATO that stays prepared for all eventualities.  And to ensure that we are prepared, we need to make sure that our forces can work and operate and communicate together.  And that's actually the purpose of the Steadfast Jazz exercise.  The purpose of the exercise is to test and certify the NATO Response Force.

As you know, the NATO Response Force is a rapid reaction force with the aim to defend any Ally; deploy anywhere; and address all kinds of threats.  And we need to make sure that the NATO Response Force is fit for purpose. And that's actually the exact purpose of the Steadfast Jazz exercise. 

I would expect military exercises to be one of the topics to be discussed in the NATO-Russia Council meeting tomorrow. Because, in my introduction, I will invite ministers to discuss transparency.  Because I think full transparency is of utmost importance. 

The problem is not military exercises.  I mean militaries do exercise.  But the problem is if there's a lack of transparency so that misperceptions and misunderstandings are created. 

The best way to prevent such misperceptions and misunderstandings is to provide full transparency.  In that respect, I appreciate that NATO observers were invited to observe the Zapad 13 exercise.  And similarly, we have invited Russian observers to observe the Steadfast Jazz exercise.  These are important steps forward.  And I think we will discuss that in the meeting tomorrow also with a view to possibly improve transparency in the future.

OANA LUNGESCU:  I'll take Reuters in the front.

Q:  Sabina Zibor (sp?) with Reuters.  Mister Secretary General, could you tell us what reception the German proposal for a "framework nation concept" got in the ministerial... and if there were any decisions taken?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Hum, I heard a lot of appreciation for the German proposal.  We have a very constructive discussion on that.  I see the German proposal as one of several avenues to ensure that we can acquire the necessary military capabilities in the future. Basically, the "framework nation concept" is about more multilateral cooperation, for instance, in the acquisition of... or development of military capabilities. 

And as you know, I'm a strong believer of...in such multilateral cooperation, actually I see it ... as an element in the whole SMART Defence concept.  So we had a very constructive discussion.  And ministers agreed that we should continue to work on this project; explore a number of issues further.  And then we will revert to the issue next time Defence ministers meet.

OANA LUNGESCU:  One very last question: Europa Press.

Q: Thank you, Secretary-General, will Spain and Portugal in the end host the big live exercise for 2015?  And do you see the Steadfast exercise a bit... you know, as a starter for the big exercise that's supposed to come in 2015 to test the NATO Response Force? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Yes, as I mentioned, in my introduction, Spain, Portugal and Italy have offered to host the 2015 live exercise.  I welcome that.  I'm very grateful for that offer.  And in today's meeting a lot of appreciation was expressed.  And I see these exercises, the 2015 exercise as well as the Steadfast Jazz exercise as examples of what we call the Connected Forces Initiative; because it is about joint exercises, training, education to make sure that our Armed Forces can work and operate together in the future.  We learned that in Afghanistan. And as we draw down in Afghanistan we will step up exercises, training, education and the exercise concept we have approved today is just an example of that. 

OANA LUNGESCU:  Many thanks indeed.  Good evening. And we'll see you tomorrow morning.  Thank you.