Monthly press briefing

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • Last updated: 06 May. 2010 11:45

Thank you for coming. I have three issues to raise, and then I’ll be happy to take questions.

First: in less than two weeks, we will enter a new phase in the development of the new Strategic Concept.

On May 17th, Madeleine Albright, and the other Experts will come to NATO Headquarters to present their report. That report, based on extensive consultations with NATO Allies, partner countries and the civil society, as well as of course their own long experience in international affairs.

When I launched the process that would lead to the new Strategic Concept, I promised it would be the most open and transparent in NATO’s history. That meant seek and taking into account the broadest possible range of views – and the Experts have done that.

But I also meant that we would share the results. Which is why, on May 17th, the Group of Experts will make their conclusions and recommendations public. Mrs Albright and I will hold a press conference here, and we will put those conclusions and recommendations up on the website as well.

May 17th will start the next phase of the process. Capitals will examine the report carefully, as I will. We will discuss it in the North Atlantic Council. It will be an important input for the initial draft of the Strategic Concept itself, a paper which I personally will draft this summer, after some more consultation.

Then, in mid-October, Foreign and Defence Ministers will meet here in Brussels for a discussion on the basis of the first draft. As you know the Strategic Concept will be approved at the Lisbon Summit on 19-20 Nov.

What we can already see now is that this Strategic Concept will be of critical importance in shaping NATO’s future. Allies will be discussing some key questions in the coming months. What new missions should NATO take on, to defend our populations against 21st century threats? What should our nuclear policy be? How far should our Partnerships reach?

All of these issues, and more, will be addressed in the new Concept. I would not wish to prejudge the result. But I can already say that my aim is for the new Concept to be ambitious; not only to reflect what we are currently doing, but also to set out what we should be doing to keep the 900 million citizens in NATO countries safe from attack.

Which brings me to my second issue: missile defence.

By November, we will have an answer to a clear question: Should NATO take on territorial missile defence as an Alliance mission?

My view is simple: yes. We should. Because there is a growing threat. Because Europe needs to continue to contribute to its own defence. And because it makes political and military sense to talk with Russia about cooperation on missile defence as well, once we have a NATO decision in place.

I know that many people hear the words “missile defence” and see a big bill. But in fact, the cost is very manageable. NATO is already building a theatre missile defence system to protect our armed forces, when they go out on mission. The cost of expanding that system to cover not only our soldiers, but also our populations – normal citizens in our cities – is less than 200 million Euros. Over ten years. Spread among the 28 NATO countries.

My question is this: for that price – less than 200 million euros, over ten years, spread amongst 28 Allies – how could we not agree to build defence for all our citizens against missile attacks? Why would we protect our soldiers – and we should – but not everybody else? That, I hope, will be the context as Allies discuss this issue in the run up to Lisbon.

Third issue: Southeast Europe. I have just returned from a visit to the region and I am looking forward to a visit to Romania tomorrow. My strong sense is that there is new momentum for building lasting stability, if political leaders seize the opportunity.

That applies now very much to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The recent decision by NATO Ministers to grant Membership Action Plan to Bosnia-Herzegovina gives a clear signal that we see that country’s future in NATO. It sets out clear steps that the political leadership needs to take to make progress. And MAP offers a framework for the kind of political and military reforms that NATO requires, but these reforms also make sense for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s own development as a well-functioning country.

The first step is for key defence properties to be transferred from the entity level to the national state. I have already written to the Chairman of the Presidency, Mr. Silajdjic, to encourage progress. I call on all political leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina to have the courage to take this step, in order to activate MAP, for the good of all the people of the country. Because MAP can unlock change that leads to a better future for them.

And the regional context for that is promising. Croatia has taken concrete political steps to heal the wounds of the recent past between the two countries. Serbia has done the same. These are examples I commend, and an opportunity for the region to look forward.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Secretary General of NATO): And now I'm ready to answer your questions.

James Appathurai (NATO Spokesman): First question, Ben.

Q: Secretary General, Ben Nimmo from the German Press Agency DPA. On missile defence a technical question and a political one, if you will. The figure you quoted, $200 million euro over ten years, what scale of missile shield are we looking at for that figure in the sense of what scale of attack would that be capable of fighting off? Are we talking a handful of missiles, or a few hundred missiles? What scale of defence are we looking at?

And politically, I know you said you don't want to pre-empt the decisions of the November Summit, but do you have any doubts that allies will agree to make missile defence a NATO mission in Lisbon?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, about the technical part of the question. For this additional marginal cost of less than $200 million Euros over ten years you will get full coverage, full coverage geographically, as well as protection against the threats we can envisage today.

And obviously I will not prejudge the outcome of the political deliberations, but I do believe that there is an emerging consensus that we are faced with a real threat, and I also think it has made a significant impact on the discussions that according to the recent estimates, the additional cost is so low. Less than $200 million Euros over ten years spread among 28 allies. It's not a big cost to get real protection against a real threat.

Q: Klaus Hecking from Financial Times in Deutschland. Two questions, both on Russia.

First on missile defence. What is... because you always want to include Russia in that missile field, what is the Russian position at the moment on that? And second question on that, if Russia wouldn't participate in it, would you do it without Russia?

And the second thing with Russia is, sub-strategical news, because it was a major issue in Tallinn, are there already or have there already been any common initiatives between the NATO and between Russia to reduce the number of sub-strategical nukes in Europe? Have you ever talked about that, or hasn't that been an issue yet? Thanks.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Not an issue yet. And concerning the Russian position, I don't know what will be the final Russian position as regard missile defence, but I will remind you that already at the NATO Summit in Strasbourg-Kehl last year we decided that we should explore the possibilities to link the Russian system with U.S. and NATO systems.

So clearly we have made our position clear. We would very much like to explore the possibilities, to cooperate, to link the systems. In the coming months we will have discussions on that within the NATO-Russia Council.

Q: Sorry, there haven't been any discussions yet on that?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No.

Q: Thanks.

Q: (Inaudible...), National News Agency of Ukraine. Secretary General, do you see any changes to be brought in the concept of relations between NATO and Ukraine in the light of the recent decisions taken by Ukrainian government, especially in the field of Black Sea fleet? And the related question, do you have any plans or intent to meet Mr. Yanukovych personally, like it was announced before? Thanks.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, the NATO position vis-à-vis Ukraine is unchanged. Our basis is still the decision we took in 2008. But obviously it is for Ukraine to decide her own future and to decide whether the future relationship between Ukraine and NATO should be based on partnership or a membership perspective. That's for Ukraine to decide.

Based on what we have heard from the Ukrainian side, I would expect Ukraine to continue the cooperation with NATO within the current framework. And I would expect a meeting at the political level in the NATO-Ukraine Commission in June in connection with the NATO Defence Ministers meeting.

James Appathurai: Please, Brooks.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence. I have two questions, both related to missile defence. Indeed, to justify to the European public you have a challenge ahead of you, so what releasable proof can NATO put on the table to justify to the European public to spend $200 million about the threats?

Second question, you ask rhetorically why should this not be extended to the citizenry for such a relatively cheap price? One answer might be that NATO's record is not necessarily something that the Alliance should point to on cost controls regarding C2 projects. And I have in mind the ACT's(ph) upgrade program, which has huge cost overruns and missile defence is primarily a C2 software project, so there very well could be many questions from parliamentarians about whether the $200 million budget will stay at $200 million.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: You ask for proofs, firstly about the threats. We have a sufficient amount of information and intelligence to know that we are faced with a real threat taking into consideration the Iranian aspirations, as regards missile technology and nuclear programs.

As far as the military feasibility is concerned, our military authorities have investigated that carefully and will also present reports, which will be discussed among Ministers, so political leaders will have really solid ground for taking political decisions.

And as far as cost control is concerned, I can assure you that financial management is one of my very high priorities.

Q: Secretary General, Luminita Apostol, Radio Romania. Could you give us some more details about your visit in Romania, about the meetings there, and will you discuss about the American anti-missile defence system to be hosted by Romania? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I look very much forward to visiting Romania. My first meeting will be with the President and I will take the opportunity to commend him for the very courageous decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. In general I would like to take the opportunity to thank Romania and the Romanian people for their commitment to our Alliance. Romania is among the youngest allies, but we consider Romania really a staunch ally.

I will also have opportunities to meet with other political leaders in Romania and an opportunity to make a speech, and address the public. And I look very much forward to that.

We will, of course, in our talks, cover the whole agenda, including missile defence. Not least because Romania attaches strong importance to what we consider the core function of NATO – territorial defence, collective defence, according to Article 5 in the NATO Treaty.

And in my opinion an effective missile defence is a part of a credible territorial defence in the current security environment in the world. So obviously we will discuss also that issue.

Q: Yes, Gerard Gaudin, Belgium News Agency. I have a question concerning the new Strategic Concept. You said... you promise excellency(?) of consultations, but you are coming with a draft at the end of the summer, and there will be a ministerial one month before the Summit. Is that not too close to permit real consultations?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, because we have conducted extensive consultations before we reach that stage. As I mentioned, the Group of Experts has engaged closely with capitals. Members of the group have travelled to all capitals and consulted. So already at this stage the Group has taken into consideration positions as expressed by allied nations.

After the submission of the report from the group we will start a new phase of consultation. I intend to organize a series of meetings here in the Headquarters where the permanent representatives will get an opportunity in informal meetings to discuss selected optics.

We will also consult with partners. It's my intention to organize meetings with our partners during the months of June. So we will, before summer break, engage in a very, very broad consultation process.

And then during summer I will reflect on what we have heard, draft a Strategic Concept and then present it to nations after the summer break, but before Defence Ministers and Foreign Ministers meet in October.

So Ministers will be well prepared when they meet in October. And then again after the October meeting we have a month which can be spent on further consultations, if necessary.

So I can assure you that it will be a very extensive consultation process.

Q: Secretary General, Ina Strazdina, Radio Latvia. You're meeting with Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister this afternoon. I would like to know what kind of subjects you will discuss with him, as he was also member of NATO Strategic Concept Group.

And second question, there are still debates in Latvia about sending more troops to Afghanistan. That would be about 20 soldiers, and this caused a pretty big debate right now in my country because of financial difficulties. Would you still encourage to send troops to Afghanistan or try to find other ways how to help mission in Afghanistan without these financial aspects? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, I will congratulate the Foreign Minister on his appointment as new Foreign Minister. He is will equipped coming directly from the Group of Experts, so he will be very well acquainted with the whole range of current NATO issues and we will discuss this afternoon this very broad range of issues from the Strategic Concept to missile defence, nuclear posture, our open door policy and all the other issues.

As regards Latvia's contribution to Afghanistan, I have done it before, I will do it again. Express my strong appreciation of the Latvian contribution. We are well aware of the financial challenges, the budgetary constraints, but the more we appreciate that Latvia stays committed.

I have urged all allies to look closer into the possibilities, to provide resources for our training missile in Afghanistan. And I will, of course, also discuss that issue with the Foreign Minister.

Q: (Inaudible...) correspondant de la télévision égyptienne, Monsieur Secrétaire Général, je m'excuse poser la question en français. Dans cette recomposition de l'OTAN, quelle est la part que vous accordez aux pays du Sud de la Méditerranée dans cette nouvelle recomposition que vous prévoyez pour les années à venir?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Contenant les partenariats? Le sujet des partenariats sera un sujet très important dans l'élaboration du concept stratégique. Hier, nous avons eu une discussion parmi les ambassadeurs concernant notre politique de partenariat. Et nous sommes d'accord que nous devrons développer et renforcer nos partenariats. Les partenariats sont très importants pour la stabilité dans notre région. Je pense au partenariat... le Dialogue méditerranéen et aussi l'Initiative de coopération d'Istanbul avec quatre pays du Golfe. Et je pense qu'un point très important dans le concept stratégique sera un chapitre des partenariats.

James Appathurai: I think that's it. Thank you very much.