Press briefing

by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

  • 19 Nov. 2010
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  • Last updated: 19 Nov. 2010 22:44

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. It's a pleasure to see you. I don't want to speak for too long, but just to give you, and for those of you in particular who haven't enjoyed our briefings in Brussels and are joining this Summit, in essence, fresh, a little preview of what we expect to be the main decisions taken here at the Summit. And then I'll be happy to take your questions, as I said, very briefly.

First, let me say I have seen in many of your articles and reports on television that this is considered to be one of the most important summits in NATO's history and I say this because I'm giving my last press conference as NATO Spokesman.

As usual, the media has gotten it quite right. It is one of the most important summits in NATO's history. There are three major meetings. I'd like to give you the main decisions that we're aiming to get from each one of them.

First, is the NATO Summit at 28. And there are three outcomes that the Secretary General is aiming for. One is, of course, approval of the Strategic Concept. The Strategic Concept is the document that will guide the Alliance and shape the Alliance for the coming decade, and the Secretary General's aim is that it should put in place an Alliance that is more effective, with new capabilities against new threats, more engaged in terms of its partnerships with other countries and international organizations around the globe, and more efficient.

And that brings me precisely to what the Secretary General is looking for from the meetings at 28. First, approval of the Strategic Concept. That will be on the agenda immediately as the discussions begin today.

Second, he hoped for and this will be enshrined in the Strategic Concept, agreement by the 28 allies to develop within NATO a capability to defend European territory and populations against ballistic missile attack. So a decision to acquire a ballistic missile defence capability for NATO, accompanied by an offer to Russia to cooperate with NATO when it comes to ballistic missile defence.

Third outcome the Secretary General is looking for is a strong commitment, and a strong package, on reform of the Alliance, with many elements. One of them is a reform of the command structure to slim it down, reform of the agencies that NATO has. NATO has 14 agencies with about, I think it is, about 7,000 staff and thousands of... billions, sorry, in terms of budget. He hopes to see agreement on reducing the number of agencies from 14 to 3.

And finally, as part of the reform, an overall reform of the Headquarters in Brussels. He has already started that by shifting resources away from things we no longer need to do, or at least to do as much of. And towards taking on emerging security challenges like cyber attacks, missile defence, energy security.

So that's the first package. The NATO Summit.

The second is the Afghanistan Summit. We will be joined here by all of the 48 countries, the 20 partners and NATO allies who are contributing forces to the mission in Afghanistan, as well as representatives of important international organizations, the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the World Bank, the European Union, and of course President Karzai, because this is about his country.

We expect to see two main decisions taken here. One is to launch the process of transition whereby beginning in the first half of next year, early next year, district by district, province by province, Afghan Security Forces will take lead responsibility for security in their own country. In essence, President Karzai has laid out the vision, the aim, that by 2014 Afghan Security Forces should be in the lead for security operations throughout Afghanistan. That is an aim the whole international community has endorsed. That is the goal for which we are working. It must be a conditions-based process, but we are quite confident that the conditions can and will be in place with a goal of Afghans being in the lead for security by 2014 to be met.

The second decision we expect from the ISAF meeting is an agreement between NATO and Afghanistan on a long-term partnership that goes beyond the combat mission and that is broader than the combat mission. It is a political commitment to the long-term future of Afghanistan. It has very clear areas in which NATO will continue to support the development of the country in terms of training and other capacity-building. And it sends a clear message that NATO will stay as long as it takes to help Afghanistan find its feet and become resistant to terrorism. That is in Afghanistan's interests, it is in the interest of the region, and it is in our interest as an international community that terrorism can find no safe haven in Afghanistan and that Afghanistan is able to resist terrorism on its own.

The third Summit meeting, and that is, of course, the NATO-Russia Council, we aim here to make a fresh start in relations between the NATO nation... between NATO and Russia and amongst the nations of the NATO-Russia Council. And there will be, again, a number of decisions taken here.

First, to expand cooperation between the 29 countries of the NATO-Russia Council when it comes to supporting Afghanistan in its development, including broadening the arrangements by which NATO nations and ISAF countries can bring supplies in and out of Afghanistan.

Second, to provide equipment to the Afghan Security Forces and training, in particular when it comes to helicopters.

And third, to do more, broader training of counter narcotics officials. The heroin coming out of Afghanistan is a menace to Russia and to the rest of Europe and we need to do more together, and will do more together, to stem the flow of narcotics coming out of Afghanistan.

A third decision will be to agree a joint review of 21st Century threats and challenges, security challenges, faced by all 29 countries. In other words, the 29 NATO-Russia Council countries will agree a baseline of what threats they face in common. And that baseline will be the foundation on which we can develop further cooperation to meet exactly what we've agreed will be the kinds of challenges we face, and you can guess what they would be: terrorism, proliferation of missiles.

And in that regard, again, coming back to the first point that I made, of course, taking forward ballistic missile defence cooperation, both in terms of protecting deployed troops, but also looking at answering the questions required for cooperating on territorial missile defence is an aim that the Secretary General would like to see met in that meeting as chairman of the NATO-Russia Council.

I will now stop and happily take any questions that you have, and I think I saw the first one back there. Is there a microphone in the room anywhere? Oh yes.

Oh sorry, go ahead. Actually, it was back there. Pass it around.

Q: Thanks, Jonathan Marcus, BBC. Two quick questions. Housekeeping question, when will we get a decision, do you think, on the missile defence agreement? Is that going to be in the SecGen's press conference this afternoon, or will we hear something after the dinner?

Secondly, on NATO-Russia cooperation, it's interesting that Russia, I think, will not be at the Afghan session tomorrow, although a country, I think, like Japan, which also doesn't contribute troops, but contributes other things to the effort in Afghanistan, will be. Wouldn't the easiest way of bringing Russia onboard in Afghanistan, certainly symbolically, be to include Russia in that meeting?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Thank you. And two answers. I can't predict, of course, when there will be a final decision amongst the 28 allies on missile defence. The Secretary General, of course, would like to see that as early as possible, but I really can't predict. It could go into the evening if there are still outstanding issues to discuss.

When it comes to participation in the meetings of the ISAF Summit, Japan contributes billions directly to the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Teams, doing their work in the field. And I mean, billions. Second, they contribute directly and substantially to police training. And third, if I understand correctly, very soon, and that could mean in the coming months, they will be deploying personnel on the ground, medical personnel let me stress, not combat personnel, but medical personnel, into the ISAF mission. So they have a particular place at the table.

That being said, Russia's interest in being engaged on the Afghanistan file is one which all the NATO countries share as well. That's why a special group was formed within the NATO-Russia Council to focus specifically on Afghanistan. And that is why in the NRC it is such a prominent aspect of the decisions that are being taken here. So it is quite clear, I think, out of Lisbon that we can have substantial cooperation with Russia through the NRC. That's exactly what we're doing here.

I don't know where the microphone went, but we'll go up here.

Q: Kim Sengupta from The Independent, James. You used the phase outstanding issues on missile defence for the 28 member states. What are the outstanding differences which may hold things up?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Honestly speaking, I don't think that there are particular outstanding issues of any substance remaining amongst the 28 countries. There are, of course, discussions underway about the specific documents and the exactly language, but I don't think that there are particularly outstanding issues anymore.

But, in the context of the future, and that includes both as 28 and also as 29... wouldn't be at 29, sorry. At 28, and also in terms of cooperation between a NATO system and a Russian system, there are real questions that will still need to be worked out about coverage, about data exchange and how to do it, about cost. We have to answer some of these questions within NATO, and of course, Russia would also like to see some of these questions answered in terms of cooperation between a NATO system and a Russia system.

So we're, in a sense, at a stage where there are a number of fundamental questions that everybody would need to explore. But I don't think, and I'm quite confident, they will not hold up a NATO decision.

Q: Mustafa from One(?) TV Afghanistan. What about Pakistan involvement in Afghanistan issues? Have you ever talked with the Pakistan? Is there any guarantee of 2014 Pakistan not interfere in Afghanistan issues?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Can you repeat the last part? Is there a guarantee...?

Q: Is there any guarantee Pakistan after 2014 not interfere in Afghanistan issues? Because the Pakistan is a main issue for Afghanistan. Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI: It is quite clear, I think, to everyone that Pakistan must be part of the solution for the difficulties based in Afghanistan, but also Pakistan faces its own challenges of extremism and terrorism and they are not totally unrelated.

The Secretary General and our military commanders are engaging regulatory with Pakistani officials to support their efforts and encourage their efforts to fight extremism. We have set up, as you know, I'm sure, cooperative arrangements, tripartite arrangements, NATO-Afghanistan-Pakistan, both in the military sense and now more and more in the political sense to try to build cooperation, understanding, trust, intelligence exchange.

So we are... we share the view that Pakistan should be part of the solution. We are trying to build our ties with Pakistan and trying to encourage good cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.

Q: Thank you, James. Steve Erlanger from the New York Times. Maybe you don't have them, but can you give us your best estimate of the cost of the missile defence system? Could you give us an idea of how NATO allies who are cutting defence spending intend to pay for that system? And are they simply going to agree in principle to a system they can't afford to build?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Thank you. Cost is a very important issue, but actually I have a pretty good answer. The full picture of the cost breaks down like this, so that we're clear.

NATO is already developing a system to protect our deployed troops against missile defence and in essence that involves a command and control system, which could link together hardware, so that we have a shared picture and an ability to coordinate defence. That has already been decided. The costs for that are already being dispersed. That's about 800 million Euros. But as I said, that's a previous decision, costs are already being dispersed for that.

The cost of expanding that system to link it up to the U.S. phased adaptive approach, and adapted a little more so that we can provide coverage not just for deployed troops, but for European territory and populations, which is quite a quantum leap, would be an additional 200 million Euros from NATO's common-funded budget. So according to an agreed cost share, which we already have, over ten years, divided amongst the 28 allies. Over ten years and divided amongst the 28 allies according to this agreed cost share.

In other words, it's quite affordable, even in a time of defence... of cuts to defence budgets. And that's precisely the point. We cannot be in a situation where we are only cutting. We have to reinvest. With the cutback on the things we don't need, and invest in the things we do, cutting fat and building muscle, as the Secretary General says, and missile defence is that muscle. It is a modern capability against a modern threat. It is something we can afford, and that is why I'm quite confident that it will be done.

I think we need to go over here, because I have been... yes.

Q: I'm Dieter Eberling from DPA, the German Press Agency. James, the Secretary General has a couple of times said he wants the relationship between NATO and the EU to be a strategic one. Is there a consensus among the allies today that this relationship indeed should be called strategic?

JAMES APPATHURAI: To be honest I think there is long-standing agreement amongst the allies that the aim is a strategic partnership. I think that that has actually been enshrined in previous documents agreed by allies.

The question is now whether it should be an aim, the question is how do we implement that aim, and what the Secretary General wants to see is not only political statements, but reality, and as you know, the Secretary General, he's particularly focused on the reality aspects.

So I'm quite sure that strategic partnership is already part of our agreed language as an aim. The challenge that we have is implementing it and the Secretary General has put forward very concrete ideas, which you are very familiar with, about how to do that, and he is working very, very hard to make it happen.

Q: Hi my name is (inaudible...). I'm from Croatian Daily, (inaudible) is another financial one. Can you maybe say how many billions would be saved yearly with this reorganization or downsizing of the NATO? And what percentage would it be of the nowadays expenses?

JAMES APPATHURAI: What percentage. I think I'm not yet in a position, and I don't think anyone's in a position to give precise figures. It is in the millions when it comes to... in the tens of millions with regard to the command structure, and between 4,000 and 5,000 personnel as part of that savings.

When it comes to the agencies, we're not yet a stage where we can define exactly what the percentage savings are. They are more complicated, and I won't bore you with why they're more complicated, but they're not, in a nutshell, wholly NATO owned and operated. They're by groups of nations, so that management of it is more complicated. So it's not quite yet clear exactly what the percentage savings would be. But we're definitely talking in the tens of millions of Euros per year in terms of savings.

Pascal?

Q: Oui, merci. En français? Oui. Pascal Mallet, Agence France-Presse. Oui, je ne comprends toujours pas tout à fait le lien entre les 800 millions d'Euros de la défense, le théâtre anti-missile et les quelques 150 ou 200 millions supplémentaires. Puisque il ne s'agit pas du tout des mêmes systèmes. Le système de défense des soldats, c'est mobile. Le système de défense des villes ou territoires, c'est fixe. Donc, ce n'est pas du tout le même système. Donc, je ne comprends pas du tout comment vous pouvez ajouter des poires et des carottes dans ce cas-là.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Des poires et des carottes. Ça, j'apprends pour la première fois. Bien en fait, c'est compliqué. Alors, je comprends que tout n'est pas évident dès le début. Mais en fait, le système de défense anti-missile pour les territoires et les populations a beaucoup d'éléments mobiles. Et c'est ça qui lie les deux systèmes. En fait, il faut comprendre que l'idée de ce système ce n'est pas que c'est toujours sur alerte avec les missiles de Patriot ou de SAD etc emplacés sans bouger sur un territoire ou autre.

Même le système, le "phased adaptative approach" comprend la flexibilité. Et en fait, c'est ça qui est l'avantage de ce système. Et, je dis aussi une des grandes différences entre le système "phased adaptative approach" et ce que proposait l'administration Bush, c'était un système plus fixe. Alors, le système que nous envisageons en ce moment comprend des bateaux classé Aegis (A-E-G-I-S) que nous pouvons déplacer selon la menace. Et des systèmes mobiles comme les Patriots que nous pouvons déployer selon les menaces dans une architecture qui est optimale pour la menace et d'où ça vient.

C'est pour ça qu'en fait on peut baser le système territorial sur le système de défense pour les troupes déployées sur le théâtre.

Well, let's go here, and then we'll go there. And there was this lady back there as well.

Q: (Inaudible...) Slovenian TV. I will have to ask a question on Macedonia.

JAMES APPATHURAI: I get that.

Q: You know. Do you plan to confirm the conclusions from Bucharest, or is the Macedonia... it was hoping until a few weeks ago, is there any chance that these conclusions can be modified in any way for Macedonia?

JAMES APPATHURAI: The Strategic Concept has not yet been approved, and I don't want to prejudge its conclusions, but I think it is safe to say the Strategic Concept will reaffirm the Bucharest conclusions.

Q: (Inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI: Yes, and a strong commitment to enlargement, et cetera. To be very clear, the position with regards to your country remains what it was, and the allies are just as committed to it as they were before.

Q: Bari Hakim from Deutsche Welle, Afghan Language Service. I have two questions. The first question, you talked about some type of partnership with Afghanistan. How would it look like? It would be the same like with some Former Yugoslavia Republics or some other country in the region, or it would be a different partnership with Afghanistan? First.

The second question is, President Karzai started reconciliation and peace process with Taliban, to what extent NATO will support this process?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Thank you. To answer the second question first, I will do what a good spokesman does and quote the Secretary General. Yes, NATO supports a process of reconciliation upon certain conditions. One, that it is Afghan led. Second, that those who reconcile or reintegrate are willing to stop fighting the government, cut their ties to terrorist organizations and play a positive role in Afghan society. And third, that NATO will not support any political arrangements that undermined the fundamental human rights that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution, including women's rights.

Those are, in essence, the conditions that he has set out for support for a reconciliation and reintegration process.

That being said, of course, what is giving impetus to this process is the very robust military operations that NATO is carrying on now. And will continue to carry on, because they do support the attempt to move the reconciliation process forward.

In terms of the long-term partnership, it is sui generis. It is a unique arrangement. Of course, NATO has long experience in terms of partnership and cooperation with countries around the world, and we've developed that over time, including a toolbox of support that we can offer to our partners. And of course, that toolbox is relevant for Afghanistan as well. But this is designed in close cooperation with the Afghan government, and I can tell you President Karzai himself has been involved in, and his ministers, of course, very carefully in the last few days ensuring that this agreement meets Afghanistan's long-term requirements.

And I think we're very close, within the next few hours, of agreeing it, but it will be something that Afghans can look at as helping them. Thank you.

Actually, I think it was that lady back there.

Q: Very good decision. I'm from Danish Broadcasting. I would like to ask you , in this new Strategic Concept, what will it say about nuclear weapons?

JAMES APPATHURAI: (Laughs). Well, it's a good decision to give you the microphone, it's probably not a good decision to answer that question right now. Let's wait and see what the Strategic Concept says. Obviously there are discussions on this particular issue. Obviously there are discussions going on now and the precise wording you will see. But in essence we're talking about a balance, and the balance is between, on the one hand, a commitment by the allies to work towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, and on the other hand, a recognition that as long as nuclear weapons remain in the world NATO must remain a nuclear alliance, must have a nuclear deterrent.

That is a balance, I think, reflected by all the allies, and I saw just yesterday, for example, comments by Foreign Minister Westerwelle which basically said that. So I'm quite confident that the allies will be able to find agreed language on this issue.

Q: My name is (inaudible...) from Tunisia. My question is related to the message of al-Qaeda from North Africa this morning, calling French to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange to get its hostages. Do you think that the message is only addressed to France or to the NATO as a whole, and how would you think France will respond to this message? Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI: It's certainly not for me to comment on how the French government will respond to this. This is an issue which has, of course, ramifications, this particular statement, so I'm not going to comment, I'm afraid, on this.

Q: (Inaudible...) with Polish Public Television. I would like to ask you about the level of involvement in missile defence system that will be proposed to Russia. What can they expect?

JAMES APPATHURAI: I think the Secretary General's thinking at this point is he hopes, and expects, I think, at this point, that there will be a decision amongst the 28 allies to develop within NATO this capability to defend European territory and populations against missile attack. And at the same time, an offer to Russia to cooperate. And as I mentioned, we are not talking about one integrated system. We are talking about two systems that are linked.

For example, through data exchange, having a better picture of what the air space looks like, and then potentially other cooperation as well. But the next step will be to set out the questions that need to be answered and then working out the answers together, at 29. And I think that what the Secretary General is looking for from Lisbon is those two steps. A commitment from NATO, and then an offer to Russia to cooperate, an agreement by Russia that it would like to explore further these specific questions as to how we could do this in a cooperative manner.

And I add one more element, the Secretary General would like to see our cooperation on protecting deployed troops at 29 restart immediately. We had done exercises together, it had been going reasonably well until the summer of August a couple of years ago - we all know why things slowed down - but now I think he hopes that we can move past that and restart theatre missile defence cooperation as well.

I think this gentleman has been waiting for quite a while.

Q: Thank you James. Chris Ship from ITV News in the U.K. How confident is the Alliance of meeting the target of ending combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014? It's a very ambitious target. There's plenty of people who doubt that you will achieve it. How do you rate its chances of success? Fifty-fifty or perhaps a little higher than that?

JAMES APPATHURAI: We are fully confident, let me be clear, fully confident, that we will meet this target. We have put enormous resources over the past 12 months into Afghanistan. Fifty-thousand-plus troops. We have a clear transition plan. General Petraeus and Ambassador Sedwill, who's here, I think they're both here, have been now the past couple of months sending up regular assessments of the readiness for individual districts and provinces in the country to begin transition. They're highly classified. I think I saw one on the front page of the Times a little while ago, though it wasn't quite right.

And we see the Afghan Security Forces, and in particular the police over the last year, improving substantially in quality. And based on that, based on the fact that now 85 percent of our forces are partnered with Afghan forces, so we're partnering across the board and at all levels, we're quite confident that we will meet the 2014 timeline, end of 2014, for transition to afghan security lead throughout the country.

Sorry, let me make one final point. I must point out, of course it is conditions-based. What I'm saying is, we will put the conditions in place to make it happen.

Q: Are you sure that there will be a decision, a commitment about the missile defence system, or will you be surprised if there will be a deadlock because of the concerns of one of the NATO members states, which has some expectations from the very beginning? Thank you very much.

JAMES APPATHURAI: I notice you didn't identify yourself, but I'd guess from your accent you're Turkish.

Q: I'm from Deutsche Presse so (inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI: (Laughs). Yes, I get it. No, we're quite confident that there will be an agreement here. And there will be an agreement that respects the requirements of all the allies. Every decision in NATO is taken by consensus. Any decision on missile defence will be taken by consensus and that means that each ally will see its own requirements and interests reflected in that decision. We are confident that there will be a decision on missile defence here as well.

Q: Sassura (?) en Français, s'il-vous-plaît.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Oui, oui.

Q: Donc, M. Appathurai, vous êtes nouvellement désigné donc du Secrétaire général du l'OTAN sur le Caucase du Sud et l'Asie centrale. Et donc, j'aimerais bien comment vous voyez le rôle de l'Azerbaïdjan. Je suis journaliste de l'Azerbaïdjan...de l'Azerbaïdjan donc dans la coopération avec l'OTAN. Et deuxième question, comment vous voyez l'adhésion éventuelle, la possibilité de l'adhésion éventuelle des pays du Caucase du Sud à l'OTAN. Je vous remercie.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Malheureusement... Alors, heureusement, c'est vrai que le Secrétaire général m'a nommé comme Secrétaire général adjoint délégué pour les affaires politiques mais aussi représentant spécial pour la Caucase et les pays de l'Asie centrale.

Malheureusement, je n'ai pas encore commencé dans ce poste. Et je ne veux pas et je ne peux pas faire commentaire dans cette capacité parce qu'il y a toujours M. l'ambassadeur Simmons. Et je ne peux pas parler pour lui. Alors, en trois semaines demandez-moi cette question. Mais j'en profite pour vous présenter tous la nouvelle porte-parole, en trois semaines, le 1er décembre Mme Oana Lungescu du BBC. Vous la connaissez tous je pense.

Shall we go over here?

Q: Martinez de Rituerto with El País. James, you said that there was no outstanding issues in relation with missile defence. Could you say the same about the relationship between the EU and NATO? And what are the issues that are outstanding and are stopping quick agreement on that wholly? Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI: My sense, before I walked into this room, is that we are very close to agreement on all issues. Next question?

Q: Ian Traynor from the Guardian. Does the Concept kind of stipulate any kind of linkage or relationship between missile defence and the nuclear deterrent?

JAMES APPATHURAI: I think what we need to do is wait. I'm sorry to not answer the question, but we have to wait and see what the language is in the Strategic Concept.

I think I have time for one more question and you have been religiously asking for the floor, so I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to stop after this one.

Q: Janos Karpati, Hungarian News Agency, MTI. Have you reached agreement with Russia about the rail cargo package, both directions? And about helicopter package?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Any agreement, any final agreement will be made here, and the NATO-Russia Council meeting isn't till tomorrow, but I can say that we're moving towards a decision, an agreement.

Thank you very much.