JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesperson): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the Minister will each make opening statements and then we have time for questions.
JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Good to share the stage with Minister Grytsenko, with Anatoliy, my good friend. I'll ask him and he knows about this, for some forbearance, the same forbearance as his colleague of foreign affairs showed in Oslo. Because as this is my first press conference of the day, let me begin by giving you a quick round-up of the morning's discussions in the North Atlantic Council and then turn of course to the NATO-Ukraine Commission we just finished.
In the meeting of the North Atlantic Council this morning at 26, we focused on transformation; modernizing NATO's capabilities. And in essence, in that transformation discussion, which was a good discussion I think, there were two main areas of discussion.
First was missile defence and I'm pleased that nations have agreed at 26, the NATO Allies in other words, a joint way forward on this very important transatlantic issue. What NATO is now going to do is to asses the political and military implications of the United States missile system, of the United States' third site in Europe, as a follow-up to the decisions on missile defence which were already taken at the NATO summit in Riga. We aim to have the conclusion by February 2008 when the NATO Defence Ministers will meet again. February 2008 is not too long before the Bucharest Summit we'll have in 2008.
So together with our NATO theatre missile defence project, which is now as some of you might remember at the so-called test-bed stage, and our work with our Russian partners on theatre missile defence because we co-operate in that regard with our Russian partners, the NATO road map on missile defence is now clear. It's practical and it's agreed by all. NATO has its work; NATO is going to do this assessment. In the meantime of course the negotiations between the United States and Poland and the Czech Republic will go on.
The second issue we discussed is the NATO Response Force and I can tell you that we made progress this morning. You know the issues at hand have partly to do with the way we fund, we finance, so-called short term deployments of the NATO Response Force. It's a subject I do consider very important to unlock further contributions to the NRF. I think we made progress, although we have to continue to work on this.
The second element concerns of course the way the NRF is filled; force generation for the NRF in other words. That was a good discussion. I think there was agreement around the table that I am instructed with the Ambassadors in the permanent North Atlantic Council to take this matter forward.
Our discussions on operations - Afghanistan, Kosovo, the other operations and missions - as you know will take place tonight over dinner and I'll brief you on that part of our meeting tomorrow.
But the highlight of the past one and half hours of course has been the NATO-Ukraine Commission and let me say first that Allies and I myself have welcomed the agreement in Ukraine on the date of the elections which has calmed the political waters. We've also told Minister Grytsenko how pleased we are that Ukraine has adopted a number of important documents such as the Annual Target Plan or the first National Security Strategy. Minister Grytsenko handed out the White Book on Defence to his colleagues just a moment ago. Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine is continuing with vigour - under the competent and able leadership of Minister Grytsenko - with vigour continuing the essential job of reforming the defence and the security sector.
It goes without saying that Ministers also expressed their appreciation for Ukraine's very substantial contribution to NATO's operations and missions. In fact - and I think I should commend Ukraine for that and Minister Grytsenko - Ukraine is the one and only partner to contribute to all NATO's operations and missions. I think that is a fact to be recognized and to be applauded. That includes, as you know, a first ship, more will follow, in Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, a strong contingent in the Balkans, support for NATO's training mission in Iraq, and support to NATO-ISAF in Afghanistan.
This is I think what I would qualify as a win-win approach and Allies very much appreciate Ukraine's assistance and it only enhances Ukraine's reputation as a security provider. So coupled with the Intensified Dialogue we have with Ukraine and other forms of political dialogue, our relationship remains solid. You might know, and if you don't you know it now, that this year we mark the 10th anniversary of the Distinctive Partnership NATO has with Ukraine. A small initial step to mark this is behind our back as we speak because you'll see there the exhibition which Minister Grytsenko and I will visit in a moment. The photographs you'll see tell a historic story of how far a newly independent country can travel in just 10 years. What is 10 years? What are 10 years after all in developing a mutually beneficial relationship with a venerable alliance?
Please have a look later. Let me now ask Minister Grytsenko, Anatoliy, to take the floor and he might be able to tell you even more about the exhibition than I can. Anatoliy please.
ANATOLIY GRYTSENKO (Ukrainian Minister of Defence): Thank you very much Jaap.
Indeed this was on the one hand a regular pre-planned meeting; on the other hand, one might look at the meeting from the historical point of view and see the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Charter on the Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine 10 years ago. I just want to remind you also that in 1994 Ukraine was the first among all post-Soviet Republics to join Partnership for Peace program. That experience, as well as 10 years, a decade, under the Charter umbrella, it was a success story. I am convinced of that. The decade proved that our co-operation with NATO was mutually beneficial, successful; and for Ukraine they promoted and produced very positive changes in all spheres of our life, much more beyond only the military sphere which I represent as the Defence Minister. That is a thorough assessment.
Indeed Ukraine has political will, has responsibility, has an understanding of the importance of joining efforts in fighting terrorism or other challenges to the regional security. That's why our soldiers are now in Kosovo, in the Mediterranean, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, together with our NATO partners and that of course will be followed further.
I want to maybe take stock of the transformation and try to limit some pessimism that is spread in the minds of many people who look at current Ukraine's political difficulties. To say you the following: that even the current government wishes… representing political forces that one could have difficulty to imagine working together. This government and this parliamentary coalition proved to be successful in making very important practical decisions on the way towards NATO. They were able to move through Parliament the decision to provide strategic airlift for NATO operations; that was not done for two years under the Orange Revolution.
The issue of our participation in NATO operations in the Mediterranean was decided by this coalition, this government. The budget money has been allocated to Kosovo, to Afghanistan, et cetera, without any problems. All practical steps are taken and taken timely and responsibly. So there is a way ahead in public supportour NATO membership for the future and of course information campaign and here we are working together with our NATO partners.
APPATHURAI: First question is there.
Q: News Agency Interfax Ukraine, Irina Khokhlova. Question for both high representatives. Do you think that new parliament election can change the situation in Ukraine about NATO issue, because we know that support of population in Ukraine of NATO really very, very low?
SCHEFFER: My answer to that question is simple. The Ukrainian people decide. Ukraine has a democratic system and the Ukrainian people decide. So you will not expect me to comment on that. We are happy with the fact that the election date has been set, but the result of the elections is up to the Ukrainian people.
GRYTSENKO: Let me also add people who have knowledge A, B understanding, and C ability to analyze the current situation in Ukraine, that people would be easy to convince to join NATO. Because too many people understand that having really rule of law system, normal election system, normal economy, responsible authorities, respecting the authorities among the population, those are basic values that NATO countries are sharing. Only then above that there is a military security machine that protects those authorities. In Ukraine we are having problems with the information campaign partly because not many government members say their words in front of people and among those who do is the Minister of Defence. That's why many people link NATO mainly to the military mission, rather than values. But those problems are always and it's our responsibility and our business to convince our population that European values, European security values, are of Ukraine's interest. We will go through that way.
Q: Rob Ossam(?), BBC, with a question for the Secretary General. On missile defence could you spell out what exactly is the point of the study that you've agreed upon into U.S. missile defence plans? How it actually affects NATO's missile defence plans? And could you spell out a bit more about what is meant by looking at the political and military implications of the U.S. missile defence plans?
SCHEFFER: It is the question to what extent the NATO missile defence discussion is influenced by the fact that at a certain stage there will be a U.S. third site in Europe, as you might know, not covering all of continental NATO Europe; and more specifically not covering NATO Allies' territory which are not that much under the threat of long range ballistic missiles, but the medium and the short range. Now the question is, as I said, what are the political and military implications of the U.S. third site? And secondly, would it be possible (that will be the subject of that discussion) in NATO to see that a system is developed, and then we are talking about the short and medium range of theatre missile defence, a system which can be bolted-on to the general missile defence, the overall missile defence system, as it will be installed by the United States? So in fact it is… what is the NATO part of missile defence and then more medium and short range? And why is this necessary? Because the whole missile defence discussion, as I've said many times before, is based on the principle… on two principles.
First of all - and they are closely interlinked - first of all the indivisibility of security and as a consequence the fact that we can never have A and B grade Allies in the Alliance because all allies are created equal. That is the study and what is important is that we now have - as important from time to time as you know in (inaudible) diplomacy - we have a trajectory, we have limits, we have time limits on which we can say Defence Ministers are going to discuss this again. That is the key.
APPATHURAI: Next question -
GRYTSENKO: May I add to that as well? Nowadays we are hearing different statements. Some of them are I would say of provocative character and unfortunately some of them reflect rather domestic election issues instead of responsibility for the future. We discussed that issue in Ukraine as well. Also we are not part of the decision making procedure, but since it's our neighbouring countries, that issue was also in our media for awhile.
To clarify the issue, General Obering who runs the project in the United States, presented all the necessary materials and I believe, and I will share with you. Three issues here are important to really stop different provocations and statements that can just create problems for the issue.
If you look at those deployed units as purely American or for American security is one thing; but if that could be acknowledged by everyone as part of possibly pan-European protection system, it's quite a different approach. Three questions which I posed on the table to General Obering. First… if… of course, if deployed it's 2011 plus.
If you see, you Americans see (inaudible), that someone launched a rocket and that rocket is threatening for instance Ukraine or Russia, would you warn those governments immediately? The answer was yes. That means for us, for instance, that not paying a penny we are getting additional information to protect the country.
The second question: would you Americans allow normal verification procedures that are established here in Europe for checking every brigade, to check those units? The answer was yes. That means no one is hiding and can be checked ad hoc anytime. What are they doing? What are they searching? What are they launching if necessary?
And the third question is the most important. I asked the U.S. General: would you allow or would you go as far as to allow Ukrainian officers and/or Russian officers to be part of the permanent team sitting in front of others watching that space? The answer was yes.
So if those three yes' of the General are supported by official statements of the U.S. side, then no one in Russia needs a General or high ranking government member would target or threaten to target either Czech silos or Polish (inaudible) et cetera because Russian officers will be there.
So I think you must be responsible making long term prognosis in that respect.
APPATHURAI: Next question is here.
Q: Natalia (inaudible) Radio Liberty, Ukrainian Service. Mr. Secretary General can we expect that Ukraine can join the Membership Action Plan in the near future?
SCHEFFER: Oh that's always a difficult one because then you ask me to define the near future which is not what I'm going to do because it is always, as you know, a performance-based process. If you had asked me when does country X or Y join NATO, I can't tell you because then I would leave let's say the principle of the performance-based process.
Let me state as a general principle, and I said that in the meeting a moment ago, that the NATO Allies are ready to assist Ukraine on its course to Euro-Atlantic integration wherever that assistance is necessary. I can repeat again that I think a lot of progress has been made and that Minister Grytsenko should be commended for what he has done and what he is doing, from time to time I can imagine under not too easy circumstances; but he has done it and he is doing it in fact. When and where that's going to lead to further steps I really can't tell you.
It has of course two elements. First of all coming back to my answer to your colleague. What is the intention of the Ukrainian people? And secondly, how do the Allies evaluate performance? But more specific I'm afraid I cannot be.
APPATHURAI: I'm afraid the time has come to go to the photo exhibit.
SCHEFFER: Let's do that then.
GRYTSENKO: Thank you.
SCHEFFER: Thank you so much.