JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you, James. Welcome all, and a very Happy New Year to all of you. That's after all the reason of this get-together. And let me, to start our discussions, and I'll have a few questions from this position and then I'll try to move around a bit.
I think you've seen an Alliance, also in the beginning of 2008, which has no alternative than to hit the ground running, I think, given the fact that if you look to the upcoming months you'll see the Defence Ministerial Meeting in Vilnius, in Lithuania, you'll see in February, you'll see the Foreign Ministers' Meeting here in Brussels in March and, last but not least, of course, it is all in preparation for the summit in Bucharest in early April.
I'll end today with what for NATO and NATO's visibility are the most important elements, of course, NATO's operations. Let me start with making a few remarks on a few other themes.
As you know, the theme of NATO enlargement will be very much on the agenda in Bucharest. We have the three aspirant nations in the Balkans and we are going, for the real experts between you, through the last MAP cycle, the last cycle of the Membership Action Plan. No tickets are punched. You know my mantra, the level of scrutiny has never been more intense vis-à-vis the three.
They'll all come to Brussels to the North Atlantic Council, by the way, in the coming weeks to make their case, and to face questions, critical questions, other kinds of questions from the ambassadors in the NAC. It will be an important element on the calendar of the Foreign Ministers' Meeting in March when they'll come, when the Foreign Ministers will come here. And at the end of the day a political decision will have to be made.
So the beginning of this year is clearly too early for me to give you my assessment. Reforms have to continue and the three aspirant nations should realize that reforms should go on until the very last moment. At a certain stage judgement day will come and the NATO allies will take a political decision.
An important subject, I think, in the calendar, as I just described.
If you look at Bucharest, and by definition, if you look at the preparation for Bucharest, you'll also see NATO, not for the first time by the way, and you'll hopefully see the NATO Heads of State and Government in Bucharest address what we call future threats and challenges, I would say present threats and challenges, and then thing about an item like cyber defence. Speak to Estonia, speak to Estonians and they can easily tell you what it means when the whole government system or a bank or a factory or whatever, your Internet traffic, your Internet banking will be brought to a standstill because some people have made a decision to launch a cyber attack.
In other words, this is one of those subjects where NATO has expertise. NATO sent experts to Estonia when that happened and where NATO, I think, is in a position to provide added value.
Mark by words, added value. NATO is in the process of defining its added value, the same as relevant for energy security. This century will be, to a large extent, about energy. Energy security is a theme where NATO is in the process of defining its added value. Protection of critical energy infrastructure. You've heard me before. It has been discussed already previously. NATO doesn’t certainly not carry the primary responsibility in the framework of energy security. NATO's not an economic organization. But there is certainly added value to be defined and you can be sure and certain that energy security will also figure on the agenda of the Bucharest Summit.
When I come to challenges and when I speak about challenges then I can say that the challenges, of course, of NATO, are very much in NATO's missions and NATO's operations.
I'll end with Afghanistan, the most important one, our first priority. Complex as well.
Let me start with Kosovo because after all 16,000 men and women in uniform are in KFOR in Kosovo at the moment and the situation, as you know, is volatile, as I could describe it.
The NATO role is clear. The role of KFOR is clear. We discussed Kosovo extensively, intensively at the ministerials in December, Foreign Ministers' Meeting and later in the permanent council. KFOR is there to stay. KFOR has as its basis Resolution 1244 of the United Nations, unless there will be another resolution. That chance, as we speak, seems fairly remote that there will be another resolution. And the allies agree that the legal basis for KFOR is 1244.
The troops are on the ground. If necessary reserves are ready and let nobody have the illusion that by violent or other negative means he or she could get it his way.
It is now very important, still very important, that all parties realize that a solution is necessary. I still say, of course, by far and preferably a negotiated solution. But I say again that chance seems remote now, unfortunately.
NATO is ready. I saw the European Union take decisions in December. I think it's very positive. Very important the European Union in and for Kosovo. Extremely important. Important also close NATO-EU cooperation in this regard. That goes without saying.
KFOR will be there and KFOR will stay to protect majority and minority alike. That is the key in Kosovo.
When I almost conclude I make a few remarks about Afghanistan. Because from time to time when I get my newspapers every morning I can't resist the impression that I'm only receiving half of my newspapers and that the other half is missing. What am I trying to say? And like any politician, or in my case, ex-politician, I pay of course the greatest attention to what you do and what you write, including on Afghanistan. A few remarks in this regard.
There's no doubt that on a host of fronts I would like to see more progress in Afghanistan. Be it on counternarcotics, be it on improving governance, be it on holding territory we've won on the battlefield. That story is clear and the international community, if I say we in this regard, I say the international community, could and should do better, and as far as governance is concerned, the Afghan government could do better.
The missing half of my morning paper is the part that looks at what is changing for the better. What has changed for the better and what is changing for the better. Take Musa Qala. Take Musa Qala as an example. A few weeks ago in the hands of the Taliban, with all the consequences. Put in place a terror regime, lock away the women and execute people if they like.
Look at Musa Qala now. The Afghan Army took the lead. Supported, of course, by ISAF. Supported by the NATO forces. But ANA, the Afghan National Army, took the lead. Which was a complex operation, a major operation in the military sense. It was a complex operation. To drive them out. It was successful. The Taliban have left.
The former Taliban commander is now governor. And he's calling on the people to support the government. And aid is starting to flow in massively in Musa Qala.
Now Musa Qala for me is a snapshot of what I would qualify as wider trends that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan has been punished in the last year, that the Afghan National Army is growing in strength and confidence. We are not there yet. We, and now we as NATO and the allies, should and could do more in sending the training teams, the so-called OMLTs to Afghanistan. So it's not only a sunny story, but I'm simply trying to explain to you that a lot of positive things are happening.
The Afghan National Army is doing better and better. As we speak four million refugees have gone back to Afghanistan. Health care is up. Child mortality is down. Two-thirds... two-thirds of the villages in Afghanistan have received development projects worth up to $50,000.
The average income of the Afghan has doubled since 2001. The currency is stable. Fourteen new banks are competing with each other. Three million Afghans have mobile phones. Forty percent of the Afghan land seeded with minds has been brought back into use.
In other words, if you look at 2001 and if you look at the beginning of 2008 a lot has happened and a lot of progress has been made. And we should realize that as well. And I know that it's not many times that good news is news, but it is news as far as I am concerned and that is why we are there.
And we are there for a good cause. We are there for a good cause. That's why we have the full United Nations mandate. The problem is that we, the international community, we have no patience. We do not realize sufficiently that when you want to assist and bring this country on a process of development and reconstruction it takes time. We want to see instant success. That is not possible, although a lot of progress has been made. And Patience, with a capital P, is a word we need. This is a long-term commitment. This is a long-term commitment. Not necessarily militarily, because the better we do in training and equipping the Afghan National Army the more responsibility they can take.
But reconstruction and building this nation and the answer in Afghanistan is not military, but is civilian, as I've said many times before, and I repeat here today, reconstruction and development is something for the long haul.
Patience in other words, and not expecting instant success.
And if I use the words reconstruction and development, support of the Afghan people, the Afghan government, let's not forget that if I say that we are there for a good cause, they're also very much related to the fact that we are fighting terrorism there. And that this is a key line, a front-line in our fight against terrorism, which we cannot afford to lose. It is as simple as that.
But the long-term, patience, patience, realizing that we have made a lot of progress, that we can do better on some fronts, in my opinion is the key in Afghanistan.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a host of other issues I could discuss with you and you certainly will discuss with me in your questions and comments from our partnerships with Ukraine, our relationship with Russia; new ambassador coming in soon, Rogozin; our Intensified Dialogue with Georgia; missile defence; our outreach to our global partners like Japan. I think I've spoken enough. I'm in your hands now so that you can steer the discussion with your comments and questions.
As I said, I'll take a few here and then I'll try to move around a bit. Thank you so much.
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Let me start where the microphone is, right there.
Q: Thanks. Happy New Year. Mark John from Reuters. Let's stay on Afghanistan. The Pentagon announced yesterday they're considering sending 3,000 U.S. marines to Afghanistan. And in doing so they explicitly recognize the fact that allies were not in position to add more combat troops at this stage. Is that analysis that you share, and if so, what should allies be doing?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: My answer will be yes and no and I'll explain. I think that if you look at Afghanistan and you look at the fact that the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements, the famous CJSOR in our jargon, has not entirely been filled. You'll never see me standing on a podium like this saying I'm satisfied.
But—and that is the no—if you look at the recent past you see a number of allies stepping up to the plate. Even yesterday we heard that Poland has made a very substantial and considerable offer, including eight helicopter, which is a lot, and ground forces for Afghanistan.
If I look to the recent past I see that nations like Slovakia, Hungary, Georgia, France, the Czech Republic, Australia, Norway, Singapore, Azerbaijan, all of course according to their capabilities, I'm not talking about thousands now, are all nations who have recently contributed or are contributing forces.
So the answer is yes and no. You cannot say the allies are not active enough, because they are active. If you ask me, are you fully satisfied my answer is no, I'm not fully satisfied because I still think we can do better, and I have still ambitions.
I'm very happy and glad that the U.S. government is in the process of taking this decision. I say again, the polish offer was extremely substantial yesterday, so that is my answer.
Q: Shada Islam from Dawn newspaper, Pakistan. Secretary General, I was wondering if you could comment on the situation, the tense and very volatile situation in Pakistan at the moment? How concerned are you about the current tensions, the post Benazir assassination especially and how do you think this will impact on your struggle against terrorism in Afghanistan? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I goes without saying that Pakistan is very important indeed for the NATO operation in Afghanistan. And that is also the reason, as you know, and as you all remember, that I went to Pakistan, spoke to President Musharraf and the then-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, because I think it is of great importance that apart from the military to military contacts and dialogue we have with Pakistan, there also is a political dialogue.
So you're right in your analysis. I can support that very much. That's the situation in Pakistan, it's very relevant for the NATO operation, the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.
It's important in the sense that it is important that the Afghani-Pakistani relationship is good. But it's also important that the point of departure, my point of departure in that relationship has always been that I do consider Pakistan as part of the solution, a very important part of the solution, and not as part of the problem. That is psychologically, politically, I think, an important note to make here.
I'll not comment on the internal situation in Pakistan. That's not up to me. What is important is that those people who are trying to make life in Afghanistan more complicated than it already is, are adequately dealt with in Pakistan as well.
I have every intention, and so have the allies, of continuing the political dialogue, strengthening the political dialogue with Pakistan. That elections are coming up, of course, we will not interfere in that process. That is, of course, an internal Pakistani affair, but I attach a great value to the political dialogue between Pakistan and NATO in this regard.
Q: Thank you very much. Magdy Youssef from Egyptian Television. A very Happy New Year for you and allow me also to say Happy New Year for all the people who are helping us, James and his people, George and his people.
Secretary General, I'm going to ask about something... you didn't talk about it, but I really need to ask it. I hear from here from NATO that there is quite some strong relation between NATO and the Mediterranean and Egypt as well.
From the other side I hear from Egypt that no, we have just a relation. Even a good relation or a special relation, the official in Egypt, they are saying no, we don't have this. So I don't know whom to believe actually. Is really do you have a special relation or there is some gap, there is some problem, that's why the Egyptian they are saying, no, we don't have a special relation?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I'm going to use a source which I do consider authorative. You draw your own conclusions. That's the Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. And he came here in December, and we had, I think what was an extremely interesting meeting in the political and the practical sense between our Mediterranean Dialogue partners and NATO.
And the initiative, credit where credit's due, for that meeting and the one who was pushing for that meeting was Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. He came. He spoke in a very interesting way, as usual. Tzipi Livni came. Many other Ministers came. In other words, that was a very interesting gathering. The most interesting I have seen over the past four years since I became the Secretary General of NATO.
Second part of my answer: Egypt has decided to have an Individual Cooperation Program with NATO, an ICP, in the framework of the Mediterranean Dialogue. I do think, really, and I think that's a big plus, that the relationship between Egypt and NATO is very good indeed. Very good indeed.
So don't believe the cynics. Do believe Minister Aboul Gheit.
APPATHURAI: We'll take three more and then the Secretary General will walk around. We have two right here.
Q: Dragan Blagolevic, Serbian Beta News Agency. Happy New Year, Secretary General.
You just said that NATO and KFOR will stay in Kosovo under the 1244 resolution of the Security Council. But will the mandate change if European Union will send its own mission to Kosovo, because UNMIK in that case will withdraw from Kosovo. Will the mandate change? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, KFOR's mandate as such will not change. But in that situation, as you are describing when they're... there is not yet, as you know, and let me underline once again, that I'm one of those who never gives up, that we can reach a mutually agreed political solution, but you know the decision-making process in the European Union.
My answer is no. KFOR's mandate will not change. But the ESDP mission, as you know, when it would come, would have a police element and KFOR is not a police force in Kosovo. KFOR's mandate, as such, would not change, as long as it is based on Resolution 1244, which is it.
I repeat again, unless and until there is another Security Council resolution which would change the mandate, but I do not see that possibility as very realistic as we speak.
APPATHURAI: I had intended for...
Q: M. Secrétaire général...
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Bonjour.
Q: Mes meilleurs voeux également. Pascal Mallet, AFP.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Merci beaucoup.
Q: Je veux justifier le fait de poser la question en français en vous demandant...
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: On a deux langues au sein de l'OTAN n'est-ce pas alors...
Q: ...en vous demandant premièrement est-ce qu'il y a des contacts entre vos services et la France concernant toutes les négociations préliminaires pour son éventuel retour qu'une partie de la presse française considère comme pratiquement acquis?
Et la même question se poserait à propos des relations avec la Russie qui n'est pas membre, mais qui est un partenaire comme vous le soulignez souvent, et qui vient de nommer M. Rogozine qui n'est pas connu pour favoriser l'indépendance du Kosovo et au moment où la flotte russe pour la première fois depuis la fin de l'Union soviétique se développe... se déploit avec force en Méditerranée. Je voudrais vous demander sur ces deux points le rapport avec la France qui est déjà un allié, mais qui ne l'est pas à 100% et la Russie qui est un partenaire mais qui semble l'être de moins en moins si vous avez en dehors des termes généraux des réponses précises à apporter sur l'attitude de l'OTAN et ses discussions avec ces deux pays.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: L'ambassadeur Rogozin est le bienvenu, bien sûr, pourquoi pas? Il est clair que le changement de décor de l'ambassadeur Totski à l'ambassadeur Rogozine ne va pas changer malheureusement les points où on a des divergences d'opinion pour ainsi dire entre la Russie et l'OTAN. Le FCE, le Kosovo, les défenses anti-missiles.
Mais comme on a conclu hier quand on a eu une réunion du Conseil OTAN-Russie pour le départ de l'ambassadeur Totski tous les 27 au sein du COR... du Conseil OTAN-Russie sont d'accord qu'il faut continuer les débats, qu'il faut continuer les discussions. Et j'attends de continuer les discussions aussi en la présence de l'ambassadeur Rogozine. Alors, je ne crois pas que son arrivée changera d'une façon fondamentale la relation.
Vous avez raison, la Russie est un partenaire, un partenaire important. Vous savez que j'utilise toujours, je le répète ici maintenant... On n'a pas d'alternative, ni la Russie, ni l'OTAN pour s'engager. L'engagement est le mot clé dans la relation OTAN-Russie parce qu'on n'a simplement pas d'alternative. On a des points importants avec les divergences d'opinions. Ça peut se passer. On continue la discussion. Le fait que la flotte russe est dans la Méditerranée, je pourrais ajouter qu'un navire... qu'un bateau russe est en train de participer à l'opération Active Endeavour en Méditerranée. Alors, on a un navire russe aussi au sein d'une opération de l'OTAN en Méditerranée, une opération article 5, intéressant de le dire où la Russie et l'OTAN sont ensemble contre le terrorisme. Et le terrorisme, c'est un des sujets sur lequel la Russie et l'OTAN se sont mis d'accord comme vous le savez pour des raisons qu'il ne faut pas expliquer. Alors, on continue... on continue la discussion aussi avec l'ambassadeur Rogozine.
Sur l'OTAN et la France, je suis avec... j'ai suivi avec grand intérêt le débat dans les journaux français, dans la presse française, dans les médias etc. De temps en temps je parle avec les uns et les autres. Mais je crois effectivement que c'est bien sûr la France et la classe politique française qui va prendre les décisions dans un temps considéré... dans le moment qui est considéré le moment juste pour la France. Ce n'est pas à moi ou pas à l'OTAN. C'est la France qui... qui est en train apparemment de discuter cette sorte de chose.
Je pourrai ajouter que, pour moi, bien sûr, ces discussions sont de bonnes nouvelles... sont de bonnes nouvelles. Je peux ajouter qu'à l'heure actuelle "as we speak" en anglais, la France, bien sûr, est un des alliés les plus importants si on voit les opérations, si on voit les commandements, si on va aussi dans le sens politique, la position de la France à l'OTAN est une position forte. Mais je me... je me réjouis... le futur...
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: D'accord, vous le dites. L'OTAN a deux langues. Beaucoup si à la fin de la journée, pour ainsi dire, la France serait là complètement. La France n'a jamais quitté l'OTAN alors rejoindre l'OTAN n'est pas le mot correct à mon avis, réintégration ce n'est pas un mot correct. La France est là. La France n'est pas partout à l'OTAN, mais la France est là. Mais c'est la France qui décide et pas... et pas l'OTAN.
Q: It's Dieter Ebeling from DPA, the German Press Agency. It's about enlargement and Bucharest, of course. We all know it's performance based and I don't want to bother you with asking for certain countries, but there are other countries who are not yet members of the Membership Action Plan and who have made their desire to join NATO very plain and very clear.
Without mentioning any names, just a general question, do you think there's still consensus within NATO and Bucharest as well, that countries who have frozen conflicts with other countries, about the territorium, do not qualify for membership within NATO?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I complement you with this intelligent question without mentioning names. Basically, asking me about Georgia, what about Ukraine, what about Serbia, what about Montenegro, what about...?
All jokes apart, it is... let me start in the Western Balkans, because I'll answer your question seriously. Three aspirants. I spoke about the three knocking on NATO's door in the Western Balkans and the process. Foreign ministerial, political decision, continue their reforms.
If I look at the Western Balkans more in general it is of great importance, in my opinion, in my opinion, because this is of course not a consensual opinion of allies I can voice here, but in my opinion, and I know in the opinion of many allies, I can add that, the regional approach vis-à-vis the Western Balkans is extremely important.
Now, we have, I'm not going to talk about the European Union, but I'm going to talk about the only recipe, in my opinion, which will create lasting stability and security in the Balkans is the road to Euro-Atlantic integration. And at the end of the day, and I don't know when the end of the day will come, but my ideal would be that I see all those countries in the European Union and in NATO. That is the only recipe for stability. That will take time. It will take a lot of time perhaps, and you and I know the complexities.
What does that mean for NATO? In my opinion it does mean for NATO that the region, also as far as it concerns the non-aspirant members, should be taken very seriously by NATO. That is the reason why I have gone out of my way before the Summit in Riga last year, to see that Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro got to the PfP and I think still it was the right decision, despite all the difficulties we might see surrounding Kosovo at this very moment.
If that will lead—here I come to the more difficult part of the answer, of course—if that is going to lead in Bucharest to decisions which would result in another level of the relationship between those non-aspirants, non-direct aspirants, I should say, the non-three, in their relationship with NATO I simply don't know. I simply don't know. But the end picture for me should be very clear, and this is certainly a discussion we will see between now and the Bucharest Summit and that's why I underline this is my judgement and my opinion.
Ukraine has a distinctive partnership, Intensified Dialogue. So has Georgia, Intensified Dialogue. We should use that to the full. As we speak you know about the situation in Ukraine. A new government with which I, at least, personally have not yet established contacts. That will come soon. And we have not even yet the formal election results in Georgia, but you've seen my comments through James on the Georgian elections.
So my answer simply to you would be, I don't know. I do not know what Bucharest exactly will result in as far as Ukraine and Georgia are concerned. For the moment my advice would be let's at least use the Intensified Dialogue we have with Ukraine and with Georgia to the full. And I say again we'll certainly, and I'll certainly establish sooner rather than later contacts with the new Ukrainian government and with the Georgian government for that matter, after the moment there is a new Georgian government.
APPATHURAI: Shall we end the more formal Q&A and we'll walk around a little bit?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: All right, that's fine. That's okay. Unless there's a burning...