by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the Riga Graduate School of Law
Good morning everyone. I am really delighted to be here on this snowy Riga day. It's really always a great pleasure of mine to speak with students and, I have to tell you, I have a special soft spot for law students because I hope you can help me understand some of the challenges of international law that confront us every day at NATO. So I'm going to be addressing two major areas in this realm, one with regard to international law on the side of some of our big treaty regimes, but the other is a more recent focus and some of you may have seen that Angelina Jolie visited NATO headquarters a few days ago, and her visit there marked the kind of launch of a new emphasis from Secretary General Stoltenberg, throughout the Alliance, on 1325 issues – issues related to women, peace and security, and UN Security Council Resolution 1325. So, I'm going to concentrate on those two big areas of international law and I'll look forward to our question and answer period and to hearing your views.
But I wanted to start by talking a little bit about NATO's adaptation, including eFP, the Enhanced Forward Presence. I was out yesterday at Ādaži, at the base there, and got to see how the battlegroups have taken shape that contribute so strongly to the deterrence and defence in this Alliance. And so first of all, I just wanted to express my admiration for the work that Latvia has done to serve as the host nation, to provide for the facilities at Adazi. I saw there was a lot that had to be done to build up infrastructure and so forth, so I also wanted to convey a word of admiration for Latvia and the role that you have played in deterrence and defence of the Alliance.
But I wanted also to focus in, as I begin my remarks on Russia's violations of international law. I mentioned the big regimes. Some of you may know my background is as an expert on arms control treaty regimes, including the Non-Proliferation Regime and also Strategic Arms Reduction and Control. Russia has been, in my view, really skating the edges at a minimum, and in some cases in non-compliance with important treaties and agreements.
The importance of arms control agreements, we can focus on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF Treaty. NATO's main purpose is to defend our countries and we've helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly seven decades. We have been successful because we have been able to adapt. I think our ability to adapt derives in part from our ability to listen to one another and to learn.
All 29 members of the Alliance, and I want to stress that this is an alliance that operates by consensus decision making, so each member of the Alliance is an equal decision-maker at the table and that is an important facet, I think, of our strength. We are regularly sitting together and discussing the security challenges we face. Together, by consensus, we decide how to address those issues and together we reap the benefits of this enduring commitment to our collective defence.
So again, I wanted to stress how appreciative we are for the work that Latvia has been doing, coming out of the Warsaw Summit in 2016, to establish one of four battlegroups here in Latvia. The other three are of course in Estonia, in Lithuania and in Poland. I will be going to Lithuania on Monday, so I will have an opportunity to visit their battlegroup as well, and last April I was in Estonia. So, the fourth one and the one I need to visit next, obviously, is in Poland.
These deployments, in Latvia and the three other countries here in the East, are part of the largest reinforcement of NATO's collective defence since the end of the Cold War, and I want to stress I was so impressed yesterday at Ādaži to see, as I've said, from the south of the Alliance all the way to the north, and then the transatlantic part is included as well, because I was able to visit yesterday with units from Albania far in the south of the Alliance, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, and soon the Czech Republic, all of them together at Ādaži and providing again for our collective defence. But Canada of course is the lead nation, working together with Lativa, and seeing the presence of the Canadians there and talking to both a Latvian Commander of the overall brigade, but also the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, and realising how closely Canada and Latvia are working together in this effort was very, very impressive to me.
So, next I think we are going to have to focus on reinforcement and how the battlegroups will work together with reinforcing capabilities such as our Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the VJTF, and that will be a big set of issues that we contemplate as we move to our NATO Summit meeting in July of the coming year.
But let me come back to the legal questions, that are of greatest interest to you, and I wanted to talk about the response to Russian actions. NATO has taken steps here, with the battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland, and also in other aspects of what we are doing in the Alliance, in direct response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and its ongoing military build up in this region. And I visited with the Ministry of Defence this morning and had a very good briefing, talking about the pressure of Russian troops in the region, really up against the borders of NATO in the Baltic region.
The violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the violation of international law that took place in 2014, and that continues to this day, is a matter of great concern to me personally, but also to NATO and to all of NATO's Allies. NATO does not and will not accept Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and we condemn Russia's ongoing destabilisation in eastern Ukraine. Russia's aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is an attack on the post-World War II rules-based international order, upon which peace and security in Europe have depended from the past seven decades. The United Nations, the European Union and NATO are all products of that rules-based order.
So, let me be very clear about the violations of international law that Russia has perpetrated in Ukraine. Russia is in violation of international law in several, very specific instances: Article 24 of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the 1997 Treaty of Friendship between Russia and Ukraine, which specifically recognised Ukraine's territory within the borders that existed, at the time of the Soviet breakup in the early 1990s. And to my mind, it's very interesting that the Russians have not abrogated this 1997 treaty. Very interesting. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, calling upon states and international organisations not to recognise any alteration of the status of Crimea resulting from Russia's actions. And I want to say this matter, I think, is extremely poignant here in the Baltic States. I obviously am an American, but I am now the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, so I'm an international civil servant. I'm not representing my own country as I stand before you today. But I very well remember the Cold War years and how my own country, the United States, refused to acknowledge for all those years that the Baltic States were a part of the Soviet Union, as the Soviets wanted, and so I think that refusal it's important to acknowledge, recognise and embrace now, as we consider the situation in Crimea. We must not, we must not recognise any alteration of the status of Crimea resulting from Russia's actions.
By contrast, and here I want to stress this, and I'll be glad to discuss it further, everything NATO does is strictly defensive, it is intended to prevent conflict, not provoke conflict. Our actions are transparent and fully in line with our international commitments.
Now, let me turn for a moment to the arms control regimes, the INF Treaty I mentioned at the outset. The INF Treaty removed a whole class of weapons, intermediate-range missiles, from Europe, indeed banned them globally. Their only purpose was to threaten European cities, including frankly Moscow, with short notice destruction. Intermediate-range missiles have a very fast flight time to target and so they are weapons meant to wreak havoc on very short notice. The treaty did a huge amount to contribute to strategic stability and reduce the risk of miscalculation leading to conflict.
In December, the North Atlantic Council, which is NATO's highest decision making body, the NAC as we call it, issued a statement in support of the INF Treaty. The Alliance is united. We know that effective arms control agreements are an essential element of our collective security. Unfortunately, Russia has deployed a new missile system that the United States, as a signatory of the treaty, affirms is in violation of the INF Treaty. To violate the treaty now would be a terrible blow to Euro-Atlantic security, so we have called on Russia to answer valid concerns about the new missile and to respect the INF Treaty. If you take a broader view and go beyond the nuclear treaties and agreements, think about the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe, Open Skies, and the Vienna Document, Russia has also been undermining these treaties and agreements. The result could be a destabilising arms race, something that we have experienced in the past, in the Cold War years, and no one wants to see again. We need not repeat that experience, nor would I argue can any of us afford to.
For our part, NATO certainly does not want a new arms race. We strongly support effective arms control agreements and the well established international legal framework surrounding them. I have touched on NATO's adaptability, international law with regard to Ukraine and the importance of arms control, especially the INF Treaty. But I think that conventional arms control treaties and agreements are also very important for establishing mutual predictability and raising confidence, enabling us to understand better what the Russians are up to. But they should care about understanding better what we are up to as well, again to convey to them that our actions are defensive, proportionate and in line with international law. But let me now turn to another set of issues, and that is the 1325 set of issues. I want to underscore that inclusion and gender equality relate directly to the fundamental values on which the NATO Alliance is based: democracy, individual liberty, human rights and again, the rule of law. When it comes to gender, doing the right thing and doing things right go hand in hand. I always say that we cannot afford to leave 50%, practically, of the global population outside of global decision making and global problem solving. It's the right thing, but it's also the way to do things right, to have women engaged at every level. That is especially true with regard to women in the armed forces. As I mentioned a moment ago, UN Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, visited NATO headquarters on Wednesday. The purpose of her visit was to highlight an issue that concerns us all, and that is the issue of preventing sexual or gender based violence in conflict. It's a subcategory. It's one of two pillars of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. So, her focus is particular in that area, but 1325 is broader than that and I think there are many areas where we can work to improve the implementation of that important UN Security Council Resolution.
For nearly 70 years, NATO has stood for collective defence against military threats, based also for the defence of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Therefore, in our view, NATO has a responsibility to be a leading protector of women's rights. We know from experience that strengthening the role of women is the smart thing to do, as I mentioned a moment ago, and NATO has a long record of fighting extremist groups, such as the Taliban and ISIS. These groups have the oppression of women at the very core of their modus vivendi, how they go about operating in the world, and their overarching ideology. So, despite being prohibited by international law, very clearly sexual violence continues to be employed as a tactic of war in numerous conflicts. And that is what the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and UN Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, were talking about on Wednesday – that as a matter of high priority, NATO will now be tackling these issues, working together with international organisations, such as the UN, but also with organisations such as the African Union, the OSE, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. There are many ways, I think, international organisations can work together more effectively to try to tackle these problems. We have a responsibility to do better, fulfilling the promise of the women, peace and security agenda will make an important, lasting contribution to creating a more peaceful and sustainable future for succeeding generations.
I am confident that a strong Alliance, united by our shared values, will continue learning and adapting. It is important that no organisation stands still. It constantly must be learning, adapting and changing to the external environment. So, we will continue to be protecting the nearly one billion citizens that make up the membership of this Alliance, both on this side of the Atlantic and also let us not forget, not only the United States, but also Canada, your important partner here in Latvia for the battlegroup.
The population of the NATO countries, they depend on NATO for peace and security and safety, and so we will continue to be very serious about those commitments and to be working very hard to fulfil them. With that, I look very much forward to our discussion. I hope to be able to answer your questions and I am very interested in hearing your view, as I mentioned at the outset, on these issues of international law that I have raised, or on other issues that you may wish to bring to my attention. So, thank you very much for this opportunity and I look forward to our discussion. Thank you.
Question: Hello, I am a lecturer in international law here at RGSL. Thank you Ms Gottemoeller for your very interesting lecture. And my question is regarding nuclear weapons and last year, at the United Nations in July, a new convention on the ban of nuclear weapons was adopted, but of course the main nuclear power weapon states were not participating, and that also concerns the questions regarding NATO, because in some of the NATO member states, like the Netherlands, they have concluded agreements where they are stationing nuclear weapons in their countries. How would you comment on that? What is the NATO's policy and whether the NATO, as an organisation, has any impact on its member states regarding this question?
NATO Deputy Secretary General: Thank you very much. That's a very good question and it is one of course that we have to grapple with regularly at NATO because there are many interested Allies with regard to nuclear weapons policy and many interested publics, with ensuring progress toward nuclear disarmament.
The way I look at the Ban Treaty, and again I think of it very much in legal terms, the Ban Treaty comes 45 years after a very important document was agreed as an international treaty and brought into force as a matter of international law, and that is the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been at the lead in every treaty and agreement that we have pursued ever since, to control nuclear weapons, reduce and eliminate them, because it has three pillars: one pillar devoted to disarmament, another to non-proliferation and the third pillar devoted to peaceful uses of the atom. And those pillars help to define a key agreement that was reached, that is there would remain five nuclear weapon states, those states that had tested nuclear weapons at the time the NPT came into force, and the other countries around the world who would agree to eschew military nuclear uses, pursue peaceful uses of the atom, but insist that we are on a path to reducing and eliminating and finally getting to zero nuclear weapons. So, that is the core document. It has really defined what has become the status quo, and there are frustrations and I would say concerns among some states, that the nuclear weapons states have not fulfilled their obligations, under the NPT, to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons.
I can argue with that. I see, in the case of my own country, that since the height of the Cold War, when the United States had 32,000, more than 32,000 nuclear warheads, over the ensuing 45 years we have reduced and eliminated nuclear warheads, so that we are now down, in the United States, to under 5,000 nuclear warheads. It's still too many. People say it's still too many and I agree, it's still too many. We still have to reduce and eliminate steadily nuclear warheads, but I would argue that that path will continue. So, we can argue about it, but that path, we must stay intent on.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty, however, is a powerful legal document and I believe that the Ban Treaty undermines the NPT by subordinating it. I don’t know if you’ve done a close reading yet of the Ban Treaty, but essentially there – and I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to get the jargon exactly right – but it says, "In any case…" one of the Ban Treaty articles says that, "In any case that the Ban Treaty is contradicted by another treaty or agreement", read NPT, "the Ban Treaty takes precedence" and I cannot agree with that. I think the Ban Treaty weakens the NPT and calls into question this worldwide global consensus. I would like to be proven wrong. I have had a Ban Treaty proponents argue with me on this point, but, and I've had a lot of opportunity to talk to lawyers about this. There is a very good article that has just come out in Survival, written by two lawyers, now they've left the State Department, but they were part of the State Department's legal team, Mallory Stewart and Newell Highsmith, and they've just wrote a very good article on this problem of the subordination of the NPT to the Ban Treaty. So, if you're interested in this, I strongly, strongly urge a close reading of that article. Again, I'm not a lawyer, so I can't get into it in too much detail.
Question: Would you have any comments on decision by congress to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine….and how would you see that influencing that conflict?
NATO Deputy Secretary General: As a NATO matter, and I want to stress this as I speak from this podium, as a NATO matter we don’t take a position on this. It's up to nations who are members of the Alliance to make their own individual decisions with regard to weapon sales and the provision of weapons to other countries. As I have understood the US decision, which was Executive Branch, backed up by the Congress, it has been that the sales of lethal weapons are now open to Ukraine. They can choose to buy certain systems. It is not that the United States will be providing free of charge or in anyway donating lethal weapons to Ukraine. So, as a matter of being the NATO Deputy Secretary General, I have no opinion on this matter officially. I will say though, my view from working in the previous Administration, was that we needed to have a bit more of a flexible policy in this regard.
For example, prior to the Russians illegal seizure of Crimea and it's annexation in 2014, the United States was providing peacekeeping training to the Ukrainians, and that included some lethal weapons training, how to shoot small arms and light weapons, those types of training activities, and with the constraint that was placed on US sales of lethal weapons during the previous Administration, all of that kind of cooperation was shut down. I did not personally agree with that. I thought we needed a bit more of a flexible policy, if only to consider, to continue rather, some of the work that we had been doing previously, such as peacekeeping training, training in small arms and light weapons. So, I think we needed a bit more flexibility in the earlier period. For the current period, we will see what happens. In recent conversations with the Ukrainians, they are considering what they can afford, what their budget will allow for. Again, it will be up to a bilateral relationship between Ukraine and Washington, and not have anything to do with decision-making in NATO headquarters, in Brussels.
Question: Thank for your speech. The question is in regards to permanent structure cooperation and as I read that the Secretary General has welcomed the new permanent structure cooperation and maybe would there be a possibility to give us an insight to a future cooperation between so called PESCO and NATO.
NATO Deputy Secretary General: Very good. We now have in place, and actually this has just happened since I came into this position. I came into this position in October of 2016, just four months after the Warsaw Summit at which the agreement was made to establish the battlegroups, and by the way it's been amazing the way the battlegroups took shape in 2016 and were certified in the summer of 2017. Very fast, very efficient and again, Latvia deserves a lot of praise for the way the battlegroup here quickly took shape. But another important part of the decisions that came out of the Warsaw Summit had to do with NATO-EU cooperation, and believe me it was not a pretty picture in the past. There was, I would say, not enough cooperation and communication between the two sides of Brussels, out by the airport where NATO is and downtown where EU is, not enough cooperation by any means. But the Warsaw Summit began to change that picture, and by the time I arrived in October, we were already discussing some close project cooperation, and within a few months' time, by December, the Foreign Ministers agreed, between the EU and NATO, that we would be pursuing closer cooperation. And this has only been bolstered in the ensuing period.
We just agreed on a further tranche of cooperation in three areas at the foreign ministerial right before Christmas. So, emphasis again on 1325, which I welcome very much, women, peace and security, and the fight against terrorism and military mobility, which I've been discussing a lot here in Latvia the last couple of days, how to move men and material, men, women and material in more efficient ways across Europe. So, the cooperation now is much, much better than it was. We have 74 joint projects we're working on. The question is actually now implementing and getting it to work, and in some areas, PESCO for example, we see new opportunities for better efficiency in acquisition of weapon systems, for better rationality in terms of defence spending, for new funds being made available for military R&D. These are all related to the developments surrounding PESCO. So, we see it's a very good development inside the EU.
Once again, what we are emphasising is the necessity of complementarity and not competition. There's, for example, NATO has a list of defence capabilities with each of our Allies, we sit down and say "OK, what makes sense for you, Latvia, to acquire? How will it fit together with other capabilities that other NATO Allies are acquiring?" Again, you make your own national decisions about what you're actually going to buy, but we have some defence capability targets that we put out there and NATO Allies are participating in that effort, to ensure that the activities and capabilities in the Alliance fit together and that equipment is interoperable, those kinds of issues.
So, what happens if suddenly the EU becomes involved in its own process of establishing defence capabilities? And what if those capabilities start to contradict some of the capability targets that NATO puts out there? Those are the kinds of things we really, really, really have to avoid. And so we are urging and again, the top line talking points are the same, both at EU headquarters and at NATO headquarters, that is both leaderships are saying we need complementarity, not competition, we need coordination and we need transparency. So, those are all the right messages, all very good and now we just have to make sure, throughout the organisations, from the top all the way down to the working levels, that people are paying attention to the need for transparency, communication and coordination.
But I want to stress once again something Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General, says frequently. He says PESCO is only good for this whole problem of burden sharing in the Alliance. President Trump has pointed to it very hard, obviously we had a tough meeting back in May, May 25th of last year, when he came to NATO headquarters for the first time and put that burden sharing message on the table loud and clear. But again, I want to stress, the US leadership, back you know, for years, has been focusing on the necessity of better burden sharing inside the Alliance. But I think Mr Trump pulled it into sharper focus.
And now we have to make sure that, as the Europeans are focused on making their own defence capability acquisition and other defence burden-sharing decisions, that they are complementary with NATO.
Question: First of all, thank you for an excellent speech. My question is, what are you views on the recent Turkish military actions on the border with Syria?
Rose Gottemoeller: It’s a question that has been very, very close to me in the last ten days because I arrived in Turkey just as the Afrin operation was being launched two weekends ago. It had been a long planned trip on my part to visit both Istanbul and Ankara but it came at a time when that operation was launching and so NATO of course has been paying very, very close attention to it. I will stress two points and I am going to start with the point I made in my speech and it’s a point I was very clear about when I was in both Ankara and Istanbul talking to government interlocutors but also talking to the public via the media and that is NATO as an institution stands for the rule of international law and all NATO members sign up to that agenda and so every NATO member needs to be supporting and implementing that agenda and so in my messages there publicly I said two things.
I said, first of all, NATO as a whole, as an Alliance, recognises the legitimate security concerns of Turkey. Also, we recognise that Turkey among the NATO Allies has been the country that has been most under attack by terrorism and violence extremism.
All NATO Allies have had to be alert to the problems of terrorism and violent extremism, many NATO Allies have had attacks on their home territory but Turkey has had repeated, repeated attacks. So they have been facing this problem intensively.
We understand that, but the reactions must be proportionate, be mindful of targeting, concerned about targeting civilians and preventing targeting and damage to civilian areas and be in line with other aspects of international law.
So these were all messages that I emphasised when I was in Turkey and I think it’s important to, you won’t be surprised I heard a lot about their concerns about the terrorist threat as its been affecting them and it was a difficult few days but I think a good few days to have that line of communication open between NATO and Turkey, certainly again Secretary General Stoltenberg has been very active, he has a good working relationship with President Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, so they are in regular touch.
But I would say more important in this regard, and this was another point that I was putting out there when I was in Ankara and Istanbul is it’s important for Washington and Ankara to be getting together and addressing the issues and as I have understood it’s been clear from watching the US media that Secretary of Defence Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, high level of the military command have been in communication with their NATO ally Turkey and with leadership in Ankara.
So I think that’s very important as well. This is not a problem that NATO can solve, it has to be solved in that bilateral realm between Ankara and Washington.
You had a question please go ahead.
Question: Thank you so much for seeing you…. I was thinking if we step back and the escalation, the matters that are currently developing with North Korea an extremely uncertain future and of course NATO as a preventive measure and so on contact but must have a certain very strong position and I have seen some of the statements that have come out but I was just thinking that that is probably something that might escalate, it’s possible, and there is speculation that a certain preventive measure could cause a lot of harm now but to prevent something much bigger in the future.
So maybe you could just comment on this a little bit?
Rose Gottemoeller: Gladly, and it is very interesting to me how NATO has become seized of this matter.
As the testing programme proceeded last summer, particularly of the missiles, longer and longer range missiles were tested throughout the summer and so NATO first took note of this and our North Atlantic Council, the NAC, I have mentioned it’s our leading decision making body.
The first issue that was addressed was the missile testing because those missiles were coming to ranges that can attack any NATO Ally, from Turkey all the way up to Norway, and obviously in the other direction the transpacific direction as well, Canada and the United States.
So those missiles have now brought NATO into range of DPRK so that was taken note of in a NAC statement in the summer where at that point NATO recognised that DPRK is a global problem and then there was a second statement that was taken during the period when, in September, they tested a new and large warhead, nuclear warhead, and so it was recognised again by NATO as a matter of a NAC statement, very serious, NAC statements are not frequent, so very, very serious to have this put out there recognising the necessity of continuing to pursue diplomatic action to try to return DPRK to compliance with a non proliferation treaty and to pursue denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula.
So those were goals that NATO were underscored and also the necessity of a continued diplomatic track to try to make this happen.
Now what can NATO do is the question I think that’s buried underneath your question – what can NATO do?
Well first I want to emphasise the importance again of deterrence and that is at the heart of what NATO does each and every day here in Europe facing the threats that we know about not too far to the east, so we are focused on maintaining strong deterrence and we will continue to do so, and all NATO partners, sorry all NATO Allies participate in that and clearly the United States takes a large role in strengthening deterrence against North Korea in its actions in the Pacific where we have the, as United States, we have Allies, that is ROK, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, but all four of those countries are also partner countries of NATO so we are staying in close touch with them and continuing to keep each other alert and aware to what is going on in each of our regions.
So I think the importance of deterrence is what I would underscore, for the moment we will continue to stress and emphasise the necessity of diplomatic track remaining open and pursuing diplomatic efforts.
I am very interested to see what the Olympics will bring, quite honestly that’s an interesting moment with ROK and DPRK getting together for the first time in a long time so curious to see how that hockey games goes frankly but, well I guess there will be a number of hockey games, we will see what happens, but in any event I do hope that the Olympics can lend some new impotence to the diplomatic track and perhaps some solutions will be forthcoming.
Yes in the back.
Question: First of all, thank you … regarding the recently reported the sexual harassment is rife with the UN …. perhaps you could comment on what specific mechanisms are currently being employed or might have been employed at NATO?
Rose Gottemoeller: Yes, we have a very strong code of conduct at NATO itself for the institution and this has been something that I have been very, very strongly pushing since my arrival.
You probably have heard that I am the first senior leader of NATO who happens to be a woman, I am the first female Deputy Secretary General in now almost 70 years of the Alliance and you know quite honestly it has been a man’s organisation for many years of its existence. It’s a defence and military alliance so naturally enough the leadership of the Alliance has tended to come from male ranks, but I want to first say that the Secretary General, Jen Stoltenberg, very committed to bring female leadership in the Alliance. We’ve got a better, I would say, track record now in bringing young women up to middle management ranks and now we need to push through the longstanding glass ceiling to get them up to the higher management ranks and that’s something I have been very focused on.
NATO has got the right code of conduct, it’s got the right regulations but it’s always implementation that you need to focus on and women have to feel that they can step forward, that they can bring complaints, that there will be proper procedure for handling those complaints and proper confidentiality, all those issues.
So they are points that I am very, very mindful of but I will say that I think we have the right code of conduct, the right regulations in place.
I have really been pushing and we have just put out again the code of conduct and you know really ask everybody what they think. The Secretary General did this at his level to say you must pay attention to this and be very mindful of the requirement to treat all of your colleagues respectively, it’s not just a matter of male, female relationships but to treat all colleagues respectfully.
So yes we have an institutional work in progress as well and I am not going to say everything is perfect at NATO by no means but we have it, I would say, front and centre in terms of our agenda and it will be something that I will continue to work on very, very hard while I am there.
Question: Thank you for doing this public lecture and giving us the opportunity to be in touch with you directly.
My question with regards Russia and NATO’s relationship with Russia.
You have mentioned a few elements of it which I believe is the part of the grander strategy of deterrence and dialogue …
Would you be able to give us a bit more comprehensive picture of the work of NATO in this regard?
Rose Gottemoeller: Very glad to do so and I am going to take us back again to the late 1960s, so now about 50 years ago when NATO really suffered one of its most difficult periods when France decided to pull out of the military command of NATO and basically told NATO it was no welcome to have its headquarters in Paris.
So that was, as you can acknowledge, and if you have read history you will perhaps have seen from the writing about this period that it was a period of profound soul searching in the Alliance and we moved to Brussels during that period, a very fast turnaround, we moved into an old hospital, an old military hospital which is our headquarters to this day and believe me it’s showing its age now, it’s 50 years old and I was sitting at my desk a couple of weeks ago when we had a very strong rainstorm and I suddenly heard a drip, drip, drip, behind me and there were leaks coming down onto my printer and you know my electronic equipment and I said, definitely time to move.
So we are moving now to, in March, to a new headquarters across the street from the old military hospital that we moved into in 1967-68.
The reason I bring that up, that profound soul searching, is what I wanted to focus on because at that time leadership figure in Brussels was the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Harmel, and he said it is really, really time that we look closely at the purpose, the existential purpose of this Alliance going forward. And we produced in consultation of course across the Alliance a very important report called the Harmel Report. We just celebrated it’s fiftieth anniversary, again there is a lot of information on the NATO website, lots of links to both this history and the Harmel Report itself, analysis if you are interested, but is where it was first laid down that what NATO is about is not only deterrence and defence but also we are about dialogue, dialogue and détente, and that was the clear message of Pierre Harmel 50 years ago and it has been steady state throughout the period of the Alliance.
We had to, I won’t say we had to, it was a pleasant thing to set it aside for a few years at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. We were thinking more in those years about the fight against terrorism addressing Afghanistan post 9/11 which at its heart was a fight against terrorism, dealing with the aftermath of the attacks on the twin towers in New York. This was NATO looking outward beyond its own borders and far afield, but 2014 was a watershed year, Crimea in particular, I also point to the occupation of Mosul by ISIL in 2014.
So we knew in 2014 that the counter-terrorism fight was entering a new stage, a new stage very much informed by this particular horrific brand of violent extremism, but we were also facing a new threat environment involving Russia which we had in many ways you know thought was over with.
So in that context renewing the commitment to deterrence and defence as well as dialogue I think was very, very important.
At the Wales Summit in 2014 we took the first very, very important strengthening steps to renew the deterrence and defence aspect of our main objectives but then two years later at the Warsaw Summit in 2016 we again renewed the second track, the dialogue track.
So deterrence and defence and dialogue that is what NATO is all about but I want to stress there because sometimes people treat it as if it’s kind of new that you’re talking with Russia, it’s kind of new that you’ve got this dialogue track going, no it’s not, it’s been part of NATO’s DNA since the late 1960s and the Harmel Report and that history I think is important to recollect today.
So we do have a dialogue going with Russia, the NATO-Russia Council. It’s not easy, it’s not a great dialogue and in fact we do insist every time that we must begin our conversation with Russia talking about the way they overstep the bounds of international law by their annexation of Crimea in 2014.
We talk about their current destabilisation of the Donbas, their contribution to destabilisation and lack of security in that area of the world. They don’t like it one bit but we will and do continue to pursue dialogue with Russia, we are preparing for the next NATO-Russia Council meeting now.
So that is a different facet of our relationship with Russia but one we think is important as well as the deterrence and defence embodied by the battlegroup here in Latvia as well as the other battlegroups as well.
Moderator: Students we do have time for two more questions, please use the opportunity.
Rose Gottemoeller: OK, are there any on this side of the room, I see two over here, OK go ahead.
Question: Hi, Alina from the US.
Rose Gottemoeller: Hi, where are you from?
Rose Gottemoeller: Tennessee, ah great.
Question: So my question is could you comment on the salience of disinformation activities throughout the Baltics and then in addition to the Stratcom Centre of Excellence here in Riga, what sort of efforts is NATO doing to combat these activities?
Rose Gottemoeller: Let me take the other question here, who was it over here, yes please go ahead.
Question: Thank you very much… my question regards sexual and gender-based violence especially with regard to the protection of victims…and I was wondering how far member states are held accountable if crimes are committed under NATO’s command by soldiers and what NATO’s responsibility is with regard to the protection of those victims?
Rose Gottemoeller: OK, very good, I’m glad we got to this issue as well.
Very good, but let me start on the disinformation issues. They have very much been front and centre and we have seen many Allies have been affected by Russian disinformation efforts, a lot of investigatory activity going on now, including in my own country about the meddling of Russia in US election campaigns. So a lot of reason for concern, there is absolutely no question about it.
I think I would like to make two comments in this regard.
First of all, I do think it’s very important for NATO and all NATO Allies individually as well as NATO partners to be alert, to be aware and to be prepared. And that means being ready to push back, to fight back and so having entities such as the NATO Stratcom centre available. It’s not strictly, it’s not under the NATO command per se so I want to be pretty cautious about how I talk about it but it is an entity that works very, very closely with NATO, but it has a certain independence so that’s an important point.
Nevertheless, they have been very good I think at pulling into sharper focus some of the theory and practice that we need to, we really need to embrace and understand fully to be able to pushback effectively and efficiently.
So I am very much looking forward to visiting the CoE, in fact after I leave here I think I have that visit and then I’m going to a luncheon but I will definitely within the next couple of hours be visiting the CoE and I am very much looking forward to their work because they have been quite on the cutting edge to alert to the various directions that these disinformation campaigns may take us and what we need to be doing to fight back, to push back and all NATO members need to be aware of this and alert to it.
In that context, I would like to make my second point and that is what I see is that learning has already taken place and that NATO Allies are alert and aware and are pressing back effectively and efficiently.
Yesterday I was at Ādaži, I went out to the base got to see you know how the operations are going on and what really impressed me is the commanders there talked about their level of engagement with the local community and how effective that has been, how interested the public is, for one thing they get a lot of demands to visit schools, to visit you know various community centres and so forth and talk to people but I can think of no way more effective to press back against Russian disinformation than for people who have had a chance to get to know and to get to talk to some NATO soldiers directly and understand really by talking people to people about what is going on and to feel like they have the opportunity to ask questions and get a clear picture, get a clear answer whenever they need it so I think that is very, very good and I think what is going on at Ādaži is a very good example of how to push back and be prepared to push back against disinformation.
Now let me move on talk about the question about sexual and gender based violence and the protection of victims.
NATO wasn’t always so good at this, you know a decade ago or so it was not part of command responsibilities to be paying attention to these issues so like many international organisations and I do admit that it has been for many organisations a serious problem, but I will say that as far as I know it has not been a problem for NATO troops in recent times that there should have been abuses to be concerned about, but I will also underscore that it has now based on some lessons learned in the last decade, it has become a responsibility to report up the chain of command and that is a very, very now well established responsibility this reporting and you know really helping, if need be, to come up with the proper evidence, the proper information that it can then be passed into the judicial system for further handling.
NATO obviously is not going to do it all, but I can say that we have now this responsibility to report through the chain of command. The other thing that we have been doing to try to address some of these issues is to put in place gender advisors, we just were on a video teleconference when Miss Jolie was at NATO headquarters on Wednesday, we had a video teleconference both with the KFOR operation which is in Kosovo and also with the RSM mission which is in Afghanistan in Kabul, so we had them both on the line at once to talk about what they are doing and we talked to the general advisors, they are getting out in the field constantly and we have gender points of contact throughout communities in Afghanistan and Kosovo to first of all, you know have better warning of what’s going on, be prepared to deal with issues that may arise but also to try to ensure that NATO is doing everything it can on the prevention side also and I think that is important too but I think what is great about Secretary General, Stoltenberg, and the UN Special Envoy now working closely together over the next several years. We are putting in place a detailed work programme to ensure that we fill in gaps that need to be filled in from a NATO perspective.
NATO has already got very, very good you know rules on the books, again, how do we get them implemented, how do we ensure that partner countries are also willing to be trained on these issues and willing to come up to a certain standard.
So these are all areas that we will be working on in the coming two years and involving the Special Envoy as well.
So anyway, thank you very, very much, very good discussion. I admire the work that you are doing here as lawyers and I hope in your careers you will continue to help us push forward on goals with regard to the implementation of international law because it is an area and I sense it now every day in the assault that we see from countries not only like Russia but also China, you know calling into question the international system, calling into question the international rules based order.
So we count on you and your careers to help us to drive forward this agenda and strengthen and reinforce this international system and help us to push back against the critics.
So thank you very much for your attention, for your time, I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to our future.