Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the NATO Defence Ministers meeting on 4 June 2013

  • 04 Jun. 2013 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Jun. 2013 15:34

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Good evening.

We have just held our first-ever meeting of ministers dedicated to cyber defence, and NATO’s role in protecting vital computer systems.

This is a serious challenge, and we are taking it seriously. Because cyber-attacks are getting more common, more complex, and more dangerous. They come without warning. From anywhere in the world. And they can have devastating consequences.

We at NATO are already confronting this threat. Last year alone, we dealt with over 2,500 significant cases. That is one every three hours, day and night, every day of the year. And despite the increasing sophistication of these attacks, our security has not been compromised.

Protecting our networks is NATO’s primary task. But that is the minimum we should aim for. So today we have agreed how we can move forward in cyber-defence as an Alliance. 

We are all closely connected. So an attack on one Ally, if not dealt with quickly and effectively, can affect us all. Cyber-defence is only as effective as the weakest link in the chain. By working together, we strengthen the chain.

We all agree that our cyber-defence capability should be fully operational by the autumn, extending our protection to all the networks owned and operated by the Alliance.

We agreed that we will continue our discussion at our next meeting in October on how NATO can support and assist Allies who request assistance if they come under cyber attack. We will do that on the basis of a detailed report that we have tasked today.

Cyber-attacks do not stop at national borders. Our defences should not, either.

Today, we also discussed how to make sure this Alliance has the full range of capabilities we need to deal with the full range of threats.

Defence budgets are falling, and the cost of modern capabilities is rising. There is an imbalance between what we have and what we need, with significant shortfalls in some areas, such as air-to-air refuelling and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. And there is an imbalance between the burden carried by individual Allies.

These are challenges we are addressing, but we need to do more. There is a lower limit for what we can spend on defence. And in some cases we have now reached it.

To reverse that trend, we must hold the line on defence spending, and look to increase it as our economies recover.

We must make the best use of the money we have, through better, smarter cooperation.

And European countries must do more to relieve the unequal burden which is currently being carried by the United States.

Some European countries are already increasing their spending, despite the crisis, or have committed to do so. And today, a number of ministers expressed their interest in further multinational projects, to fill some of the gaps we face.

These are steps in the right direction and I welcome them.

Enfin, un mot de la Libye.

La semaine dernière, le premier ministre libyen a demandé à l’OTAN d’envisager de donner un avis sur la création des forces de sécurité nationales.

L’OTAN dispose dans ce domaine d’une expertise sans égale, accumulée sur plus de soixante ans. Hier, les Alliés ont décidé d’envoyer une délégation d’experts en Libye, afin de voir comment l’OTAN pourrait répondre au mieux à cette demande. Les ministres se félicitent de cette décision. Et nous attendons avec intérêt de pouvoir examiner attentivement le rapport d’évaluation de cette délégation dans les semaines à venir.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We'll go to the second row here, please. The gentleman with the red tie.

Q: Thanks. Can you tell me, please, why was an agreement not reached to allow cyber protection to Allies from the rapid reaction team in this meeting and what were the arguments against allowing that rapid reaction force to be shared around the Allies?

OANA LUNGESCU: Please also introduce yourself.

Q:Sorry, Ben Farmer from the Telegraph.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Actually, we adopted the progress report today. In that progress report we describe the way forward. You should look at this as a phased approach. We adopted a Strategic Concept in Lisbon in November 2010. We stated that we would strengthen cyber security and the first phase has been to strengthen cyber security as regards NATO's own networks. And in the progress report we have adopted today, we agreed to establish rapid reaction teams that can help protect NATO's own systems. And we envisage to declare the full operational capability of our response capability by October this year.

So this is the first phase. Now, second phase will be to look into how can the Alliance respond to requests from Allies that come under cyber attack. And we have several possibilities. Of course, one possibility would be to use the rapid reaction teams, though they will focus on the protection of NATO's own systems. But, of course, when they are there they could possibly also be used beyond that.

Another possibility, and that's the way we usually help Allies in need, would be to deploy national cyber assets to help an Ally. If I may use an example, we decided to help defend Turkey against possible attacks by deploying Patriot missiles. These are national assets.

In a similar way, when it comes to cyber, you could decide to deploy national cyber assets to help an Ally.

Now, this is an issue to be explored further during this second phase of our cyber approach. So it's not a surprise that we are still considering these things, because we have several options and today we had a very, very interesting discussion on that and Ministers are very open-minded as to how we could move forward.

So actually, I'm very satisfied with the discussion we had today and the progress we have made so far.

OANA LUNGESCU: German Television, please.

Q:Kai Niklasch from German Television. Mr. Rasmussen, capabilities was one of the main issues today and the German Defence Minister, Lothar(sic) de Maizière, he came here and announced again that Germany has to bury the drone program that is called Euro Hawk. Which impact, influence, does it have on the NATO program on the AGS?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As I understand it, de Maizière has also declared that Germany stays committed to the AGS project. I welcome that statement, and let me stress that the AGS project, or within the AGS project, we intend to purchase what is called the Global Hawk, which is a different system, it's tested and tried and they're already flying.


Q:Thank you. Teri Schultz with NPR and CBS. Looking ahead to tomorrow, and I realize you haven't discussed this yet, but what is your thinking on proposals that may be made by the United States to put what they're calling a bridging force in Afghanistan briefly after 2014 to transition into the post-combat operations era?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Let me stress that within a NATO contest we are discussing post-2014 training mission, with the name Resolute Support. We are currently planning that mission. Tomorrow I would expect Ministers to adopt what we call the concept of operations, which will create the framework for further planning of that training mission.

In parallel, individual nations may plan their own bilateral arrangements with the Afghan government. But as far as NATO is concerned we are focusing on the Resolute Support training mission, which will be established from 2015.


Q:Adrian Croft for Reuters. Secretary General, the French Foreign Minister is saying that France is now certain that the nerve gas sarin has been used in Syria on several occasions, and in view of your past comments that you would expect an immediate reaction from the international community if chemical weapons' use was proven, what do you think... what reaction can we now expect from NATO or the rest of the international community? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, as a matter of principle we never comment on intelligence reports, but needless to say that if chemical weapons have been used we strongly condemn such acts, whoever might have used them.

There is not, so far, much clarity about detailed circumstances. But obviously we strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons.

OANA LUNGESCU: Japanese media.

Q:My name is Nagano (inaudible) from Japanese magazine media. Secretary General, it's about cyber defence. I presume cooperation with the information technology industry would be indispensable. Would you like to explain what kind of cooperation would it be possible with the IT industries as far as the cyber defence concerns.

And the second question is, cooperation with the EU in order to avoid duplication, what kind of cooperation do you have in your mind?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: On the latter, obviously coordination between NATO and EU is of utmost importance. Also, when it comes to cyber security and it is part of the on-going dialogue between NATO and the European Union.

With regards to cooperation with private business, yes, indeed, that's important. Let me stress—and all Ministers agreed on that in today's discussion—our point of departure is that cyber security is first and foremost a national responsibility. It is a responsibility for each individual nation to do her utmost to protect information and communication systems.

And in that respect cooperation between governments and the private sector is crucial. I fully agree, and whenever I discuss these issues with our Allies I get the information that they already engage in such collaboration with the private sector.

So, first and foremost, this is a responsibility for individual nations. What we have discussed today is what more could be done at the NATO level.

OANA LUNGESCU: A question from Georgian media over there.

Q:Broadcasting Company (inaudible...). Mr. General Secretary, I have two questions. First, about the...tomorrow with the National Georgia Commission meeting and general questions will be the NATO-ISAF mission, and its new phase. And what can you say about Georgia's role in the new phase in ISAF mission?

And the second question will be about the... Dimitri Medevedev said in Norway that the... I cite it, that Russia has to react on the membership of its neighbours into the NATO and the enlargement change the party of the distribution of the powers. What can you say, your appreciation about this statement?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First, on the training mission, Georgia has already announced that Georgia intends to contribute to the Resolute Support mission after 2014 and this is the reason why Georgia is already now included in decision-making processes when it comes to the planning of that future mission. And I suppose the Defence Minister will reaffirm tomorrow that Georgia intends to contribute to the future training mission in Afghanistan, which we warmly welcome.

Now, let me stress that it is not for third countries to interfere with NATO decisions on future memberships, enlargement, open door policy. That's a NATO decision. And we adhere to the basic principle that each individual nation has the right to decide its Alliance affiliation freely. So this is a question to be addressed in the partnership between Georgia and NATO.

You will recall that already in 2008 at the NATO Summit in Bucharest we stated that Georgia will become a member of NATO. Of course, provided that Georgia fulfil the necessary criteria.

We have established a NATO-Georgia Commission and our partnership with Georgia takes place within that NATO-Georgia Commission and tomorrow we will have such a NATO-Georgia Commission meeting. By the way, the NATO Council will visit Georgia by the end of this month, and all these activities are part of our effort to assist Georgia in continuing the necessary reforms to eventually fulfil the necessary criteria.

OANA LUNGESCU: One last question over there.

Q:(Inaudible...) from Albanian Agon Channel. Mr. General Secretary, in report of NATO Command in June 2011 in Tirane, this report was very critical regarding the Albanian state desk. Some Albanian generals came in defence of this report becoming (inaudible...) by the Albanian government, who has already fired six of them, without any motive.

You know this situation in Albania now, the air force and the logic support are without command and what do you think about this?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, to give you a very brief answer, we are confident that Albania will live up to all her obligations within NATO. Also, when it comes to the security sector.

OANA LUNGESCU: We do have time for one last question, AP, over there.

Q:Thank you. Jamey Keaten, from Associated Press. If I could go back to the cyber defence, I was wondering, what kind of responses were discussed in terms of... you mentioned Patriot missiles. When it comes to cyber are there the equivalent of Patriot missiles that could be deployed in cyber space? What kind of responses are possible in case of an attack?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, well, I think you appreciate that I can't go into details on that. Eventually that will, of course, also depend on the specific circumstances. What we have discussed today is at a political strategic level, how the Alliance as such can respond to possible requests from individual Allies if they come under attack. We didn't discuss technical details about how exactly to react if an Ally is subject to a cyber attack.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. We'll see you all tomorrow morning.