Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the first day of meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 03 Jun. 2014
  • |
  • Last updated: 04 Jun. 2014 18:17

Good evening.

We have just a series of good meetings to prepare for our Wales Summit in three months’ time. And we have taken a number of decisions to make NATO fitter, faster and more flexible.

Today, we made clear that NATO looks forward to working with the new president of Ukraine and is committed to supporting reforms in Ukraine’s security and defence sector.

In the weeks to come we will finalise a comprehensive package of long-term measures to make Ukraine’s reforms more effective, and its armed forces stronger.

We agreed that we will continue to reinforce NATO’s collective defence, with more air and sea patrols, and more exercises and training. From the Baltic to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

I strongly welcome President Obama’s announcement today of a European Reassurance Initiative of up to 1 billion dollars to further reinforce our collective defence and support our partners with capacity building.

This is a timely and important contribution that reinforces the steps NATO has already taken. It is a clear sign of America’s commitment to Europe, and it’s a clear sign of the strength of the transatlantic bond. 

I also welcome President Komorowski’s announcement that Poland will increase defence spending to 2% of Gross Domestic Product.

This is a time for all Allies to play a part, and all Allies are doing so.

Every single Ally is committing resources to our collective defence. With aircraft or ships, troops on the ground or commanders and planners for our forces. 

When we say NATO’s defence is “all for one”, we mean it.

Today we have agreed to continue planning to “step up” our reassurance measures if and when required.

I welcome the decision by Denmark, Germany and Poland to start work in order to raise the readiness of Multinational Corps North East, based in the city, Szczecin of Poland.  This will strengthen our ability to address future threats and challenges in the region. And it is a significant contribution to our collective defence.

So we are preparing for the longer-term implications of this crisis which makes our world even more unpredictable.

Today we agreed to develop a Readiness Action Plan in view of the Wales Summit. A coherent package of measures to respond to the changed security environment.

We will look at how to make the NATO Response Force able to react even more rapidly in a crisis; to enhance our intelligence and awareness; to pre-position equipment and supplies; and to focus our exercises even more on specific defence challenges.

We have also agreed to step up our work to fill key capability gaps, both in terms of  hardware and the people whose skills and professionalism make our operations possible. And to increase the training and readiness of our forces - not just specialised rapid-reaction units, but across the board.

We have also agreed a new and enhanced cyber-defence policy. Because we recognise that cyber defence is part of NATO’s core task of collective defence.

NATO’s fundamental responsibility in this domain is to defend our own systems, while nations defend theirs. But under the new policy, we will enhance information sharing and mutual assistance between Allies. We will improve NATO’s cyber defence training and exercises. And we will boost our cooperation with industry.

Finally, we have approved Germany’s initiative on “Framework Nations.” This means groups of Allies coming together to provide the coherent forces and capabilities the Alliance needs.

In that respect, I warmly welcome the initiative of seven allies, led by the UK, to develop a joint expeditionary force. This initiative will bring together allies with extensive operational experience in a flexible and ready force. 

This is Smart Defence in action, because it allows us to get more out of what we invest.

This is the sort of cooperation we will be building on as we prepare for our NATO Summit in Wales.

And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  Associated Press. 

Q: Secretary General from the Associated Press.  Could you say what you believe (are) the most critical areas that the US...  the Reassurance Initiative dollars should be spent on? 

And also what do you think other Alliance members now should do, when it comes to reinforcing European Defence?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Firstly, I think the US reassurance package will reinforce the readiness action plan we have decided to prepare for the summit.  We will, of course, further work on this; but as I understand the American proposals, this reassurance package can be used to finance the prepositioning of equipment and supplies.  It can be used to finance enhanced exercises, just to mention a couple of examples. 

So I think this will be a very important financial contribution to realize the vision of a Readiness Action Plan.  Now, of course, this also emphasizes the need for a broader participation in reassurance measures.  And the good news is that we can declare from this meeting that all 28 Allies contribute one way or the other to our reassurance measures. 

Now, you asked me: "What would be desirable when it comes to future contributions?" Well, I could point to participation in exercises.  We have just seen a quite broad participation in an exercise Steadfast Javelin which took place in Estonia.  It started as a national initiative actually. But it was turned into a NATO-led exercise with the participation of, I think, eight Allies; participation of 6,000 troops. 

Now, I foresee that we will step up the number of exercises in the future.  So it will be quite demanding.  And I would expect all Allies to contribute one way or the other; because that is an essential part of being a member of a collective security alliance that you can also contribute with essence when it comes to collective defence.


Q:  Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence.  Two related questions.  What kind of prepositioning assets and supplies are we talking about?  And secondly, did you and the Allies discuss the notion of "prepositioning" along NATO's eastern frontier with Russia during the NRC meeting on Monday? And did both sides agree that this complements would contravene the spirit of the 1997 Founding Act?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Firstly, at this stage, I'm not going into details on which prepositioning we could think of. But in general, this is about preparing possible reinforcements, if needed. 

And to prepare for reinforcements, we need a prepositioning of equipment and supplies.  We need to prepare infrastructure.  We need designation of bases, just to mention some elements in better preparedness for reinforcements. 

And let me emphasize that all the steps we are going to take will be possible to realize within the framework of the NATO-Russia Founding Act from 1997. 

OANA LUNGESCU:  Wall Street Journal.

Q:  Mister Secretary General, I want to ask you a little bit more about this comprehensive package that you mentioned that's been offered to Ukraine with training security forces and so forth.  Could you tell us a little bit more about exactly what that's going to entail and when it might begin?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Well, we're still working on this package.  And I would expect foreign ministers to take decisions when they meet by the end of this month.  But in general terms, it is about assisting Ukraine in defence reforms and modernization of their armed forces, including building a better military capacity. 

I'm also encouraged that in addition to NATO assistance to Ukraine within the partnership between NATO as an Alliance and Ukraine, individual Allies came forward with bilateral contributions:  advisory assistance, technical assistance and also offering material support. 

So all in all, you will see a very strong commitment from NATO and NATO Allies to help and support Ukraine.  But final decisions on the package will be taken when foreign ministers meet by the end of this month.


Q:  Japanese Newspaper Daily News Mainichi.  My name is Saito (?).  I will ask about NATO-Russia Founding Act.  You said you'll realise  all measures into the framework of this NATO-Russia Founding Act.  But Russia clearly broke this promise. And namely, they annexed Crimea.  So what is the reason why you respect this founding act?  What is the logic? Could you tell me?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  You're quite right in pointing to the fact that Russia is in a blatant breach of the fundamental principles of the NATO-Russia Founding Act from 1997 including having violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. 

But we stick to the NATO-Russia Founding Act because NATO Allies want strongly a rules-based international security system.  And we do believe that the fundamental principles in the NATO-Russia Founding Act serve the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area. So we stick to words and principles of the NATO-Russia Founding Act.  And we do believe that all the measures we are prepared to take to ensure effective defence and protection of our Allies can be taken within the existing NATO-Russia Founding Act. 

OANA LUNGESCU:  Slovak Media.

Q:  Thank you.  Andrei Mach (?), Slovak Pravda.  Regarding defence budgets, as you said, President Komorowski just announced that there will be increased budget... of defence budget to 2% of GDP.  Do you have also signals from the other countries that are willing to increase budget?  Also, because you just visited Slovakia and our prime minister basically told you that we are not going to do it.  So do you really want to push some more reluctant Allies to increase defence budgets?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  I would say it's not 100% accurate description of the statements of... yes, OK, basically yes, but well, I sense there is a bit more flexibility in his statement. 

Overall, yes, I have heard other signals of willingness to increase defence spending.  I could refer to, for instance, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania...  They have taken actually political decisions to gradually move towards the 2% benchmark.  I would expect other nations to follow.  Of course, this is not easy.  I do realize that because many governments are still struggling to cut deficits. And that's also important. 

But the good news is that we are now seeing, I would say, recovery of the economy, at least in many countries.  So I would encourage nations to look into how they can reverse the trends; stop cuts; and gradually increase defence spending as the economies recover. 

This will be a topic... an important topic to be discussed at the summit in Wales.  So I would expect decisions on that to be taken at the summit, some commitments to be made at the summit in Wales.  It remains to be seen exactly how; but we had a first very important discussion today.  That discussion will continue in our preparations for the summit in Wales. And that is clear: we cannot continue the current trend.

I mean, during the last five years Russia has increased its defence spending by 50% while NATO countries have decreased their defence spending by 20%.   It's unsustainable.  And what we have witnessed in Ukraine is a wake-up call. And based on that, political leaders, in particular in Europe should review their defence spending. 

OANA LUNGESCU:  Last question, Alerta from Spain.

Q:  (Inaudible) from the Spanish newspaper Alerta.  You say that NATO is preparing for a long-term implication.  In this case, how long do you mean?  This is a decade-long of a new Cold War?

And second question, is the whole idea of anti-missile defence system included in this discussion and this new... and in the present crisis of Ukraine?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  First of all, let me stress that our missile defence plans should not be seen in the context of Ukraine.  We started building the NATO missile defence system long before we saw the Ukraine crisis. And it has nothing to do actually with Ukraine.  The aim of building a NATO missile defence system is to protect our populations against missile attacks originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. We have made that clear right from the outset.  In other words, we will continue building our missile defence system because it's still relevant, irrespective on the ongoing events in Ukraine. And events in Ukraine will not change in any way these plans; because they are not linked to the situation in Ukraine.  So we continue according to our plan which is to provide full coverage by 2018. 

UNIDENTIFIED:  long term …


Q:  Your expression of "long-term implication"?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, you also asked me whether this is a kind of a new Cold War.  No, I wouldn't consider this a new Cold War.  The Cold War was characterized by a bloc of communist dictatorships led by the Soviet Union with a strong basis in Europe but with countries across the globe belonging to that camp. That was an ideological struggle.  And that's not what we are witnessing right now. 

On the contrary, I would say Russia seems to be quite isolated globally.  You will recall the vote on Ukraine in the UN General Assembly.  And only a very, very few countries supported Russia.  So we are not witnessing what we saw during the Cold War.  But of course, you may say that what we have seen of a more assertive Russian attitude not to speak about the illegal Russian actions in Ukraine remind us of old-fashioned Cold War thinking. That's quite another thing. 

Well, we are prepared to take measures that are necessary to ensure effective defence and protection of all Allies for as long as necessary.  And I think that's what we can say at this stage. 

Clearly, the Russian actions have created a dramatically changed security situation in Europe.  We don't know for how long...  and that's why I used the term that we will do what is necessary for as long as necessary.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, indeed.  Have a good evening.  We'll see you tomorrow.