Public opening remarks
by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at the Press Conference following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council and the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers
We are less than three months away from the Wales Summit. And we are making good progress.
The summit comes at a time when security challenges are multiplying beyond our borders. They arise in our immediate neighbourhood, to the East and to the South. And they come in different forms.
This is a critical moment and we have important decisions to take.
NATO has taken immediate measures with strength and resolve. Today, we stressed the importance of our collective defence. And agreed to develop a robust Readiness Action Plan for the Summit.
We remain deeply committed to supporting Ukraine. We endorsed a package of additional measures to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. This includes the establishment of new trust funds to support defence capacity building in critical areas such as logistics, command and control, and cyber defence. And to help retired military personnel to adapt to civilian life.
Ukraine has a clear vision for rebuilding its defence and security sector. And a clear strategy for resolving the crisis. President Poroshenko’s peace plan is a major step forward and we fully support it. We call on Russia to do four things: firstly, take genuine and effective measures to stop destabilising Ukraine; secondly, create conditions for the peace plan to be implemented; thirdly, to end its support for armed separatist groups, and fourth, stop the flow of weapons and fighters across its borders. This is a real opportunity to de-escalate the crisis caused by Russia’s aggression, and Russia must step back in line with its international obligations.
Today, we also discussed cooperation in capacity building together with our partners. NATO is the only international organisation which can provide advice on the full range of defence and security issues - from training front-line troops, to structuring defence ministries under civilian control.
This is an investment not just in responding to current challenges, but tackling future ones. And it can help us project stability without always deploying large forces.
Today we agreed that the Alliance will provide such support more systematically, and more swiftly. We will work on ways to create a pool of military and civilian experts who are ready to deploy when needed. And to strengthen coordination with other international actors.
We also agreed to develop a package of measures to enhance the close relationship we have built with partner countries over the past two decades of challenging operations.
They stand shoulder to shoulder with us in Afghanistan and the Balkans. They share our deliberations and help shape our decisions. And we need to continue working closely together even as we draw down our combat operations in Afghanistan. So that we can build stability together in an unpredictable world.
But partnerships are not just about cooperation. They are about values and about trust.
For over twenty years, we have tried to build such a partnership with Russia. But Russia has broken the rules. And eroded the trust.
Russia publicly presents NATO as a threat. While in fact, it is Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine which pose a threat to the international order.
In April, we made clear that we could not continue with business as usual. And we suspended practical cooperation with Russia, while keeping open the channels of diplomatic dialogue. Today, we see no change in Russia’s behaviour.
So we have no option but to maintain the suspension of practical civilian and military cooperation. There will be no business as usual with Russia until Russia comes back into line with its international obligations.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We start with the lady at the front, Georgian Public Broadcaster.
Q: Mister Secretary General, Georgian Public Broadcaster First Channel. In the morning, you said that NATO will develop a substantive package for Georgia. We want to find out more about this package. What elements will be included? Also, second point, about elements, it will be, for example, joint exercises and the strengthening of NATO Office in Georgia; or something more. Also, we are interested that it will be enough to prepare the country for future membership. And also, does it mean that there is no consensus on MAP? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The Summit in Wales will not be about a Membership Action Plan; but about more support to bring Georgia closer to NATO. And it will be a substantive package.
We will work on that package in close collaboration with Georgia from now until the summit. So I regret to say that I'm not able to outline the specific elements of that package at this stage. It will be elaborated on... from now until the summit. Let me stress that the decision we took in Bucharest in 2008 still stands. And you will recall that we decided in Bucharest in 2008 that Georgia will become a member of NATO provided, of course, that Georgia fulfils the necessary conditions. And the package we will prepare for the summit will bring Georgia closer to NATO.
OANA LUNGESCU: We have a follow-up question on Georgia here.
Q: Secretary General, you mentioned that Russia broke the rules. Say, the question in connection in this area: "We remember in the Bucharest Summit, there was no MAP for Georgia. What was the Russia's reaction after that? It was the Russia-Georgia war." So what should be the reaction from Russia today? And what should be the NATO's response if these continue. Thank you; it was Georgian TV Company Maestro (inaudible). Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, but also Russia subscribed to the basic principle that "Each and every nation has the right to decide itself which security policies to pursue and the right to decide its Alliance affiliation itself." Russia should, of course, respect that commitment which is part of the OSCE Charter of European Security from 1999. Not only Russia but all OSCE countries subscribed to that principle. And we stick to that principle. So obviously everybody should respect Georgia's sovereign choice and Georgia's sovereign decisions on whom, with whom Georgia wants to cooperate.
OANA LUNGESCU: Montenegro TV.
Q: TV of Montenegro. You said this morning that regarding our country NATO is going to open intensive and focussed talks with Montenegro. And what does it mean? Can you tell us more concretely? And what can we expect in the next period of time regarding our country?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: This decision means that we will enter what I would call a new phase in our relationship. We will open what we call "focussed and intensified talks" with Montenegro; which in practical terms means that we will also intensify our assistance to Montenegro as regards the implementation of necessary reforms in... Within the current Membership Action Plan, we have identified certain areas where Montenegro needs to do more to fulfil the necessary criteria. And we will now enter a phase where we will focus more directly on some of the most important issues.
And then, at the latest, by the end of 2015, foreign ministers will assess the progress and make decisions on whether time is ripe to invite Montenegro to join the Alliance.
This decision reflects that Montenegro has done a lot to fulfil the necessary criteria. And now we really want to assist Montenegro in walking the extra mile. And one of the areas in which we will have a particular focus is security sector reform.
I visited Podgorica recently. And I had an opportunity to discuss this in depth with the Montenegrin political leaders. So I think they are very much aware of what is needed. So it is actually a very positive decision that will be taken as it is for Georgia. I mean... the decisions that are now being prepared for the summit will be very positive and very important decisions on NATO's open door policy.
OANA LUNGESCU: BBC.
Q: Does it mean that we can expect invitations as soon as we are ready? We don't have to wait for another summit. We can get them when we fulfil our obligations that we are ready for NATO and ministers can decide to invite us to join you. ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, I think it's an important point to stress that it's not necessarily a summit decision to extend an invitation. Usually, in the past, such invitations have been extended at summits. But there's no requirement that it should be a summit.
Foreign ministers, for instance, could decide to invite a country to join the Alliance; which means, of course, an invitation. It doesn't mean that the final decision has been made; but it's an invitation to start the final talks, to prepare the final documents. But, you're right, it's not necessarily for a summit to take the decision. Ministers can take that decision. But it would be premature to make any assessment now whether time is ripe when we reach the end of 2015. But foreign ministers will assess the situation by, at the latest, by the end 2015 and take the necessary decisions.
OANA LUNGESCU: BBC.
Q: Secretary General, Jonathan Marks BBC. You stressed throughout this morning, as you had many times before, the need to keep NATO's door open; the fact that no third country has any veto over other countries joining NATO. Clearly, though some of the countries...with which NATO is stepping up its ties... that have problems, problems that led them potential into direct confrontation with Russia.
Do you envisage the situation where a country could still have outstanding territorial problems involving Russia and it could still become a member of the Alliance? Because if you don't: then Russia does effectively have a veto over some countries joining NATO.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: And for this very reason, of course, we won't identify specific areas that will be taken into account when we make a decision on possible membership for a specific country; because, at the end of the day, it will be an overall political assessment that will lead to the final decision to invite a country to join our Alliance.
Let me refer to Article 10 in the NATO Treaty which clearly outlines two very important elements that should be taken into account when we decide to invite a country to join our Alliance.
Article 10 states that we can invite European countries to join our Alliance if they are in a position to improve Euro-Atlantic security and further the principles upon which our societies are built.
OANA LUNGESCU: We have time....
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: These are the two criteria and these are the criteria that will constitute the foundation for any decision within NATO on future enlargements.
OANA LUNGESCU: We have time for one last question. NPR.
Q: Teri Schultz with CBS News today. Mister Secretary General, once again, one of your Allies, Turkey, has at its border more instability, more fear that fighting will be reaching NATO's own border.
I understand that Iraq has come up... the issue of Iraq has come up in discussions around the table. Is NATO thinking of sending any trainers? How concerned are you that one of Turkey's other borders is now at the edge of such huge turmoil? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Obviously, we are very much concerned about the situation in Iraq; but actually very much concerned about the situation in the region as such. And these issues have also been raised during our discussions... not least, of course, raised by our Turkish friends.
For many good reasons, they're very concerned about the situation close to their borders. And I can assure you that NATO Allies stand together in solidarity and unity. And we are focussed on providing effective defensive protection of all our Allies including Turkey. And, as you know, this is the reason why we have deployed Patriot missiles to Turkey to defend the Turkish population and society against potential missile attacks. And we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to ensure such effective defence and protection of Turkey.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: We have not discussed that. As you know, NATO had a training mission in Iraq some years ago. We had to close it down when the Iraqi authorities decided to not prolong the necessary legal and security arrangements. So we had to stop our training activities in Iraq. If I may, I could add, lessons learned from that experience of course is how important it is to train and educate local security forces appropriately. And this is exactly the reason why we plan to deploy a training mission to Afghanistan from the 1st of January 2015. But we will revert to that issue later today. Thank you.
OANA LUNGESCU: Indeed, sorry for not having time to take more questions. We'll come back later.