Q&A session

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the NATO Youth Forum

  • 02 Apr. 2009
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  • Last updated: 04 Apr. 2009 13:23

Question and answer session with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Q: I'm Tony (inaudible) from Georgia, study political sciences and on my personal behalf, sir, I want to thank you, on behalf of the Georgia nation for your support which you... in the difficult days of... one of the most difficult days in the history of our country.

And when we are just having this very interesting discussion Russian troops are building military bases in so-called South Ossetia and my question is, what can NATO do against the process of occupation? In other words, how can NATO act against Russian methods of punishing states for their western orientation.

Thank you.

Jaap De Hoop Scheffer (Secretary General of NATO): This is, sir, this is one of the issues where I think we have a very fundamental difference of opinion with our Russian partners. Very fundamental one. Why? Because, first of all, South Ossetia and Abkhazia as you know much better than I do, are part of Georgian territory. And that's not me speaking only. That's the Security Council of the United Nations speaking in, I think, 23 resolutions.

So the recognition and occupation and the intention to build military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is in contravention with the notion of territorial integrity.

Now what can NATO do? NATO will not march in with military force. That's what NATO cannot do and that's what NATO will not do. What NATO can do, for therefore you need to talk to the Russians. This is one of those issues where we fundamentally differ.

So in using the NATO-Russia Council, which is, as you know, the vehicle we have in NATO for discussions with our Russian partners, and the NATO-Russia Council, by the way, is not a council of 28-plus-1, it is a council of 29, because there's no difference between the Russian position in the NATO-Russia Council and the position of the NATO allies.

And that is the place where we should discuss the difference of opinion we have. They will be discussed in other fora as well, but the bottom line is, and you have heard me saying this very often and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of NATO, Ministers of Defence of NATO have said this very often, NATO strongly supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgian territory.

So a political solution will have to be found. This is one of the very hard nuts to crack. Not only NATO is involved. I was very happy with the swift intervention, here my European heart is speaking of the European Union, and of the then presidency of the European Union, President Sarkozy, to defuse the situation. That was very, very necessary, because it could have been much worse.

Now in the aftermath admission of monitors, the recognition, the military... the intention of military bases, we will have to discuss it with the Russians, and at the same time, as you know, we are reinforcing our cooperation with Georgia, with your country, in the NATO-Georgia Commission.

Next question, please. Gender balance, gender balance. The lady.

Q: Hi, I'm Rachel Anspach. I'm from the United States, I'm studying in Freiburg, Germany for the semester.

My question was, what could NATO do to aid in talks with Iran? Not just with regards to its nuclear program, but also in helping the country reintegrate into the international community, having been isolated so long?

De Hoop Scheffer: Thank you so much. I can answer you in German, I presume? No. Okay.


I'll not do that. Because then the (inaudible) will correct my poor German grammar, which is a risk I don't want to run.

Anyway, NATO is not involved. Let me start with the negative answer I have to. NATO is not involved and should not be involved in the Iranian nuclear dispute. We have other organizations for that, as you know, the IAA, the UN, the EU is playing a role. My friend and colleague Javier Solana is very active in this regard.

But—here comes the but—also with Iran, and I think your president is proof of this, also with Iran, and that's one of the things I've learned in a long, long career in foreign policy, it is always better to talk than not to talk.

Coming back to this Iron Curtain and the Cold War, we always talk to the Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall disappeared and the Iron Curtain fell. We always talked to the Soviet Union, despite huge differences. So that is the reason that, I think, President Obama set on the very right course by trying to reach out to Iran. And Iran was represented, as you know, at the meeting in The Hague I referred to in my speech. And I hope these contacts might intensify.

No misunderstanding, Iran should stop and make transparent a nuclear program, but NATO doesn't play a role there. Where is Iran relevant for NATO? Iran is an important neighbour of Afghanistan. And stability in Afghanistan is dependent, to a large extent, on stability in the region. First of all, stability in Pakistan, but also in the region in a more wider sense.

So in that regard Iran is relevant for NATO and that's the reason that only a few weeks ago, for the very first time, there was a very informal discussion between one of the Assistant Secretaries General of NATO, for Political Affairs, and the Iranian ambassador in Brussels. That was not a formal conversation. It was just to talk to each other. But let us keep things in the box, and that box is called Afghanistan. And that box is not called nuclear or any other element in the discussions and debates going on with Iran. But talking is always better than not talking.

Please. I think you get a microphone.

Q:  Good evening, Mr. Secretary General. My name is Habi Wulati. I'm from Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from the American Embassy of Afghanistan. I just want to take the chance to thank everybody involved in organizing this, the youth event, and especially (inaudible) for inviting us.

And I would like to raise a question regarding the PRT teams in Afghanistan and the presence of the PRT teams and different province of Afghanistan.

Is believed by the local community, it is believed that most of the PRT teams who are coming from, let's say, rich countries, are located in southern areas of Afghanistan, where insurgency rate is raising. And that the people of central and northern province of Afghanistan are feeling to be punished by NATO and by the international community by being peaceful and by being secure and providing security for the people and for the presence of the NATO... NATO soldiers in their provinces.

What do you think? Do you think that NATO will approach a new strategy to address these issues?

De Hoop Scheffer: Thank you. That's a lot. Let me start by saying that at the end of July my wife and I had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting students from Kabul University. My wife, as I said, being a French teacher, she gave a course to the students. I was there as well. So we have a good bond with the University of Kabul and the students of Afghanistan, so it gives me great pleasure to see you here, and also invited you and your countrymen were... had a great idea.

On the PRTs, it's complex, I can tell you. And when you get an answer where somebody starts to answer your question by it's complex it means that he or she needs some time to think. So that's what I'm doing at the moment.

What do we see in Afghanistan? We see that the international community, and also NATO, has chosen a model where individuals nations took responsibility for provinces in Afghanistan. Be it Uruzgan, be it Paktika, Paktia, Ghor. I didn't know these provinces five years ago when I came to NATO by the way. I think I know them almost all.

Anyway, there was a responsibility, nation, and a sort of coupling between the nation and the province. As a result of that nations are to a long extent channelling their development cooperation, their reconstruction funds, not through the central government in Kabul, which is something President Karzai, your president very much likes. But they do that along their own channels.

Why do they do that? Because every single nation, including mine, The Netherlands, thinks they are the champions for reconstruction and development cooperation. The Dutch think there's no one better in the world in reconstruction and development cooperation than the Dutch. Canadians think the same, by the way. And many others... and many others as well.

As a result of that, you're right, there is a certain dis-balance, or lack of balance in Afghanistan. I would not automatically say it a south-north dis-balance, but I would say it's a general dis-balance.

I'll give you one example. Our Lithuanian colleagues who have a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chaghcharan. That's in Ghor province. They do a great job as a small nation to run such a Provincial Reconstruction Team, and I always use that as an example to bigger nations. Look at Lithuania and look at what they can do.

But Lithuania doesn't have the means to really come in largely and fundamentally with money into Ghor province. You cannot ask that from a nation like Lithuania.

So I take your point that I think we should try to find a more fair balance. But I say again, I don't think it's south-north. I think it's more in the wider sense. And perhaps some more equitable sharing of the burden in this regard.

So I take your point. I think your analysis to a certain extent is right. I cannot immediately give you another model which would be better. Given the fact that those nations who are in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams have their own public opinion to address, and Canada wants to show, or The Netherlands or Germany, they want to show to their public opinion, to their television audience, look, we are not only there to fight, because fighting is not that popular, we are there for reconstruction and development. And they need that because it's in Germany the Bundestag or the Dutch Parliament or the Belgium Parliament at the certain stage who will say, government, I agree that your forces stay there. I agree that your Provincial Reconstruction Team stays there.

So that's why I said it's complex. I mean it. It is a very complex question, but you have a point when you say that there is a certain dis-balance. But I do not think that it has to do with the fact that the going is more tough in the south than in the north, because if you take our Scandinavian friends and partners in Maymana, for instance, or Mazar, but Maymana, then they also do a lot in the north.

But I think we might need a more fairer balance. Thank you for raising it.

We go for gender balance again? Please, madam.

Q: I'm (inaudible) from Armenia. Armenia is not a NATO member. However it's one of the countries that NATO implements the IPAP with, and my question is the following: how does NATO see the developments of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, or the reopening of the Turkish Armenian border? Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: Well, I should stay within my mandate, because I might ruin my reputation. Let me start by saying that NATO-Armenian relations are very good. Individual Partnership Action Plan, IPAP, is functioning very well. Visits, your president came to visit Brussels and NATO and me. I've been to Armenia... my collaborators travel to Armenia fairly regularly.

I think that relationship is on track, I would say. Respecting, of course, Armenia's foreign policy and Armenia's foreign policy choices, and you know that Armenia has chosen to have a good relationship with NATO in the IPAP framework, but also has a very good relationship with Russia. That is completely legitimate choice by Armenia.

On Nagorno-Karabakh NATO has no role. And I think NATO should not have a role. It's a bit the same as I said about Iran. NATO should not take everything on its plate. For Nagorno-Karabakh, as you know, there is the so-called Minsk Group. In my former life as a Dutch Foreign Minister I was chairman in office of the OSCE. In that capacity incarnation had a lot to do with Nagorno-Karabakh, because the OSCE plays an important role there.

I think NATO should stay out of there because we have no participation in the political process and as far as the border is concerned, let me leave that and I should not sound too defensive, but let me leave that as NATO Secretary General to the improvement we have seen recently, and I hope that improvement will go on in the relationship between Armenia and Turkey.

But I say on the whole, of course, an open border is always better than a closed border, so let's hope that there is progress there as well. But the NATO-Armenia relationship is excellent.

Please. I've not yet gone, so...

Q: Thank you very much for coming and giving information to us, the young people from different countries. I'm (inaudible) from Afghanistan, from the southern part, Paktia as you mentioned.

I want to a little bit clarify about you stated. I'm working closely with the PRT teams, implementing some projects in southern part. The PRT and there is also some HDT teams, Human Dream Teams. They're engaged in the process of development and other infrastructure programs; agriculture, road constructions, buildings of schools and these et cetera.

What I have reserved regarding working with them(?) is my experience that most of the teams they're not remaining for the long run in that place. They're changing time by time. So when the new team comes they're familiarizing with the region and understanding the people, working with them, it's like a lot of problem. They could not go like successfully. So it's a big challenge that have to be taken into consideration by the NATO Headquarters, as I state to you.

And my question, second, was about the comprehensive approach. If the comprehensive approach is developed towards Afghanistan at the NATO is it discussed with the Afghan government and with the United States? Was there (inaudible) about them as well? Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: All right, on the first question I promise I'll go higher up for the next question, because we should have a balance. That is, at least what my wife is telling me and after 34, 35 years of marriage I know what I have to do when she gives these indications.

On your first point, it is a problem, not only civilian by the way, but also military, that rotational... that the terms where people serve in Afghanistan, be it military or civilians, are usually not very long. That is a fact. Nations, individual nations usually, decide how long these terms are and how frequently they rotate.

I can very well imagine that from time to time this is a problem. It is a military problem from time to time, that you have relatively short rotational periods and you give a good example on the civilian side.

I can only ask for some understanding because it means quite a lot if from nations in this part of the world people are sent out to Afghanistan. That's why I'm saying, and I made my remark, I'm not of the gloom and doom brigade. As long as we only see the difference, the improvised explosive devices, the suicide attacks and we say okay that is Afghanistan, who will be motivated and convinced that it is extremely useful to go there, and to help Afghanistan rebuild their nation?

That is a difficult message, because media, as you know, are usually not interested in good news. A suicide attack is news. A successful power station or a school is not news.

There was one journalist, I'll not mention name or background, when I told him there are millions of girls going to school in Afghanistan you know what his answer was? Secretary General, that school is only interesting for me when it burns. That was a cynical answer.

So as long as we can do our best, not denying the huge challenges, not denying the huge challenges, and they are huge, and we'll have to stay there for the foreseeable future, let us also mark the progress. And that's my stimuli, people. To go there and alleviate a bit the problem you in Afghanistan... you Afghans have, with these quick rotations of people.

Comprehensive approach, briefly, I addressed it in my speech. NATO is also learning by doing. Look, in the Cold War NATO was supposed to make the difference. The Soviet Union, thank heavens, never invaded western Europe, but NATO was supposed to make the difference.

In Afghanistan I say, and not in all modesty, NATO all by itself cannot make the difference, because in Afghanistan the final answer will not be a military one, it will be civilian, it will be reconstruction, it will be development, and we'll be showing you and your countrymen that you're better off  when the international community, together with you and under your stewardship, takes the helm in Afghanistan, than when it is our enemies and our opponents. That is the key question, I think.

And the comprehensive approach, working together with the United Nations and under the aegis of the United Nations, I should start with your government, the UN, the European Union, the major donors, NATO, the European... I already mentioned.

And to coordinate all that is not always that easy, I can tell you. But I think we're making progress and we are learning by doing.

Now I go up, in the back there, because otherwise those guys think they have come in vein because they weren't recognized.

Q: Okay, my name is (inaudible), Latvia.

De Hoop Scheffer: I have some problem in hearing you.

Q: Okay. Can you hear?

De Hoop Scheffer: Yes.

Q: My name is (inaudible), Latvia. I have two questions. One, what kind of role, specific role, would be from Baltic states to NATO? Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, to strengthen NATO.

And the second, when will be possible to try to, let's say maybe, divide the competency area profiling to the NATO countries to make some countries, NATO countries, as experts, because if we all countries try to do all things then it's not so good, but maybe we can try to divide competencies and make experts...

De Hoop Scheffer: Could you do me a favour and repeat the first part of your question because I didn't quite get it, sorry.

Q: Okay, the first question was, what kind of specific role would be for Baltic states to strengthen NATO?

De Hoop Scheffer: Okay. Well, let me start with our Baltic friends and NATO members. They are members of NATO, they are respected members of NATO.

They are staunch allies in the NATO framework. I already mentioned Lithuania, but Estonia and Latvia are also extremely active in NATO members.

I wouldn't say they have a specific role. In NATO all nations are equal members. Of course, some are bigger shareholders than others. It's crystal clear that United States of America is by far the biggest shareholder, but as you know, NATO decides on the basis of the principle of consensus and there Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius, they have as much of a voice as Brussels or London or Ottawa for that matter.

So if you ask do they have a specific role? No, they do not have a specific role. They are respected, distinguished members of the Alliance.

On the second part of your question, I do think that you have a good point there, because basically if I understood you correctly what you're saying not everybody should do more of the same. True. We should try to find what I call an niche for where a country is good at and can bring added value to bear. That does not mean, as far as NATO is concerned, that some nations will say... are going to say I'll do only, to put it in military terms, only air force, another will only do army and a third one only do marines. But if I mention marines and I mention special forces I can very well imagine that some nations will specialize in special forces.

Let me give you another example. The Czech Republic, for instance, is specialized in CBRN, in the biological nuclear weapons and the fight again... they have even a CBRN battalion. So looking for niches is important and I understand you're from Russia? In the NATO-Russia relationship we could do the same.

You have close to Moscow the Domodedovo Centre where Russia plays a very important role in a huge project with NATO which is on counternarcotics and which is training Afghan and Central Asian personnel in the coordinated fight against counternarcotics. That's where that centre, Domodedovo, is good at. That is, I think, another good example. That would be my answer to your question.

I'll stay a bit in the back and I'll go to the left in the back there. Please, you are waving your papers. Which is intelligent, because I recognize you.

Q: Hello. Thank you. My name is Rafael (inaudible), I study here in Strasbourg. Here's my question: Don't you think the Berlin Plus agreements and the role NATO plays in Europe is going to impede the development of Europe's own security and security policy?

De Hoop Scheffer: Oh no. I'll not go too much into detail about Berlin Plus, but let me give you my strong conviction, really my strong conviction.

I think it is in NATO interest that European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP, will further develop and that Europe will have a very strong position in the security and defence arena. I think that's an interest of NATO.

By the way, the present United States administration, President Obama, would fully agree. The previous United States administration, President Bush, agreed. That's why I'm saying, don't expect from a NATO Secretary General that he'll say or he'll discuss NATO-EU in competitive terms.

The French president, your president... I'll not say it in French because then you have to switch all those things on again, but has quite rightly used the word complementarity, complémentarité, in the relationship between NATO and the European Union.

So I do say that when NATO develops the NATO Response Force and the European Union develops the so-called battle groups, groupement tactique, I'm telling you those are the same soldiers. No Defence Minister has the luxury to have soldiers specifically identified for the NATO Response Force or specifically identified for the battle groups.

That is the reason that we should talk, we should discuss it between NATO and the European Union.

I'm not telling you that this is easy, for a number of reasons, for a number of political reasons, but my general principle is the stronger Europe gets, the strong ESDP gets, the better it is for NATO.

Complémentarité, pas de compétition, mais complémentarité, pour le dire en français.

What about gender? Dear ladies. What about gender? Yes. I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you.

Q:  That's okay.

De Hoop Scheffer: I mean, not you. (Laughs).

Q: Okay, I'm (inaudible), I'm also Afghan, Afghan German, and I would like to ask you, as you know there will be the next presidential elections in August this year in Afghanistan, so are there any conditions that NATO puts or sets up for the new government to continue their mission?

De Hoop Scheffer: Well, first of all, NATO, of course, doesn't take a stand on who should become the next president of Afghanistan. That is up to you and your countrymen and women. NATO should not take a position there.

NATO will strongly support the elections in the sense it will bring in extra forces well before the 20th of August, and you might have a re-run, as you know, I think, after Ramadan in the beginning of October, when there is a re-run necessary. So we'll support the elections. We'll try to give some protection to the monitors, the independent monitors, who are going to monitor these elections, the European Union, OSCE, from individual nations, from non-governmental organizations. But we do not take a stand on who should become the next president, as we do not take a stand in the present political debate going on in Afghanistan. I understand the Supreme Court, the president of the Supreme Court in Afghanistan has now given his opinion on the period after the end of the mandate of President Karzai and the 20th of August. NATO will not take a stand there.

My message to the Afghan government, be it the present one or the next one, is that in cooperation and collaboration with the international community it is a specific responsibility of the Afghan government to be successful in the fight against corruption in establishing the rule of law. I come back to my universal values. We fully respect the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the values of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, but I hope you'll agree with me, that we both are protecting universal values.

And that is, I think at the same time, the argument to convince an often critical public opinion here in Europe or on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, why they have to send their young men and women to Afghanistan. That is, for the defence of universal values.

As soon as you lose that, let's say, underpinning, it becomes very, very difficult to explain why those girls and guys are going to the Hindu Kush. But a political stand on the internal political situation in Afghanistan, NATO will of course not take because that would mean an infringement in what are your internal affairs in Afghanistan.

But there is this, let's say, roof under which we all are living is the roof of the universal values.

Please there.

Q: Hello. My name is Jonathan (inaudible) from the United States. I'm studying in Germany this semester. Recently Angele  Merkel called for NATO reforms which would provide more institution and politics for prevention of conflict. In your opinion is this within the scope of NATO's role, and if so what steps could NATO take to fulfil this?

De Hoop Scheffer: Well, I agree with the German Chancellor that prevention is always better having to do something else in the military sense, of the military part of NATO.

I think that if you, for instance, look at the Western Balkans... we haven't discussed the Balkans yet, and you see KFOR in Kosovo still about 15,000 strong you see, I think, NATO in a preventive position. NATO had to act in Kosovo ten years ago, unfortunately, to prevent a genocide or threatening genocide. NATO now is a preventive force to protect the majority and the minority.

NATO is embarking on other missions and operations to be proactive in the preventive sphere. Why am I so much stressing NATO's political role and that is what the German Chancellor, Frau Merkel, did in her speech? The more you make NATO also a political military alliance, the more you deepen the political debate the better you can act in the preventive sphere.

I give you one example. I discussed... I mentioned climate change. You might have wondered why the heck is a NATO Secretary General talking about climate change? He's not Al Gore, I'm not Al Gore, right? But I'm still discussion climate change. Why? Look at the high north in Europe and look at the melting of the polar ice cap and look at the possible opening of the Northwest Passage on the eastern part of Canada.

That changes the equation. Look at competition for raw materials there. I'm not saying that NATO in any sense is going to militarize the High North, or that we suddenly will have a military presence there. We should not. I was a bit negatively surprised by some statements from Moscow that they would have a sort of Arctic army. That is not the way to go, I think. And that's certainly not the way NATO will go.

But let me mention in the non-military side, Search and Rescue. There will be much more sea traffic there. There will be many more ships. NATO is very good, I can tell you, with Search and Rescue. Why not working together with our Russian friends and partners for Search and Rescue? Why not exercise together at a certain stage.

So there you see that climate change—and it's not exclusively the High North. I mentioned the fight for water in my introduction—can have, I say, can have security implications. NATO is not in the climate business, neither in the water business, or the Arctic business. NATO's in the security business. And as I look again at 2020 and that is, after all, your theme, I could see that at a certain stage competition for water, competition for natural resources, might lead, if we are not preventive, and that's why you quite rightly use the word preventive, if we do not prevent, might lead to conflict.

Let's prevent that. Not only NATO, but also other international organizations who are much more competent in climate or in water than NATO is.

My key notion in NATO is always where NATO can bring added value, and NATO can bring added value on these issues, NATO should be around and NATO should discuss it.

NATO is not the EU, neither the UN, nor the IAA, nor whatever organization you can think of.


Q: My name is Christine Lejeune. I'm currently working in Moscow, and I just have a question for you based on my experience in Moscow over the past few months. I've had the opportunity to interact with some Russian youth within the context of NATO. To was information sort of conference to inform Russian youth about what NATO's purposes are and so forth.

However, as I've observed through the week-long conference that I was involved in, a lot of the Russian youth continue to view NATO in terms of geo-strategic terms instead of this values oriented Alliance that we continue to talk about from Strasbourg or within Europe or the United States.

And so my question to you is how can you... how do you foresee continuing to promote NATO within Russia and to basically allow these students to gain insight into knowing that NATO is not a geo-strategic Alliance that's aimed any more... any longer against Russia? Which seems to be an ongoing trend within Russia. Not only within the youth, but also up to the Kremlin.

Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: This is a key question. Let me start in a rather mild manner. I will be the last one to blame the older generation in Russia, that they have difficulty in changing gear, because NATO, of course, certainly during the Cold War has always been depicted as the enemy, although you and I will quickly agree NATO has never, ever been an offensive organization. NATO's ever been defensive, and NATO will always been defensive.

But that it is difficult for that generation I can understand. How to tackle this problem? We have an information office, NATO has an information office, as you know, in Moscow. But I think more should be done.

And that is homework for us and for me as present generation of political leaders, but it is also homework for you.

We have to see that despite the differences, and I come back to Georgia and our Georgian friend and colleague, despite our differences we do not depict Russia as the forces of bad, the forces of wrong, right? I think I can ask for my Russian counterparts not to depict NATO as a force of the wrong. And I hear fairly often still the present leadership imaging NATO, in your and my opinion, in the wrong way. I say again, the only thing... we can solve that problem is to talk to each other, from organizing seminars. I mean, we were at the low after the Caucasus crisis, and so we have to regain ground now with the Russians.

But it is important that the political leadership in Europe, the French president, the German chancellor, the American president, and all the other leaders, and I think that's what they're doing, are working for the importance of this relationship. I think I can take the liberty to ask of the Russian leadership that they do the same. And that they, from time to time, depict NATO as an organization where they have their big differences with, no problem, let's discuss them. Interests do not always converge. Interests might collide. But not as an offensive organization which only aim is to encircle Russia on the basis of the aggressive notion which NATO doesn't have and has never had.

But that is a... it's a tough challenge, as you said yourself already.

Okay. Am I misreading your body language? No, I'm not.

Q: My name is (inaudible...), I'm Egyptian. I'm studying in Freiburg, Germany this semester. Actually someone here mentioned for the first time... last session we did not mention the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We just talked about it as Afghanistan, and thank you for mentioning this. Why I mentioned this is because we always mentioned that we want to implement democracy. Democracy is a European term. Within it people rule, but maybe in an Islamic forum, as what I view as democracy is maybe different than what you view. Maybe as a woman in the Middle East is different than a woman in Europe.

So my question will be, does NATO have then in mind... do they know that people in Afghanistan have a different idea about what democracy is, about how they want to see their government, and is there a talk between them? Do they have a ground to discuss what the Afghan people want?  Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: Let me start to defend myself. I think I at least once used the qualification Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and I was discussing with one of your colleagues universal values.

Listen, the answer to your question is affirmative. I'll not make a plea in Afghanistan, in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to introduce... let me talk about my own nation, Dutch democracy. Because finally the Afghan people will have to decide themselves what they want.

My second answer to your question would be that over the past five years I think I've done a lot and invested a lot of energy, together, for instance, with your Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, in Egypt, to see that I work on NATO's image in your part of the world. And I say again, like I said in your colleague's question on Russia, is it important for us that in your region, in Egypt, in the Islamic world, in the Arab world, NATO is also not considered as an alien, or an alien body.

I don't believe in the clash of civilizations. I do believe in the protection of universal values. And let me be open and frank with you, when we had in Afghanistan, when I say Afghanistan, in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, we had this process of the boy who downloaded a text from the Internet and was sentenced to death. I think it has not been converted into a long prison term.

I discussed it with President Karzai. Not to impose my view, but to question President Karzai, who I may consider as a friend by now, because I very frequently meet him and I respect him. I said, Mr. President, this is what we should discuss. If we discuss values we might have a difference of opinion about, but we must discuss the notion of universal values because otherwise I have difficulty in convincing, I repeat what I said before, to convince people in my part of the world that it is worth going to the Hindu Kush to fight and to be killed for those values, because our guys and girls are killed in Afghanistan, they pay the highest price, the ultimate price, for the respect of universal values.

And I defined that. And I defend that. Also to the father or the mother or the loved ones of those NATO soldiers who come back in body bags (inaudible). It is worth this ultimate and the highest price.

Let us as NATO respect always Islamic values—Islam is a religion, it goes without saying—Islamic values. I can tell you that it's interesting to see, but if I look at NATO nowadays 60,000 soldiers, 60,000 in Afghanistan. Fifteen thousand in Kosovo. To do what, basically? To protect the majority in Kosovo, the Albanian Muslim majority in Kosovo.

Running a training mission in Iraq. Islamic country. Dominant Islamic, Islamic, Islamic, right? But also Shia and Sunni. If I look at the Darfur crisis and I see that NATO is assisting the African Union in Darfur, not on the ground, but by transporting African forces in and out of Darfur, because the African nations to not have the helicopters and the planes to transport those forces. I can tell you that the large majority of NATO's operations are in the Islamic world.

What does that mean? It's interesting. It means that an organization which is firmly rooted in the Jewish Christian tradition is now more and more in the Islamic world. What does that teach... it's a very fundamental one. It teaches me two things.

First of all, that always we have to respect culture, religion and history. If we don't expect in Afghanistan culture, religion and history we'll fail, respect culture, respect religion, respect history.

Example: You don't do house searches when you know there are women in the house. You see that the Afghan National Army does house searches. I admit that that's not always going entirely right, but I give you the principle, my principle. You respect religion, culture and history.

What is the other essential part of this discussion? Is what it is all about when we say we're defending universal values. And there I have to ask for new understanding, as you ask for my understanding. Without entering into clash of civilizations, respecting each other's value, respecting each other's religion. And I must admit, that is a fascinating phase NATO is going through, but I give you this message, it is interesting to see this organization with its roots in the Jewish Christian tradition is now very, very, very much involved in the Islamic world.

We do not always do it right. You do not always do it right in your part of the world, but without a basis for respect, and without the notion of universal values, I do not dare to send a 19-, 20-, 21-year-old boy to Uruzgan, or Kandahar or Ghor or Faizabad, or Mazar-i Sharif in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

It's a fundamental question. Thank you for putting it to me, because it is indeed fundamental and it is important for NATO's future, I think, and for your future as well. 

All right, now I get a signal. I must... I'm in the hands of the... last question? Last question. Last question. 

Oh, whooo? Okay.


Yes. And if there's still one lady who wanted to ask a question this is the penultimate one. Yes, okay, that's the last.

Please, sir.

Q: Thank you very much, Secretary General, for giving us this open discussion today. I'm (inaudible),  I'm studying in Dresden, Germany.

I would like to give you a scenario. Just like 1999 you've talked about the relationship to Russia and you've talked about the relationship to the UN. Given there is a humanitarian crisis of violation of human rights, maybe even in the former Soviet region and Russia is giving a veto in the Security Council, but still there is our values, as you said, maybe to be defended.

What would be your position in that situation? Would you still say pledge for engagement of NATO in this region, in NATO states, or what would you do?

De Hoop Scheffer: Those are the most tricky ones, in a long political career. I know that questions starting with if are the most tricky ones, because if I'm going to answer them or my spokesman would say, when I'm going to answer them, because non-Native English speakers do not always know the difference between if and when, I can tell you, if I go to Strasbourg or when I go to Strasbourg. I thought it was the same. It's not as my spokesman is nodding yes, so I'm doing okay.

But all jokes apart, it is very difficult to me to answer a question on an iffy scenario, but nevertheless I'll do my best.

What I think is a development which gives me some concern is that we are, again, seem to be discussing spheres of influence. Perhaps not going back to the 20th, but perhaps going back to the 19th Century, the great game, the century of spheres of influence, of power politics. I think quite honestly, and that's a fascinating discussion also with our Russian friends, I think the time for spheres of influence is over, quite honestly. And we should not discuss spheres of influence or areas where one should not dare to tread.

But, but, I say here again, and I answered your Georgian colleague in the same way, NATO will always respect the territorial integrity of a nation. So in your scenario, although it's virtual and an iffy, iffy scenario, I could not imagine, absolutely not imagine if that was... could be the consequences, that NATO would give its forces an order to march. That would never happen. That would never happen.

But let us, as the same time, discuss... but I come back again to the question of your Egyptian colleague, because this is also about democracy. What is democracy?

I don't hide the fact that I come from a nation where I think democracy is fairly well advanced. But other people in other nations will say well, let's have a discussion. Let's have a discussion on... they'll say, your type of democracy and they may be critical, as I may be critical, as I gave the answer of the boy downloading this text from the Internet and they may be critical to me as well.

But the principle of territorial integrity is a very important principle. So that would be my answer. If that is violated the Security Council should act. You gave me scenario where the Security Council cannot have. That happens more often, you know, that it has happened in NATO's history as well, 1999, ten years ago.

And then it's an uneasy situation, but nevertheless you have to decide politically. But I would not see NATO act in your, albeit, virtual scenario.

Last question.

Q: M. le secrétaire général...

De Hoop Scheffer: Ah, bon, le français.

Q: En fait, je suis américaine...

De Hoop Scheffer: Vous êtes américaine!

Q: I work and live in Washington, D.C. and my question for you is less focused on the expeditionary role of NATO, but more on the internal dynamics.

De Hoop Scheffer: Mm-mmm.

Q: Specifically regarding the new Strategic Concept, which as I understand it has been generally accepted that there needs to be a new Strategic Concept to address the challenges of the 21st Century.

I was wondering what role or how you foresee NATO responding in the next few days, as well as in the upcoming time before the Lisbon conference, to deal with this controversial issue, on certain levels, regarding NATO's missions, whether at home or away, their role, whether it should be less focused on expeditionary missions, as well as capabilities. I know that... as we're looking at the financial crisis we do not expect our member nations to be increasing their percentage in terms of funding, and therefore we need to focus on becoming more efficient and flexible in the spending that we have.

Additionally, looking at our partnerships and just what elements do you think will be the most challenging to find consensus and what sort of plan do you see NATO taking in terms of the next year or so? Do you think they'll approach it through a wiseman group first, before it's then returned back to NATO? How do you foresee this developing?

De Hoop Scheffer: You have till midnight?


In short, it's a very relevant point, the first part of your question. NATO will always have at its core, and that you'll find in the present and in the new Strategic Concept, Washington Treaty, Article 5, solidarity clause, integrated structure, integrated defence. That's the core function of NATO. We should never abandon, never, ever abandon.

NATO's also grown more expeditionary. I do think that it is not easy because I said in my speech, and I think that military transformation is going too slow, I do think that there is not a huge difference between the forces you need for your expeditionary activities, like in Afghanistan, and the forces you might need in a scenario, I don't hope that it will ever materialize, where it would be about NATO's territorial integrity.

I think basically those forces are the same, because anyway you have to transport them.

We are transforming too slowly and so you'll see in the new Strategic Concept a discussion on exactly the points you are underlining. I do think personally, but again this is not an opinion which is consensual in NATO, there's no consensus about this, but the Secretary General is entitled to his personal opinion as well, I do think that in the long run we cannot sustain the way we finance our operations at the moment, on the principle the costs lie where they fall. It basically means if Nation A deploys five helicopter they pay for the helicopters in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Should we then do it on the base of a complete common funding? Should  we find a mix? That is one of the things, apart from the slow problem of... the slow tempo and pace of military transformation.

I mentioned already this Article 5 and the expeditionary. Point number three, we will certainly have a discussion on how global should NATO become. I've given you my opinion, pas le gendarme du monde, but NATO needs global partners. We are having a close relationship with Australia, with New Zealand, with the Republic of Korea, the Korean Foreign Minister was with me two days ago.

In other words, if you say pas le gendarme du monde, not the global corps, it doesn't mean that you engage with global partners. How you do it, how intensely you do that, what it means for the future of NATO will certainly be a discussion in the Strategic Concept.

Point number three, if I mention climate change or energy security or cyber, and I mention added value there are allies who are more forward leaning on these subjects and others are less forward leaning. Like on Russia there are allies who are more forward leaning and there are allies who are less forward leaning. I say again, 28 democracies. They have a debate and they have a discussion about this and there's nothing wrong with that.

And I could make this list longer, because many things are going well in NATO. There are some things not going that well. Burden sharing is another element. How do you expect share the burden in the Alliance? Is that fair, as we do that at the moment? Is it fair in Afghanistan? Is it fair elsewhere?

In other words, I see the process starting at this Summit here in Strasbourg and Kehl, but I say again, it will, as far as I'm concerned, it will be an open process, with input from the strategic community, and I consider you a part of the strategic community, with input from think tanks. I would prefer, but again, my successor will be in charge then, I would prefer a two-stage approach where you have a first stage where you have perhaps a group of experts. How big that group will be is also a difficult discussion, of course. Seminars, think tanks, who prepare the ground, and at the certain stage the work has to be done by the Secretary General and the North Atlantic Council.

But Heads of State and Government are going to discuss exactly this, hopefully, at a dinner tomorrow in Baden-Baden, in Germany tomorrow night, so your question is on the mark.

I hope my answer is as well. I can be proven right or I can be proven wrong.

It was a tremendous pleasure to speak to you, to be here with you for my wife, my delegation and myself. This is what I like most, better than chairing from time to time quite long meetings. Always very interesting, of course, but from time to time they're quite long.

It was, again, a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much and have a nice conference.