Press briefing

by NATO Spokesman

  • 03 Apr. 2009
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  • Last updated: 04 Apr. 2009 13:12

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Folks, I can't see you, you can see me, but I can't see you, so please excuse me for sort of staring sort of fisheyed into this camera, but thank you for coming.

I'm going to be a little bit brief because it's late, I haven't had any dinner yet, and I will... I don't have too much to report to you, so let me just do it in telegraphic form, then I'm happy to take your questions. Thank you for coming.

First, there were, in essence, three issues that have been discussed, that continue to be discussed. I broke away from the discussions to come and brief you on where we are now. But I think I have a sense of the thrust of the exchanges.

First, on the Strategic Concept, all of the Heads of State and Government who have spoken until now have expressed a strong desire to launch a process to revise the Strategic Concept. This will, I think, be reflected in the documents that are agreed tomorrow.

In essence, they have all shared the same view. First, that we need to update the current Strategic Concept to reflect where NATO has come until now. In other words, to have the theory reflect the practice. No where in the 1999 Strategic Concept does it mention a NATO role in fighting piracy. No where does it reflect the fact that NATO would now have, as it does now have, a cyber defence centre, a deployable cyber defence capability. It doesn't even reflect the kind of operations that we're taking on in Afghanistan.

So first, bringing the theory in line with the practice, but then looking forward. What should NATO do in future? What should be the balance between the collective defence capabilities that we have and the responsibilities that we have also to protect Euro-Atlantic security by projecting force?

I think there are so many elements to discuss about possible future roles that there's no point in my listing them for you now and many of them will be reflected, I think, in the communiqué and in the declaration on Alliance security. But I do want to say this: One core principle was reiterated by all the speakers. It is collective defence, collective security, the shared commitment of Article 5 to all allies. There will be absolutely no diminishment of that in any possible revision to the Strategic Concept.

The second issue was Russia. Is Russia. It is being discussed behind me as we speak. All of the Heads of State and Government, I think, share a common view. And that common view has a few elements. One is that Russia is a great European power, a partner with which NATO must cooperate, and wants to cooperate. And so there should be no doubt in anyone's mind of the desire of the Alliance to reach out in cooperation with Russia. And there was a lot of discussion of the different areas in which there would be mutually beneficial cooperation with the Russian Federation.

There was also a shared view that we must continue discussion through the good times and when the times are less good. In other words, that the NATO-Russia Council should not just be a fair-weather organization, but that we should continue talking even over issues on which we disagree.

That brought us to the third element of the discussion on Russia, and that is, of course, that there are elements on which NATO and Russia disagree. There are areas in which NATO and Russia simply do not see things the same way. And that is a fact of life with which we will have to deal, but the desire to cooperate with Russia does not mean compromising on core principles of the Alliance. Core principles like rejecting spheres of influence in the 21st Century, rejecting what we have seen in Georgia, which compromises the territorial integrity of Georgia,  such as the recognition of these two republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

So this was a forward-looking discussion on Russia in that the desire for cooperation, the necessity for cooperation, was quite clear. But without any compromise on the essential principles on which this Alliance is based.

Final issue, for which I know many of you are waiting, and that is on the Secretary General I can certainly confirm that it has been discussed. This discussion will continue tomorrow, so there has been no decision now, there was no requirement for a decision now. The discussion will continue into tomorrow on the succession to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.