Press briefing

by NATO Spokesman James Appathurai at the Informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers - Tallinn, Estonia

  • 22 Apr. 2010
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  • Last updated: 23 Apr. 2010 19:04

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai during his briefing to the press

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): The discussion this evening went on a little bit longer than expected and the reason it did was there was an exchange of views on... an extended exchange of views on granting Membership Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As you know, last December the NATO Ministers decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina will join the Membership Action Plan once it achieves the necessary progress in its reform efforts. Since then Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant progress on reform. Ministers today welcomed its decisions on destruction of surplus ammunition and arms and its new contributions to ISAF. They remain concerned, however, that the defence property issue is not yet resolved.

Therefore, while they invite Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the Membership Action Plan today, they have authorized the North Atlantic Council in permanent session, to accept Bosnia and Herzegovina's first annual national program only when all immoveable defence properties identified as necessary for future defence purposes have been officially registered as the state property of Bosnia and Herzegovina for use by the BiH Ministry of Defence. 

I just said that impromptu. (Laughs).

Q: (Inaudible...).                                                                  

Q: What does it mean? Does it mean in (inaudible...)?

JAMES APPATHURAI: Yes.

Q: (Inaudible...). 

JAMES APPATHURAI:Yes, MAP has been granted to Bosnia and Herzegovina today, but with conditions, a clear condition attached on the implementation of the Membership Action Plan.

Q: Can you read it again?

UNIDENTIFIED: No, (inaudible...) read it later. I (inaudible) read it later (inaudible...).

Q: (Inaudible...) copy? 

JAMES APPATHURAI:I cannot give a copy and I don't have a copy. I can...

Q: (Inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI:I'll come back to it. Two other issues were discussed today. Nuclear issues and missile defence.

First on nuclear issues. The Ministers, I think almost unanimously around the table, stressed that NATO has already made substantial progress through the 1990s, or since 1999 in... Well, let me start again.

Ministers noted that NATO has already made substantial progress in recent years in reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by NATO and the role of nuclear weapons in NATO policy.  They also welcomed unanimously the new momentum when it comes to reducing the number of nuclear weapons and improving nuclear safety and they all turned to Secretary Clinton to congratulate the United States on its leadership role.

They also agreed that this is a timely discussion to have within NATO, not least in the context of progress being made elsewhere, and in the context of the upcoming non-proliferation treaty review conference, which I think will take place in May, but very much with an eye to the Strategic Concept in Lisbon.

So this discussion launched an internal discussion within NATO with an eye to the Strategic Concept on NATO's nuclear policy, NATO's nuclear posture.

There were some clear themes, though absolutely no decision partaken. This was a first discussion and certainly the first discussion that I can remember at ministerial level in over a decade.

First, that NATO will maintain a credible and safe deterrent and NATO will also maintain a mixture of nuclear and conventional forces, to maintain that deterrent. Put another way, as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world NATO will need and have a safe and secure deterrent.

All Ministers stressed, very clearly, that our unity when it comes to nuclear policy will remain rock solid. There will be no unilateral moves. Any moves that are made will be taken together.

A third theme that burdens should be shared when it comes to nuclear issues. But that NATO also wants to maintain the appropriate balance between on the one hand deterrence, and on the other hand contributing to arms control and disarmament. And a number of allies raised the issue of how NATO can contribute to general progress and arms control and disarmament, including when it comes to nuclear weapons.

As I said, no decisions were taken. No specifics or specific proposals were put on the table, but one point was stressed by many and that is, of course, that this is a discussion that cannot just include NATO in the broader sense. NATO's nuclear policy is for NATO to decide. But when it comes to reducing the number or role of nuclear weapons in Europe, it is impossible to ignore Russia, which has, I believe, some 3,000 sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, and there was a substantial amount of discussion about how both from a bilateral U.S.-Russia point of view, but in a larger context of reduction, Russia should be engaged in a discussion of reducing the number of nuclear weapons in Europe.

That was the extent of the discussion on nuclear weapons, nuclear policy.

The complementary discussion was missile defence. There was unanimity amongst the Ministers that missile defence cannot and should not be seen as replacing the importance of deterrence. NATO’s deterrence remains absolutely essential, but missile defence can be seen as a complement to deterrence. That was one theme that was shared around the table.

Ministers agreed that the threat is real, including from Iran. That the system being put in place by the United States, the phased adaptive approach, is one that they all welcome. The Secretary General noted that the technology that is being deployed is all existing technology, that it is viable technology. And the Secretary General said, as he has said to you, that he hopes and aims to see as a result of the Lisbon Summit, that the allies can agree to take on Alliance missile defence as a NATO mission and as the obvious next step to expand the capabilities that we are now developing to protect deployed troops. Also to protect Alliance populations and territories.

So that was, I think, the entire spectrum of discussion and I am happy to take your questions, if you have any questions.

Pascal.

Q: (Inaudible...).  

JAMES APPATHURAI:We didn't... I don't know if we have interpretation, if we do have interpretation. I don't know. Maybe we do, but anyway, in English or in French, it doesn't matter.

Q: Evelyn Kaldoja, Estonian Daily Postimees. I didn't understand...

JAMES APPATHURAI:That's the interpretation. No, go ahead.

Q: Okay, did I understand correctly that ANP is something that Georgia and Ukraine already have, who doesn't have MAP and Bosnia who'll get MAP doesn't get ANP.

JAMES APPATHURAI:There's something called an Annual National Program and an Annual National Plan and they're different. One is in the MAP, one is not formally in the MAP. Georgia and Ukraine are not formally in the Membership Action Plan process. Once Bosnia and Herzegovina meets this condition, and it is a condition, then the North Atlantic Council will accept its first Annual National Program, which is within the Membership Action Plan.

I also have had to clear this up. Pascal.

Q: (Inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI:Bien, de toute façon, demande, non.  Parce qu'on n'a pas pu les avoir.

Q: (Inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI:Okay.

Q: (Inaudible...) say again, that all allies agree that they will not unilaterally ask for a withdrawal of nuclear weapons on their own soil, why no consensus has been developed within the Alliance? Meaning that, for instance, Belgium or Germany, to be very specific, could not ask politely for the nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from their territory, as long as any other member does not agree?

JAMES APPATHURAI:What was said around the table was, today, by all the Ministers who intervened, there will be no unilateral moves when it comes to NATO's nuclear policy or posture. All decisions will be taken together. This was a very, very clear statement.

Can we just wait for...

Q: Thank you very much. Klaus (inaudible) from Financial Times Deutschland. You also said that there would not be any unilateral moves in the reduction of nukes without Russia, because Russia still has something like... I think it's between 2,000 and 4,000 nukes still on European territory. I think on Tuesday, could it be, when was the North Atlantic Russian conference, it was... what is the position of the Russians about that? Did you talk to them or not yet?

JAMES APPATHURAI:First, I did not say that there would be no moves without the Russians. I did say that Russia had to be taken into account when looking at the broader issue of reducing the total holdings of nuclear weapons in Europe. So big distinction.

Secondly, no, there has been no discussion of Russian nuclear weapons in Europe, or reducing the level of Russian nuclear weapons in Europe through the NATO-Russia Council and I don't think that that is on the immediate agenda. That's not the forum in which that kind of discussion, I think, would be held, and certainly not now.

Lorne...

Q: (Inaudible...).

JAMES APPATHURAI:Mm-mmm.

Q: Just saying I want to be sure I understood because it's sort of bringing a few elements together. Is there a sense that there will be... that any reduction that might be made on the Alliance's behalf or the United States in particular in this case, will be dependent on Russian reductions, on Russian moves?

JAMES APPATHURAI:That has not explicitly been said, but all allies are aware that the... any potential changes to NATO's nuclear policy or holdings take place in a larger context. That context on the European continent very much includes Russia. So what NATO decides it decides on its own, but it does not take its decision in a vacuum and the allies are absolutely determined that NATO will maintain a deterrent capability so that allied territory and citizens are safe. And that is the first order of business.

Within that context they will see... or they will discuss whether and how NATO could contribute to arms control and disarmament.

Q: Can I understand that Germany and Netherlands and Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway, which announced their withdrawal, can I understand that those countries have, for the time being, abandoned the idea to ask for the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from European soil?

JAMES APPATHURAI:Well, on the one... as a first point I'm not in the position to talk about individual nations and what they said in confidential fora, but I can say, certainly in public, none of those nations has asked for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear... tactical nuclear weapons from European soil, so they have never made that appeal. I can say that all the nations around the table, including the ones you mentioned, I'll mention them specifically, did say there will be no unilateral moves. Very, very strongly, very, very clearly.

Q: (Inaudible...) deal? Was it discussed and was the position... Mistral warship deal.

JAMES APPATHURAI:No, it was not discussed. My friends, thank you.