Monthly press briefing

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • 11 Oct. 2010
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  • Last updated: 13 Oct. 2010 10:22

Monthly press briefing by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Thank you for coming. I would like to focus on this week’s meeting of Defence Ministers and Foreign Ministers, and then I’d be happy to take your questions.

This meeting will be extraordinary, both in form and content. Until now, we have never had a joint meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers in this Headquarters. So that’s already a first.

But of course, it is the content that matters. And the issues on our plate this week do matter. This Ministerial meeting will be the starting gun for the sprint to the Summit – a Summit that will shape and direct NATO for a decade. On Thursday, and with an eye to the Lisbon Summit in just a few weeks, I will be seeking clear political direction on issues that are fundamental to the future of the Alliance.

First: I want NATO leaders to agree, in Lisbon, an ambitious Strategic Concept. My firm intent is that the Lisbon Summit will put in place an Alliance that is more modern; more efficient; and better able to work with our partners around the globe. On Thursday, Foreign and Defence Ministers will give their views on my first draft.

The new Strategic Concept must reconfirm NATO’s core task – territorial defence – but modernise how we do it, including cyber defence and missile defence. It must define clearly NATO’s mission to manage the full spectrum of crises, and mandate and equip the Alliance to engage fully with our civilian partners. It must also mandate NATO to reach out further than it ever has before. Our partnerships are central to our success, and we must engage more actively with partner countries around the globe.

Deuxièmement, défense anti-missile. Je pense que l’OTAN devrait développer sa capacité de défendre l’Europe contre la menace d’une attaque de missile. Et il est temps maintenant de décider de le faire.

Nous sommes confrontés à une menace claire. Plus de trente pays dans le monde possèdent, ou sont en train d'acquérir des missiles balistiques, dont certains sont déjà en mesure d'atteindre l'Europe. Or, les capacités de défense anti-missile existent et elles reposent sur une technologie éprouvée. Et même en ces temps de restrictions budgétaires, c’est une dépense que nous pouvons nous permettre. En fait, compte tenu du coût incommensurable qu’aurait une attaque de missile contre l’une de nos villes, je pense que nous ne pouvons pas nous passer de défense anti-missile.

La défense antimissile est certes importante militairement, mais aussi politiquement. Elle serait un lien de plus entre les Alliés. Et elle pourrait offrir la perspective d’une coopération avec la Russie en vue d’une sécurité réellement partagée. Pour toutes ces raisons, je pense que, le moment sera venu pour l’OTAN de s’engager dans cette voie.

Third: Reforms. I will seek a strong mandate to energise the reform of the Alliance.

The Alliance is already good value for money. By standing together, we get more security than we ever could by going it alone.

But we must do better. We must reform NATO’s command structure, to make it leaner and more efficient. The Alliance has 14 Agencies; I think we can manage with three. We should buy and operate more equipment together, which we could not afford individually. That is the kind of reform which must become daily business in this Alliance. It should be enshrined in the Strategic Concept.

NATO must become more effective, and more cost-effective, at the same time. I hope that Defence Ministers will give reform their full endorsement on Thursday morning, again with an eye to Lisbon.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Thank you very much. And now, I'm ready to take your questions.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesperson): Three out there.

Q: I'm Dieter Eberling from DPA, the German Press Agency. Secretary General, missile defence isn't that to be seen in the context of the global zero aim. And at the same time the maintenance of nuclear capabilities as long as they are needed, is it a new chance for disarmament? And don't you think that perhaps a NATO committee on disarmament to be established in Lisbon would be a good idea to put this forward once this missile defence is established.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, I would like to stress that missile defence is not a substitute for nuclear deterrence. I think a missile defence system would complement our deterrence polices. That's how I see it. We need a missile defence system to protect our population effectively against a real threat from missiles, a real threat which cannot be addressed by a deterrence policy solely.

Q: Ben Nimmo, down here on the aisle, also from DPA, but the English Service. Secretary General, you made very clear on your speech on Friday, the idea that NATO needs to be advanced, to be able to protect... start territorial defence outside its own territory. But I can see that can concern a lot of other security players around the world with the idea of NATO just turning up on the doorstep elsewhere. So does your idea include the idea of a pre-emptive defence? And would NATO be launching pre-emptive strikes outside its territory? And will the strategic concept have a reference to the need for UN mandate for out-of-area operations? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The Strategic Concept will make clear that NATO operates according to the principles of the UN Charter. And the guiding principle for our operations will be defence and protection of our populations. This is really the core task of NATO to protect our populations against threats and aggression and attacks. But we have to realize that in today's security environment it may occasionally take out-of-area operations to effectively protect our own people. So the guiding principle will still be the protection of our populations.

Q: Yes, Marie Sole Tognazzi from ANSA Italian News Agency, if I may, a question on Afghanistan. Italy is considering, in the hours after the latest attack against these soldiers, to put bombs in its jets in order to defend better its soldiers. Do you think that idea is compatible with the new doctrine that try to limit the air strike in order to avoid the civilian deaths?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I find it quite natural that troop contributing countries seek ways and means to protect their deployed troops effectively. And I think it is national decision how to do it. Of course, it has to take place within the framework of our mandate and out overall purpose. But I don't see any contradiction between such considerations and the strategy we have outlined for our operation in Afghanistan.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Next question is here.

Q: (Inaudible) Polish Press Agency, Secretary-General, are you happy with the first reactions of the members, the capitals, on your draft of the Strategic Concept? Or do you think you still have to make some big changes before the summit? And secondly, you said that it's high time to take the decision of the missile defence. You expect the decision on Thursday or only at the summit?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I expect the final decision at the summit in Lisbon. But obviously, ministers meeting this week will be a very important step in the preparation of the summit. But the final decision will be taken, I hope, at the summit.

And your first question about the Strategic Concept, the first reactions have been very positive. Obviously, there may still be some work to do. And the first political discussion will be taken at the ministers meeting next Thursday and based on that I will, in consultation with the allies, finalise a draft for approval at the summit. But the first reaction has been very positive.


Q: Jim Neuger from Bloomberg. I'm over here. Back to Afghanistan, after the formation of the peace council there, what prospects do you see for this latest effort at a negotiated settlement between the government and the insurgents? How will you define progress? How long do you think it will take to achieve progress? And what role will NATO play in supporting this process?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I think the best way to answer that question is to set the ultimate goal that the insurgents put down their weapons. That would be a great success. Furthermore, I would like to add that a number of conditions must be fulfilled in order to describe the reconciliation process as a success. I take it for granted that groups and individuals involved in the reconciliation process not only put down their weapons and cut off relations with terrorist groups but also abide by and respect the Afghan constitution, including full respect for human rights and, not least, women's rights.

If these conditions are fulfilled, and we eventually see the fighting stops of course that would be a success. I think it's premature to assess possible progress in this process. But provided these conditions are fulfilled. I think we should give it a try.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Next question is here...

Q: (Inaudible) Die Zeit. Secretary-General, you mentioned at the beginning cyber attacks as emergent challenges for NATO. Could you be a little bit more concrete and precise how you want to feed in this emergent challenge in the Strategic Concept? Should cyber attacks fall under Article 5 in the future? Or how do you imagine this?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I think that neither cyber attacks, nor any other kind of attacks, could be described as a clear Article 5 case in advance. That would very much depend on the situation. And that has always been the case. There is nothing new in that. I mean there is what I would call a "constructive ambiguity" as regard the use of Article 5. And that's exactly the strength of Article 5 that potential aggressors never know when the Alliance will invoke Article 5.

As you know, we have done so once in our history, on the 12th of September 2001, because all Allies considered the attack on the United States an attack on all. But you couldn't know in advance that Article 5 would be invoked on that occasion. So even a cyber defence attack... sorry, even a cyber attack might be at end of the day considered an Article 5.

But you don't know in advance. And I think the procedure would be that an Ally subject to cyber attack would ask for consultations according to Article 4 of the NATO treaty. And these consultations might eventually lead to the conclusion that we need a common approach according to Article 5. So I would be reluctant to characterise any attack or any threat in advance as a clear Article 5 case. But it could be.


Q: Yes, David Brunstrumm from Reuters. Just to go back on the issue of peace talks. Do I take it from what you're saying that nobody is excluded from these talks and reintegration provided they meet the conditions? Does this mean, for instance, we could have a situation where say Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or even Mullah Omar, if they were to renounce violence lay down their weapons and abide by the constitution, would therefore be welcomed into a peace process and possibly into positions in government? Or are you saying there are certainly people who have to be excluded? Or is it up to the Afghan government to decide?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, that's hypothetical. And based on experience, I never answer hypothetical questions. But the last part of your question is a very important element, namely that the Afghan government must be in the lead; must be in the driver seat. So the reconciliation process should be led by the Afghan government. However, having said that, I have outlined certain conditions that must be met if we are to characterise such a reconciliation process as a success.

JAMES APPATHURAI: This gentleman here. Yes, yes, yes.

Q: (Inaudible) from Arab News Agency. Secretary-General, you were talking about reforms in NATO. And we know you as liberal politician from Denmark, from Scandinavia. Many do believe that you can do a lot of good work to reform...characterize NATO. But we know that NATO in the media area as just a military organisation and as... like fighting in the war and so on and so on. But how about that NATO can be also prevalent in conflicts, for example in peacekeeping force, also more works in the human rights file and so on? We have rumours that maybe NATO and Afghan government maybe is going to have a dialogue with the Taliban forces and so on.

But the second question, for example, I heard. There's a rumour that the Kurdish organization in Turkey which is fighting against Turkey is ready to give or to lie the guns and was asking if the NATO will be able to... to give their guns to the NATO to solve these human rights conflict in Turkey? Thanks.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I think your question is identical to the one you asked Friday. Don't be surprised that my answer will also be identical. But first of all, let me stress, NATO is of course a military organisation. In fact, the world's strongest and most successful military defence organisation. But I would add to that NATO is much more than just a military organisation.

First and foremost, NATO constitutes a community of countries that share basic political principles and values, including respect for human rights. That's a very important part of our foundation. And you see that already in our treaty. And this is also reason why I stressed the need for a reconciliation process in Afghanistan that fully respects the democratic Afghan constitution including human rights which also includes women's rights.

As I understand it, it’s an internal Turkish questions, I don't think it's for NATO to engage. Turkey is an ally, a highly valued ally. And I feel confident that Turkey can handle domestic, political and security questions appropriately without the interference of NATO.

But obviously, we... NATO, the Alliance, share the Turkish desire to come to an end as regard the risk of terror attacks. It's a very unfortunate situation. And I hope we will see an end to that.

Q: Yes, Gérard Godin, Belgium News Agency. Concerning the reform of the military, the main structure, do you expect a decision at Lisbon? Is that going to be the start of the process?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I would expect a major decision at the summit in Lisbon, which means a decision on the structure. Then, there may be some follow-up work as regard to details, including geographic locations of headquarters and facilities. And at the end of the day, that may be more than details. Because those... of course, a lot of politics involved in that. But the main decision will be taken at the Lisbon Summit.

Q: Laurent Thomet with AFP News Agency. Have you heard from the Russians on your invitation to join the Lisbon Summit? And also if Russia does not attend the summit do you want NATO leaders to still go forward with the missile defence plans, or is it going to happen with or without Russia?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: We have not yet received a final answer from the Russian side. As with regard with missile defence it is still my clear position that a NATO decision on missile defence in Lisbon should be accompanied by an invitation to Russia to cooperate.

Q: (Inaudible) Japanese Newspaper. One question about Afghanistan. At the beginning of this year, you mentioned that this year, the NATO will accelerate the transfer of the security responsibility to Afghanistan. And do you expect any decision on this in Lisbon about overall comprehensive plan or a schedule of that transferring of these security responsibility to Afghans. And secondly, about a strengthened... the need to strengthen diplomacy... How and by what means... in what area would like to strengthen diplomacy with other countries? Thank you...

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on Afghanistan, I would expect an announcement at the Summit in Lisbon that transition to lead Afghan responsibility is about to start at the beginning of 2011 and at the latest by July 2011. At the same time, I think we will endorse President Karzai's ambition that the Afghan Security Forces should take lead responsibility all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014. So these dates provide us with an overall road map. We will work on the basis of that roadmap.

Obviously, the whole transition process must be based on conditions. We have to make sure that the Afghan security forces are actually capable to take responsibility before we hand over responsibility to them. This is a reason why it's so essential to train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. Our aim is to reach a level of 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police by October 2011.

So provided that we make progress as regard security, I find this roadmap realistic. And I would expect us to make that announcement at the Lisbon Summit next month.

As regards partnerships, it is our intention to expand our partnership policies. We have already today partnerships with countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We have partnerships with countries in the North Africa and the Middle East. But we would like the engage with all countries that share our desire to see a peaceful resolution to conflicts.

I think Afghanistan is a case in point. We can't solve problems in Afghanistan without engaging Pakistan and I think India and China could play an instrument role to ensure regional peace and stability. So that's in essence the prospectives that we would like to engage with all major players on the international scene. And it goes without saying that we want a close cooperation with countries that contribute to our operations like ISAF where we already have initiated structures that include troop contributing countries in our decision-shaping and decision-making processes.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Next question, still front row...

Q: (Inaudible) from Geo Television, Pakistan. Secretary General, can you tell us how much was the reason of track... terrorist track in Europe to exert pressure on Pakistan? And can you share some light of what is the rapport of ISAF-Pakistan Joint Commission on the incident two days ago in Pakistan? And where are we at this very moment between Pakistan and NATO relations?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I have not seen a final outcome of the joint investigations that were initiated in the wake of the very unfortunate border incidents. I would like to stress that we have not put pressure on Pakistan. We've had talks with Pakistan. I have had talks with the Pakistani Foreign Minister. I have expressed by deep condolences on the occasion of the killing of Pakistani soldiers and also urged the Pakistani government to ensure that the border crossings could be reopened as soon as possible. Fortunately, that has now happened which I welcome and strongly appreciate.

And as regards our long-term relationship, I have suggested during my visit to Pakistan that we prepare a joint political framework for further enhancement of the long-term relationship between Pakistan and NATO.


Q: Slobo Lekic, Associated Press. Just to clarify your reply to David's question regarding peace talks. You seem not to be ruling out the possibility that militant leaders like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could take part in peace talks with the government. Is that correct?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I called it a hypothetical question. And I also stressed I never answer hypothetical questions. And then I reiterate clear preconditions for a successful reconciliation process that groups and individuals involved into that process abide by and respect the Afghan constitution including, human rights and women rights, that they put down their weapons; cut off links to terrorist groups. I think these conditions are quite clear.


Q: Pascal Mallet, Agence France Presse. Deux questions, Monsieur le Secrétaire Général. La première, il y a quelques mois, plusieurs pays, comme les Pays-Bas, la Belgique, l'Allemagne, la Norvège et le Luxembourg je crois, ont signé une lettre pour demander le retrait des armes nucléaires tactiques qui existent encore dans ces pays. L'Italie et la Turquie qui ont aussi des armes à double clé ne se sont pas joints à cette initiative. Est-ce que vous pouvez nous confirmer ici aujourd'hui qu'il n'est plus question de prendre une décision à court terme (in the short term) de prendre une décision de retirer ces armes? Et à quelles conditions, peut-on imaginer (could we imagine) qu'elles soient retirées un jour?

La deuxième question, c'est sur la "missile defence". Le problème de la défense anti-missile, c'est aussi que c'est un système américain fondamentalement techniquement.

Aujourd'hui, les États-Unis d'Amérique ont déjà un système anti-missile stratégique. Si on implante... si on crée un système anti-missile en Europe, il sera donc un jour ou l'autre (linked) lié au système stratégique américain. Nous sommes une alliance donc c'est logique. Mais alors, à ce moment-là, la défense anti-missile prend une autre allure. Et dans cas-là, l'OTAN est effectivement une organisation mondiale qui se défend mondialement contre des menaces du monde entier, y compris stratégique.

Comme la défense anti-missile d'aujourd'hui dont on parle, c'est seulement dirigé contre quelques pays du Moyen-Orient en théorie. Est-ce qu'il n'y a pas une difficulté, une contradiction politique à ce niveau-là?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Hum, premièrement en ce qui concerne la politique nucléaire, nous avons une discussion générale sur la politique nucléaire aux uns... aux quatre du nouveau concept stratégique. Et je suis très optimiste qu'il y aura possible de trouver une solution en équilibre entre les positions différentes concernant la politique nucléaire. Et je tiens à souligner deux points.

Premièrement, nous sommes déterminés à créer les conditions d'un monde sans armes nucléaires. En fait, la plupart des pays du monde ont déjà signé cet objectif dans le Traité sur la non-prolifération des armes nucléaires il y a 40 ans en 1970. C'est mon premier point.

Deuxièmement, aussi longtemps qu'il y aura des armes nucléaires, l'OTAN restera une alliance nucléaire. Et la dissuasion demeure un élément central de notre stratégie.

C'est le nouveau général auquel nous avons des discussions avant le sommet de Lisbonne.

En ce qui concerne la défense... la défense anti-missile. Comme vous le savez, nous avons déjà approuvé un système couvrant nos forces déployées. Et maintenant, il s'agit d'élargir cette structure en vue de couvrir les populations et le territoire de l'Alliance. Les États-Unis mettent des moyens à disposition. Plusieurs alliés européens disposent déjà de moyens de défense contre les missiles de théâtre pour la protection des forces déployées.

Et techniquement, il est faisable de connecter les systèmes existants. Et comme vous le savez, les coûts supplémentaires sont très faibles, moins que 200 millions d'Euros partagés parmi les 28 alliés.

Et je vais répéter que selon moi, une décision de développer un système de défense anti-missile doit être accompagné par une invitation à la Russie de coopérer avec nous.

Q: Osaki for Japan Omiori. On partnership, when you say you want to involve partners more closely in decision-shaping, in decision-making, practically what does it mean? And can you clarify the difference between decision-shaping and decision-making? Also, you mentioned India and China, are they NATO's partners? Do you want them to participate in decision-shaping and decision-making as well? And lastly, quickly, can you confirm that Japan's prime minister is invited to Lisbon Summit. And what about others? Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Japanese... Japanese prime minister?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I can confirm that in connection with the NATO Summit in Lisbon, we'll have an ISAF summit which means that the heads of State and Government of all 47 troop contributing countries will be invited to attend our meeting in Lisbon.

In addition to that, we've also invited other contributors like Japan that contribute significantly when you come to finances. We've also invited the Secretary General of United Nations. We have invited the European Union and the World Bank because it is a comprehensive approach. It is more than just our military operation. We would also like to engage with other contributors. As regards the involvement of partners in decision-shaping and decision-making, I can refer to the framework we have developed with our ISAF partners.

We have 28 allies and 19 partners. And on a regular basis we have meetings with our 19 partners in a 47 format which means that they get briefings from our military commanders. They are engaged in our consultations and political discussions.

Of course, at the end of the day, it is for the North Atlantic Council to take decisions. But until now, these decisions have been in full accordance with the consensus among all ISAF partners. So we involve them at a very early state in consultations. And that's, I think, the essence of being involved in decision-shaping and decision-making.

When it comes to India and China, they are, of course, not members of existing partnerships. What I'm speaking about is consultations on a regular basis also at a political level, maybe also elements of practical cooperation. Let's see how it evolves. We have had in the past some contacts with both countries. But I think it would give merit to further develop these relations.

JAMES APPATHURAI: Last question.

Q: Yes, Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. British prime minister has just said that... a British aid worker was killed during a rescue attempt the other day may have been killed by a grenade thrown by coalition forces. Have you heard anything to suggest that yourself?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, I spoke with General Petraeus earlier today. He informed about this. And an investigation has now been initiated to find out what actually happened. And we have to await the outcome of this investigation before making any assessment or comments. But whatever happened, I would like to stress that those who are responsible, of course, are the captors. Those who captured the British aid worker, they're responsible whatever happened. Those who captured her in the first place, they are responsible. But I would refrain from further comments until we have the final outcome of the investigation. Thank you.