Closing press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Summit meetings of Heads of State and Government - Lisbon, Portugal

  • 20 Nov. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Nov. 2010 22:36

Concluding press conference by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Today, we launch a fundamentally new phase in relations between NATO nations and Russia. Today, we help not only bury the ghosts of the past that have haunted us for too long. We exorcise them. Today, we make a fresh start. Today we have had a meeting in the NATO-Russia Council, and we have agreed together on which security challenges NATO nations and Russia actually face today. What’s most significant is what’s not on the list: each other.

The NATO nations and Russia have today agreed in writing that while we face many security challenges, we pose no threat to each other. That alone draws a clear line between the past and the future of NATO-Russia relations. Instead, we have identified the real threats, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of missiles that can hit our territory even today, and piracy. We will step up our cooperation across the board to meet all these challenges.

First and foremost, we will do more together to help Afghanistan. Russia will allow more NATO supplies through Russian territory to support our mission in Afghanistan, and now we will be able to bring equipment out as well. We will enhance our training of counter-narcotics personnel from Afghanistan and from the region, including, for the first time, Pakistanis. Russia will open a second training centre in St. Petersburg in addition to the one near Moscow, and we will do more to fight terrorism, including at sea. We will step up our naval operations against pirates to protect the sea lanes on which all our nations rely, and we will step up our consultations on proliferation. But we will do more than just consult about the threat of missiles. We will cooperate.

Yesterday, NATO nations decided that the alliance will acquire the capability to defend European territory and populations against missile attack, and they extended an offer to Russia: “Cooperate with us. Let us do this together,” and I’m very pleased that President Medvedev has taken up that offer. Starting today, we will begin working on missile defence cooperation to protect our deployed troops on the ground, and we will answer the questions that need answering for us to cooperate on territorial missile defence as well. The practical benefits are clear: by exchanging information we share a bigger, wider picture of the skies above Europe.

We get more warning of a threat, and we could conceivably even cooperate eventually in shooting down an incoming missile. This is also of real political importance. For the first time in history, NATO nations and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves. Russia will know without a doubt that the system cannot be directed against her. Our citizens in Europe will share enhanced security that is unprecedented. Of course there will still be disagreements between the countries in the NATO-Russia Council, but to my mind, Lisbon marks a fresh start towards more trust, more cooperation, and an ever-more valuable NATO-Russia Council. For all these reasons, I believe this summit meeting of the NATO-Russia Council has been a true turning point, and it complements the results already achieved here in Lisbon.

This summit in Lisbon has been a great, great success. The NATO summit of the 28 allies agreed the new strategic concept. We took the decision to build a missile defence system to protect European populations and territory against missile attack, and we launched a profound reform of the alliance. We will cut fat and build muscle. We will reduce the command structure by one third. We will cut the number of agencies from fourteen to three, and we are restructuring the NATO headquarters as well, all of this to reinvest in capabilities we need today.

The Afghanistan meeting launched the process of transition, whereby Afghanistan will steadily take lead responsibility for its own security. We signed a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan to make our enduring commitment to the Afghan people very clear, and based on the offers I have heard here in Lisbon, I believe we are getting very close to meeting the requirement for trainers, and trainers are the ticket to transition.

Taken together with the decisions we have taken in the NATO-Russia Council on missile defence, on the joint review, on fighting terrorism and piracy and on Afghanistan, I believe this is one of the most substantial NATO summits you’ve ever seen. I also think it is one of the most important summits in the history of this alliance, and today we have decided that we will meet again at the levels of head of state of government at a new summit in 2012 in the United States.

QUESTION: Jim Nuger from Bloomberg, a question about NATO-Russian relations. What concerns do you have that the NATO-Russia re-set could be undermined by the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the START accord, and in the event that there is no ratification in the US, would you encourage both sides - the United States and Russia – to nonetheless abide by the terms of the treaty?

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: I see the start treaty in a greater context. Obviously the START treaty is a result of an improved relationship between the United States and Russia, but actually, the start treaty has far-reaching effects. A ratification of the START treaty will contribute strongly to an improvement of the overall security environment in the Euro-Atlantic area, and all members of the NATO-Russia Council share the view that an early ratification of the START treaty would be to the benefit of security in the Euro-Atlantic area. I’d also have to say that it is a matter of concern that a delayed ratification of the START treaty will be damaging to the overall security environment in Europe. So we strongly urge both parties to ratify the START treaty as early as possible.

QUESTION: Secretary General, Constantine (inaudible), the (inaudible) journalist from Moscow. What about the perspectives on the common threat assessment? It seems that you were not seeing eye to eye with the Russian government on issues relating to, for example, Iran. Was there any progress achieved, or is the process of getting together the viewpoints going to continue? Thank you very much.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The fact is that we have agreed on a joint threat assessment, but I find it quite natural that because of geographic differences, different locations of countries, you may also occasionally have different assessments of the actual threat, but the fact is that we have agreed on a joint threat assessment, which now forms the basis for our cooperation on missile defence.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of Moscow Radio Station. Mr. Secretary, could you talk more specifically about Russia-NATO cooperation missile defence system? How could we connect to systems, and what radars, for example, in Russia could we use, and my second question is: When are we going to have an agreement between Russia and NATO on the missile defence cooperation? Thank you.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Some of the more detailed questions cannot be answered yet, and it was not our ambition to give answers to these questions already now. What we have decided today is to initiate a joint analysis which will provide us with more precise answers to a number of technical and legitimate questions. We have initiated this joint analysis today and also decided that we expect at least a progress report when Russia-NATO Defence Ministers meet in June. If the joint analysis has been concluded by that time, it will provide a basis for decisions. If not, we will just continue this joint analysis.

QUESTION: Ina (inaudible), Radio Latvia. Secretary General, did you discuss with Russia a NATO cargo transit route extend to Russia and back to Afghanistan… Baltics and Russia to Afghanistan and back, and what kind of changes we can expect? Thank you.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Yes, we discussed the transit arrangement, and I’m very pleased that we have decided to enhance the existing transit arrangement, and I would in particular highlight two elements: firstly, that we will allow now for so-called reverse transit that is not only cargo till Afghanistan but also out of Afghanistan, which of course makes the whole transit arrangement more effective and more efficient, and the second element that we have also discussed, which kinds of cargo. So we will expand the list, but I would like to stress that we are speaking about non-lethal goods.

QUESTION: Herman from the (inaudible). Secretary General, help me with a puzzling passage in the strategic concept which touches probably upon the relation to Russia. It says in article nine… nineteen, sorry, “We will ensure the broadest possible participation of allies in peacetime basing of nuclear forces.” What are we saying here? What are we looking at? Is this a distribution of technical American forces in Europe? Is it a redistribution? Why is that passage in this strategic concept, please?

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: It’s more simple than you pretend. It just reflects the fact that we attach strong importance to the principle of solidarity also when it comes to our nuclear policies. So what we have decided is that at the end of the day, of course, any decision is a national decision, but we have also decided to move together, to consult with each other, and that’s basically the essence of that passage in the strategic concept.

QUESTION: Dennis Debruin, (inaudible) News Agency. I have a general question on NATO-Russia relations. According to the joint declaration we committed… re-committed to be open, frank, and transparent, but eight years ago in Rome declaration we already committed to this. So what has changed? Did we do our homework? Thank you.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Yeah, you’re right. When we established the NATO-Russia Council in Rome at the summit in 2002, we decided to enter a new era in our cooperation. The fact is that for several reasons, the cooperation within the NATO-Russia Council has not yet reached its full potential. This is the reason why we will still base our cooperation on the NATO-Russia Council framework but we will intensify our cooperation by launching these practical cooperation projects, and that’s a new element. The decision in Rome eight years ago was not accompanied by practical cooperation projects. We decided on, and actually I participated myself in that summit, we decided on a number of objectives, clear goals, but this time, our decision has been accompanied by concrete practical cooperation projects, and that’s a new thing, and that’s very encouraging.

QUESTION: Thank you. Georgian Public Broadcasting. Mr. Secretary General, how do you think, in your opinion, the improvement in your relationship with Russia and, as you said, the fresh start will affect the resolution of Georgian-Russian dispute? Thank you.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Obviously I hope to see a resolution to that very unfortunate conflict, and I can assure you that within the framework we have created for consultations with Russia we will continue to discuss the Georgia issue, and the NATO position remains the same. We insist on full respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We continue to pursue a non-recognition policy as regards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I hope we can find solutions to that conflict. Generally speaking, I do believe that an improved relationship between NATO and Russia will also contribute in a valuable way to finding solutions to the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Hold on. Just one moment. I see that James wants to stop this press conference. As you might know, this is James’ last press conference as NATO spokesperson, so I will now use this rare opportunity to take control of my own press conference between Oana takes over formally. So dear James, you are a true professional, and I would like to thank you for our splendid cooperation and your advice on both policy issues and media questions.

You are deeply respected inside NATO and among journalists for your credibility and professional integrity, and James, you and I know if you are respected among journalists, you can’t get much higher [LAUGHTER], not even as Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership and my special representative to the Caucasus, which will be your next job. So James, I wish you the very best of luck, and thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]