Press conference

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

  • 19 Nov. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 23 Nov. 2010 11:18

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen presents the new NATO Strategic Concept to the media.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary-General): Thank you very much for coming and let me begin by thanking the Portuguese government and in particular the city and people of Lisbon for hosting us so warmly.

I have been to quite a few summits over the past years and the organization of this one is indeed world class.

And here you have NATO’s roadmap for the next 10 years. Our new Strategic Concept has just been adopted by the heads of state and government. It’s really an historic moment. NATO is an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security and shared values.

But the world is changing. We face new threats and new challenges and this Strategic Concept will ensure that NATO remains as effective as ever in defending our peace, our security, and our prosperity.

Of course the new Strategic Concept reconfirms the commitment by NATO members to defend one another against attack, and that will never change. But it also modernizes the way NATO does defend in the 21st Century. And we will in the coming years invest in key capabilities to address the new threats of the 21st Century.

NATO will enhance its role in counter-insurgency operations and in stabilisation and reconstruction missions. We will develop a standing capability to train local security forces and we will create for the first time an appropriate but modest civilian capability within NATO to better interface with our international partners.

These are all lessons from our operation in Afghanistan. The Strategic Concept shows we have learned them.

And we will offer our partners around the globe more dialogue and more cooperation with NATO than ever before because our partnerships are proving to make a clear, concrete contribution to international peace and security. That is a success we will reinforce, in particular with Russia.

The Strategic Concept commits NATO to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons but confirms that as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO must remain a nuclear Alliance.

That is a balance that makes sense. It commits allies to a goal they all share and we will work towards it, but all allies agree that NATO’s business is defence and in a nuclear world - that must include deterrence.

The Strategic Concept keeps the door to membership in NATO firmly open to European democracies that so wish and that meet our standards because the past decade or so is vivid proof that enlargement has helped spread peace, democracy and prosperity across this continent.

The Strategic Concept makes continuous reform part of how we will do business every day because our taxpayers deserve the most security for the money they invest in defence.

And let me conclude with one final point. This Strategic Concept is not simply a statement of principles, nor a compendium of aspirations. This is an action plan, an action plan which sets out clearly the concrete steps NATO will take. Starting today or, well maybe tomorrow, this action plan will be implemented; and it will put in place an Alliance that is more effective, more engaged, and more efficient than ever before.

And now I'm ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Good evening, Secretary General. Laurent Tomé, from Agence France Presse.

You say that the Strategic Concept draws from lessons you learned from Afghanistan, but does the Strategic Concept come maybe nine years too late?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Actually, it’s never too late to learn lessons. And I really think it’s the right approach to implement the lessons we have learned – and what we have learned in Afghanistan, and by the way also in the Balkans during our operations in the Balkans – the lessons we have learned is that there is rarely a military solution solely to problems.

We need a more comprehensive approach where military operations go hand in hand with reinforced civilian reconstruction and development.

Let me stress, NATO has no ambition to take the lead role in civilian reconstruction and development, but we will improve our ability to interact with civilian actors like the United Nations, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc.

That’s the key message in the new Strategic Concept.

(Start of second recording)

QUESTION: Secretary General, are you concerned by the possibility that the START Treaty may be... that the ratification of the START Treaty may be delayed in the U.S. Senate by of the latest changes after the mid-term elections?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Let me be very clear on this. The new START Treaty will contribute to an improvement of security in Europe and I would say in the whole Euro-Atlantic area. And I would strongly regret if the ratification of the START Treaty is delayed. A delay of the ratification of the START Treaty would be damaging to security in Europe.

So I strongly encourage all parties involved to do their utmost to ensure an early ratification of the START Treaty.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, Lee Slabat(ph), from CNN. Your vision enshrined in this strategic document for NATO to move outside the European space more often and combat these threats on the global stage, I’m wondering if you’re concerned that more than half of the members at this point are cutting their defence budgets right now. And I know that although you say that now people can pool more military expenses, I’m wondering if you’re concerned that the Alliance will have the capabilities, the investments that it needs to grow into this new global role? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Obviously, it is a matter of concern, but I also think we have a very clear and positive response to the economic challenge. And the clear answer to that is pool resources together, to cooperate, to prioritise; and that’s the key message in this new Strategic Concept.

I would encourage allies to embark on strengthened cooperation with a view to making more efficient use of resources. The recent bilateral agreement between the U.K. and France is an excellent example of how allies can pool resources and make more efficient use of the money they invest in defence. We could also think of multinational solutions where a number of allies pool resources together to acquire capabilities they couldn’t afford individually.

And finally, I could also envisage a strengthening of common funding within NATO, all with a view to make more efficient use of resources.

And finally, we should also prioritise, and that’s exactly what we will do. At this summit, we will agree on a list of 10 critical capabilities to which we will give priority in our defence investments in the coming years.

So I feel confident that despite budget cuts, despite budgetary constraints, NATO allies and NATO as such will live up to commitments in the coming years.

QUESTION: Secretary General, Amir Orenofaritz(ph), in Israel.

In the Secretary Albright document, which preceded this one, the simmering tensions in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the danger of Iranian policies were explicitly mentioned. In superficially leafing through this document which you just put out, they seem to be absent. What is your position both on Iran and on the Middle East conflict?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First on the Middle East conflict, NATO as an organization is not engaged in the Middle East peace process. Obviously allies, individual allies, are and we follow the development closely and of course I’m very supportive as regards the U.S., the quartet attempt to find solutions to the Middle East conflict.

Whether NATO can play a role in the future, I don’t know. If, if at a certain stage there is a peace agreement, I think there’ll also be a need for an international military presence to supervise and implement this peace agreement. Whether NATO can play a role in that respect, I don’t know. That will very much depend on the concrete circumstances.

First of all, there must be a peace deal to protect. Secondly, the parties involved should request international assistance. And finally, the UN should mandate such an operation. And I think it’s a bit premature to guess about that.

As regards to threats, external threats, the fact is that more than 30 countries in the world have or are acquiring missile technologies. Some of them can even hit targets in the Euro-Atlantic area. And we intend to build a missile defence system to protect against any of these threats.

QUESTION: Deborah Haynes, from The Times.

Have the NATO members agreed on the missile defence shield? And if not, why not, and is there going to be an agreement this evening?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: You will see that missile defence is mentioned in the Strategic Concept and it has a very prominent place. But we are going to discuss missile defence in more details during our dinner tonight.

QUESTION: Mike Blanchfield, the Canadian Press.

Secretary General, looking out to tomorrow on Afghanistan, there’s been a lot of talk in recent days about the 2014, end of 2014 handover. Do you think it’s realistic to adhere to that end of 2014 timetable, or should leaders be more flexible and allowing for more time?

And if I can impose upon you to repeat an answer in French as well for our listeners.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I find it realistic to fulfil the goal of handing over lead responsibility for the security to the Afghan Security Forces all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014. It’s an ambition outlined by President Karzai. We endorse that ambition, which means that tomorrow we will announce that the transition process is about to start at the beginning of 2011 and I find it realistic that this process will be completed by the end of 2014.

But let me stress that I foresee a presence of international troops also after 2014, but not in a combat role, in a more supportive role, including training and education of Afghan Security Forces.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jonathan Marks(ph), BBC.

Secretary General, the nuclear side of things, you say that NATO’s business is defence and that in a nuclear world, that must include nuclear deterrence. What about the fate of the NATO battlefield nuclear weapons, which many people believe now have no... serve no useful purpose whatsoever, perhaps maybe as a bargaining tool in some future arms control negotiations? What, if anything, does the new document say about those battlefield nuclear weapons; and do you foresee any fundamental review of their role in NATO’s strategy?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As you will see in the Strategic Concept, we foresee a review of NATO’s deterrence posture. Not only the nuclear posture, but also the conventional deterrence posture.

So the Strategic Concept doesn’t deal with all the specifics. They will be dealt with in the review of our deterrence posture.

QUESTION: Mr. General Secretary, Azerbaijan INS TV. We want to know that what is the role of South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, in your NATO concept? It is my first question. And my second question is about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not resolved for many years. Which contribution could NATO make in this issue? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I don’t think NATO can play a role as regards to Nagorno-Karabakh. As regards our relationship with Central Asian countries, our strategic concept clearly states that we want to enhance our existing partnerships as well as develop new partnerships. And I attach a great importance to our partnerships with the Central Asian countries, not least as regards counter-narcotics rooted in Afghanistan. So I look very much forward to further development of these partnerships.

QUESTION: Mr. General Secretary, Sarto Chaktum(ph), from IHA News Agency, Turkey.

Since we were handed by the... handed the Strategic Concept document, I’m not going to ask about that. I have another question. The situation is NATO E.U. Summit does not happen because Turkey vetoes it, because of the issues on Cyprus. The thing is that but then, we just suddenly see all three personalities who represents the E.U. in the North Atlantic Council today. I mean, do you have any technical explanation why Mr. Barroso or Ms. Ashton is in the North Atlantic Council? Why do they have a seat there?

And do you think that, I mean, Mr. Barroso doesn’t even have a seat in the CFSCP in the E.U. Don’t you think it’s just a bypass of Turkey’s veto? It’s just a de facto of NATO E.U. Summit just happened today? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, we do not bypass anything. What we do is that we invite representatives of the European Union to present their views. Let me remind you that they don’t have a voting right in the NATO Council. We invite them to make interventions because we attach strong importance to the cooperation between NATO and the E.U.

And occasionally, I’m also invited to E.U. meetings where I make interventions and present NATO views. So it’s an exchange of views, which I find in full accordance with the overall desire to gradually improve the relationship between the two organizations.

MODERATOR: Secretary General, I’m afraid that’s all you have time for.

Colleagues, the Strategic Concept is on the web and it will be distributed in the media centre, not here, but in the media centre. Thank you.