Monthly Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Opening remarks

  • 11 May. 2012
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  • Last updated: 11 May. 2012 21:17

Good morning. In a week’s time, I hope to see many of you at our summit in Chicago.

This will be a summit of commitment. Commitment to complete transition in Afghanistan and to support Afghans achieve a stable future. Commitment to keep NATO capable to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. Commitment to strengthen even further the connections with our partners across the globe.

Above all, the Chicago summit will demonstrate our commitment to each other -- the unbreakable bond between North America and Europe, which remains the bedrock of our security. 

J’ai parlé des préparations du sommet avec le président Obama à Washington mercredi. Et nous sommes convenus qu’ils étaient en bonne voie. Hier, j’ai parlé au téléphone avec le président français élu, François Hollande. Je l’ai félicité pour son élection, et je lui ai fait part de mon souhait de collaborer étroitement avec lui lorsqu’il aura pris ses fonctions.

Let me speak about our three key goals for the Summit.

First, we will set the course for our future engagement in Afghanistan.  We will complete our ISAF mission by the end of 2014 – but we will remain committed to our long-term partnership with the Afghan people.

That is what we said we would do at our Lisbon summit in 2010 – and since then we have made significant progress towards our goal. We are on track to complete transition to Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014, as we agreed with President Karzai in Lisbon. Afghan troops and police are in the lead for the security of half the population. And I expect that they will take charge of more areas soon, because every day, they are growing more capable and more confident.

In the course of next year, as transition takes hold, and Afghan security forces take the lead for combat operations across the country, we will increasingly take a supporting role. But that will include supporting Afghans in combat, as necessary. 

In Chicago, we will make clear what NATO’s mission will be after 2014. I expect NATO will train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. But I do not expect this to be ISAF by another name. That will be a new mission with a new role for NATO.

In Chicago, we will also start to spell out our commitment to help finance the Afghan security forces of the future – as part of an international community effort, and together with the Afghans themselves.  We all have a stake in maintaining the gains we have made together, with such great investment and sacrifices. And we all have a stake in ensuring that terrorists can never again use Afghanistan to attack our own countries.
The second item on our  agenda will deal with security and economy. We will show how we can deal with today’s economic challenges, while preparing for the security challenges of tomorrow.

Since we adopted NATO’s new Strategic Concept at the Lisbon summit, we have come a long way.

We have launched the reform of our command structure to make it leaner and more effective. We have made progress in ensuring that NATO retains and develops key capabilities.

In Lisbon we agreed to build a missile defence system to protect NATO’s European populations, territory and forces against a grave and growing threat. In Chicago, we will declare an interim capability. This is only a first step, but it is significant.

We are acquiring Allied Ground Surveillance, which uses drones to provide crucial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information to our forces. This will help fill a gap shown by our operations in Libya and Afghanistan. In Chicago, we will launch between 20 and 30 other multinational projects, including for better protection, better surveillance, and better maintenance. 

Our goal is NATO Forces 2020 – an Alliance that is fit for the next decade and beyond. And the way to get there is Smart Defence – a renewed culture of cooperation that allows all Allies to provide more security for our citizens even in an age of austerity.

The third item on the agenda will deal with partnerships. We will strengthen our network of partnerships across the globe.

Au sommet de Lisbonne, nous avons annoncé clairement que nous renforcerions le dialogue et la coopération avec les pays partenaires et avec des acteurs internationaux clés. Parce que dans le monde d'aujourd'hui, les défis de sécurité ne connaissent pas de frontières, et parce qu'aucun pays ou alliance ne peut faire face à la plupart d'entre eux par ses propres moyens. Et notre réseau unique de partenaires s'étend dans le monde entier - depuis l'Europe de l'Ouest jusqu'à l’Asie de l'Est, et de l'Afrique du Nord au Pacifique Sud.

En Afghanistan, nous travaillons au côté de vingt-deux partenaires, qui fournissent des troupes, des instructeurs et des ressources à la plus grande coalition de l'histoire récente. Au Kosovo, huit partenaires nous aident à maintenir un environnement sûr et stable. Et le soutien politique et opérationnel de plusieurs partenaires d'Europe, du Moyen-Orient et d'Afrique du Nord a été essentiel à l'opération que nous avons menée avec succès l'an dernier pour faire appliquer les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU dans le but de protéger les civils en Libye.

To recognise these important contributions, we have invited a group of thirteen partner nations. They are making signifant contributions to NATO operations. This partnership meeting will be an unprecedented occasion to discuss common security challenges and how we can make our cooperation even broader and deeper. And NATO foreign ministers will also meet their colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Mongenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to discuss the whole range of issues on the Summit agenda. 

So in Chicago, we will hold the biggest Summit in NATO history, with around 60 countries and organisations represented. The United Nations and the European Union, are also invited to our Summit. NATO is, and will remain, a transatlantic Alliance. But, when it comes to security, the Chicago summit will show that NATO is also partner of choice for world peace and security.

And with that, I will be happy to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Please don't forget to put your mobile devices on silent, and to introduce yourself. We'll start with the front row.

Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, j'ai deux questions concernant les lections françaises. On voudrait avoir un petit commentaire sur les élections de... l'élection de M. François Hollande. Et qu'attendez-vous de ce président, nouveau président?

Deuxième question, concernant la décision de M. Hollande de retirer les forces, les troupes françaises de l'Afghanistan. Vous allez discuter sûrement cela au Sommet de Chicago. On a entendu que M. Obama va rencontrer M. Hollande avant le sommet. Et il essaiera de le convaincre de changer sa position vu que les troupes françaises sont en tête de l'ennemi. Ils sont à l'Est de l'Afghanistan côté des frontières pakistanaises. Et jusqu'à présent il y a plus de 80 soldats français tués dans cette période.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Merci beaucoup. Comme déjà dit, j'ai parlé au téléphone avec le président français élu, François Hollande, hier. Et je l'ai félicité pour son élection. Et je lui ai fait part de mon souhait de collaborer étroitement avec lui lorsqu'il aura pris ses fonctions. Bien sûr, le sujet de l'Afghanistan est un point très important sur l'agenda du sommet de Chicago. Et hier, M. Hollande et moi nous avons abordé brièvement l'Afghanistan et nous avons convenu de poursuivre le dialogue la semaine prochaine après l'investiture officielle du président.

Q: ITAR-TASS News Agency, Denis Dubrovin. I actually have three questions. All three on the NATO missile defence. So, first of all, Russia is not participating in the Summit of Chicago. Do you think that this will slow down our cooperation between NATO and Russia?

Second question: You have invited Russia to participate in the meeting on Afghanistan in Chicago. Have you received any reaction from Moscow?

Third question: Last week, there was a large military conference in Moscow on missile defence, organized by the Minister of Defence, so Ambassador Vershbow has participated in this conference. Do you consider this helped us to understand each other better?

And last one just is a clarification. I didn't understand quite well on which level Georgia will be represented on the Summit in Chicago, on the level of the Head of State or Foreign Minister? Thank you very much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Thank you. First, on the fact that Russia... the fact that we will not have a NATO-Russia Summit meeting in Chicago. First of all, let me stress that when I called President-elect Putin at that time, a few days after his election to congratulate him, we agreed that due to a very busy domestic political calendar in Russia it wouldn't be possible and practical to have a NATO-Russia Summit meeting in Chicago. So there was and there is a mutual understanding that May 2012 wouldn't be the right time for such a Summit meeting.

But having said that, we also agreed to meet bilaterally as soon as possible after the new president has been inaugurated. So I would expect a visit to take place after the Chicago Summit. And, in fact, last month we also had a NATO-Russia Foreign Ministers meeting here in Brussels.

I mention these things to stress that the relationship between NATO and Russia doesn't depend on one single meeting. It's a long-term relationship. It's a relationship that we intend to further develop, according to what we decided in Lisbon to develop, a true strategic partnership.

Obviously, we do have our discussions and disputes, but the dialogue will continue. And I hope to see further progress in our relationship. We have achieved a lot during the last two to three years. I expect further progress.

On the second question, yes, I expect Russia to participate in the extended ISAF meeting, yet we have not received an answer as to who will represent Russia at the meeting, but I would expect Russia to be represented in the ISAF meeting, which I think is important, because Russia contributes a transit arrangement for our operation in Afghanistan.

Third question: I appreciate the missile defence conference was organized in Moscow. I consider it an element in the dialogue between NATO and Russia on missile defence. Equally important, I think, was the joint exercise we conducted some weeks ago in Germany. And these examples demonstrate that though we have not yet reached an agreement on cooperation on missile defence, and though we still have our differences and discussions, the dialogue will continue.

And finally, as regards the level of Georgian representation at Chicago, actually Georgia will participate in three meetings. Georgia will participate at the level of the President in the ISAF meeting, as well as in the meeting with the 13 partner countries. Partners that contribute in a significant way to our operations. And Georgia is one of the largest contributors to our ISAF operation, so they will be invited to participate in that meeting.

And finally, Georgia will participate in the aspirant countries meeting at the level of their Foreign Minister.

Oana Lungescu: German Radio.

Q: (Inaudible...) Public Radio. Secretary General, two questions concerning the Youth Summit, the NATO Youth Summit, which is taking place in NATO as well, beginning the 18th. Will you meet the young people and talk with them about their visions?

And second question: What is this iReps Competition all about? Have you seen the videos and are you content about the answers the net community gave you on this question: What is peace and security for you?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, on the Youth Summit, yes, I will deliver a speech, and I also made a speech when a similar Youth Summit was organized in Lisbon in 2010, because I attach strong importance to the engagement of the young generation when it comes to NATO and the future of NATO.

So, I expect to have a lively dialogue with representatives of the younger generation. In my speech I will outline the Summit agenda, because it is a Youth Summit so I would expect the participants in the Youth Summit to be engaged in the Summit agenda; the three main topics, Afghanistan, how to provide security in a time of economic austerity and how to strengthen our partnerships with partners across the globe.

But I would expect a dialogue with the participants in the Youth Summit on a broader agenda focused on the future of our Alliance. What is their vision of NATO 2020? NATO 2020 will actually also be discussed at the Summit among leaders, but I think it would be of utmost interest to listen to young people and their ideas as to how they see the future of our Alliance.

I see this as a particular challenge, because for the elder generation it's quite obvious that NATO was a huge success during the Cold War and prevented it from getting hot. And we also created a framework for development of freedom, democracy and peace in Europe, post-Cold War.

But for the younger generation this is the past, so I think now it's very... it's of utmost importance to discuss with them how do they see the rationale of NATO in the future.

So I look very much forward to engaging with the young generation in Chicago.

iReps is a public diplomacy video competition we have initiated. A competition that shows young people are interested in NATO. So that's actually part of the very same concept.

Oana Lungescu: Kuwaiti Press Agency.

Q: Nawab Khan from the Kuwait News Agency KUNA. Just a brief question, Mr. Secretary General. Have leaders from the Arab world and nation countries like India or China, you know, invited to the Chicago Summit?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: China and India will not attend the Summit, but we have invited partners across the globe to participate in Chicago. One event is the ISAF meeting. It will be an extended ISAF meeting, which means that in addition to the 50 ISAF partners we have also invited countries from Central Asia and we have invited Russia because all of these countries provide transit arrangements for our operation in Afghanistan.

We have invited Japan, which is a significant financial contributor. We have invited international organizations - the United Nations, the World Bank. We have invited the European Union. So that will be quite a gathering, demonstrating that the whole of the international community has a responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan and the region.

And we will organize this special partnership event for countries that contribute to our operations militarily or politically or financially in a very significant way. And among these will also be countries from the Asia-Pacific region like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and countries from North Africa and the Middle East. They contributed significantly to our operation in Libya.

So we want to acknowledge these contributions to our operations.

Oana Lungescu: Associated Press.

Q: Slobo Lekic from the Association Press. In the same context, just to follow-up, have you invited Israel? There's been some debate in both the Israeli media and the Turkish media, that apparently Turkey blocked Israel from participating. And with Israel, of course, the other five or six Mediterranean Dialogue countries were also excluded. Is that correct?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Israel has not been invited to attend the Summit because Israel is neither a participant in ISAF, nor in KFOR. So for the very same reason I can also clearly state that no-one has blocked an invitation because it's not been an issue.

Oana Lungescu: Geo TV.

Q: (Inaudible...).

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Beg your pardon?

Q: (Inaudible...).

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, but this special partnership event, in which we will meet with partners that have contributed in a significant way to our operations, we go beyond and across the existing partnership frameworks, so we have no invited the group of Mediterranean Dialogue partners or the group of Istanbul Cooperation partners.

But we have invited four partners from North Africa and the Middle East, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco because they have contributed in a significant way to our operations.

Oana Lungescu: Geo TV.

Q: Khalid Hameed Farooqi from Geo TV. Secretary General, a recent development vis--vis Pakistan (inaudible...) Chicago Summit seems that all resistant factions in Afghanistan (inaudible...) the Taliban and Pakistan become almost irrelevant, and these very important stakeholders are not coming to Chicago.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Let me stress that the whole of the region is of great importance to us. And in Chicago we will, of course, also discuss the regional aspects of our operation in Afghanistan, and in particular let me stress that if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan we also need a positive engagement of Pakistan.

Actually, we have done a lot to develop a strong relationship, strong partnership, strong cooperation with Pakistan. As I mentioned, we have actually invited a number of countries from the region; neighbours of Afghanistan, Central Asian countries, Russia, because they provide important transit arrangements to the benefit of our operation.

But as you also know, our transit routes through Pakistan are currently blocked. So we have to continue our dialogue with Pakistan, with a view to finding a solution to that, because that's really a matter of concern.

Oana Lungescu: German Television.

Q: Secretary General, Kai Niklasch from German Television ZDF. Two questions. You said that you spoke with President Hollande on the phone and when he's officially in charge he might answer whether France will leave or won't, but does NATO already have a plan when France is leaving - who will replace the France troops in Afghanistan? Is there a Plan B?

And the second question is concerning missile defence. You said NATO will declare interim capability. What does it mean? What is NATO able of? What can you declare in Chicago? Which areas are protected? How far have all the computer programmes been put together? How much have you paid for that already and what are the next steps?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, on France. I understand very well your questions and your interest in getting exact answers, but let me also stress that I think we should respect, all of us, that France has only one president at a time and it won't be until next week that a new president will be inaugurated. So though I have called M. Hollande and congratulated him on his election as a new president of France, and expressing my wish to cooperate closely with him on the whole range of issues on the NATO agenda, I fully respect that there is a process in France, and of course we can't give exact answers to all these questions until a new president has actually been inaugurated, and presented his exact policies when it comes to Afghanistan, or when it comes to other issues.

And this is the reason why we agreed to continue our dialogue after a new president has been inaugurated, and of course with a view to finding solutions at the NATO Summit in Chicago.

So until we have a presentation of the new president's policies I think it would be a bit premature to provide such exact answers. I'm confident we can find solutions.

Now, on missile defence, for reasons I think you know, of course I can't give detailed answers as regards coverage and a lot of other issues. They are, of course, confidential.

But I can tell you that our missile defence system aims at protecting the whole of the population, the territory and forces of European NATO Allies.

Now, this will be in a gradual process. We call it a phased adaptive process. So we will gradually build up this system. An interim capability means that we take the first step and we can use some assets, some facilities and put them under NATO Command and Control if needed. And then from this first step we will further develop the system during the next eight to ten years.

So interim capability means we start the system and based on that we will further develop it in the coming years.

Oana Lungescu: We've got about five minutes and I see about four questions outstanding, so please keep it short. National Public Radio.

Q: (Inaudible...) Brooks can't ask a short question.

Q: I have a very short question.

Q: Yes, voilà! Mr. Secretary, the World Bank has come out with a new report this week warning that Afghanistan security is also dependent on not letting donor aid drop dramatically; that that will cause people to go back to the opium trade, will, of course, give the Taliban a better recruiting base. That isn't technically under NATO's domain, but obviously keeping the security of the country is. So how are you going to manage that as you also talk about keeping a level of military balance?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: That's a highly relevant question, though, as you say, this is not primarily a responsibility for NATO or ISAF. And this is also the reason why economic and social development of Afghanistan follow a separate track.

As you know the international community organized a conference in Bonn in December actually to discuss exactly that question: how to provide the necessary assistance to Afghanistan when it comes to capacity-building, economic and social development.

That Bonn conference will be followed up by a Tokyo conference that will take place in July this year. Building on the results from the Bonn conference.

And this is a mutual commitment. On the one hand the international community realizes that to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region it is necessary to provide financial assistance to Afghanistan, but on the other hand the Afghan Government also commits itself to provide good governance, to increase capacity-building, to respect basic human rights, including women's rights and the rule of law, so it's a mutual commitment to ensure a positive development in Afghanistan.

And then, of course, our responsibility is to provide a secure environment to let all this take place, in cooperation with the Afghans, and gradually they will take the security responsibility themselves.

Oana Lungescu: Janes.

Q: One, when will AGS be signed, sealed and finally delivered? Can you give us a date? It's stretched on for 20 years now.

Two, when do you estimate that NATO will move beyond interim MD to actual IOC, Initial Operating Capability?

And third, if Europe's economy picks up again in three or four years, isn't there a substantial risk this will undermine the reasons for Smart Defence? Or do you expect this to continue? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Actually, it was three brief questions, but first on AGS I would expect some contracts to be signed in Chicago. So now it's a reality.

Next, on missile defence, well, when you ask me, when will we be able to declare an initial operational capability which will be the next step. That will, of course, very much depend on how fast we can progress. So I can't give you a date today, but this... the interim capability would be the first step. Then we will immediately start phase two, and as you know, Romania has agreed to host one of the missile defence facilities. That will be part of phase three in 2015. And Poland will host another missile defence facility, which I think could be established in 2018. So you will see this system progress during the coming years. And we are on track.

Finally, on Smart Defence, I would say that the economic crisis and the fact that Defence Ministers are faced with declining defence budgets make it the more important to find new ways and means to make more efficient use of the resources available. So I would expect the concept of smart defence to take more and more prominence in the coming years. And it has actually been received very, very positively among Allies.

Let me stress, it will remain primarily a national responsibility to provide the necessary military capabilities. But for many Allies the only way to be able to afford the acquisition of advanced military equipment will be to do it together.

So I feel pretty sure that Smart Defence will remain a crucial element in our defence and security policies in the coming years.

Oana Lungescu: We have time for a very last, very quick question. DPA.

Q: Hi, Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl with the German Press Agency, DPA. Just to piggyback on that last question, at Chicago you will basically have a list of promises, I guess, from what I gather on Smart Defence. How can NATO ensure that member states actually follow through given that you're only doing a coordination role?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The fact is that a number of Allies, I think actually all Allies, have subscribed to a number of multinational projects and that will be part of the package we will adopt in Chicago. We will adopt a defence package and in that package you will see between 20 and 30 concrete multinational projects. And we have already identified lead nations, nations that will take the lead in these multinational projects, and we have identified, in a concrete manner, participants in these multinational projects.

So it's not just hot air. Nations have already signed up to these projects. Furthermore, we have already touched upon the Allied Ground Surveillance Project. I would expect contracts to be signed in Chicago. That's really a very, very concrete demonstration of commitment to acquiring much-needed military capabilities.

We will declare an interim capability of missile defence and while the U.S. contribution to missile defence is a significant part of the NATO missile defence system, it's important to note that a number of European Allies also provide contributions to the NATO missile defence system. So that's yet another concrete example.

And finally, in Chicago, as part of the defence package you will also see that we will continue air policing of the Baltic states. Another concrete example of Alliance solidarity. So in the defence package you will see a demonstration of clear commitment. It's not just hot air.

Oana Lungescu: So we expect to see you in Chicago soon. Thank you very much.