Updated: 23-Nov-2001 NATO Speeches

Izvestia Media
Center, Moscow
22 Nov. 2001

Press Conference

with NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Moderator: Good day, actually good evening, dear colleagues. Let me introduce our guest to you -- NATO Secretary General George Robertson.

We apologize for making you wait for so long, but I think that Mr. Robertson will answer all of your questions today and that his answers will be complete.

I would also like to introduce to you Mr. Robertson's spokesman Yves Brodeur. The topic of our press conference is Russia-NATO: partnership in the 21st century. Mr. Robertson had a very difficult day and held very many meetings. After this press conference he will have another meeting.

Still, the staff of the newspaper Izvestia is very grateful to you for agreeing to take part in this press conference. I will now give the floor to Mr. Robertson's spokesman, and then Mr. Robertson will make a statement. After that you will be able to ask your questions. Please, identify yourself. Pyotr and Mikhail will help us tonight with microphones. And I have to ask you dear colleagues to switch off your mobile telephones right now. Thank you very much. Yves Brodeur.

Brodeur: Thank you very much. I will be very brief. My name is Yves Brodeur. I am the NATO spokesman and the head of the media section at NATO. Thank you for your patience. Thank you to our host for organizing this. The format is rather simple. Secretary General will make a very short statement in the beginning and then we will take questions. Secretary General.

Robertson: Thank you very much. This has not been a difficult day. A busy day, but not difficult because there is always a very warm welcome in Russia. Cold weather but a warm welcome.

This visit was planned some time ago but has turned out to be more significant now because of the meeting last week in Washington and Texas of presidents Bush and Putin and by the fact that some new proposals for NATO-Russia relationship have been publicized by some of the leaders of the NATO countries. Therefore my agenda has been in many ways overshadowed by that series of proposals and the thought that there might be a significant change in the format and in the substance of the way NATO and Russia deal with each other.

I am here for two days. I have been to Volgograd this morning where I made a speech at the Polytechnic University and laid a wreath at the World War II monument, the Mamayev Kurgan monument, which was a very emotional and very moving occasion, especially for somebody who was born in 1946 and who has been the beneficiary of the victories that took place in the Second World War. And of course the battle of Stalingrad was one of these very clear victories that turned the time.

And of course this week is the anniversary of Operation Uranus which was the encirclement of the invading forces by the Red Army at that time. So I visited because I wanted to address an audience outside the capital city. I have done this in a lot of the NATO countries and some of the partner countries. It allows me to reach an audience and to explain about NATO to different people.

I understand that when I said this morning that after meeting presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers and defense ministers, it was nice to talk to normal people, that this had a connotation in the Russian language which led to some excitement among the students.

Today I've met with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and tonight I will be having dinner with Foreign Minister Ivanov. Tomorrow I resume these discussions with Mr. Rushailo, the President of the Security Council, and the President of the Russian Federation, Putin, as the final meeting. So it is a busy program with influential people. But also addressing those students in Volgograd and answering questions from them and from students at the Diplomatic Academy which I've just visited.

The objectives of coming here are first of all to explore these new ideas that the NATO leaders have been discussing with President Putin, but also to follow up on some of the ideas I put forward in Brussels when I met President Putin there on October 3.

The substance of our discussions concerns a whole area of the NATO-Russia dialogue. We are obviously at the moment tied closely together in the fight, in the battle against global terrorism, but we also discuss proliferation, we are talking about the behind military and strategic concepts, we are considering theater missile defense and also the Russian proposal for non-strategic ballistic missile defense. We have talked in the past about military infrastructure in countries surrounding the NATO -Russia area. We have a very active program now on search and rescue at sea which arouse from the response by NATO to the tragedy of the Kursk submarine last August.

So there is a huge agenda for discussion. What we now have to do is break through into making that discussion more substantive, more productive and leading to more decisions that will be influencing international events decided by NATO and Russia together.

But I want to make it very clear that NATO and Russia are in partnership together for good, cool-headed reasons, because it's in the interest of Russia and in the interest of NATO that we build that relationship. Russia wants to have a more secure and stable world outside and NATO wants a degree of predictability and stability in how it deals with Russia both now and into the future.

So this is not some sentimental mission that NATO and Russia are involved in. It's based on hard-headed logic and the element of self-interest on both sides which gives us a good reason for continuing with our discussion. So when we explore these ideas of dealing with Russia at 20 as compared with the present formula of 19+1, we are talking about how that relationship increases, and deepens, and moves forward. But institutions alone will not produce results. There has to be a change of attitude, a change of approach on both sides, to how NATO and Russia interrelate.

But I am optimistic that we will find a mechanism, and we will find the political will to make sure that it is, in the future, in our interest to continue to work together.

My visit to Volgograd today underlined the importance of the last time when Russia and the West were united in a great coalition, at that time against fascism. We threw away the opportunities that that coalition produced at the end of the Second World War.

We are now united again in the war against global terrorism, and we have a very -- we have a mighty obligation and duty to make sure that we don't throw away the fruits of that cooperation, but that instead we build on it, and we build a lasting relationship that will be in the interests of the people of Russia and the people of Western Europe as well. Spasibo.

Moderator: Thank you very much. We will now go over to your questions. Please, raise your hands and be brief in your questions because we have many ladies and gentlemen of the media here today. Interfax, welcome.

Q: Mr. Robertson, you just said at the Diplomatic Academy that NATO would send invitations to some new prospective members in the summer of next year. Might there be Baltic countries among the recipients of such invitations? Thank you.

Robertson: The decision on invitations will be taken in November of next year in Prague. There are nine applicant countries, including the three Baltic republics. But no decisions have been taken as to which countries will be invited or when they might be invited. I do not expect that the NATO capitals will begin even considering which countries might be invited until after the Reykjavik meeting of foreign ministers in May of next year. And I am also pretty confident that no final decisions will be taken until just before the summit meeting itself.

So, there are nine countries, they are all equal, their applications are conditional upon meeting the standards required for NATO membership, there is no pre-decision either for or against countries, and none of those countries can be ruled out either by NATO or by anybody else.

Moderator: Thank you. Please, there in the back.

Q: During the Cold War NATO was planning its strategy and armed forces very explicitly and in great detail. Today, when the goals of the anti-terrorist operation are not quite clear and when the long-term objectives of US foreign policy are still loosely formulated, isn't the NATO leadership coming up against certain difficulties in planning?

And my second question is this: it has transpired that some of the money from the funds used to pay traditional NATO scholarships will now be re-allocated to support NATO's information presence in the Central Asia and the Caucasus. Could you comment on this information presence and information policy?

Robertson: Let me answer that second question first. The biggest switchover of NATO's information funds will be to our new Information Office here in Moscow. This was officially opened by me earlier in the year, but has now become fully operational this week, and the representative, who will be based here, in Moscow, is at the back here. You will note him, what he looks like, and he will be available to all of you, if you require detailed information about NATO. We have a very centrally located office, the address of which I have completely forgotten, but we will supply before you leave here. In fact, you will not be allowed to leave here before you get the address and the name of the director. Rolf Welberts is the name of the director, who is from Germany, but representing the 19 nations of the Alliance, and the spokesman does not have the address here, but will find it.

So, that is the biggest transfer. But of course, we have a job to do in the Caucasus and Central Asia, they are in the Partnership for Peace and they are important members of it. They are, of course, much more in the eye of the storm at the present moment, and we are giving what help we can, but NATO's information effort is not propaganda, it is information. And we will be as open with the information as we can possibly be, and we will answer all your questions frankly and honestly as well.

In terms of our planning, our detailed planning, we are a collective defense organization, and we plan on a collective basis. But of course, we are not planning against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe now. That threat no longer exists. But we still have to plan for our crisis management operations in the Balkans, where NATO is in the lead, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo, where there are Russian forces there, as well as the new obligation we have in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The goals of the anti-terrorist campaign are very clear, and that is to disrupt and destroy the networks, financial networks, communication networks, military networks of the global terrorists. That is being achieved, first of all, in Afghanistan by the attack on the Taliban regime, which has sheltered, and harbored, and encouraged the al-Qaeda terrorist network. But it's also taking place with arrests right around the world of people suspected of being involved in these terrorist networks, closing down financial flows of the networks, disrupting their communications, and all of that has been done very effectively, and will not end until we are satisfied that the poisonous outreach, the tentacles of terrorism no longer pose a threat to the countries that have been so afflicted by it.

Moderator: A question from BBC.

Q: Thank you. BBC Russian Service. Mr. Secretary General, first question is, can you explain a little bit broader about this change from 19+1 to 20, what does it mean and what -- how to say -- will be in the end of this change?

And second question: recently you told about the necessity to change the attitude of the West towards the Chechen war. Can you be a little more concrete about it? Thank you.

Robertson: First of all, we see it at the moment in the context of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council which has three chairmen. I am one as Secretary General of NATO. The Russian Ambassador to NATO is a co-chair. And we have rotation of individual NATO countries which make the third element of the troika. That operates very much as 19, the nineteen NATO countries plus Russia.

The proposal that has been put forward by Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, by Prime Minister Chretien of Canada, by President George W. Bush and others is that on occasion, perhaps on specific subjects, NATO and the Russian Federation, ambassador or minister, ministerial PJC, would sit around the round table in the NATO Council Chamber between Portugal and Spain, and that I, as the chairman of the North Atlantic Council, we chair what might be called the Russia-North Atlantic Council, the RNAC. This is what has been suggested as a name.

That would involve Russia having an equality with the NATO countries in terms of the subject matter and would be part of the same compromising trade-offs, give and take, that is involved in day-to-day NATO business. That is how we do business at 19. The great United States of America, the mighty France and Germany, the United Kingdom have an equal voice to tiny Luxembourg and even tinier Iceland. But we get compromises. We build consensus. To the idea would be that Russia would enter that. That would give Russia a right of equality but also a responsibility and an obligation that would come from being part of the consensus-building organization. That is why I say a new attitude is going to be required on both sides if this is going to work. But if it works, it obviously is a huge change, a seen change in the way in which we do business.

Our attitude toward Chechnya has not changed. We understand even more graphically what Russia has had to experience from terrorism emanating from Chechnya because of what happened in New York and Washington. We sympathize with Russia. We work alongside Russia in dealing with the terrorist networks that have caused that trouble. But we still retain some concerns about the means that Russia has used to deal with the undoubted problems that it has in Chechnya. That remains our position and has not changed at all.

Q: Obshchaya Gazeta. Mr. Robertson, when Prime Minister Tony Blair made his statement recently about the new Council where Russia would have equal rights with the other 19 NATO countries, the foreign press responded to this in a rather restrained way and it said that the reaction of other NATO countries was also rather restrained. My question is, before making this statement, did Tony Blair consult other countries, partners, allies and what was their reaction to this proposal?

Robertson: Well, I would not automatically jump to the conclusion that what the press says is always right. And that is a very dangerous statement to make in this room. But I think you will find that Prime Minister Blair did circulate to all of his fellow NATO heads of government, heads of state the details of his proposal.

And of course it is one proposal among five specific proposals that have already been floated. It is a radical -- these are radical proposals that are being put forward by these countries: by Canada, by Germany, by Italy, as well as the US and the United Kingdom. And they will require thought on the NATO side just as they will require exploratory thought on the Russian side as well. So they are not unilateral. Because no one country inside or outside of NATO can determine what NATO does.

I happen to be British. I was a minister in Prime Minister Blair's government, but I don't serve Britain any more.

Q: (Off mike.)

Robertson: No, I think -- there is no contradiction. The meeting of ambassadors that I attended before I came here was very clear that if they thought that there was an opportunity of moving forward qualitatively, then we should go for it. If the substance of our dialogue was going to improve, then let us consider new or additional mechanisms for dealing with that.

Perhaps in the beginning of the process, in the last couple of weeks, you could have divided NATO countries into two groups: the cautious group and the adventurist group. But actually as they have looked at the issues and discussed the issues, the cautious group and the adventurist group have come much closer together and they are now in the exploration group wanting to know more, wanting to know how it would work. And one of my purposes of being here is to explore that with the Russian authorities and to get a clear and better picture at the end of it.

Brodeur: Two more question. A gentleman in the back there, and there was someone after there. We will take another one. Please.

Q: Rossiiskaya Gazeta. Mr. Robertson, are you absolutely sure that Russia wants to join NATO, or is it the wish of the North Atlantic Alliance leadership? And don't you think that today we must build a new security system in the world?

Robertson: We are not talking about Russia joining NATO. And President Putin made it very clear to me in Brussels that Russia does not intend to stand in a queue, applying for NATO membership. And that is only one way of joining NATO, and that is to make an application to join and to accept the standards both military but also in the civil side that are laid down for membership of the Atlantic Alliance. So that is not an issue at the present moment.

But what the leadership of the NATO countries and the President of the Russian Federation agree is that we are at the moment in an era of unprecedented cooperation, the closest cooperation between Russians and the West since the battle against fascism 60 years ago, and we need to build on that, we need to look at perhaps different but certainly better ways of cooperating on the common agenda that we face.

In the past we were divided by walls and by fences and by ideology and by armies. Today the threats to the Russian people are very similar if not exactly the same as the threats to the people in the NATO countries and in the West. The international terrorists have gone global. So why should we all be dealing with things as individual nations? The international criminals have gone global, so it makes no sense for people to pretend that national boundaries are an insurance policy against the international terrorist. Migration, refugee flows make borders a complete nonsense. So, why do we pretend that tanks and infantry formations are going to give any country or any group of countries a total insurance?

So, in a world that has gone global, then, international security must go global as well. Is it time for a new construction? Well, we are actually doing quite well with the present one. You know, I have never been a believer in pulling out the plant in order to regularly examine the roots. I think, what we need to do is build on what we've got, make it better, make it more substantive, if we can, change attitudes, and just recognize that we either live and work together, or we will perish apart.

Moderator: Thank you very much. Izvestia, welcome.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, some people say that one of the key motives behind the proposal of Mr. Blair and some other leaders you mentioned is the lack of inner dynamics of NATO's development. To what extent do you agree with that?

Robertson: No, the internal dynamic of NATO has never been more relevant than it is today. On the 12th of September I stood in NATO Headquarters and read out a statement invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, where we declared that the attack on the United States of America was an attack on all the other 18 NATO countries. That is the first time that Article 5 has been invoked since NATO was formed in 1949. Article 5 was always, in the days of the Soviet Union, seen as some sort of threat to the Soviet Union. It wasn't, but that was what the clear perception was.

And yet here was Article 5, the famous, the notorious Article 5 being invoked because America has been attacked by international terrorists. So, it was invoked in circumstances that Russia could understand and that, in many ways, Russia would agree with because the following day, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council issued an equally strong statement along the lines of NATO's Article 5 Statement, saying that the attack in New York and Washington had been attack on all of us, on civilization, on the democratic values that are now common between Russia and the Western countries as a whole.

So, NATO, whether it is peacekeeping in Bosnia or in Kosovo, whether it is preventing a bloodbath in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, whether it is involved in the Partnership for Peace, the 27 countries that are in Partnership, with NATO including, Russia and Ukraine, whether it's the Mediterranean Dialogue, where we are in partnership with the 7 countries of the North African Mediterranean and helping them with their process of change, whether it's NATO's links with the European Union through the European security and defense policy, or NATO's role in fostering environmental and scientific and civil emergency planning processes, we are relevant today, much more relevant in shaping the security environment than we ever were.

And fundamental to that role that makes us relevant is our firm, strong and productive relationship, special relationship we have with the Russian Federation.

Brodeur: This will be the last question. A gentleman, please, in the front.

Q: Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK. In what occasion Russia can have -- (inaudible) -- could you tell me some concrete example?

Robertson: Well, I cannot give you concrete examples because we've not yet reached that point in the discussions. Clearly, at the moment we are involved with the issue of terrorism, a kind of terrorism that might be seen -- might be seen as an area where we already have got a common enemy, we have some common policies where it might make sense to deal with this issue as twenty. But there are issues like proliferation, theater missile defense, some of the practical military cooperation areas we've been involved in the post that might be candidates. But I can't tell you what these might be because we are not at that stage of the discussion.

All I can say is that there is a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, and a very good self-interest on both sides for making sure that we move forward as fast and as substantively as we possibly can.

Brodeur: Thank you very much.

Moderator: Dear colleagues, we have to close our press conference at this point as Mr. Robertson still has an important meeting ahead. Before saying goodbye, I will tell you that you can address all your questions to Mr. Rolf Welberts, director of NATO's Information Office, the Belgian Embassy.

Thank you very much.

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