Updated: 07-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

7 Dec. 2001


by the Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson,
at the Joint Press Conference
with the Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Igor Ivanov,
the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Mr. Louis Michel

Meetings between NATO and Russia are always important. This meeting today of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council has carried with it even higher expectations than usual. These expectations have not been disappointed.

Building on the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, and growing practical cooperation including in the fight against terrorism, the Allies and Russia have agreed to work towards the creation of a new council to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.

We will together be looking for opportunities to engage in joint consultation and cooperation, joint decisions and joint action.

The precise nature and scope of this mechanism will require substantial work over the coming months. But the Allies and Russia are determined to make this initiative work. There is no issue more important to the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area than the further development of a confident and cooperative relationship between us.

Today’s decision is therefore a major step towards completing NATO’s vision of shaping real security with its partners.

Everyone will benefit from this initiative. We and Russia are not abandoning our own principles or prerogatives. No non member can veto the Alliance’s decisions. Nor can NATO veto Russia’s right to take independent decisions. This is about working together more effectively when it is in all our interests to do so.

What President Putin described to me two weeks ago today as the logic of common interests has been given a dramatic impulse by our joint fight against terrorism. We now have a unique opportunity to build a better, more stable future with full and wholehearted Russian participation. Today, we have grasped that opportunity.

Mr Ivanov: Ladies and Gentlemen, let me say to start with that I fully agree and subscribe to all that has just been said by the Secretary General of NATO. Our meeting today has indeed been a very special one. NATO and Russia have agreed to launch a process of profound changes in the forms and methods of our cooperation. The result is to be the creation of a new body, a body which is to be a full fledged group of 20. It remains to be determined what this new body will be called, but the substance of the matter is clear. What we are talking about is a mechanism which will enable us to draft and adopt decisions together on the crucial issues of security that will correspond to the spirit of the age. It is important for me to emphasise at this point, as the Secretary General has said, it is not a question of Russia applying for membership in NATO, Russia has no intention to queue up for membership of NATO among other nations and this is not a question that has received any attention or discussion.

Therefore the heart of our conversation, we remain committed to discussions of security, security for NATO, security for Russia and its Allies, outside the framework of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. We have however seen ourselves turning an important corner in NATO/Russia relations and I would regard today's meeting as the very crux of this process.

In short, it might be appropriate to call the results of this turning a corner a stage where we are taking joint responsibility for jointly taken decisions. If we can achieve this project, and the Russian side has the political will to do it, then we shall be that much closer to achieving the overall goal which is to establish a stable predictable system of security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Thus Russia and NATO are taking their responsibility seriously for the security for the fate of the European continent. Our actions from here on in must be carefully weighed up, carefully considered, but we think we must proceed with no undue delays. In the short run in the next few months we have agreed that the PJC, there will be no little work for us to do so that in the early part of next year we intend to come up with some specific proposals for a new mechanism and the substance that it will address. Russia is prepared to proceed to this in the most constructive way possible, we are prepared to do our bit in this work.

Mr Louis Michel: Thank you very much Secretary General. I would just like to say how much I share the sentiments and feelings which have just been expressed by my colleague, Mr Ivanov. I would just like to remind you that the Belgian Presidency, at the beginning of its endeavours, announced that it would encourage at one and the same time rapprochement between Europe and Russia, but also rapprochement between Russia and NATO and that if possible we should give a more serious format to this form of cooperation which of course I think we can talk about now at the end of this encounter.

I am struck by the very wide broad based consensus at this meeting which I think really conveys the sincerity of this political commitment, this is very important because it is a new mechanism which will be put in place, but over and above that it is a question of the climate and atmosphere, the mutual respect which is at stake here and listening to each other. And undeniably I think we can say as of today our climate is very, very positive, I don't think there is any point to remind you that 11 September has radically changed the world and I think everybody is aware today of the new impetus which is required for a rapprochement between nations that share the same values and it is essential to have found a new consensus, a new coalition between those people who have shared values.

It has been said today that security is indivisible and there are two elements here in terms of security provision and reinforcement of that security provision, that is to say the coalition against terrorism is absolutely foolproof and must be, and the second parameter is that this coalition must be durable because the phenomenon which we are faced with is one which will imply a vigilance and a relentless pace of work for durable results.

I think I should also remind everybody, and this was stressed incidentally by many at the meeting, that this is such an exceptionally serious phenomenon that obviously we must have a very strong commitment, we need strong resolution, Russia has shown that it is prepared to do that and we must work together quite obviously. And some suggestions have been made as to the format at 20, which is one which we believe is appropriate to face these challenges, and obviously in all that we have to remember that everybody will be autonomous, it is not going to change the idea that we are all individuals. Obviously we have to construct and flesh out progressively this initiative with attention paid to fairly important subjects, not a lot of interventions were made on that subject, on non-proliferation, combating terrorism obviously and also civil emergency planning, so you have three subjects there, it certainly doesn't exhaust the list that we could begin work on that. And one last element which my colleague has just stressed, and that is something I share completely, the idea of going fast, we must not let this opportunity pass us by and that was stressed very strongly today. So that is essentially what I wanted to say.

Secretary General, I really do have the feeling that we are in front of very radical changes, there is a new era of changes opening between NATO and Russia and the European Union as well. As far as I am concerned I cannot fail to express our satisfaction because that is one of the main policies of the Belgian Presidency, that is to say consolidation of our relations.

Question: (Le Monde) In the present PJC there were the 19 members of the Alliance plus Russia. Now listening to you talking about a new era opening up between Russia and NATO you express the wish that these participants should be real partners. But what is going to happen in fact? When the 19 are not agreed with you they will take a decision themselves. What does Russia actually gain out of all this?

Mr Ivanov: It seems to me that you have put your finger there on the most important and perhaps the most complex part of our discussions of today. The forum today of 19 plus 1 in the Permanent Joint Council allows permanent consultation on matters of importance, it is a matter of consensus which matters get put up for discussion, it doesn't presuppose that decisions be taken in common, nor does it presuppose or enable joint responsibility for those decisions. Where there are decisions, there are differences of opinion within the framework of the 19 or they are dealt with at UN level or they are dealt with in the G8, these are common matters for every democratic society, democratic organisation, where people are free to express their own view. To create a new organisation presupposes that each nation that is going to be part of the new meeting at 20 will endeavour to work towards joint decisions which will jointly be implemented. Nobody, and I can assure you of this, and I am speaking here for the Russian position in particular, nobody intends to create a new format with a view to torpedoing any joint actions currently under way in the security field in the light of new threats. If we move to the creation of a new format then we do it in a conviction that will meet our requirements and that will enable us to work co-operatively together to find responses to the new problems and challenges which our countries and the world are confronted with.

Lord Robertson: I will take a stab at asking this question, but what is the difference between 19 plus 1 and 20? The answer is more in chemistry than it is in arithmetic, it is the chemistry of people operating at 20 on issues where they have agreed that there is this common interest and common objective and that will make the difference, not the fact that the Secretary General will be in the chair and that Russia will be seated between Spain and Portugal around the circular table, so a change of atmosphere, a change of chemistry is both necessary and promised in order to make sure that this starts to work. The Permanent Joint Council had a lot of achievements, it was a forum for the presentation of points of view, but it has led to some frustration that it hasn't been able to move beyond the 19 and the 1 individual, so that is what we are now adding to the present ingredients and I believe that the chemistry that we saw today at this meeting, that we have seen in the proposals that have been made at a very high level, indicate that we can move ahead from the position of the past to the future. And if you read the joint statement today I think that is the most vivid illustration of the direction in which we are going and the new chemistry which I think will overtake the arithmetic of the past.

Question: : You have come here to NATO headquarters just at a time when your colleagues have been discussing and producing a communiqué and various analysts have taken different views on the summit that Russia has been taken by surprise at the speed of developments with NATO and Russia. Are you surprised at the speed of developments and do you see there being an end date for this development, is it going to be a graduated process or how generally do you see the emergence of the new mechanism?

Mr Ivanov: I wasn't at the meeting of yesterday, I was however at the meeting of today and I can in all conscience and responsibility say to you now that not in any of these meetings was I conscious that we were being taken by surprise or that there were any attempts to force or break or anything the development of our relationship. What we are doing is we are embarking on a new stage in the development of our relations. There are obviously differences of opinion. We can talk about forms, contents and speed at which it all happens, but the general subject of our discussion was the general course of our developments and no-one has been in any way interested in running ahead of the others, nor does anyone have any interest in wasting time. So we are suggesting to create a working group at expert level which should meet in the beginning part of next year, perhaps in February, to look in more detail at the result of today's discussions, to take them on further so that the Ministers can then when the time comes take a decision on what to do next. In sum though I can only underline what my colleagues have said, today's discussions have been exceedingly constructive and I have seen no attempts by any side to create artificial problems or to slow down the process of the development of our relations.

Lord Robertson: The thing whose speed took us all by surprise were the events of 11 September and that in many ways has contributed to the breakthrough that today's meeting represents. Of course we all conceded today at this meeting that we have just had that there are questions involved in this exercise to which we have not yet got the answers. This is not some sort of wiring diagram that we can present to the outside world with every end finalised, there are questions that will need to be answered, to which there are no answers at the moment, but there is a spirit of getting answers to these questions and taking that major leap forward that will be the proper and appropriate response to the new world that was created by the atrocities of 11 September.

Question: (Slovakian Radio) Mr Ivanov, has your position changed, your negative position, relating to NATO enlargement that was planned for the Prague Summit next year. Is your position such that you are prepared to accept an extension of NATO to certain nations, or do you see yourself using the new forum as an appropriate occasion to express other views about enlargement?

Mr Ivanov: This is not a question we have entertained today. We have underlined more than once the fact that the selection, whatever it turns out to be, of nations to join or not to join various organisations is an entirely sovereign decision for them to take, and Russia does not see herself as having any right of veto over that sort of decision. At the same time we have expressed our view as a matter of principle on the enlargement of NATO and our view on the matter of principle is unchanged. It seems to us that in the new conditions obtaining today in which we have all found ourselves confronted with the threat of international terrorism, when we find ourselves confronting new challenges and problems on a global scale, simple mechanical enlargement of NATO is not really going to seriously improve the existing security arrangements that NATO already offers. We feel that enlargement is slightly beside the point to that extent and we think it is more important to come up with something genuinely new which will meet the call of the hour and which will extend security to everyone, whether they be members of NATO or not, we need to be aware that we are united in common values, united in a common desire to find political solutions and I think we are obliged as partners to find common answers. If we continue along the old path, if we continue with old dividing lines, then I think there is a serious risk of setting up additional dividing lines between those who join, or want to join or are members, or those who don't and aren't.

Question: : Lord Robertson, how do you respond to reports that the United States is back-pedalling on this new relationship with Russia? The American Ambassador in the Council has been quoted as saying "Our position has changed".

Lord Robertson: I ask you to read the joint statement, which is the view of all 19 of the NATO nations and Russia that has been issued this morning. I think that is the most convincing rebuttal of these rumours that you are likely to find and I can't put it any better than that.

Question: (Polish Press Agency) Could you please clarify the scope of the problems that you would like to tackle in this new body that you are going to create, because Mr Ivanov is talking more generally about security outside the Washington Treaty, while Mr Michel just gave some examples and in the communiqué we just have some narrow scope of problems which were enumerated by NATO.

Lord Robertson: I think the answer to the question is that both of my colleagues are right, because if we can deal effectively with some of the smaller issues, the narrower issues, of some significance then we make a huge contribution to the broader security interests that this involves. This is an evolutionary process that we are involved in. Where we deal at the level of 20 was issues where we know that there is a common interest and we build up the level of working and the level of trust that will go beyond that. So by taking individual issues and areas and looking at them we will be able to contribute to that broader security that Minister Ivanov talks about and which NATO is fully involved with. After this press conference we convene a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The Foreign Ministers of 46 countries will be sitting down, including Russia, to discuss the broader issues of security. Earlier this week the OSCE Ministers met in Bucharest discussing these wider areas. If NATO and Russia, working together, can contribute to the building blocks of security then we will have made a huge contribution.

Mr Ivanov: I would like to also recommend that you study the joint statement. It sets out the areas in which we intend to cooperate. If it was a simple list then I think it would speak for itself, anti-terrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation, arms control measures and European missile defence, emergencies and so on. And I think if we can crack all of those problems then how much easier it is going to be to deal with all the small stuff.

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