Updated: 21-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


21 Nov. 2002

Questions & Answers

during the Press Conference by Lord Robertson,
NATO Secretary General
following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Heads of State and Government

Moderator: Questions. We'll start with the young man here in the third row. Raise your hand please. And please, could you identify yourself and your organization when asking your questions.

Qr: Thank you I'm with the Slovak News Agency. Secretary General, how concretely do you think Slovakia can contribute to a new NATO and what are the remaining problems which need to be improved or solved on the way to the membership? And do you think that the high level corruption , which was recently criticized by the U.S. ambassador in Slovakia is one of these issues? Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Well the invitations have now been extended. I thought that that would mean that the battalions or even brigades of Slovak journalists would stop pursuing me, but clearly not. Persistence is going to remain.

But the invitation has been extended and that is a clear indication that significant and sufficient progress has been made for that invitation to be extended, and therefore Slovakia is deemed to add value to the Alliance.

But as I say, countries have still more to do in order to become fully integrated, both politically and militarily and we will keep the pressure on. There will be an accession process that will go on into next year and then there will be a ratification process after that.

And the pressure of NATO and my own personal pressures won't cease for a minute. All of the standards have to be adopted and put in place and we still have to be satisfied, but the invitations have been issued, so at least one of your questions can be removed from the log book of questions that you put to me. Congratulations though.

Moderator: We'll go to this side of the room there. Jonathan Marcus.

Q: Jonathan Marcus, BBC. Two quick questions. One on capabilities. You say the decisions were taken here, but there have been many declarations and decisions about capabilities over recent years and months, not all of them honoured. What sort of review process, what sort of timetable is there going to be for actually implementing these capabilities, commitments? And secondly, on Ukraine, do you still expect the Ukrainian president to come here to Prague and are you going to forcefully make it clear to him that you're not happy with some of the things that his government has been doing?

Lord Robertson: On the first question, I made it clear these were decisions and not just simply declarations. Nations were signing today for projects that have been floated by Germany and by Spain, by The Netherlands and by Norway and Denmark. And these are for real capability. The dates are identified. They are different for different capabilities because we're at different levels of achievement as we go along. But the difference between the decisions of Prague and the declarations of previous years it's very clear that we intend to get those capabilities.

The nations have signed up to them and today in the summit meeting itself people made it clear that they want to provide the capabilities because they know what the capabilities are for. They recognize the danger and they know more needs to be done about it. And I dare say in the next few days we'll be able to brief you in greater detail about some of the initiatives that have been taken and were endorsed at the summit meeting today.

On Ukraine I'm still not certain whether the president of Ukraine will be with us. Tomorrow morning we will have a meeting of the NATO Ukraine Commission, but at the level of foreign ministers. The president of Ukraine knows the problem, knows that there's a shadow over him in relation to the export or possible export of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq. That concern remains, because questions have still not been answered to the inquiry that was sent by the United States and the United Kingdom at the request of the Ukrainian government when it sought to give reassurance against the accusations and allegations that had been made.

Moderator: The lady please there in the middle.

Q: Channel 2 News, Estonia. Mr. Secretary General, NATO approved the formulation of response forces in the fight against terroristm. Does NATO expect that the invited seven aspirant countries to fully participate in those forces, or will itr be when these seven are full members of the Alliance? Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Well the participation in any of NATO's response forces, whether it's the existing ones like the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps or the High Readiness Headquarters, all of that is based on the participation of willing people. So that is why we are delighted that some of the aspirant countries, when they were aspirant countries, and others, are making available their forces.

And just off the top of my head I know that Lithuania and Romania both have forces with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan today. So we will certainly be looking for participation and multinational formations of the newly-invited countries, as indeed we do across the board. So I hope they will be able to play a part in the niche specialities that the many of the newly-invited countries have that are of enormous value and importance to the Alliance. Congratulations to Estonia.

Moderator: Sir, there.

Q: Mike Evans from The Times. Did you have to in any way to tone down or water down the language of the Iraq statements in order to make sure that all members of the Alliance were happy with it and signed up to it and if so, what did that involve?

Lord Robertson: No, we didn't. The Iraq statement speaks for itself. And there was a very short period during which discussions took place and nothing was watered down at all. It is as it is. It took I think 24 hours for that statement to be drafted and then to be endorsed by the 19 governments. I think that's approximately 41 days quicker than the United Nations, but I can't be certain about that. But the statement is an important one and it speaks for itself.

Moderator: The gentleman there, please, with the blue shirt there.

Q: Lithuanian Television. Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, looking further on after this euphoria of today… Given that each individual country should have its own individual commitments, what would it be for a typical small new member like Lithuania?

Lord Robertson: Well let me first of all put your euphoria into context. That invitation to membership of NATO is not some sort of honour, some decoration, it's not a reward. It's not a gift. It's a huge responsibility. It's a heavy burden the countries are taking on and I hope that in the celebrations, which will rightfully be held in the seven countries, people will remember that they are taking on that enormous responsibility on themselves to keep up to the standards, to integrate with the Alliance in full.

And that that will pose difficult political decisions and difficult decisions for the people of those countries as well. But the rewards, of course, of being in NATO are immense, and being part of this largest coalition in the world of like-minded, free-loving countries.

The second question is that the small countries, like your country, have been modernizing, have been developing a number of specialities which have proved to be extremely useful. If you want an illustration of what the small countries in the Alliance can do simply go upstairs to the Weapons of Mass Destruction exhibition that we have on here and see how that expertise can be translated into multinational action.
But no country has been invited today without being able to add value to the Alliance, and the small countries will be able to do that. In over three years we've examined how they can do it and we're sure that they will do so.

Moderator: The gentleman with the yellow tie there, middle. Stripes.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, the Summit capabilities declaration doesn't give any timelines nor dates. Doesn't that mean that we again have to wait for the real proof whether NATO is going to be modernized?

Lord Robertson: Well NATO is a defence alliance, so we don't publish every detail of our capabilities. That's for individual countries to do, but some of these things are sensitive in any event.

But I can assure you that in the areas where the capabilities have been most glaringly absent, then progress is going to be made. These multinational initiatives and I presume that you were at the signing ceremonies that have just taken place, unless this was in competition with it, I assure you that nations are determined to do it and where individual nations have been unable to do it or can't afford to do it, we've now produced common efforts. Germany and Spain and The Netherlands and Norway and Denmark have produced the frameworks by which even the smallest nations can help to generate some of these capabilities.

So you know, it would have been about nine months ago when I was pretty pessimistic about what was going to be delivered, but I have to tell you the momentum grew throughout this year and the package we've put forward is not a 100 percent, but significant progress has been made and the momentum has started, which I think is going to turn the tide and turn the balance inside the Alliance for the better.

Moderator: The gentleman here up front, just second row.

Q: Czech Television. Mr. Secretary General you spoke about decisions which have been already made with regard to the capabilities. To what extent is it clear or decided or at least probable, that the Centre of Excellence for NBC, I mean nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, will be relocated here in this country, as it was the wish of our prime minister expressed several days ago?

Lord Robertson: Well your prime minister expressed that view to me yesterday and we'll obviously take it into account in the balancing exercises that are being done at the present moment. A number of countries have made offers for a variety of capability headquarters financed by the individual nations, but part of the commitment to NATO. And these are regarded as generous and welcome and we'll be looking at them in the overall context of the review of the command and force structure that is there.

But I very much welcome the ideas that are being put forward now because the Czech Republic has got a unique expertise in this area and where there is unique and important expertise we want to take advantage of it.

Moderator: There.

Q: Washington Post, Mr. Secretary General, did you hear any specific commitments from countries to start spending more money on defence, and are you confident they're going to keep the commitments this time?

Lord Robertson: Yes, I did. And yes, I am confident. Quite a number of countries have now lined up to say that they are going to increase their defence budget. Some of them better known than others. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Norway are the ones that are better known, but the Czech Republic and Poland and Hungary are also increasing their defence budgets and a number of others are as well.

And I wouldn't minimize their contribution to it. So the idea has turned in terms of the attitude to defence. But what's much more important, I think, than the gross amount of money that is spent on defence is how it's spent. More money spent on the wrong things doesn't give me or the Alliance, or your safety any reassurance. So we've got to rebalance forces. And that is where I think the penny has finally dropped. That we've got far too many tanks, we've got far too many heavy metal equipment and far too many troops and people involved in maintenance with them. We've got far too many fighters and attack aircraft. We don't have the capability of flying in all weathers day and night, and delivering precision-guided weapons and these are just two examples.

And we've of course got far too many troops that are not deployable within the ambitious time scales that have been laid down by the NATO Response Force. And indeed by the European Rapid Reaction Force. So taking the tough political decisions to reshape budgets I think is now well under way and that in the short term will produce, I think capability improvements that will certainly help the Alliance, but all the time the lesson has to be there in a very dangerous world. If you want your people to be safe then you've got to spend money to make sure they are safe.

Moderator: The gentleman with the checkered shirt right there.

Q: Sead Numanovic, Avaz: Secretary General, one question. Could Croatia, Bosnia and Yugoslavia expect to be accepted in the NATO Partnership for Peace while not complying with The Hague tribunal and the indicted criminals at large?

Lord Robertson: Croatia is already in the Partnership for Peace and it's part of the Membership Action Plan, although it wasn't a candidate on the table at today's proceedings. But our message to Croatia is that it has obligations to fully comply with the International Criminal Tribunal. I have personally been in touch with the Prime minister and with the president of Croatia to say that there are no ifs and no buts and no conditions. Full compliance is the only thing that is satisfactory in terms of the International Criminal Tribunal.

In relation to Bosnia, their aspiration to join the Partnership for Peace has got to do yes, with ICTY, but also with having a common command and control, a common ministry of defence, because I think it would be unprecedented in the world, never mind in NATO, to have a country that brought two armies from the one country into the organization.

And of course, in the case of Yugoslavia, they know that there are certain conditions laid down, including compliance with ICTY that have to be satisfied before we'll consider their application to join the Partnership for Peace.

Moderator: Last question right there at the centre.

Q: Peter Muller, NATO Nations. Secretary General, consensus in NATO is so basic, and you manage NATO with 19 members in an excellent form. How has this experience will change the management when 26 members are coming and the next one? Do you think there's a consensus for better relations between Turkey and Greek?

Lord Robertson: Well, I don't think that the sheer number of nations necessarily makes consensus more difficult to get. There comes a threshold point after which I think it becomes equally difficult or equally simple. And I've had three years experience chairing committees, both at 19 and also at 46 and I don't believe that the seven countries selected today are going to be difficult or create new or ingenious problems that I'll have to face in the chair.

What matters in NATO is not the number of countries, it's the degree of commitment by those countries to common action. I chaired a meeting this morning with 19 presidents and prime ministers and just chaired a lunch, a working lunch with the same great people. But where there is a common interest as there was at lunch in relation to Iraq and in relation to supporting the UN Security Council, then there is no problem in having a large number of nations.

So I'm confident that we'll be able to manage the organization perfectly well, especially since the internal reforms that I asked for, the reduction in committees, the delegation of administrative roles to the Secretary General, the streamlining of some of our procedures, all of that will help us to be an effective, strong and efficient alliance at the level of 26, just as we are at the level of 19.

And I have already said to other people that if you look at the way in which NATO takes decisions and the speed with which it can take decisions, six and a half hours discussion before invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, 24 hours to get a top statement on Iraq agreed by 19 nations, 78 days to defeat Milosevic's war machine, NATO is an effective organization. Consensus can sometimes take a long time, but once we've got it, it gives this alliance of like-minded nations a strength and durability that makes sure that it still is the alliance that all these countries want to join and that more eventually will be applying to join.

Thank you very much.

Moderator: Thank you very much, merci.

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