Updated: 21-Feb-2003 NATO Speeches

Institute Washington, D.C.

20 Feb. 2003

Questions and Answers

with NATO Secretary General Lord Lord Robertson

Lord Robertson: Thanks. Well, you've got my speech. Some of you may have had the answers to the Questions that I've given, so I think it would be a punishment for you to get another statement or speech, so I'll simply take Questions.

Question: How real is the threat to Turkey from Iraq, because reports from the region say that Saddam's troops are poorly equipped, poorly disciplined, hungry?

Lord Robertson: The military commanders who report to the NATO Council, the chairman of the military committee, General Kujat, and the supreme allied commander-Europe, General Jones, have both reported in some detail to the NATO Council on what they believe the threat to be.

Surface-to-surface missiles were deployed by Iraq to the border with Kuwait in the last two weeks. I don't think they exist anymore, but it clearly has displayed an intent by Iraq to perhaps get involved in preemptive strikes.

But although I can't disclose classified information in terms of the threat to the north, it is believed by our military advisers to be real and to be imminent, and therefore Turkey made its request in that context.

Question: Can you flesh out a little bit your vision of NATO's peacekeeping role in Afghanistan in terms of troops? Will they patrol the whole nation or only the Kabul region? Time lines? And could this be possibly replicated in a post-conflict Iraq?

Lord Robertson: NATO is not involved in Afghanistan as NATO, though the countries that are presently making up the International Security and Assistance Force, ISAF, are from NATO countries.

Since last week, though, Germany and the Netherlands, who are using a NATO headquarters, the Netherlands/Germany division, are in Kabul with the assistance of NATO help and logistics. And what is being proposed is that NATO would do more for the next deployment involving Canada, which has volunteered to take over from the Netherlands, along with Germany. And we'll be examining that over the next few weeks to see whether there is a consensus on it, whether it makes sense and how best the job could be done.
But it is premature to talk about post-conflict Iraq. We are already engaged in the Balkans. We are looking at Afghanistan. The other issue is, at the moment, hypothetical.

Question: Lord Lord Robertson, there have been announcement by the U.S. administration to possibly reduce the number of troops and military installations in Germany. Could you comment on how that would affect the trans-Atlantic relationship?

Lord Robertson: Well, I think there's been some discussion generally about the deployment of American troops worldwide and how best they can be configured in a world that has changed dramatically from the days when they were initially deployed. But that is in a very, very early stage of thinking, and some of the things that have come out recently in the press represent only a series of ideas that certainly haven't been enmeshed into any formal process.
American troops in Europe have been part of the architecture of security since the end of the Second World War. They provide forward bases for the United States and they also provide reassurance for America's European allies.But nothing is static.

Nothing remains unchanged in the world where the threats have changed. But I'm assured that the thinking process about deployments, especially in the NATO area, will all be a subject of consultation in the North Atlantic Council, which the preeminent forum for consultations between the United States and Canada and the European allies.

Question: Mr. Secretary, there was a lot of talks in the past about extending NATO into the Middle East, you know, as operation. And after, you know, the Iraqi - the first Gulf War, you know, the NATO participate in it.
Do you think now it's high time to change the NATO into the - you know, putting that Middle East or the Arab world under its theater of operation?

Lord Robertson: Well, we haven't got to thinking about that yet, I have to say. That seems to me a bridge too far. There's certainly speculation and discussion by some pundits, but it's never been formally raised within NATO by any of the NATO countries.

We've made our contribution to stability in the Balkans, and that was out with the NATO area. We're helping to contribute to support those countries doing the International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan, but we haven't any other ambitions at the present moment for any other geographic areas.

Question: Secretary General, in your speech you put a positive spin on the final decision to send aid to Turkey, but it still came down to the fact that you could not get unanimous agreement on what should be a fundamental issue of defense of an alliance nation. Is this really good news for the alliance?

Lord Robertson: Well, the good news is that we solved the problem and we got the consensus and the help is on its way. That's the main point I'm saying. That's not spin, it's a fact.

Of course it's spin - positive spin to say that that is good news for the future, but I strongly believe that it is; that the fact of the matter was that it took 11 days to achieve consensus despite the volatility of European public opinion, despite the connections that some people have made with the U.N. process and the progress of the inspectors, despite all of that and elections taking place in some of the allied countries, we still got agreement in 11 highly publicized days, but 11 days nonetheless. So, nobody can write off this alliance on the basis of this one argument. We've been through arguments in the past, we'll undoubtedly have arguments in the future.

But NATO is not the Warsaw Pact. People come with propositions to NATO, and they are argued out among democratic countries: 19 at the moment, 26 next year.

That sometimes takes a little bit of time, a little bit of effort, a lot of lost sleep. But ultimately, we make the decision, and the AWACS planes will be on their way in the next few days.

Question: Mr. Secretary, is there a new (inaudible) coming up on the Balkans, where the U.S. might withdraw some troops and NATO or the EU states might take over. Your thoughts about it?

Lord Robertson: Well, Europe is NATO, the United States is NATO, and you can't draw distinctions between European NATO and American NATO. We have operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and in Macedonia. They're all multinational operations, and they all involve the United States to a greater or lesser extent.

The European Union has the ambition of taking over our operation in Macedonia, and to do it within the next few weeks. So there is a strong support for that proposition by the NATO Council. And we will continue to work over these next few weeks to put in place the practical arrangements that will allow that to happen. It's good common sense to do that.

It may or may not involve some American troops, and possibly won't. But it will still be done by the European Union in close cooperation with NATO, and using the deputy supreme allied commander as the operational commander for that particular operation.

So, this is not the United States withdrawing from Europe. It's NATO making sure that it focuses its attention and its resources where they need to be focused.

Question: How would you characterize the state of the alliance now, and to what extent does the difference between the United States and European capitals on how to disarm Iraq, how will that continue to affect the relationship?

Lord Robertson: Well, there are differences on views on how to disarm Iraq in the United States and Canada, and in many of the European countries. The division of opinion about how that is to be achieved is as marked in the European Union as it is within NATO. And it is not a trans-Atlantic divide. Nobody can characterize last week's debate, or the future debates that will take place, as being one side of the Atlantic versus the other. There is a diversity of opinion.

During last week, the division in NATO for much of that time was 16-3. And the 16 included the United States of America and Canada, but it also included 14 European countries as well.

So there is a big debate - a big discussion going on at the present moment, most of it in the United Nations, but spilling into other fora about how best to disarm Saddam. There is no disagreement, no disagreement about the necessity for disarming Saddam, nor about the importance and the urgency of getting compliance with Resolution 1441.

There is unanimity on that.

Question: In the middle of the debate in Brussels, the Germans announced that they were going to bilaterally send the Turks a lot of equipment that they wanted. I just wondered, how did that affect the debate? Why do you think the Germans decided to do that? And did that tend to make the debate in Brussels academic?

Lord Robertson: No, it didn't, and I'll tell you why in just a second. But why did they do it? Because they wanted, I believe, to make the point that they had no disagreement on the substance of the proposition; in other words, the necessity to defend Turkey. But what they objected to was the timing of the decision and the message that it might have given about possible military action against Iraq. So they wanted to make it clear that they were accepting the treaty obligations, their friendship with Turkey, but at the same time not interfere with their belief that the timing was wrong.

Did that make the discussion academic? No, it didn't, because although the Germans are sending the Patriot missiles to Turkey which will then be married with the fire systems from the Netherlands, neither of them can function and operate correctly without the NATO AWACS aircraft and the integrated air defense system of NATO.

They are critical component parts of the integrated air defense system. And therefore, simply sending them down on their own would not have been an answer to the issue that was before us.

And Turkey, in any event, wanted that cover that NATO brings, and the integration of command that a NATO deployment would have produced.

Question: (OFF-MIKE) of retaliation against recalcitrant nations like Germany and especially France?

Lord Robertson: No, I detect nothing of the sort. I think that there is an appreciation of the reasons why people were involved in it, and I think a feeling of relief that we eventually found consensus. And I don't detect any indication of retribution at all, and nor would there be in an alliance that is long-standing and as united as the Atlantic alliance has been.
I don't know whether you have the answer to the last Question I gave through there. And maybe I should repeat it just for this wider audience. I was asked whether this over-excitement in the debate with allegations of the anti-Americanism coming from Europe and of anti-Europeanism in the States was damaging.

And my answer to that Question is, yes, it will be, and it's not fair and it's not right. I constantly criticize people in the European part of NATO for allowing public opinion to go in an anti-American way, which is a betrayal of the steadfast links that the Americans have had with Europe and indeed the role played in liberating Europe by the United States. So that anti-Americanism is, I think, profoundly damaging and corrosive and needs to be condemned by all decent people.

I similarly condemn some of the approaches that are being taken here in relation to some European countries, and indeed, on occasion, against all European countries. You know, the jokes are good, you know, the humor is high, but underneath it is a, sort of, sense of discrimination or sometimes occasionally of racialism, which I think is deeply unfair, horribly corrosive.
And I think on both sides of the Atlantic people need to cool down, get things into perspective, recognize that the values that unite this alliance in this island of stability in a very dangerous and volatile world are worth protecting. And that that means that tempers and emotions must be kept under control at this time. And we've got to recognize that there are nastier and more brutal enemies out there who are going to attack us if we get divided in the future.
Thank you.


Go to Homepage Go to Index