Updated: 05-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


4 Dec. 2003

Statement to the Press

by Secretary General following NAC Foreign Ministers meeting

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

We have had an extremely good meeting. As in all the best families, NATO’s Foreign Ministers were frank and open with each other. That is our strength.

The Alliance enters 2004 busy, useful and very, very necessary.

In one year, the truly transformed NATO has gone from promises at Prague to action on the ground, delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul.

Look at the record as we begin our preparations for next June’s Istanbul Summit.

At Prague we invited seven countries to join the Alliance. Today they sat at the NATO table and for the first time associated themselves with our communique. Next year they will be full members.

At Prague we said NATO needed new partnerships. Now, we are talking about a partnership with the EU on the ground in Bosnia based on Berlin Plus.

Later today, we will focus on real cooperation with both the EU and Russia, which is growing all the time yet would have been inconceivable before our 2002 transformation.

Looking further ahead, our Istanbul Summit agenda will include the strengthening of our relationships with Ukraine, EAPC Partners and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries.

At Prague, we said that NATO would get new capabilities. Earlier this week, Defence Ministers showcased major progress in NATO’s military transformation, from the drawing board in Prague to reality in only thirteen months.

That momentum will be maintained to Istanbul and beyond, together with our new emphasis on producing usable and deployable forces to break terrorism, build stability and bring peace. In the modern world, your credibility is based on your capability.

At Prague, we committed NATO to new missions. Today, NATO troops are stabilising Kabul and preparing to move beyond the capital. NATO warships protect Mediterranean shipping against terrorist attack. NATO planners are helping the Polish-led division in Iraq.

NATO has always delivered success. Foreign Ministers are determined that NATO will succeed in these new missions.

We have proved in the Balkans that we can build peace and order out of chaos in the most difficult places. Afghanistan poses new and difficult challenges but NATO will meet them.

The latest challenge was met this morning when I was delighted to announce that we have now found the critical parts of what NATO needs to do its job in Kabul, including attack and transport helicopters. My thanks go to all of the countries who have delivered what is required to make ISAF safe and effective.

As always, NATO delivers.

I said at the outset that Foreign Ministers were frank and open with each other.

That is why we were able to talk very constructively today about complex issues such as Iraq and European Defence.

On European Defence, transparency between the EU and NATO is essential. After today’s discussion, I am confident that the end result will avoid any unnecessary duplication, and will strengthen both NATO and the EU.

I am so confident because any other outcome would be senseless for both organisations and their members.

On Iraq, no-one is ruling out a wider NATO role when the time is right. This might well be an issue for Istanbul.

At Istanbul, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will be in the NATO chair. I have had an extraordinary four years as Secretary General.

In the Balkans, NATO has kept the peace and stopped wars from starting. We declared Article 5 and took NATO into the war on terror. We broke down the final stereotypes of the Cold War.

We designed and implemented the Alliance’s most profound transformation ever. We changed NATO and the EU from strangers into partners. Finally, we took NATO out of area instead of out of business.

I pay the strongest possible tribute to the nations who have driven this most radical of transformations and to the staff here who have implemented it. Most of all, I pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have placed their lives on the line to put the decisions taken here into practice in the field.

This is a new NATO and they have built it.

Thank you very much.

Questions and answers

Q: The Právo Daily Newspaper, the Czech Republic. Mr. Secretary General, could you give us inside on the debate on European defence or could you tell us where we can expect any final formula for this?

Lord Robertson: I can't give you any datelines for a discussion that is still ongoing. I know that inside the European Union there is a discussion about how best to deal with the defence aspects of ESDP. American colleagues here today, as well as Canadian, Turkish, Norwegian colleagues have been expressing views about it, but there is, as I said, a general agreement that there needs to be maximum transparency, that there must be no unnecessary duplication.

And one of the commonest things that I have heard repeated time upon time this morning is that budgets are so tight that there is no question of affording any duplication in the relationship between us.

There is not going to be some separate European army or some... separate from a NATO army. We are dealing with the same armies from which we draw, from the European Rapid Reaction Corps and the NATO Response Force as well. And every single euro or other item of currency is going to be required to do that. And whatever the discussion about some of the tiny details, I'm convinced that people do not want duplication, are strongly opposed to any kind of competition, and that a satisfactory outcome will be produced for both NATO and the European Union and the countries involved in both.

Q: Laurent Zecchini, Le Monde . Lord Robertson, you have now all the details of the agreement reached by U.K., France and Germany to set up an EU planification cell. So my question is very simple. Are you convinced that this EU structure will duplicate NATO capabilities or not?

Lord Robertson: Well you make an assumption that I have all the details of the discussions that are taking place between three individual countries. Since Le Monde published a version of it last Friday maybe you have got the full details of that. But... this... this is a moving picture. I am assured that no final conclusion to the discussion has yet taken place, so there is a debate and a discussion going on about how best the European Union can organize itself in relation to the grand bargain offered by NATO, and how they will find the best and most effective solution to situations where the EU might act on its own.

They've already done so this year, but they're trying to elaborate that discussion. So far, apart from the kind vision that your newspaper gave to one... apparently one of the versions being talked about, the debate goes on and the discussion goes on. But the principles are no unnecessary duplication and no competition.

Q: Robert (inaudible)... The Netherlands. Secretary General, you have warned for a long period against duplication, unnecessary duplication. If you don't have all the details why are you then so confident now that there won't be any unnecessary duplication?

Lord Robertson: Well, I can only trust the good sense, the common-sense of the people who are involved in this. Because I know the commitment by the people concerned to NATO as the bedrock of transatlantic security. I know that none of them has got a spare unity of currency to spend on defence that isn't going to be absolutely necessary. And we are constantly reassured by all of those concerned that they will not, and have no intention of, duplicating or competing with what is already on offer.

We will eventually see the outcome of these discussions and I'm hopeful that that is going to produce a result. From everything that I have been told and all the discussions of this morning and at lunch time, that is the message that we have got loudly and clearly.

Q: Thank you. Barbara Slavin of USA Today . Hi, Lord Robertson. I wanted to ask about Iraq. Did Secretary Powell explicitly ask NATO to assume command of the Polish division or take other steps before June? Or is that the earliest that we could possibly see any greater NATO role. Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Secretary Powell did not do so for good reason and that reason is that NATO at the moment is focusing on one of the biggest challenges that it has taken on in its whole history and that is running the stabilization operation in Afghanistan; first of all in the capital of Kabul with ISAF and now the complex issue of moving out to the provinces and taking over one and maybe up to five of the provincial reconstruction teams.

And the allies, the NATO countries have made it clear that that has to be the major priority at the moment.

But it may well be in the new year that nations will put forward proposals in relation to the existing multinational division that is being assisted by NATO, which is at the moment being run by Poland.

But that is not an indication that the Secretary of State is holding back on this issue. The only reason for involving NATO more than it is at the moment in Iraq, is if there is genuine added value. But the United States acknowledges that NATO is taking a considerable load off the United States, in particular, and other countries involved in Iraq, by doing the Afghanistan mission, and he, like everybody else, wants to make sure that that is successfully grounded before we start to look at any other possible missions for NATO.

Q: Bosca Stravelis(?) of (inaudible). If I may follow up the question of my colleague, Zecchini concerning the EU defence policy. Now that you are about to leave your post would you be more precise in this question that was posed to Mr. Rumsfeld and he didn't answer. Do you think that regardless that the Europeans will be able to reach an agreement on that policy, do you think that the EU needs an independent planning cell for any mission approach? Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Well, if Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't want to answer it, I fail to see why I should answer it as well, because you're asking about another organization. I run NATO until December the 31st. I don't seek to run the European Union. I may belong to the House of Lords, but it doesn't mean to say that I automatically follow Javier Solana from this seat into another seat or from the frying pan into the fire, as some people might consider it.

There are provisions in Berlin Plus for autonomous European Union operations. They can either be organized by operational planners in the national capitals for that, that purpose, or they can access the operational planners available through NATO at SHAPE. These are two of the choices that are available there.

They are looking at a variety of possibilities whereby they are... they've got a contingency, or they might be able to reinforce more quickly than at the present moment. But I'm confident that the outcome of that discussion will be one that it will be compatible with Berlin Plus and will not produce any of the unnecessary duplication that would be the enemy of Berlin Plus and would be wholly unsatisfactory in resource terms.

Q: (inaudible)... Je poserai ma question en français. Pour revenir sur l'Irak, puisque vous parlez d'Istanbul, je voudrais savoir, à votre avis, après le débat d'aujourd'hui, ce matin, est-ce que l'OTAN peut envisager un rôle spécifique en Irak sans que l'ONU ait un nouveau mandat, donc avec la résolution actuelle de l'ONU?

Lord Robertson: Je réponds en anglais s'il vous plaît.

Q: Merci.

Lord Robertson: As I said, we have not come to the stage where anybody is yet tabling a proposal for an increased role for NATO in Iraq, beyond that we're doing at the present moment. But nobody is excluding NATO doing more in Iraq. If the time is right and the circumstances are right as well.

And those circumstances might involve a different UN environment. They might also involve a different view of what was happening on the ground. And the desire of individual countries to do something with NATO's support. But at the present moment, NATO is focusing on Afghanistan. But by the Istanbul summit the situation will have moved in both Afghanistan, I believe, in the right direction and in Iraq towards timelines that have already been laid down by existing UN resolutions.

I can only deal with the situation that we're faced at at the present moment, but nobody today has excluded a future greater role for NATO... for NATO in Iraq.

Q: Dave Lawsky with Reuters. Mr. Powell, in his prepared remarks, expressed the same concern about duplication of planning that you've expressed. Did he raise that issue with you this morning and was there a discussion about that?

Lord Robertson: Yes, he did, and the position from the remarks that have been circulated is not new. It is the standard United States government line on this issue. The Secretary has fed in his view, but of course at the present moment this is something that is being discussed inside the European Union and in particular between three countries in the European Union. The discussion has not finished.

Q: (inaudible)...BBC World Service. Secretary General, are you confident that an agreement on European defence can be found by next week when EU leaders meet to agree on the future European Constitution? And the second quick question, if I may, what will you say to your Russian colleague, Mr. Ivanov, about Russia's refusal to keep to its OSCE commitments and withdraw from Moldova and Georgia?

Lord Robertson: Well the answer technology your first question is yes, that it's quite possible to arrive at an arrangement before next week inside the European Union. The Berlin Plus arrangements are there. They're not terribly well-known. You know, by saying Berlin Plus I don't think that really means anything to 99.99 percent of the population outside or maybe even inside this room.

But it is a unique connection between NATO and the European Union whereby the European Union can access the planning capabilities for its own operations and for operations done with NATO assets, and can gain access to assets that the Europeans simply don't have and are not likely to have in the next decade.

So it is a unique bargain for the European Union and it's also a good way in which America and North America can help Europe to deal with problems in Europe's back yard.

So there is no reason why we cannot devise arrangements that are in the interests of both sides of the Atlantic and the two organizations.

In relation to the second, we have a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council this morning, where I have no doubt the discussions that took place at Maastricht earlier this week will be on the agenda. It's a forum for tough talking, but it's also a forum for joint action as well.

But what we agreed last year was that the NATO-Russia Council was going to be different. That it would provide for sharp exchanges of view, where we disagree, but wouldn't lead to walkouts, the kind of walkouts we saw in the past. But at the same time it would be a forum for exploiting joint co-operation and joint action. And in both areas it has been hugely successful.

So no doubt Mr. Igor Ivanov will be able to express a view and hear some replies in exchange.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder newspapers. In his prepared remarks Secretary Powell said the following: We urge the Alliance to examine how it might do more to support peace and stability in Iraq which every leader has acknowledged is critical to us all.

I'm wondering, did the Secretary read that particular remark, deliver that particular remark to the other ministers, and if not, why not?

Lord Robertson: Oh he did, he did, and he went beyond that and said that we had to look very carefully at what was happening in Iraq, the fact that there were 18 out of the 26 existing and about to be members of NATO were doing in Iraq in the present moment, and that we should be giving serious thought to what more could be done.

And as I said, the conclusion of that... the conclusion was not to exclude the possibility of NATO doing more, but that no decision was taken at the moment because of the Alliance's preoccupation with Afghanistan and the necessity of getting that right. So the Secretary... and the Secretary of Defence made these points, and got some support. They got no opposition.

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