Updated: 15-Sep-2004 NATO Speeches


14 June 2004

Cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia

Video interview with Robert Simmons,
Deputy Assistant Secretary General
for Security Cooperation and Partnership and
Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia

Video file
Audio file .MP3/2211Kb

Q: Mr. Robert Simmons, thank you for joining us today. You are NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership and now have been appointed Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. What is the job of the Special Representative?

Simmons: Well NATO decided at its Summit in Istanbul that it was going to put a particular focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia as part of the development of partnership after seven new countries joined the Alliance.
To that end they took a number of decisions and one was that the Secretary General should have a special representative who would focus on his work on going to the region and making contacts with senior officials in their capitals, with the missions here, to assist them in making the best use of the partnership activities.

Q: This is the first time that NATO creates such a post, why now, and why the Caucasus and Central Asia?

Simmons: Well it's not exactly the first time. We've had in some individual areas where we've had missions, special representatives to the Secretary General, for instance in the Balkans and Afghanistan. This is the first time where we've had one based here in Brussels to go out and to really to develop the partnership with these countries and again the timing now is that after enlargement these are really the target countries of the partnership that remains--the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace--and it was felt that with those countries who are geographically distant it was important to make particular connections with them to develop our relations with them.

Q: You mentioned the fact that this is quite a vast and a diverse area. Do you feel that one single individual can represent NATO in such a large and complex region?

Simmons: Well my function is important but it's not the only one. We also have agreed that we will have liaison officers, one for each region. A liaison officer in the Caucasus and a liaison officer who will be permanently stationed in Central Asia and obviously I'll work very closely and supervise their work as they assist those countries.
Equally of course we have the missions here who will work with us at Headquarters choosing the programs that are most appropriate. So, while my appointment is an important step forward, it's not the only way in which we deal with these countries and we will work with other activities to make sure that they make the best use of the partnership we have.

Q: You mentioned liaison officers, does that mean that NATO will actually be opening up offices in these regions?

Simmons: Well I don't think the function is really liaison officers, we found that the best way we can assist these countries is if we have people who are working very closely, particularly with their defence ministries, to make the best use of the partnership tools that we have. So the goal of these will probably be to put them in defence ministries, help the defence ministries understand the programs and the partnership programs NATO has to assist with their defence reform.

Q: Where would these persons be based?

Simmons: Well they will eventually deal with all of the countries, initially in the Caucasus they will start in Georgia; in Central Asia we haven't decided where they'll start but a number of the countries have indicated they would like to have them in their country and we're looking at what would be the best place for them to start.

Q: If you were to describe, in short at present, what is the main focus of the cooperation between NATO and the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia?

Simmons: Well I would say its three parts: One is we want them to see that NATO is a place where they can consult and raise their security concerns, consultations. That focus is on Brussels.

The second is, defence reform. All of these countries are going through a process where they're adjusting and reforming their defence structures to make them meet the new requirements that they have. NATO has a very good experience in that with the countries that have joined the Alliance with other partners and we and the individual Allied countries want to assist these countries in promoting defence reform.

And then finally, in a broad sense, we hope that these countries will become increasingly interoperable with NATO. As you know NATO has asked partners to join them in a number of missions and as they have so, it is important that all of the partners who participate in these missions have interoperability, have defence structures, that can work with the Alliance.

So all three of these are our goals with these countries.

Q: As you take up your new duties, from this broad cooperation, or the three aspects of cooperation that you mentioned, what will be your main priorities, what will you be seeking to particularly focus on?

Simmons: Well I think again because of distance and particularly here in Central Asia, these countries often are not aware of the kinds of activities and programs that are available from NATO and I think the most important thing will be to reach the senior level officials in these countries and make clear to them that NATO wants a good relation with them, at the highest level and try to encourage them to instruct their own governments to make the best use of these resources.

So by going out to these countries, starting with the Secretary General's trip this fall and later in my own trips to the region, we will try to get the leaders of these countries convinced that NATO has something to offer them and that they can really benefit from the programs in defence reform we're talking about.

Q: And if you were to give specific examples of the kinds of programs that you can offer to these senior officials, what would they be?

Simmons: Well for a long time what we've had is the Individual Partnership Action Program, that is, working with these countries to design a set of the partnership activities that meets their particular needs.

Now of these countries, five have indicated a willingness to write individual partnership action programs and we want to use the liaison officers, my role, their missions here, to help them write these first individual partnership action programs well so they set out a good menu of activities. That's the first thing.

Second, make them aware of opportunities where they can practice the interoperability I talked about and I think that's very important. Equally, convey to their publics, to their leaders, the message of what NATO's role is in areas for instance like Afghanistan which is in fact near too many of these countries and why NATO is involved in countries like that. So to explain NATO's overall message to these countries and to their people who are a bit distant from this headquarters.

Q: You mentioned that you'll be travelling, that you'll be based in Brussels and travelling to these areas. How often will you be going and where will you be based when you go?

Simmons: Well obviously there's no decision. I will try to get to each of the capitals, my guess is that three or four times a year I'll try to get to each of the capitals but obviously it will depend a bit on schedules.

Q: Mr. Simmons, thank you very much.

Simmons: Thank you.

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