|Updated: 26-Apr-2005||NATO Speeches|
22 Apr. 2005
Question and Answer session
with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at Vilnius University
UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you Secretary General for your presentation. As was promised, it was short more or less but definitely to the point. Thank you.
Again, of course, we are very sorry for some technical difficulties, believe us, it is simply technical difficulties. No relations with (inaudible) conspiracy.
MODERATOR: Now you can see that our university is really old!
JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): But for that reason it has good acoustics. If you do this in a modern hall it would impossible.
UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, it's good. The problem is of course that it's not accidentally that (inaudible) is sitting here, he is a journalist of Lithuanian TV, and our idea was to show our meeting for a more broader auditorium, but it doesn't matter.
I guess that the public is ready for the questions and the Secretary General has promised he is ready for the answers. And so I will pass him the floor first of all for my colleague who will try to moderate our discussions and now perfectly said - the first question is all ready, on the place... it would be Professor Landsbergis, is a former chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament but- it's up to you to decide.
MODERATOR: All right. Since I think more of us understand English than understand the Lithuanian I think that the format should now be in English.
But I would like actually to use my position and to ask both the Secretary General and Minister Valionis, how was the jazz last night?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well Minister Valionis did not play the drums for the percussion although I know that he's very good at that. I didn't sing, but the jazz was excellent and I must say that, thanks to Foreign Minister Valionis, my wife and I are becoming experts in Lithuanian jazz because I've got already quite a number of CDs from Minister Valionis and when we are in our study at home in Brussels we work under the nice tones of Lithuanian jazz. So, I mean, if you go on to produce excellent jazz in Lithuania you'll make our life more happy than it already is.
ANTANAS VALIONIS (Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania): I have no doubt that yesterday we had very good jazz. (inaudible), especially as I remember 'Take Five(?)' and (inaudible). It was excellent believe me.
LANDSBERGIS: All right. Thank you very much. Now then, if the member of the European Parliament (inaudible).
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS (former chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament): Good morning. Mr. Secretary General. We all are happy of your presence here and of this very important event, what you brought to Lithuania together with our Allies in NATO.
My question is maybe straightforward; we have been informed these days about agreement between NATO and Russia about military transit across the territories as a mutual cooperation. We understand that it is in an interest of NATO to get bases near to Afghanistan and so on; but we had a problem, 15 years, with Russian pressure on Lithuania to get an agreement about military transit across Lithuania. What we used to treat as pressure to get a military agreement which would prevent us from becoming members of organisation to what we (inaudible).
So what is the situation today and tomorrow because I, from my experience, I see that tomorrow Russia will issue a demand or request to get a new paper about military transit across Lithuania via NATO what they could not achieve directly with the Lithuanian government.
And then, because we have a formula for this military transit which is working today, but we did not want to have an agreement forever because one of the tasks of Lithuania was to get diminished or completely demilitarized Kaliningrad(?) (inaudible). What would be and what will be the response of NATO, it is enough what is working this formula of transit across Lithuania or NATO will comply with a new request of Russia to get a long term agreement to go across Lithuania--with drums not of jazz, military drums.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me first of all say that it is a privilege to answer the first question put to me by Professor Landsbergis as one of the faces of this beautiful country, so let me start by paying respect to you for everything you have done and are doing. I got a present yesterday; his book was presented to me as a gift so I think I should start by paying tribute to Professor Landsbergis about all you have done for this great nation.
LANDSBERGIS: Save the time, please.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: But I just wanted to say this, nevertheless.
On the question - why is NATO happy with this Agreement on the Status of Forces, as it is called, with the Russians? For a number of reasons.
First of all, it is important for NATO that the NATO operation in Afghanistan which I mentioned in my speech can be supplied in an easy way and for those supplies, and having a military operation so far away, is complicated- logistically complicated. It is useful to be able, on the basis of this agreement, to use Russian territory to have supply lines for the operation in Afghanistan.
If we want to have, for instance, with the Russians together exercises for peacekeeping or other exercises it is good to know what the status of the military forces who are to Russian territory will be.
Another point which you - (ah hah!... no, no. Laughter)
MODERATOR: But now at least they know where the switch is.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: They have the switch, yes indeed, they have found the switch!
Another point of course is well know to me not only in my present incarnation but also as a former direct colleague of Antanas Valionis, as a Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, is the discussion...
...critics would say he's ducking the answer!
Another point of course I'm well aware of is Kaliningrad and the discussions and the problems Kaliningrad poses for Lithuania.
That, Professor Landsbergis, is not a subject which is as such discussed in the NATO Framework. It is something of which I can very understand that Lithuania in its negotiations/talks with the Russians would say that it is on your terms and only on Lithuania's terms because it is Lithuania's sovereign right to decide what does happen on its territory and what does not happen on its territory, I can see and I can understand the complications. On the other hand, I have to say, that there is no direct relationship between the Status of Forces Agreement NATO signed with the Russians yesterday and your very well known and very well recognized problems with Kaliningrad and the transport of Russian and military equipment and ammunition over your sovereign territory.
LANDSBERGIS: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Okay thank you very much. I saw a question somewhere down there in the auditorium, yes? Just wait for the mike.
Q: Would you comment how strong, how powerful, could NATO be without the participation of the United States and don't you think - aren't you afraid of the fact that one day NATO would be replaced with European security organisation, not Atlantic, with a predominating role of Russia? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No I'm not afraid of that. There is - let me start this way, I am like you here in Lithuania, of course I'm an Atlanticist at heart. No surprise for a NATO Secretary General. I'm also European, you're also European. You joined after the faultlines lines of history, after the Second World War you joined Europe, you joined NATO and you joined Europe.
So I think NATO and the European Union go very well together. There's one basic difference which will always be the same between NATO and the European Union and that is that as NATO we have the United States and Canada at the table and I do not see, in the near or distant future, the United States or Canada joining the European Union.
In other words, what makes NATO so unique is the fact that indeed here in Vilnius at a dinner the night before yesterday, at lunch yesterday, we had a fascinating discussion where Madam Secretary Condoleezza Rice gave her input as far as the United States are concerned, the only superpower in this world. It is not only fascinating but it is also essential and that is the essential difference and the European Union that we have the United States of America and we have the Canadians.
So if you ask me, do you see the security structure, the solidarity clause Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, the integrated defence of NATO, being replaced by a European security system my answer is no.
And the second part of my answer is I would not wish to see that because the importance is, as I've tried to say in my speech, that is the linking, the attachment, based on this community of values of the United States of America and Europe embodied in the NATO Treaty. That's what basically NATO is about and that's what those visionaries in 1949 and Walter Lippman as I quoted so very clearly.
That does not mean that I am very much in favour, also as the NATO Secretary General, for further European integration. I think it's essential in this sphere of defence and military matters but, I say, the European Union does not need to reinvent the wheel which is already turning very efficiently within NATO for decades; but that Europe and European nations would take a larger share of the burden would be quite interesting I think, but let's keep NATO NATO- this unique organisation as I have described it.
Q: All right, if I may add a follow-up, yesterday I thought it was all right now the Alliance until I went to the press conference by Minister Michel Barnier. On Sudan he basically said, well I'm translating from the diplo's speech into English, he said no. On the mission to the Middle East he said basically no. On the Ukraine he said basically well when we are all ready which means when France is ready. What do you do with France in NATO?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: We're working very well together with all Allies including France in NATO, all jokes apart let me - and I'm not saying this because my wife teaches French so I mean, discount that please (Laughter).
France is a very important player in NATO. I'll answer your question, I don't forget it I promise.
France is leading the NATO operation in Kosovo, France has led the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, France is a very important contributor to the NATO Response Force and France is also an active participant in the political debate we wanted, I wanted, yesterday and the day before yesterday and we had that political debate.
Now on your examples, on Darfur. Darfur is mass murder, mass killing. I'm not that interested if it's genocide or not, it is mass murder, it is rape, it is pillage, it is burning villages, it is chasing people, it is almost 10,000 dead a month. What we discussed yesterday was, if the African Union, the Organisation of African States, who is leading a small peacekeeping mission in Darfur and you know Darfur is the size of France, if the African Union or the United Nations or the African Union and the United Nations would come to NATO, would write me a letter and would ask me, Secretary General, could you please in Brussels introduce our problems at the NATO table and would NATO be able to support our operation in the sphere of logistics. I'm not talking about sending soldiers, do not misunderstand me, there's no way NATO is going to send soldiers into Darfur. It's the African Union, it's the Africans who take, quite rightly, the responsibility for this major problem on the African continent.
But if they would come to NATO, or come to the European Union for that matter, I mean NATO and the EU are not in competition here. And they would ask me, Secretary General, NATO has the most sophisticated military planning machinery/system in the world--we have it--could you please help us? How do you plan such an operation? How do you do it? We the African Union we do not have that much experience. If they would ask the European Union or NATO, could you please assist us in the way of logistics, would you have a few transport planes available to transport our monitors who can go into the villages to prevent the villages from being burned and the women from being raped?
Well, I can tell you here this morning what NATO's answer would be if that question would come. That question hasn't come. We're discussing a virtual scenario here, the question has not come, but if that question would come, would we then not have to find a very, and don't interpret this as a cynical answer, a very pragmatic way of answering that question?
To come back to Minister Barnier he did not say no, he did not say no. He said over lunch, I'm not supposed to tell what individual ministers have said, but I can tell you that Minister Barnier said yes, let's find a way if that question comes we can support them be it the European Union, be it NATO.
Now I say, as NATO Secretary General, that what NATO has in stock is more sophisticated than what the European Union has in stock, I'm not saying in this in a pejorative way, it's a statement of fact.
But, the question has not come. If the question comes, I'm sure that the NATO Allies would have a very serious discussion, I can't predict the answer, I can tell you what I - my recommendation would be. My recommendation will be yes of course, looking at Darfur.
On Ukraine, we have reached a very interesting agreement in our relationship with Ukraine. I think NATO should honour Ukraine's ambitions for Euro-Atlantic integration. I never forget about the jargon and the speak, I think we should honour Ukraine's ambition to ultimately become a member of the European Union and a member of NATO.
How could we say no? What have we offered Ukraine yesterday? We have offered Ukraine what we call Intensified Dialogue on the basis of a partnership we call a Distinctive Partnership we already have with Ukraine and we're going to work very hard on this relationship but, and now I quote President Bush who said on the 22nd February at the NATO Summit in Brussels also to President Yushchenko, NATO is a performance-based organisation.
What does that mean? That the core values NATO stands for are so important that if a country wants to join NATO, and I think Lithuania very well what this means, of course that country has to fulfil the criteria.
Yesterday at my press conference, I said it like this, we want Ukraine ultimately in the European Union and in NATO but Ukraine is at the steering wheel. Ukraine is driving the car, not NATO, and what NATO has done yesterday- NATO has made sure that along that road to NATO membership we have a sufficient number of petrol stations to refuel that car because that's what Ukraine will need. Ukraine will need assistance. Ukraine will need help and that is what NATO is going to do with Ukraine.
I'll go there, in the near future to further discuss how we proceed along this road and let me finally say and repeat what I said yesterday, something happened in Ukraine, there was this spectacular emotional and dramatic Orange Revolution. I think we owe it to the Ukrainian people and we owe it to the Ukrainian government to be as forthcoming as we can and we're going to assist and we're going to help Ukraine to fulfil its ambitions and its ambitions in becoming a member of NATO.
Q: To continue your speech, I'm from Ukraine (inaudible) and first of all I would like to thank you personally for supporting and keeping peace during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Alliance as a whole for supporting our democratic changes right now.
I'd like as well to thank our Lithuanian partners which you asked the opportunity to be present here. For me it's the first time to see the Secretary General and I'll be glad to see him in Kyiv as you have said in the nearest future- in months.
And this connection, I'm sorry, and I'd like to thanks for the hospitality of all the Lithuanian people and for the Lithuanian Government... of Minister of Foreign Affairs for supporting our long way to NATO. Thank you very much.
And in this connection, I'd like to ask if - using the experience of Vilnius' initiative of... can organise maybe such an initiative of the countries which are striving for NATO which maintain - where Ukraine will be present and these countries will maintain each other for promoting the democracy. As you have said it's a real defence for maybe, promoting democracy rather (inaudible) Euro-Atlantic (inaudible) exchange the experience, exchange the information and maybe it will be better to unite the efforts and to go together to the Euro-Atlantic structures. Thank you very much.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I would first answer you find me a university in Ukraine and I'll come and we'll have the same beautiful morning or afternoon in Ukraine as we have here in Vilnius. I'm happy and glad to come to discuss these vital things and let me also take this opportunity to say also to you that also in your country, in Ukraine, I think it is very much up to your generation to make this dream come true because it is a dream of course for the Ukraine's and for you and for your generation to join the mainstream of Euro-Atlantic integration.
I think that's of the utmost importance and we should do that in many ways but I am here this morning and today upon the initiative of NATO's Public Diplomacy department and they are doing exactly these things. And I consider it of vital importance and more specifically in countries like Ukraine but I could mention other countries as well, I also travelled through Central Asia, the Caucasus, Georgia. I make it a specific point that wherever I come, I have these kinds of meetings and I have these kinds of gatherings and I think this part of the discussion is even more important than listening to somebody who is giving a speech- sometimes with and sometimes without the microphone.
But I'll support, I'll support let's say, any initiative in this regard because you must also realize that the road to NATO membership, and let me quote Paul McCartney here--Antanas, I'm quoting Paul McCartney (Laughter) as a music lover--it's a long and winding road.
But we'll help you wherever we can to drive that long and winding road as quickly as is possible. I can't give timeframes, I can't give dates. Yesterday at the press conference I was asked, 'Secretary General, when?' And then my answer was, 'Sorry I can't tell you' because of this element of it's a performance-based organisation but we'll do everything we can to assist you and help Ukraine where we can and if you want to make it a point to stimulate this process from the younger generation all over Ukraine, because I also know that not in all Ukraine perhaps NATO is regarded in the same way as we discuss here this morning, that's if you want and your generation want to take this initiative all over Ukraine, you'll be more than welcome in getting the support of NATO for this and I wish you all the very best for that.
MODERATOR: More questions? Third row -
Q: Secretary General, my name is (inaudible) also from Lithuanian Atlantic Treaty Association, a NATO enthusiast, a transatlantic enthusiast and my question is concerning NATO defence capabilities and the huge gap in capabilities between European states, European armies and the United States.
As we know from statistics just three or five percent of European armies could be rapidly mobilized to go a hundred kilometres to defend NATO interests in short time. The United States has about 75 percent of such army, how do you perceive that problem and how do you see NATO could help to close that gap? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: There is a gap and it's big. And I do not think I would be giving you a realistic answer if I would say we're going to close this gap, I mean 'we' speaking for European nations. There's a difference between the United States of America and the Europeans. The United States as a superpower is used to projecting political and military power, the European nations - of the European nations I would say there are two: the United Kingdom and France who, to a certain extent, have a tradition and still have the capability of projecting military power.
My country the Netherlands hasn't, Lithuania has not, many others have not. So there will always be a gap and it will always be a big gap.
Having said that, I take your criticism in the sense that when I look at the need in NATO to restructure our defence forces, because we do not need big territorial armies anymore because the situation has dramatically changed, I think there's a lot to do and we are working hard to do just that.
I could mention the NATO Response Force, I mentioned it briefly, that this is a highly professional, well-trained force. It has a naval component, an air component, an army component, a special forces component. It is available at very short notice, it just had a big exercise at the Canary Islands. Next year in the Cape Verde islands it will have its final exercise to reach what we call its full operational capability. So you can't say that NATO is not making progress.
Is that progress already sufficient? My answer is no. We have to be more ambitious and what does more being more ambitious mean? That also means, not only but also, that there should be reversal of the trend in Europe that defence budgets are going down. Now I know as a former national politician, very well, that in any government - and yesterday I met the Lithuanian Defence Minister, that within any government it is very complicated for a defence minister to defend his budget against the minister responsible for health care, for education, for infrastructure- you name it. Very difficult indeed.
Still, the trend is going the wrong way. We go an ambition that NATO Allies spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defence. Many nations don't make that criteria. To make another positive remark about France, France does.
So, there's a lot to do and there's also a lot to do, as you rightly point out, about what we call in our horrible NATO speak, the usability of our forces. Can we use the forces we have? Can we get them quickly from A to B, and B can be far away like in Afghanistan so there's a lot to do and since you're coming from Ukraine, defence reform also in the framework of our partnership, Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine, is a very important element of reform on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and that of course, first of all, goes for the democratic control of the Armed Forces--now that's in good hands with your President Yushchenko and the Ukraine Government. That was not in good hands with the Kuchma regime, that's now in good hands.
Those good hands will have to continue this important process of defence reform. And that is one of those crucial elements where NATO of course has a lot of expertise and where NATO will help and assist Ukraine wherever it can but, that does not mean, If I say this to you as coming from Ukraine, that NATO hasn't got a lot of homework to do itself as well. But Ukraine is also a full plate I can say.
MODERATOR: More questions? All right the lady there.
Q: I would like to ask your opinion on the boundaries of expansion of NATO and you have just said about Ukraine that - you've just said 'how could we say no to Ukraine' so, I wonder whether you could say not to any country and on what criteria? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well the criteria, first of course, are embedded in the Washington Treaty, speaking about European nations. What are the boundaries? NATO has an open door policy and that means, as I already was saying, that European nations who fulfil the criteria can join the Alliance and, again, that is of course a very difficult and long road to go. But NATO has an open door.
Let me tell you that, if we look at the Balkans, there are three countries having the so-called Membership Action Plan, they have- they are one step higher on their way to NATO: Macedonia, Croatia and Albania.
You can easily predict that those nations at a certain stage will come into NATO but there are more countries in the Balkans. We have Bosnia-Herzegovina, we have Serbia-Montenegro, we have the province of Kosovo, big problem but we have to find a solution. The problem with Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina is that they have to fully cooperate with the International Tribunal on Yugoslavia in The Hague to be eligible for the Partnership for Peace program.
But if I look at the Balkans, I think I'm not- it's not unfair to predict that at a certain stage, and when that stage comes, I don't know and I wouldn't say, I wouldn't dare to say, would join the Alliance. I think, if we look at the Balkans, Euro-Atlantic integration, ultimate membership of NATO and the European Union is the recipe for security and stability. Here you have another important element of course of NATO when I mention projecting stability.
And projecting stability can be projecting military stability, Afghanistan; it can also mean projecting political stability in the framework of the Partnership for Peace.
Are there other nations with aspirations to become NATO members? Yes. Let me for instance mention Georgia, President Saakashvili is- goes on saying that his ultimate aim is Euro-Atlantic integration. Georgia has just entered, again, another phase which is called Individual Partnership Action Plan, they have the Partnership for Peace and we individualize in that Partnership for Peace a plan focused on Georgia.
Well we have already discussed of course Ukraine.
If you would ask me, you did not but let me answer a question which you did not ask because it's asked many times, what about Russia? My answer is I have never seen any ambition in the Russian Federation to join NATO so I do not consider this a relevant question.
MODERATOR: All right, one last question. The lady there, to maintain the gender balance, yes?
Q: My question is pretty straightforward and it's for the Lithuanian Foreign Minister in particular. How can, and can NATO, act as a forum to improve relations between Russia and Lithuania or indeed all of the Baltic States?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Could you please- I haven't quite understood, quite got what you were asking. Could you please repeat it?
Q: Okay. Can NATO act as a forum for- to improve relations between Russia and Lithuania or indeed all of the Baltic States and Lithuania?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No. NATO can definitely play a role. I answered Professor Landsbergis in the sense that, of course, the bilateral relationship between Lithuania and Russia is not on NATO's plate but we have the NATO-Russia Council where Ambassadors meet every month in Brussels, that's 27 NATO and Russia.
That started modestly, we now are more and more coming in the mode of not only having practical cooperation with the Russians but also discussing more and more problems of a political nature.
So if at a certain stage the Lithuanian Ambassador in that NATO-Russia Council, she is present here, would get an instruction from Minister Valionis, from the Foreign Affairs department here, that- supposed there would be a big problem. I think it would not be excluded to discuss this in the NATO-Russia Council but I have at the same time to give you the same answer as I gave to professor Landsbergis, it is not, let's say, NATO as a 26-nation Alliance which has a direct role in what are basically bilateral relations and bilateral issues between a nation and a NATO Ally and Russia.
But if there would be major political problems relevant to NATO, I do not think it will be excluded that NATO would discuss it but NATO cannot--let me be modest here--NATO cannot find a solution in the sense that NATO would have the means to enforce anything. That of course NATO cannot do and NATO will not do.
MODERATOR: All right then. I will use (inaudible) for the last time. This morning I just Googled the news articles and there are twice as many about the Belarusian meeting yesterday than about the NATO Summit proper. I mean didn't you miss the most important topic, the 'sexiest' topic in your quest of NATO to become kind of a forum for the most important political questions to be discussed?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well first of all it depends what twice as many means. I mean if you Google let's say...
MODERATOR: 174 to 90.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well 90 is not bad, 90 is not bad. I'm happy with 90 and all jokes apart, I think it was an event this meeting with the opposition of Belarus and in defence attracts media attention. Our ambition was, in the NATO, informal NATO - it was an informal meeting, we have not taken any decisions. And my ambition was, and I think I leave Vilnius in a moment a happy man in that respect, to give a boost to NATO's political dialogue. I think we've done that. We've discussed the Middle East, we've discussed the relationship between NATO and the European Union. We have discussed our theatres of operations, we have discussed Darfur. So in other words that was more, quite honestly, than I expected and when the opposition in Belarus gets a boost and gets support because the American Secretary of State, the High Representative of the European Union, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania meet with the Belarusian opposition, who am I not to take a very positive look on such a meeting?
But I'm happy with the way the NATO meeting went and since it was your last question I'll abuse the fact that I have the microphone to say again, how much we have appreciated to be here in Vilnius and to tell everybody what a pleasure it was to be here and more specifically to the younger generation- go on in shaping your nation.