|Updated: 23-Jun-2005||NATO Speeches|
23 June 2005
Monthly Video Background Briefing
by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Hello and welcome to the latest in our series of monthly briefings on what's happening at NATO.
At the end of the last briefing I previewed the- what was then the upcoming Defence Ministers meeting that was going to take place here at NATO Headquarters.
It has taken place. Ministers concentrated primarily on two things. Of course taking forward NATO's operations and missions--and I'll discuss all of that in a moment because quite a bit has happened since the ministerial as well--and also NATO Transformation- Military Transformation. This is something that in NATO is not an isolated event, it is a regular process. It's something we do on a constant basis to modernize not only the military forces that we need but also the way in which we fund them and the way in which we cooperate and use them together. And ministers, of course, talked about all three of these things.
The military modernization in terms of capabilities is going forward reasonably well; there have been contracts signed. For example, recently, multi-million Euro contracts to create the NATO owned, NATO operated air-to-ground surveillance systems so that NATO planes can watch what's happening on the ground in areas where our Forces are operating.
There's also been real progress in developing a NATO theatre missile-defence capability; progress in creating NATO generated strategic airlift; strategic sealift; air-to-air refuelling capabilities as well.
So there has been a lot of progress, more needs to be done, but we are certainly moving forward in that area.
On the funding side, it is clear that the funding arrangements that NATO has had in place since the Cold War do need some modernization. We now use our Forces much more than we did in the past and Defence Ministers had quite a profound conversation about how to ensure that we have the funds necessary for deployed forces, and that's much more expensive for example in Afghanistan than it is in the Balkans. And even in the Balkans it's more expensive than just keeping them at home as we did in the past in preparation for eventual attacks.
We have to make sure we have the funds available and Ministers also have a great responsibility to ensure that their operational costs don't cannibalize from the funds necessary for modernization because modernization is expensive.
So this was a topic of discussion as well.
At the Defence Ministers meeting, the Alliance published defence figures- defence spending figures for all of the Allies and for Russia as well. This was an NRC (NATO-Russia Council) publication and the figures which are publicly available are not as encouraging certainly as the Secretary General would like. Not enough European countries--indeed only four--are meeting the two percent target that NATO countries themselves had agreed to not too long ago. Two percent of their overall GNP should be devoted to defence and that is not a target that all NATO nations are meeting.
So there was some discussion and continues to be some discussion about raising the overall level of defence spending as well as modernizing the way in which those funds are spent to ensure funding for operations as well as funding for military modernization.
The next Defence Ministers meeting will be held in September, in Berlin, and they will continue that discussion I think on an even more profound level.
I did say that I would turn to our operations and missions.
Let me begin with Iraq. The European Union and the United States together, held in Brussels, a major conference with the Iraqi government, where the Iraqi government came to spell out their request for the support that they would like to see from the international community both in terms of debt relief, in terms of reconstruction support, and also in terms of supporting and maintaining public order.
The Secretary General of NATO of course was there. He was the first presenter in the part of the panel that was devoted to public order and he made clear two things. One is NATO's continued commitment to Iraq and to helping Iraq build its new future; and second, to the expansion of what NATO is doing and will be doing in training Iraqi Security Forces.
As you know, those of you who follow this on a regular basis know, that NATO has had for many months now a training effort inside Iraq as well as outside of Iraq. Our goal is to train 1,000 Iraqi officers inside the country, presently taking place inside the Green Zone--the heavily fortified zone of Baghdad--the Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Interior, as well as 500 officers outside of the country.
We are on target in both ways- in both areas, but we are going to expand that effort and we are going to expand it by building hopefully in early fall (September-October) a Training, Education and Doctrine Centre. Basically a staff college for Iraqi officers that NATO will run. It will be an Iraqi training, equipment and doctrine centre but supported by the Alliance and we will, as I say, expand our efforts there and the Secretary General made clear to the Iraqi officials that were there, Foreign Minister Zebari for example who had visited the NATO Council just the day before as well as the Prime Minister at the luncheon, that NATO is there to stay for as long as the Iraqi government needs us and wants us there.
We are there to answer their request and NATO will help- continue to help provide training for Iraqi Security Forces as well as significant amounts of equipment--thousands of rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 70 T72 tanks, body armour and helmets. All of these things have been or are being provided and more will be provided in the future.
The Secretary General opened up that offer of equipment provision to any country or organization that wishes to contribute as well as opening our Trust Funds that we have here at NATO to countries that wish to contribute to those as well to help support the training of Iraqi Security Forces.
Let me turn to Afghanistan. As you know NATO is providing peacekeeping forces in the capital, Kabul. In the north of the country with our provincial reconstruction teams, and as of now NATO has begun the completion, in other words, has expanded to the western area of Afghanistan with more provincial reconstruction teams. That expansion has now taken place.
We are moving from initial to full operating capability for all four of the provincial reconstruction teams which will come in the coming weeks and months and the Alliance will then have a security presence there helping the central government, the government of President Karzai to expand its control, its influence over the region and create a truly unified country and NATO is there in support of the Karzai government.
There is also discussion taking place here at NATO about the Third Stage as we call it in other words the expansion to the south.
Many NATO nations have come forward on an informal basis to offer their contribution. I can name two for example that have already made their own contribution, or their own plans public: Canada and the United Kingdom. And those plans are going forward well.
We do believe that we will have the forces necessary for expansion to the south in 2006 and then eventually throughout the country.
NATO will take over in a sense the peace operations in the country while maintaining two distinct missions. One, to do the peace and reconstruction mission and another perhaps led by- still led by the coalition, to do the counter-terrorism effort. So we will see how this progresses.
That final overall NATO responsibility for the country will only take place in the future. Right now we are looking at completing the expansion to the west and then looking forward to the expansion to the south and as I say these discussions and these preparations are going well.
Let me turn now to Darfur, which is something relatively new on the NATO agenda but one in which the Alliance is engaging in very quickly.
As you know, the African Union has come to NATO, has asked NATO and the European Union as well, for support in expanding its mission--the African Union mission--in Darfur which is expanding from some 3,000 up to almost 8,000 African Union troops in the coming months.
In the context of this expansion the African Union which is a relatively young organization needs help and NATO will provide it.
Many NATO nations have now come forward with offers to provide airlift, strategic and tactical airlift, for African Union Forces to bring them into theatre. Indeed we have an abundance of offers from countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Greek government and others. So the Alliance will do this in a rotation. All these forces will not come in at once but in a regular phased rotation.
The African Union and the countries contributing to this mission will have to generate the forces and the African Union will have the lead in receiving these forces when NATO and the EU as well bring them in, preparing them and then sending them forward into Darfur where the AU will of course have exclusive responsibility.
NATO will provide a very, very small support to the African Union cell in Addis Ababa that will be doing the reception and onward movement of forces but NATO will not have a combat presence. It will not have a presence in Darfur. This is an African Union Mission, an African Union lead and NATO is simply there at its request and in support of the AU.
But it is going well and we hope that the Alliance will soon- indeed the Alliance will soon play its part in helping the AU diminish the human suffering that is taking place in Darfur.
This is in essence the operational agenda of NATO.
The Secretary General is making two important trips this month: One to Moscow and then immediately thereafter to Ukraine.
In Moscow, the Secretary General will meet with President Putin and other senior officials including the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss deepening NATO-Russia cooperation in very practical areas.
For example, in the peacekeeping brigade that the Russian government is putting together which will be interoperable with NATO and with others as well, we want to see how we can deepen that cooperation. How to move forward the Russian offer and make concrete the Russian offer of support to Operation Active Endeavour, our anti-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean.
And of course to have a broad political discussion on the various issues on the agenda including of course the very important areas, countries neighbouring Russia such as Uzbekistan, or the situation in Georgia and Moldova, and the implications for the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty ratification. There are many issues to discuss. They have been, will be, discussed by the Secretary General with the Russian leadership.
Three days later, the Secretary General will be in Ukraine to meet with President Yushchenko, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister. The discussions there will of course be in the context of the stated Ukrainian desire to move closer to and eventually to join NATO and NATO has agreed a distinct- an Intensive Dialogue with Ukraine which is designed to help them move closer to the Alliance in the context of eventual membership.
But the Secretary General will of course deliver the message that he gave to Minister Gritsenko, at our Defence Ministers here in Brussels, and that is that NATO is a performance-based organization. The path to NATO is one which the Alliance will set out for Ukraine and will of course help Ukraine along the way but first and foremost Ukraine itself must make the very necessary and very difficult reforms to meet NATO standards, to move closer to the Alliance to make integration possible.
And part of that will be of course explaining to the Ukrainian people what NATO is today as opposed to what it was in the past. That's something the Secretary General will do as well and what we here at NATO always attempt to do but of course the Ukrainian government, and they themselves have said this publicly, will have a responsibility and a great challenge in explaining what the new NATO is as they move Ukraine closer to NATO.