Updated: 10-Sep-2005 NATO Speeches


9 Sept. 2005

Press briefing

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on additional
NATO support to the US in dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General will make a brief opening statement and then he'll have time for questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today the NATO allies have approved in the meeting which has just ended, a naval operation, with air elements in it as well, to bring relief supplies from Europe to the United States to assist the United States in recovering from Hurricane Katrina: the NATO Katrina support operation.

If you ask me why this is there's one simple reason why this decision was made, and that is, of course, the U.S. request, the formal reason. But the main reason, of course, is the immense degree of human suffering in that part of the United States. And it goes without saying that this decision was A) a very quick one, and B) an easy one, because of course no other answer could have been possible.

It shows that the NATO Alliance is ready to assist when asked, but it also shows that the NATO Alliance is ready to do its part in the diminishing of the human suffering.

You know that since the 3rd of September NATO has been helping already to coordinate offers of assistance to meet the requirements as put forward by the United States government, and that to date, as you know, the U.S. has accepted from NATO and partner nations, offers including financial assistance, food, first aid kits and medical supplies, generators, water pumps and rescue teams.

So many things are already going on, also on a bilateral basis, as you know, and this operation will, of course, not cut into the bilateral activities which are already going on.

NATO has already a liaison officer in Washington who is working with the U.S. authorities to help coordinate the inflow of matériel.

Now this NATO operation, transport, approved today, just a moment ago, will dramatically increase the resources available to NATO and partner countries to move their assistance to the United States.

The naval component of the so-called NATO Response Force will make available two, maybe three Ro/Ro, roll-on/roll-off ships and perhaps other ships if and when necessary. To give you an idea, that is enough lift to carry 600 long trucks worth of assistance.

At the same time, if necessary, the air component will provide aircraft for more urgent requirements through a NATO air base. That's of course much more quickly than one can do at sea.

The operation will, as you can expect, be commanded by SHAPE through the NATO Response Force Headquarters, which are located in Lisbon, and the NATO Air Movement Centre, which is located here in Mons at SHAPE. And that will happen, of course, in close coordination with the United States so-called Northern Command.

The... if you ask about timelines, the aircraft can, of course, begin deploying in the coming days. If you ask what kind of aircraft, you know, the NATO AWACS fleet with the radar domes, NATO also has those aircraft without those radar domes, Boeing 707s. They are in the NATO inventory and they can be used very quickly to start airlifting, if necessary, goods to the hurricane-stricken area.

The ships are now steaming to port and the first, I'm informed, should arrive in port within a few days.

As I said, this NATO Katrina support operation will significantly increase our collective ability to move supplies to the U.S. Let me say clearly this capacity is available to NATO nations. It is also available to our 20 partner countries, and it is available to non-government organizations, if they so wish as well, because those NGOs might have very valuable donations they would like to make.

Of course, the U.S. government and the U.S. authorities are deciding and will decide what they need. I mean, that's crystal clear.

So, I end where I started. It is crystal clear that this operation has only one... has only one purpose, and that is to do everything NATO can do to show solidarity with the victims and the human suffering in the hurricane-stricken area.

Let me end here, and I'm ready and open for your comments and questions.

Q: (inaudible)... BBC World Service. So NATO Secretary General, when exactly do you expect the first ship or plane to arrive on the U.S. coast? And secondly, on a different issue, if I may, what sort of signal will NATO be sending to countries in the Balkans if the first enlargement, the next enlargement summit will only happen in 2008, as the Americans have proposed?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: On your first question, you will hopefully respect that I cannot possibly give you now all the details. The military planners at the coordination centre at SHAPE... I should mention, of course, the AEDRCC(sic), which has been working already for the past period since the hurricane. The AEDRCC will have a central role in coordination for NATO allies, for partners, for others, who might want to come in.

I cannot say when exactly the first plane will arrive. If planes are going to be used that can happen, of course, very quickly. Ships will take a bit longer. First of all, as I said, to steam to port, and then make the transatlantic crossing, which I think roughly said would take 10 to 12 days, is that correct? Yeah. More or less. I don't know exactly at what speed they can sail.

But I mean, as soon as possible, of course, is the answer here. In coordination, as I said, of course, with U.S. Northern Command.

On your second question, we have, indeed, as you say, a proposal by the United States for NATO summits. One, indeed, on enlargement. I must add that the allies have formally to decide. I think the U.S. arguments are very strong indeed and as far as I'm concerned personally, I strongly support these proposals.

About enlargement, as you asked me, the word is here performance-based. I mean, NATO enlargement is inextricably linked to the fulfilling of the criteria, as is the case with the EU as you know, as far as... as far as is concerned having membership action plan and getting an invitation for NATO membership and finally entering into the Alliance.

So I do not think that the fact that NATO might now have a summit in 2008 on enlargement should have an automatic consequence in nations concerned, to our aspiring NATO members, will it be too early or will it be too late? The moment will anyway be decided on their performance and on them fulfilling the requirements.

So I think you can't link the two together, in my opinion. But there are nations, of course, aspiring for NATO membership, who are closer. There are other nations who are not yet so close.

Q: Secretary General, (inaudible)... Financial Times. I simply wanted to ask you, can you give us a little bit more detail about how many planes, even if it is in very broad terms and the capacity... and the capacity of the Ro/Ro ships?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I think I made the remark on the capacity of the Ro/Ro ships. Let me repeat that. If I spoke about the NATO Response Force making available at least two, maybe three Ro/Ro's, perhaps other ships as necessary, that is enough lift to carry 600 long trucks' worth of assistance. I must say, I'm not a naval expert, but I might give some more details from (inaudible)...

UNIDENTIFIED: Five to six thousand metric... no, stop, I'll stop.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let's not get here. We can try before the Financial Times closes to give you the details. I was impressed by the 600 long trucks, I must say.

About the first part of your question, on the aircraft and the ships, I apologize for not being able to say this. I mean, aircraft are available immediately because they are there. They're sitting on the airfield. These 707s. They can fly. That depends, of course, on the... A) on the need, and B) on the logistics of getting the things to the aircraft.

So I'm sorry, I can't possibly say, but I mean, the urgency is so immense and so enormous, that also here I say, like with the ships, of course, the sooner the better, and as soon as possible.

But let's not forget that we have the United States of America, of course, requesting certain things and we coordinate, as I said, with U.S. Northern Command. But exact and specific timelines and dates and data I can't unfortunately give you.

Q: Secretary General, Paul Ames from the Associated Press.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Where are you?

Q: Over here.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: There you are.

Q: You mentioned that the ships are sailing to port. Can you tell us where they are at the moment? And also which nationalities will be providing those ships?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: They are... I'm informed, at sea. I can't possibly tell you to what ports they are steaming to. And the nationality of the ships, James?

APPATHURAI: NATO's in contact with two countries, but they have not yet formally confirmed, so let's not speculate yet.


APPATHURAI: But there are two countries that are likely to do it, to provide (inaudible)...

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Right. One more.

Q: Ah, Secretary General, Matthew (inaudible) from Bloomberg. The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. It's asked... requests this aid, but was there any element of surprise among the representatives of the other countries that United States is asking of this aid in the first place?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: You have a camera next to you, if you look at some footage, you and other networks have been airing you have the answer. The suffering is so immense and so huge that that is of course the beginning and end of this whole operation. That's the key, that's the basic. It's helping to alleviate the immense and dramatic human suffering. And when then an ally as the United States, whomever ally it is, comes to NATO and says, NATO can you help, of course NATO helps. It goes without saying.

Thank you so much.

Go to Homepage Go to Index Back to NATO Homepage